Squash negative demands and action, however minor, fast.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Honestly, it really wasn't a big deal. I knew it at the time, but I still didn't like it. My parents had gone off on a weekend trip. They'd had an argument in the motel room about something minor. Dad rapped Mom lightly on the thigh.
She was clear on that. He hadn't 'hit' her, just rapped her on the thigh as he passed by to make a point. "Still, I don't like what he did," Mom said. "He hit me, and that's not okay!"
I questioned her. How hard, did she feel he might do it again? No, she wasn't fearful, didn't think she was in any danger. But she was really mad. So was I.
This is the woman who drilled an important lesson into my head I never forgot.
I wanted to make sure Dad was as clear as a virgin brook on the unacceptability of what he did. I called him, probably at work, and read him the riot act. I told him I understood it wasn't a hit or a punch or a slap, it was light, but under no circumstances was he ever to do it again.
A united front against male anger works wonders with many men. My father was not nor was he ever physically abusive, but sometimes people change as they get older. To live an abuse-free life, you start with zero tolerance for abuse.
The connection between abuse and entitlement
I'm not convinced all physically abusive men are, at their core, violent. Abuse also includes emotional, verbal and psychological, and pretty arguably everyone is guilty, even the nicest, most even-tempered people at some point. When we get angry or triggered we lash out at others - a partner, a friend, a family member, or some poor schmoe who happened to cross our path on a bad day.
I suspect at least some men become abusive because they're allowed.
I speak from experience. I used to be verbally and emotionally abusive to men during a dark time in my life about twenty years ago. I'm ashamed of the way I treated some men and their biggest 'fault' was not being the men I wanted them to be.
I was That Crazy Chick many of them talk about. Not the 'crazy chick' who won't take their shit, the unacknowledged core of abusive men's complaints about women, but the Crazy Chick on dating apps who turned into a bitch in a heartbeat if someone rubbed me the wrong way or reached out and failed to meet my ridiculous standards.
I learned what it feels like to be in the abuser's brain. Not OJ abusive, just everyday abusers who lash out at others because they loathe themselves.
I wasn't raised to be abusive, as, I suspect, many men aren't. Some learn it growing up, others from mass media, later generations from social media, others from porn and other toxic content, but especially hanging around with negative, abusive people.
For some men, it stems from sexual entitlement. For me, it stemmed from romantic entitlement.
I found I had something in common with incels, not because I sympathized with them but because we shared entitlement. Incels want sex with women 'out of their league'; I wanted a man out of my own. Incels refuse to recognize the problem resides in them; as did I.
I don't blame 'the right sort of man' for running away from me. I had an emotional breakdown over someone I fell too hard too soon for and he fled. It took me a few years of going over and over it and asking "What did I do wrong?" and more life experience to realize I was too needy and clingy. I had no life of my own and depended too much on seeing him. I smothered him.
He was the last straw in a string of romantic disappointments, and the poor schmucks who came after him paid for it. I emotionally abused any who gave me tacit permission.
They tolerated it. They let me abuse them. They kept coming back for more.
I'm not blaming them. Their willingness to be abused doesn't exonerate my behavior in the slightest. But it did make them complicit, the way women are complicit, which shares a very fuzzy boundary with 'blame'.
I hammer home the message no one can abuse you without your consent, unless you're not yet a legal adult, because you otherwise always have the power to set limits or walk away, even if you don't yet realize it.
'No Test' to identify early red flags
According to Rob Andrews, a domestic violence counselor in Australia, male abusers 'boil the frog' by introducing control slowly and gradually. He offers a 'No Test' for women to apply early in a relationship, before a controlling personality does too much damage.
"The No Test is basically to watch out for the way your partner responds the first time you change your mind or say no. While expressing disappointment is OK, it's not the same as annoyed. Annoyed is 'how dare you,' a sign of ownership or entitlement."
He identifies ownership, entitlement and control as the early 'red flags' of a new relationship. He notes it happens far more often for women, but it's important to remember controlling, abusive, women resemble abusive men in many ways. Look at Amber Heard.
I know, because I've refused to allow abusers into my life, and because, for an ugly time in my life, a few men allowed me into theirs.
They didn't have zero tolerance for abuse. This may be a weakness for men today because when we talk about toxic relationships and abuse, we're almost always talking about male-on-female. We often won't even acknowledge how abusive women can be, even physically, when the man permits it.
When I called my father decades ago, I demonstrated a united effort by the women in the family to make sure he understood his small rap on the thigh was unacceptable. They'd been married over twenty years, and it was a silly argument. But striking another person is never acceptable. He was angry. We all get angry. We have more control over ourselves than we acknowledge when we're triggered.
When the abuser wears lipstick
Anyone who thinks women can't be abusive has never known any women, or was home-schooled. We're masters at psychological manipulation and abuse.
We're even more violent than acknowledged, mostly because we have to be more underhanded about it. We'll rarely confront a man physically, unless he's in bed like former Saturday Night Live comedian and actor Phil Hartman, shot to death in 1998 in his sleep by his alcohol and drug-fuelled abusive wife. Female serial killers like Aileen Wournos who murdered her johns up close are still rare, but experts have come to believe they may be more common than suspected.
In her book When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence, Patricia Pearson details how law enforcement often fails to identify female serial killers because of the erroneous belief that a woman couldn't possibly commit muliple acts of violence. Men and their more public violent crimes negate, in many brains, the notion that women, too, are violent. One expert quoted by Pearson notes that "Female serial killers actually average a greater number of victims than their male counterparts, even though the deaths occur right under their communities' noses."
Who ever suspects the girlie?
Mostly violent women have to operate under the radar. Certainly the list of historical poisoners is distinctly female. Today, babies and old people in the care of female less-than-caring givers are often targeted. Pearson explores whether SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) deaths are always tragic inexplicable accidents along with women who murdered their babies in the throes of postpartum depression, or just driven mad by a difficult, incessantly crying infant. She also explores caregivers with high body counts in the healthcare profession and mothers diagnosed with Munchausen Syndrome by proxy, in which they injure, sicken, or even kill their children for the attention and sympathy they receive from others. They're almost exclusively, Pearson notes, "the province of women who find themselves in maternal roles, either as biological or adoptive mothers or as babysitters or caretakers....They have an expert grasp of medicine and a keen sense of medicine's power."
Women don't have the physical strength to murder like men. We have to be more cunning and subtle.
Public domain image from Wallpaperflare
Men are the most common physical abusers, including against transpeople who are at higher risk for partner violence. It doesn't mean we should ignore women's less common, less popular victims. Men injured or murdered by women are still victims. And lesbian domestic violence gets a lot less public attention than it deserves.
Violence and abuse comes in all shapes, sizes, ages, colors, and sexes. If we were less tolerant of abuse we'd recognize this.
It was a silly thing, Dad's little rap on the thigh. I knew it, Mom knew it, but she had never been struck by a man before. I knew he'd probably never do it again, but I called him because I was quite sure he'd never do it again if he had to endure another riot act.
We have to resolve we will tolerate no control or abuse in our lives, and remove the parties responsible, or get out early. More importantly, we need to present a united front for others. It wouldn't have spiraled with my father, but with other men it might have.
"You're not going to do that," a boyfriend in my early twenties once told me. I forget what it was about.
I looked up. "You're not going to tell me what to do," I told him. "You are NEVER going to tell me what to do, do you understand?"
You gotta squash that shit like a bug.
Anyone can do it. Early on, from the first sign of trouble, you come down hard on controlling behavior. Whether it's a man or a woman or anyone else doing it. Early is better than later. You set your boundaries and the other knows where they stand. If the other person's response to boundary-setting is to insult or hit you, that's your sign it's time to go. No matter how pretty or handsome they are, not to mention, of course, wealthy. Controlling, abusive people are never worth it.
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