Is the Way He is Treating Me Abusive?

The book Why Does He DO That? by Lundy Bancroft was recently recommended to me by Teh Bewilderness, and by the domestic violence shelter I’ve started volunteering at. It is exceptionally good. It’s written in 2002 by a man who runs programs for abusers, and it shows what tactics they use, as well as how their behavior can be crazy-making for women. Bancroft is very clear that MEN abuse women, and that women do not have the ability to terrorize and undermine men in the way men abuse women. He also discusses the ways in which friends, family, courts, and therapists can often take the abuser’s side without meaning to. He emphasizes that being “neutral” in cases where it is known that abuse is occurring is in fact choosing the side of the abuser.

Anyway, this is a great book, and I recommend every woman read it. We’ve all known (or been) women in abusive situations.

I thought the below checklist was very helpful in helping women discover whether they are in an abusive relationship. The list is taken from pages 124-130 of the book.

About his behavior, he is abusive if:

He retaliates against you for complaining about his behavior.

He tells you that your objections to his mistreatment of you are your own problem.

He gives apologies that are insincere or angry and he demands that you accept them.

He blames you for the impact of his behavior.

It is never the right time or the right way to bring things up.

He undermines your progress in life.

He denies what he did.

He justifies his hurtful or frightening behavior or say that you “made him do it”.

He touches you in anger or puts you in fear in other ways.

He coerces you into having sex or sexually assaults you.

His controlling, disrespectful, or degrading behavior is a problem.

About you, if you show signs of abuse such as:

Are you afraid of him?

Are you getting distant with your family and friends because he makes those relationships difficult?

Is your level of energy or motivation declining, or do you feel depressed?

Is your self opinion declining, so that you are always fighting to be good enough and to prove yourself?

Do you find yourself consistently preoccupied with the relationship and how to fix it?

Do you feel like you can’t do anything right?

Do you feel like the problems in your relationship are all your fault?

Do you repeatedly leave arguments feeling like you’ve been messed with but can’t figure out why?

If you think you may be in an abusive situation, please contact your local shelter or crisis line. You can just call to talk. They can help. They want you to call. Please call. Also, you can buy the book here.

EDIT: This post got a lot of negative feedback and accusations of misandry (lol) so I wanted to clear up what author Lundy Bancroft of Why Does He DO That? actually says about men and abuse.

This is from page 288-289 of his book, under the subheading “How Society Adopts the Abuser’s Perspective”:

“To the person who says “These abuse activists are anti-male”:

How is it anti-male to be against abuse? Are we supposed to pretend we don’t notice that the overwhelming majority of abusers are male? This accusation parallels the abuser’s words to his partner: The reason you think I’m abusive is because you have a problem with men!” One of the best counters to this piece of side-tracking is to point out how many men are active in combating the abuse of women. Remember also that abused women are the sisters, daughters, mothers, and friends of men. Men’s lives are affected by abuse, because it happens to women we know and care about.”

Additionally, from page 290:

“Everyone should be very, very cautious in accepting a man’s claim that he has been wrongly accused of abuse or violence. The great majority of allegations of abuse– though not all– are substantially accurate, and an abuser almost never ‘seems like the type’.”

Women’s First Hand Accounts of Violence Don’t Count

When I was in college, I had “convenient” PIV with a man named Mike who ended up becoming my brother’s roommate.

This man was mean. In the daylight, he either ignored me, or we matched wills and intellects over various “philosophical” questions such as “Is it really true that just because you’re paranoid, that doesn’t mean they’re not after you?”

He smelled of whisky and cigarettes. On several occasions, he was violent. He twisted my arm behind my back so far that he was completely in control. He put his knees on my arms, and choked me until I couldn’t breathe.

That part of the story is only interesting insofar as I remember not knowing why I wanted to be ignored or fought with in the day, and f*cked at night. I liked being treated this way, even though I hated it when he would pop an entire bag of popcorn for himself, and get mad when I asked to share some. Why did I tolerate this treatment? Because the patriarchal culture I was brought up in groomed me for masochism.

Anyway, this story isn’t really about Mike. When he choked me though, no one believed the story. My brother, and my friends, never did anything about it. He was still part of our social group, and if I didn’t want to spend time with him, I would have had to leave the group. Not to mention that my brother lived with him. So, I “got over” it and stopped talking about what happened.

Last night, in speaking with my brother, he finally told me that after he heard that Miked had choked me, he punched Mike, who denied that it had ever happened. So, my brother believed him, and not me.

Finally, my brother admits to me that he made a mistake in believing Mike. “Yes, you were choked until you couldn’t breathe. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.”

Why do you think my brother believed Mike, when brother and I had been such close friends for so many years? Because it was convenient. And because women’s first hand accounts of violence don’t count for sh*t under the patriarchy. They really, really don’t.

Mike is an ass. I don’t care about what happened- I’m not traumatized. I’m glad my brother finally believes me six years later, but it doesn’t make me un-learn the lessons this has taught me. I doubt I will be believed if someone else hurts me. I’m glad I now resist my culturally induced masochism, and that I told the truth back then, even though no one believed me.