"Survivor Story 1"

"I'm a Bachelor now," my first ex-husband once happily proclaimed. When I laughingly replied, "Yeah well, I'm a Bachelorette!" he responded, "NO YOU'RE NOT. You're a Single Mother!"

I often thought of this while cleaning birthday party pizza vomit, spending nights in the emergency room with a child with raging fevers, and waking during the night to search closets and under beds for the sole purpose of soothing monster fears, knowing all the while that my ex was out PARTYING.

But, would I have traded places? NEVER.

He left me soon after the funeral of our second child, who had died from complications to a birth defect.

After 5 1/2 years of marriage, my then-27-year-old husband informed me he wasn't ready for marriage; that he wasn't comfortable with the role of husband. He further clarified that he felt like "a little boy with a man's responsibilities" and "wasn't 'ready' to be a father" to our surviving first born son, then 18 months.

So, after our divorce, I swallowed my pride and moved in with my parents for a year and a half until I could afford my own apartment. In the meantime, I worked two jobs, and returned to college to earn my degree. And while I juggled caring for a toddler/full-time school/two jobs and later full-time career, my first ex bought a sports car and a condo with the requisite waterbed and happily pursued the "bachelor" life.

However, my three-year-old son and I were doing well in our little home. We had a cozy two-bedroom apartment complete with screened-in front porch and washer/dryer. At the end of a long workday, I looked forward to picking my son up from day care, his little face bright with excitement as he showed me his latest finger painting.

This is what it's all about, I'd think, as I kissed him and held him close. Memories of the workday would vanish like a puff of smoke. So what if I hated my job? So what if the engineers were impossibly demanding and treated me like a secretary despite my Technical Writing degree? I was supporting my son and me. We were making it, despite the late child support payments.


Who needs men? WELL. For one, my son did. No matter how much love and attention I gave him, he missed his Daddy. Unfortunately, his father canceled the Wednesday night visitation, and often weekends, too. And when he didn't cancel, our child often found that he was in the care of the "girlfriend-of-the-week" while his father put in more hours at the office.

Even though I hadn't wanted the divorce, I felt extreme guilt at my son's disappointment when his father canceled. I tried to be both Mother and Father, but found myself sorely lacking. I had little knowledge of sports or what I deemed to be typical boy interests.

"My little boy needs a Daddy" became a MANTRA. And my thoughts turned more and more to my on-again/off-again boyfriend.

The complete opposite of my laid back ex-husband, this man was emotionally intense. A confirmed bachelor, he had the social life my ex-husband now dreamed of. This man was also super-responsible and prided himself on being the "take-charge" type. The few times he'd spent with my son, he'd completely focused on my boy. And my son had beamed from all of the attention.

Yes, my son obviously craved a Daddy figure. (Of course, I should have called "Big Brothers of America" instead of focusing on Mr. Playboy.) But, as I settled into the routine of work/child/work/child/work/child/work, I found myself feeling more and more lonely.

Often, I was overwhelmed with feelings of loss. One such moment was when my son asked why he didn't have any siblings. It seemed that all the children in his pre-school class had brothers and sisters. I choked back tears as the painful memories of his deceased baby brother and the ordeal of the birth came back to me. My longing for another child had never vanished. But, I had buried it deep into my heart as my most painful hurt of hurts--even more painful than having been abandoned by my ex-husband.

I'd lost a child. It is a loss that can't be replaced. But, nevertheless, being a single Mom and not having a steady partner guaranteed I'd never have another baby.

As it was, my biological clock wasn't just ticking; it was GONGING. I was 30 years old. And I'd already had a child born with a birth defect. I knew I shouldn't wait too long if I ever wanted more children.

My loneliness and want of a nuclear family propelled me to the biggest mistake of my life. I stopped turning down requests for dates with Mr. Playboy. Despite the signs that the relationship was not what it should be, all I allowed was that my son glowed under this man's attention.

So, I married him. Yes, he was Mr. Playboy. Mr. Intense. But, my son had a father.

And I was with child. We'd be a family.

Unfortunately, soon after marriage, Mr. Intense became Mr. Complete Controller, who monitored my every waking moment, isolated me from friends and family, and abused me, verbally, mentally, and eventually---physically.

It started with little things. He didn't forward phone messages from family and friends, claiming he'd forgotten to inform me. And he didn't want visitors to the house, nor did he want to visit anyone, either.

Then his control became more obvious. He didn't make an extra key for the mailbox. He insisted I only cook enough food for one meal, to ensure there were no leftovers cluttering the refrigerator. He created a calendar of chores, and insisted I do laundry just once a week. He verified that I'd complied by checking the detergent and the lint screen in the dryer.

He grilled me when I worked late during deadline crunches, and had me call him regularly throughout the day. Later, he accused me of having affairs.

He controlled all the money, including the child support.

He began to call me Stupid or Worthless, and the terms became harsher and vulgar. When I became pregnant, he accused me of carrying another man's child.

The verbal attacks escalated to his punching holes in the walls, breaking my favorite possessions, and then slapping and shoving if I was ten minutes late or there was any 'clutter' in the house, such as a toy left on the couch or living room floor.

I was living a double life as I tried to hide the abuse from everyone. I carefully did my makeup and wore long sleeves to cover the bruises from the slaps and shoves. The most painful scars, of course, were those on my heart and soul. What had become of me? What was happening to my family?

I dutifully smiled during family reunions, playing the role of happy wife to the hilt. And in the company of others, he was his old charming self, the attentive husband.

It was amazing to me that nobody suspected anything. We were living a lie.

At home, I tried to keep the peace by anticipating his moods and perfecting my housecleaning. I wanted to be the "perfect wife" to keep the family together. I didn't want to divorce a second time! My mother's words echoed in my mind, "It's the woman who makes the marriage." I remembered why my first husband left and made excuses. It was too much pressure for a life-long bachelor to suddenly be a husband, stepfather, homeowner, and father-to-be!

But, it seemed that the harder I tried to please my husband, the more abusive he became. And as the abuse escalated, I realized there was no hope. "After the baby is born," became my new mantra. "Then, I will escape with my children."

"It's your own fault; you MADE me do this!" he'd shout after calling me horrendous names, shoving and slapping me, or breaking my possessions. "If only you weren't so disorganized/messy/stupid/worthless/belligerent/bad in bed; if only you weren't such a BAD WIFE, I wouldn't get so MAD."

"This can't go on..." I'd tell him. "I can't keep living like this" to which he'd always respond, "You file for divorce and I'll take the baby away. The next time you see HIM, will be on a milk carton!"


If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call
1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or
1-800-787-3224 (TTY for the Deaf)

The following information is courtesy of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

1.) Are there Predictors Of Domestic Violence?

The following signs often occur before actual abuse and may serve as clues to potential abuse:

* Did he grow up in a violent family? People who grow up in families where they have been abused as children, or where one parent beats the other, have grown up learning that violence is normal behavior.

* Does he tend to use force or violence to "solve" his problems? A young man who has a criminal record for violence, who gets into fights, or who likes to act tough is likely to act the same way with his wife and children.

* Does he have a quick temper? Does he over-react to little problems and frustration? Is he cruel to animals? Does he punch walls or throw things when he's upset? Any of these behaviors may be a sign of a person who will work out bad feelings with violence.

* Does he abuse alcohol or other drugs? There is a strong link between violence and problems with drugs and alcohol. Be alert to his possible drinking/drug problems, particularly if he refuses to admit that he has a problem, or refuses to get help. Do not think that you can change him.

* Does he have strong traditional ideas about what a man should be and what a woman should be? Does he think a woman should stay at home, take care of her husband, and follow his wishes and orders?

* Is he jealous of your other relationships-not just with other men that you may know-but also with your women friends and your family? Does he keep tabs on you? Does he want to know where you are at all times? Does he want you with him all of the time?

* Does he have access to guns, knives, or other lethal instruments? Does he talk of using them against people, or threaten to use them to get even?

* Does he expect you to follow his orders or advice? Does he become angry if you do not fulfill his wishes or if you cannot
anticipate what he wants?

* Does he go through extreme highs and lows, almost as though he were two different people? Is he extremely kind one time, and extremely cruel at another time?

* When he gets angry, do you fear him? Do you find that not making him angry has become a major part of your life? Do you do what he wants you to do, rather than what you want to do?

* Does he treat you roughly? Does he physically force you to do what you do not want to do?

2.) Why Do Men Batter Women?

Many theories have been developed to explain why some men use violence against their partners. These theories include:
-family dysfunction,
-inadequate communication skills,
-provocation by women,
-chemical dependency,
-lack of spirituality, and
economic hardship.

These issues may be associated with battering of women, but they are not the causes. Removing these associated factors will not end men's violence against women.

The batterer begins and continues his behavior because violence is an effective method for gaining and keeping control over another person and he usually does not suffer adverse consequences as a result of his behavior.

Historically, violence against women has not been treated as a "real" crime. This is evident in the lack of severe consequences, such as incarceration or economic penalties, for men guilty of battering their partners. Rarely are batterers ostracized in their communities, even if they are known to have physically assaulted their partners.
Batterers come from all groups and backgrounds, and from all personality profiles. However, some characteristics fit a general profile of a batterer:

-A batterer objectifies women. He does not ssee women as people. He does not respect women as a group. Overall, he sees women as property or sexual objects.

-A batterer has low self-esteem and feels powerless and ineffective in the world. He may appear successful, but inside he feels inadequate.

-A batterer externalizes the causes of his behavior. He blames his violence on circumstances such as stress, his partner's behavior, a "bad day," alcohol or other factors.

-A batterer may be pleasant and charming bettween periods of violence, and is often seen as a "nice guy" to outsiders.

-Some behavioral warning signs of a potentiaal batterer include:

* extreme jealousy,
* possessiveness,
* a bad temper,
* unpredictability,
* cruelty to animals, and
* verbal abusiveness.

3.) Why don't women leave their abusers?

Barriers to Leaving A Violent Relationship--Reasons why women stay generally fall into three major categories:

1.)Lack of Resources:
* Most women have at least one dependent child.
* Many women are not employed outside of the home.
* Many women have no property that is solely theirs.
* Some women lack access to cash or bank accounts.
* Women who leave fear being charged with desertion, and losing children and joint assets.
* A woman may face a decline in living standards for herself and her children.

2.) Institutional Responses:
* Clergy and secular counselors are often trained to see only the goal of "saving" the marriage at all costs, rather than the goal of stopping the violence.

* Police officers often do not provide support to women. They treat violence as a domestic "dispute," instead of a crime where one person is physically attacking another person.

* Police may try to dissuade women from filing charges.

* Prosecutors are often reluctant to prosecute cases, and judges rarely levy the maximum sentence upon convicted abusers. Probation or a fine is much more common.

* Despite the issuing of a restraining order, there is little to prevent a released abuser from returning and repeating the assault. Despite greater public awareness and the increased availability of housing for women fleeing violent partners, there are not enough shelters to keep women safe.

3.) Traditional Ideology:

* Many women do not believe divorce is a viable alternative.

* Many women believe that a single parent family is unacceptable, and that even a violent father is better than no father at all.

* Many women are socialized to believe that they are responsible for making their marriage work.

* Failure to maintain the marriage equals failure as a woman.

* Many women become isolated from friends and families, either by the jealous and possessive abuser, or to hide signs of the abuse from the outside world. The isolation contributes to a sense that there is nowhere to turn.

* Many women rationalize their abuser's behavior by blaming stress, alcohol, problems at work, unemployment, or other factors.

* Many women are taught that their identity and worth are contingent upon getting and keeping a man.

* The abuser rarely beats the woman all the time. During the non-violent phases, he may fulfill the woman's dream of romantic love. She believes that he is basically a "good man." If she believes that she should hold onto a "good man,"
this reinforces her decision to stay. She may also rationalize that her abuser is basically good until something bad happens to him and he has to "let off steam."


In 1991, Governor William Weld modified parole regulations and permitted women to seek commutation if they could present evidence indicating they suffered from battered women's syndrome. A short while later, the Governor, citing spousal abuse
as his impetus, released seven women convicted of killing their husbands, and the Great and General Court of Massachusetts
enacted Mass. Gen. L. ch. 233, 23E (1993), which permits the introduction of evidence of abuse in criminal trials. These decisive acts brought the issue of domestic abuse to the public's attention and left many Massachusetts residents,
lawyers and judges struggling to define battered women's syndrome.

In order to help these individuals define battered women's syndrome, the origins and development of the three primary theories of the syndrome and recommended treatments are outlined below.

I. The Classical Theory of Battered Women's Syndrome and its Origins

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), known in the mental health field as the clinician's bible, does not recognize battered women's syndrome as a distinct mental disorder. In fact, Dr. Lenore Walker, the architect of the classical battered women's syndrome theory, notes the syndrome is not an illness, but a theory that draws upon principles of learned helplessness to explain why some women are unable to leave their abusers.

Therefore, the classical battered women's syndrome theory is best regarded as an offshoot of the theory of learned helplessness and not a mental illness that afflicts abused women.

The theory of learned helplessness sought to account for the passive behavior subjects exhibited when placed in an uncontrollable environment. In the late 60's and early 70's, Martin Seligman, a famous researcher in the field of psychology, conducted a series of experiments in which dogs were placed in one of two types of cages.

In the former cage, henceforth referred to as the shock cage, a bell would sound and the experimenters would electrify the entire floor seconds later, shocking the dog regardless of location. The latter cage, however, although similar in every other respect to the shock cage, contained a small area where the experimenters could administer no shock. Seligman observed that while the dogs in the latter cage learned to run to the non-electrified area after a series of shocks, the dogs in the shock cage gave up trying to escape, even when placed in the latter cage and shown that escape was possible.

Seligman theorized that the dogs' initial experience in the uncontrollable shock cage led them to believe that they could not
control future events and was responsible for the observed disruptions in behavior and learning. Thus, according to the theory of learned helplessness, a subject placed in an uncontrollable environment will become passive and accept painful stimuli, even though escape is possible and apparent.

In the late 1970's, Dr. Walker drew upon Seligman's research and incorporated it into her own theory, the battered women's syndrome, in an attempt to explain why battered women remain with their abusers. According to Dr. Walker, battered women's syndrome contains two distinct elements:

A cycle of violence and symptoms of learned helplessness.

The cycle of violence is composed of three phases: 1.) the tension building phase, 2.) active battering phase, and 3.) calm loving respite phase.

1.) During the tension-building phase, the victim is subjected to verbal abuse and minor battering incidents, such as slaps, pinches and psychological abuse.

In this phase, the woman tries to pacify her batterer by using techniques that have worked previously. Typically, the woman showers her abuser with kindness or attempts to avoid him. However, the victim's attempts to pacify her batter are often fruitless and only work to delay the inevitable acute battering incident.

2.) The tension building phase ends and the active battering phase begins when the verbal abuse and minor battering evolve into an acute battering incident. A release of the tensions built during phase one characterizes the active battering phase, which usually last for a period of two to twenty-four hours.

The violence during this phase is unpredictable and inevitable, and statistics indicate that the risk of the batterer murdering his victim is at its greatest. The batterer places his victim in a constant state of fear, and she is unable to control her batterer's violence by utilizing techniques that worked in the tension-building phase. The victim, realizing her lack of control, attempts to mitigate the violence by becoming passive.

3.) After the active battering phase comes to a close, the cycle of violence enters the calm loving respite phase or "honeymoon phase." During this phase, the batterer apologizes for his abusive behavior and promises that it will never happen again. The behavior exhibited by the batter in the calm loving respite phase closely resembles the behavior he exhibited when the couple first met and fell in love.

The calm loving respite phase is the most psychologically victimizing phase because the batterer fools the victim, who is relieved that the abuse has ended, into believing that he has changed. However, inevitably, the batterer begins to verbally abuse his victim and the cycle of abuse begins anew.

According to Dr. Walker, Seligman's theory of learned helplessness explains why women stay with their abusers and occurs in a victim after the cycle of violence repeats numerous times. As noted earlier, dogs that were placed in an environment where pain was unavoidable responded by becoming passive.

Dr. Walker asserts that, in the domestic abuse ambit, sporadic brutality, perceptions of powerlessness, lack of financial resources and the superior strength of the batterer all combine to instill a feeling of helplessness in the victim. In other words, batterers condition women into believing that they are powerless to escape by subjecting them to a continuing pattern of uncontrollable violence and abuse.

Dr. Walker, in applying the learned helplessness theory to battered women, changed society's perception of battered women by dispelling the myth that battered women like abuse and offering a logical and rationale explanation for why most stay with their abuser.

As the classical theory of battered women's syndrome is based upon the psychological principles of conditioning, experts believe that behavior modification strategies are best suited for treating women suffering from the syndrome. A simple, yet effective, behavioral strategy consists of two stages. In the initial stage, the battered woman removes herself from the uncontrollable or "shock cage" environment and isolates herself from her abuser. Generally, professionals help the victim escape by using assertiveness training, modeling and recommending use of the court system.

After the woman terminates the abusive relationship, professionals give the victim relapse prevention training to ensure that subsequent exposure to abusive behavior will not cause maladaptive behavior. Although this strategy is effective, the model offered by Dr. Walker suggests that battered women usually do not actively seek out help. Therefore, concerned agencies and individuals must be proactive and extremely sensitive to the needs and fears of victims.

In sum, the classical battered women's syndrome is a theory that has its origins in the research of Martin Seligman. Women in a domestic abuse situation experience a cycle of violence with their abuser.

The cycle is composed of three phases: 1.) the tension building phase, 2.) active battering phase and
3.) calm loving respite phase.

1.) A gradual increase in verbal abuse marks the tension building phase.
2.)When this abuse culminates into an acute battering episode, the relationship enters the active battering phase.
3.) Once the acute battering phase ends, usually within two to twenty-four hours, the parties enter the calm loving respite phase, in which the batterer expresses remorse and promises to change.

After the cycle has played out several times, the victim begins to manifest symptoms of learned helplessness. Behavioral modification strategies offer an effective treatment for battered women's syndrome. However, Dr. Walker's model indicates that battered women may not seek the help that they need because of feelings of helplessness.

II. An Alternate Battered Women's Syndrome Theory: Battered Women as Survivors.

Over the years, empirical data has emerged that casts doubt on Dr. Walker's explanation of why women stay with their batterers or, in extreme cases, why they kill their abusers. Two researchers, Edward W. Gondolf and Ellen R. Fisher, make reference to voluminous statistics that refute the classical battered women's syndrome theory, and suggest Dr. Walker erroneously attributes a victim's refusal to leave her batterer to learned helplessness.

For instance, the two, in discounting Dr. Walker's theory, cite a study conducted by Lee H. Bowker that indicates victims of abuse often contact other family members for help as the violence escalates over time. The two also note that Bowker observed a steady increase in formal help-seeking behavior as the violence increased.

In addition to citing empirical data, Gondolf and Fisher point out that using Dr. Walker's theory to explain the battered woman's actions in extreme cases creates the ultimate oxymoron: a woman so helpless she kills her batterer. In an effort to account for the shortcomings of the classical battered women's theory, Gondolf and Fisher offered the markedly different survivor theory of battered women's syndrome, which consists of four important elements.

1.) The first element of the survivor theory surmises that a pattern of abuse prompts battered women to employ innovative coping strategies and to seek help, such as flattering the batterer and turning to their families for assistance.

When these sources of help prove ineffective, the battered woman seeks out other sources and employs different strategies to lessen the abuse. For example, the battered women may avoid her abuser all together and seek help from the court system. Thus, according to the survivor theory, battered women actively seek help and employ coping skills throughout the abusive relationship.

In contrast, the classical theory of battered women's syndrome views women as becoming passive and helpless in the face of repeated abuse.

2.) The second element of Gondolf and Fisher's theory posits that a lack of options, know-how and finances, not learned helplessness, instills a feeling of anxiety in the victim that prevents her from escaping the abuser. When a battered woman seeks outside help, she is typically confronted with an ineffective bureaucracy, insufficient help sources and societal indifference.

This lack of practical options, combined with the victim's lack of financial resources, make it likely that a battered women will stay and try to change her batterer, rather than leave and face the unknown.

The classical battered women's syndrome theory differs in that it focuses on the victim's perception that escape is impossible, not on the obstacles the victim must overcome to escape.

3.) The third element expands on the first and describes how the victim actively seeks help from a variety of formal and informal help sources. For instance, an example of an informal help source would be a close friend and a formal help source would be a shelter.

Gondolf and Fisher maintain that the help obtained from these sources is inadequate and piecemeal in nature. Given these inadequacies, the researchers conclude that the leaving a batterer is a difficult path for a victim to embark upon.

4.) The fourth element of the survivor theory hypothesizes that the failure of the aforementioned help sources to intervene in a comprehensive and decisive manner permits the cycle of abuse to continue unchecked.

Interestingly, Gondolf and Fisher blame the lack of effective help on a variation of the learned helplessness theory, explaining help organizations are too overwhelmed and limited in their resources to be effective and therefore do not try as hard as they should to help victims.

Whatever the case may be, the researchers argue that we can better understand the plight of the battered woman by asking did she seek help and what happened when she did, rather than why didn't she leave.

Because the survivor theory of learned helplessness attributes the battered woman's plight to ineffective help sources and societal indifference, a logical solution would entail increased funding for programs in place and educating the public about the symptoms and consequences of domestic violence.

There are battered women's advocacy programs in place in courts located throughout the country. However, inadequate funding limits their effectiveness. By increasing funding, citizens can assure that all battered women will receive the assistance that will permit them to escape their batterer.

Additionally, if we educate citizens about the harmful effects of domestic abuse, the public will no longer treat victims with indifference.

To recap, Edward W. Gondolf and Ellen R. Fisher developed the survivor theory of battered women's syndrome to explain why statistics indicate that battered women increase their help seeking behavior as the violence escalates. The theory is composed of four important elements.

1.) The first recognizes that battered women actively seek help throughout their relationship with the abuser.

2.) The second element posits that a lack of options, know-how and finances creates anxiety in the victim over leaving her batterer.

3.) The third element describes the inadequate and piecemeal help the victim receives.

4.) Finally, the fourth element concludes that the failure of help sources, not learned helplessness, accounts for why many battered women remain with their abusers.

Under the survivor theory, the best method for helping battered women is to increase funding for battered women's assistance programs and agencies and educate the public about the harmful effects of domestic abuse.

III. Battered Women's Syndrome Equals Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Although the DSM-IV does not recognize battered women's syndrome as a distinct mental illness or disorder, some experts maintain that battered women's syndrome is just another name for post traumatic stress disorder, which the DSM-IV recognizes.

The post traumatic stress disorder theory is also applied to individuals who were never exposed to domestic abuse, and, in the domestic abuse ambit, does not exclusively focus on the battered woman's perception of helplessness or ineffective help sources to explain why she stayed with her batterer.

Instead, the theory focuses on the psychological disturbance an individual suffers after exposure to a traumatic event.

In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association added the post traumatic stress disorder classification to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III, a manual used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental illness.
Although the diagnosis was controversial at the time, post traumatic stress disorder has gained wide acceptance in the mental health community and revolutionized the way professionals regard human reactions to trauma.

Prior to the disorder's inception, experts attributed the cause of emotional trauma to individual weakness. However, with the advent of the theory of post traumatic stress disorder, experts now attribute the etiology of emotional trauma to an external stressor, not a weakness in the psyche of the individual.

Since 1980, the American Psychiatric Association has revised the criteria for diagnosing post traumatic stress disorder several times. Currently, the diagnostic criteria for post traumatic stress disorder include a history of exposure to a traumatic event and symptoms from each of three symptom clusters: intrusive recollections, avoidant/numbing
symptoms and hyper arousal symptoms. Recent data indicate that many individuals qualify for a post traumatic
stress disorder under the current diagnostic criteria, with prevalence rates running between 5 to 10% in our society.

As noted earlier, in order for a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder to apply, the individual must have been exposed to a traumatic event involving actual or threatened death or injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of the person or others.

The authors of the early theory of post traumatic stress disorder considered a traumatic event to be outside the range of human experience, such events included rape, torture, war, the Holocaust, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, airplane crashes and automobile accidents, and did not
contemplate applying the diagnosis to battered women. The American Psychiatric Association loosened the traumatic event criteria in the DSM-IV, which replaced the DSM-III and DSM-IIIR.

Presently, the traumatic event need only be markedly distressing to almost anyone. Therefore, battered women have little trouble meeting the DSM-IV traumatic event diagnostic requirement because most people would find the abuse battered women are subjected to markedly distressing.

In addition to meeting the traumatic event diagnostic criteria, an individual must have symptoms from the intrusive recollection, avoidant/numbing and hyper arousal categories for a post traumatic stress disorder diagnosis to apply.

The intrusive recollection category consists of symptoms that are distinct and easily identifiable. In individuals suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, the traumatic event is a dominant psychological experience that evokes panic, terror, dread, grief or despair. Often, these feelings are manifested in daytime fantasies, traumatic nightmares and flashbacks.

Additionally, stimuli that the individual associates with the traumatic event can evoke mental images, emotional responses and psychological reactions associated with the trauma. Examples of intrusive recollection symptoms a battered woman may suffer are fantasies of killing her batterer and flashbacks of battering incidents.

The avoidant/numbing cluster consists of the emotional strategies individuals with post traumatic stress disorder use to reduce the likelihood that they will either expose themselves to traumatic stimuli, or if exposed, will minimize their psychological response.

The DSM-IV divides the strategies into three categories: 1.) behavioral, 2.) cognitive and 3.) emotional.

  1. Behavioral strategies include avoiding situations where the stimuli are likely to be encountered.
  2. Dissociation and psychogenic amnesia are cognitive strategies by which individuals with post traumatic stress disorder cut off the conscious experience of trauma-based memories and feelings.
  3. Lastly, the individual may separate the cognitive aspects from the emotional aspects of psychological experience and perceive only the former.

This type of psychic numbing serves as an emotional anesthesia that makes it extremely difficult for people with post traumatic stress disorder to participate in meaningful interpersonal relationships.

Thus, a battered woman suffering from post traumatic stress disorder may avoid her batterer and repress trauma-based feelings and emotions.

The hyper arousal category symptoms closely resemble those seen in panic and generalized anxiety disorders. Although symptoms such as insomnia and irritability are generic anxiety symptoms, hyper vigilance and startle are unique to post traumatic stress disorder.

The hyper vigilance symptom may become so intense in individuals suffering from post traumatic stress disorder that it appears as if they are paranoid.

A careful reading of post traumatic stress disorder symptoms and diagnostic criteria indicates that Dr. Walker's classical theory of battered women's syndrome is contained within.

For instance, both theories require that the victim be exposed to a traumatic event. In Dr. Walker's theory, she describes the traumatic event as a cycle of violence.

The post traumatic stress disorder theory, on the other hand, only requires that the event be markedly distressing to almost everyone. Thus, the cycle of violence described by Dr. Walker is considered a traumatic stressor for the purposes of diagnosing post traumatic stress disorder.

Additionally, like the classical theory of battered women's syndrome, the theory of post traumatic stress disorder recognizes that an individual may become helpless after exposure to a traumatic event. Although the post traumatic stress disorder theory seems to incorporate Dr. Walker's theory, it is more inclusive in that it recognizes that different individuals may have different reactions to traumatic events and does not rely heavily on the theory of learned helplessness to explain why battered women stay with their abusers.

There are several methods a professional can utilize to treat individuals suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

The most successful treatments are those that they administer immediately after the traumatic event. Experts commonly call this type of treatment critical incident stress debriefing.

Although this type of treatment is effective in halting the development of post traumatic stress disorder, the cyclical nature and gradual escalation of violence in domestic abuse situations make critical incident stress debriefing an unlikely therapy for battered women.

The second type of treatment is administered after post traumatic stress disorder has developed and is less effective than critical incident stress debriefing. This type of treatment may consist of psychodynamic psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, pharmacotherapy and group therapy.

The most effective post-manifestation treatment for battered women is group therapy. In a group therapy session, battered women can discuss traumatic memories, post traumatic stress disorder symptoms and functional deficits with others who have had similar experiences. By discussing their experiences and symptoms, the women form a common bond and release repressed memories, feelings and emotions.

To summarize, many experts regard battered women's syndrome as a subcategory of post traumatic stress disorder. The diagnostic criteria for post traumatic stress disorder include a history of exposure to a traumatic event and symptoms from each of three symptom clusters: 1.) intrusive recollections, 2.) avoidant/numbing symptoms, and 3.) hyper arousal symptoms.

After exposure to a traumatic event, defined by the DSM-IV as one that is markedly distressing to almost everyone, an individual suffering from post traumatic stress disorder may suffer intrusive recollections, which consist of daytime fantasies, traumatic nightmares and flashbacks.

The individual may also try to avoid stimuli that remind him/her of the traumatic event and/or develop symptoms associated with generic anxiety disorders. Critical incident stress debriefing, psychodynamic psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, pharmacotherapy and group therapy are all recognized as effective treatments for post traumatic stress disorder.

IV. Conclusion

Although there are many different theories of battered women's syndrome, most are all variations or hybrids of the three main theories outlined above. A sound understanding of Dr. Walker's classical battered women's syndrome theory, Gondolf and Fisher's survivor theory of battered women's syndrome and the post traumatic stress disorder theory, will permit the reader to identify the origins and essential elements of these various hybrids and provide them with a better understanding of the plight of the battered woman.

Given the prevalence of domestic abuse in our society, it is important to realize that the battered woman does not like abuse or is responsible for her victimization.

The three theories discussed above all offer rationale explanations for why a battered woman often stays with her abuser and explore the psychological harm caused by abuse while discounting the popular perception that battered women must enjoy the abuse.

5.) What are the WARNING SIGNS OF ABUSE for employers?

  • The employee who claims to be "accident-prone." Physical indicators such as bruises, which the employee may attempt to hide with makeup or clothing. The woman who claims to be clumsy may actually be trying to hide abuse.
  • The employee who is pregnant and seems fearful or unhappy. Abuse often begins or escalates during pregnancy.
  • Signs of distress and/or depression, such as crying at work.
  • Frequent absences from work. Pay careful attention to the employee who takes vacation days suddenly or sporadically and takes one to three days at a time.
  • The employee who is frequently late to work.
  • Frequent and harassing phone calls at work.
  • The employee who mentions stress at home.
  • The employee who frequently refers to her partner's anger or temper. She may seem to be afraid of her partner.
  • Decreased productivity or inattentiveness.
  • The employee who has little or no access to resources such as money, credit cards or a car.
  • The employee who is isolated from friends, relatives and even co-workers.

The following quotes are excerpted from A Woman's Handbook: A Practical Guide to Discussing Relationship Abuse and What You Need to Know about Dating Violence; A Teen's Handbook, A Parent's Guide to Teen Dating Violence from Liz Claiborne Inc. and the Family Violence Prevention Fund:

"I remember the first coworker who asked me if my fat lip was caused by my ex-husband. He may have felt that it didn't do any good, or that he was wrong to ask. But by asking that question, he planted a seed in my mind that what was happening to me wasn't right. "
- Karen

"Molly was part of our team. She was shaken up by the harassing phone calls. We found them intolerable in a business and made it clear to the caller that he'd never get through to her. We twice gave Molly extra paid leave to sort things out. The threat to her was a threat to everyone in the building, so we distributed a warning flyer with his picture. We introduced her to a counselor, and we cooperated with the police and courts in her attempts to file and enforce a protective order. In the end, Molly's harasser learned that his actions had consequences. Molly learned that she could rely on a network of support and we learned that you could step forward and make a difference. "
- Mike

"My coworker screened my calls when my ex-husband was harassing me. She volunteered to change her shift so that I could go to a support group, and was always there for me if I just needed to talk. The support I got at work made the whole process so much easier for me. "
- Monica

"After getting help from my supervisor, I worked so hard. I think I gave back as much as I could to her. The fact that they had been there for me through the rough stuff gave me a sense of commitment to the work. If you just stick it out, what a loyal employee you get in the end. "
- A survivor

For more information about domestic violence and where to seek help, please click the following links:

"And the day came when the risk [it took] to remain in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." --Anais Nin

Warning Signs That You're Dating a Loser

By Joseph M. Carver, PhD

Mental Health Professional
Clinical Psychologist
Dr. Joe Carver's Website

Dr. Carver has thirty years of clinical experience in a variety of settings including inpatient, outpatient, private practice, state hospitals, child-protective agencies, community mental health centers, neuro-rehabilitation, and now juvenile correctional facilities. He is currently in private practice and the Psychology Supervisor at Ohio River Valley Juvenile Correctional Facility.

"The Loser"

Very few relationships start on terms other than sweetness and politeness. In the beginning, "the honeymoon" of the relationship, it's difficult to determine what type of individual you are dating. Both you and the date are guarded, trying to obtain information about the other as much as possible without seeming like a police detective.

Romantic relationships can be wonderful with the right person. A relationship with the wrong individual however can lead to years of heartache, emotional/social damage, and even physical damage. A damaging adult partner can damage us, damage our loved ones, and even damage the way we feel about love and romance in the future. They can turn what is supposed to be a loving, supporting, and understanding relationship into the "fatal attraction" often described in movies. There are a variety of "bad choices" that may be encountered each week - most of which are easily to identify and avoid. We all know to avoid people that appear insane or abusive and not select them as a dating partner. However, some individuals are better at hiding their personality and behavior abnormalities. In an effort to provide some warning about these very damaging individuals, this paper will outline a type of individual commonly found in the dating scene, a male or female labeled "The Loser".

"The Loser" is a type of partner that creates much social, emotional and psychological damage in a relationship. "The Loser" has permanent personality characteristics that create this damage. These are characteristics that they accept simply as the way they are and not a problem or psychological difficulty. In one sense, they have always lived with this personality and behavior, often something they probably learned from their relatives/family. Psychologists usually treat the victims of "The Loser", women or men who arrive at the office severely depressed with their self-confidence and self-esteem totally destroyed.

The following list is an attempt to outline the characteristics of "The Loser" and provide a manner in which women and men can identify potentially damaging relationships before they are themselves severely damaged emotionally or even physically. If your partner possesses even one of these features, there is risk in the relationship. More than three of these indicators and you are involved with "The Loser" in a very high risk relationship that will eventually create damage to you. When a high number of these features are present - it's not a probably or possibility. You will be hurt and damaged by "The Loser" if you stay in the relationship.

1. Rough Treatment "The Loser" will hurt you on purpose. If he or she hits you, twists your arm, pulls your hair, kicks you, shoves you, or breaks your personal property EVEN ONCE, drop them. Male losers often begin with behaviors that move you physically or hit the wall. Female losers often slap, kick and even punch their male partners when upset.

2. Quick Attachment and Expression "The Loser" has very shallow emotions and connections with others. One of the things that might attract you to "The Loser" is how quickly he or she says "I Love You" or wants to marry or commit to you. Typically, in less than a few weeks of dating you'll hear that you're the love of their life, they want to be with you forever, and they want to marry you. You'll receive gifts, a variety of promises, and be showered with their attention and nice gestures. This is the "honeymoon phase" - where they catch you and convince you that they are the best thing that ever happened to you. Remember the business saying "If it's too good to be true it probably is (too good to be true)!" You may be so overwhelmed by this display of instant attraction, instant commitment, and instant planning for the future that you'll miss the major point - it doesn't make sense!! Normal, healthy individuals require a long process to develop a relationship because there is so much at stake. Healthy individuals will wait for a lot of information before offering a commitment - not three weeks. It's true that we can become infatuated with others quickly - but not make such unrealistic promises and have the future planned after three dates. The rapid warm-up is always a sign of shallow emotions which later cause "The Loser" to detach from you as quickly as they committed. "The Loser" typically wants to move in with you or marry you in less than four weeks or very early in the relationship.

3. Frightening Temper "The Loser" has a scary temper. If your boyfriend or girlfriend blows up and does dangerous things, like driving too fast because they're mad, breaking/throwing things, getting into fights, or threatening others - that temper will soon be turned in your direction. In the beginning of the relationship, you will be exposed to "witnessed violence" - fights with others, threats toward others, angry outbursts at others, etc. You will also hear of violence in their life. You will see and witness this temper - throwing things, yelling, cursing, driving fast, hitting the walls, and kicking things. That quickly serves to intimidate you and fear their potential for violence, although "The Loser" quickly assures you that they are angry at others or situations, not at you. At first, you will be assured that they will never direct the hostility and violence at you - but they are clearly letting you know that they have that ability and capability - and that it might come your way. Later, you fear challenging or confronting them - fearing that same temper and violence will be turned in your direction.

4. Killing Your Self-Confidence "The Loser" repeatedly puts you down. They constantly correct your slight mistakes, making you feel "on guard", unintelligent, and leaving you with the feeling that you are always doing something wrong. They tell you that you're too fat, too unattractive, or don't talk correctly or look well. This gradual chipping away at your confidence and self-esteem allows them to later treat you badly - as though you deserved it. In public, you will be "walking on eggshells" - always fearing you are doing or saying something that will later create a temper outburst or verbal argument.

5. Cutting Off Your Support In order to control someone completely, you must cut off their supportive friends - sometimes even their family. "The Loser" feels your friends and family might influence you or offer negative opinions about their behavior. "The Loser" begins by telling you these friends treat you badly, take advantage of you, and don't understand the special nature of the love you share with them. In some cases, if they can't get rid of your best same-sex friend, "The Loser" will claim he or she made a pass at them. If you talk to your friends or family, "The Loser" will punish you by asking multiple questions or making nasty accusations. Eventually, rather than face the verbal punishment, interrogation, and abuse, you'll develop the feeling that it's better not to talk to family and friends. You will withdraw from friends and family, prompting them to become upset with you. "The Loser" then tells you they are treating you badly again and you'd be better to keep your distance from them. Once you are isolated and alone, without support, their control over you can increase.

6. The Mean and Sweet Cycle "The Loser" cycles from mean to sweet and back again. The cycle starts when they are intentionally hurtful and mean. You may be verbally abused, cursed, and threatened over something minor. Suddenly, the next day they become sweet, doing all those little things they did when you started dating. You hang on, hoping each mean-then-sweet cycle is the last one. The other purpose of the mean cycle is to allow "The Loser" to say very nasty things about you or those you care about, again chipping away at your self-esteem and self-confidence. "The Loser" often apologizes but the damage to your self-esteem is already done - exactly as planned.

7. It's Always Your Fault "The Loser" blames you for their anger as well as any other behavior that is incorrect. When they cheat on you, yell at you, treat you badly, damage your property, or embarrass you publicly - it's somehow your fault. If you are ten minutes late for a date, it's your fault that the male loser drives 80 miles per hour, runs people off the road, and pouts the rest of the evening. "The Loser" tells you their anger and misbehavior would not have happened if you had not made some simple mistake, had loved them more, or had not questioned their behavior. "The Loser" never, repeat "never", takes personal responsibility for their behavior - it's always the fault of someone else. If they drive like a maniac and try to pull an innocent driver off the highway to assault them - it's actually the fault of the other driver (not his) as they didn't use a turn signal when they changed lanes. They give you the impression that you had it (anger, yelling, assault) coming and deserved the anger, violence, pouting, or physical display of aggression.

8. Breakup Panic "The Loser" panics at the idea of breaking up - unless it's totally their idea - then you're dropped like a hot rock. Abusive boyfriends often break down and cry, they plead, they promise to change, and they offer marriage/trips/gifts when you threaten ending the relationship. Both male and female losers may threaten suicide, threaten to return to old sweethearts (who feel lucky they're gone!), or threaten to quit their job and leave the area - as though you will be responsible for those decisions. "The Loser" offers a multitude of "deals" and halfway measures, like "Let's just date one more month!"

They shower you with phone calls, often every five minutes, hoping that you will make an agreement or see them just to stop the telephone harassment. Some call your relatives, your friends, their friends, and anyone else they can think of - telling those people to call you and tell you how much they love you. Creative losers often create so much social pressure that the victim agrees to go back to the bad relationship rather than continue under the social pressure. Imagine trying to end a relationship and receiving tearful calls from all his or her relatives (they secretly hope you'll keep them so they don't have to), seeing a plea for your return in the newspaper or even on a local billboard, receiving flowers at work each day, or having them arrive at your place of work and offer you a wedding ring (male loser technique) or inform you that they might be pregnant (female loser technique) in front of your coworkers! Their reaction is emotionally intense, a behavior they use to keep you an emotional prisoner. If you go back to them, you actually fear a worse reaction if you threaten to leave again (making you a prisoner) and they later frequently recall the incident to you as further evidence of what a bad person you are. Remember, if your prize dog jumps the fence and escapes, if you get him back you build a higher fence. Once back in the grasp of "The Loser" - escape will be three times as difficult the next time.

9. No Outside Interests "The Loser" will encourage you to drop your hobbies, interests, and involvement with others. If you have an individual activity, they demand that they accompany you, making you feel miserable during the entire activity. The idea behind this is to prevent you from having fun or interests other than those which they totally control.

10. Paranoid Control "The Loser" will check up on you and keep track of where you are and who you are with. If you speak to a member of the opposite sex, you receive twenty questions about how you know them. If you don't answer their phone call, you are ask where you were, what were you doing, who you were talking to, etc. They will notice the type of mud on your car, question why you shop certain places, and question why you called a friend, why the friend called you, and so forth. Some losers follow you to the grocery, then later ask if you've been there in an attempt to catch you in a lie. In severe cases, they go through your mail, look through your purse/wallet, hit your redial on the phone when they arrive, or search through your garbage for evidence. High-tech losers may encourage you to make "private" calls to friends from their residence, calls that are being secretly taped for later reference. They may begin to tell you what to wear, what to listen to in music, and how to behave in public. Eventually, they tell you that you can not talk to certain friends or acquaintances, go certain places, or talk about certain issues in public. If no date is present on Friday night - "The Loser" will inform you that they will call you that night - sometime. That effectively keeps you home, awaiting the call, fearing the verbal abuse and questions you might receive if you weren't home for the call. This technique allows "The Loser" to do what they want socially, at the same time controlling your behavior from a distance or a local bar.

11. Public Embarrassment In an effort to keep you under control while in public, "The Loser" will lash out at you, call you names, or say cruel or embarrassing things about you in private or in front of people. When in public, you quickly learn that any opinion you express may cause them to verbally attack you, either at the time or later. If you stay with "The Loser" too long, you'll soon find yourself politely smiling, saying nothing, and holding on to their arm when in public. You'll also find yourself walking with your head down, fearful of seeing a friend who might speak to you and create an angry reaction in "The Loser".

12. It's Never Enough "The Loser" convinces you that you are never quite good enough. You don't say "I love you" enough, you don't stand close enough, you don't do enough for them after all their sacrifices, and your behavior always falls short of what is expected. This is another method of destroying your self-esteem and confidence. After months of this technique, they begin telling you how lucky you are to have them - somebody who tolerates someone so inadequate and worthless as you.

13. Entitlement "The Loser" has a tremendous sense of entitlement, the attitude that they have a perfectly logical right to do whatever they desire. If cut off in traffic, "The Loser" feels they have the right to run the other driver off the road, assault them, and endanger the lives of other drivers with their temper tantrum. Keep in mind, this same sense of entitlement will be used against you. If you disobey their desires or demands, or violate one of their rules, they feel they are entitled to punish you in any manner they see fit.

14. Your Friends and Family Dislike Him As the relationship continues, your friends and family will see what "The Loser" is doing to you. They will notice a change in your personality or your withdrawal. They will protest. "The Loser" will tell you they are jealous of the "special love" you have and then use their protest and opinion as further evidence that they are against you - not him. The mention of your family members or friends will spark an angry response from them - eventually placing you in the situation where you stop talking about those you care about, even your own family members. "The Loser" will be jealous and threatened by anyone you are close to - even your children. In some cases, your parents or brothers/sisters will not be allowed to visit your home.

15. Bad Stories People often let you know about their personality by the stories they tell about themselves. It's the old story about giving a person enough rope and they'll hang themselves. The stories a person tells informs us of how they see themselves, what they think is interesting, and what they think will impress you. A humorous individual will tell funny stories on himself. "The Loser" tells stories of violence, aggression, being insensitive to others, rejecting others, etc. They may tell you about past relationships and in every case, they assure you that they were treated horribly despite how wonderful they were to that person. They brag about their temper and outbursts because they don't see anything wrong with violence and actually take pride in the "I don't take nothing from nobody" attitude. People define themselves with their stories, much like a culture is described by it's folklore and legends. Listen to these stories - they tell you how you will eventually be treated and what's coming your way.

16. The Waitress Test It's been said that when dating, the way an individual treats a waitress or other neutral person of the opposite sex is the way they will treat you in six months. During the "honeymoon phase" of a relationship, you will be treated like a king or queen. However, during that time "The Loser" has not forgotten how he or she basically feels about the opposite sex. Waitresses, clerks, or other neutral individuals will be treated badly. If they are cheap - you'll never receive anything once the honeymoon is over. If they whine, complain, criticize, and torment - that's how they'll treat you in six months. A mentally healthy person is consistent, they treat almost all people the same way all the time. If you find yourself dating a man who treats you like a queen and other females like dirt - hit the road.

17. The Reputation As mentioned, mentally healthy individuals are consistent in their personality and their behavior. "The Loser" may have two distinct reputations - a group of individuals who will give you glowing reports and a group that will warn you that they are serious trouble. If you ask ten people about a new restaurant - five say it's wonderful and five say it's a hog pit - you clearly understand that there's some risk involved in eating there. "The Loser" may actually brag about their reputation as a "butt kicker", "womanizer", "hot temper" or "being crazy". They may tell you stories where other's have called them crazy or suggested that they receive professional help. Pay attention to the reputation. Reputation is the public perception of an individual's behavior. If the reputation has two sides, good and bad, your risk is high. You will be dealing with the bad side once the honeymoon is over in the relationship. With severe behavior problems, "The Loser" will be found to have almost no friends, just acquaintances. Emotionally healthy and moral individuals will not tolerate friendships with losers that treat others so badly. If you find yourself disliking the friends of "The Loser", it's because they operate the same way he or she does and you can see it in them.

18. Walking on Eggshells As a relationship with "The Loser" continues, you will gradually be exposed to verbal intimidation, temper tantrums, lengthy interrogations about trivial matters, violence/threats directed at others but witnessed by you, paranoid preoccupation with your activities, and a variety of put-downs on your character. You will quickly find yourself "walking on eggshells" in their presence - fearful to bring up topics, fearful to mention that you spoke to or saw a friend, and fearful to question or criticize the behavior of "The Loser". Instead of experiencing the warmth and comfort of love, you will be constantly on edge, tense when talking to others (they might say something that you'll have to explain later), and fearful that you'll see someone you'll have to greet in public. Dates and times together will be more comfortable and less threatening when totally alone - exactly what "The Loser" wants - no interference with their control or dominance.

19. Discounted Feelings/Opinions "The Loser" is so self-involved and self-worshiping that the feelings and opinions of others are considered worthless. As the relationship continues and you begin to question what you are feeling or seeing in their behavior, you will be told that your feelings and opinions don't make sense, they're silly, and that you are emotionally disturbed to even think of such things. "The Loser" has no interest in your opinion or your feelings - but they will be disturbed and upset that you dare question their behavior. "The Loser" is extremely hostile toward criticism and often reacts with anger or rage when their behavior is questioned.

20. They Make You "Crazy" "The Loser" operates in such a damaging way that you find yourself doing "crazy" things in self-defense. If "The Loser" is scheduled to arrive at 8:00 pm - you call Time & Temperature to cover the redial, check your garbage for anything that might get you in trouble, and call your family and friends to tell them not to call you that night. You warn family/friends not to bring up certain topics, avoid locations in the community where you might see co-workers or friends, and not speak to others for fear of the 20 questions. You become paranoid as well - being careful what you wear and say. Nonviolent males find themselves in physical fights with female losers. Nonviolent females find themselves yelling and screaming when they can no longer take the verbal abuse or intimidation. In emotional and physical self-defense, we behave differently and oddly. While we think we are "going crazy" - it's important to remember that there is no such thing as "normal behavior" in a combat situation. Rest assured that your behavior will return to normal if you detach from "The Loser" before permanent psychological damage is done.

Dangerous Versions of "The Loser"

There are more severe if not dangerous versions of "The Loser" that have been identified over the years. If you are involved in a relationship with one of these versions, you may require professional and legal assistance to save yourself.

Physical Abuser Physical abusers begin the relationship with physical moving - shoving, pushing, forcing, etc. That quickly moves into verbal threats with physical gestures - the finger in the face, clinched fist in the face, and voiced physical threats such as "You make me want to break your face!" Eventually, these combine to form actual physical abuse - hitting, slapping, and kicking. "The Loser" is always sorry the next day and begins the mean-then-sweet cycle all over again. Getting away from physical abusers often requires the assistance of family, law enforcement agencies, or local abuse agencies. Female losers often physically attack their partner, break car windows, or behave with such violence that the male partner is forced to physically protect himself from the assault. If the female loser is bruised in the process of self-protection, as when physically restraining her from hitting, those bruises are then "displayed" to others as evidence of what a bad person the partner is and how abusive they have been in the relationship.

Psychotic Losers There are losers that are severely ill in a psychiatric sense - the movie description of the "Fatal Attraction". Some may tell you wild stories and try to convince you that they are connected to The Mob or a government agency (CIA, FBI, etc.). They may fake terminal illness, pregnancy, or disease. They intimidate and frighten you with comments such as "I can have anyone killed..." or "No one leaves a relationship with me...". If you try to end the relationship, they react violently and give you the impression that you, your friends, or your family are in serious danger. People often then remain in the abusive and controlling relationship due to fear of harm to their family or their reputation. While such fears are unrealistic as "The Loser" is only interested in controlling you, those fears feel very real when combined with the other characteristics of "The Loser".

Psychotic or psychiatrically ill losers may also stalk, follow, or harass you. They may threaten physical violence, show weapons, or threaten to kill you or themselves if you leave them. If you try to date others, they may follow you or threaten your new date. Your new date may be subjected to phone harassment, vandalism, threats, and even physical assaults. If you are recently divorced, separated, or recently ended another relationship, "The Loser" may be intimidating toward your ex-partner, fearing you might return if the other partner is not "scared off". Just remember - everything "The Loser" has ever done to anyone will be coming your way. "The Loser" may send you pictures of you, your children, or your family - pictures they have taken secretly - hinting that they can "reach out and touch" those you love. You may need help and legal action to separate from these individuals.

Guidelines for Detachment

Separating from "The Loser" often involves three stages: The Detachment, Ending the Relationship, and the Follow-up Protection.

The Detachment

During this part of separating from "The Loser", you recognize what you must do and create an Exit Plan. Many individuals fail in attempts to detach from "The Loser" because they leave suddenly and impulsively, without proper planning, and without resources. In many cases, "The Loser" has isolated their partner from others, has control of finances, or has control of major exit needs such as an automobile. During the detachment phase you should...

- Observe the way you are treated. Watch for the methods listed above and see how "The Loser" works.

- Gradually become more boring, talk less, share less feelings and opinions. The goal is almost to bore "The Loser" to lessen the emotional attachment, at the same time not creating a situation which would make you a target.

- Quietly contact your family and supportive others. Determine what help they might be - a place to stay, protection, financial help, etc.

- If you fear violence or abuse, check local legal or law enforcement options such as a restraining order.

- If "The Loser" is destructive, slowly move your valuables from the home if together, or try to recover valuables if in their possession. In many cases, you may lose some personal items during your detachment - a small price to pay to get rid of "The Loser".

- Stop arguing, debating or discussing issues. Stop defending and explaining yourself - responding with comments such as "I've been so confused lately" or "I'm under so much stress I don't know why I do anything anymore".

- Begin dropping hints that you are depressed, burned out, or confused about life in general. Remember - "The Loser" never takes responsibility for what happens in any relationship. "The Loser" will feel better about leaving the relationship if they can blame it on you. Many individuals are forced to "play confused" and dull, allowing "The Loser" to tell others "My girlfriend (or boyfriend) about half nuts!" They may tell others you're crazy or confused but you'll be safer. Allow them to think anything they want about you as long as you're in the process of detaching.

- Don't start another relationship. That will only complicate your situation and increase the anger. Your best bet is to "lay low" for several months. Remember, "The Loser" will quickly locate another victim and become instantly attached as long as the focus on you is allowed to die down.

- As "The Loser" starts to question changes in your behavior, admit confusion, depression, emotionally numbness, and a host of other boring reactions. This sets the foundation for the ending of the relationship.

Ending the Relationship

Remembering that "The Loser" doesn't accept responsibility, responds with anger to criticism, and is prone to panic detachment reactions - ending the relationship continues the same theme as the detachment.

- Explain that you are emotionally numb, confused, and burned out. You can't feel anything for anybody and you want to end the relationship almost for his or her benefit. Remind them that they've probably noticed something is wrong and that you need time to sort out your feelings and fix whatever is wrong with you. As disgusting as it may seem, you may have to use a theme of "I'm not right for anyone at this point in my life." If "The Loser" can blame the end on you, as they would if they ended the relationship anyway, they will depart faster.

- If "The Loser" panics, you'll receive a shower of phone calls, letters, notes on your car, etc. React to each in the same manner - a boring thanks. If you overreact or give in, you've lost control again.

- Focus on your need for time away from the situation. Don't agree to the many negotiations that will be offered - dating less frequently, dating only once a week, taking a break for only a week, going to counseling together, etc. As long as "The Loser" has contact with you they feel there is a chance to manipulate you.

- "The Loser" will focus on making you feel guilty. In each phone contact you'll hear how much you are loved, how much was done for you, and how much they have sacrificed for you. At the same time, you'll hear about what a bum you are for leading them on, not giving them an opportunity to fix things, and embarrassing them by ending the relationship.

- Don't try to make them understand how you feel - it won't happen. "The Loser" only is concerned with how they feel - your feelings are irrelevant. You will be wasting your time trying to make them understand and they will see the discussions as an opportunity to make you feel more guilty and manipulate you.

- Don't fall for sudden changes in behavior or promises of marriage, trips, gifts, etc. By this time you have already seen how "The Loser" is normally and naturally. While anyone can change for a short period of time, they always return to their normal behavior once the crisis is over.

- Seek professional counseling for yourself or the support of others during this time. You will need encouragement and guidance. Keep in mind, if "The Loser" finds out you are seeking help they will criticize the counseling, the therapist, or the effort.

- Don't use terms like "someday", "maybe", or "in the future". When "The Loser" hears such possibilities, they think you are weakening and will increase their pressure.

- Imagine a dead slot machine. If we are in Las Vegas at a slot machine and pull the handle ten times and nothing happens - we move on to another machine. However, if on the tenth time the slot machine pays us even a little, we keep pulling the handle - thinking the jackpot is on the way. If we are very stern and stable about the decision to end the relationship over many days, then suddenly offer a possibility or hope for reconciliation - we've given a little pay and the pressure will continue. Never change your position - always say the same thing. "The Loser" will stop playing a machine that doesn't pay off and quickly move to another.

Follow-up Protection

"The Loser" never sees their responsibility or involvement in the difficulties in the relationship. From a psychological standpoint, "The Loser" has lived and behaved in this manner most of their life, clearly all of their adult life. As they really don't see themselves at fault or as an individual with a problem, "The Loser" tends to think that the girlfriend or boyfriend is simply going through a phase - their partner (victim) might be temporarily mixed up or confused, they might be listening to the wrong people, or they might be angry about something and will get over it soon. "The Loser" rarely detaches completely and will often try to continue contact with the partner even after the relationship is terminated. During the Follow-up Protection period, some guidelines are:

- Never change your original position. It's over permanently! Don't talk about possible changes in your position in the future. You might think that will calm "The Loser" but it only tells them that the possibilities still exist and only a little more pressure is needed to return to the relationship.

- Don't agree to meetings or reunions to discuss old times. For "The Loser", discussing old times is actually a way to upset you, put you off guard, and use the guilt to hook you again.

- Don't offer details about your new life or relationships. Assure him that both his life and your life are now private and that you hope they are happy.

- If you start feeling guilty during a phone call, get off the phone fast. More people return to bad marriages and relationships due to guilt than anything else. If you listen to those phone calls, as though taping them, you'll find "The Loser" spends most of the call trying to make you feel guilty.

- In any contact with the ex "Loser", provide only a status report, much like you'd provide to your Aunt Gladys. For example: "I'm still working hard and not getting any better at tennis. That's about it."

- When "The Loser" tells you how difficult the breakup has been, share with him some general thoughts about breaking-up and how finding the right person is difficult. While "The Loser" wants to focus on your relationship, talk in terms of Ann Landers - "Well, breaking up is hard on anyone. Dating is tough in these times. I'm sure we'll eventually find someone that's right for both of us." Remember - nothing personal!

- Keep all contact short and sweet - the shorter the better. As far as "The Loser" is concerned, you're always on your way somewhere, there's something in the microwave, or your mother is walking up the steps to your home. Wish "The Loser" well but always with the same tone of voice that you might offer to someone you have just talked to at the grocery store. For phone conversations, electronic companies make a handy gadget that produces about twenty sounds - a doorbell, an oven or microwave alarm, a knock on the door, etc. That little device is handy to use on the phone - the microwave dinner just came out or someone is at the door. Do whatever you have to do to keep the conversation short - and not personal.


In all of our relationships throughout life, we will meet a variety of individuals with many different personalities. Some are a joy to have in our life and some provide us with life-long love and security. Others we meet pose some risk to us and our future due to their personality and attitudes. Both in medicine and mental health - the key to health is the early identification and treatment of problems - before they reach the point that they are beyond treatment. In years of psychotherapy and counseling practice, treating the victims of "The Loser", patterns of attitude and behavior emerge in "The Loser" that can now be listed and identified in the hopes of providing early identification and warning. When those signs and indicators surface and the pattern is identified, we must move quickly to get away from the situation. Continuing a relationship with "The Loser" will result in a relationship that involves intimidation, fear, angry outbursts, paranoid control, and a total loss of your self-esteem and self-confidence.

If you have been involved in a long-term relationship with "The Loser", after you successfully escape you may notice that you have sustained some psychological damage that will require professional repair. In many cases, the stress has been so severe that you may have a stress-produced depression. You may have severe damage to your self-confidence/self-esteem or to your feelings about the opposite sex or relationships. Psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and counselors are available in your community to assist and guide you as you recover from your damaging relationship with "The Loser".

Credit: This handout was written by Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D., a Clinical Psychologist. It is provided as a public service and can be reproduced as needed. Dr. Carver is in private practice in Southern Ohio and is affiliated with three regional hospitals.

Custody Disputes Often Bypass Abuse Assessments

By Marie Tessier
WeNews correspondent

Robert A. Geffner

(WOMENSENEWS)--Numerous psychological assessments have been developed to measure trauma in children, theoretically providing a tool for family courts and child protective workers to help determine where custody should be granted or where the child's best interests lay. But advocates for mothers who lose custody to men they accuse of abuse say courts and social workers often fail to use those tests, or ignore results once they're complete.

"It's very common for people to make recommendations in child protective cases and child custody litigation without ever looking at clinical evidence of child abuse, spouse abuse or trauma," says Robert A. Geffner, who directs the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma in San Diego's Alliant International University.

This reality, combined with the complex interplay of law, science and culture, has led advocates for women and for abused children to call for reforms in the nation's family courts in order to achieve justice for victims involved in the most contentious custody fights. Advocates for reform say it's the women involved who most often find themselves on the losing end.

A landmark report from the Washington-based American Psychological Association in 1996 showed that abusers seek sole custody more often than nonviolent parents. And other research indicates that abusers succeed in gaining custody about 70 percent of the time when they try, according to judicial training materials from the National Center for State Courts, a legal education and court service organization based in Williamsburg, Va.

Psychologists and psychiatrists involved in case assessments say part of the reason that trauma assessments are not used is because they are costly and time-consuming, and they don't always come out with conclusive results.

"You have to do interviews with all the parties, look at the medical records and the criminal records, talk to the school therapists and teachers. Look at all the data and then put together all the pieces of the puzzle," says Geffner, who is a leader in the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence. The group is a nonprofit with an office in Bala Cynwyd, Pa., that promotes the ethical use of medical and psychological science in policy debates on violence.

Disputed Sides, Dueling Experts

By the time a typical case comes before a judge, psychologists and advocates for battered women say, both sides in a custody dispute have developed a body of evidence--and have often engaged dueling teams of experts--to support their claims.

If the family has already been involved with child protective services or the police, routine investigative errors can complicate the picture for a trial judge, says Frances S. Waters, an authority on child abuse who practices in Marquette, Mich., and serves as an expert witness in child custody proceedings.

"There are a lot of problems with procedures that have a profound impact on the outcome of an investigation, and that often means that truthful allegations of child abuse are not found to be credible," says Waters, who is also involved with the Leadership Council. If the perpetrator is the one who brings a child to an interview with an investigator or an evaluator, she adds as an example, the child is not going to feel safe to divulge her experience.

Frances S. Waters

Among the perils facing protective mothers seeking custody is the widely discredited--yet widely used--theory called the "parental alienation syndrome."

It is heralded by some fathers' rights groups and used by alleged abusers, as well as some custody evaluators and judges, to cast battered women and protective parents as having "brainwashed" or "alienated" a child from the parent accused of abuse. The concept received a new public airing in April when actor Alec Baldwin accused his ex-wife, Kim Basinger, of alienating him from his 11-year-old daughter. The remark came to light after a taped phone call in which he berated the girl as a "thoughtless little pig" was posted on the Internet. Baldwin and Basinger have been involved in a contentious custody dispute since 2002.

However, research published in several psychology journals indicates that divorce or custody disputes do not give rise to an increased number of false allegations and untrue claims most often come from fathers, not mothers. The proposed syndrome is not a recognized diagnosis by the American Psychological Association, which says the theory lacks clinical data to support it and cautions against using the term.

Tools to Assess Violence

One of the clinical measures that provide evidence when victim statements and other evidence of abuse fail to persuade evaluators and judges is the UCLA Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Index, developed at the University of California, Los Angeles. It is a 48-item interview about physical, sexual and emotional trauma that is used for adults and children. It assesses 19 symptoms, such as whether someone re-experiences a trauma, avoids talking or thinking about it, has trouble concentrating or startles easily, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Other assessments include the Child Trauma Symptom Inventory, evaluations for depression and anxiety, the Dissociative Experiences Scale and the Child Sexual Behavior Inventory, according to scholars who specialize in trauma.

Access to these tests is controlled to prevent cheating and coaching. The results are just one piece of a full evaluation, according to test distributors and scholars.

During the past 15 years, a number of legal and professional groups seeking to prevent family violence have published guidelines and model procedures for courts to use when evaluating and deciding custody cases.

Those include the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, based in Reno, Nev.; the American Psychological Association; the American Law Institute, based in Philadelphia; and the National Center for State Courts.

Domestic Violence Skeptics

On the other side of the issue, fathers' rights groups and advocates for noncustodial parents are skeptical of the growing body of research on domestic violence, much of which has provided the rationale seeking to standardize the process for identifying abuse. They say that family courts are often too quick to make findings of abuse.

The American Coalition for Fathers and Children, based in Washington, D.C., says that a small portion of divorce and custody disputes are driving false allegations and that too many fit parents are losing custody of their children.

"When there's any allegation of domestic abuse in the context of a custody proceeding, the accused should be afforded the same protections of those who are accused in the criminal justice system," said Michael McCormick, executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children.

That means all parents would be presumed innocent and entitled to parental rights until abuse is proved beyond a reasonable doubt, McCormick says.

Meanwhile, psychologists who advocate for battered women say their own credentials, thorough adherence to protocol and solid evidence can carry little weight in a courtroom, especially when they are hired by one side in a dispute.

"In the end, if protective services doesn't find an allegation to be credible, the court is going to make a finding and the defense is going to have its own expert," Waters says. "It becomes a battle of the experts."

Marie Tessier writes frequently about violence against women and legal affairs.

Women's eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.

For more information:

"N.Y. Bribery Case Casts Shadow on Divorce Court" http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/3205/

"Women Push to Change Family Courts' Custody Rules":

American Psychological Association, Violence in the Family report:

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Women Helping Women

In legal terms, domestic violence is defined as abuse committed against a spouse, former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or a person with whom the perpetrator has had a child. Domestic violence is the use or threat to use physical, sexual, or verbal behavior to coerce the partner into doing something one wants - to degrade or humiliate; to gain or maintain a sense of power and control.

Abusive behaviors can range from subtle harm to life-threatening acts of violence. Abusive behaviors create an atmosphere of intimidation in a relationship.

Domestic violence can take many forms; such as physical abuse, economic control, verbal abuse, emotional abuse and using the children or pets to manipulate the relationship or the victim's actions.

Those who experience violent or abusive relationships are hurt and controlled by someone with whom they have been emotionally and intimately involved. Abuse - physical, sexual, and emotional - is widespread and crosses lines of economic status, age, geography, race, religion and sexual orientation.

Furthermore, while research suggests that approximately 95 percent of abuse is male against female, women may abuse men and abuse occurs in same-sex relationships as well.

Individuals who have been emotionally, sexually, and/or physically abused by a partner or family member may feel sad, scared, angry and frustrated. This could be someone you care about; it could be you. Studies show that each year three to four million people in America will be battered by a partner, and that a woman is beaten every twelve seconds.

It is important to recognize that what is happening to you is not your fault - the abuser is responsible. Partner violence is not acceptable and it is not something you have to endure alone.

You cannot control the behavior of others; you only have control of your own life.


  • The abuse is not your fault.
  • You are not going crazy; any reaction or feeling is normal.
  • Abused and battered are words that describe what has happened to you - not who you are.
  • Many people in abusive relationships have great inner strength and are often there for others, including children.
  • People often lack understanding about the issue of partner violence. Don't be surprised if people's responses to you seem insensitive.
  • You can survive.
  • You do not have to live with abuse. You do not have to live in fear.

Links for Domestic Violence