Those of you who read Vanity Fair's spread on the actress having confronted the man who sexually molested her in childhood probably sighed a variant of the Yiddish sigh, chaval.
Chaval means. . . well, it's hard to explain. "What a shame" hardly cuts it, but comes close. "OMG" also comes close. But chaval really has to be said with pathos and a tad of disgust, and that's what's sad about saying it. You almost have to say, "Oy. . .(pause, smirk, sigh). . .chaval."
For those of us, and there are many, who learned about our body from someone who had no permission to touch it, Ms. Hatcher's story packs a punch. She came forward to the police with her story when she heard about another young woman the perpetrator had molested.
That young woman killed herself. He had other "lovers," too, apparently. Teri wanted him put away.
Children who have been sexually abused can be bullied into not saying anything and usually are intimidated in that way. There are tomes on what happens psychologically to them, how their future relationships are doomed or frought with problems, how their sexuality becomes the center of their psychology.
When I went to graduate school, we were taught that if you had a sexual abuse case it was a BIG DEAL. The patient (victim) would be on the couch for years. Now the incidence is so high that the profession's rife with good family therapy interventions, confrontation one of them, but only at the right time.
Incest and sexual abuse are still a big deal. The police and the courts are more savvy now, however. The child only needs to tell the truth and the healing begins. There are advocates and therapists all over the place. Just get the job started.
The question is, What keeps adults who have been abused from doing what Teri did, from speaking up? And why did she wait so long? Why do people who are being exploited in relationships not extricate themselves from the situation immediately? What keeps them from GETTING OUT?
I think the same dynamics, the reasons for not shouting out, operate in all relationships that are characterized by domination, abuse and/or control.
Let's digress from sexual abuse and take a look at less obviously violent relationships, those in which anger is always just below the surface, those in which speaking up or confronting a spouse, perhaps, or a parent, feels like it risks a put down or a sarcastic remark.
Or perhaps emotional neglect, when a person's need for validation and approval isn't met or when that individual is denied the power to make basic decisions.
In the case of sarcasm or verbal sniping, the receiver hears he/she's "responsible" for the anger. In the case of emotional neglect, they're "responsible" for their own lack of power, too incompetent to make decisions.
A person (let's use the female gender) begins to doubt herself and her worthiness over time. She thinks perhaps she doesn't really doesn't need the things she thinks she needs, after all. She only needs what he says she needs. She is under the influence. His influence.
It may translate into that famous of all couple therapy bug-a-boos, control. He has control issues.
Sometimes it gets pretty ugly. He controls the movies they see. He controls their vacations (his family can go with them, perhaps, maybe ALL the time). He controls the money, won't let her spend money she herself has earned. He can do that because he's convinced her that it's a selfish thing to do, they need to save.
Once he's convinced her that she's selfish for having material needs, he controls whether or not they buy a second car. He controls whether or not they go out and have drinks with friends. He controls whether or not they go out at all and with whom.
He controls whether or not they have sex. He controls whether or not they buy TIDE over the store brand. If she argues, he convinces her that she's selfish. He's the one with the common sense in the family. He's the one who can make good decisions.
She loses the part of her that went into the relationship with self-esteem. It gets buried, EVEN IF SHE HAD IT BEFORE THEIR RELATIONSHIP BEGAN.
This becomes another example of what you don't use, you lose in relationships. If you don't use decision making skill, you're not validated for making good decisions, you doubt you know how to make them.
How can you leave a relationship under those circumstances? Do you see where I'm going? It's hypnosis, basically. She's too unsure of herself to make a move.
At home, and on the job, out in the world, to get that part back, to be validated for the person she remembers she is, she works harder than anyone else and does more than anyone else, but she's still insecure.
This can be the essence of people pleasing. Living to please; living for praise from others. Sometimes people like this work so hard that they falls into a very well-defined category of depressed people that I am compelled to advise, Okay I think I want you to take some family leave time off work, people who have crashed and burned from overcompensating on the job.
These people NEVER WANT TO TAKE FAMILY LEAVE! They're my favorite people. You guys are my favorite people and I die for you to get out from under the influence, to break the spell.
Sometimes getting out from under the influence is simply taking back one's life, saying no, doing what you want. Most controllers can't fight it when their passive spouses assert themselves. They're too weak themselves at the end of the day.
IF THEY'RE PHYSICALLY ABUSIVE, however, these men are dangerous and their wives know that they had best not rock the boat.
BUT IF THEY'RE EMOTIONALLY or VERBALLY ABUSIVE then the women who are married to them have already lost the shred of self-esteem that might enable them to bark back.
That barking back won't happen without intense professional coaching and scripting. I've talked to hundreds of women who found it almost impossible to say:
"When you talk to me that way I don't love you. When you talk like this you're unlovable. I want to love you but you're unlovable when you behave this way. I want to love you. Please stop. You know you don't mean it. Inside, you love me."
How HARD, (expletive it) is that? It's pretty darn hard to get words out when you've been convinced that he's going to turn it back on you, no matter what you say, make you feel worse.
AND IN THE CASE OF SEXUAL ABUSE?
To come forward, to assert, to stop the violence is to risk hearing that you're a slut, that you didn't object, that you LIKED it, that you encouraged it.
It draws attention to times that you would like to forget. It makes you feel like damaged goods and worse, THAT OTHERS THINK YOU'RE DAMAGED, SCREWED UP, SOMEHOW NOT WHOLE ANYMORE.
Chaval. It should never happen. No one should have to go through abuse or exploitation. If you recognize it happening YES, YOU NEED THERAPY, YOUR RELATIONSHIP NEEDS THERAPY, HE NEEDS THERAPY (check all three).
And if it's not workable and you know it? Just need to get the blank out. You can pick up the pieces later.
Good job, Teri.
Copyright 2006, Therapy Doc