What is spousal abuse?


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In the past, going to general conference priesthood sessions often felt like presenting myself to be punished for a crime I didn't commit.  Priesthood holders have been repeatedly told they needed to stop exercising "unrighteous dominion" over their families and stop verbally or physically abusing them.  Women, in contrast, seemed to have just been reminded they are selfless, wonderful, special spirits.  To my relief, as deserved as the rebukes may have been (the average men are idiots, you know), the priesthood rebukes seem to have softened a bit (an observation also noted by another ward brother).

Nevertheless, it still bothers me; don't sisters ever abuse people?  I know women may be less likely to physically hurt a family member but, as we all know, emotional scars from words can last as long as physical scars.  My wife and her siblings were severely abused verbally by their mother and this legacy has been unfortunately felt in our home. I know several couples where the husband seems to be the abused one (dare I say they are brutally "henpecked" and criticized).  As part of an informal poll, I am asking: is this relatively female version of abuse actually a common-but-understated thing in the church?

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Motivation is probably the major driver.  And yes, that can, at times, be difficult to discern.  But an abuser's motivation is for control.  Not just controlling an outcome, but specifically for the thrill of having control over another person's life, decisions, and mental state.  A woman who "henpecks" her husband to take out the trash, or paint a room that he's be saying he will paint for six months is not an abuser. She just wants something done. Very likely, a woman who self-deprecatingly jokes about her henpecking is not an abuser, because she can recognize that her behavior is potentially problematic. Abusers generally do not see any problem with their behavior.

To directly answer your question, true abuse from women is rare.  It happens, but is nowhere near as prevalent as is abuse coming from men.

Below, I'm including a letter that was sent to bishops in my area from the regional LDS Family Services representative.  It's a good read for understanding how abusive relationships work. I've redacted the name of the author, as she hasn't exactly consented to having her name plastered on the internet.  If you're genuinely interested, I have a PDF I can forward.

Quote

 

'He Says - She Says' – Responding to Claims of Emotional/ Psychological Abuse in Marriage

When confronted with most forms of physical, verbal and sexual abuse in his ward, typically a Priesthood Leader (PHL) is able to identify the harmful behaviors and respond appropriately. Psychological/ emotional abuse is much more insidious and confusing. It is easier to hide and statistically, it is likely happening in your ward. Though often not understood, it is no less damaging (sometimes more so), than other kinds of abuse.

Counseling with couples where there has been chronic psychological/emotional abuse is difficult. Below I address the challenges and provide basic principles to help you untangle this complicated issue. Note: Throughout this article I refer to the abuser as he/husband because most abusers are men and an abused husband is far less likely to work with a PHL.

The Core of Psychological/Emotional Abuse: Entitlement, Power & Control

One of the greatest challenges in recognizing emotional abuse is that the behaviors exhibited by an abuser often look like typical bad behaviors in a marriage. There are significant differences, however. The most important difference is motive. While a frustrated husband may resort to manipulation or lose his temper on occasion, ultimately, he wants to fix the problem and build his marriage. An abuser is driven by entitlement, power and control. This is his emotional food and ultimate desire. He wants to maintain the relationship because he needs her to fulfill his desires, but love and unity aren’t his goals or motivation (ever). When a PHL recognizes the drivers entitlement, power and control, the behaviors of an abusive husband make more sense and emotional abuse can be identified.

Entitlement – Egocentric; rules that apply to others, don’t apply to him; deserves special treatment and considerations

Power – An abuser may be dominant or passive-aggressive, but upon examination, it becomes apparent that the division of labor and privileges are significantly lop-sided in his favor and he generally gets his way (or everyone is punished)

Control – He may be overly controlling of her time, the finances, her relationships, their physical intimacy, etc.... It’s not uncommon for him to display excessive jealousy and possessiveness.

So what is he doing and how does he get away with it?
Think, ‘Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing’ or Con Artist.

1. Master emotional manipulator. He is very good at confusing his victim and eliciting emotions such as sympathy, compassion, guilt, anger, sadness etc...

  • a. An abuser is skilled at putting the blame on his wife. He convinces her that the problems in their marriage, the family and even in him, are because of her. Most

LDS women – even those who seem independent and intelligent – are likely to believe his accusations, particularly if she was married at a young age.

  • b. He escalates their interactions. She may have learned to fight back, but if he stopped, the contention would stop. She is rarely the instigator or escalator.
  • c. He uses coercion to get what he wants, including intimacy. Coercion includes punishing her with anger, retribution etc... when she doesn’t do what he wants. When coercion is used to get sex, that is sexual abuse.
  • d. He wears her down. Through confusing, illogical, relentless arguments and other bad behaviors, he forces her to concede and/or give-up.
  • e. There is often some verbal and minor physical abuse. He’s careful about this however, because he has to preserve his “sheep’s clothing” (the appearance of decency or goodness).
  • f. There is little evidence of friendship or real emotional connection. He needs to keep her at an emotional distance in order to treat her with contempt.

2. There are *always* good periods and evidence of good qualities. Otherwise, she would have left him. He uses these times to make her think that he’s changed, to give her hope in the relationship, and to manipulate her when he starts treating her badly again. 

Understanding the Victim:

It is likely that the wife didn’t see her husband’s behaviors as abusive for many years. The abuser displays just enough good behaviors, and just frequently enough, to keep her hoping and trying to build the marriage. She believes the blame he has heaped on her and so she’s tried a variety of things to change herself and be worthy of his love. Her circumstances (such as finances) made disrupting the marriage very difficult and her values (such as her children and the Church) made it unconscionable. The abuser knows these things about her. He uses her goodness and her desire to maintain the marriage, to manipulate her, confuse her and keep her trapped. How the Abuser Will Interact with His Priesthood Leaders: Priesthood leaders are good men who want to help. They want to understand. They want to be humble and gentle as they work with members who are struggling. They want to see and believe the good in others, as well as their potential. These are perfect qualities when dealing with the average member. And these are the exact qualities the psychological abuser will use to deceive the Priesthood Leader. The abuser is very, very good at maintaining his sheep’s clothing. He has done it for many years, typically since adolescence. He is a skillful liar, storyteller, even actor. He is a master emotional manipulator, which means he will use his skills to draw on your most tender emotions and sympathies, just as he has done to his wife and others. This may include emotional break-
downs, with tears and expressions of remorse. From the abuser, this cannot be trusted. They are consummate actors. Some PHLs report that an abuser tried to pressure or intimidate them (to pay for bills, take their side, etc..). 

How can a PHL detect an abuser or psychologically abusive situation?

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing are very good at the sheep-act, so unless they’ve been caught engaging in revealing sin or he blatantly admits he’s hiding a wolf (this is not going to happen), PHLs need to know what to look for. These may be described by the victim or accidently revealed by the abuser himself: 

  • 1. The sister will describe behaviors that reflect his entitlement, power and control.
  • 2. An abuser’s bad behaviors are more frequent, long-term and often more extreme, than those in normal marriages. For example, she may say he’s been this way nearly every day for the last several years or she may say he yelled at their child for over 2 hours and wouldn’t let her go to bed.
  • 3. The sister will express anger and frustration regarding her husband’s behaviors, but when she first understands that she has been abused (i.e. when she stops believing his confusing arguments and blame, and sees that his treatment was intentional), she will feel deep humiliation and the searing pain of betrayal. 
  • 4. The blame and rationalizations that the abuser uses are illogical, seem unlikely and often the punishment doesn’t fit the crime (e.g. She hurt my feelings, so I obliterated hers).
  • 5. He loses his temper frequently and more severely than circumstances warrant.
  • 6. She describes coercive behaviors, including punishment, if he doesn’t get what he wants (keep in mind that she may not use words like coercion and punishment).
  • 7. She may give examples of verbal, physical and sexual abuse. These are typically intertwined with psychological abuse, and while the Sister is deeply effected by what is happening, she may not recognize what he’s doing to her is abuse.
  • 8. Long-term psychological abuse is damaging. She may talk about changes in her personality and/or disorders such as depression, anxiety and PTSD.
  • 9. He sins and says what typical sinners say about their sins, but he has a larger and/or more unusual collection of sins. Ask yourself if you would do/ say the same things in his situation. Don’t accept his excuses and hold him to a different standard than you would yourself or other men. It often becomes apparent that there are differences in the morals, standards or values between the abusive husband and his wife.
  • 10. The wolf is good at maintaining his sheep’s clothing, but there are times the clothing will slip. You may see a burst of temper. He may talk about a serious sin or a grotesque act in a casual way. He seems to flip-flop back and forth in his perspective. Notice inconsistencies- i.e. is he sometimes contrite but occasionally resentful? Does he accept all of the blame and occasionally speak harshly or accusingly about his wife? You are likely getting a glimpse of the wolf.
  • 11. He lies and you catch him lying. This may take the form of minimizing or partial confessions. Don’t ignore this. It’s the nature of a good PHL to overlook communication mistakes or give someone the benefit of the doubt. It may be an effective strategy to ask the husband similar questions, including details, in multiple meetings (including phone calls) over a period of weeks. Take notes.
  • 12. An abuser’s sheep’s clothing revolves around maintaining his appearance. An abuser has little or no real compassion, so ask her about his relationships with others (the children, his parents, siblings, etc.) and his service toward others (does he ever engage in quiet acts of service that don’t involve public attention or social interaction?).
  • 13. Abusers can present a compassionate appearance, but words are cheap for them. They are not good at genuine sacrifice. Examples/ lack of examples of giving up something they truly wanted for the benefit of his wife or a humble member of the ward, can be telling.
  • 14. Abusers find it extremely difficult to see their wife’s perspective or concede that her points are valid. They are much more resistant to do this than the average person.
  • 15. The Spirit. Sometimes it is the goodness in Father’s faithful servants that prevents us from seeing or recognizing the evil in others. We know the Spirit will not force us to see what we are not ready or willing to see - even in His service. Our minds may need to be prepared to receive and understand what He wants to teach or confirm. Once we are prepared to understand the truth, even when it is difficult, the Spirit will help us to be discerning.

Keep in Mind – the Pain
PHLs, family and friends often find it hard to believe the wife’s claims because 1. They don’t want to believe he is capable of such terrible things or that she has been subject to that kind of pain; 2. They have no experience with psychological/ emotional abuse, they don’t understand how it works or how devastating it is; 3. They have never seen any indication of these things, so it seems impossible that it has been happening in secret (i.e. they have only seen the sheep’s clothing and/ or didn’t know the bad behaviors they had seen were part of a larger, darker picture); 4. He refutes or otherwise explains away her claims and his explanations are appealing.

For many reasons, (including embarrassment, hopelessness, fear of retaliation, etc.) it is incredibly difficult for a woman to come forward and talk about the behaviors of abuse. When she finally resolves to do this, she is often met with resistance, disbelief and even persecution. There is nothing for her to gain by making these claims, other than to get relief from the abuse. Most women don’t even want to end the marriage. They just want him to treat her appropriately. 


You can gently push her to be accurate and provide as many details as possible. But when she is certain regarding the facts of an interaction with her husband and the husband doesn’t agree, believe her. It is tempting to want to be neutral or believe the truth is somewhere in the middle, but he is an experienced, often compulsive liar. She is not. Once a PHL suspects abuse, then the wife should be an essential source of information about the abusive interactions and the abuser.


How to Help:
Counseling: Approaching the couple with this counseling adage, ‘He has a perspective and she has a perspective and the truth is usually somewhere in the middle,’ doesn’t work in abusive situations. If the PHL tries to stay neutral, he is siding with the abusive person. If he tries to accept both “versions” that he is hearing, then the abused sister is not getting the emotional support and understanding that she needs, and the abusive person is validated. PHLs have an opportunity to empower the victim. E.g.- “Sister Jones, you are never obligated to have sex and I would encourage you not to engage in intimacy if you don’t want to.” A PHL can identify abusive behaviors with or without identifying someone as an abuser. E.g. - “Bro. Smith, when you talk like that to your wife that is manipulation, and that’s not appropriate.”

The Victim:
Believing her, expressing concern, and helping her to understand her thoughts and experiences is paramount. It is likely that the victim has developed a mistrust of men and
receiving this kind of response from a man in a position of authority can start the healing process for her. She may need help establishing appropriate boundaries with her husband. She will likely need professional counseling as well. She needs support in unraveling his contradictions, lies and other bad behaviors. She doesn’t need help giving him the benefit of the doubt or believing him. She has done that for many years.

The Abuser: Unfortunately the research on the recovery of abusers is not encouraging. Most abusers don’t want to change (even when they say they do). They may manage their behaviors for a longer period of time, they may say many things that indicate change, but the vast majority will resume their abuse after things have calmed down at home and the audience (e.g. PHLs) has gone away. Engaging in an abuser’s recovery is dangerous and should only be done by those professionally trained to specifically work with abusers. An emotional/ psychological abuser should be directed to a well-run abuse program, even if there isn’t a known history of verbal or physical abuse. Abusers often have a deep and hidden resentment toward God. Focusing on the behaviors of true conversion such as: meaningful personal worship, quiet, non- social acts of service, real sacrifice for the welfare of another, etc. may be the most valuable approach for the PHL.


Marriage Counseling: Generally marriage counseling is not helpful and is often detrimental. Typical marriage counseling is centered around both partners improving weaknesses and strengthening unity. An abuser isn’t interested in either of these things and will use the counsel given to his wife as another tool of abuse. The relationship may survive, but only after the abuser has changed his core drives and beliefs (entitlement, power & control). 

 

May the Lord bless you faithful Priesthood Leaders, in your efforts to help Father’s suffering children.

 

 

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5 hours ago, jdf135 said:

 (the average men are idiots, you know),

I can't let this pass without comment.  It is false, and damaging.  Even if stated in jest, it is false. Harmful stereotypes never die so long as we are willing to repeat them. 

Stop perpetuating such falsehoods.

Sincerely, 
your local radical feminist

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On 11/5/2018 at 12:52 AM, jdf135 said:

In the past, going to general conference priesthood sessions often felt like presenting myself to be punished for a crime I didn't commit.  Priesthood holders have been repeatedly told they needed to stop exercising "unrighteous dominion" over their families and stop verbally or physically abusing them.  Women, in contrast, seemed to have just been reminded they are selfless, wonderful, special spirits.  To my relief, as deserved as the rebukes may have been (the average men are idiots, you know), the priesthood rebukes seem to have softened a bit (an observation also noted by another ward brother).

Nevertheless, it still bothers me; don't sisters ever abuse people?  I know women may be less likely to physically hurt a family member but, as we all know, emotional scars from words can last as long as physical scars.  My wife and her siblings were severely abused verbally by their mother and this legacy has been unfortunately felt in our home. I know several couples where the husband seems to be the abused one (dare I say they are brutally "henpecked" and criticized).  As part of an informal poll, I am asking: is this relatively female version of abuse actually a common-but-understated thing in the church?

To be honest, I'd say that your statement is completely justified.  In fact, I don't think it goes far enough.  The reason I say so is two-fold.

EMOTIONAL:

  • A bully is a bully whether male or female.  And they will use whatever tools they can.
  • Women are much better at emotional manipulation than men are.
  • Women will emotionally abuse far more effectively than men ever will.

PHYSICAL:

This comes from a highly un-scientific poll from a friend who served as a parole officer/policeman.  He was called to dysfunctional homes all the time.  Most of the time for domestic abuse situations.  It was his estimated figure that in reality 1/3 of the cases are females abusing the males (physically).  1/3 males abusing females.  But the middle third is both of them getting into a very physical fight.  But because men are usually larger than women, it comes out as the man abusing the woman rather than "a fight".  So, that is about where the statistic stands.

Yes, it is understated.  Yes, men feel a LOT of guilt, shame, and... and... and... over being henpecked and abused by a woman half his size simply because "men are never supposed to hit women."  But it's perfectly acceptable for a woman to hit a man.

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I think there is an imbalance, and I think it has a lot to do with what church leaders wind up having to deal with.  I expect the number of women that go to their Bishop about spousal abuse is many times larger than the number of men who do the same.  Not because men do it so much more, but because running to the Bishop about it is being a wuss in their mind so they just take it.  As a result church leaders get a skewed perspective on things and see men as being far more in need of correction than the ladies.

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17 hours ago, MarginOfError said:

To directly answer your question, true abuse from women is rare.

I disbelieve this. Abusive women may not be as common as abusive men—MAY not be as common—but I am sure they are well within an order of magnitude of each other. The idea of the world's women as longsuffering angels who carry on bravely while putting up with abuse at the hands of their evil husbands should offend any reasonable human being.

I don't know. Maybe in some places the stereotype is true. Not in my life experience, though. If anything, the opposite is true. In my own close circles (family and friends), I have witnessed probably five times the abuse from women toward men as from men toward women. I have never seen an adult man physically abuse a woman in my own circles, not once. But I have seen women physically abuse men on several occasions, not even bothering to disguise their attacks: slapping, throwing things, pinching, even punching or kicking. (Nota bene: My female blood relatives have never been the physical abusers, but some male relatives have been the victims of such abuse.) As for verbal and emotional attacks, I have seen many times more incidents of women abusing men than vice versa.

I understand that my personal experience is not representative of the whole world. But then, neither is yours. The media have been grinding their axes on this topic for my entire life, so I don't trust their take on the matter. Abused women are much more likely to go to the cops, press charges, and seek asylum than are abused men, so the police blotter argument is largely a non-starter. My best source is my own experience, and in my own experience, the idea that men are the abusers and women the abused is simply false, and the above-quoted statement wrong.

Most of the women in my life, by which I mean the women that I am personally intimate with on an emotional level, are wonderful people. My closest female acquaintances are among the most Godly people I have ever known. I have no problem admitting to myself that in many ways, my wife is simply a more selfless and Christlike person than I am. My daughter is a delight to me and a source of pride—but no more so than my sons.

The worship of females as the embodiment of the divine is dangerous. Women are people, with all the faults and problems that people have. Considering how many women get sooooo bent out of shape at any suggestion that a man might be better than a woman at some career, job, or task, i would think that such people would be first in line to call shenanigans on the women-worship tendencies so often manifest by certain men, both the feminist-deceived Goodthinkers and the religiously motivated virtue-signalling self-abasers. God save my sons (and my daughter) from the false claims of both such types.

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16 hours ago, Carborendum said:

To be honest, I'd say that your statement is completely justified.  In fact, I don't think it goes far enough.  The reason I say so is two-fold.

EMOTIONAL:

  • A bully is a bully whether male or female.  And they will use whatever tools they can.
  • Women are much better at emotional manipulation than men are.
  • Women will emotionally abuse far more effectively than men ever will.

PHYSICAL:

This comes from a highly un-scientific poll from a friend who served as a parole officer/policeman.  He was called to dysfunctional homes all the time.  Most of the time for domestic abuse situations.  It was his estimated figure that in reality 1/3 of the cases are females abusing the males (physically).  1/3 males abusing females.  But the middle third is both of them getting into a very physical fight.  But because men are usually larger than women, it comes out as the man abusing the woman rather than "a fight".  So, that is about where the statistic stands.

Yes, it is understated.  Yes, men feel a LOT of guilt, shame, and... and... and... over being henpecked and abused by a woman half his size simply because "men are never supposed to hit women."  But it's perfectly acceptable for a woman to hit a man.

Addressing the bold points, I do not agree that women are "more effective" at emotional manipulation or abuse. I'd say the sexes are pretty evenly matched in this regard.

"henpecked" and "abused" are not the same thing.  You really ought to carefully read the letter I posted from LDS Family Services.

And no, it is not acceptable for a woman to hit a man. If a woman is engaged in such activity and is unwilling to modify/terminate that behavior, that to me clearly constitutes grounds for divorce. And we should be vocal about that fact.

6 hours ago, Vort said:

I disbelieve this. Abusive women may not be as common as abusive men—MAY not be as common—but I am sure they are well within an order of magnitude of each other. The idea of the world's women as longsuffering angels who carry on bravely while putting up with abuse at the hands of their evil husbands should offend any reasonable human being.

I don't know. Maybe in some places the stereotype is true. Not in my life experience, though. If anything, the opposite is true. In my own close circles (family and friends), I have witnessed probably five times the abuse from women toward men as from men toward women. I have never seen an adult man physically abuse a woman in my own circles, not once. But I have seen women physically abuse men on several occasions, not even bothering to disguise their attacks: slapping, throwing things, pinching, even punching or kicking. (Nota bene: My female blood relatives have never been the physical abusers, but some male relatives have been the victims of such abuse.) As for verbal and emotional attacks, I have seen many times more incidents of women abusing men than vice versa.

I understand that my personal experience is not representative of the whole world. But then, neither is yours. The media have been grinding their axes on this topic for my entire life, so I don't trust their take on the matter. Abused women are much more likely to go to the cops, press charges, and seek asylum than are abused men, so the police blotter argument is largely a non-starter. My best source is my own experience, and in my own experience, the idea that men are the abusers and women the abused is simply false, and the above-quoted statement wrong.

Most of the women in my life, by which I mean the women that I am personally intimate with on an emotional level, are wonderful people. My closest female acquaintances are among the most Godly people I have ever known. I have no problem admitting to myself that in many ways, my wife is simply a more selfless and Christlike person than I am. My daughter is a delight to me and a source of pride—but no more so than my sons.

The worship of females as the embodiment of the divine is dangerous. Women are people, with all the faults and problems that people have. Considering how many women get sooooo bent out of shape at any suggestion that a man might be better than a woman at some career, job, or task, i would think that such people would be first in line to call shenanigans on the women-worship tendencies so often manifest by certain men, both the feminist-deceived Goodthinkers and the religiously motivated virtue-signalling self-abasers. God save my sons (and my daughter) from the false claims of both such types.

I'm not sure we are using the same definition of abuse.  Again, being a boor or a nag or a general jerk is not the same thing as abuse. Notably, people who can self assess their behavior as toxic or detrimental are not the prototypical abusers (people who can recognize these problems are generally able to modify them). True abusers feel the pathological need to control, and they don't see anything wrong with their behavior.  In fact, they feel entitled to it.

That isn't to say that some of the women you describe aren't abusers.  And as I said above, a man who is being physically assaulted by a woman who is unwilling to stop that behavior can and should leave the relationship (just as I would say to any woman).

The worship of females as the embodiment of the divine is dangerous. This I agree with without reservation. 

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1 hour ago, MarginOfError said:

Addressing the bold points, I do not agree that women are "more effective" at emotional manipulation or abuse. I'd say the sexes are pretty evenly matched in this regard.

Agree to disagree.

1 hour ago, MarginOfError said:

"henpecked" and "abused" are not the same thing. 

They "can" be different.  But often what we consider "henpecked" is actually abuse.  But because of society's prejudice against men, we're supposed to take it instead of calling foul.

1 hour ago, MarginOfError said:

You really ought to carefully read the letter I posted from LDS Family Services.

I read the letter.  I don't see why that was relevant to this idea.

1 hour ago, MarginOfError said:

And no, it is not acceptable for a woman to hit a man. If a woman is engaged in such activity and is unwilling to modify/terminate that behavior, that to me clearly constitutes grounds for divorce. And we should be vocal about that fact.

(in case you didn't note the sarcasm of that statement) Of course it isn't acceptable to you or me.  But most of society expects men to be able to take it.  Therefore much abuse from women just never gets reported or even talked about.  Some people will just laugh at the man who cries abuse when the woman is so much smaller.  But a small child almost handicapped me (accidentally).  Could not a grown woman handicap a man on purpose?  To you or me, the answer is obviously, yes.  But to most of society, they just don't see it that way.

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Guest MormonGator

@Carborendum-I think some men of a certain age have extreme trouble grasping the fact that women can also abuse men. It's just my personal experience, but I've noticed that some men are just so obsessed with this naive vision that women are always innocent victims and men are the only ones that can hurt them. It's nonsense of course, but it's what I've seen. 

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6 minutes ago, MormonGator said:

@Carborendum-I think some men of a certain age have extreme trouble grasping the fact that women can also abuse men. It's just my personal experience, but I've noticed that some men are just so obsessed with this naive vision that women are always innocent victims and men are the only ones that can hurt them. It's nonsense of course, but it's what I've seen. 

Thanks.

I've been fortunate enough to see truly angelic women in my life who do nothing but sacrifice themselves in the service of others.  My wife is one of them.

I've also had the displeasure of knowing, up close and personally, women who are violent, master mantipulators, and vindictive as all get out.

I know the reality of both sides.  And I've formed my opinions accordingly.

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1 minute ago, Carborendum said:

Thanks.

I've been fortunate enough to see truly angelic women in my life who do nothing but sacrifice themselves in the service of others.  My wife is one of them.

I've also had the displeasure of knowing, up close and personally, women who are violent, master mantipulators, and vindictive as all get out.

I know the reality of both sides.  And I've formed my opinions accordingly.

Yup. 

You grow up a lot when you realize that "original sin" (for lack of a better word, not a theological debate) can hit anyone. By anyone I mean....um....anyone. 

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On 11/5/2018 at 1:52 AM, jdf135 said:

In the past, going to general conference priesthood sessions often felt like presenting myself to be punished for a crime I didn't commit.  Priesthood holders have been repeatedly told they needed to stop exercising "unrighteous dominion" over their families and stop verbally or physically abusing them.  Women, in contrast, seemed to have just been reminded they are selfless, wonderful, special spirits.  To my relief, as deserved as the rebukes may have been (the average men are idiots, you know), the priesthood rebukes seem to have softened a bit (an observation also noted by another ward brother).

Nevertheless, it still bothers me; don't sisters ever abuse people?  I know women may be less likely to physically hurt a family member but, as we all know, emotional scars from words can last as long as physical scars.  My wife and her siblings were severely abused verbally by their mother and this legacy has been unfortunately felt in our home. I know several couples where the husband seems to be the abused one (dare I say they are brutally "henpecked" and criticized).  As part of an informal poll, I am asking: is this relatively female version of abuse actually a common-but-understated thing in the church?

Yes, there are many women who are skilled abusers.  https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/sep/05/men-victims-domestic-violence

Because men are "supposed" to be the protectors, society doesn't speak up much for men that are abused.  Men because of their size can typically do more physical damage to women, but that doesn't mean men shouldn't have the same level of voice that women do when it comes to abuse.  And as far as mental/emotional abuse, I would dare say that women are equals in this regard.

And I would definitely say henpecking is a form of abuse.  Anything that is mentally/emotionally degrading or manipulative to a spouse is abusive in my opinion.

 

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A few things to add to this unpleasant little topic. (Disclaimer, I have no training at all in terms of marriage counseling or abuse counseling)

In response to a couple of things in MoE's document. 1) I wonder how the author of the document would respond to LostBoy's guardian link that suggests that the "majority" the author refers to is more of a 60:40 majority rather than a 90:10 majority. It sometimes seems, with these gendered issues, we spend a lot more effort than we should to defend the stereotypes we are using. Maybe the better approach would be to describe the choice of pronoun as more of a convenience. When you encounter a scenario where the genders are swapped, simply change pronouns. Reading through the document, and I see a lot of places where I would be just as likely to call foul if the genders were reversed. The real danger might be how this gives a tool to the female perpetrators to keep on keepin' on. As the article mentions, perpetrators are typically expert at looking like a sheep. When we tell PHLs to defer to the woman's opinion in most cases, then we give women perps a way to cover for themselves and drive the abused men underground again. I know it is a difficult thing we are trying to train our PHLs in, so I don't have good answers. Only thoughts, observations, and questions.

2) Perhaps it is because the high profile cases (like Rob Porter last winter) are cases where PHL's failed to recognize and/or act appropriately, but I bristled a little at the opening assertion that PHL's typically get it right. Certainly, the cases where they get it wrong are going to get a lot more press than the many cases where they get it right. Considering the difficulties described in the article, I wonder if it is wise to suggest that PHLs get this right a lot. Will it lead to overconfidence? Or make them less likely to seek professional assistance? In the Denson case, the Church responded that it does not have the investigative resources needed to investigate abuse claims -- that other agencies are better equipped and trained to investigate and adjudicate abuse and assault claims. Would there be value in providing more encouragement for PHLs to turn over the investigation and adjudication of these situations to better equipped agencies (law enforcement? abuse shelters and counselors?) I recently completed BSA's new youth protection training. One of the key things they emphasized was that we as Scoutleaders are not in a position to counsel or decide when abuse is occurring. Our goal is to be mindful of possible red flags and, when we see any of those red flags, we are to report it to someone better positioned to act on the allegations. PHLs are in more of a counseling role than a Scout leader, so it is different, but how different?

3) Along those same lines, I bristled at the concluding paragraph about marriage counseling. Will this discourage PHLs from recommending marriage counseling? I think I understand what the author is trying to say -- that the same set of therapy tools and skills that can do wonders in a struggling, non-abusive marriage, are dangerous in an abusive scenario, so a completely different set of therapy tools and skills is needed. I felt like this paragraph is trying to suggest that PHLs need to be the ones to judge when regular marriage counseling is appropriate and when it is not. I wonder if it would be better to encourage PHLs to seek professional assistance (maybe turn it over completely) and use their expertise to judge when regular counseling will help and when the counselor needs to use abusive marriage protocols. Experts are not perfect, I get that, but would they be better at judging these than PHLs?

So as not to be too negative, I thought the overall document looked good, it should be a good training document for a lay clergy, and will hopefully help PHLs recognize and deal with abusive situations better. As a non-expert, I don't even know if my concerns are well-founded. But there they are.

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6 hours ago, MarginOfError said:

I'm not sure we are using the same definition of abuse.  Again, being a boor or a nag or a general jerk is not the same thing as abuse. Notably, people who can self assess their behavior as toxic or detrimental are not the prototypical abusers (people who can recognize these problems are generally able to modify them). True abusers feel the pathological need to control, and they don't see anything wrong with their behavior.  In fact, they feel entitled to it.

That's a narrow definition of "abuse", but one I'm willing to go along with. Do you think that women are significantly less prone to this sort of controlling behavior than men? I mean "significant" both in the sense of statistically significant and also in the larger sense of "mucho". From my own experience, I see women as at least the equals of men when in comes to the desire to control others.

As for boorishness, nagging, and general jerkitude, I agree that these things are not necessarily abusive. But they certainly can be, even within the narrow definition of "abuse" that you offered. It's largely a matter of framing and word choice. Replace "boorish" with "hostile", "nagging" with "browbeating", and "jerk" with "bully", and I think you'll see my point.

6 hours ago, MarginOfError said:

The worship of females as the embodiment of the divine is dangerous. This I agree with without reservation.

The nature of a discussion list is to accentuate disagreements. I suspect we agree a lot more often than not, just not about things we bother discussing.

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1 hour ago, Vort said:

That's a narrow definition of "abuse", but one I'm willing to go along with. Do you think that women are significantly less prone to this sort of controlling behavior than men? I mean "significant" both in the sense of statistically significant and also in the larger sense of "mucho". From my own experience, I see women as at least the equals of men when in comes to the desire to control others.

As for boorishness, nagging, and general jerkitude, I agree that these things are not necessarily abusive. But they certainly can be, even within the narrow definition of "abuse" that you offered. It's largely a matter of framing and word choice. Replace "boorish" with "hostile", "nagging" with "browbeating", and "jerk" with "bully", and I think you'll see my point.

The nature of a discussion list is to accentuate disagreements. I suspect we agree a lot more often than not, just not about things we bother discussing.

It is narrow, and is also the working definition that psychiatric professionals utilize.  The important, down-stream aspect of it is that one who doesn't fit that narrow definition is more likely to alter their behavior given enough time and counseling.  An abuser who fits the definition is of the mold where marital counseling is unlikely to help.

Admittedly, this probably isn't a binary condition. I'll also concede that the demographics may be shifting as more women are entering careers--it's rare than the abuser is financially dependent on the abused--that usually goes the other way (and this could be a reason why General Conference talks usually address this topic toward men; our general social structure tends to favor men in this regard). Often, when the abused have the opportunity to become financially independent, they leave.  In other words, I will accept that the observation that the majority of abusers are men may be a historical artifact of social construct.  So long as men are the primary providers for their families, it would be uncommon for the wife to be the abuser, as the man would have the means to get out.  The only men that would stay would be the few with such poor self esteem that they don't believe they deserve better.

But I will still hold the line between negative, recognizable behaviors and the pathological entitlement of control.  Even if you replace nagging with browbeating, in the case of the narrow definition abuser, the abuser has the abused utterly convinced that every problem is the fault of the abused.  I don't believe that's typically the case outside of the narrow definition.  Outside the narrow definition, the victims may be unhappy and dissatisfied, but they still have a sense of the faults of their partner.  Inside that narrow definition, the victims are shells of human beings, with hardly a soul or personality left; and they believe it is all their own fault.

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3 hours ago, MrShorty said:

3) Along those same lines, I bristled at the concluding paragraph about marriage counseling. Will this discourage PHLs from recommending marriage counseling? I think I understand what the author is trying to say -- that the same set of therapy tools and skills that can do wonders in a struggling, non-abusive marriage, are dangerous in an abusive scenario, so a completely different set of therapy tools and skills is needed. I felt like this paragraph is trying to suggest that PHLs need to be the ones to judge when regular marriage counseling is appropriate and when it is not. I wonder if it would be better to encourage PHLs to seek professional assistance (maybe turn it over completely) and use their expertise to judge when regular counseling will help and when the counselor needs to use abusive marriage protocols. Experts are not perfect, I get that, but would they be better at judging these than PHLs?

I think the point of that section was to make priesthood leaders aware that counseling is not automatically the correct solution. And before (or concurrent with) recommending counseling, priesthood leaders should evaluate the entire relationship.  That means talking to the couple together and separately, and asking serious questions about the problems in the relationship and their origins.

Again, abusive relationships are on the more rare side of events. But the consequences of non-detection are enormous. 

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38 minutes ago, MarginOfError said:

Admittedly, this probably isn't a binary condition. I'll also concede that the demographics may be shifting as more women are entering careers--it's rare than the abuser is financially dependent on the abused--that usually goes the other way (and this could be a reason why General Conference talks usually address this topic toward men; our general social structure tends to favor men in this regard). Often, when the abused have the opportunity to become financially independent, they leave.  In other words, I will accept that the observation that the majority of abusers are men may be a historical artifact of social construct. 

You may have a point here.  But the next statement does not necessarily follow.

38 minutes ago, MarginOfError said:

So long as men are the primary providers for their families, it would be uncommon for the wife to be the abuser, as the man would have the means to get out.  The only men that would stay would be the few with such poor self esteem that they don't believe they deserve better.

Many men who have and are abused say they can't leave because they know their wife will get the kids in the divorce.  And what is worse, it is just too easy for the wife to turn the tables and call HIM out for abuse.  You saw what happened with Kavanaugh.  The only reason why anyone believed him was that there was an obvious political agenda going on.  What would happen to any average Joe?  Women will always be believed no matter how bad it is for the man.

I have a friend who divorced about 20 years ago or so.  During the custody hearings, he was accused by his wife of abusing their children.  All the visits to the ER showed injuries that could only be explained by intentional harm.  He tried arguing that it was she who was beating the kids.  But no one believed them.  How could she?  She's just a small petite woman.  Custody was granted to the mother.

Then he had to post bail because he was immediately to be tried in criminal court for child abuse.  During his trial, the attorney found a smoking gun.  Records showed that he was out of town the entire weekend when the children were taken to the ER one Saturday.  No one bothered to check on this during the custody hearings.

Did that give him anything to get his children back?  Nope. No one ever pressed charges against her.  She had them, beat them, and poisoned their minds until they were 18.  They were her meal ticket since he had to pay child support until they were all 18.

Take a beating or lose your kids?  Most men will take a beating for those they love.  But today's society refuses to recognize that fact.

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NOTE:  THIS IS VERY LONG!

 

Ho Boy! I thought my wounds had totally scarred over but after reading your post @MarginOfError there were some that were still scabs. My 1st husband was NOT a member of the church. He was Master of his own non-faith based un-organized church. I met him 2 years after I left the church, and honestly I was so naive & innocent. We lived together for 6 years before we married.

After 22 years being together/married I finally got the courage to leave him. Also all wrapped up in the courage was the feeling that I just didn't care whether I lived or died. He had threatened not only my life, but the life of my three sisters and my Mom. If he did kill me, then it would only hurt ONCE and then I would be done with all the form of pains he had inflicted on me.

My Mom passed in 1988 so I no longer needed to protect her.  In 1991 I was bombarded with his infidelities by his sexual partners. After he crashed his car and was in jail for DIU - and where he had to remain because we had no money to bail him out - the officers gave me the contents that were in the car. There was four letters, very long letters, he had written to 4 of his sexual partners. What an awakening for me.

At the beginning of our relationship, Hub#1 was very attentive, charming, romantic. He insisted that I join him at his job sites. He traveled for his work, installing phone centers for phone companies in the 8 states of the west coast. He was seldom in one town for longer than 3 weeks. He would drive there, get us a place to live (often a motel w/kitchenette), then send for me. He paid for the plane ticket, I just had to find my way to the airport.

We spent most of our down time in bars. Lounges - because he much preferred whiskey to beer. I had to sit quietly and only engage with him. Yet he was everywhere in the lounge. Playing pool, cards, dancing, engaging with the other patrons. Mostly I sat at the bar and talked with the bartender.

After about two years of this - I conversed with the other patrons sitting at the bar. I was 22 years old - spent the day watching TV and reading. Hub#1 didn't want to talk - he even told me he wasn't one bit interested in my mind. So when someone started a conversation with me while we were in the bars, I responded. I never got cozy, just talked with and sometimes danced with whomever asked me, and never slow dances.

By the time he left his job in 1978, we ended up here in this town. He knew quite a few of the people living here- and there was a Tavern for sale. We bought it. He cleaned it up, refused service to the under 21 year olds, and tossed the drug dealers out into the street. He got me a job at one of the local banks - he actually lied about my work abilities. Consider my SHOCK when I had to tell the bank manager that No, I only took ONE semester of Accounting 101 - No, I never did more than 2 months of bookkeeping for the owner of a ranch in Big Sky Montana.

Fortunately, the job was an entry level Teller position. Now, the escalation of the abuse/manipulation began in earnest by Hub#1. He wanted information about certain customers. Remember I am still rather naive, but I took the oath I made at the start of my employment to heart - what goes on in the bank, the names of the customers, is Strictly Confidential, and not to be told to anyone outside of my fellow co-workers and only while we are inside the bank!  I refused to give him that information. Refused to even consider looking it up. THAT got me my first beating. There were no visible bruises. He had taken me by the shoulders and slammed me against the wall, then threw me on the floor. He pounded the wall next to my head, and stomped the floor next to my body, while all the time screaming at me. Pretty much all I could remember of the screams was that it was all my fault, I was making him do this to me.

I told one of the wives of his best friend - she didn't believe me. Told me to suck it up and be a better wife.

He controlled everything except what I watched on TV and the books I read. He bought the books for me. I would write them down and he would go get them, NEVER reading what they were about. He was seldom home so I watched a lot of TV. After him spending $1,250.00 we could NOT afford on a 10' satellite dish - and seldom being sober enough to even watch it, I discovered this network for women. Movies and talk shows, etc. THAT is where I learned about him being a manipulator. Abuser. After 8 years I gave up. I was leaving him, and I didn't care if he killed my sisters if I did. I called them up and told them that no matter what to NEVER let him in their home. If he showed up on their doorstep to call the cops. He would be armed, drunk and had every intention to kill them.

It took me 6 months to pack up what I wanted to keep, then I went to a member in the church who had been my VT since we moved to that town, and had her call the For Rent's I had picked out. One I really wanted BUT the couple who owned the home were one of Hub#1's best friends. So, I took a leap of faith, called them back, identified myself and told them that I was leaving Hub#1. They reduced the rent, and helped my in my move. They were so glad I was finally leaving the jerk.

By that time I had been active at church for a year. Just before my move, Hub#1 came home from a job (he was now contracting with Sears installing vinyl siding) and needed clean clothes for the next job. The morning he left, I moved out of our home. I also changed jobs that day.

When he came home 3 weeks later - the house was cleaned and emptied of my belongings, our joint bank account was closed. His *business* account was half emptied, and he couldn't find me. All of *his* friends weren't talking. Matter of fact they called me to say he was on 'the look-out' for me. I went to my VT home, called him and told him to get his own insurance on the truck he was driving because I was no longer paying for it. That I had given one of his best'ies & wife his wedding ring for him to pick up [he wouldn't wear it], and if he didn't do so in the next two days, I would so I could hock it for rent money. Never told him that I still had the four letters, or ALL of his "important" papers, along with all of our paperwork covering the 20 years we had been together.

He told anyone that would listen that I was just going through a phase, and we would be back together soon. He promised me he would file for divorce. Why I even believed him is beyond me. I left him in 1999 - and I finally scraped together enough money to pay a Paralegal to do all the paperwork and help me to file for divorce in 2003. The divorce was finalized June 10, 2004.

He contacted my family only once - to ask if I was there with them. He did find me at my new job - and he was pleasant. For the week he was in town, I went to my VT home after work, and used their extra car (a sweet VW Bug) to drive home in, so he couldn't find where I lived.

When I finally was able to serve him the divorce papers (the Paralegal served him after I got him to come out of the Moose Lodge where he was drinking), he got mad. Punched his truck and broke two windows mad. Why? Because I was requesting the court to give me my maiden name back. When he read that - he looked at me and screamed at me WHY - what is so bad about MY NAME. I just calmly said: You have shamed it beyond repair and I don't want any part of it.

Well as it turned out, not only did I divorce him - his entire family [mother and two sisters] divorced me.

I asked for and received many, many PH blessings. Of comfort, of strength to NOT become a Man Hating Shrew. I had three callings in the Branch, that kept me busy, occupied and pretty much immersed in the gospel.

I also made it a point to not give in to the despair, guilt, and asking of myself the unanswerable questions of WHY? What in my life growing up would cause me to stick with such a manipulator? Daddy was NEVER like that. Mom wasn't either. I rebelled against my two sisters attempting to manipulate and control me my entire childhood. So why?

My VT and her husband who also was my HT - were my rocks and helped with my salvation. He showed me what a good man was. He was so like my Dad, and in time they both became my Foster/Adoptive Parents, Brother/Sister, Siblings in Zion, and my Best Friends Eternally. They knew EVERYTHING. I told them EVERYTHING. They loved me UN-conditionally. 

To this date my surviving two sisters, and my youngest brother knows NOTHING. Just months before my oldest brother passed, I told him everything, and he held me and cried with me, and we both agreed that had I told him when it happened he wouldn't have believed me. He also never told his wife or daughter - and for that I am oh-so-grateful.

Hubby #2 knows everything, as I know everything about his life. I never became a Man Hating Shrew. My experience has morphed with my Gift of Discernment, and I can tell when a woman I meet is being abused by her spouse/significant other/father/brother/male relative. I see it in a woman at church right now. I have told Hubby, and we are praying on how we are to deal with it, as neither of us has stewardship over her, other than we are Our brothers/sisters keeper.

The thing is I can also see when a woman is the abuser. Husband believes me - and THAT is even harder to get the authorities to act.

Mental, verbal, emotional abuse is by far the worst. The wounds and scars are not visible like physical abuse. The hurts and damage are the same, or possibly even worse. It wasn't until the last 5 years of my marriage that the abuse escalated into physical. He had beat me the night before, and I fell asleep on the floor of the clothes closet, hugging our dog. I woke with just enough time to take a quick shower and dash off to work. The mirror in the bathroom was put up high and I had to stand on a small step stool to see myself - I didn't take the time to look at myself in the mirror. I had long ago quit putting on make up and I didn't need a mirror to brush and braid my hair. The black eyes and bruises on my face didn't show up in their full glory until I had been at work for about three hours, which is when my boss went nuts. At least she didn't call the cops on him - but she also had a total change of behavior towards me. Disgust. Anger that I wouldn't have him arrested.

@jdf135 you asked -   

Quote

Nevertheless, it still bothers me; don't sisters ever abuse people? 

  Yes, they do. Even before I finally left Hub#1 I witnessed women abusing others. Some did so physically, others mentally-emotionally-verbally. My own little sister abused her entire family with the verbal, emotional and mental abuse. Her husband divorced her and let their four children decide who they wanted to have custody of them. They were aged 16 to 9 years old. Only the youngest chose her Mom. He didn't see it, I did - that her Mom had her in an emotional strangle hold. That daughter is now 28 and has been seeing a Psychiatrist since she was 16 years old. Dad willingly pays for her treatment - once I found out I also contribute.

My little sister then turned her venom on me. For nearly 8 years she had the rest of our family convinced that I was the one who had been causing her and her children trouble within the church. Calling the Temple and Stake and Ward presidencies in the areas where they all lived telling them atrocious lies about them, demanding that they be excommunicated. It took me all that time to narrow down the time frames of her accusations, and prove that I had no knowledge of where each of her children and herself lived. BUT what finally brought my other siblings to believe me was her own actions towards them and the dirty things she said and accused them of to their own Bishops.

Thus in my personal experience the people who abuse are about equal who commit these abuses - women and men.

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