Author (Greek version): Georgia Kiziridou
Translator-Editor: Harriet Spala
“I have dated Kostas for three years. He often lashes out against me when he is upset. He often underestimates me and says that I am way inferior in looks as well as financially compared to him. He keeps reminding me how lucky I am to be with him as nobody else would put up with me. He has occasionally hit me in public. Every time after he hits me he cries and keeps asking me why do I keep on forcing him to reveal his evil side? One may ask: why am I still with him? I will tell you something most people do not understand: because I simply love him, even though he has so many flaws in his character.”
A typical abuser-abused relationship is presented and it is definitely not characterized as an equal one. Similar to the Stockholm syndrome where hostages taken during a bank heist in Sweden held in 1973, after a week of abuse while being held, developed a strong psychological bond with their captors and even developed dependence after their release. Respectively, in abusive love relationships the victim develops dependence and emotional attachment just like the relationship between an infant and his/her mother. The victim seems to be in a state of hypnosis and frozen – just like the animals when hunted down by wild beasts: in order to survive, they pretend that they are dead, in order not to provoke and push their bad luck even further. Τhe situation where this total submission and inactivity occurs, is called accepted helplessness: where the person has learned and gradually established fully in his/her mind that the abuser’s undeserved attitude towards that person is correct and justified. Nevertheless, could we all possibly be potential abusers and victims in our love relationships?
Most abusers are people with narcissistic behavioral characteristics. They don’t care about their partner but prefer to control them. They are greatly satisfied when undermining the other person and in decreasing their self-esteem. However, we wouldn’t have abusers without their faithful victims. The victim at first tries to win the abuser’s preference in order to emotionally and psychologically survive. The victim fears that the abuser at any given time will execute the threats that have been previously hurled. More specifically in love relationships the greatest threat is separation. The victim trying to avoid this separation totally submits to steer clear from these threats. This distortion escalates when the abuser has managed to isolate his victim from their family environment where abuse and neglect was already a way of life. In fact if the victim has been raised by a parent who has a narcissistic behavior then moving on to an abusive relationship seems quite familiar and easy to deal with – and yet can the victim ever escape from such a relationship?
Quite often the victim gives the impression that remaining in such a relationship is though his/her own decision although this may not make sense to other people. In many cases where the abuser abandons the victim, it is the abused person who threats that he/she won’t be able to continue living without their abuser. The abuser’s negative comments are so firmly implanted within the victim’s mind so it is totally persuaded that he/she is unworthy of love and acceptance. Many times they shock and surprise their social entourage when they recall positive aspects of their abuser’s character and as a good human being and insist that getting back together is the only alternative. How can this social entourage intervene in such cases?
A common mistake in cases like these is the harsh judgment towards the victim about the whole situation. Sometimes the family and friendly environment cease all contact with the victim in order to punish it for making the wrong choice. Thus, the already abused person creates even more self-defenses in order to survive. However, trust could be re-established through open and free communication, as well as actually listening to all the victim’s issues within society at large. Perhaps this may help the victim feel the need to express thoughts and feelings about the relationship he/she maintains with their “abuser”. It might help the victim slowly realize the actual scope of this relationship and maybe manage to cease this relationship in his/her own accord.
Ιn any case, it would be appropriate to prevent abuse signs while in a relationship through awareness – that awareness comes from our own paternal families and through them every person can learn to recognize the signs of abuse and protect himself/herself. Always remember: Love has nothing to do with submission and exploitation of any kind!