Abusers, Assualt, Cary Tennis, EMDR, Rehabilitation, Salon.com, Therapy
His rehabilitation. Apu’s that is.
The guy that assaulted me and who, for a long time on my blog I would only call Andre. I couldn’t bear to speak his name aloud or write it down or even think about it. Although, I did think about it involuntarily, of course.
Thanks to some awesome work from both of my therapists, eventually I was able to get there. H kicked things off, stirring that pot to peel that unmentionable name loose. Then AS, with the help of EMDR therapy, finally helped me elucidate those syllables and expunge the horror and denial I’d associated with his name, something that kept me a prisoner of my own terror far too long.
Thing is, I’ve never thought about him as someone who is likely to change. I know a little of his history, that he’s assaulted and intimidated women before. And I guess my assumption was that his behavioural patterns are simply too ingrained for him to change.
That might be true, but then again it might not.
I’ve just finished reading an article by Cary Tennis (a writer and something of an existential agony aunt on Salon.com), called I’m a former abuser — should I tell my girlfriend?
This is my reply (slightly edited) to that article:
Cary, as someone who’s been assaulted by a former partner I’ll freely admit your advice here did NOT make me very happy at all.
Quite frankly, it causes me some anxiety that the guy wrote this letter in the first place. He abused his ex-wife, has had some therapy, feels as though he’s “cured”, and is kind of worried his ex-wife will tell the new girlfriend of his past actions.
I can tell you if I was that ex-wife, I sure as hell would do exactly that!
And so he says he wants to tell his new love, but doesn’t want to get dumped.
The letter is problematic for me because the way its worded suggests he’s still not fully recovered and/or in control of whatever it is that makes him feel like he has the right to assault another person.
If the guy was in AA for alcohol abuse, his counsellor would recommend he stays out of any new relationship for a period of time. Because he’s not a recovering alcoholic in AA, he’s had ‘some counselling’ and has decided he’s okay… and yet he still isn’t sure he wants to come clean in case someone leaves him.
Therefore, his concern is for himself, not others.
And then Cary, you’ve provided this guy with a plausible framework to help him explain to the new girlfriend how it is that he’s changed. You’ve practically written the script to make him sound genuine!
This is highly problematic. I mean sure, you’ve suggested: “…the more evidence you can produce of your current behavior, the better chance you have…”
Which is implying (but not stating clearly), the guy needs to walk the talk to back up his claims. Great.
But it’s possible for abusers to hold it together for a period of time before they lose their shit. Absolutely.
And so, you’ve possibly helped this guy (if he has the balls, which many abusers don’t) to come clean. So, he comes clean using your advice and the girl he’s dating doesn’t leave him. Probably because he’s a charming SOB (the way a lot of abusers are).
Then, its all puppy dogs and sunshine for a while. Until the guy loses it, because he’s forgotten to stay with the program.
Rehabilitation of abusers. Is it possible? Maybe, but at this point on my own journey, I wouldn’t trust someone who says they’ve got a previous history of abuse. Not at all.
They would have to have years of evidence, not just months, before I’d even consider they were telling the truth. Just sayin’…
Then, some dude wrote a follow up reply to my letter which makes me want to vomit:
Yes, let him “come clean”, and his girlfriend will leave him because, well, it just isn’t that serious yet and she doesn’t need the headache, and he is once again alone and sad. So, by all means, destroy his life before he even has a chance to prove himself.
That is what I hate about America now – nobody gets a second chance. Nobody.
You know, bruises and broken bones heal. But there is no law against the emotional torture a woman can put a man through. There is no law against tearing someone’s soul out. And you KNOW there are women out there who do that. And they are never held accountable.
My reply to him was as follows:
Right, are you saying the girlfriend has no right to know the facts about someone she’s getting involved with?
Whether or not she leaves him is up to her. But like it or not, that man has to prove himself. As Cary has suggested, he *must* show evidence he’s changed. And not just a week or a month’s worth of change. That’s not enough, sorry.
I’d suggest this guy has already had a hand in the destruction of his own life, by being an abuser of women. No one has the right to assault another human being like that.
I am not American. I’m Australian. And yes, bruises and broken bones heal. But unfortunately, it seems the psychological impacts of assault are grossly under-reported.
For example, in my very own personal experience, assault cost me nearly four years of my life. It wasn’t just one night where a former lover lost control and showed me the dark side of his nature. It was the years of post-traumatic stress, the daily flashbacks, nightly nightmares, depression and an inability to function that almost cost me my job.
What did the guy who assaulted me get? Nothing. It was deemed a “his word against mine” situation, despite the bruises on my body and the broken glass in my front door. I managed to get a restraining order taken out but we all know how great they can work, don’t we?
So I lived in terror for months before I moved, changed my phone number, car, and everything that he could have connected to me. And I still didn’t feel safe. The cost for me was four years of not being able to relate to another human being properly. And of course, the therapist fees.
I’m doing much better now, thanks. But I still haven’t been able form another intimate relationship. I’ve only recently begun to feel happiness and possibilities for my future arising again.
Sure, bruises heal quickly but the spectre of assault lingers for a long, long time.
Clearly, I’m not all the way there yet. I can’t respond to this sort of tripe without my blood boiling. And I guess I’ve never considered whether or not leopards with habitual patterns of assault can ever change their spots.
The jury is still out for me on that front…