Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More
There are many postings and comments from our readers about physical and emotional abuse. All of these comments are valuable and important. However, there is a trend among some of the comments towards hating those who abuse and judging them to be evil. Anyone who has survived abuse has every reason to feel angry and unforgiving towards their persecutor. This is certainly understandable when you have been severely hurt. The point I want to make in this posting is that it is important to try to understand people who abuse rather than simply engage in condemnation. In no way does this mean that I condone abuse or the abuser. Learning about the reasons and motivations is not the same as agreeing with or forgiving reprehensible actions.
We have read many times on our web site and others that the abuser is often someone who was abused during their childhood. Having been abused and having witnessed a lot of abuse during childhood they go on to become abusive towards their wives and children. In other words, these are people who are severely injured and in need of help. Being in need of help does not mean they should be permitted to be with their wives and children. Again, understanding why something happens does not mean that the survivors of this individual’s behavior should remain with him or her. However, there is value in recognizing that thee people are also human beings and victims of the events of their own lives. They, too, deserve a chance to recover and rehabilitate themselves if that is possible.
Who is the abuser? He (she) is someone who has been severely humiliated, degraded and debased by the environment in which they developed from early on in their lives. They may start out with the best of intentions as spouses and parents but succumb to the hurt, rage and humiliation and shame that dominate their personality.
People should not remain in a relationship with anyone who is abusive. In fact, the survivor of abuse should leave the relationship to protect their selves and, if there are children, to protect the children. If necessary, the police should be called and the abuser arrested in those cases that warrant such action.
The individual who is abusive needs to be in psychotherapy, very possibly with medication treatment. What I want to make clear is that therapy and medication for the abusive individual is separate from any attempt to preserve their relationships. The motivation for treatment needs to be recognition on the part of the abusive person that they have a serious problem. They may never be able to return to their original relationships because they have caused too much harm and have destroyed the ability of former loved ones to ever trust them again.
I know that anger management classes are recommended for the perpetrators of domestic violence. However, in my experience this approach is not potent enough. Intensive individual psychotherapy with group therapy is what I recommend. Medication can be an effective part of this. Many of those who commit these verbally and physically violent acts are extremely depressed and very impulsive. There are medications that can help dampen the depression anger and impulsiveness.
It goes without saying that those who are abusive when they are drunk or high on drugs need to enter intensive drug and alcohol treatment centers to get the kind of help they need. If they continue to abuse drugs and alcohol there is no way they will be able to avoid being violent.
Are too many of us perhaps too fast to yell, "Hang ‘em from the highest tree," when we hear about abuse? Does abusing the abuser do anything for him or the rest of us? Is it not true that they need effective help instead of punishment?
Your comments are welcome and encouraged.