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Spreading the word on domestic violence and personality disorders

By:  Linda Hartoonian Almas, M.S. Ed

This past month, I have had the honor of speaking about domestic violence at a training day for law enforcement administrative professionals, as well as at a continuing education program for a local judicial circuit.  Both were wonderful days, spent with many amazing men and women in the areas of law enforcement, advocacy, and  mental health, as well as those in the spiritual community.

My main goal was to raise awareness.  I could speak all day on the topic of domestic violence and its relation to personality disorders and still only scratch the surface of what I have to share.  With time constraints in place, I chose to  highlight some of the pressing issues surrounding the two and also further explained and defined the varieties of abuses that exist.  Further, I identified and described some of the behaviors abusive individuals often display, as well as some typical behavior patterns and personality traits of those who are abused.

Hopefully, I was able to eliminate some of the common myths that tend to go hand in hand with domestic violence and other abuse issues.  My hope is that if I keep talking, others will keep listening.  In turn, they will help spread the information, as well.

The power of words    

Since those presentations, I have had several people contact me, indicating that they knew people who could be helped by the information they learned.  That does my heart well, since that is why I do what I do.  Helping others out of their unhealthy situations by arming them with information, and raising awareness through education, has become a large part of my life’s work.

I have grown to realize that domestic violence is far more prevalent than most people know, adversely touching the lives of countless individuals; men, women, and children alike.  However, when we are willing to discuss abuse and provide illustrations and descriptions for those who may or may not be experiencing it first hand, we open the minds of many who may not have spent much time thinking about the topic.

To some degree, I feel that I have a responsibility to help others grow and accurately recognize and identify abuse.  The topic can be confusing.  In fact, I have heard this notion echoed in several conversations, “He never hit me, so I was never really abused.”  Yet, most went on to describe disturbing acts of serious emotional abuse, that adversely affected their lives.  That is abuse!  Threats, intimidation, isolation, and other forms of control constitute abuse.

Hearing such sentiments tell me just how necessary it is for us all to keep talking.  So many do not fully know and understand the complexity or ramifications of abuse.  Also, the perpetrators are often individuals with personality disorders, who feel entitled to harm those they are closest to.  This aspect typically fails to enter into the discussions.  However, I feel that in order to fully understand abuse, we must understand what motivates the abusive individuals as well.

Are there others out there who don’t know?

Sometimes, this lack of true understanding even extends to some professionals who we trust should know.  Experience helps, but without education on the matter, occasionally, a solid grasp evades them.  I feel that in order for them to achieve a complete understanding of abuse, they need to better understand personality disorders.  This leads me to another goal.

Repeatedly, several readers have written about problems with police, attorneys, judges, and mental health professionals failing to understand the gravity of their situations.  I feel immensely fortunate that my interactions with each of these groups of professionals were very positive and that they were aware of such disorders, at least to some degree.  At the same time, I fully understand that this is not always the case.

What can we do to create change?   

So, what do we do about this?  We keep talking.  I work with a group that will be speaking at a convention for legal professionals this summer.  We will work to further educate judges, lawyers, and law guardians (GAL’s) on psychopathy and some of the abuses that accompany the disorder.  In the proposal we submitted, we suggested that there was a significant need for the court system to acknowledge psychopathy and come to understand it better.  The response was that they were, in fact, interested in learning!

This is the beginning.  I feel that psychopathy and abuse education can have a chain reaction effect.  If a handful of people start to discuss the cause, another handful will begin to understand it.  That group will begin talking, and awareness will grow.

I am optimistic that positive change is on the horizon.  Every one of us can take part.  Just keep talking!  Keep sharing what you know and have lived.  Keep healing and making a difference, in your own household or beyond.  Together, we can do this!

 



8 Comments on "Spreading the word on domestic violence and personality disorders"

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  1. Ox Drover says:

    Linda I am so glad that you are spreading the good word! It is a slow process I am sure and one that is LARGE….sometimes we feel that because it is so LARGE that our little bit of spreading the word is like “pithing in the ocean” to try to raise the water level! It is frustrating when we meet resistance.

    Recently in my county a man who I feel STRONGLY is a psychopath was elected to a judgeship. I know this man personally and have NO doubt that he is a psychopath and highly narcissistic. Probably also a crook (most of the politicians in my area are crooked) He won by 119 votes. The man running against him I think is probably a pretty nice and sharp man.

    I campaigned with my friends to vote against him, and many said they did upon my recommendation.

    Part of the problem with judges is how they are “elected” and people not knowing what they are (psychopaths) or not knowing them at all really.

    Keep up the fight. It is a big job, to accomplish a BIG objective. Good work!



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  2. 20years says:

    GREAT article, Linda.

    You are absolutely correct that the connection between domestic violence and psychopathy is rarely made. But I feel encouraged by what you say, that the word is spreading, and folks are receptive to learning.

    I especially appreciate that you are educating law enforcement and the courts about “typical behavior patterns and personality traits of those who are abused.” But — as an abuse victim myself — I would love to hear you elaborate on that.

    I have found over the years that while many “traits and behaviors” resonated with me, there were a great many that did not, which was one of the things that held me back from recognizing the abuse (and held me back from healing). And it caused me to pathologize myself — my traits and behaviors — rather than looking under the sheep’s clothing to where the wolf was hiding.

    Also, as you are correct to point out how complex the victim’s experience is, I also have felt over the years at many different times, that I was viewed in a very surface way by a great many people; as a stereotype rather than as a person.

    That has led me to the feeling that it is the victims’ voices that are missing; our voices add to a more complex and deeper understanding of our “traits and behaviors” and, as well, the damage that psychopaths do.

    I view my experience now as primarily a predatory attack on me, which was mis-labeled, mis-packaged by the “abuse industry” BECAUSE the element of psychopathy awareness was missing from the literature and understanding. So for a long time I was barking up the wrong tree, still trying to understand the perpetrator (but missing crucial pieces of the puzzle) AND “what was wrong with me” — rather than, that maybe there really WASN’T anything wrong with me before I was damaged by contact with a psychopath/sociopathic person who attacked me.

    (on the other hand… I certainly do see that there are elements of my personality which led to my being easy prey)

    How victims appear to couples therapists, law enforcement and the courts… that is very, very important, as so many of us are not believed OR we are blamed, and the perpetrator/liar is the one who is believed. It is time that that changes, that folks in positions of authority understand how this dynamic works, and the EFFECTS on the victim (not just “traits and behaviors” but the effects of the abuse on us — that these “traits and behaviors” may be a NORMAL reaction to a HORRIFIC, ABUSIVE situation — rather than a sign of some inherent pathology in us).

    Thank you for this article and for your work to increase awareness. You are right that we all can do something about it.



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  3. Linda Hartoonian Almas says:

    Thanks to both of you!

    Oxy, you are so right. It is a slow process.

    Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed. Then I remember other types of social change that have occurred over the years. I think about the stories that my parents and grandparents told years ago and how people’s thinking has changed for the better in so many ways. Then I think about the civil right’s movement of the 60’s. Imagine where we would be if no one fought that battle! That’s when I decided that we can do this!

    20years, you asked me to elaborate on what I have to say about the “typical behavior patterns and personality traits of those who are abused.” In a nut shell, you described what I say.

    I feel that the victims have the potential to end up twice victimized if the professionals, particularly the police and legal professionals, do not have a solid understanding regarding the “presentation” of an abused individual. I believe most belonging to this group want to help, but are not always equipped to. As a former police officer, I know that arriving on the scene of a domestic call can sometimes be difficult to assess.

    At first glance, the victim may seem like the one who is upset and out of control. Well…the victim may be. But if this is the case, it is a natural response. Being abused is upsetting! The abuser, after all, tends to be in calm because he or she is in control. He is also actively engaging in impression managing. He wants authorities to see the victim as “crazy.” If the victim is crying, yelling, or otherwise displaying upset, it is easier for him to paint this picture of her.

    Police have a lot to determine in a short amount of time. But getting it right is important. Accurate assessment may determine whether the right person gets arrested and what is reflected in reports. This, in turn, may effect what happens in the courts. This is where the understanding is important for judges and attorneys.

    A surface view is not good enough. That is what I try to teach and share. I attempt to illustrate the complexity of these types of situations. So much more is happening long before anyone ever calls the police or the matters enter court rooms.

    Another source of confusion seems to be why victims stay. As anyone who has been in an abusive relationship knows, the cycle of abuse is real. Yet, without training or background in this area, many don’t realize that. This somehow effects, in my opinion, how victims are viewed. With understanding, and clarification of some of the truths and myths, I think we can change this.

    You are right, the victims’ voices should be heard. When those making the decisions are given more to work with than just some of components that appear on the surface and truly understand the workings and trappings of abusive individuals, that is when I believe that a tremendous shift will occur.

    Abusers like to exploit what they perceive to be weakness. In many cases, the “weakness” they see in others is actually simple human decency. Some realize that, others don’t. It’s ashame that decency enhances one’s chances of being targeted. That is why I feel that education on the subject can and will protect all of us. I this extends to the professionals involved, as well.

    I think the root of this problem is that most people want to operate under the assumption that all people are good and well intended. This is simply not true sometimes. With a solid understanding of the personality disorders that are often associated with abuse, everyone can benefit. That is why I feel this is so important. Unfortunately, it is also complex. But that’s ok. We’ll get there.

    I hope that helps. I hope that was the elaboration and clarification you were looking for. Basically, getting the big picture is critical in these cases. Snap shots are not enough!



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  4. strongawoman says:

    Hello Linda,

    Thank you for this article.

    Being abused is such a stigma. One feels such shame. You don’t want to admit that this is, in actual fact, you! You are a statistic.

    To make the connection between psychopathy and domestic abuse is such a revelation to me. Yes I had my part to play but now I see it wasn’t just my weakness per se. This is the first time I have admitted that I was a victim of abuse….my ex husband and the spath.

    Both relationships are no more but the effects of dominance, control and violence are far reaching

    Thank you



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  5. kim frederick says:

    Ihttp://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/listen-to-the-shrink4men-radio-embed-relationship-stages-abusive-women-and-the-wtf-moment/ just came upon this site today and listened to this radio program about the WTF moment. It’s really good and thought that this thread was a good place to post it. Hope ya’ll get something out of it.



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  6. Truthspeak says:

    Linda, thank you SO much for your efforts and this article.

    “That’s not ABUSE,” is one of the most pat-predictable remarks whenever someone tells another person about emotiona/verbal abuse. Abuses that don’t involve physical contact are very, very, very hard to accept. The list is complete: verbal, emotional, spiritual/religous, financial. And, IMHO, it is vital to note that one “type” of abuse does not exist without others – if one abuse is present, you can bet a paycheck that another one is being perpetrated, as well.

    I look back on my second marriage, and there was a distinct absence of “abuse.” The exspath made it so. He often would reiterate, “I’ll NEVER do ‘those’ things to you.” Yeah, he never hit me, raped me, or put a loaded gun in my face, but he systematically devalued me, belittled me, relieved me of my personal financial assets, and launched a campaign of stonewalling and crazymaking in the most oh-so-subtle of methods.

    Yepper – hindsight is always 20/20, but I reckon that I’ve learned a priceless lesson as a result of this second marriage: just because there aren’t bruises, fractures, or lacerations does not mean that abuse is not being perpetrated.

    Once again, thank you for your drive, Linda. Kudos x’s 10!



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  7. 7stepstoheaven says:

    I have spent the last three years learning about what personality disorders are, and it all started when I came here to Lovefraud. Years of therapy taught me nothing about this. It was here that I learned I had to protect myself from these people, and finally started to understand what was happening to me. My mother was narcissistic and abusive, but it took me a whole lifetime, practically, to see it for what it was, and to not feel horrendous guilt about walking away from that abuse. I have been shunned, shamed, scapegoated, and treated with contempt by my own family members. It has been one of the most painful things I have ever had to endure in my life. I had no way to understand at all, but somehow I ended up here, and my road to knowledge began. What my family put me through, and is still putting me through, almost destroyed me, but I have found strength here, and, most of all, I feel safe here. It is good to come back from time to time and see that everyone is still here! Thanks heavens for people like Donna, and Oxy, and Dr. Becker, whose articles have helped me so much!

    My mother passed away a year ago, and one of my sisters is coming tomorrow, and we are going to pour her ashes into the harbor of the city where she was born and raised, and loved.

    The horrrendous depression I had been has gone away over the past six months. I am seeing things very clearly. I wrote a letter to my brother telling him he needed to stop lying to me, or we would not have a relationship. I got back a letter filled with contempt, blaming me for things he has done. That’s clearly the response that a narcissistic, with possibly some sociopathic traits, would send me. So before it would have killed me to hear that from a family member, but I know what and who he is now, and he can’t hurt me anymore. And the sister I am closest to, sister 1, finally said to me today that my other sister 2 had scapegoated me, and stonewalled me, and I was never more happy to hear those words from her mouth, because I had not discussed it with her. They both live in the same town, and I haven’t seen sister 1 in a year, and sister 2 in seven years!

    It was not a discussion I ever wanted to have on the phone, because sister 2 had manipulated her, and she acknowledged that it had messed up our relationship.

    I have just been shaking and in a state ever since I got off the phone, because I have been consumed with telling her what was happening when she and I were finally in the same room together, and now I don’t have to.

    I am going to stand up for myself now, although it is difficult to do that when people have stonewalled you so succesfully that you no longer have a voice. Well, I have a voice now, and they are going to know what I think. My brother already knows, and I told sister 1 that I was done with him, because of his pathological lying and stonewalling me. She still can’t see it, because he sucks up to her, but I spent six months in the same town with him, and told her she wouldn’t necessarily see it in a 2 or 3 day visit. But she knows about the lying, not just to me.

    She is the only person left that I trust, and I trust her now after she acknowledged what sister 2 had done.

    Both sisters have 2 children, and I sent two packages to them with Xmas gifts, and the packages got switched. Sister1, who is a sweetheart, of course made sure she got the package over to sister 2’s house, for my 2 nephews.
    However, sister 2 never bothered! She never bothered to send those christmas gifts I sent to my neice and nephew, who are also HER neice and nephew, to them, EVER! My sister got them yesterday (JUNE!), when she went to pick up my mom’s ashes from her!! How desperately SAD and PASSIVE AGRESSIVE is that???? Unbeleivable!

    So I said, you, know, she never acknowledges ANYTHING, that I send to my 2 nephews. I send Xmas, & birthday gifts, but no thank you notes, nothing! That’s when sister 1 told me that she knew she had scapegoated me.

    So my nightmare of the last 7 years is finally over. I am going to send sister 2 a note expressing my feelings about what she has done, and that I KNOW what she has done, and what I think of her.

    I do it not with any expectations, but only to END the seven years of stonewalling. Because now I know my other sister knows the truth, and she can’t do that to me anymore!

    I was in an incomprehensible tailspin about the way these people were behaving until I got to LoveFraud! I never would have figured it out on my own. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I did not understand WHY they were treating me as though I had done something wrong!! I spent years trying to PROVE I was a good person, and trying to take the high road, but I was bricked in behind a wall, with no way to stand up for myself! It was a HORRIBLE place to be, especialy since I am disabled and haven’t worked for ten years, and have lived on my own for the last six. I had no one to depend on but myself.

    I now understand that these people are disordered, and I will never get what I want from them. They are not capable of behaving like normal human beings – DECENT human beings like you say!

    I think the best book on domestic abuse is:

    “Why Does He Do That – Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men,” by Lundy Bancroft.

    It gives the clearest explanation I’ve ever seen of EMOTIONAL abuse, and also gives us a look at what these men are thinking, and the level of entitlement that drives it. It clearly shows the kinds of LIES they tell, which would be helpful to the lawyers and law enforcement.

    Frankly, I would want every young woman, even high school age, to read this book before she starts dating, so she won’t fall into the same traps. It can happen even more easily to young girls.



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  8. W8ing4change says:

    Kim, I’m actually shocked no one here has commented on the link you posted. I came across this one about a week ago on another thread. We need to somehow get this link put somewhere where it’s easy to find for new visitors. It’s something I feel EVERYONE should take the time to listen to. It gives you the necessary tools to EVALUATE our relationships which imo, is something people don’t do. Also, are incapable of because we are never taught the DYNAMICS. This piece is so educational. I think it can positively change so many lives.

    Maybe we can ask donna to maybe put it in the videos section, or make a new section for audio. It needs to be easy to find, even if you’re not looking for it.

    Linda, great article. I admire you for what you are doing. I too wish I had the opportunity to educate professionals on the topic, but lack the resources and status to do so. I do however try to educate people about the problem of abuse. Especially those in abusive relationships. We do what we can right?
    You have my 100% complete support, aswell as everyone who is trying to push positive change.
    Thank you linda. We need more like you. You’re doing the job of an angel. Protecting humanity.
    God bless.



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