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Psychological abuse : the stories of women in heterosexual relationships Baker, Andrea 2004

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PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE: THE STORIES OF W O M E N IN H E T E R O S E X U A L RELATIONSHIPS by Andrea Baker B A . , Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1993 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL F U L F I L M E N T OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES (Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A October 2004 ©Andrea Baker, 20O4 THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B Library Authorization In presenting this thesis in partial fulfillment of the reauirempnt, w a A for scholar,, p „ ^ „ s e s may be granted b,,he head „ , m y „ "111 Pe"™5Si0"Men5iV8 COP»in» °<,his Name of Author (please print) Date (dd/mm/yyyy) Title of Thesis: Degree: 1M_ Year: 2004,-Vancouver, BC Canada " 11 A B S T R A C T Women in abusive relationships typically tell their stories many times before being truly heard by others. This is especially true of women in relationships characterized by psychological abuse. The purpose of the current study was to provide a more in-depth picture of psychological abuse within heterosexual relationships than that which had been captured by previous research. The narrative design resulted in a series of stories in which five women provided accounts of their lived experiences with psychological abuse. In addition to attending to the particulars of each narrative, a between-story analysis was conducted to facilitate the interpretive process and enrich the meta-narrative. The unique contribution made by the current study is that it established the impact of individual meaning on the experience of psychological abuse. The study successfully expanded upon the conceptualization of psychological abuse, enlightened counselling practice, and provided future researchers with a more accurate foundation from which to begin their exploration of this phenomenon. iii T A B L E OF C O N T E N T S title page i abstract i i table of contents i i i acknowledgements vi epithet vii CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION 1 defining psychological abuse 1 rationale for current study 3 author's foreword 5 CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW 8 theories of violence against women 8 family violence / power theory 8 feminist theory 10 attachment theory 12 theoretical overview 14 current research on psychological abuse 14 clusters of abuse 16 attachment models 19 impact of psychological abuse 23 overview of literature 26 CHAPTER III: M E T H O D O L O G Y 29 narrative theory 31 narrative research 34 participants 35 iv participant recruitment 36 screening 36 introductory interview 37 research interview 37 transcription process 38 narrative analysis 40 assessing rigor 41 member checking 43 peer review 44 ethical considerations 44 CHAPTER IV: RESULTS 48 Angela's story 48 Jillian's story 69 Marie's story 80 Shayne's story 92 Laura's story 99 Sarah's story 112 CHAPTER V : DISCUSSION 126 enhanced conceptualization: impact of overt and covert behaviours 126 enhancing understanding 127 changes to identity 128 preoccupied pattern of attachment 130 help-seeking 131 enlightening practice 134 active intervention 134 meaning-making 134 mitigating the abuse 135 V implications for future research 137 conclusions 138 REFERENCE LIST 140 APPENDIX A : NOTICE OF STUDY 145 APPENDIX B: LETTER OF INFORMED CONSENT 148 APPENDIX C: DEMOGRAPHICS QUESTIONNAIRE 150 APPENDIX D: QUESTIONS TO ELICIT M E A N I N G - M A K I N G 152 APPENDIX E: WOMEN'S RESOURCES 155 vi A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S I would like to thank Dr. Maria Arvay for her unwaivering support as the layers of this study unfolded. Her encouragement and guidance have been invaluable. Thanks also to Dr. Susan James and Dr. Marv Westwood, my committee members whose input and gentle challenges further enhanced this research. Special thanks to my east coast family ... mom, dad, Greg, and Janice. Further thanks to my west coast family ... Cory, Dezi, Myles, and the gooch. This was quite an endeavour and I could never have done it without their love, enthusiasm, and occasional harassment. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to the five incredible women who volunteered to participate in this study. Their stories were even more moving, informative, and inspirational than I could have anticipated. vii EPITHET If you are going to help me ... Please be patient while I decide if I can trust you. Let me tell my story. The whole story in my own way. Please accept that whatever I have done, whatever I may do, is the best I have to offer and seemed right at the time. I am not a person. I am this person, unique and special. Don't judge me as right or wrong. Bad or good. I am what I am and it's all I've got. Don't ever think you know what I should do. You don't. I may be confused, but I am still the expert about me. Don't assume that your knowledge about me is more accurate than mine. You only know what I have told you. That's only part of me. Don't place me in a position of living up to your expectations. I have enough trouble with mine. Please hear my feelings. Not just my words - accept all of them. If you can't, how can I? Don't save me. I can do that myself. I knew enough to ask for help, didn't I? (from: Rosemary Gahlinger-Beaune "Modelling Equality") C H A P T E R I: I N T R O D U C T I O N The issue of violence against women is a growing concern for mental health practitioners and policy-makers within this country. Recent studies indicate that more than half of all Canadian women have experienced at least one violent assault that is either physical or sexual in nature (Johnson & Sacco, 1995). The publication of such findings has sounded alarm bells across the nation and has resulted in a growing body of literature devoted to a wide variety of feminist issues. Papers and seminars on the various forms of violence against women have been successful in stimulating public discourse and raising awareness about this topic. The fact that many people can now openly discuss sexual abuse, rape, battery, and other forms of violence against women in accurate terms is a sign that progress has been made in this area. However, much work remains to be done. In particular, the issue of psychological abuse of women in heterosexual relationships has not yet been adequately addressed in the psychological literature or in clinical practice. This form of abuse "is often misunderstood as trivial when contrasted to the obvious injuries of physical violence" (Duffy & Momirov, 1997, p. 28). To date, the voices of women who have experienced psychological abuse in heterosexual relationships seem to have gone unheard. Defining Psychological Abuse Despite its suspected prevalence and pervasive potential for harm, the study of psychological abuse as a distinct form of violence experienced by women in heterosexual relationships is in its infancy. Researchers are beginning to understand that the definition that has typically been used to operationalize "violence" within the psychological literature fails to capture some of the most heinous and widespread acts of aggression to which women in this 2 society are routinely subjected. The popular definition focuses predominantly on overt acts of violence and tends to ignore many of the insidious assaults that are made on a woman's overall well-being. As a result, women who share their stories of psychological abuse often find little understanding or support. "When a woman is sexually harassed or physically abused, she has some rights and legal recourse, but when she is emotionally abused, that recourse is generally undermined" (Lachkar, 1998, p. xiv). Psychological abuse means different things to different people and, as a result, is a term that has eluded singular definition. It has been described under the generic label of "woman abuse" and as a component of the violence that occurs in relationships of battery and sexual abuse. It has been referred to as emotional abuse, verbal aggression, controlling behaviour, maltreatment, nonphysical abuse, and psychological torture. Researchers and practitioners are just beginning to understand that psychological abuse cannot be reduced to either of these singular constructs. Instead, it may be seen as a composite of all of these elements. Psychological abuse differs from the random acts of interpersonal cruelty in which individuals occasionally participate. It may be delivered as a blatant attack (e.g. criticism, threats) or may take on more subtle and insidious tones (e.g. withholding of affection, monopolizing of attention). It may be active or passive, intentional or subconscious, frequent or occasional. In general, it can be described as an ongoing assault on the self-worth of another in which the weapon of choice may be verbal, behavioural, or emotional. Engel (2002) writes that "emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be longer lasting than physical ones" (p. 13). It impacts on the overall well-being of its recipients and may be manifest in a variety of social, emotional, and physical symptoms (Orava, 3 M cLeod, & Sharpe, 1996). Many survivors of abusive relationships claim that the ongoing psychological abuse to which they were subject was more painful than any of the physical or sexual attacks they were forced to endure (Wilson, Johnson, & Daly, 1995). Some survivors compare the experience to being trapped in a dragon's realm from which one does not have the emotional or material resources to escape. It is described as a process of disintegration in which one experiences a gradual erosion of spirit (Evans, 1993). Rationale for Current Study Although research on this subject is truly just beginning, preliminary studies indicate that psychological abuse creates the context in which other forms of violence are able to occur within a relationship (Marshall, 1996). "The dance of emotional abuse is an intense interrelationship between victim and perpetrator, between guilt and shame, between envy and jealousy, between omnipotence and dependency needs" (Lachkar, 2000, p. 89-90). The guilt and self-doubt that are produced by psychological abuse serve to convince the recipient that the violence is deserved and that she is responsible. However, researchers are discovering that psychological abuse need not be coupled with overt aggression to have potentially devastating arid long-lasting effects. In the inaugural issue of the Journal of Emotional Abuse, editors Geffner and Rossman (1998) suggest that "psychological abuse may be as damaging to victims as abuse that involves physical contact . . . and may be the key toxic ingredient in all forms of abuse, aggression, and human oppression" (p. 4). The fact that psychological abuse does damage, both on its own and in combination with other forms of violence, can no longer be denied. A study by Marshall (1996) provides evidence to suggest that the type of psychological abuse sustained has an influence on women's overall health, help-seeking behaviour, and 4 relationship perceptions. Marshall notes that the frequency and type of psychological abuse appear unrelated to a woman's likelihood to seek help from a variety of formal sources. In one of the very few books devoted exclusively to the subject of psychological abuse, Lachkar (1998) concurs with Marshall's findings. Lachkar writes that women who experience this form of violence "often react in ways that prove as debilitating as the abuse itself: withdrawal, hopelessness, guilt, shame, and psychosomatic illness, to name just a few" (p. xv). These findings are especially discouraging and suggest that active interventions are required to support women who are in psychologically abusive relationships. Several studies (Henderson, Bartholomew, & Dutton, 1997; Marshall, 1996; Orava, M°Leod,& Sharpe, 1996) have effectively demonstrated that existing paradigms do not adequately capture this form of violence. In particular, the authors argue convincingly for an expanded operationalization of psychological abuse and suggest that any working definition must go beyond those behaviours that involve overt aggression and an intent to cause harm. A narrative approach, in which women were given the opportunity to voice to their own experiences, was seen as having the greatest potential for investigating this phenomenon. Narrative research provides a method to bring to light the personal stories of women who have lived with psychological abuse. Stories have the power to inform and entertain. They also have the power to shape lived experience. Bruner (2002) argues: that it is through narrative that we create and re-create selfhood, that self is a product of our telling and not some essence to be delved for in the recesses of subjectivity. There is now evidence that if we lacked the capacity to make stories about ourselves, there would be no such thing as selfhood, (p. 85-6) 5 He goes on to say that, "once we are equipped with that capacity, we can produce a selfhood that joins us with others, that permits us to hark back selectively to our past while shaping ourselves for the possibilities of an imagined future" (Bruner, 2002, p. 86-7). The purpose of the current study was to provide a more in-depth picture of psychological abuse than that which had been captured by previous research. The intent was to expand upon the conceptualization of psychological abuse, to build upon current understanding of this phenomenon, and to enlighten counselling practice. The aim was to provide future researchers with a more accurate foundation from which to begin their exploration of this phenomenon and to provide counsellors and other mental health practitioners with information that will be of use when supporting women who have experienced psychological abuse within their adult relationships. The study invited women to define the experience in very personal terms. It was hoped that such a process would result in a conceptualization of psychological abuse that better reflects women's experiences of this phenomenon. Author's Foreword My research was destined to be driven by feminist, personal, and socially-charged aims. At the age of fifteen, I started dating a guy in my high school. The relationship began innocently enough and most people (with the exception of my parents, who disliked him from the start) felt that we were the perfect couple. I thought so as well. However, as the months and years progressed, I came to understand that this was far from the truth. In retrospect, I realize that I was psychologically abused by this person for four years. Gradually, I was cut off from friends and family. My self-esteem was obliterated and I was in such a spin that I felt powerless to save myself. 6 I spent the year that followed the conclusion of this relationship trying to reconstruct and heal myself. My friends and family were a wonderful support. I gained many valuable insights from this experience. Had I not gone through it myself, I do not think that I could ever understand how so many women remain in abusive relationships. I know I would have been convinced that walking out should be an easy decision. I now know the difference and it is an area in which I hope to eventually make a contribution. For myself, I know that I will never again let myself be in that position. It was a place in which I was utterly powerless and I never want to feel that way again. I recognize that my own past has brought me to the discipline of counselling psychology and has made me sensitive to the experiences of women who are living within psychologically abusive relationships. In both personal and professional realms, I have encountered numerous women who are struggling with the pain and loneliness of this form of abuse. Often, these women (as I was myself) are ignorant to the fact that the treatment they receive at the hands of their partners is not "normal". Providing women (and those who attempt to support them) with the language required to label certain behaviours as "abusive" is the first step in any intervention. It is this area that I hope my research will eventually make an impact. As a survivor of psychological abuse, I feel that I am in a privileged position to investigate this phenomenon. From within a qualitative framework, researchers appreciate the manner in which lived experience and closeness to the subject matter can enrich a study. Researcher subjectivity is neither dismissed nor ignored as a trivial variable within qualitative science. Instead, it is recognized that the researcher's lens colours everything from the formulation of the research question to the final interpretation of findings. In this study, it was 7 important to factor myself in at every stage of the research process. Instead of a positivist approach that would have had me distance myself from participants and design, I attempted to write myself into the research. Measures were taken to address the impact that my own experience of psychological abuse had on the study and to bring researcher subjectivity into the foreground of the resulting text. 8 C H A P T E R II: L I T E R A T U R E R E V I E W Although the study of psychological abuse as a distinct form of violence is in its initial stages, it has routinely been discussed as a component of the violence to which women are subjected. It is through the exploration of wife assault and battery that researchers were first able to isolate this form of violence as an issue of serious concern. Consulting the general body of literature devoted to issues of violence against women is tremendously important when examining psychological abuse. In addition, general theories on violence against women provide some insight into the causes, characteristics, and consequences of this social phenomenon. While this literature will be briefly reviewed in this paper, emphasis will be placed on reviewing the growing body of literature devoted exclusively to the psychological abuse of women in heterosexual relationships. Theories of Violence Against Women While a theory specific to psychological abuse has not yet been developed, many general theories of violence against women (e.g. battery, sexual assault) seem to have potential for explaining this form of abuse. Family violence (i.e. power), feminist, and attachment theories all discuss psychological abuse as part of the larger picture of violence to which women in this society are routinely subjected (Henderson, Bartholomew, & Dutton, 1997; Kirkwood, 1993; Walker, 1990). Family Violence / Power Theory: This theory emerged in the mid-1970s when research on violence within the family environment was beginning to attract a great deal of attention. The theory, which was pioneered by Murray Strauss and his colleagues, continues to be cited in today's literature. The underlying argument of the theory is that: 9 The family is a system which responds to broad social-structural conditions that produce stress and conflict. . . . When stress is mediated by personal history of aggressive socialization, and i f social support mechanisms are lacking, violence is legitimized as a means of coping. (Henderson, Bartholomew, & Dutton, 1997, p. 306-7). Thus, a cycle of violence is perpetuated by the organizational and structural dependence of women in the family and is enforced by men's use of their authority in a range of ways. The theory has certain elements that contribute to its enduring popularity within the literature. First of all, there is some support for inter-generational violence (although the pattern seems to be stronger for males than females and some studies have shown that family of origin violence can actually protect women from remaining with abusive partners). Secondly, the theory's claim that low-income families, families in which the male partner has a "low status" occupation, and families in which one or more members are unemployed will demonstrate higher levels of violence have received some support within the literature (Lenton, 1995). Finally, the fact that family violence theory supports interventions designed to target the abuser and support the "victim" (rather than focusing on the woman and suggesting ways in which she can take responsibility for ending the violence) makes the theory popular with those who strive to support women who have experienced violence within their relationships. Despite these strengths, family violence theory does little to enhance our understanding of psychological abuse. In particular, it fails to consider the social context in which violence occurs. By looking at the family unit as an insular system, important socio-political factors which contribute to the perpetuation of violence against women are ignored. Also, the theory 10 addresses child and woman abuse as a single issue and fails to acknowledge the fact that 70% of "family violence" is more accurately defined as battery (Walker, 1990). The global application of this perspective does not adequately address the complexity of individual types of violence that occur within the family system (e.g. battery, child abuse, sexual assault, elder abuse). It is also important to note that the abuse which occurs in lesbian relationships seriously calls into question the power theories that have been frequently used to explain the nature and cause of various forms of woman abuse (Lie & Gentlewarrier, 1990). According to these theories, violence against women occurs because one partner (i.e. the male partner) has a larger share of the power. These theories claim that the wielding of this power by men is reinforced by societal norms which serve to perpetuate the cycle of violence. However, the fact that psychological abuse (and other forms of abuse) occur within lesbian relationships in which each party has been denied access to the power of patriarchy, calls traditional power theories into question. It appears that other factors may be mediating these relationships. Finally, the theory's exclusive focus on interactions within the family must be challenged. Such a stance often results in the "victim" being blamed and held responsible. This approach may also jeopardize women by insisting that they remain in potentially dangerous domestic situations. Alternatives to remaining in such relationships are not often considered by those who adopt the family violence perspective. The idea is that the problem is occurring within the family and should, therefore, be "solved" within the family. This serves to further oppress women in society and may leave them vulnerable to subsequent abuse. Feminist Theory: Feminist theory on this subject is in direct contrast to family violence perspectives. Whereas power theories root the source of violence against women within the 11 family system, feminist theorists locate abuse within a larger historical and political context in which the systematic subjugation of women is permitted to occur (Kirkwood, 1995; Lenton, 1995). The theory suggests that, rather than existing because it serves an essential function, the nuclear family is maintained and enforced by a system of patriarchy that grants men greater power over women. Feminist theorists see violence against women as a reflection of the unequal and oppressive power relations that exist between the genders (Walker, 1990). The abuse that occurs within the family system is seen simply as an extension of the social permission to control women which is granted to all men who live in patriarchal and capitalist societies. Feminist theorists suggest that men abuse women largely because they can. Feminist theory has numerous strengths which have attracted many researchers and practitioners to this perspective. For example, the theory endeavours to validate women's experiences and promotes a stance that refuses to blame women for the abuse they experience. By placing the responsibility entirely with the abuser, feminist theory aims to identify interventions which empower women and support them in their efforts to leave abusive situations. The theory assumes that women need to escape abusive relationships. It also advocates for long-term solutions and interventions which offer women meaningful and practical support. Finally, feminist theorists consider issues of abuse within the larger socio-political context and refuse to see "woman abuse" as a private / family matter. The experiences of individual women are viewed as part of a larger struggle against oppression. By adopting the stance that the personal is political, feminist theorists strive to raise social consciousness about those issues that impact, to varying degrees, on all women. Despite these obvious strengths, the theory is not without its critics. First, a lack of 12 positivist research has been cited as a major weakness of the perspective. Many have accused feminist research on violence against women as being anecdotal, subjective, manipulative, and scientifically flawed. Second, existing research focuses on how feminist perspectives differ from other theories. Much has been written by feminist authors, for example, on the deficiencies of other approaches (e.g. family violence theory). However, critics claim that feminist theory has not yet developed an identity that is distinct and tangible. There is a need to define and further develop the model as a unique and valid perspective. Third, extensive focus on the subject of "wife abuse" tends to alienate women outside marital partnerships (e.g. dating, common-law, and lesbian relationships). Fourth, the fact that abuse occurs within lesbian relationships calls into question many assumptions of feminist perspectives (Lie & Gentlewarrier, 1990). Finally, there is a need to further explore the multi-dimensional nature of the control exerted over women through abusive means. Abusers often incorporate the use of power gained through circumstances set up by more than one form of oppression (e.g. culture, sexuality, language). This factor has not yet been explored to sufficient depth within a feminist framework. Despite the above criticisms, feminist theory contributes much to the field of violence against women. It is a constantly evolving and self-evaluative perspective. Subscribers to this approach will undoubtedly push for revisions as future studies further our understanding of psychological abuse. Attachment Theory: The attachment theory which was initially proposed by John Bowlby has recently been applied to women in psychologically abusive relationships. The theory has been modified to incorporate Bowlby's two dimensions of "positivity of representations of self and "positivity of representations of others" in a four-category model of attachment (Henderson, 13 Bartholomew, & Dutton, 1997). Using this framework, Henderson et al. (1997) suggest that four patterns of attachment can be identified in adult romantic relationships: secure (positive view of self and other), dismissing (positive view of self, negative view of other), fearful (negative view of self and other), and preoccupied (negative view of self, positive view of other). The model claims that women with a positive view of self (i.e. secure and dismissing patterns) will be under-represented in relationships characterized by psychological abuse and that women with a negative view of self (i.e. fearful or preoccupied patterns) will be over-represented in these relationships. The authors suggest that certain personality variables associated with each of these patterns of attachment will serve either to protect women from entering into abusive relationships (and from remaining with abusive partners) or to put them at risk for such abuse. The theory has appeal for several reasons. First, the vast majority of women in psychologically abusive relationships have attachment patterns associated with a negative self model ("preoccupied" women seem to be especially at risk for entering and remaining in these relationships). Preliminary studies indicate that many women who have experienced psychological abuse do, in fact, suffer from depressive symptomatology and lower than average levels of self-esteem (Orava, M cLeod, & Sharpe, 1996). Second, the model allows for the impact of environmental influences and does not posit that individuals necessarily follow a set path with models fixed from childhood experiences. Instead, it recognizes that patterns of attachment may change over time. Third, negative self-models seem to exacerbate the conditions necessary for traumatic bonding to occur. Despite its intrinsic appeal and initially strong support, it is too soon to assume that an attachment theory such as this should be universally and definitively accepted. Research that 14 applies attachment theory to psychological abuse has barely begun. In addition, the directional nature of the relationship between attachment patterns and one's likelihood of entering into psychologically abusive partnerships is unclear. While it is possible that psychological abuse activates a latent or existing predisposition to fearful or preoccupied attachments, it is also possible that this form of violence creates the negative self-view that has been hypothetically linked to these two patterns. Further investigation is required to draw any firm conclusions. Theoretical Overview: In summary, the three dominant theories on violence against women have provided a strong platform from which to branch into a more specific study of psychological abuse. Family violence, feminist, and attachment perspectives share the common view that various societal factors serve to create and sustain a cycle of violence in which women are routinely dominated by men. However, the shortcomings noted in each theory suggest that the scientific community must be willing to stay open as new findings are generated by research based on the participatory, first-hand knowledge of women who have experienced this form of abuse. It is hoped that the proposed study has provided information that will be useful in the revision of existing theories or the generation of novel perspectives. Current Research on Psychological Abuse The growing body of literature devoted exclusively to the exploration of psychological abuse provides valuable information to researchers wishing to study this phenomenon. Within recent years, feminist scholars and mental health professionals have identified psychological abuse as a distinct and devastating form of the violence committed against women in this society. Research efforts to investigate this phenomenon have been hampered by the fact that psychological abuse has not yet been clearly defined in the growing body of literature that 15 references this subject. Unlike rape, battery, and sexual assault, psychological abuse is still widely misunderstood. Despite the fact that very few studies have addressed psychological abuse within adult heterosexual relationships, the phenomenon has received a significant attention in the literature devoted to violence against children. Geffner and Rossman (1998) note that "the emotional abuse category of the National Centre on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) National surveys has existed since the 1980s" (p. 2). The notion that a child can be psychologically or emotionally maltreated by an adult caregiver has been clinically accepted for many years. In an extensive review of the research, Hart, Bingelli, and Brasard (1998) postulate that psychological abuse of children falls into one of the following six categories: spuming; terrorizing; isolating; denying emotional responsiveness; exploiting / corrupting; and mental health, medical, or educational neglect. The authors suggest that this form of violence has the potential to seriously impede a child's development and overall well-being in multiple life domains. In particular, negative effects have been observed in the child's world view, sense of self, ability to learn, and interpersonal relationships. In addition, emotional and physical illnesses or deficits are not uncommon in children who have experienced this form of abuse. Preliminary studies suggest that similar patterns exist in adult heterosexual relationships which are characterized by psychological abuse. Three studies (Marshall, 1996; Henderson, Bartholomew, & Dutton, 1997; Orava, M°Leod, & Sharpe, 1996) explored the subjective experiences of women who have lived with psychological abuse. Although each author approached the subject with a unique agenda and various methodological biases, all three studies were designed to investigate the inner worlds of the women who were impacted by psychological 16 abuse and to bring awareness to those issues that required further attention. Despite the fact that all authors tentatively conclude that "psychological abuse has the potential to undermine a woman's sense of self in all domains of her life" (Marshall, 1996, p. 380), each study has certain strengths and weaknesses that contribute to the degree of confidence with which these claims can be made. Clusters of Abuse: Marshall (1996) identified six distinct patterns of psychological abuse. Clusters of abuse were categorized according to the self-reports of 578 women who had volunteered to participate in a study of "bad" or "stressful" heterosexual relationships. Marshall used a structured telephone interview of 25-35 minutes in length to measure the health, help-seeking behaviour, relationship perceptions, and experiences of violence (across physical, sexual, and psychological domains) of each participant. Using cluster analysis, women were then grouped by the frequency and types of psychological abuse they sustained . . . Regression procedures were used to determine how psychological abuse, threats of violence, acts of violence, and sexual aggression contributed to women's health, help seeking, and perceptions of their relationship within each cluster. (Marshall, 1996, p. 387) On the basis of this procedure, Marshall concludes that the pattern of abuse sustained has an influence on women's overall health, help-seeking behaviour, and relationship perceptions. Specifically, Marshall notes that the frequency and type of psychological abuse appear unrelated to a woman's likelihood to seek help from a variety of formal sources. This finding is especially discouraging and suggests that active interventions are required to support women who are in psychologically abusive relationships. In addition, Marshall highlights the need to move away 17 from the dominance-control perspectives which have been so influential in the literature on violence against women. According to Marshall, these theories are based on the flawed premises that psychological abuse requires overt acts of aggression and that intent to harm is a prerequisite for this form of violence. On the basis of this study (and her own previous work), Marshall argues for an expanded operationalization of psychological abuse. Contrary to existing dominance-control perspectives, Marshall (1996) suggests that psychological abuse is more appropriately viewed as an attitude change in which a woman's world view and sense of self are gradually eroded. That this process may occur subconsciously and in subtle (even unintended) ways needs to be addressed in future research. It is hoped that the proposed study will offer insight on this particular matter. Marshall's design has several major strengths that make the study worthy of consideration. Her use of a large sample of women (n = 578) recruited through a variety of sources increases the likelihood that results can be generalized to the larger population. Her use of cluster analysis and regression procedures yields a rich description of the characteristics of psychological abuse. This process lends support to her hypotheses that patterns of abuse exist and that the effects of violence and sexual aggression are mediated by these patterns. The factors she uses to group the patterns of abuse (e.g. total amount of psychological abuse, acts of violence) and the variables which are entered into the regression equation (e.g. help-seeking behaviour, health) seem to make sense. The reader has some degree of confidence that the design possesses acceptable levels of internal and external validity. Despite these obvious strengths, the design is also limited in certain regards. Marshall, herself, admits that her design is plagued by the same weaknesses which have traditionally been 18 associated with the use of volunteer participants (e.g. higher SES and levels of education often make volunteer samples non-representative). In addition, Marshall suspects that her volunteers are similar to those women who would seek counselling for issues related to psychological abuse. These two factors potentially bias her results and limit the generalizability of her conclusions. The fact that Marshall's sample is not random (indeed, women who did not meet a very rigid and pre-defined set of criteria were eliminated from the study) may also make her results less reliable. Although these sampling procedures are potentially problematic, one further aspect of the design needs to be addressed. As mentioned above, the variables which Marshall uses to operationalize the concept of psychological abuse seem to make sense. However, they have not been rigorously tested by external sources. Each of the measures for health, help-seeking, relationship perceptions, and psychological abuse are based on Marshall's own work and have not yet been substantiated by external sources. To assess physical abuse and sexual aggression, Marshall relies on the Severity of Violence Against Women Scale (SVAWS) which she, herself, developed in 1993. Therefore, although her measures seem to have intrinsic appeal, further testing would be required so that one might be sure that the measures possess an acceptable degree of internal and external validity. Future researchers would want to subject these measures to rigorous testing and replication. For example, the study indicates that psychological abuse is not significantly related to help-seeking behaviour. This is a startling conclusion which Marshall emphasizes in her report. However, her measure of help-seeking is based on participants' responses to a series of questions that ask about the frequency of contact with seven types of formal support services (e.g. attorney, clergy, physician, women's group). This question clearly excludes other genuine 19 sources of support (e.g. friends, family members) and may not be a truly valid representation of women's help-seeking behaviour. Although evaluating the quality of social support available to a particular individual or group has traditionally proven to be extremely difficult, testing these measures would be an important component of future research. In addition, the presence of a second interviewer who is trained to objectively code participants' responses would improve the overall validity and reliability of the design. Attachment Models: Some of the most exciting research projects being conducted on the subject of psychological abuse are occurring within British Columbia. Henderson, Bartholomew, and Dutton (1997) worked from within an attachment perspective to examine women's success at emotional separation from abusive partners. These authors adapted Bowlby's original model of caregiving paradigms to explain attachment patterns within adult romantic relationships. Based on this revised model, the authors predicted that negative self-models (i.e. fearful and preoccupied patterns) will be over-represented in women who are in abusive relationships. In particular, the authors suggest that prototypically preoccupied women would have a more difficult time achieving successful separation resolution from an abusive partner than would fearfully attached women. In introducing their topic, the authors suggest that popular theories which have been used to explain the connection which exists between abusive men and their female partners [e.g. Walker's Battered Women Syndrome (1979), Rubin & Brockner's Psychological Entrapment Theory (1985), Gondolf s Survivor Theory (1988), and Dutton's Traumatic Bonding Theory (1988) do not adequately capture the character of the relationship. Instead, they suspect that attachment paradigms have more potential to explain why some women remain with abusive 20 partners. Henderson, Bartholomew, and Dutton (1997) argue that negative self-models make women especially vulnerable to such violent relationships and suggest that abusive men are also more likely than non-abusive men to hold negative self-models. The authors state that: The power relationship can easily become pathologically unbalanced when the abused woman feels that she is unworthy of her assaulter, and her assaulter (who also holds a negative view of himself) seizes this advantage to live out the illusion of his own power. Intermittency of abuse is likely to have a stronger impact still on a woman who holds not only a negative model of herself, but a positive model of others. (Henderson et al., 1997, p. 186-187) The study followed women who had experienced physical or psychological abuse within a heterosexual relationship over a six-month period. "Physically abused" women (n = 40) were recruited through local transition houses and shelters or were partners of men who were clients in a spousal abuse treatment program. "Psychologically abused" women (n = 23) were recruited through local media advertisements. Although women used their own criteria to determine psychological abuse, interviewers later eliminated four participants whose interview and self-report measures indicated that they had experienced little or no abuse. This process resulted in a total sample of 59 women. Participants were first assessed shortly after having left an abusive relationship. At the initial session, participants completed a battery of self-report measures designed to assess the severity and frequency of physical abuse, the course of the relationship, and the nature of psychological abuse. At this initial session, participants also responded to a semi-structured interview about their most recent and prior relationships. The interview was audio-taped and 21 was later rated and assessed for reliability by two previously-trained coders (one of whom was an independent researcher). This data allowed the authors to evaluate women's attachment patterns and to conceptualize these in terms of Bartholomew's (1990) four-category model. As a follow-up to this session, each participant was contacted six months later to determine her success at achieving emotional separation from an abusive partner. Measures used at time 2 included a series of questionnaires designed to assess separation resolution. Using Bartholomew's own attachment coding system (Bartholomew & Horowtiz, 1991; Griffin & Bartholomew, 1994a), correlations were calculated for the two sampled groups — women who had been previously identified as "abused" (i.e. those from transition houses and those whose husbands were in treatment programs) and those who had responded to the newspaper advertisement - as well as for the combined sample. As an uneven distribution was hypothesized among the four attachment categories, the authors chose to "examine associations with all attachment patterns in a predominantly insecure sample" (Henderson, Bartholomew, & Dutton, 1997, p. 180). Rather than using the attachment categories to conduct group analyses, the authors used the continuous ratings to calculate the following correlations: attachment ratings, abuse ratings, attachment ratings and relationship variables, and attachment ratings and separation resolution. As results from the transition house sample, advertisement sample, and combined sample were generally consistent, the authors chose to report only the findings for the combined sample. The design of this study has several major strengths. First, the use of a diverse sample (recruited from multiple sources) increases the likelihood that results will generalize to the larger population of women in abusive relationships. Second, the use of two coders increases the 22 reliability of the interview assessment. Third, the use of multiple measures that have been substantiated by previous studies as reliable and valid indicators of physical and psychological abuse increases the reader's confidence in the authors' conclusions. Fourth, the fact that women were contacted shortly after separating from their partners and again six months later provides useful information about the stability of these measures over time. Finally, interviews were conducted in a place that was convenient for the participants (often in the woman's home). This increased the likelihood that women felt safe about discussing relationship issues and increased the likelihood that women would participate in the follow-up assessment. Despite these numerous strengths, the study has several design flaws that should be addressed in future research. First, the fact that the authors are elaborating on their own work reduces the reader's confidence in the study. External replication would greatly enhance the reliability and validity ratings of the design. Second, the use of volunteers and women from various treatment programs make the sample less representative than the researchers might have hoped. Third, the small sample size (n = 59) is somewhat problematic in terms of generalizability. In addition to design weaknesses addressed above, the authors cite their timing and measures as being potentially problematic. First, the study focuses exclusively on psychological variables. By concentrating on these measures, the authors fail to consider the impact of environmental factors (e.g. material resources, availability of social support networks, presence of children) on a woman's decision to separate from an abusive partner. Second, the authors use a single measure of attachment. Future research should incorporate a more comprehensive attachment rating (e.g. one that includes interview, self-report, and partner-report ratings). 23 Finally, women were first interviewed during a major life transition. Henderson et al. (1997) state that "transition has been theorized to be a time when internal working models are particularly susceptible to change . . . and thus potentially a less than ideal time for measuring attachment patterns" (p. 187-188). However, despite various inherent design flaws, the authors are able to make several tentative conclusions on the basis of this study. In particular, they state that "the idea that insecure attachment representations may be changed by the positive influence of a secure relationship . . . has potential utility in guiding future clinical intervention and treatment" (p. 188). Impact of Psychological Abuse: Tammy Orava, Peter M cLeod, and Donald Sharpe (1996) researched the relationship between a woman's previous experience with abuse and current psychological health. Based on theories of learned helplessness, it was predicted that abused women would have lower perceptions of control and personal power than would women who had not experienced violence within a romantic relationship. In addition, the authors hypothesized that women who have experienced abuse in intimate relationships would have more depressive symptomatology and lower levels of self-esteem. Finally, the authors predicted that residence at a transition house would have a significant positive impact on the psychological well-being of women who had left abusive relationships. To test these hypotheses, the authors recruited 21 women from four separate transition houses in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. A sample of 18 women (matched for age, education, employment status, etc.) who were recruited from local colleges and community centres served as a control group. Each participant was interviewed at the location at which she had been recruited. The one-hour interview commenced with a computerized test designed to measure 24 perceived control. Following the completion of this task, participants were required to complete a questionnaire booklet that consisted of four separate scales. The interview concluded with an oral administration of the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS). Responses of both groups were scored and compared on the dependent measures of internality, powerful others, chance, personal power, depression, self-esteem, perceptions of control, and confidence ratings. When analyzed, the data fail to support the hypothesis that the experience of abuse influences a woman's basic perceptions of control. However, the results do support the hypotheses that women who experience abuse have more depressive symptomatology, lower self-esteem, and benefit from residence at a transition house. An unexpected finding was that psychological abuse (as measured by the verbal aggression sub-scale of the CTS) was the major contributor to between-group differences. The focus on the negative impact of abuse and the need to re-empower women locate this study within the realm of feminist research. Although the authors identify psychological abuse as a significant social problem worthy of scientific attention, Orava et al. (1996) go one step further and highlight the necessity for social change. The authors state that: Whereas individual empowerment strategies will be beneficial to those women who are fortunate enough to obtain treatment, without fundamental social change there will be no improvement in the lives of the women in the community at large. Although individual work can be done to treat the effects of victimization in psychotherapy, this is not an adequate response to a pervasive social problem. More attention must be focused on the prevention of male violence against women . . . In addition, the serious impact of verbal abuse must be disseminated to the public because this type of abuse is not often recognized as being as 25 psychologically damaging as physical victimization. (Orava et al., 1996, p. 183) The article highlight the importance of social reform and the empowerment of all women within society. Unfortunately, these strong statements are not adequately supported by their research and are obscured by data that often seem unrelated to the socio-political aim of the study. This study compares a group of "abused" women to a control group across various dependent measures. Correlational data indicate a significant positive relationship between abuse and depression, a significant negative relationship between abuse and self-esteem, and a significant positive relationship between length of stay at a transition house and overall psychological health. The measures used in this study to assess locus of control, personal power, depression, and self-esteem have all been used in multiple prior studies and have been deemed to have high levels of validity and reliability. Despite these methodological strengths, the study has numerous weaknesses that need to be addressed. A primary weakness of the design is that the sample of "abused" women is not necessarily valid or reliable. First, the authors operationalize "abuse" to mean "currently living in a transition house" and "having experienced at least two incidents of physical abuse within the past twelve months by men with whom they had intimate relations". These criteria obviously lack generalizability to the entire population of women living within abusive relationships. Furthermore, psychological abuse is assessed by using the verbal aggression sub-scale of the CTS. This measure has been repeatedly criticized for not adequately capturing the subtleties of psychological abuse (Hegarty, Sheehan, & Schonfeld, 1999; Schafer, 1999; Heyman & Schlee, 1997) Finally, the probability that a sample of 21 women living in transition houses in eastern Canada would generalize to the larger population is questionable. 26 A further weakness of this design is the reliance of the authors on a measure of perceived control that has yet to be validated in other environments. While the computer program used in this study (Contiception) has intrinsic appeal and would "logically" seem capable of accurately capturing this variable, further testing is required to confidently state that the results on this apparatus represent a valid measure of perceived control. Overview of Literature: It is not surprising that the few articles and books that address the topic of psychological abuse are written in urgent tones that emphasize further research and more proactive treatment approaches. Currently, there is little formal guidance to aid in the identification and treatment of this form of violence. While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV of the American Psychiatric Association (1995) recognizes such conditions as "Battered Person Syndrome" and various post-traumatic stress reactions, there is no category that specifically relates to psychological abuse. As a result, "clinicians may overlook how devastating and harmful certain interpersonal experiences have been, possibly in the past but also in the present" (Sable, 1998, p. 52). Until the potentially devastating impact of psychological abuse is endorsed by the mental health community, it is the responsibility of helping professionals to educate themselves on the subject. This requires adopting a hyper-vigilant stance when working with women who present with symptoms that have been linked to psychological abuse. Sable (1998) makes an important point when she writes: Because emotionally abused persons rarely perceive themselves as maltreated, they usually seek therapy for symptoms which range from intrusive thoughts and suicidal ideation to anxiety, despair and loneliness, or feelings of desperation and unreality. They may complain of a troubled relationship, but will be apt to blame 27 themselves and not comprehend how it is the source of their suffering. (Sable, 1998, p. 59) She warns that counsellors and other helping professionals have an ethical responsibility to be familiar with this form of abuse and to appropriately intervene. A related point is that the help-seeking behaviour of women in psychologically abusive relationships seems to correlate with their experience of intimacy. Research indicates that perceived intimacy has a moderating effect on depressive symptomatology (Arias, Lyons, & Street, 1997). Waring and Patton (1984) note that "more intimate couples report a more balanced level of adaptation and cohesion and higher levels of independence, achievement orientation, intellectual-cultural orientation, and active-recreational orientation" (p.28). In contrast, a deficiency of intimacy is associated with non-psychotic emotional illness in individuals, marital maladjustment, and overall family dysfunction (Waring, 1981). It has also been demonstrated that a lack of marital intimacy reduces an individual's likelihood to seek help from outside sources (Chamberlaine, Barnes, Waring, Wood, & Fry, 1989). As "destructive conflict leads to a deterioration of intimacy" (Siegel, 1999, p. 66), women who are in psychologically abusive relationships are especially vulnerable. It is quite likely that, despite being in intense emotional pain, they are unlikely to reach out for support. For this reason, the counsellor who encounters women in this type of situation must be willing to take a very active role. The articles reviewed within this paper are representative of the literature which exists on the subject of psychological abuse. Essentially, the studies are exploratory in nature and are designed to examine the characteristics, causes, and consequences of this social phenomenon. Each study indicates that existing paradigms do not adequately capture this form of violence. In 28 particular, the authors argue convincingly for an expanded operationalization of psychological abuse and suggest that any working definition must include more than a single measure of abuse and must go beyond those acts which involve overt aggression. 29 CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY The studies reviewed in this paper emphasize the need to move away from the dominance-control perspectives that have been so influential in the literature on violence against women. Researchers argue that popular theories are based on the flawed premises that psychological abuse requires overt acts of aggression and that intent to harm is a prerequisite for this form of violence (Marshall, 1996). The studies also demonstrate that psychological abuse is still widely misunderstood and that the scientific community is in its infancy with respect to the research of this social phenomenon. Currently, there are no standardized tests or scales to accurately capture the true character of psychological abuse. This study has attempted to circumvent this and other weaknesses that have been identified in previous research by moving out of the positivist paradigm and developing a qualitative study that investigated women's lived experience of this form of abuse. The goal was to allow women to give voice to their own experiences and to define the violence from their own perspectives. The experience was explored on both an individual and across-individual basis. Unique perspectives and unifying themes were highlighted in an effort to inform literature and practice in this area. A secondary purpose was to gain first-hand information about interventions and approaches that have been helpful to women who have experienced psychological abuse in a heterosexual relationship. This study provided a forum for a few women to share their stories and acquired knowledge with others. The aim of this study was twofold: (1) to advance current awareness about this subject so that others may begin to recognize this form of violence and (2) to promote effective responses by various helping professionals. 30 To date, quantitative research has provided some insight into the nature and impact that psychological abuse has on women in heterosexual relationships. However, what has not yet been offered is a detailed description of this lived experience. It is proposed that the meaning women make of this experience and the coping strategies they use to overcome this struggle can be best captured within a qualitative paradigm. Kvale (1999) suggests that: Contemporary therapeutic researchers may try so hard to avoid therapeutic anecdotes that they get caught . . . in a positivist straight] acket, losing the lived therapeutic relations in a web of statistical correlations and significances that rarely yield knowledge relevant to the therapeutic situation, (p. 88) This does a great disservice to the so-called "subjects" of study. Participants benefit little from being one data point in endless tables and charts which serve to obscure the individual experience of the phenomenon in question. For the purpose of this study, such quantitative models were not ideal. Qualitative research tends to be more sensitive to the individual experience and has the most promise for enriching the existing body of literature on this particular subject without causing further harm to participants. However, common methodologies from within this research perspective (e.g. phenomenology, case study, ethnography) are limited in that they fail to consider the co-constructive nature of reality and fail to place the individual's interpretation of her lived experiences at the heart of the study (Creswell, 1998). The narrative method seemed to offer the most promising framework from within which to investigate the phenomenon of psychological abuse. We re-story our lives and reconstitute ourselves every time we develop a narrative. "Stories inform life. They hold us together and keep us apart. We inhabit the great stories of our 31 culture. We live through stories. We are lived by the stories of our race and place" (Mair, 1988, p. 127). Through the storying process, we gain clarity and create our own realities. This provides us with hope that we also have the power to author a preferred script which is more meaningful and optimistic. By accessing the stories told by women who have experienced psychological abuse, one can achieve a better awareness as to how this form of violence operates on both a personal and cultural level. The personal narrative provides a lens through which cultural influences may be viewed. Freedman and Combs (1996) note that: People make sense of their lives through stories, both the cultural narratives they are born into and the personal narratives they construct in relation to the cultural narratives. In any culture, certain narratives will come to be dominant over other narratives. These dominant narratives will specify the preferred and customary ways of believing and behaving within the particular culture. Some cultures have colonized and oppressed others. The narratives of the dominant culture are then imposed on the people of marginalized cultures. (Freedman & Combs, 1996, p. 32) As a people oppressed by the dominant culture of patriarchy, women's stories of abuse demonstrate the manner in which culture influences the discourse around this form of violence. The power relations and cultural codes that are revealed by women's narratives provide a key to understanding this phenomenon. Narrative Theory Narrative theory suggests that reality is not fixed. Instead, the theory acknowledges the existence of multiple realities which are socially constructed (Freedman & Combs, 1996). It is 32 suggested that the meaning individuals make of their experiences within the world is constantly changing and that meaning is impacted and altered as the result of human interaction. The power of language to shape reality is recognized and valued. Narratives are seen as more than simple chronicles of events. Instead, they are seen as having the power to "give shape to the forward movement of time, suggesting reasons why things happen, showing their consequences" (Sennett, 1998, p. 30). Freedman and Combs (1996) note that "speaking isn't neutral or passive. Every time we speak, we bring forth a reality. Every time we share words, we give legitimacy to the distinctions that those words bring forth" (p. 29). The authors go on to suggest that the stories people relay serve to organize and maintain reality. They claim that "if the realities we inhabit are brought forth in the language we use, they are then kept alive and passed along in the stories that we live and tell" (p. 29-30). In studying the subjective world of psychological abuse, these factors will be most important. The researcher must be sensitive to the impact the act of story-telling has on the participant and to the impact she, herself, is having on the narrative which is being constructed. Bruner (1991) notes that "we organize our experience and our memory of human happenings mainly in the form of narratives - stories, excuses, myths, reasons for doing and not doing, and so on" (p. 4). While narratives are useful representations of reality, Bruner suggests that they serve the much larger purpose of allowing us "to construct the social world and the things that transpire therein" (p. 4). In essence, narratives construct reality. For a woman who has experienced psychological abuse in an adult romantic relationship, the act of story-telling is believed to be an important part of her healing process. White (1989) suggests that narrating the abuse within couples' counselling makes it "possible for the woman to be empowered, to rename 33 and reclaim her own experience and history within the very context in which her identity has been co-opted" (p. 102). This is an important consideration for researchers wishing to investigate the phenomenon of psychological abuse. Women in abusive relationships typically tell their story many times before being truly heard by others. This is especially true of women in relationships characterized by psychological abuse. The fact that so little is known about this form of violence serves to isolate women from available support systems and ensures that they have no reliable frame of reference against which they can compare their own experiences. Often, women believe that the abuse they receive at the hands of their partners is normal. In other cases, women find themselves being judged by those who hear their stories. They also judge themselves. In describing the experience of emotional abuse for "high-functioning women" (i.e. those who are educated, energetic, motivated, and psychologically healthy), Lachkar (1998) writes that: For the high-functioning woman, the delineation of emotional abuse is often difficult. With all her capabilities, her achievements, and the accouterments of success, she is not viewed as the object of empathy. As the abuse she experiences becomes evident, she is judged. How could someone who is educated and accomplished allow herself to be abused? What's wrong with her? (p. 165) It is possible that the shame, confusion, and self-doubt which tend to accompany the experience of psychological abuse serve to keep women silent or persuade them to be tentative or apologetic when telling their stories. They may find it difficult to convince themselves that their "complaints" are justified and that they will be understood. Keeping this in mind, the current study attempted to facilitate the story-telling process for 34 women who have lived with this form of abuse. Each participant was asked to share only those elements of her story that she was willing to disclose. Interviews were relatively unstructured and the primary role of the researcher was to ensure that conditions existed in which participants felt safe and comfortable enough to share their experiences. By adopting a narrative methodology, the individual's experience of psychological abuse was ultimately revealed. Narrative Research With the increasing popularity and professional endorsement of narrative theory, there has been a push within the social scientific community to develop a research methodology consistent with the tenets and core principles of the theory (Josselson, 1999). As a result, "the use of narratives within research has grown tremendously within the past fifteen years" (Lieblich, Tuval-Mashiach, & Zilber, 1998, p. 3). Narrative methodologies and the human sciences are ideal research partners. Polkinghorne (1988) suggests that "experience is meaningful and [that] human behaviour is generated from and informed by this meaningfulness" (p. 1). There is enough evidence in the existing psychological abuse literature to suggest that the meaning women make of this experience is one of the (if not the) most crucial areas of investigation. The unique and individualized nature of the experience have served to frustrate previous research efforts in this area. The fact that a behaviour experienced by one woman as abusive may not be perceived in this light by another has complicated the research process. Unlike battery and sexual assault, in which the definitions and parameters of abuse are clearly defined, psychological abuse remains an enigmatic phenomenon. The answers seem to lie in the fuzzy and nebulous land of individual meaning. For researchers, this can be a rather daunting and frustrating matter of study. Meaning is ever-evolving and richly subjective. Yet these are the 35 very qualities that serve to thrust meaning to the very centre of social science research. To tap into this rich well of knowledge, one must rely on personal narratives. Polkinghorne (1988) writes: Narrative is a scheme by means of which human beings give meaning to their experience of temporality and personal actions. Narrative meaning functions to give form to the understanding of a purpose to life and to join everyday actions and events into episodic units. It provides a framework for understanding the past events of one's life and for planning future actions. It is the primary scheme by means of which human existence is rendered meaningful. Thus, the study of human beings by the human sciences needs to focus on the realm of meaning in general, and on narrative meaning in particular, (p. 11) With the phenomenon of psychological abuse, it is the meaning that is made through the construction of individual narratives that provides the key to understanding the impact of this form of violence against women. To date, researchers who have explored this form of violence have neglected to ask questions that elicit meaningful information about personal knowledge. Participants The five women ultimately selected to participate in this study all defined themselves as having experienced past psychological abuse in a heterosexual relationship. Participants ranged in age from 29 years to 60 years. A l l defined themselves as white Caucasian. Two were married and three were single. Three were parents. Four had completed some post-secondary education and all had full-time employment. A l l fit Lachkar's (1998) description of "high functioning women". 36 Participant Recruitment: The current study employed purposive sampling methods to locate 5 women who identified themselves as having experienced psychological abuse in a past or present heterosexual relationship. It is suggested that this method is appropriate when formal representativeness of subjects is either unattainable or undesirable (Palys, 1997). For the current study, purposive sampling was the most logical choice. The fact that so few women are able to recognize psychological abuse in their present relationships (NiCarthy & Davidson, 1989) made it unlikely that women who are experiencing this form of abuse in their current relationships would volunteer to participate in this study. Therefore, it was not unexpected that the study was essentially retrospective in nature and that women narrated experiences of past abuse. Counsellors and co-ordinators of various women's centres throughout the greater Vancouver area of British Columbia were approached to assist with the recruitment of participants. Such professionals have regular contact with women who are experiencing psychological abuse and with those who have a history of such abuse in their previous relationships. Permission was sought of these individuals to post notices of the study in a location that would be accessible to women who access the services which are offered at these sites (Appendix A). Professionals who work within these environments were also encouraged to refer research candidates to the co-ordinator of the study. The goal was to locate participants whose experience of psychological abuse has not included other forms of violence (e.g. physical abuse, sexual abuse). Screening: The researcher conducted a brief telephone interview with five potential volunteers. The purpose of this screening was to determine whether candidates were suitable for inclusion in the study. Basic criteria included fluency in spoken and written English, a willingness to share 37 one's story, and an ability to commit to a two-hour research interview. In addition, it was expected that a candidate's experience of psychological abuse went beyond that of a single, isolated incident and that it occurred in the absence of other forms of violence. Candidates were informed that they were volunteering for a research study and not for a process of counselling / therapy. A l l candidates met the basic screening criteria and were contacted at a later date to clarify the study and to schedule a research interview. Introductory Interview To begin, the researcher contacted each participant by phone to clarify the purpose and procedure of the study. These conversations did not exceed ten minutes. Participants were informed that the research interview would be audio-taped. Issues of confidentiality were discussed and each woman was informed of her rights as a research participant (e.g. right to withdraw at any time, right to anonymity). These conversations were also used to ensure that the women's narratives would focus exclusively on psychological abuse. To facilitate this process, women were encouraged to do some independent journalling on the subject or to reflect on their experiences prior to the research interview. Finally, the participants were briefed on the research process. Each woman was informed that a copy of her narrative would be presented to her for the purpose of authentication. At the conclusion of this conversation, research interviews were scheduled. Research Interview The research interview commenced by obtaining informed consent (Appendix B). Each participant was also asked to complete a very brief demographic questionnaire (Appendix C) and to provide the researcher with a fictitious name to be used throughout the narrative. During the 38 research interview, the participant was asked to share her story of psychological abuse. With the woman's permission, the interview was audio-taped. Every effort was made to ensure that each woman's voice was authentically heard. The researcher was occasionally required to take an active role in guiding the discussion and used a variety of open-ended questions to elicit meaning-making (Appendix D) and to solicit information pertinent to the study. The research interviews ranged from one to two hours. Atthe conclusion of this meeting, each participant was provided with a list of support services that were available within her community (Appendix E). Transcription Process Interviews were directly transcribed by the researcher within one week of the research interview. These transcriptions formed the basis of those narratives which comprise the results section of this paper. Effort was made to capture the underlying tone and quality of the narrative which each woman related. It is useful to note that the transcription stage of data collection and analysis has been largely neglected as an area for critical evaluation in both the quantitative and qualitative domains. Lapdat and Lindsay (1999) write that: In empirical publications, researchers seldom make mention of transcription processes beyond a simple statement that audio- or videotaped data were transcribed . . . It is as if these researchers, through their neglect in addressing theoretical or methodological transcription issues, simply assume that transcriptions are transparent, directly reflecting in text the "hard reality" of the actual interaction as captured on audio- or videotape, (p. 65) The authors go on to say that "this is a surprising assumption given that this research methodology has arisen, in large part, through the discovery that language itself is not transparent 39 and hence constitutes a rich source of examinable data" (p. 65). Although there is little room in traditional quantitative paradigms for fluid and subjective conventions, few researchers give adequate attention to the various decisions and biases that govern the transcription process. "Rarely described are the mechanics of data collection and transcription to text from audiotapes. But . . . turning audiotapes into text is fraught with hazards" (Price, 1999, p. 13). As with other stages of research design, the potential impact of theoretical prejudices on transcription choices must be recognized. "Researchers make choices about transcription that enact the theories that they hold. If these theories and their relationships to research processes are left implicit, it is difficult to examine them or to interpret the findings that follow them" (Lapadat & Lindsay, 1999, p. 66). Within the narrative framework, the emphasis on each individual's subjective experience of the phenomenon automatically slants the transcription process toward an interpretive approach which ultimately strives to produce rich and readable narratives. The fact that fluidity and subjectivity are at the very heart of narrative methodologies allows for more flexibility and forgiveness in transcription. However, the various research decisions that are made at this stage of the study must be as clearly delineated as those made at any other stage. Kvale (1996) cautions that transcripts are "not the rock-bottom data of interview research, they are artificial constructions from an oral to a written mode of communication. Every transcription from one context to another involves a series of judgements and decisions" (p. 163). He suggests that transcription begins with analysis and that the researcher must be prepared to defend the choices made at this stage. Another caution which Kvale (1996) puts forth is that interview transcriptions are too often portrayed as static representations of the participant's reality. Instead, 40 Kvale (1996) suggests that "interviews are living conversations" (p. 182) which evolve and emerge as the result of the conjoint authorship of two individuals providing subjective input on a particular theme. He suggests that the crucial question has little to do with what was actually said by the participant during the interview, but is instead "how do I analyze what my interviewees told me in order to enrich and deepen the meaning of what they said?" (p. 183). Narrative Analysis Transcriptions formed the basis of this study's narrative analysis. Again, Kvale (1996) provides useful guidelines as to how the integrity of the research question and interview process can best be maintained. He writes that: A narrative approach to the interview analysis, going back to the original story told by the interviewee, and anticipating the final story to be told, may prevent becoming lost in a jungle of transcripts. A focus on the interview as a narrative may even make the interview transcripts better reading, in that the original interview is deliberately created in story form. A narrative conception of interview research supports a unity of form among the original interview situation, the analysis, and the final report, (p. 185) He notes that the main goal of the researcher is to consider the following question: "How can I reconstruct the original story told to me by the interviewee into a story I want to tell my audience?" (p. 185). This ultimately involves the incorporation of traditional literary devices such as plot, continuity, theme, symbolism, and character development. The goal is to produce an authentic narrative that engages and accurately informs the audience of the interviewee's experience of the phenomenon in question. 41 In addition to attending to the particulars of each individual narrative, it was important to conduct a comparison analysis between the stories. Unifying themes, unique representations, and significant points were highlighted and synthesized. This between-story analysis facilitated the interpretive process and enriched the meta-narrative which was being constructed to capture the phenomenon of psychological abuse. In summary, two levels of analysis were conducted: (1) an analysis of the transcript that became the basis of each participant's story and (2) an analysis across participant narratives to elucidate main themes. Assessing Rigor Within most qualitative research paradigms, attributes such as resonance, plausibility, and coherence often prove more useful than formal tests of reliability and validity. With narrative research, the qualities of verisimilitude and authenticity are especially important and are used to help evaluate the overall worth of the study. "Unlike the constructions generated by logical and scientific procedures that can be weeded out by falsification, narrative constructions [are concerned with achieving] 'verisimilitude'" (Bruner, 1991, p. 4) and authenticity. Verisimilitude is a term that was coined during the early 1900s by Karl Popper, a philosopher of science. Within the scientific community of the time, verisimilitude was taken to mean "an approximation toward or closeness to the truth about the way the world really is" (Shwandt, 1997, p. 170). Since this time, the term has evolved and has been adopted by those conducting qualitative research. Within this mode of inquiry, verisimilitude refers specifically to the quality of text. "A narrative account (referring either to narratives generated from or by respondents or to the narrative report produced by the inquirer) is said to exhibit the quality of verisimilitude when it has the appearance of truth or reality" (Shwandt, 1997, p. 170). 42 In the case of narrative designs, research is further strengthened by taking steps to confirm the authenticity of each participant's story. Narrative authenticity refers to the story's veracity or overall credibility. Given the highly subjective nature of such accounts, narratives are extremely difficult to authenticate. Ochs and Capps (1997) note that "narrators of personal experience work to make their stories sound credible" (p. 83) and use statistics, detail, witnesses, authoritative language (e.g. "absolutely . . . " and "actually . . . "), and other such strategies to build a case for the authenticity of the story being told. A particular chain of events is made more plausible when disputable pieces of objective data are interspersed with a string of subjective events that cannot be contradicted. For example, stories which tell of a person's thoughts, feelings, and intentions are difficult to prove or disprove. The narrator remembers the events to have happened in a specific manner and presents her account as being the absolute truth. "Although remembering itself is an unobservable and unverifiable mental state, a thought cast as remembered is presented as true. . . . Remembering, then, is an authenticating act: rememberers publicly claim to have brought to conscious awareness a state, event, or condition that is real in their eyes" (Ochs & Capps, 1997, p. 83-84). Given the co-constructive nature of narrative research, it was important for each participant to have the opportunity to authenticate her own narrative. It was recognized that the story which was presented as "true" during the interview may actually contain details the narrator wishes to modify or correct. In this study, each participant had the opportunity to view the narrative account which was developed by the researcher. Each participant was encouraged to make any necessary or desirable revisions. In this way, the participant had the opportunity to revisit the version of reality which was co-constructed during the interview process and the 43 authenticity of the narrative was confirmed. Sample narratives were also presented to professionals who have had experience supporting women in psychologically abusive relationships. This dual process of member checks and peer review were sufficient to assess the study's verisimilitude and authenticity. Member Checking: Once the interview transcript was analyzed and developed in narrative form, I presented each participant with a copy of her story. Participants were encouraged to review the narrative and to make any modifications they deemed to be necessary or desirable. The intent of the study was for the researcher and participants to work in collaboration. Providing each woman with a copy of her story was an important component of this process. It was assumed that reality is constructed and that the act of telling one's story is an event which is influenced by both the narrator and the audience. Kvale (1996) cautions that: The research interview is an inter view, an interaction between two people. The interviewer and the subject act in relation to each other and reciprocally influence each other . . . The reciprocal influence of interviewer and interviewee on a cognitive and an emotional level is, however, not necessarily a source of error, but can be a strong point of qualitative research interviewing. Rather than seeking to reduce the importance of this interaction, what matters in the research interview is to recognize and apply the knowledge gained from personal interaction, (p. 36-37) For this reason, it was important for each participant to be given the opportunity to re-visit the version of reality which was co-constructed on the day of the research interview. It was recognized that, although meaning may be co-constructed, the story belongs exclusively to the 44 participants. With this in mind, I was willing to make any changes that were suggested by a participant after she read and authenticated her own personal narrative. Once the narrative was reviewed and approved by each participant, it was entered into the results section of this study. The final product was a series of stories in which the experience of psychological abuse plays the central role. Each narrative stands on its own as an account of one woman's experience with this form of violence. . Peer Review: As a further check of narrative credibility and resonance, sample narratives were presented to professionals who have an understanding of and sensitivity to issues of violence against women. Individuals who have expertise in the field of abuse were asked to review the narratives from an objective standpoint to evaluate the degree to which the narrative fits with that which is known about the phenomenon of psychological abuse. Such a process is referred to as "peer review" and serves to lend credence to qualitative research studies. A psychiatric nurse with twenty-five years experience and a family support worker with ten years experience were presented with excerpts from the first two narratives, the anonymity of participants' was carefully preserved. The reviewers did not alter the narratives in any way, but simply provided the researcher with feedback on the narrative's credibility and the reviewer's own resonance with the story told. Both professionals felt that the narratives were consistent with their own understanding of psychological abuse within heterosexual relationships. Ethical Considerations It was critical to attend to the numerous ethical considerations inherent in the study of this topic. In particular, it was important to keep the counsellor / researcher role separate. Although the researcher hoped to develop a relationship with each participant that was characterized by 45 trust and mutual respect, women were referred elsewhere for formal counselling. Otherwise, the roles could have become easily blurred and the researcher would have been in danger of doing disservice both to the research and to the women who volunteered for this study. As previously mentioned, the process of telling one's story can be extremely powerful. The act of relating ones experiences to another can be either therapeutic or traumatic (depending on numerous factors). It was extremely important to keep this in mind at the onset of the study through informed consent and throughout the duration of the study. It was important to provide participants with an opportunity to de-brief the process. Although participants identified themselves as having experienced psychological abuse and were self-referred for the study, many found the process to be extremely emotional. The researcher provided each participant with a list of neutral contact people or support agencies. Another important ethical consideration was the fact that participating in such a study can be a risky decision for women who are still involved with an abusive partner (NiCarthy, 1997). It is possible that the woman's partner will perceive her participation as a challenge and will "fight back" using weapons which have been successful in the past (i.e. abuse and violence). Many women have had to contend with an escalation in violence when they first begin to examine their relationships (Evans, 1993). The researcher had a responsibility to keep all participants safe. Although meeting each woman at a location of her choice was a start, it was not enough. Confidentiality, anonymity, and adequate follow-up support were crucial. Finally, the researcher had to consider the impact that her own experience of psychological abuse could have on the study. Kvale (1996) suggests that there are dangers of being co-opted by one's participants and states that: 46 Interviewing is interactive research; through close interpersonal interactions with their subjects, interviewers may be particularly prone to co-optation by them. Interviewers may so closely identify with their subjects that they do not maintain a professional distance, but instead report and interpret everything from their subjects'perspectives, (p. 118) The fact that the study reported, in as genuine a fashion as possible, the narratives of the participants helped to minimize the potential biases associated with interpretation of meaning. However, the researcher had to be aware that her own interactions with the participants (e.g. non-verbal communication, the questions asked) could potentially shape the narratives as they were being told. The fact that the researcher might identify with elements of a woman's experience, could have lead her to respond (in very subtle ways) in a manner which could influence the course of her story. For example, the researcher might have nodded her head in support when a woman mentioned that she eventually left her partner. That little gesture might have influenced the participant to highlight those times during which she managed to escape the abuse. This may or may not have been an accurate reflection of her experience. Attending to researcher subjectivity was crucial. To highlight the impact of such reflexivity, the researcher kept a journal and completed a critical analysis of each transcript. Only the actual narrative was shared with participant. Finally, the researcher's own narrative of psychological abuse was included and analyzed in the study's final report. These checks helped capture the researcher's role in the process. The researcher was highly conscious that "the conversation in a research interview is not the reciprocal interaction of two equal partners" (Kvale, 1996, p. 126). Although the researcher 47 was undoubtedly impacted by the stories related to her by participants, she was the one who had the power to bias the narrative. She was the one asking the questions. She was not the one being made vulnerable. To minimize the impact of this asymmetry of power, the researcher had to be aware of all these factors throughout the course of the study. In addition, the researcher had to ensure that her own needs for support around these issues were being met outside the context of the research interview. The researcher had to be willing to self-disclose about her own experiences with psychological abuse so that participants were aware of the vantage point from which she was approaching this subject. By keeping this and the previously mentioned issues in mind, the reseacher was able to conduct a study that complies with the ethical standards of the field. 48 CHAPTER IV: RESULTS The narratives presented in this section were developed by the researcher from transcriptions of audio-taped interviews. Each participant had the opportunity to review, edit, and authenticate her story prior to its inclusion. The researcher's own narrative of psychological abuse has also been submitted. Pseudonyms have been used to protect the anonymity of all. Angela's Story It's really hard to know where to begin. For years, I didn't know what was happening to me. I thought I had this wonderful marriage . . . this happy marriage. Looking back, I can see a very different story. We met in Toronto. I had moved there from Victoria to finish my teaching degree and to get away from home. That was a big deal at the time. Lots of people tried to talk me out of leaving and out of going to school. Things were different then and most people felt that women didn't need an education or a real job. When I decided to move away to study, I was accused of being frivolous and vain. Everybody thought of Toronto as being very far from home and terribly cosmopolitan. It was the big city, but I couldn't be dissuaded. I felt very adventurous and sure of myself. Life was great. I had a good group of girlfriends. I was well on the way to having a career. I lived in this terrific apartment. I was full of hope about the future. I hadn't even been thinking about marriage and babies and all of those things when I first met Tom. There were too many other things going on. Still, there was something about him that caught my attention. We went to the same church and, even though we had never spoken, I started to look forward to seeing him. That really surprised me because he wasn't the type I usually liked. He 49 was really serious and seemed kind of lonely, but he had this intensity about him that I guess I found interesting. Sunday morning would roll around and I would spend tonnes of time getting ready, doing my hair, deciding what to wear. My friends teased me unmercifully. He would always arrive just before things got going so that I'd think he wasn't coming. I'd be in such a state that I wouldn't even hear half of the sermon. Finally, just when I thought I couldn't take anymore, he approached me. He waited for me after church and asked if he could walk me home. As it turned out, we had a lot in common. We dated for about a year before he asked me to marry him. Even when I accepted, even when I was walking down the aisle, I hardly knew what was happening. I mean, I couldn't imagine what I would be doing five years from then let alone for the rest of my life. 'T i l death do us part was an awfully frightening thought for someone who had cherished her freedom and independence. The first couple of years of marriage were less than blissful. There was a lot of fighting during that period and I soon realized that we had significant differences in more areas than I had originally believed. Still, I wasn't overly concerned. I felt it was a normal adjustment that most couples went through and was certain that we would eventually learn to live in harmony. When we had been married for a couple of years, Tom was offered a good job back here in Vancouver. I was pregnant at the time and we both felt it would be a great opportunity. We were ready to leave Toronto and wanted to be closer to our families. However, things didn't work out exactly as I had hoped. In Vancouver, he was surrounded by his family and there was a lot of support for him. He had moved back to an area he knew well. He had old friends and was starting a new and exciting job. As for me, I was pregnant and not working so I felt very much alone. I had no friends and no family to really support me. I felt totally isolated and suppressed. I believed that 50 all eyes were upon me and that I had to somehow measure up to this ideal of the perfect wife and mother. I was still very new in both roles and felt totally inadequate. I started to feel very, very insecure and got really depressed during that period of time. Tom was pretty much in his own world and seemed oblivious to what I was going through. His family, especially his mother, would criticize me and make me feel totally excluded. He never once came to my defence and I started to feel that my world was a very unsafe place. I felt as though I was doing everything wrong and felt that I had to change. It wasn't until we moved to Langley that things improved. By then, Lori was just over a year and we had hired a live-in nanny. It felt like a great escape. Tom's family wasn't around nearly as much and I started to feel more like myself. I returned to work and soon found a group of people who really seemed to like me for who I was. They enjoyed my sense of humour and appreciated my opinions. I was valued and respected as a person, not just because I was someone's wife or someone's mother. It was such a relief to step beyond those prescriptive roles. I truly did not realize how depressed I had been until I started to come out of it. When I found out I was pregnant less than a year after returning to work, I worried about how it would impact my career. However, things between Tom and I were going well at this point. We were both busy and enjoying our careers. Lori had brought us closer together than ever and had really strengthened our alliance. Even though his parents were critical about almost every single decision we made, we felt united. He still didn't protect me against his mother's attacks and even encouraged me to not defend myself, but I knew he was on my side. We felt very much like a happy family and I had a sense that everything was going to be okay. Things were okay for quite some time. When Christopher was bom, I stayed home for 51 about six months. Although I enjoyed motherhood, I missed teaching and felt my identity slipping gradually away as I became more and more isolated. I decided that I would return to work on a casual basis. That turned out to be a good decision and I felt very content with my life. Even Tom's family had come around a little bit. I guess I was doing what was expected of me . . . raising the kids, taking care of my husband, looking after the household responsibilities, and bringing in some money. I finally felt accepted and had just started to relax when Tom received notice that his company was transferring him to Fredericton. I couldn't believe it. We didn't have much choice. Tom had to go because his company was insisting and I had to go because I was Tom's wife. That is what was expected of women at that time and I didn't put up any protest at all. Even though I was earning more money than Tom and didn't want to leave my position, it never occurred to me to challenge the assumption that we would just pack up and go because of Tom's needs. Tom and I felt that it would be a good idea for me to stay home until the kids adjusted to life in Fredericton. To some extent, this is where I wanted to be. When I returned to work before, it was more of a survival thing. I was drowning and needed to escape the desperately small space my life had become. Work was the quickest way out of that lonely and depressing place. However, it meant that I was running around like crazy all day long . . . working full-time, looking after two kids, and trying to keep the house looking respectable. Through it all, I was expected to keep a stiff upper lip. It was the seventies and there were certain television qualities about who a mother was. We all tried to adapt to that role. When I went to Fredericton, I was determined to make a fresh start. I convinced myself that I had a wonderful marriage and that my relationship with Tom was perfect. I convinced myself that we never fought or argued. I 52 convinced myself that this was what I wanted. I tried to make everything wonderful. I was cooking, baking, making nice suppers, spending time with the kids, making life easier for Tom. He would come home from work, put his feet up, and throw his papers on the floor. They would just keep piling up until I would come along and pick them up. I was running around taking care of everyone and everything. I had some sense that I was smothering and that my own personality was getting lost in all of that caregiving. There was very little left over for me. Still, I managed to survive the five years we spent there. I enjoyed being involved in my kids' lives and had the opportunity to explore my creative side. I had lots of friends and, even though Tom was controlling, it wasn't that important to him yet. For the most part, I guess I was where he expected me to be. As long as I played the part of doting wife and dutiful mother, there were things that could be negotiated. For instance, i f I wanted to go to a Tupperware party and stay out until two or three o'clock in the morning, it was no big deal. However, i f I wanted to make a long-distance phone call to my own mother, I'd ask permission to do it from Tom. He was earning all of the money and kept control of the finances. I had no real involvement in budgeting. If I wanted to buy something, I'd go to Tom for the money and he would tell me if we could afford it or not. Yet, he would make all kinds of purchases without ever consulting me. Even big things like a new car or plane tickets. He'd waltz in, acting like a hero and feeling proud of himself. I'd have to act thrilled and grateful, even though a week earlier he might have told me we didn't have the money for me to buy a new tube of lipstick. For someone who had always been independent, it was difficult to be in that position. Still, I twisted my brain into believing that I had no entitlement around that kind of thing. 53 When we moved to Victoria, tiny fractures and flaws began to appear in the image I had so carefully constructed. Surrounded by my family, things started to look a little different. I went there with the belief that I was the perfect wife with the perfect husband, the perfect kids, and the perfect relationship. I believed life was good. My friends were always telling me how envious they were of me and my relationship with Tom. It didn't take much convincing. One of my best friends lived with a man who drank all of the time and beat her regularly. Two had been divorced. Another of my friends was a single mother whose ex had no involvement at all in her son's life. Another had to work two jobs because her husband kept getting fired. By comparison, I felt I had it pretty good. It wasn't until my sister, Meredith, began to challenge me on some of the things she saw that I questioned that assumption. At first, I dismissed her concerns. I thought she was just jealous or that she was being overly feminist in her expectations. Thankfully, however, she was relentless. She repeatedly asked me to explain why I hadn't returned to work. She pointed out that the kids were pretty independent and reminded me that my career had once been extremely important to me. I had no real explanation to offer. She pointed out that Tom didn't participate at all in household responsibilities. I did all of the cooking, cleaning, and shopping. I co-ordinated the kids' extra-curricular activities and made sure they got to games and practices on time. I got up in the morning to make his breakfast, pick out his clothes, and pack his lunch so that he wouldn't have to start the day with any kind of stress. I drove him to work in the morning and picked him up at the end of the day. I was the first one up in the morning and the last one to go to bed. I was always tired, but couldn't understand why until Meredith pointed out all of the little things I was doing to make Tom's life easier and more pleasant. 54 She also pointed out that he often criticized me in public and that he would become angry if I expressed an opinion that differed even slightly from his own. Although I didn't truly believe her, I started watching more carefully for signs of this type of control. I was genuinely surprised when I realized that she wasn't totally off base. We'd go to friends' for dinner and he would make ridiculous, demeaning comments about me. Stupid things, like "Angela couldn't cook a meal like this if her life depended on it." Stupid things that were totally untrue. If I challenged him on it, he'd make a scene and manipulate the situation so that it appeared as if I was over-reacting or being ultra-sensitive. I hated making other people feel uncomfortable, so I'd usually just let it slide. He'd do the same kinds of things when we went to visit Meredith, but she wouldn't tolerate it. She would sit there waiting for me to defend myself and, when I wouldn't, she'd get so frustrated that she would confront him. They got into so many arguments. I guess Tom realized that Meredith wasn't his biggest fan and started making up excuses to not visit. He often talked about how difficult and bitter she was. He'd complain that she was argumentative and difficult to be around. In the end, we associated primarily with colleagues he had through work or couples in the neighbourhood who felt he was simply wonderful. His little digs against me would earn him a few laughs and everyone would go home at the end of the evening with a smile on their face. Despite the awful hollow feeling in my stomach, I would smile too. I had convinced myself that I probably was over-reacting and that Tom didn't mean to be cruel. He was just joking. Besides, it was easier to smile. There would be no fights, Tom would be content, and our reputation as the "perfect couple" would remain intact. By the time we moved away, I was spending very little time with Meredith or any of my old friends. This isolation happened so gradually that it was virtually impossible to defend against. I didn't even realize it 55 was happening. If things had been challenging in Victoria, they were far worse when we moved back to Vancouver. Neither of us wanted to return. Tom was especially unhappy about moving closer to his parents, but he was tentatively optimistic that things would be different than they had been the previous time. He had established himself in his career and had been specifically recruited to help get the company's Vancouver office back on track. He had been profiled in the paper and was moving back with a great deal of prestige. However, instead of praising his accomplishments, his family looked for every opportunity to attack him. They commented on the fact that he had gained weight, that he was still smoking, that he didn't go to church regularly, that he bought a poorly-constructed house, that he supported the wrong political party. Anything they could think of to let him know how badly they felt he had failed in life and how incompetent they believed him to be. The barrage was endless and, within weeks, his self-esteem had been obliterated. To make matters worse, he was having a great deal of difficulty at work. His paranoia kicked into high gear and he started to entertain the notion that his company had set him up to fail so that they would have reason to fire him and bring in someone new. I tried desperately to bolster his self-esteem and shelter him from his parents' attacks. I would phone his mother just about every day in an attempt to improve relations. However, this didn't help matters at all. She simply used it as an opportunity to remind me of all the wonderful things Bi l l and Susanna, Tom's brother and sister-in-law, were doing and of how capable they were. We could never make that side of the family happy. She took delight in fuelling this unhealthy competition between Tom and his brother. We couldn't win. Still, I would jump through all kinds of hoops and tolerate all manner of criticism just to make her happy. I kept 56 doing it until she told me to stop calling her unless I actually had something important to say. I couldn't believe it. Tom was a mess by this point, but instead of striking out at the people who were hurting him, he started striking out at me. Verbally. The anger he had demonstrated when we were in Victoria was nothing compared to what he unleashed on me during this period. He would yell and scream. He would put me down and chastise me for not being supportive. He would swear and intimidate me with the volume of his voice. He was hyper-sensitive to every little comment. For example, i f I suggested that he comb his hair a certain way, it would not be at all unusual for him to say something like, "if I'm so fucking ugly, why don't you just leave?!" Everything was seen in a negative light and was taken to the extreme. He was projecting all of the hostility he assumed was coming from the rest of the world onto me. I didn't know what to do. The entire family walked on eggshells whenever he was around. My life felt very out of control and I must have subconsciously numbed myself just so that I could survive the pain and turmoil. Within a five-year period, my sister died, my father died, Tom's mother died, and my favourite aunt died. I was raising two precocious teenagers. Tom's job wasn't getting any easier and his future with the company seemed rather precarious. I decided to do something that would give me some solidity and direction. I decided to return to work. However, I had no real interest in teaching. I thought I'd try something new and went for career testing. Along with all of the likely suspects, I was told that I might have an aptitude for selling real estate. I was shocked and, even though it was something I never would have considered, it appealed to me. The Vancouver real estate market was booming with Expo '86 and entry to the field was fairly painless. Surprisingly enough, Tom was initially quite 57 supportive. He didn't even complain about the course and licencing fees. It wasn't until he realized that I would be working primarily with men, keeping long and irregular hours, and socializing with people he didn't know that the sabotaging began. Suddenly, after almost twenty years of marriage, I wasn't where he expected me to be. He started calling and checking-in just to make sure he knew where I was at all times. He would turn up suddenly at the office and do things he had never done before. Things like sending a dozen red roses to the office on our anniversary or buying me expensive jewellery. Things to claim ownership and show that I was his wife ~ his property. Of course, I started to rebel because I was feeling more and more suffocated. I felt as though he was trying to control me and I became very resentful. I started pushing the limits and did things that were pretty foolish. I really didn't care. I was so angry with him for not trusting me that I would ask our receptionist to screen his calls and would purposely stay out late. I was acting like a defiant teenager, but I was having such a good time. The whole thing was very exciting. I was in a new and challenging role. I was talking to adults and interacting with tonnes of interesting people. I felt as though I was somebody again. I wasn't just a wife and mother. I was a successful realtor who had a great sense of humour, lots of energy, and good instincts. Clients and colleagues enjoyed what I had to offer. Tom's anger got even more extreme, but I felt untouchable. When his old repertoire failed to achieve the desired effect, he turned to new strategies. He looked for new escapes and spent hours playing video games, walking the dog, working on the car, or going for drives. We hardly saw one another. He didn't drink or do drugs, but he used food in much the same way that other people use those substances. He'd eat unreal portions of food and just sit there, daring people to challenge his behaviour. With the 58 anger and the stress and the over-eating, he was a heart attack waiting to happen. It was terrifying. I felt so helpless. During this time, he was also using sex to feel powerful and in control. He'd kiss me on the back of the neck even though he knew it drove me crazy. He would make comments about me that were extremely demeaning and started making sexual advances towards me in front of other people. He'd grab me by the breasts, pull me into his lap, unbutton my shirt, or bounce me on his knee really energetically. He even did this kind of thing in front of the kids. There was no affection there at all. I didn't know what to make of it because this person who. supposedly loved and respected me was suddenly treating me like a sex object or something. Yet, he still expected me to be loving, affectionate, tender, understanding, and attentive. He assumed we could continue to have a healthy sexual relationship. I didn't know what to do. Although real estate had offered me a reprieve, it required an energy I couldn't sustain. It was fun for a while and I learned a lot from the experience. Most importantly, I came to realize that having a career was essential to my mental health. However, it wasn't real and I knew I had to move on. Tom's position was in serious jeopardy and I wanted to have a secure income in case he was laid off. Also, I did not like how far apart Tom and I had drifted. I had very few expectations of marriage, but had always said that I didn't want to be like those couples who lived in the same house, living parallel lives without having any true union. That is what Tom and I had essentially become. It was hard because I still loved him and could still find ways to rationalize the abuse. Although I knew what he was doing to me, I continued to excuse it because I knew how much he was struggling. I tried to understand and support him. I gave up my rebellion and quit real estate. 59 I took a job at a boutique that my, friend had just opened. I did this partially to help her out and partially to ensure that there was a regular paycheque coming in every week. At the same time, I was studying to return tp teaching. I had to do a fair bit of upgrading since I had been away from the field for so long. It was a weird time. Although Tom was more angry than ever, he seemed to realize that I couldn't bear the full weight of his wrath all by myself. In his own way, I think he was trying to show me that he was grateful I had come back to him. He demonstrated this by using our daughter as a back-up target and by occasionally giving me the night off. There were many evenings during this time that he'd be home with myself and Christopher. Lori would be at university, or working, or out with her friends. I could feel his anger, but he wouldn't say anything. Instead, he'd be silent the whole night and would wait for Lori. He would keep his fury bottled up until she walked obliviously through the door and he would then unleash it all on her. He would scream, swear, and threaten. He'd move in really close and yell right in her face. He would criticize her and make ridiculous accusations. He would place restrictions on her freedom in an attempt to control her. A l l of the same things he did to me. She could never defend herself because she had never done anything wrong. His violence was too arbitrary. I think she moved to Montreal partially to be free of the violence. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I was envious of her. She had escaped and the thought of leaving hadn't even occurred to me. I felt totally trapped. The year after she left was extremely brutal. Tom was forever angry. I had gone back to teaching, but couldn't secure a permanent position. I stayed on at the boutique and continued to take courses at the university. It was exhausting. When Tom lost his job, things got even worse. Self-pity consumed him. I'd come home after an 6 0 eighteen-hour day and he would be waiting for me. Instead of being supportive, he was needy and demanding. He expected me to be attentive and to continue doing those things I had always done. Make him dinner, whip up a batch of his favourite cookies, listen to him talk about a show he had watched, have sex. He was draining on me, draining on me, draining on me — on my energy, sapping every bit of joy out of my life just because of his own mood. If I didn't do those things to his satisfaction, he would storm around the house or would sulk. Everything was about him and his needs. At no point through all of this did he ever offer me encouragement, praise, or gratitude. In a weird way, I think he resented the fact that I was able to keep the family financially afloat. It was a horrible time and I was exhausted, emotionally and physically. I was discouraged by the fact that I couldn't get a permanent position through any of the local school boards and couldn't really count on substitute and temporary positions. Tom was having no luck finding employment. It was the recession and a business man in his fifties with no formal university degree was not all that attractive to those few companies who were still hiring. It was incredibly stressful. By this point, we were so far in debt that we couldn't survive without a regular and substantial paycheque. After scrambling like this for several months, I was given the opportunity to teach for a year in a remote community up north. The posting came with benefits and a pretty attractive incentive plan. However, it was a very violent and isolated place. I was warned of substance abuse, suicide rates, and racial tension. When I accepted the position, my friends thought I was crazy. Tom had nothing at all to say. When I'd ask for his opinion, he'd just shrug his shoulders. He literally had nothing to say. At no time did he ever ask me to stay. He didn't say we'd find a way to work it out or that he couldn't manage without me. He didn't tell me he 61 would miss me or that he would be worried about me. That truly helped me make my decision. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I knew that I needed to escape the abuse and the oppression. Had he said even once that he loved me and didn't want me to leave, I probably would have stayed. It would have made a difference. I waited for him to give me some indication that he cared, but nothing ever came. To me, his silence meant that he didn't love me. It meant that he wanted me to go and that he was willing to sacrifice a twenty-five year relationship. That absolutely blew me away. I couldn't even absorb what that really meant. I was truly in shock when he drove me to the airport. I was horribly i l l and totally frightened. We had no idea when we would see each other again. Yet, he sent me off like it was nothing. The year I spent up north was terrible. Even though I enjoyed the teaching, I was incredibly isolated and frequently felt as though my safety was in real jeopardy. It was really a traumatic time. I don't know how I survived it. I would phone Tom with the hopes of getting some support and compassion. However, he didn't express any concern. Instead, he'd want me to listen to all of the details of his life. Even the most trivial little things. Like the kind of cereal he had for breakfast or that he was thinking about buying some new socks. It was ridiculous. He'd bring up things and would get angry with me if I didn't sympathize with him. There were many times that I would have to hang up the phone because he was so abusive. I knew he was struggling and that he was lonely, but I couldn't understand why he was so angry with me. Unbelievably, I was still searching for a rational explanation. I would question myself and tried to change my behaviour so that he would be less angry. I wondered i f I had used the wrong tone of voice or i f I wasn't being sensitive enough to his needs. Looking back, I realize how insane that was. Eventually, I just stopped thinking about myself altogether. I honestly didn't know 62 how it was affecting me. I honestly did not know how it was affecting me. When my contract finished, I returned to Vancouver. Although we hadn't seen each other for about three months, Tom had arranged for one of my friends to pick me up from the airport. He was in a bowling league and had some kind of tournament happening the weekend I returned. I didn't know what to think. In fact, I wasn't thinking at all. I suspect I was in a state of post-traumatic stress. I really do. When I look back, I realize that I was totally numbed. My emotions and everything. I was only home for about a week before I had to leave again to do a course in Victoria. The course itself was extremely difficult. There was a lot of pressure and the stakes were really high. Tom continued to abuse me left, right, and centre when I would phone him. Finally, I just stopped calling. It was then that he decided to come to Victoria. He came over for a week and stayed with me at my sister's. It was the weirdest experience. I honestly couldn't figure out why he had come. I was embarrassed by his behaviour. He was so abusive and controlling while he was there that I found myself making excuses for him all the time. He was rude to Meredith and argued with everyone. He monopolized my attention and attempted to control my time and space. He continued to use sex as a weapon. I'd be totally depleted of everything . . . energy, strength, emotion . . . and he still expected me to be ready for him sexually every, single blessed night he was there. If I wasn't there for him in that way or if I wasn't paying him enough attention throughout the day, he would punish me by purposely doing things to humiliate me. He'd criticize me in front of others or would accuse me of being confrontational. If I disagreed with him about anything, he made a big scene. It was like I wasn't allowed to have an opinion of my own or to think for myself. By the time I returned to Vancouver, I was totally beaten. A l l of the life had been sucked 63 out of me. I found a job and resumed the role of wife and mother. However, I was just going through the motions. It is almost as i f my brain had turned itself off. When, out of the blue, Tom was offered a good position, a little spark of hope found its way back into my soul. I thought that things would change. We would have a bit more money and could possibly clear up some of the debt we had accrued. He would be going to work every day. He could wear a shirt and tie, be productive, and feel respectable. I assumed his esteem would improve and that he would be more content. In turn, I believed he would have less need to project his anger and self-loathing onto me. I was optimistic and excited. Unbelievably, however, things got worse. They got worse. Suddenly, he felt as though he was top dog and expected the world to cow tow to him. It was as i f he was making up for lost time. I was still his favourite target and he went out of his way to prove how dominant he was within the relationship. He maintained exclusive control of the finances and became more controlling than ever. For example, he'd give me a weekly allowance that provided me with enough money to go swimming with my girlfriends but not enough to go for a coffee afterwards. Even though we had two reasonable incomes at this point, my friends would still have to treat me when we went to Starbuck's. It was embarrassing. He also went out of his way to control my time and my behaviour. I would be in the middle of doing some task or another and he'd be watching television. He'd bellow my name at the top of his lungs. When I'd call back to him, he wouldn't respond. I'd have to stop what I was doing and go to him. He'd then ask me to put on a pot of coffee or would just ask me what I was doing. It was so condescending and manipulative. However, it wasn't worth fighting against. At least that's what I told myself. Even worse than either of these things though was the thought control. 64 I had always been a talkative person and loved conversing with people. I loved being intellectually stimulated. During this period, my world became very silent. Unless I was at work, entire days could go by without me having heard my own voice even once. It really hit me one autumn day when we were driving across Lion's Gate Bridge. The trees were all changing colour, the sun was shining, and the ocean was an incredible shade of blue. It was so beautiful. Normally, I would have made some comment to Tom. However, I chose to remain silent. I just knew that, if I said anything, he would have ruined the moment for me by being negative. I just kept staring silently out the window. It was heart-breaking. That was a real awakening for me. To see how far down things had gone. I knew that my life could not continue in this way. My kids were both gone and Tom and I were alone in this big empty house. I had no affection in my life whatsoever. I had no affection from anybody. There was so much yelling and fighting and unchecked animosity. It was always about the stupidest things, like where I put the milk in the fridge or because I had driven the car into the driveway rather than backed it in. Stupid things. I have always disliked arguing, but there was fight after fight after fight about nothing. Nothing. About everything. Everything. And the demands were still put on me to have a normal sexual life. Even though he was so destructive towards me and so uncaring and unloving and unaffectionate to me, he still expected me to have sex with him. Although I wouldn't exactly say that I was raped by my husband, the sex we had during this period was truly not consensual. It was certainly not about love. It was violent, demeaning, malicious, and cold. It made me more numb than I have ever been. My work and my friends were outlets which helped me survive. I tried to stay out of Tom's way and tried to keep busy. I encouraged him to take up hobbies that would keep him 65 away from home on the weekend. I took little trips on my own just to escape for a few days and to find enough energy to return to the relationship. Even though things were getting progressively worse, the thought of leaving had still not occurred to me. I was in such a horrible depression that I actually thought about how easy it would be to just stop living. If it wasn't for the fact that my children were out there in the world and that I loved them so much and felt they still needed me to some extent, I don't know what would have happened. It scares me even now to think about how hopeless and anguished I was feeling. My spirit ached. Clarity came to me one day. Tom and I were having breakfast or something and just doing our own thing, not really interacting. Then he looked at me and, when he did, I saw such coldness in his eyes that I finally realized how awful things had become. There was nothing left of the relationship we had once had. The love, respect, fun, companionship had all disappeared. That day, we ended up arguing about nothing. I cried and cried and begged him to stop, but he just kept going. I spent the next twenty-four hours thinking about the relationship. After I got through the emotions, it set on me. I decided that I could no longer live this way. The next morning, I told him that we needed to talk. I just blurted everything out before he could storm out of the room or start yelling. I told him that there had been no joy in my life for a long time and that he was destroying everything . . . the happiness, the love, the affection. I told him that things had to change and that I was giving him a year to make those changes. I told him that, beyond that point, I could not live this way any longer and that I refused to live this way any longer. This was twenty-four hours after this major, major argument. Over nothing. It was such a relief to say it. It was comforting. I felt more powerful and more in control than I had for ages. I told him I would give him a year to sort things out. I truly did not know 66 what to expect. Over the years, I had tried to talk to him about the situation. I had suggested that we go to marriage counselling, but he had flatly refused and felt I was ridiculous for even suggesting it. As far as he was concerned, it was just more evidence of my hyper-sensitivity and incapacity to deal with life. I had also tried to talk to him about anger management and even copied articles for him to read. He wouldn't even look at them. So, when I gave him this ultimatum, I wasn't overly optimistic. However, I was willing to give him a year. I felt that, i f he valued the relationship at all, he would make some effort to change. The most surprising part about this whole thing was that he seemed to take me seriously right away. He was silent as I briefly said what I had to say. He didn't try to justify his actions. He didn't even tell me I was imagining things or try to downplay the pain I was feeling. It was remarkable and caught me pretty off guard. I was prepared for quite a different reaction. The fact that he just sat there and listened gave me some glimmer of hope. To me, it meant that he realized just how close he was to losing something valuable. The year that followed was not easy. It was interesting. I felt free of the abuse and oppression that had coloured every aspect of my life for so many years. At times, I felt positively giddy. The knowledge that an end was in sight, whatever that end might be, liberated me and allowed me to view my relationship with Tom in a more detached and objective manner. The kids were great. I had told them of my decision and they were incredibly supportive. I felt that the family was uniting again, pulling together for a common purpose. It made me feel strong. During that year, I would call Tom on behaviour that I had decided was no longer tolerable. For example, i f he would start yelling I would say, "You're yelling. You're doing it again. You are arguing with me about nothing." So I made these little points. I wouldn't make it a big 67 conversation. I would just say, "You're doing it to me again Tom." That seemed to raise his awareness. As the months went by, I could see him making an effort to change. He seemed to catch himself when he was yelling or being cruel. He was trying new strategies to deal with his anger. It was far from perfect, but I saw him trying. We never really talked about the ultimatum. The closest we ever came was one day, when he just said, "I must have been a real bastard." It was so out of the blue and so quiet that I almost thought I imagined it. I responded by telling him that he had been. That was it. However, my heart soared. To me, that one simple statement meant that he was taking responsibility for the way he had treated me and the damage he had done to our relationship. It was huge. It was the sign I had been waiting for. It proved to me that he loved me and cared about me. I hadn't been certain of that for many years and that had been almost unbearably frightening. The anniversary date just came and went. Although the relationship was far from perfect, the situation had certainly improved. I was stronger and more willing to stand up for myself. Tom was making a sincere effort to be less destructive. We were both better able to identify abusive behaviour. It was like we developed a secret code language. I would just have to say "you're doing it again" or "stop, you're hurting me" and we would know what was happening. It was exciting. I think it made both of us feel more in control. It also tightened our partnership. We were like the dynamic duo battling this evil behaviour. We were doing it together and that felt great. It's hard to explain the amount of damage that happened during that period of time and I can understand how people separate because of it. In order to save yourself in some way, shape, or form, it must often seem like the only alternative. As for me, I'm glad that we have 68 managed to stay together. I'm glad we've resolved it. I'm glad, really glad that it didn't end up in divorce. I'm really happy it didn't end up in divorce. I like my married life. I do like it. I do like the comforts of not having to perform and be something I'm not, to be able to come home to some kind of cocoon, even though we still have to work at it all the time. It's just that you share so much over the years. You share so much. And your children — you share so much with your children. I'm glad it's still intact. I can't honestly say that I'm glad this happened or that I'm happy to have lived with these experiences. However, I will say that it has made me stronger. I am more sure of who I am and am less willing to compromise my true self. I'm stronger even in my friendships. I still tolerate a lot, but I stand up for myself and have reached a point in my life where I really don't care about the way other people judge me. I am also more aware of the fact that many people choose me as a target for their anger. I saw it in my father when he died. He was so angry at me and, at the time, I really didn't understand that. I was devastated. It was the same with Tom's mother. Even my daughter and my most gentle friends will occasionally lash out rather violently at me. I wondered why. I wondered what I had done to deserve all that anger. I examined myself over and over to try and figure out what I had done wrong. I knew I hadn't done everything right, but I was seriously trying to help. Yet all of these people vented their anger on me. It was unreal. I've come to understand that I must be a safe target for people. Somehow they seem to know that I can see through their words and recognize their true pain without taking it on. Usually I can, but it still hurts. It feels somewhat unjust, but I can let it go now because I know it's not about me. It is not because I have done anything to deserve it or because I have failed these people in some way. 6 9 I am hopeful about the future. There are parts of my relationship with Tom that will never be the same . . . wounds that will never heal. Some things just went too deep. I know the relationship isn't perfect. Tom is still occasionally abusive. He'll still yell or insult or try to control. It comes up every time he feels threatened in any which way, shape, or form. He still vents his anger on me, but he's much more quiet about it. He tends to walk away now when he's angry. Also, he's doing more proactive things to keep from getting to that point of explosion. He's exercising and has picked up a couple of hobbies. He's socializing more with his peers and is learning to separate his "true" self from his "career" self. He is learning to define and value himself outside that role. Also, he's taking more risks in communication and has really gained some skills in recognizing and letting me know how he's feeling. So it's working. It's working and I have a lot more happiness in my life again. I know we will face challenges as the years go by, but I feel quite certain that we will be fine and that our partnership will remain intact. I am enjoying life and am optimistic about the future. It's a great place to be after all those years of darkness. Jillian's Story My story begins innocently enough. It takes place in middle class white white white suburbia during the mid-1980s when U2 had finally made it into the top ten on Casey Casern's American Top 40 Countdown and you knew that either the Lakers or the Celtics were going to win the N B A championship. At some point during this time and in this place, a girl and a boy were attending the same high school. They were both popular and successful at just about everything they did. They started dating and everyone thought they were the perfect couple. Fairly unremarkable beginning, no? However, where it went from there and where it ended up 70 could not have been predicted. I was sixteen when I met Jason. Why it had taken that long for our paths to cross I ' l l never know. We were in the same grade, took all the same courses, and were both on the honour roll. We both played first division volleyball and basketball. I was on the school paper and he was in the drama club. We had many friends in common. I knew who he was, but hadn't even spoken two words to him until the year we both ended up on the graduation committee. I liked him right away. He was attractive and intense. Without being loud or obnoxious, he managed to command a lot of attention. He spoke with an air of confidence that was rare in the pool of juvenile male fish that were swimming through the high school corridors. Although I was dating someone else at the time, there was an instant chemistry between Jason and I. He listened to every word I said and acted as i f it I had the most brilliant ideas he had ever heard. Soon we became very involved and started spending a lot of time together. Once he discovered all that we had in common, it wasn't hard for him to worm his way into my life. He'd walk me home after grad committee meetings and would just conveniently show up after volleyball practice. He'd call me in the evening to see if I was going crazy studying for the biology midterm that we both had the next day or would invite me to shoot hoops with him on the weekend. Things like that. It was all very subtle and the guy I was seeing didn't really stand a chance. I didn't stand a chance. Jason was turning up more and more, but it could all be presented in a very innocent light. It was hard to defend against. It was especially difficult because I was incredibly attracted to him and actually enjoyed his company. We were having a great time together. Jason ultimately recruited the help of my friends. He confessed to them that he really liked me, but knew I was seeing Adam. He was always a brilliant manipulator. Just as 71 he had planned, my friends were sufficiently charmed and impressed to encourage me to break up with Adam. I did and Jason and I officially became a couple. It scares me even now to think how easy it was for others to control me. It's as i f I trusted everyone else's opinion more than I trusted my own . . . even in matters that directly concerned me. Despite having a lot of confidence in my abilities, I was basically a shy person and had tragically low self-esteem. I had an innate belief that others were somehow more valuable than me. That belief continues to manifest in other areas of my life even now. I sense that it originated with my family. Although my parents were incredibly loving and supportive, they valued self-sacrifice and modesty above all else. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I was continuously told that I was selfish. In my family culture, that was the worst thing you could be. If you weren't putting the needs, wants, and feelings of others in front of your own, you were being selfish in their eyes. As a result, I learned to focus much of my energy on making other people feel happy or better about themselves. I would listen, advise, console, support, and encourage. I became ultra-sensitive and compassionate. Although these are perhaps admirable qualities, developing them cost me the ability to clearly and confidently articulate my own wants, needs, and ideas. Even now I am occasionally paralyzed by the core belief that to take up someone else's time to discuss myself is selfish. Inside, I believe that I don't deserve it or that it is trivial. The second worst thing you could be in my family was vain. This was especially true as far as it concerned one's physical appearance. Other parents would brag about their children constantly. However, my parents didn't subscribe to that kind of thing. It was really confusing for me as a child because I would hear my own mother or father agreeing with other parents 72 about how beautiful their daughter looked or how well their son had played. Yet, they would never say that kind of stuff about me. It got even more confusing when I was a teenager. Other girls wore make-up, bought expensive clothes, and spent hours on their hair. My mother frequently commented on how pretty other girls were. Yet, I would be chastised for spending any time at all on my appearance and was accused of being vain. It certainly isn't that they put me down and I knew they were proud of me. However, I learned to think of myself as someone who didn't really measure up. I felt that my peers were all superstars and that I was barely passable. This is despite the fact that I was a classic over-achiever in every area of my life . . . academically, athletically, artistically, and socially. So with this rather warped sense of self, I guess I was rather vulnerable to people who were confident and domineering. That description certainly fit Jason and it wasn't long before he started experimenting with different ways to control me. Looking back, I think he viewed it as a game. He seemed to get a huge rush every time he managed to make me do something with which he knew I wasn't entirely comfortable. It started with the tiniest things. He would tell me that I looked really good when I wore my hair back from my face or when I wore my pink t-shirt. He didn't insult me at other times. He didn't need to. We were both intelligent. He would just withhold praise unless my appearance met his approval. Before long, I was walking around with my hair back and wearing pink shirts almost 100% of the time. It was so subtle that I didn't even think to question the fact that I hated the original shirt he had complimented me on and that I didn't even like the colour pink. I had been kind of a goth girl with straight hair, black clothes, and doc marten boots. I didn't notice that I was being turned into a barbie doll. To complete the transformation, I traded my smiths, cure, and bowie tapes for bryan adams, phil collins, and rush. 73 Jason was always in a much better mood when we listened to his music so that worked for me. My life was more fun when he was in a good mood. To completely seal my fate, Jason started to isolate me from people who might interfere with our relationship or divert my attention from him. That included my friends and family. Again, he was so devious that I didn't truly realize what was happening. For example, he would turn up his nose in disgust every time I mentioned my friend Candace. When I asked him what that was all about, he acted reluctant to discuss the matter. He made me drag it out of him and eventually told me that he felt she wasn't a nice person and that he had frequently heard her putting me down in front of other people. Gradually, I spent less and less time with Candace and started making up excuses to avoid all of my friends. If I didn't Jason, would make it seem as though I was choosing my friends over him and he would sulk for days. It was a battle I got sick of fighting. As for my parents, they disliked Jason from the start. I couldn't figure it out. On the surface, he had so much going for him and he had been nothing but sweet in their presence. Still, my mother didn't trust him and my father went out of his way to be unpleasant to him. It made me furious because they couldn't articulate their misgivings. I assumed they just didn't want me to grow up and that the thought of me possibly be having sex with this guy drove them crazy. Jason picked up on this tension and used it to his advantage. He would make fun of me for putting up with my parents' rules. When I told him I had to be home by 2:00 in the morning on Friday night, he'd laugh and tell me he was going to a party as soon as he dropped me off. Soon, I was disobeying my parents and getting into all kinds of trouble at home. I was hanging out with his friends and hardly ever spending time with my own. We'd go to parties where everyone was 74 drinking and getting stoned. That kind of scene was pretty new to me and I felt that I didn't really fit in. Jason would get me to drink way more than I wanted by making fun of me or telling me he wouldn't bother bringing me the next time. It was an awful feeling. This type of thing got more and more horrible. He'd force me to drink and would then insult me in front of his friends. It was humiliating, but I kept going to the parties. By this time, I was so far immersed in his world that it had become my reality. My own friends weren't there to give me a different perspective and I had stopped listening to my parents altogether. I wanted to be accepted and felt i f I just went along with him, I would eventually be able to please him. I had somehow convinced myself that my entire happiness depended on doing just that. The worst incident happened at our graduation party. We went with his friends, even though my friends and I had planned a celebration of our own. It would have been easy enough to go to both parties, but Jason insisted that there was no way to make it work. We went to his friend's cabin where everyone proceeded to get totally wasted. Jason and I ended up lying on one of the couches. People were passed out all over the place. I was pretty much asleep when Jason started to unbutton my jeans. He started having sex with me and whispered in my ear for me to be quiet and just lie there. Somehow, I felt I didn't have a choice. If I resisted, I knew he'd make a big scene and there were people everywhere. It would have been impossible to physically untangle myself from the situation without exposing myself. It was the most awful feeling. I felt so trapped, so violated, and so ashamed. I tried talking to him about it the next day when he was sober, but in the morning light he made it sound as if it had been no big deal. He pointed out that I hadn't told him to stop so he had assumed I was into it. I had sunk so low that I felt I deserved nothing better and actually believed Jason was some sort of saint for putting up with me. 75 When university rolled around, things improved for a little while. We were both working, playing basketball, and had crazy course schedules. We would occasionally meet for lunch, but only really saw each other on the weekend. It was wonderful and I felt more myself than I had for ages. Life was suddenly exciting and fun again. My relationship with my parents had improved and I was meeting lots of cool new people. I was in a few classes with my friends so I felt more connected than I had for months. It was as i f a fog had lifted from my brain. I felt lighter and more energetic. I had thoughts and ideas of my own. I could decipher my views from Jason's. I felt liberated. However, this didn't last very long. Jason did not like the idea of me roaming campus halls by myself or, even worse, with my old friends who were probably persuading me to do all kinds of crazy things. When it was time to register for the winter semester, he suggested that we try to better co-ordinate our class schedules. He said he was really missing me. We ended up in a couple of the same classes and commuted to and from school together every day. At first, I thought this was wonderful. I took it as a sign that we were moving forward in our relationship. He'd walk me to class and sneak supper into the library for me if he knew I had to study. He'd help me photocopy articles for research papers I was doing and would wait in line with me at the cafeteria when I went for coffee. He'd come and watch all of my basketball practices. He'd tease me about different guys in class who he thought were interested in me. It all seemed really sweet at the time and I felt very close to him. Soon the novelty wore off and I started to feel incredibly suffocated. I wasn't spending any time at all with my friends or family. Jason was really the only person I saw outside of school, work, and basketball. He was always there and his behaviour, which had originally seemed so sweet, now felt predatory. I had a sense that he was trying to control me and let the 76 rest of the world know that I was off limits. He'd put his arm around me when we walked to class, but there wasn't any affection there. It was about ownership. He would glare at any guy who even looked in my direction. He started to criticize the way I dressed and would say stupid things like, "Have you put on weight? Those jeans are disgustingly tight!," or, "Don't you look like a rock star with that eyeliner! It certainly attracts a lot of attention." Of course, he knew me well enough by this point to send me into a spin of self-doubt with just a few carefully chosen words. I wondered if I had gained weight or i f I was being tacky. If I had run any of this stuff by my friends or family, they would have told me I was crazy for even thinking such things. However, they were far away at this point and old insecurities made sure that I trusted Jason's perspective over my own. Again, I started to believe that I was incredibly lucky to have someone like Jason. During this time, Jason also started competing with me. This was new. We were taking a lot of the same classes and he became obsessed with beating me on every single test and assignment. When I would get a higher mark, he would become incredibly insulting. He'd accuse me of cheating or sucking up to the professor. He insisted that he was much more intelligent than me and would punish me when I surpassed him at anything. He would do this by not speaking to me . . . sometimes for days. It was ridiculous. He still expected us to do all of the things we normally did, like drive to school together and eat lunch together. We'd just do it in silence with him giving me an occasional dirty look. It's embarrassing to admit that I put up with this, but I did. Amazingly enough I was unwilling to sacrifice my academic career just to appease his ego. I could have stopped studying and stopped turning assignments in, but I didn't. That's one little thing I'm proud of. However, I wanted to avoid those kinds of confrontations. I 77 got very creative and would make sure we were never doing the same course at the same time. I also started lying about my marks and would tell him that I had done much worse than I actually had. I thought this kind of behaviour proved I was caring and that I really loved him. Ironically, I guess it just showed how little I cared about myself. In the end, it did help me choose my career path. He went into engineering and I went into journalism. It's a decision that I've never regretted. I thought things would improve when we went along our separate academic paths, but they got worse. We were back in that place where he felt he couldn't keep close enough tabs on me. He felt threatened by the fact that I was out there in the world without him so much of the time. His expectations got more and more ridiculous. I had to let him know where I would be at every minute of the day by meeting him at his class or leaving notes on his locker. He had my class schedule and work schedule posted on the inside of his locker door. He certainly didn't return the favour. There was one time when my class had been cancelled. I went to the student union building to grab a coffee and bumped into a guy who was in one of my classes. We were just chatting and I was about to leave to try and track Jason down when he showed up. He made a huge scene and started yelling at me. He insinuated that I was skipping class to meet up with this guy. It was so ridiculous. I didn't even know the poor guy's name. I was absolutely mortified. After that I would get totally stressed about being exactly where I was supposed to be. The library was the worst. I'd have to leave a note on his locker saying I was going to the library. I'd then have to go, find a place to set up, go back to the locker, and leave another note with specifics as to my exact location. If I had to go to the washroom or do some photocopying, I'd leave a note on the desk. Unbelievable! I lived in perpetual fear of his anger. He was so moody 78 and unpredictable that I never knew where I stood. Yet, I somehow believed that I should be able to anticipate his needs and adjust my behaviour accordingly — an impossible task. His anger got even more intense as time went on. He'd scream at me and insult me . . . even in front of other people. To this day, I kind of shut down when people raise their voice at me. He'd withhold affection, but still expected to have sex whenever he felt like it. He also started using his strength and size to intimidate me. He'd come up really close to me and yell in my face. He punched walls, kicked doors, and threw things. I never believed he would physically hurt me. He didn't need to bother. I was already like a puppet on a string. My mother would get so angry because she'd occasionally hear me on the phone with him. I'd be apologizing over and over again. He'd sit there silent. This could go on for up to an hour with me crying and saying, "I'm sorry," at 30-second intervals and him saying nothing. My mother actually hung up the phone on more than one occasion. When she'd ask me to explain why I was apologizing, I had no answer. I just knew I had done something to displease him. She was so frustrated, but didn't know what to do. She tried desperately to bolster my esteem and pleaded with me to leave him. She told me I didn't deserve that kind of treatment. She even addressed the matter with him directly on several occasions and told him that he could not continue to treat me as he had been doing. He just blew it off and threatened to leave me if I couldn't get my mother under control. At this point, nobody knew enough to tell me that this behaviour was abusive and I certainly wasn't about to use that term. I don't know, but it might have made a difference to actually hear it labelled in that way. It might have been enough of a wake up call for me to start questioning his behaviour and my response to it. It's hard to say and I guess I ' ll never know. 79 My salvation came when he went to Saskatchewan for the summer to visit his sister. He was gone for two months. At first, I thought I wouldn't survive without him and spent the first couple of weeks waiting by the phone for him to call. Ultimately, I convinced myself that I needed to keep busy. I worked overtime and actually picked up the phone to connect with a couple of my friends. I was really nervous about calling because it had been so long since I had seen them and I had rejected them on so many occasions. They were thrilled to hear from me and we had the most incredible summer. We went to concerts, took several road trips, went dancing, spent days at the beach, and just hung out. Jason ripped me apart several times for not being home when he called. Amazingly enough, I didn't let that slow me down. When it came time for him to return, I was really looking forward to seeing him. However, I couldn't believe that eight weeks had passed so quickly. That should have been a sign for me, but I missed it altogether. I was resolved to having life return to normal in September. In the end, it didn't matter that I had missed the sign or that I went to the airport to pick him up wearing an asinine little dress that he had bought for my birthday. He wasn't home two weeks when he told me that he wanted to end the relationship. He told me there was someone at work he was interested in and that spending the summer apart had made him realize that he didn't love me anymore. I was devastated . . . for about twenty-four hours. Honestly, that was it. I think the tears I shed were more because I thought that's what I was supposed to do when someone broke up with you. Then it dawned on me that I had been set free. I was nineteen years old and I suddenly had a future about which I could be excited. It's like I had been let out of prison early for good behaviour or something like that. It was an unexpected gift. My family and friends were incredible. I expected them to feel sorry for me when I told them what had 80 happened, but they couldn't have been more thrilled. If I had any doubts at all about this being a positive thing, their response wiped them out altogether. Since that time, I periodically remind myself of how frightening those three years were and remind myself of how precious life truly is. I enjoy life so much now and I sometimes wonder, if I had not lived through that experience with Jason, would I be as grateful for all that I have. To me, life seems positively magical. I wouldn't say that I am happy to have gone through that, but I will say that I have learned from it. The abuse I experienced within that relationship left scars which still affect me even now . . . almost fifteen years later. I start to panic when my husband is silent and scramble around trying to figure out what is wrong and what I have done. Usually, I can catch myself before that gets too weird, but not always. I'm hyper-sensitive to any kind criticism and a remark that's even slightly negative has the potential to leave me feeling like a failure in every area of my life. I can barely think straight when someone yells at me and I have developed a somewhat warped definition of "yelling." There are times that I can't even tolerate people raising their voice at all. It can shut me down completely. Still, I developed a lot of positive skills as well. Marie's Story I met Jake just as a new chapter in my life had begun. It was the summer of 1994. I had recently and rather unexpectedly recovered from a serious illness that had consumed me for ten years. I had left my husband . . . not because he was a horrible person or anything, just because he was part of that other life I was trying to leave behind. I was a different person than the woman to whom he had been married for all of those years. I was healthy and excited about everything around me. I needed to fly. 81 It was a very strange and vulnerable place to be. I had taken my daughter, Melissa, with me and she was not coping well with the separation. So I was really torn. I was concerned about Melissa and felt extremely guilty for what I was putting her through. I also felt horrible for leaving Peter after he had taken such good care of me. However, my enthusiasm could not be contained and I knew that I had made the right decision. I felt like a teenager whose feet were barely touching the ground. I couldn't wait for my next new experience. I started going out and partying a lot. I was meeting many interesting people. Then, one day at about two o'clock in the morning, I came home find Jake standing right in front of my door. He was just standing there in the parking lot with a bottle of beer. He was young and tall and attractive. He took my breath away. He was staying with my neighbour and we just started talking. He invited me in and we spent the whole night drinking and laughing and having fun. The drinking and partying and having fun continued all summer long. Although I thought it was strange that this guy who was thirteen years younger than me was so interested in spending time with me, I cast all of my cares to the wind. I desperately wanted to run away from my past and my illness. Jake seemed the perfect companion for that sort of journey. He was so "devil may care, let's party, everybody have a good time." He made me believe that I didn't have to care about anything. For a while, I really didn't. For about four months, I lived an incredibly hedonistic life. We partied all of the time with different people almost every night. I started smoking again. I started drinking huge quantities of a lcohol . . . to the point that I was making myself sick. I followed Jake into a self-destructive world of excess and oblivion. For me, the insanity came to a grinding halt in September. I had a teaching appointment with the university, was returning to graduate studies, and was ready to clean up. For Jake, the 82 story was quite different and the summer party vibe continued. It took me a while to notice that he wasn't stopping or even slowing down. In fact, he had taken things to an even more aggressive mode. He was pretty out of control. By October or November, I was becoming really concerned — frightened actually. I realized that he had a very serious drinking problem. I was also concerned about how this was impacting my daughter. Although I had managed to keep my life with Jake quite separate from my life with Melissa, I had begun to notice that he wasn't very nice to her. I also realized that he was verbally abusive. He treated me very badly and I tried to call off the relationship on several occasions. I knew it wasn't healthy. Of course, I was already in love with him by this point. So he would cry, or do something incredibly nice, or promise to change and I would take him back. This pattern formed the basis of our relationship. It was like some sort of sick dance that we perfected as the years went on. He became more and more abusive and I became more and more creative about the reasons I would invent to forgive him. At the beginning though, I still felt as i f I was in control. I had my senses about me and would stick up for myself. He wasn't living with us and I think that helped me to keep things in perspective and hold onto myself. So, when he'd come over and expect me to serve him, do his laundry, clean up after him, cook his meals, whatever, I still had enough sense to be irritated. However, that didn't ever seem to get me very far. He'd shut me down a lot and make fun of me. I was academic and a feminist. So we'd get into arguments, but Jake's form of arguing was simply to make fun of me and my concerns. He would dismiss it. I'd want to engage and address the issues, but he'd call me "teacher girl" and he thought it was funny. So he put me down as always trying to teach. Teach. Now, looking back, I realize he was being defensive. At the time, I didn't know what to make of 83 it or how to handle it. I was baffled. I was used to people who would converse and argue in an intelligent fashion. I was not used to engaging with a person who was either drunk or stoned for each and every debate. I was used to having my opinions carefully considered. I was not used to being dismissed and totally stonewalled. However, I believed I could handle the situation. I still had some self-respect and felt I was in control. I was still standing up for myself and was still able to realize when he was treating me badly. Focussing on my career and my students also helped to keep things in balance. Teaching gave me an outlet, an escape. It kept me safe. I obviously had some sense of what was going on because I decided to end the relationship. Right before Melissa and I left for a trip to Calgary, I told Jake that it was over. It was such a relief. I was really proud of myself for getting free and for protecting my daughter. I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. We were gone for about two weeks and had a great time. We returned home to begin the next chapter of my life. It is a chapter that I barely authored. I witnessed its unfolding from behind a curtain of thick, grey fog. While we had been away, Jake had gone crazy. He went on a huge binge and ended up getting into trouble with the police. He had apparently gotten totally wasted and had stolen his landlord's car. He was heading downtown to look at prostitutes, but was arrested when he smashed up the car. What actually transpired I'll never really know. I suspect he intended to do more than "look" at prostitutes. However, all of this came out years later. The story I received from Jake at the time was an incredibly persuasive work of fiction. He explained that he had been so upset about the breakup that he went on a massive binge. He said this made him realize that he had a drinking problem and had decided to join a treatment program for alcoholics. In 84 actuality, it was mandated by the court or was something his lawyer suggested he do to improve his case. I knew nothing about the court case at all. To me, he just said that he was sorry and that he couldn't live without me. That's how it was packaged. He said he was cleaning up because he wanted to start a life with me and Melissa. I knew nothing of the other stuff. The reality is that his landlord had evicted him, he didn't have a job, and he needed a place to live. Melissa and I were the perfect solution. So, he told me what he knew I would want to hear. He said he loved me and that he wanted to change. I believed him. I had hope. I was proud of him for finally making some healthy decisions. I was very supportive of him. I was being strong. I loved him and respected him. I was also proud of myself in a way. I was strong enough to stick it out. You know, here I was, helping somebody I loved and maybe I was a good woman and a good person and a good partner too. So I took it as a bit of a personal success as well. Ultimately, the beginning of our life together was based entirely on this lie — a huge deception. He moved in with us but, as I probably should have predicted, things didn't change. Jake went through the first step of his program which involves group lectures and awareness films. However, when the time came for him to begin one-to-one therapy, he decided that he didn't need to continue. By this point, he hadn't had a drink for about four months. I was really torn. My gut told me that he would really benefit from counselling. However, I also had tremendous compassion for him. You don't emotionally abuse somebody because you have a really happy, healthy life. He was . . . he is a victim of very severe childhood abuse and I knew that. For me, that was a pretty powerful hook. My own family of origin had been abusive and alcoholic. There are all sorts of reasons I could relate to Jake. I could understand. I could be gentle with him. I just really wanted to love him and wanted him to love me. A l l of this allowed me to 85 excuse a lot. ' His refusal to continue with the program and to get help was a huge red flag for me. He may not have been drinking, but he was constantly stoned. He'd smoke seven or eight joints a day. He was barely with me. So, even if he had suppressed his alcohol addiction, his pot consumption had skyrocketed. I tried to persuade him to get help, but he constantly shut it down. I felt powerless. I knew something was really wrong, but I stuffed it. I pushed myself down. This is when the dance really began and I became truly co-dependent. Everything about Jake started becoming the centre of everything in this home and to me. I started mediating reality for him even. That's what really good co-dependents do. What I mean by that is here's Jake and here's my daughter, Melissa. I created their relationship for them. I made sure I was in the middle and when Melissa would say, "Mom, I'm afraid of Jake. What's wrong? He doesn't like me, does he mommy?" I'd say, "No, no, no. Jake really loves you dear. He just has a hard time expressing himself." You know. Just assure Melissa of his love, but he never expressed his love for her. He never hugged her or said he loved her, but I made it up. I created it. Then, to Jake, when he'd be really angry at Melissa saying, "Melissa's spoiled. She's a little bitch. She runs the whole house," or whatever, I'd say, "Oh Jake. She really loves you and needs her father." So I was involved in the lie or the unreality of it. It was an exhausting role. I was interpreting for everyone and creating harmony. This went on for years, but Jake is very smart and he could always sense when I was getting so exhausted that I was ready to seriously throw in the towel. There were at least three . times that I said, "That's it. Out! I can't do this anymore. I can't. You're not doing anything. You're not dealing with anything. I'm doing all of it. For everybody." So then he'd do 86 something like ask me to marry him. Of course, I believed him. I'd think that he truly loved me and needed me, but my needs became nonexistent. It was like I was neutered from my neck down. I later came to realize that I had been suffering from emotional starvation. A counsellor once explained to me that emotional abuse is not just people yelling at you or doing some sort of overt action. He explained that neglect or purposeful withdrawal of affection and affirmation and encouragement and withholding of what should be forthcoming is also abusive. That's what Jake did. Although he did stuff that was really disrespectful, it was his complete emotional disassociation that hurt me the most. He played a very smart game. He'd dangle little carrots or throw little crumbs. Just enough to keep us hanging there, but never enough to feed us. Never, ever feed us. Promises and pretenses that he was somehow a husband and a father, but that wasn't genuine. It never felt genuine. When his daughter Jolene came to stay with us, things got really strange. The two girls would fight terribly for his attention and I felt really threatened by Jolene, an eleven year old kid. I felt suspicious of her all the time. I now realize that it was because he gave all of us so little that we would fight for the crumbs while he kept everyone at arm's length. His abusive behaviour permeated every aspect of our relationship, even our sex life. He was addicted to pornography. I never liked it. I find it demeaning. I would try to explain to him that I found it really insensitive that he would insist on having this stuff in the house, but he didn't seem to care. He compulsively masturbated. Morning, afternoon, and night. He'd go into the bathroom and masturbate. Then, he'd come out and tell me about it. This made me feel really alone and rejected. I'm very liberal and open-minded, but I don't believe masturbation should take the place of full sexual relations with your wife. His sexual fantasies were also 87 hurtful to me. They were all about power. His sexual fantasies were always about giving me to another man. I kept saying, "I don't like this. Please can we not do this. It's degrading to me. It means you don't want me. It means you're abusing power over me and that's what's getting you off sexually. Jake, there's something wrong. This isn't healthy." It was incredibly painful. However, the sick dance continued. I would express my feelings, but would also ignore again. I'd give voice to my pain, but then I'd permit him to abuse me. I'd allow it because I loved him and because I was already under this co-dependent spell. It really was like living in a fog. He had tremendous power, without speaking anything. That's the point. It was so confusing. He didn't need to say a word to have me spinning. I'd always be like, "Jake, what's wrong? What do you need? What can I give you? How can I help?," and he would just make fun of me. I'd suggest that we talk about our relationship and he'd swear at me and say stuff like, "What is this Mad About YouT He was very condescending. I was constantly second-guessing myself so that I'd wonder if I was the crazy one. It really was like living in a heavy fog . . . like the living dead. A zombie. Always feeling as i f something was really wrong and occasionally mustering up enough energy to say "Stop it!," and I would. I would get angry and frustrated sometimes. I would say, "Come on. This is wrong. This isn't reality. You need help. We need help." However, fighting with him required a lot of energy and he would always turn it around and tell me that I was the one who needed help. He was a master of deflecting everything back onto me, constantly back on me. It was so exhausting. By the end of it, I didn't know north from south from east from west. I was so confused and incredibly disoriented. I couldn't even tell what's right and what's wrong, who's crazy, who's healthy, whatever. Much to my amazement, Jake left me. There was no warning at all. It was Good Friday 88 and I had gone into work. When I returned, Melissa was waiting for me at the door. It was my fifteen-year-old daughter who had to bear the weight of the news. He had packed up all of his things early in the morning and had stormed out of the house while she hid in the bathroom. It was Melissa who found the note he left on the bed . . . a tiny, short, little note that said, "I've been thinking that we should separate for a long time now, but I don't know how to do it. Jake." It was Melissa who had to sit there all day and think of a way to tell me that my husband was gone. To this day, it is that final act of cruelty that continues to break my heart. I feel so guilty for bringing that man into my daughter's life because he treated her really badly, because he treated me really badly, and because I allowed my daughter to grow up witnessing her mom getting mistreated like that. That's just not a good thing for your girl to witness. Ironically, I think that kept me in the relationship. I had to make the relationship work. It became really obsessive with me. I had to make it work because of what I did to Melissa and her dad. I already felt guilty about that. It's funny because, once the abuse starts, there's an investment there and you have to make your investment pay off. Somehow. The stakes keep going up and up. People always say, "Why didn't she leave? Why didn't she leave him?," but the bottom line is that the stakes go up and all you really want is to make it better. If you let it go and if you do walk away at that certain point, then it's all bad. There's nothing at all to redeem it. Looking back, I still attempt to redeem my relationship with Jake. It's tough. Even his decision to leave really shouldn't have surprised me. You see, I had left my teaching position six months earlier because that situation had become unbearable. I was second in-command to a woman who was incredibly difficult. She mistreated the other instructors and I was constantly 89 having to mediate the conflicts she would create. Everybody was afraid of her. I couldn't handle the environment any longer. Jake supposedly supported my decision to leave. However, we soon ended up in major debt and Jake was doing nothing to assume responsibility for our finances. He continued to spend money on gambling and drugs. He ultimately left when the money was gone. He operates strictly according to the pleasure principle and the party had officially ended. He left when we were twelve thousand dollars in debt. I had a part-time job and a daughter to support. Despite all of this, my first thoughts were of him and his well-being. When Melissa told me he had left, my immediate reaction was to wonder if he was alright. It's quite amazing really. Everybody else said, "Oh. What a coward." Which he was. "How could he do this?" Well, exactly. "What kind of man would do this? Would abandon his wife and child?" Of course. A l l of that was absolutely true and the whole world around me was angry on my behalf. However, nothing anybody else was saying to me made any sense to me at that point. I was going, "But he's my husband. I love him. I need to help him. What if he's hurt? What if he's in the hospital?" I was that far away from reality. It didn't help that I had become so isolated. Over the years, I had lost touch with my friends. Of course, he had no friends either. He'd say he didn't want to get together with other people because there would be alcohol. He didn't want to drink and that seemed honourable to me, but we got more and more isolated and he smoked more and more pot. Nobody ever came to our home and we never visited anybody else. I'd go out to visit with a couple who lived in the neighbourhood, just two doors away, and he'd get angry at me for doing that. He'd tell me that I was supposed to be with the family and with him. I was in an absolute fog. So that when the ending came, I was just spinning. I didn't 90 even realize. You see, when you're being abused you don't know it. You don't know you're in it until you get quite far out of it and you look back. Now I can see and I know it's true. It's true. It's all true. I knew something was wrong, but I stuffed my own feelings. I stuffed my own fears. I stuffed my own needs. Sometimes I'd get angry and frustrated, but I spent most of my time and energy just begging him to give me attention and affection. He'd always complain that I was too needy. It made me feel as though there was something wrong with me — something wrong with a woman who needed her husband's love, attention, and affection. Not only did I not get anything in return, but I really feel there was a sadistic . . . a purposeful withholding of affection. He truly seemed to enjoy observing me squirm. That may sound weird, but I saw it happen. It was like an evil. Like he knew darn well what he was doing. I should have been relieved when he left, but I wasn't. I was devastated and desperate. I believed that I urgently needed him. We got back together six months after he left. We stayed together for about six months, but it was worse than ever. He had his little bachelor pad and I would run over there. I was like a little dog. It was pathetic. I would throw myself at him. I tried everything just to save the marriage. I had invested so much in him and in the relationship, but I was reduced to putty. I was pulverized. It was disgusting. I had lost all self-respect. I had no dignity left. Deep down inside, I know I really loved Jake. That's true, but it doesn't mean I was damaged any less by the experience. When he called it off again, I was deeply wounded and still in a complete fog. I still wasn't ready to let go. He spiralled further and further down while I watched helplessly. He has started drinking again. He's been using crystal meth and crack. He's been involved with many women, even teenagers. He's so far into debt that he'll never come out. He's gone into a horrible, horrible spiral down which is probably the place he was 91 heading when we met. I guess I gave him a reprieve from that for a few years. I remained heavily invested in him for a long time and we actually got back together on more than one occasion. I ended it the last time by going to his house and hammering on the door to tell him that it was over. I just knew, finally knew, that he was lying and that things between us weren't going to improve. I still have an indirect relationship with him because of Jolene, but I no longer seek him out. Jolene lives with her grandmother, but comes to stay with us just about every other weekend. Our relationship, Jolene and Melissa and me and his mom . . . the four of us are his victims and we're just doing great. There's been a lot of healing. The counselling program I entered has been hugely helpful and has helped me to stay strong. It has helped me to understand my own patterns and has allowed me to forgive Jake in a very productive and healthy way. The other thing that has been fundamental to my survival is Jesus. I was bom again just about two years ago. After Jake left, I was suicidal and I gave it to Jesus. I prayed one night. I had done some reading and I prayed and Jesus spoke into my heart and said, "Marie, you haven't been forsaken and I have a surprise for you." This is a born again experience so you may or may not believe it, but he lifted me out of my sleep and spoke those words deep into my heart and I woke the next day thinking, "It's Christmas. I feel like it's Christmas morning. I feel like there's so much out there. So much to get excited about." Although I've gone back and forth in the healing and grieving process, Jesus has given me what I need to survive. I've made some really good friends through church and I haven't had to give up my compassion which is really great. I've forgiven Jake. I understand. I really understand where he's coming from. I'm a completely different person than I've ever been. I have been able to process the pain and anger in a really constructive way so that really good things are coming 92 out of it. I know now that my influence and the love that I have in my heart for Jake was never wrong, despite the fact that the rest of the world might see it differently. I know that I am not the person who was at fault, nor were these children and his mom. The love I have in my heart is not a weakness. Jake used to laugh at my sensitivity, but it's helping these girls. It is a strength. It's a strength that he would manipulate. It is a strength that I have re-claimed. Looking back, I realize how much of myself I lost by being so fully invested in him. It has taken me a long time to really see it and to confront it, but I think that's how it is for some women. You have to get to that place where you can no longer deny how bad it is. How really, really bad it is. Only then can you start turning things around. It is that moment when you realize that everything in your life has become distant, muted, irrelevant. It's like looking through vaseline on a camera lens. This has all been really hard work, but it has been a growing experience. Working through this has helped me deal with the pain of my childhood and lots of other things. It has taught me that you do not stuff or push down warning flags. You just don't do it. I can now say with confidence that I will never be in this kind of relationship again. You bet I won't! And it's not from bitterness or anger. It's because I know what I know now. Shayne's Story It was the spring of 1992. I was doing a research paper for one of my women's studies courses. I had selected violence against women as the somewhat daunting subject of my discussion. One of the books I had stumbled upon was Ginny NiCarthy's Getting Free. I was moved by her voice and her approach. It was exciting to hear her presentation. I was furiously scribbling notes and cross-referencing when I turned to the very last chapter in the book. It was a chapter on emotional abuse and it stopped me dead in my tracks. Of course, like everyone, I had 93 heard the term before. Of course, like everyone, I had never really given it much thought. Emotional abuse. Sounds pretty straight forward. It's when people are mean to you ~ yelling, shouting, criticizing — that kind of stuff. There didn't seem to be much to understand. At least that's what I thought before reading this chapter. In the book, emotional abuse is included almost as a footnote or afterthought. I almost didn't bother reading it. For my paper, I was concerned with the heavy stuff. Real violence. Still, I was intrigued. It was here that I was first introduced to the reality of this form of abuse. NiCarthy uses terms like crazy-making and isolation to characterize this experience. She skilfully demonstrates that emotional abuse often includes the enforcement of trivial demands along with the occasional indulgement of wishes. A l l of these descriptions caused lightbulbs to turn on inside my head. I was taken back to my first serious relationship and suddenly everything made sense. It was as if someone had seen into my heart and written on paper all of the horrible little things I had lived through for four whole years. The information was presented in a way that I had never previously considered. When the relationship ended, I felt deflated, desiccated, discarded. A l l kinds of nasty "d" words. I felt small, confused, and insubstantial. Even my voice, when I chose to use it, sounded fragile and my tone was tentative. I was a ghost of the vibrant person I had been just a few years earlier. It had never even occurred to me that I had experienced abuse within that relationship. However, reading chapter 24 in Getting Free changed my mind. I felt relieved and validated. I felt a little piece of myself return. It was a piece that I hadn't even realized was missing. I was so excited. My relationship with Blake started in high school. It was the end of grade ten. We were both fifteen. We had a lot in common and the world around us seemed to have decided that we should be together. My friends, his friends, even teachers seemed to be conspiring by casting 94 him as Romeo and me as Juliet in a school production. It was fate. Twisted fate. In any event, we started dating. For the first few months, things went well. We were truly just getting to know one another. It's strange because, even then, I felt as though I was just being carried along. I didn't really feel as though I had chosen Blake. I was just going with it. On more than one occasion my friends talked me out of breaking up with him. They kept reminding me that he was attractive and smart and funny. They continuously pointed out that we both played volleyball and loved kayaking and had lots of other common interests. Blah, blah, blah. I was convinced. I felt they might be right. I was willing to go along with this little experiment. I was still having fun at this point and Blake really was quite something. By the fall, things had shifted slightly. We had been together for about six months and we were spending a lot of time together. He had become more critical and little things seemed to annoy him. This attitude extended to my friends and family. He didn't enjoy spending time with any of them. When we did get together with my friends, he would be so sullen or moody that it made everybody else uncomfortable. I never had a good time because I was either trying to keep Blake entertained or was busy apologizing for him. He became the absolute centre of my attention. It was exhausting. Soon, I was spending less and less time with the people I cared about. Blake and I both had school, work, and sports. When we weren't doing these things, we were together. Just the two of us. We would walk to and from school together. We would do homework together. We would watch each other's practices and games. We would try to make sure that our work schedules coincided. My world became incredibly small. Within this festering little cocoon, I found increasingly less joy. Blake started teasing me about my appearance and making fun of my accomplishments. Anything at all to cut me down. I 95 was suffocating. With no one around to help me counter those little attacks, I soon started to lose perspective. My self-esteem spiralled to an unprecedented low. By the time we graduated from high school, I barely knew what was real. I've heard others describe the experience as being trapped inside a black hole or a toxic fog. Those expressions certainly reflect my own experience. It is as if I was cut off from space and time. Although the world continued to do its thing, I was no longer a part of it. I felt disconnected from everyone and everything. Things went from bad to worse when high school ended and we started university. My friends naturally dispersed and I saw less of them than ever. I didn't even have volleyball or other team sports anymore. A l l I had was school, work, and Blake. I felt completely alone and became more dependent than ever on Blake. I wouldn't just look to him for company or to keep me entertained. I looked to him to make decisions for me and to tell me what to think. This is all very ridiculous and, when I look back, I still can't believe I sunk that low. I had always been intelligent and had very strong opinions. However, two years into this relationship, I found myself completely silenced. Not only my voice, but my brain. I was like a computer. I'd sit there, idling in a neutral state, with my cursor flashing, trying to draw Blake's attention so that I could receive his next command. Do this. Think that. Like a computer, I didn't question anything he said. I did it. If he didn't come, I'd still just sit there and wait. I think that's why that period of my life is so foggy. So much time passed, but I can hardly remember any of it. Everything is grey. I spent an unbelievable amount of time just waiting for Blake. I became a master of waiting. I waited for him at work. He'd have me pick him up from the restaurant where he worked. However, he'd get me to come an hour or two before he was scheduled to get off, "just 96 in case" he was able to get away early. He never did. He was especially insistent when he worked the Friday or Saturday evening shift. My friends would go out to parties and I would sit there in the parking lot, listening to my car stereo and waiting for Blake. He never wanted me to come inside and wait because he felt it would be seen by the management as "unprofessional." It didn't matter i f it was freezing cold outside or i f he wasn't off until two in the morning. I'd sit there in the car and wait to drive him home and drop him off. Usually he would be "too tired" for me to even come inside. He was smart though. He seemed to sense when I was about to suddenly grow a backbone because he'd say thank you or be really appreciative and affectionate. I waited for him after class. It didn't matter that I had a million papers to write. I'd have to set up camp outside his classroom so that he would know where I was at all times. He would test me too. He'd occasionally leave class to make sure I was out there . . . alone . . . waiting for him. On one occasion, I had left to go to the washroom. Of course, that was the time he decided to come out and check on me. When he didn't see me, I guess he lost it. He went back into class, grabbed his stuff, and left. I waited for him until his class ended and only then did I realize that he had already disappeared. What I didn't realize until much later is that he had left with my car keys. He had taken my car and left campus. I spent at least six hours trying to piece everything together. I eventually concocted some weak cover story and bummed a ride home from my friend. It was humiliating. The most embarrassing part of all is that I left him about twenty messages apologizing for having left my designated spot. I cried, and grovelled, and begged him to forgive me for worrying and disappointing him. I promised to never do it again. He eventually dropped my car off at around three in the morning. I waited for him to forgive me. He would arbitrarily decide that it was time to punish me. 97 It was like a game to him. He took sadistic pleasure in watching me scramble around. He'd make me guess what I had done to upset him. I'd suggest any far-fetched atrocity that would come to my mind. When I couldn't guess correctly, we both took it as a further sign of my inadequacy. It made both of us believe that he was a saint to put up with me. He would constantly say things to further support that theory. He'd tell me that his parents and friends felt he should break up with me. When he was feeling really cruel, he'd tell me that he was wondering if they were correct. He'd then go for hours (or days i f the transgression was serious) without speaking to me. As the years went by, he got more creative with his punishment and control. He'd take me to clubs where he knew I would never get in. He was a few months older than me and I got asked for ID everywhere I went. He'd go in anyway and would phone me at five in the morning, wasted, and tell me what a great time he'd had. He'd tell me how much he had to drink and how all these hot girls were trying to take him home. Either that or he wouldn't phone me for a couple of days. He'd then play these mind trip games on me and wouldn't tell me what he had been doing. It was infuriating because I usually knew he had gone home alone. My friends would have seen him leave the club or one of his friends would mention that they had dumped him on his front porch at two o'clock in the morning. Yet he'd still play these games. We both knew he was lying, but he insisted on torturing me. It was like he wanted to see how far I would go before I couldn't take it any longer. In addition to all of these insanities, he would insist that I earn my way back into his good books. This is where his perverse creativity was truly demonstrated. My penance could involve something really simple like listening to his radio station when we drove to school or making 98 him his favourite meal. It might also involve shopping for his mother's birthday so he'd have a gift for her or calling off a date I had made to meet my friend for coffee. A l l of these things supposedly proved how much I loved him and allowed him to overlook my many imperfections. Even more insidious was his use of sex. He used it as an extremely effective weapon. He had quite an extensive repertoire. He would flirt with other women in front of me or would point out women that he thought were especially attractive. He'd make a point of blatantly staring at women who would walk by. He stepped things up after a while and started going to strip clubs and peeler bars. He'd invite me to come along and would make fun of me when I would decline. He'd start having sex with me when I was asleep or would refuse to use any kind of protection. He'd rent pornographic videos and insist that I watch them with him. He'd also get me to act out scenes for him. The more demeaning the act, the more he seemed to get off. That whole side of our relationship got so warped that I would often be the one who was suggesting that we have sex. It's truly bizarre. I had convinced myself that this proved he was attracted to me and wanted to be with me. Having sex was the one time that I felt I had his attention and affection. Of course, he used my desperation as his window of opportunity and would withhold even sexual contact just to see me squirm. This whole story ends with him leaving me. Any other reader might have seen that coming, but I didn't. I was positively stunned. He left me because I was "too boring, too needy, too depressing." I couldn't argue. I was all of those things and I was devastated. In actuality, I believe he left when he had emptied me. He had brought me to my limit and I had nothing left for him to take. It wasn't exciting for him any longer because he knew he had already stolen everything. The game was over. He had won. He had entirely possessed my spirit. I certainly 99 didn't know this at the time. I thought I'd never find anyone who would put up with me. I thought I'd never find anyone as wonderful as Blake. He had become the absolute centre of my universe. So, I was positively stunned when my friends started calling to congratulate me on getting free. I couldn't understand why my parents were so excited. I couldn't understand at all. It took several days for the fog to lift, but it did and I found that I could continue breathing. Life would go on. In fact, I found that I could breathe more deeply than I had for a long time. My pulse rate gradually returned to normal and I started sleeping more peacefully. I had been living in a state of hyper-arousal for many years — always walking on eggshells and completely anxiety-ridden. The other scars took a lot longer to heal. I gradually regained the ability to think and act for myself. My self-esteem slowly returned. However, it wasn't until I read Ginny NiCarthy's book, three years after the relationship had ended, that I truly felt myself again. Laura's Story The story of psychological abuse within my life has several chapters. In fact, it's been with me so long that I barely know where to begin. I grew up in a small town on the east coast. It was a community in which men and women worked hard every day. It is a community with traditional values in which men and women live very separate lives. Men labour together and have a very communal existence. Women raise the children and look after the home. Women are strong and stoic. Their opinions are rarely solicited and rarely expressed. This is especially true outside the home and in mixed company. The town resonates with male voices while women tend to quietly go about their business. My own mother subscribed to this way of life. As I girl, I watched her and somehow learned that this was what was expected of me. I watched 100 as she moved through life taking whatever was thrown at her. I watched as she tolerated the cruel treatment of the man who seemed to have omnipotence over our world — her husband, my step-father. The psychological abuse of women by men was the standard in my community and in my home. I just came to believe that this was normal and acceptable. In fact, I didn't even question that assumption. It was as much a part of my life as eating, breathing, and sleeping. Through this experience, I learned that it was important to move silently through life and to not attract attention to myself. With women, things were a little easier and I found that I was more free to be myself. However, even that involved some negotiation. You couldn't be too outspoken or too flashy. There was an unseen, but ever-present line that you just couldn't cross without being criticized or ostracized. Still, I learned the dance that women do with one another and seemed to innately understand the rules of the games they play. As a result, I have always managed to surround myself with wonderful, angelic women. I have had a less impressive track record with men. I was tall and naturally outgoing. I attracted attention without even trying. I had to constantly suppress my spirit just to fit in. I became so accomplished at doing this that my self-esteem was virtually erased. In my town, there were "good girls" and "bad girls." The good girls played by the rules. They learned to make perfect pie crusts, they leafed through bridal magazines and dreamt of getting married, they helped their mothers with housework, they visited elderly relatives, and went to church. They learned to be super-caregivers. The bad girls listened to loud music, wore make-up and tight jeans, hung out with boys until all hours of the night, and went to bars. They learned to attract the attention of men and withstand the scrutiny of the good girls. Although I could play both roles, I felt trapped between extremes which never truly fit for 101 me. I sometimes felt as though I were sleepwalking through life . . . always a little confused and unsure of myself. The good girl role made me feel suffocated, but the bad girl role was equally challenging in its own way. Both left me unfulfilled. These prescriptive categories ultimately taught me to relate to men in ways that had little to do with intellect, creativity, and equality. As a good girl, my world was full of women. I observed men from a careful distance. As a bad girl, my world was full of men who were primarily interested in sex. My world expanded when I left for university. There, I managed to see possibilities beyond those which were manifest within my hometown. I learned to question the traditional value system with which I had grown up and learned to critically evaluate some of the more insidious beliefs that kept women from stepping onto an equal plane with men. However, I did all of this from a very academic perspective. It was a scientific assessment, far removed from my own life. I didn't truly explore my own experience of oppression and psychological abuse. I studied violence in relation to other people. I didn't even consider how it had shaped my world or impacted me on a personal level. I finished school and returned home. In a lot of ways, it felt as if I had never left. University and my time away seemed to have been just a dream. I was instantly sucked back into old patterns and allowed others' expectations of me to guide my path. Still something had shifted within me. Just a tiny bit. I found that I had developed a certain strength and greater awareness. These things protected me in the years to come. I began a career that I enjoyed. This also helped to protect me and kept me from being sucked completely into a world in which women eventually stop dreaming. I started working with people with developmental disabilities. It is a field for which I am ideally suited. I am a natural caregiver and felt I had something to 102 contribute. I became involved with a wonderful man who loved me more than anything else in the world. Despite a genuine affinity and mutual respect, the relationship was not perfect. Shawn was an addict. This caused for major complications. We stayed together for eight years. He was quite progressive compared to most of the men in town. For example, he took me to the bar to hang out. Although this may seem like such a little thing, it was actually a big deal. Most men wouldn't allow their partners to come with them. It was considered to be the territory of men and the "bad girls" I mentioned. Shawn didn't care about that kind of stuff. He saw me as a person and just wanted us to have a good life together. He encouraged me. He told me that I was a wonderful singer and that I was beautiful. The fact that Shawn was not handcuffed by tradition and the fact that he was different from the other men I knew, gave me hope. In the end, I left him. Not because he didn't love me, not because of his addiction, not because he didn't treat me well. I left because I knew life with Shawn wasn't all I was meant to have. I couldn't ever see myself marrying him, buying a house, having children, and living happily ever after. I knew that I would always feel as though I had missed out on something. Ironically, Shawn gave me the strength to walk away. He gave me just enough confidence and self-worth to ask for more. To demand more for myself. I wasn't sure I deserved more, but I knew I had to try. Although I still have occasional pangs of guilt about leaving Shawn, I know I did the right thing. My life went on and I ultimately left my home community far behind. I moved to the opposite side of the country. No matter how far I travelled, I took with me a version of the values with which I had grown up. I took with me a rather warped sense of self and a skewed sense of engenderment. I still had incredibly low self-esteem and this influenced many of the important decisions I made in life, not all, but many. It certainly impacted the way I chose to 103 take care of myself and the relationships into which I entered. The relationship that actually made me respond to this study occurred at a time when my life had spiralled to its lowest point. I was living here in Vancouver — far, far away from home. I had a full-time job working with people with disabilities. Although I loved my job, things weren't going all that well for me. Things were pretty stressful at work. We were dealing with a lot of intense situations every single day. I was in major debt. This was a new experience for me. When I lived back east with either Shawn or my family, there was always enough money to go around. I didn't like living from paycheque to paycheque, but couldn't quite seem to ever get on top of the payments I had to make. My credit cards were maxed out and I had eroded all of my savings. It was an extremely uncomfortable and vulnerable feeling. I had gone through a series of short-term relationships. I was partying a lot. Essentially, my life was as out of control as it had ever been. This, of course, is when Darren sauntered into my life. Darren was wild and exciting. He was physically beautiful and I was attracted to him as soon as we met. Our connection was electric. Rather than helping to ground me or settle my life, Darren took me on an even crazier ride than the one I had been on. The initial excitement and passion were so intense that I was blinded to a lot of the holes that actually existed in our relationship. Darren was more in debt than me. He was less responsible. He went from job to job, never really knowing how long his employment would last. He had a daughter from a previous relationship. She lived back in Ontario. He never saw her and was extremely sporadic in terms of the money he sent and contact he had. He had survived a very traumatic childhood in which he had been placed in foster care and had probably suffered sexual abuse. Still, I couldn't walk away from him. If anything, all of these things kept me more committed to him than I 104 might otherwise have been. Oddly enough, I think took him on as a bit of a project. I felt sorry for him. I could relate to much of the childhood pain he had endured. I had studied psychology and was, of course, an extraordinary caregiver. He gave me purpose and gave me just enough back to keep pouring my energy into him. He was a beautiful distraction from my own pain and the chaos of my own life. Very quickly, our lives became entirely enmeshed. Although we didn't officially live together, he was always at my place. He lived in horrible conditions. I couldn't even stand being at his place. So, he moved more and more of his things to my apartment and we spent more and more time together. The freedom that I had enjoyed started to disappear. I was used to coming and going as I pleased. Now I found myself answering to someone else and constantly factoring someone else's needs into my plans. I dismissed my concerns by telling myself it was just a natural course for all new relationships. My home had always been a sanctuary. It was a clean, quiet place to which I could retreat when the outside world got to be too much. Now I was sharing that space. I was sharing it with a man whose living standards were far less than my own. It started to feel less like a retreat and more like a place to which I would have to return so that I could check in. I felt a little like I imagine prisoners must feel when they have to return to their cell after being out on a day pass. I don't know. Maybe that's a bit dramatic, but I knew my life was changing. Like most of the women I know who have been in psychologically abusive relationships, the erosion of the good stuff was pretty gradual. As time went on, the good stuff eroded and left space for more toxic stuff to creep in. It's a sneaky process though. Darren started to become more and more demanding. He would complain when I wanted to spend time with my friends. If I chose to go out without him, he would make my life entirely 105 miserable. He'd get angry or sulk. He'd accuse me of being neglectful. Eventually the aftermath got to be so unpleasant and emotionally draining that I started to avoid the conflict. I would stay with Darren and we would do what he wanted to do. We became incredibly isolated. His compliments turned to criticisms, carefully constructed ones, never utter disapproval. Always . implying that if I tried just a little harder, I could be what he wanted or needed me to be. This kept me reeling. I bought into it. It is so hard to understand how it happened. My only explanation is that he was a master at his craft and that my self-esteem was so low that I couldn't effectively protect myself. Even now I wonder how much of Darren's abuse was calculated. In some ways, it's easier for me to excuse it by believing that he was a victim — a victim of a horrible childhood. He was a victim of having not had enough love and unconditional acceptance in his life. The abuse he inflicted upon me was a product of his own experiences. That makes it easier to forgive him. However, I'm not sure. Our relationship became incredibly unhealthy. I was at a place where I barely recognized myself. I felt trapped within this small, unpleasant life. However, I convinced myself that it was what I wanted and what I deserved. Even the things that had been wonderful at the beginning were gone. I had always enjoyed sex with Darren. That had been one of the more powerful elements of our initial attraction. However, even this had become less satisfying. He had a certain deviance about him. Coupled with the fact that I was feeling less attractive to him than I had once had, sex started to make me feel incredibly uncomfortable and even frighted. He'd want me to act out scenarios of rape or those in which I would take on the role of a young girl. I found myself on very shaky ground. Oddly enough, things had become so warped that part of me would crave sexual attention from him. Even though I dreaded it, I was somehow reassured that 106 he still wanted me. When we had been together for almost two years, Darren received an educational grant of $10000°° through some sort of federal government program for First Nations people. I was excited and felt that this would be an incentive for Darren to move towards some sort of viable career. I truly should have known better. He decided to use the money for extravagant purchases. Specifically, he decided to make a trip to Ontario to visit his daughter. I cautioned him against this and worried that his fraudulent spending of the grant money would get him into major trouble. He didn't care. He saw it as a gift and seemed to believe that he had earned the right to spend the money in whichever way he chose. He begged me to go with him. He said he needed my help and my support. He said it wouldn't be as fun without me and that he didn't want to be away from me for that long. Against my better judgement, I agreed to go. I had absolutely no money. I had just been paid and the entire cheque had gone to pay rent and other bills that were immediately due. My bank account was empty. I told him that I wouldn't even have money to pay for meals or to help cover the expense of hotels or gas. He told me not to worry and that he would take care of everything. I would be contributing enough just by being there with him and by using my credit card to rent the van. Alarm bells were definitely ringing in my head as I handed my Visa to the loaner company, but they were muted by my desire to go and to help Darren. The trip was one of the most awful experiences of my life. However, I am incredibly glad that I went. Darren's true character came out in such vibrant colours that even I could no longer ignore it. Right from the beginning, things between us were not good. I excused his initial moodiness by telling myself that he was just nervous about seeing his daughter for the first time 107 in so many years. As always, I felt I had to take responsibility for his emotional state and his mood. I did my very best to cheer him up and shake him out of the mood he was in. As always, I was unsuccessful. He became even more abusive. I guess this actually meant that my efforts were successful. We had achieved a state of horrible co-dependence and I had played my role perfectly. We ended up in a place where we both felt I had failed him once again. This made him feel entitled to treat me even more horribly and gave me an explanation for his cruel behaviour. Cruel is the only way to describe it. He would do things like stop at restaurants and order himself a huge meal while ordering me just a piece of toast. He'd refuse to buy me even a bottle of water to take in the van. He wouldn't stop when I needed to use the washroom. This one was especially evil. He seemed to take pleasure in watching me squirm and sit there in pain while we passed one washroom after another. It was so bad that by the time we got to Ontario, I had a bladder infection. I honestly went into shock on the way. I could not believe that someone could be so cruel and treat me so badly. I cried and stared out the window for hours. He seemed pleased by this. To top it all off, we'd stop for the night after spending a horrible day together and he'd expect me to have sex with him. I was so numb that I would go along with it. It was unbelievable. It felt like a nightmare. Things got even worse when we arrived in Ontario. For starters, we stayed with the family of his ex-girlfriend. That was weird and uncomfortable, but I was prepared to be open-minded about the situation. They were nice and I felt welcome enough. However, I was not at all prepared for what happened next. We had arrived fairly late in the evening and I took my time getting out of bed the next morning. Darren was already up and I could hear everyone downstairs in the kitchen. I felt pretty disoriented and out of place, but again, I was trying to 108 make the best of things. I headed for the shower and planned to join everyone when I was feeling and looking a little less travel-worn. When I finished a quick shower, I went downstairs to find the entire home deserted. Everyone had disappeared. There was no note. Nobody had even thought to leave me a key or a phone number. Darren had taken the van. He had my wallet and all of my suitcases. I didn't even have any clean clothes to put on. The phone rang a couple of times, but it wasn't Darren. I couldn't believe it. I waited and waited and waited until it finally became apparent that I was on my own for at least the day. I had never been treated so badly in my entire life. I felt so helpless. There were a couple of old friends who I had wanted to contact when we arrived, but the numbers were in my address book in my suitcase. Even if I had them, I don't know if I would have called. I wouldn't even call my mother. I was too ashamed. I could not believe that this man was being so blatantly cruel and abusive. How could I ever explain to anybody how I had allowed myself to end up in this situation? How could I have sunk so low? I was sure they would all judge me. Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse, they did. The brother of Darren's ex came home just after noon. We hadn't yet met and I was sitting in the kitchen wearing a bathrobe that I had found hanging on a hook. My eyes were bloodshot from crying and I was so embarrassed and distraught that I could barely explain what was going on. He was pretty sweet about the whole thing. He told me he had run into Darren earlier in the day. While they had been talking, a girl they both knew came along. It turned out that she was doing some painting in her house and needed some help. Darren offered his services. Fortunately, Jamie had the girl's number. When I summoned up enough courage and the power to speak somewhat rationally, I called the number. The girl answered and her tone further convinced me that things were not as 109 they should be. Darren was furious when he answered. He told me he was doing a job and making some money. He told me he would be home when he finished and then hung up. I called back. At this point I was really angry. I wanted him to drive back or at least go to the van and get me the numbers so I could call my friends. I was hoping to arrange an alternate place to stay. When he answered, he told me to fuck off and to stop being such a bitch. That was it. He slammed the phone down and I didn't see him until about 3:00 that morning. That was the end of my strength. I collapsed and started to cry. I cried for hours. I couldn't stop. He had managed to imprison me. I couldn't have felt anymore helpless or alone. I was hurt and humiliated. I had been abandoned and sadistically abused by the man who supposedly loved me. It was entirely incomprehensible to me. I was so numb that I can barely remember the rest of the trip. We didn't stay very long before heading back west. In desperation, I eventually swallowed my pride and phoned my mother to tell her a version of what was happening. She deposited some money into my bank account. I had also been paid. So, I was feeling a little less trapped. Just breaking the ice and talking to my mother helped. I think that having someone out there who knew at least a little of what I was going through helped me to survive. We made it to Fort M cMurray where both Darren and the van remained. He visited a sister and the van was impounded. I kept going. Darren and I had barely spoken since leaving Ontario. When I told him I was heading home, he didn't argue or try to convince me to stay. He didn't tell me he needed me or wanted me. He didn't thank me for the support I had given him or apologize for being such an asshole. When the time came for me to leave, he refused to even give me a ride to the bus station. He said it was too early in the morning and that he'd see me when he got back to Vancouver. That was it. He rolled over and was probably asleep by the time my taxi pulled up 110 to the door. When I arrived home, I am certain I had shell-shock or post-traumatic stress disorder or something like that. I was numb. I could barely think straight. I was on automatic pilot and was barely managing to get through my days. When I returned to work, I discovered that my supervisor was trying to have me terminated from my position. I couldn't understand what was happening to my life. I loved that job and had poured my heart and soul into it. The betrayal was compounded by the fact that my supervisor had also been a friend. Everywhere I turned, it seemed as though there was somebody waiting to hurt me. A l l of this was going on at the same time. I was still in debt and Darren had returned. He still had things at my place, but our relationship was never the same. I felt there was no stability in my life at all. I wasn't sleeping. I felt sick all of the time. I was stressed beyond belief. My esteem had entirely disappeared and I felt I had no power to improve my situation. My world felt entirely unsafe and I was terrified of what the next day might hold. In the end, I called a stop to life. I had to make everything stop so that I could once again find the strength to breathe and the space to think. I requested an indefinite leave of absence from work, gave notice at my apartment, told Darren I was leaving, and moved back home to live with my mother. My survival instincts kicked in just in time. Returning home quite literally saved my life. Once the numbness wore off and I worked through the embarrassment, I felt bland relief. Things weren't wild or exciting, but I felt safe and that was what I needed more than anything else. Things were familiar. I didn't have to wonder what the next day would bring. I knew who and what were waiting for me around the comer. I could relax. I was there for just over a year. I used the time to heal and recuperate. My mother was surprisingly great about the whole thing. I entered into therapy and that helped I l l tremendously. Gradually, I nurtured myself back to a place of strength. In fact, I think I came out the other side of that black hole stronger than ever. I learned a great deal about myself and learned to recognize some of the things I do to invite abuse into my life. I learned coping skills and self-care strategies that I use in many situations even now. For example, I learned to be more assertive and to voice my opinions more clearly. I learned to forgive myself for what had happened and miraculously discovered that most people didn't judge me too harshly. I had originally been convinced that everyone would think I was weak or idiotic for having let a man like Darren treat me so abusively. I was sure they would write me off for not having left him much sooner. It didn't happen that way at all. At the present time, my life is wonderful. I am in an amazing relationship with an amazing man. Kevin is loving and brings me joy like I have never known. We plan to get married, have kids, and live happily ever after in wonderland. I am in a career that I enjoy and have even made amends with some of the people who were involved in my decision to leave work just a few years ago. My future is full of possibility and promise. Still, my slate is not entirely clean. My relationship with Darren has certainly left its scars. I am extremely sensitive to Kevin's moods. I constantly try to read his mind and figure out where he is emotionally. If he is silent for too long or uses a tone that even has a hint of harshness, I start to panic. I constantly strive to be the "perfect girlfriend.". I feel an almost overwhelming need to be attractive, intelligent, and easy to get along with — every minute of every day. Sometimes it's hard to relax and just enjoy the moment. My old friend, "low self-esteem" still manages to sneak up on me more often than I would like. However, I certainly have a greater awareness than I once did and feel that I will never again let myself be in a position of being abused. I know that, within 112 relationships, we all treat each other less than perfectly some of the time. However, I am learning to deal with that more assertively. I think this will help to ensure that my needs are being met and that Kevin knows where we stand in our relationship. I am quick to call in my support and to dig into my ever-expanding bag of self-care tricks. I stay in touch with friends. I am connected with a counsellor. I take care of myself. I continue to move forward with my dreams and hopes. I am really excited about life again. It's a wonderful feeling. Sarh's Story My story really began when I was a little girl. The middle child. The capable one. The invisible one. My older brother was perfect. He played hockey and anything he touched was golden. My younger sister was perfect. She was frail and beautiful. Between them, they claimed all of my parents' attention. My own life was squeezed in between acting as timer and cheerleader at my sister's swim meets and watching my brother's hockey games. We never missed a single one. Even our summer vacations revolved around my brother's hockey camps. Although I played field hockey and did gymnastics, nobody in my family ever saw me compete. I remember once begging my parents to come. They stayed for five minutes and left. Essentially, I grew up grateful for the tiniest scraps of attention that came my way. I had zero self-esteem and felt very alone in the world. My brother and sister took advantage of their privileged positions within the family and brutalized me at every opportunity. My parents never intervened on my behalf. My mother blatantly denied that it was happening and even got annoyed when I would ask for her support. Years later, she claims to not remember any of it. Not even the time that the neighbours called the police because my brother was dragging me down the middle of the road and wailing on me. In her eyes, it simply didn't happen. 113 It seems that my strengths and achievements consistently went unnoticed by everyone. Even at a young age, I wanted to get out of my family home as soon as possible. I didn't want to have to rely on them for anything. I got a job when I was thirteen and, after that, never asked my family for anything. I bought or made all of my own clothes and took care of my own expenses. During high school, my brother had the opportunity to go to Spain with his class. My parents paid for a huge portion of the trip and I cleaned out my bank account so that he would have a great time. When my turn rolled around the following year, my parents said I could go, but that I would have to come up with the spending money I would need. Nobody remembered the generosity I had shown my brother and I didn't have the funds to go with my class. That was the final straw. As soon as I had finished high school, I moved out. I moved in with the guy I had been seeing. It wasn't exactly what I would consider to be a good, solid relationship. However, I couldn't afford to live on my own and he had a place. We got pregnant almost right away and the next chapter of my life began. My so-called boyfriend disappeared as soon as he received the news of his impending paternity. Relations with my parents, which had been strained at the best of times, became completely contentious. My mother told me I was a slut and a whore. She couldn't talk to me or look at me without issuing a seething string of insults. Even my father, who I adored despite everything that had gone down between us, told me my life was basically over and that no man would ever want me. I passed the next few months in a state of numb self-sequestration. I didn't speak to my family for months. When it was time for my baby to be born, I went to the hospital alone. I was so young and so afraid. I sat there in a room all by myself with doctors, nurses, and interns coming in a seemingly endless stream to poke and stare at me. They spoke only to each other, never to me. I 114 felt like a little lab rat. I begged them to stop. I was getting more and more distressed. The whole experience was so traumatic that I couldn't deliver my baby without drastic intervention. They scheduled a c-section and my baby was born at 7:00 in the evening. It was a little girl. I wanted so badly to see her and hold her, but they told me it was too late. They said I needed to rest. That was it. They wheeled me into a room by myself and I didn't see anyone until the next day when the morning nurse came to check on me. She found me, in shock, lying in a pool of blood. She was appalled that I hadn't seen my baby and that I had been left in such an awful condition. Her kindness was such a relief. She helped me to clean up and took me to see my little girl. When I rounded the comer, I saw my brother. I was surprised, but what I saw next made my heart stop. I saw my mother holding a baby, my baby. She had held my little girl before I had even seen her. It was horrible to see her smiling and proudly holding this child, my child. The audacity and insensitivity still make me shudder. I checked out of hospital as soon as I could. They sent me a bill which I refused to pay. Unbelievable! I explained that I was not willing to pay for the education of their interns. I took Emily back to my apartment and we holed up there together. My mother had decided that the only solution to this travesty was to adopt Emily as her own "special child." The idea was so absurd and so hurtful to me that I resolved to keep Emily from her altogether. There was no way that I was going to give Emily up. My mother finally backed off and my whole family moved to British Columbia. I was relieved to see them go. It was me and Emily then. However, life was pretty small and I was struggling. When my parents offered to buy me a plane ticket so that Emily and I could come for a holiday, I jumped at the chance. I felt the change of scenery would be great. 115 I fell instantly in love with the west coast and decided to stay. Vancouver Island was so pretty and there really wasn't enough to draw me back home. I stayed with my parents' until that became absolutely unbearable. My mother was so controlling and still acted as though Emily was her own child. She was convinced that she knew what was best for Emily. It was pretty hard to stomach. She would do things like add salt and gravy to Emily's baby food so that it wasn't so bland. She smoked in the house. She'd feed her chocolate. Little things that put us into constant conflict. I eventually got a job working the front desk of a motel. Life was starting to improve, but I was still incredibly lonely. People on the east coast are so friendly and laid back. I wasn't at all prepared for the reserved and snobbish ways of the west. I thought I'd never meet anyone. This, of course, is when Daniel decided to make his appearance. He was doing some construction work at the motel and started talking to me. Much to my amazement, he asked me out. He didn't even seem to mind that I had a child. At that point, my self-esteem was so low that I found it truly unbelievable that someone actually wanted me. I kept waiting for him to realize his mistake and leave. He didn't. I ended up moving in with him and life was definitely looking better. Although he seemed to have a good relationship with Emily, he suggested that we not make a big deal about letting people know that she wasn't his daughter. Small town and all. I took his advice and believed he was just looking out for our best interests. When his family would call, I'd have to take Emily and go into another room so that they wouldn't know he was involved with someone who had a child. Again, I made all kinds of creative excuses that left Dan's halo intact. I'd tell myself that he wasn't embarrassed. He was just proud. Pretty flimsy when I look back on things, but I was so grateful to have his attention and love that I wasn't prepared to challenge the situation. 116 We moved into a suite above the pub and Dan would come in every night. At first, I thought this was just the sign of a devoted boyfriend. With just a tiny bit more self-esteem, I would have been able to recognize it for what it was. He was watchful and jealous. He'd make a scene if I spent too much time with any of the male customers. He'd rant and rave. He'd make his presence known, claiming me as his property. He even kicked in a fridge once when he thought I had been flirting. I was lucky I didn't lose my job. In the meantime, while all of this was going on, Emily was either with a babysitter or with my parents. Neither was an especially ideal scenario. The babysitter cost us money that we didn't really have. Sending her to my parents' had its own set of problems. They'd keep her for several days at a time and I worried about the influence my mother was having on Emily. The whole thing was too out of control for my comfort level. When Dan and I got married, I hoped he would relax. I felt he'd be sure of my commitment to him. He officially adopted Emily and we both took his last name. I assumed the jealousy and controlling behaviour would subside. It didn't. I had a couple of close friends by this point. We'd go for lunch and would even go out in the evening once in a while. Dan never used to have a problem with this. However, he started to object after we were married. On the rare occasions that I went out, he'd give me small amount of cash and would tell me how long I could take. I don't know why I never really thought there was anything wrong with this. One of my friends was involved with an equally controlling guy. We'd phone each other to see i f we were allowed to go out. It was a joke. I guess it helped make the whole thing more bearable. Dan kicked up the intensity and started locking me out when I'd come home after an evening out with friends. He'd leave me standing there for hours. It was humiliating, but stupid me, I'd 117 apologize and cry. He wanted to punish me. He wanted to make sure I knew how hurt he was. He wanted to make me think twice the next time I thought about going out without him. He eventually beat me into submission. Although I wasn't entirely conscious of it at the time, my world had become very small. Outside of work, Dan controlled my every move. He even controlled my brain in a weird kind of way. I was so obsessed with pleasing him or avoiding confrontation that I didn't have much time or energy left over to think about anything else. Without thinking, I'd sign my paycheques over to him. When he went out of town on business, he'd set up a tab at the corner store so that I could buy groceries. The store was under very strict orders as to what he would cover. Chocolate, makeup, and things like that were definitely not allowed. When I got pregnant and gave birth to Joshua, my world shrank even further. We bought some property and starting building a home. Dan added my name to the business account and we jointly applied for a huge line of credit. My name still wasn't on our personal account. Daniel continued to get more controlling. He became very possessive and always wanted to know where I was going, how long I would be, and who I would be with. I had to make dinner each night according to his specifications. Milk always had to be on the table and gravy was a part of every meal. Casseroles were never allowed as that meant there was a possibility that I had prepared it in the morning and spent the rest of the day doing who knows what. Somewhere in there, I started training for triathlons. At first Dan would come to the pool with me. He'd swim with the kids while I did lengths. As I progressed and swam for longer periods of time, it didn't make sense for him to come. I'd go on my own early in the morning. If I was late coming home,, he'd accuse me of staying to flirt with lifeguards or other men. The cycling was just as bad. He'd 118 time me. If I was even a few minutes slower than usual, he'd assume that I had stopped to speak with some guy or another. Looking back, it's somewhat of a miracle that I didn't just give up on the idea of competing. That certainly would have made Dan happy. However, I guess it was important enough to me that I was willing to persevere and put up with his rules, ridiculous accusations, and scrutiny. I had returned to work and that seemed to give me some perspective. I gradually started standing up for myself and would keep $50 from each paycheque for myself. Dan was still the focus of my attention, but I became more aware of my own needs. Sensing my growing independence, Dan countered my rebellion with attacks of his own. He'd go out to the pub every night, leaving me home alone to look after the kids. He still expected me to drop everything the second he walked through the door. He expected me to continue to worship him and love him. When I decided to pay for half of our expenses and keep the remainder of my cheques, things got really ugly. Dan started using the children to hurt me. He loved Josh and treated him like gold most of the time. Emily was his favourite target. Since Josh's birth, he had no time for her. If he was upset with me or felt I was stepping out of line, he would take his frustration out on her. He would call her names and arbitrarily punish her. He once sent her to the bathroom to eat her dinner off the floor because she was making too much noise. He said that he would treat her like a pig as long as she acted like one. My heart broke over and over again. If I said anything or attempted to intervene, he would threaten to do worse. He was so evil. I felt utterly helpless. Emily was always sad and always crying. I didn't know what to do. To the rest of the world, we were a happy family. Behind closed doors, we were trapped in a nightmare. Things continued to build up until I found Emily crying in her room one night. I 119 can't even remember the details, but I started crying as soon as I saw her. I said, "Just say the word babe and we're out of here." She responded by saying, "It's okay mom. I know he's just doing it because he loves me." That was it. My heart split so far apart that I thought it would never heal. I knew we had to leave. Over the next few days, I made my plans. I found a person who needed a house sitter for several months. As soon as the details were worked out, I told Dan that I couldn't take it anymore and that I was leaving. I told him he needed to get help. I was extremely calm about the whole situation even though he was freaking out. I took the kids and told him we would be gone for at least four months. I hadn't felt that strong and free in a very long time. Despite my decision, I wasn't prepared to entirely give up on the relationship. I still had hope and wanted to try to work things out. I suggested that we go to counselling and Dan agreed. The few sessions we had consisted of Dan blaming me for all of our problems and me identifying areas in which I felt I could improve. Even though Dan had stopped coming, I saw the counsellor a few more times on my own. He told me that he didn't know where I had found the strength to leave, but that he hoped I had enough strength to not return. He told me that Dan was psychologically abusing me and that he wasn't going to change. He advised me to leave the relationship. I was stunned. I didn't want to believe the situation was that hopeless. I gave Dan the benefit of the doubt, but four months came and went. Nothing had really changed. Dan had finished the house we had been working on for eight years. He believed that building my dream house proved how much he loved me. When I told him it wasn't enough and that I was leaving, he lost it. He was incredibly upset and I was genuinely concerned about him. He was talking about how pointless life would be without me. I truly thought he might be suicidal. I left the 120 kids with him for the night to help get him grounded and to make him realize that there were two little people who very much needed him to continue living. I'll never forget the feeling that came over me that night when I drove away. I was crying and had the radio turned as loud as I could stand when Tom Petty's song "Free Falling" came on. It was perfect. I felt completely released. It was like a weight I hadn't known I was carrying had been lifted from my shoulders. I felt huge and powerful and free. When I went back the next morning to pick the kids up, I was completely certain that I had made the right decision. Nothing could change my mind. We left with my Pathfinder, a single bed, and not much else. The divorce process was horrible. Dan was not willing to give up without a fight and became crazier than ever before. He still had access to the children and tried to turn them against me. He told them I was trying to take his house and that I wouldn't be doing any of this if I loved them. It was horrible. He started dating this woman to make me jealous. I told him I didn't care and that I was getting on with my life. He got more and more desperate as he realized I wasn't coming back. He bought guns and used to shoot at my picture. He'd go as far as to show pictures full of bullet holes to Emily and Josh. Once, he got really wasted and drove to my place to show me the recently shot up photo. He started stalking me and seemed to know my every move. It was extremely predatory and intimidating. I was afraid to move. I felt trapped. I wouldn't even go onto my patio for fear that he was watching. Throughout all of this, I documented everything — his craziness, his schemings. It's the only thing that saved me when I went to court. Dan, the master manipulator, had struck deals all over town. He had maxed out our line of credit and transferred the money to his girlfriend. He had somehow managed to get my name taken off the business account. The bank had no real 121 explanation. I was left responsible for half of the debt, but never saw a penny of the money. His contractors agreed to write phony invoices for work on our house to convince the court that Dan owed money everywhere. When we finally went before a judge, Dan had everything lined up. We ended up with joint custody. He kept the house and everything else. I guess it could have been worse. At that point, I was just relieved to be out. The years that followed should have been easy, but they weren't. He was never satisfied to just let me go and live my life. He was always searching for new ways to hurt me. The kids were especially useful in his little plots. He continued to treat Emily as a second-class citizen barely worthy of his attention while he gave Josh everything he possibly could. When he took the kids, he would often arrange for Josh to stay for extra nights. He manipulated the kids and told them horrible things about me. It was exhausting. I couldn't believe how much he forced his way into my consciousness. I could never just relax and forget about him. He was always there. He continued to push for custody of Joshua and kept him for longer and longer stretches of time. Once he refused to send Josh home. I had to ask my brother to intervene. Somehow Dan still came out looking like the good guy. Although my brother went and brought Josh home, he actually stuck up for Dan. He felt sorry for him. So much so that he gave Dan a contract to do some work on his house. I couldn't believe it. I felt as though the whole world had gone crazy. It shouldn't have really surprised me. My family had always loved Dan. I think they felt he was this big hero for taking on their wayward screw-up of a daughter. Even after we spilt up, they bought him Christmas presents and would go to his house to visit. They didn't ever see through his shiny exterior. They never once stood up for me or told me they understood what I had gone through. The fact that I had left Dan just proved to them, once again, that I was 122 hopeless. My brother's behaviour was too much to take. It was the ultimate betrayal which showed me that my life would never move forward while I stayed in that town. I decided to move to Vancouver with the kids. I have never regretted my decision to leave, but things weren't all sunshine and roses. When I arrived, I sunk as low as I had ever been. Although I didn't realize it at the time, I was seriously depressed. I barely made it through my days. I'd get the kids off to school and would crawl back into bed for hours. I would make sure I was up and dressed by the time they got home, but I was barely functioning. I cried all the time. I didn't sleep. I had nightmares when I did. I just wanted to sit in the comer of a room so I could feel the walls around me. I was so unsettled. I worried that I'd never make it out of the black hole in which I found myself. The kids were miserable and constantly told me that I had ruined their lives by dragging them to Vancouver. Somehow enough time passed and the earth started to feel more solid beneath my feet. I found a job and started living again. I wasn't naive enough to believe that my battles with Dan would end just because I had crossed the Georgia Straight. He was furious that I had taken Josh away and pushed for full custody. He even filed an anonymous allegation of child abuse. I was furious, but by this time I had found my strength. I wasn't going to just roll over. I marched into the social services office and told them what was going on. Needless to say, the allegations were dropped. His final assault came when Josh was thirteen. The kids had gone to the island to spend the summer with Dan. When Emily returned after a couple of weeks, she told me that Josh wouldn't be coming back. She said Dan had been working him the whole time they were there. He had even threatened to hurt me if Josh came home. I couldn't believe he would go that far, 123 but Emily was right. Josh didn't come home at the end of August as previously arranged. When I called to find out what was going on, I couldn't reach them. This went on for a few days. I finally got so worried that I went over there to track them down. Dan and his girlfriend were nowhere to be found. They had taken Josh and were hiding him. I was frantic. School was starting and there was still no word from Dan or Josh. I phoned the police, but they refused to intervene. As Dan had joint custody, they said there was nothing they could do. They weren't prepared to treat it as a kidnapping. I have never felt so helpless. They finally resurfaced and I was so relieved that Josh was safe that I agreed to let Dan keep him on the island and register him to start school over there. We were obviously heading back to court. I had no money and really had very little fight left in me. The judge decided to have a social worker investigate the situation. When Dan started inviting this guy over for barbeques and friendly visits with the "happy and functional family," I knew I was in trouble. The social worker didn't even try to make contact with me or come for a visit. I didn't honestly have the money for a lawyer, but I knew I needed legal help. Oddly enough my lawyer's office was next door to my MLA's office. I don't know what made me go through that door that day. Desperation, I guess. However, I ended up telling my whole story to the MLA's office administrator. She was so appalled that she told my story to the M L A who, in turn, passed it on to the Attorney General. Wheels were in motion. I didn't even really know what was going on behind the scenes, but I was glad to have somebody fighting in my corner. It was enough to stop the lawyer and Dan's new best friend, the court-appointed social worker, in their tracks. I probably could have pushed for full custody, but I didn't. The kids were being torn apart and I wanted it to stop. I agreed to maintain joint custody and to allow Joshua to remain in his father's 124 care. It seemed like the best alternative. Now, seven years later, a sort of tenuous truce is in place between Dan and I. The kids are grown and each have their own kind of relationship with Dan. Most of the wounds have healed and are somewhat less tender than they once were. As for me, it is still painful to think back on those times. However, I finally have a life of my own that doesn't involve Dan at all. He rarely enters my mind these days. I can even go to the island without having an anxiety attack. That's a relief. It is still somewhat miraculous to me that I had the strength to leave. It was such a painful and isolating experience that I lost all perspective. It took me a long time to even convince myself that Dan's treatment of me was unacceptable. It was just the norm to which I had become accustomed. I left the relationship without bruises or broken bones. However, I suffered worse. I have scars that I fear will never heal. My self-esteem has been thrashed a few too many times to really trust that it is permanently intact. There are other effects, but I am happily moving forward in life. Summary The women who participated in this study painted a vivid picture of their experiences within psychologically abusive relationships. Each story was unique and distinctly revealing. Each narrative captured the essence of that individual's experience. However, certain threads were woven throughout all six narratives to create unifying themes. The women all described a process of disintegration in which their sense of self was gradually eroded and transformed. They spoke of behaviour that was globally controlling and of partners who exerted a powerful influence over every facet of their existence. Social isolation, sexual exploitation, and emotional neglect resonated painfully in all six narratives. Each woman 125 explained that she became so entirely invested in her partner's emotional life that she eventually lost the ability to even recognize her own needs. Life was about reading one's partner and vigilantly mediating reality to avert crisis. Loneliness, chronic anxiety, and exhaustion were ever-present forces. Fortunately, so too was optimism. Each woman managed to sustain a belief that everything would be fine and that positive change was possible. It is this optimism that seemed to push each woman, even i f for only brief periods, towards outlets which help her survive the abuse ~ career, education, sports, creativity, parenting, religion. It also prevented each from slipping entirely away. At different points, each woman made contact with people who brought her back to reality — friends, family members, counsellors. It is when the optimism could no longer be sustained that things changed. For Angela, "Clarity came one day . . . I saw such coldness in his eyes that I finally realized how awful things had become . . . I decided that I could no longer live this way." The same is true for the other women. In each story there was a critical moment of awareness, a point at which the narrator achieved a degree of clarity and the reader breathes a sigh of relief. It is at this point that each woman becomes unstuck. Her narrative begins to change as one chapter in her life closes and another begins. 126 CHAPTER V: DISCUSSION The purpose of the current study was to provide a more in-depth picture of psychological abuse than that which had been captured by previous research. The intent was to expand upon the conceptualization of psychological abuse, to build on current understanding of this phenomenon, and to enlighten counselling practice by providing narrative accounts of the lived experience of five women. Expanded Conceptualization: Impact of Overt and Covert Behaviours The narratives presented within this study demonstrated that psychological abuse involves more than one or two types of harmful acts. It is a complex phenomenon that shapeshifts according to numerous variables. By allowing women to define the abuse in personal terms and in their own words, a very diverse picture emerged. As in previous research, the narratives of this study demonstrated that psychological abuse includes both overt and covert behaviours. The overt behaviours noted by participants included criticizing, threatening, stalking, demeaning, mocking, yelling, arguing, swearing, and intimidating. The covert behaviours included manipulating, lying, withholding affection, sulking, assuming a perpetually negative attitude, playing mind games, monopolizing time / attention, and enforcing trivial or unreasonable demands. Certain behaviours seemed to bridge both realms — sexual exploitation, claiming ownership, punishing or threatening children, and maintaining financial control. The unique contribution made by the current study is that it established the impact of individual meaning on the experience of psychological abuse. Not only did the narratives clearly indicate the need to define the concept in very broad terms, but they also demonstrated the need to define the concept in terms of the woman's experience. The meaning women make of the 127 abusive behaviour is as critical to our understanding of the phenomenon as is a cataloguing of those behaviours that can be classified as psychologically abusive. Each participant framed the experience in a very illustrative manner. Underlying the narrative text were messages such as "I am responsible for my partner's emotional well-being", "his needs are more important than mine", "this behaviour is normal", "others are more valuable than me", "he doesn't mean to be cruel", and "I can't live without him". Within the context of research and therapeutic intervention, it is clearly important to move beyond a narrow conceptualization of psychological abuse. To accurately depict the phenomenon, it is necessary to factor in a wide variety of overt and covert abusive behaviours as well as the individual's interpretation of these behaviours. Enhancing Understanding In addition to the above, the current study deepened our understanding of the personal meaning of the experience of psychological abuse. Existing studies indicate that researchers must begin to think of psychological abuse as an attitude change in which a woman's entire way of being in the world is negatively altered. Marshall (1996) urges researchers to recognize that "psychological abuse, in and of itself, can cause serious harm" (p. 406). The narratives collected for the purpose of this study lent support to this idea and expanded upon previous research findings. It has been argued that the experience erodes a woman's world view and sense of self (Marshall, 1996). The narratives presented within this paper provided evidence to support this argument. The women who shared their stories described a process of gradual disintegration in which perceived reality took a dramatic shift. Over time, each woman spun a cocoon to insulate 128 against the effects of ongoing abuse. However, the sheath was fragile and never provided quite enough protection. The experience eventually left her feeling numb and out of touch with the world. She developed such a warped sense of self that decision-making became virtually impossible. By the time each woman exited the abusive relationship, she had developed a collection of distorted perceptions that left her unsure of herself and vulnerable to a litany of negative self-beliefs. Changes to Identity: Previous studies demonstrate that women who experience psychological abuse within their adult heterosexual relationships suffer from increased depressive symptomatology and lower self-esteem than women in healthy relationships (Henderson et al., 1997; Lachkar, 1998; Orava et al., 1996; Sable, 1998). Adjectives synonymous with these conditions flowed through each of the narratives presented within this paper — anguished, hopeless, helpless, ashamed, heart-broken, alone, isolated, humiliated. The women described depression that ranged from a dull and constant aching of the spirit to suicidal ideation. They also described feeling suffocated, imprisoned, and trapped. The impact of anxiety was also brought vividly to life within this study. The women were in a state of hyper-arousal at all times and anxiety ridden to such an extent that they were chronically exhausted. They described feeling scrutinized, insecure, stressed, tired, and sick. Ultimately, they were in a constant spin of self-doubt that left them frightened and confused. The experience of the abuse turned the world into a very unsafe place for the women who shared their stories in this study. In addition to the apparent effects of depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety, the women were seriously impacted by doubts of their own self-efficacy. As each narrative progresses, the reader experiences a sense of despair as each woman relinquishes control over her own world. 129 The descriptors used within the narratives supported the conclusion of Orava et al. (1996) that women in psychologically abusive relationships have low perceptions of control and personal power. The women described living within a psychologically abusive relationship as sleepwalking, being in a thick grey fog, viewing life as i f through vaseline on a camera lens, and dangling perpetually on a puppet string. There was an almost dreamlike quality to the description of her partner's entry to her life. It was as i f it just happened and that she had no part in it. From the beginning of each narrative to the very end, there was a sense that the women were somehow being carried along and that the decisions they made had very little power to shape the course of their lives within the context of the relationship. Only when the relationships ended or there was some pivotal moment did the women become unstuck and begin to reclaim their power. Otherwise, the locus of control remained predominantly external and the attitude of helplessness prevailed. The narratives were both powerful and painful. Arguably, the most disturbing aspect of the stories involved the women's change in attitude. Depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, and feelings of powerlessness.took their toll. Each woman's foundation and core beliefs were negatively adjusted as a result of the experience. The strengths that she brought into the relationship became weaknesses that provided further opportunity for the abuse to continue. Each woman was a natural caregiver with an ability and an innate desire to help others. The abusive partner learned to capitalize on and exploit these qualities. Thus, we see Shayne sitting in a parking lot waiting to give Blake a ride home from work, Laura travelling across the country to support Darren when he visits his daughter even though she can't afford the trip, and Marie allowing Jake to move in with her after he has been picked up by the police for getting into an 130 accident while driving under the influence. Each woman had the capacity and desire to make life better for the person she loved. Like Angela, each learned that she was a safe target for the anger of others. Each learned that her best qualities could be turned against her to make her vulnerable. With this realization, the world inevitably changed and a new attitude emerged. Preoccupied Pattern of Attachment: Henderson et al. (1997) propose that women who hold negative self-models are at greater risk for entering into and remaining in abusive relationships with adult romantic partners than are women who hold positive self-models. They suggest that preoccupied patterns of attachment in which the woman holds a negative view of self and positive view of other seem to make women especially vulnerable to abusive attachment. The current study supported these tentative conclusions. A l l participants described attachment patterns characteristic of preoccupation. As outlined above, the women entered the relationship with low self-esteem and low levels of perceived control. The depression and anxiety experienced as a result of the ongoing abuse served to further disintegrate each woman's self-model. Although each managed to salvage shreds of herself, the narratives clearly described a process in which the sense of self was gradually eroded and eventually overshadowed by an awareness of and concern for the other. The abuse was allowed to continue as perceptions of self became more negative and perceptions of other became more positive. The more abuse the woman sustained, the more unworthy she felt of her partner's affection and commitment. She felt embarrassed, humiliated, and ashamed. She became more and more hesitant to stand up for herself or to reach out to others for support. She became convinced that others would judge her for putting up with her partner's behaviour or, conversely, worried that others will erroneously condemn her partner. She came to believe in her 131 own restricted and damaged construction of reality. As time went on, she shouldered more and more responsibility for the abusive interactions. Ironically, this served to further raise her estimation of her partner. In her eyes, she became more pathetic and her partner became more saintly for remaining in the relationship. She felt increasingly grateful and indebted to her abuser. Once again, the narratives provided a useful window into the lived experience of the psychological abuse that occurs within heterosexual relationships. For example, the reader can't help but cringe when Angela dismisses her sister's warnings as the product of jealousy or overly feminist ideals. One wants to shake Jillian for writing off her parents' concerns and to shout at Laura when she hesitates to call her mother after being abandoned and so cruelly treated by her partner. The study clearly revealed the power of perception and the manner in which a preoccupied pattern of attachment puts a woman at risk for entering into or remaining in a psychologically abusive relationship. These are useful lessons for counsellors and other helping professionals who support women who seek their support. Help-Seeking: The women who participated in this study describe long-term relationships ~ ranging from a couple of years to more than thirty. Throughout the duration of the relationship, each woman became increasingly isolated and began to experience a distance between herself and the rest of the world. For some, this isolation was strictly enforced by a controlling partner. For others, this pattern was more internally driven and the isolation was maintained out of fear or shame. They used friends, family members, career, education, athletics, and other outlets as an means of coping with the abuse. However, this was not usually a conscious process. The women did not actively seek support to cope with the pain and loneliness of the abuse within the 132 relationship. The abuse was never disclosed and the relationship was never discussed. For the participants in this study, it continued for many, many years. This supports previous findings that psychological abuse is not related to help-seeking (Lachkar, 2000; Marshall, 1996). The narratives resonated with loneliness as the women endured escalating abuse behind closed doors. Three of the women (Marie, Laura, and Sarah) entered into counselling, but only after the abuse had finally become so unbearable that they had already decided to leave the relationship. Only one woman (Sarah) went to counselling for issues specifically related to the relationship. The other two (Marie and Laura) entered as the result of painful symptomatology — depression, anxiety. A l l three were surprised when a counsellor informed them that they were experiencing (or had experienced) abuse within the relationship. Three of the women (Angela, Jillian, and Shayne) never sought counselling at all. One woman (Marie) turned to religion, but again, only after the relationship had ended. One (Sarah) went to her lawyer and M L A , but only because of a child custody battle. The other women did not mention going to other sources of formal support that are available to women in abusive relationships (e.g. physician, attorney, police, women's groups). Given the amount of energy and money that have recently gone into educating the public about violence against women and developing resources to support victims of abuse, it is extremely distressing that the women in this study were unable or unwilling to access available resources. They are what Lachkar (1998) refers to as high-functioning women — educated, motivated, and energetic professionals. Still, despite these apparent advantages, they failed.to seek help. At this point, it is difficult to determine whether this profile protects women or actually puts them at risk for refusing to seek and accept support. The women who participated 133 in this study explained that they were too ashamed and too tired to look for help. They each had a perfectionist streak that seemed to prevent them from giving up on the relationship. They were compelled to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect woman. They convinced themselves that they should be able to control the situation and ultimately fix that which was broken in the relationship. Their many skills served them well in other areas of their lives. Why not in their relationships with the men who supposedly loved them? Like Marie, the women all developed an investment in making things succeed. In addition, their education and social consciousness led them to decide that they didn't have things bad compared to other women --those who are beaten, raped, tortured, and sold into prostitution. Those they heard about on the news and read about in the paper. The narratives presented here leave the reader feeling somewhat baffled about how to better intervene so that women who experience psychological abuse within heterosexual relationships are willing and able to reach out for support. Enlightening Counselling Practice The current study expanded upon the conceptualization of psychological abuse and built upon current understanding of this phenomenon. It also succeeded in enlightening counselling practice. As noted above, women in psychologically abusive relationships are extremely unlikely to seek counselling. Those who do seek the support of a counsellor, usually do so for painful symptomatology rather than for issues related to an abusive relationship. Active Intervention: Counsellors and other helping professionals have a responsibility to educate themselves about psychological abuse as it occurs within heterosexual relationships. As this study demonstrated, it is a unique form of violence with an extremely diverse profile. It is often so subtle and ubiquitous that its recipients are unaware that they are being mistreated. For 134 these reasons it is critical that counsellors are able to definitively identify and accurately label psychologically abusive behaviour. The women who do reach out to them for support are most likely to present with issues such as depression, loneliness, anxiety, chronic fatigue, and impaired decision-making skills. It is rare that a woman will enter into counselling because she recognizes that she is in a psychologically abusive relationship. Even high functioning women, like those who participated in this study, are at great risk for misattributing the source of their pain. Counsellors must be willing to listen for indications of psychological abuse and screen for this as they would for other forms of relationship violence. It seems that an active stance is required to effectively intervene. Counsellors and other helping professionals must be willing to unravel and examine the threads which make up each woman's narrative. Labelling behaviour as abusive appears to be a useful first step. In this study, each participant explains that this was a pivotal moment in her own experience. The label caused something to shift in each woman's construction of the relationship. It ultimately allowed each woman to move forward from the problem-saturated narrative in which she had been stuck. In coming to accept that her partner had abused her, each woman gained momentum. Her self-esteem started to return and she felt more in control than she did prior to this adjustment. Meaning-Making: As previously mentioned, the meaning women make of the experience is a critical variable in understanding this phenomenon. It is rare that abusive behaviour ends just because a woman enters into counselling. In fact, many women report an escalation in violent behaviour during the initial stages of therapy. As a counsellor, one may ultimately have little success in ending the abusive behaviours that are present within the relationship. This is especially true if a woman enters counselling without her partner. However, the counsellor can 135 impact the meaning the woman makes of the experience and can support her to move to a place of increased esteem, efficacy, and awareness. In addition to labelling the abuse, the counsellor can achieve this by witnessing the woman's story and facilitating the process of narration. Although this study was intended to collect information, participation proved to have therapeutic qualities. Each woman found the experience of telling her story and having it put into written form to be both cathartic and empowering. The women enjoyed reading their narratives. Each reportedly cried and laughed at certain points of her own story. Each felt more grounded and more clear about a chapter of her life that had previously left her somewhat confused. The process seemed to validate each person's pain, without further immobilizing her. This is an important lesson for counsellors who have the capacity to replicate the narrative experience of this study within the context of therapy. By witnessing a woman's story of psychological abuse, the counsellor can support her to adjust the meaning she makes of the experience. The process gives her the opportunity to author a new narrative in which she reclaims her strength and dignity. It may ultimately give her the insight and fortitude to stand up for herself and end the abuse. Mitigating the Abuse: It is suggested that, "the more positive the self-model, the less likelihood of becoming involved with an abusive partner and the greater the likelihood of leaving the relationship at the first indication of abuse" (Henderson et al., 1997, p. 185). This is an area in which the counsellor can also make an impact. This study clearly demonstrated that psychological abuse has the power to negatively impact a woman's world view and sense of self. It appears that a healthy sense of self in which a woman recognizes her own efficacy and strength is likely to mitigate the effects of the abuse. 136 The counsellor can promote this through meaning-making efforts outlined above and by supporting women to adopt positive coping strategies. For example, one of the most remarkable similarities that participants shared was an overall sense of optimism. The narratives all began with an underlying message that life would eventually get better. Even as the abuse intensified, the women seemed to believe that there were little things they could do to improve the quality of their lives. As time passed and the participants suffered the negative effects of ongoing abuse (i.e. reduced self-esteem, depression, anxiety, impaired self-efficacy, etc.), their sense of optimism slowly disappeared. Knowing that optimism mitigates the effects of psychological abuse, a counsellor could work with women to develop this attitude. In addition to their initial sense of optimism, the women who participated in this study had a variety of outlets which helped them tolerate the abuse they experienced within their relationships — work, education, sports, creative pursuits, hobbies. They also had connections with others who helped keep their sense of self and joy for life alive — friends, children, family members, co-workers. Admittedly, these connections were often rather tenuous. However, all participants saw these relationships as critical to their well-being. Counsellors can learn from these reports and can encourage women in psychologically abusive relationships to develop or strengthen these outlets. Counsellors can also help women understand that they are not responsible for their partners' abusive behaviour. They can educate women to take responsibility for themselves and to make their partners equally accountable. In this study, only one relationship survived the abuse. Angela and Tom managed to stay together, even after years and years of damage had been done. Angela ultimately made a decision to take control over the things she could change and to 137 hold Tom responsible for his unacceptable behaviour. She told him she would not continue to tolerate the abuse and gave him one year to turn things around. This made her feel stronger and more assertive than she had felt for a long time. She began to identify his abusive behaviours and to stand up for herself. This made both of them better able to identify the abusive behaviour and also strengthened their partnership. Although Angela and Tom did not seek professional support, they provide another valuable lesson for helping professionals. Couples counselling seems to have therapeutic potential for couples in psychologically abusive relationships. Implications for Future Research The process of scientific inquiry must be viewed as an ongoing investigation in which the direction of future studies will be guided and shaped as new evidence presents itself. Accordingly, future research on the subject of psychological abuse must be designed to eliminate the methodological weaknesses of the current study and those reviewed within this paper. Although the present study succeeded in providing a more in-depth picture of psychological abuse than that which had been captured by previous research, it has certain limitations which should be noted. First, the study's reliance on a small sample of volunteers potentially limits the generalizability of findings. Although the present study was not especially concerned with this factor, future researchers may want to use a design which allows results to be more easily generalized to a larger population. Second, the study is retrospective in nature. The women describe relationships and experiences which took place many years before this study. This arguably makes the narratives less reliable than those which are drawn from participants who are currently experiencing the phenomenon under exploration. For psychological abuse, this seems a great challenge. Given that most women seem not to realize that they are experiencing 138 psychological abuse, it seems unlikely that women who are currently experiencing this form of violence would volunteer to participate in a study such as this while still within the relationship. A third weakness is one inherent to all narrative research. Bruner (2002) notes that: there is no such thing as an intuitively obvious and essential self to know, one that just sits there ready to be portrayed in words. Rather, we constantly construct and reconstruct our selves to meet the needs of the situations we encounter, and we do so with the guidance of our memories of the past and our hopes and fears for the future, (p. 64) The concept of self is invariably impacted by one's faculty of memory, awareness of self, and a myriad of socio-political pressures. The women who narrated their experiences for the purpose of this study were subject to all of these potential influences. However, this subjectivity is not necessarily problematic. In fact, this study recognizes that reality is always constructed and highlights the importance of the meaning individuals make of an experience. Future researchers who are concerned with achieving a closer proximity to a so-called "objective truth" will be better served by an alternate methodology than that which is provided by narrative research. Conclusions Each of the women who participated in this study provided a very detailed description of her own lived experience with psychological abuse. However, much research is required to fully understand this complex phenomenon. The study revealed several disturbing trends. Of specific concern is that women who experience this form of violence in heterosexual relationships are extremely unlikely to seek help. This was certainly the case for the participants of this study. The fact that these women occupied relatively privileged positions within society and still did not 139 find a way to end the abuse is extremely alarming. It makes one wonder if women who are more marginalized than the participants of this study are at greater risk for entering into and remaining in psychologically abusive relationships. 140 REFERENCE LIST Arias, I., Lyons, C. M . , & Street, A. (1997). Individual and marital consequences of victimization: Moderating effects of relationship efficacy and spouse support. Journal of Family Violence. 12(2), 193-210. Bartholomew, K . (1990). Avoidance of intimacy: An attachment perspective. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 7, 147-178. Bartholomew, K . & Horowitz, L. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test test of a four-category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 61, 226-244. Bruner, J. (2002). Making stories: Law, literature, life. Cambridge, MS: Harvard University Press. Bruner, J. (1991). The narrative construction of reality. Critical Inquiry. 18: 1-21. Chamberlaine, C , Barnes, S., Waring, E. M . , Wood, G., et al. (1989). The role of marital intimacy in psychiatric help-seeking. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 34(1). 3-7. Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, C A : Sage Publications. Duffy, A. & Momirov, J. (1997). Family violence: A Canadian introduction. Toronto, ON: James Lorimer & Company, Publishers. Engel, B. (2002). The emotionally abusive relationship: How to stop being abused and how to stop abusing. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Evans, P. (1993). Verbal abuse: Survivors speak out on relationships and recovery. Holbrook, M A : Bob Adams, Inc. Freedman, J. & Combs, G. (1996). Narrative therapy: The social construction of preferred realities. New York, N Y : Norton. Gahlinger-Beaune, R. (1993). Modelling equality: Support groups for survivors of woman abuse. Burnaby, BC: Open-Up Poste Production. Geffner, R. & Rossman, B. B. R. (1998). Emotional abuse: An emerging field of research and intervention. Journal of Emotional Abuse. 1(1). 1-5. Griffin, D. W. & Bartholomew, K. (1994a). Models fo the self and other: Fundamental dimensions underlying measures of adult attachment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 67, 430-445. Hart, S. N . , Bingelli, N . J., & Brasard, M . R. (1998). Evidence for the effects of psychological maltreatment. Journal of Emotional Abuse. 1(1), 27-58. Hegarty, K. , Sheehan, M . , & Schonfeld, C. (1999). A multidimensional definition of partner abuse: Development and preliminary validation of the Composite Abuse Scale. Journal of Family Violence. 14(4), 399-415. Henderson, A . J. Z., Bartholomew, K. , & Dutton, D. G. (1997). He loves me; he loves me not: Attachment and separation resolution of abused women. Journal of Family Violence. 12(2), 169-191. Heyman, R. E. & Schlee, K. A . (1997). Toward a better estimate of the prevalence of partner abuse: Adjusting rates based on the sensitivity of the Conflict Tactics Scale. Journal of Family Psychology. 11(3), 332-338. Johnson, H. & Sacco, V . F. (1995). Researching violence against women: Statistics Canada's national survey. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 37(3). 281-304. Josselson, R. (1999). Introduction. In R. Josselson & A . Lieblich (Eds.), Making meaning of 142 narratives: The narrative study of lives (pp. ix-xii). Thousand Oaks, C A : Sage Publications. Kirkwood, K. (1995). Leaving abusive partners. London: Sage Publications. Kvale, S. (1999). The psychoanalytic interview as qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 5(1), 87-113. Kvale, S. (1996). Interviews: An introduction to qualitative interviewing. Thousand Oaks, C A : Sage Publications. Lachkar, J. (2000). Emotional abuse of high-functioning women: A psychodynamic perspective. Journal of Emotional Abuse. 2(1), 73-91. Lachkar, J. (1998). The many faces of abuse: Treating the emotional abuse of high-functioning women. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc. Lapadat, J. C. & Lindsay, A . C. (1999). Transcription in research and practice: From standardization of technique to interpretive positionings. Qualitative Inquiry. 5(1), 64-86. Lenton, R. L. (1995). Power versus feminist theories of wife abuse. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 37(3): 281-304. Lie, G-Y. & Gentlewarrier, S. (1990). Intimate violence in lesbian relationships: Discussion of survey findings and practice implications. Journal of Social Service Research. 15(1): 41-60. Lieblich, A. , Tuval-Mashiach, R., & Zilber, T. (1998). Narrative research: Reading, analysis, and interpretation (Applied Social Research Methods Series. Volume 47). Thousand Oaks, C A : Sage Publications. Mair, M . (1988). Psychology as storytelling. International Journal of Personal Construct Psychology. 1: 125-137. Marshall, L. L. (1996). Psychological abuse of women: Six distinct clusters. 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Lieblich (Eds.), Making meaning of narratives: The narrative study of lives (pp. 1-24). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Sable, P. (1998). Almost all in the family: Emotionally abusive attachments. Journal of Emotional Abuse. 1(2), 51-67. Schafer, J. (1999). Measuring spousal violence with the Conflict Tactics Scale. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 11(4). 572-585. Sennett, R. (1998). The corrosion of character: The personal consequences of work in the new capitalism. New York, N Y : Norton. Shwandt, T. A . (1997). Qualitative inquiry: A dictionary of terms. Thousand Oaks, C A : Sage Publications. Siegel, J. P. (1999). Destructive conflict in nonviolent couples: A treatment guide. Journal of Emotional Abuse. 1(3), 65-85. Walker, G. A . (1990). Family violence and the women's movement. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press. White, M . (1989). The conjoint therapy of men who are violent and the women with whom they live. In M . White. Selected Papers (1989). Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publication. Wilson, M . , Johnson, H. , & Daly, M . (1995). Lethal and nonlethal violence against wives. Canadian Journal of Criminology. 37(3): 331-361. A P P E N D I X A : N O T I C E OF STUDY A P P E N D I X B : L E T T E R OF I N F O R M E D C O N S E N T 149 I agree to participate according to the terms and conditions which have been outlined above. Participant's signature Date Kesearcher's signature Date A P P E N D I X C: D E M O G R A P H I C S Q U E S T I O N N A I R E Demographics Questionnaire 1. What is your date of birth? 2. What is the highest level of education you have completed? 3. What is your primary cultural / ethnic affiliation(s)? 4. What is your current marital status? 5. Do you have children? What are their ages and genders? 6. What fictitious name would you like me to use when developing your narrative? A P P E N D I X D: QUESTIONS T O E L I C I T M E A N I N G - M A K I N G 153 Questions to Elicit Meaning-Making What made you respond to the poster for this study? What does it mean to you that your partner would do this? Where did he learn that this type of behaviour was okay? What did it mean when you first heard the term "psychological abuse"? What were you like when you entered this relationship? What were your hopes and dreams? What defined you? Who in your life would have been surprised if they had known exactly what was happening? How would your (best friend, parent, etc.) have described you to me if I had met you before you entered this relationship? How about during the relationship? How about now? If you could go back in time, what advice would you have given yourself before entering the relationship? What would have been the most helpful thing that someone could have said or done? What were some of the things which allowed you to survive the experience? What meaning do you make out of this experience? What is your vision of the future? APPENDIX E: WOMEN'S RESOURCES 156 REFERENCES G E N E R A L Bourne, E. J . (1995). The anxiety and phobia workbook. Oakland, Ch: Hew Harbinger Publications. Burns, D. D. (1930). Feeling good: The new mood therapy New York, NY: Avon Books. Davis, M., Eshelman, E., & McKay, M. (1933). The relaxation and stress reduction workbook Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications. Jeffers, S. (1937). Feel the fear and do it anyway. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. McKay, M., Rogers, P., & M c Kay,J. (1939). When anger hurts. Oakland,CA: Hew Harbinger Publications. Uorwood, R. (1935). IVomen who love too much New York, NY: Pocket Books RELATIONSHIPS Dinkmeyer, D., McKay, G. D., & McKay, J . L. (1937). New beginnings: Skills for single parents and step-family parents. Champaign, IL: Research Press. Engel, B. (2002). The emotionally abusive relationship: How to stop being abused and how to stop abusing. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Evans, P. (1992). The verbally abusive relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond. Holbrook, MA: Adams Media Corporation. Evans, P. (1993). Verbal abuse: 5urvivors speak out on relationships and recovery. Holbrook, MA: Bob Adams, Inc. Jones, A. & Schechter, S. (1993). When love goes wrong New York, NY: Harper Perennial. Kirkwood, K. (1995). Leaving abusive partners. London, UK: Sage Publications. Cramer, P. D. (1997). Should you leave? New York, NY: Scribner. NiCarthy, G. & Davidson, S. (1939). You can be free: An easy-to-read handbook for abused women. Seattle, WA: Seal Press. NiCarthy, G. (1936). Getting free. Seattle, WA: Seal Press. 

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