Feeling Responsible

13, May 2011 at 11:58 AM (scapegoated, trapped) (, , , , )

From Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery:

“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.”

I would only add: However, if the victim refuses to be silent, and people start listening, he simply runs away in search of a new and easier target to abuse, and the cycle starts all over again.

On the one hand, I have this knowledge, and with it feel like there is something I can and must do to prevent another person from being harmed by him. I have tried desperately to get him to acknowledge his problem, I have pleaded for him to recognise the expansiveness of the damage his behaviour causes– not only because I wanted him to stop abusing me, but also because I do not want him to abuse anyone in the future who shall have the misfortune of becoming entangled in his sicknesses; there is even a sliver of me that wants him to deal with the problems which drive him to be abusive (and according to abuse literature, those problems are his value system and his way of seeing women), because I care(d) about him and still have compassion enough to not want him to continue to damage himself and his own life.

But I know: abusers are highly motivated to never face themselves; they have no experience with the rewards of a truly loving intimate relationship based on mutual respect and so refuse to give up the “rewards” felt to be gained by maintaining strict control over their partner and their relationship. And so I know: he will not stop, he will not change, and all he got out of our relationship and my efforts to hold him accountable were lessons in how to better avoid discovery and responsibility in the future. Through the experience with this relationship, he will have only learned how to become more sweet, flattering and attentive in the beginning and at points when his next partner considers leaving him, and more secretive, more sneaky, more manipulative and more controlling in order to hold onto her like he was unable to hold onto me. I know his inability to hold onto his last girlfriend played into his determination to hold onto me at any cost. All the abuse literature says abusive behaviour has a strong and predictable tendency to escalate with time and each subsequent relationship, and so there is a very real possibility that the next poor woman is going to get it even worse than I. If no one can hold him accountable for what he did to me and his previous girlfriends, the cycle of abuse will continue.

That feels like my responsibility: if I know a crime is going to be committed, it is my moral duty to do everything in my power to try and stop it. But I know it isn’t my fault if he abuses another person and I know I’ve already done everything I can do short of making a public declaration to prevent it from (re-)occurring. Above and beyond all the other life-long effects his abuse will have on me, my family, and my present and future friendships/relationships with others, knowing I was helpless to prevent harm coming to another person, and that my relationship with him was nothing more than a training grounds upon which to refine his strategies– especially with becoming more covert in his methods of manipulation and control, therefore making it more difficult for the next woman to see and disentangle herself from– these are very hard things for me to live with.

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