[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/SHOWBIZ/Music/03/05/chris.brown.charged/art.rihanna.brown.gi.jpg]Dr. Gail Saltz
The police report of what transpired between Chris Brown and Rihanna was just released and the attack was far more vicious, violent and disturbing than anyone imagined. The explosion is said to have started over a text from an ex-girlfriend that she read on his phone.
Jealousy and domination often play a role in domestic abuse. In fact jealousy has been at the root of many crimes of passion, including murder. Details in a criminal complaint released by authorities today indicate this was not a sudden seconds-long lashing out, this was a continued and escalating attack complete with verbal threats that it was only going to get worse. When she tried to call for help, the threat allegedly turned to murder.
Weeks later, they are back together. Why? Why would a highly successful woman in her own right go back to a man who had so brutalized and terrorized her?
The truth is that this is really quite typical for the pattern of abuse. One partner (and the abuser can be a woman) maintains power over the other by isolating them, hurting them emotionally and physically, belittling them and convincing them that the abuser is the center of their world and the only one who will love them. The victim loses self esteem and feels emotionally dependent on their abuser.
After the abuse, the attacker feels guilty and remorseful, they say they are “so sorry, it will never happen again” and they also convince the victim that in some way they brought it on themselves (by reading his private text perhaps). Next, they idolize their victim, telling them they love them more than anyone ever will and that they will be nothing without this partner, this love. Meanwhile a victim often feels afraid of being alone and subsequently buys into the idea that this is love, it won’t happen again. Most often it does happen again, and again.
A few anger management classes is not the solution. Particularly if you have come from a home where domestic abuse occurred. Witnessing abuse or worse yet, being abused often results in becoming an abuser. It is the result of a psychic defense mechanism called identification with the aggressor. This means that rather than feeling like the powerless victim, the child imagines turning the tables and being the powerful one. They grow into ticking time bombs waiting to go off, unless they get serious treatment and understand what is driving their feelings and behaviors. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of time.
A woman who stays in an abusive relationship often has her own masochistic psychic reasons for staying and she too often needs treatment to understand what drew her to such a man in the first place, so that she will never make such a choice again.
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