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KellyAssauer
05-18-2009, 01:51 PM
University Therapist: Woman: Late Thirties:

has had several therapy sessions with a very intelligent, ambitious and driven young wife. The wife wants a divorce from her husband. Because of the school’s policy, the therapist hasn’t been able to meet with the husband, but they find away around the legal loophole and the couple arrive.

The wife leaves, leaving the therapist alone with the husband for say ten to fifteen minutes. In that brief encounter what sort of question/response sequence or behavioral aspects might lead the therapist to either suspect or seriously conclude that the husband is a victim of abuse?

Could this happen? and what might it be that could lead the therapist to such a rapid conclusion?

Thank you so much for any help!

(link to scene as it stands in sig - needs help!)

alleycat
05-18-2009, 02:07 PM
This isn't directly related to your question, but it might give you some ideas:

http://www.lilaclane.com/relationships/emotional-abuse/

Puma
05-18-2009, 04:11 PM
I'm just shooting ideas from the hip here - but - defeated attitude and body language (recessive). Comments like "I know I'll never be the man she wants me to be, but I love her." Talk about her plans and aspirations and none of his own. Mention that she changed after the marriage. Casual mention of his having to do the usual feminine role household chores because she's busy working on her plans. Just some thoughts. Puma

claire
05-18-2009, 04:19 PM
Husband might be visibly nervous/avoidant (lack of eye contact, bouncing leg, tapping fingers, etc.) about questions from the therapist, might be quick to reassure wife when she returns that they discussed something minor.

TabithaTodd
05-18-2009, 04:37 PM
Are we talking verbal abuse or physical?

Verbal:

Lack of eye contact
nervous jitters (bouncing leg, tapping fingers, stuttering)
verbal tics (uhm, stalling to find answer)
nonverbal - looking to the left means use of imaginative skills, looking to right is use of memory. Head nods no or yes when stating the opposite.
Self negatory statements - I feel stupid, I'm dumb, I'm useless, not of worth, she's always right, I'm always wrong

sagging shoulders, slumped position, head bowed, voice trembles.

Physical:

All of the above with signs of possible physical abuse like varying healing bruises (different colored in different levels of the healing stage), flinches of quick sudden hand movements, or loud voice. eyes dart back and forth but never make contact...

Those are just some of the signs. The person may also partially disclose or accidentally disclose an incident of abuse with an excuse or many of them for the abuser such as I made them so angry, it was my fault.

RJK
05-18-2009, 05:38 PM
Always responds with "I'll have to check with ..." when asked to make a decision.

Maiden
05-18-2009, 05:40 PM
Honestly, I would give more clues in the husband reactions to his wife. (and yes is it possible for a man to be abused. It just isn't talked about often.) If alone he might try changing the subject or actively avoid certain topics. He might have a defeated attitude and make comments about how he deserves negative things and talk down about himself. It would be more obvious when he is interacting with his abuser. She would seem controlling and make humiliating comments about her husband. She might even speak of him more as an object than a person.

You can find plenty of information online about signs of abuse, even look at forums where people are discussing it. Just remember that abuse is not a subject he will venture into on his own. You learn more watching interactions within the relationship and how they relate to people close to them.

All the things mentioned though I do and I am by far not abused. So I would be careful stating something like "He did *insert action* so he is abused!" You might offend someone. Might just insert certain actions and behaviors and let your readers come to the conclusion before the character does. Such as him flinching away from her if she seems to be irritated or angry, her talking down to him, or maybe even interrupting him or overly correcting anything he said.

And honestly it would be unlikely that, if the woman was an abuser, she would seek a divorce. Abusers tend to be very controlling and would not want their spouse out of their power. That is why when the abused person tries to break away the violence gets worse.

But it would be very hard for a therapist to come to a rapid decision. The man would have to actively elude to it in most cases. Most people do not associate men with being abuse.

veinglory
05-18-2009, 06:00 PM
By "is a victim of abuse" do you mean current abuse by his wife, or another, of previous abuse when he was a child?

jclarkdawe
05-18-2009, 06:31 PM
The problem with all of the signs of abuse is that they can be indicative of a variety of problems, absent some of the physical abuse pathologies. For example, a patient who doesn't engage the therapist's eyes could be abused, a substance abuser, have other mental health issues, not like the therapist, feel guilty about stealing some bubble gum when he was a kid, or just be disengaged with the entire process, or a whole raft of other problems. Further, if he admits to himself that he is abused, he'll feel guilty about it, and be actively working to hide the problem. If he doesn't admit to himself that he is abused, he might not even display any signs since there is no problem.

Absent physical signs, and absent a statement by the patient, in fifteen minutes all the therapist is going to come up with is a concern that there may be something going on, but no idea what it is. This is assuming that the therapist doesn't have any history to work from. History is absolutely critical here, and without it, the therapist isn't going to get much to work from.

However, if the therapist has been talking with the abuser, the abuser might be showing additional signs that she is an abuser. This would cause the therapist to be more focused in his/her approach and could result in the therapist using more specific questions.

This also assumes that the therapist is unbiased. Many therapists allow their personal opinions and professional biases enter into the picture. Alcohol counselors will find virtually everyone has alcoholic tendencies, domestic abuse counselors will find signs of domestic abuse, and so on and so forth. This is part of finding what you expect to find.

Ignoring the issues I've discussed so far, I have serious reservations about your premise.

First is that an abuser is the last person to want a divorce. These are the people who fight the unfightable. I've seen them argue with a judge as to whether the judge has the authority to divorce them. I can't see a scenario in which an abuser would seek a divorce. Among other things, abusers tend to be highly resistant to change.

Second is the legal loophole to get around something. For a divorce, nearly every jurisdiction in the English speaking world uses a no fault standard. Basically, one party goes into court and says they don't want to be married. Getting divorce is only marginally harder than getting married.

Third is the fact that the therapist has met with the wife several times. The therapist, if at all competent, would have been picking up signs that the wife was an abuser. These people are controlling, and that comes through quickly. She would go into the meeting with the husband already realizing he was likely to have been abused.

Fourth, is because of the realization in three, the therapist would not meet with the husband. This meeting sounds like it has the strong potential of supporting the abuse, and a therapist would be guilty of unethical conduct, with the strong potential of being suspended. This is a situation in which the therapist would be recommending a meeting with a different therapist.

Fifth is an abuser would not allow her husband to meet with a therapist. I've never, ever heard of this happening. Abusers are the type of people who follow their victim everywhere, sometimes even into the bathroom. They want to control EVERY aspect of their victim's life. They'll resist the police separating them.

I'm sorry, but the question as you presented it was unbelievable to me. At this point I went and looked at the scene from your manuscript this is from. Although well written, it doesn't seem real to me. I can't see either the therapist or the victim acting in the ways you're presenting.

Sorry.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

KellyAssauer
05-18-2009, 08:32 PM
it doesn't seem real to me.

Abuse didn't quite seem to fit with me either, I know something is wrong here and it has an abusive element to it, but I'm having a heck of a time sorting it all out! I Wanted to say thanks to those who have voiced an opinion! (esp Jim Clark-Dawe –wow!)

Now I'm at a loss to explain his behavior. This divorce seems to be the defining moment at the very beginning of the story (or could be) but it's becoming mystifying to me since the free writing keeps giving me these odd glimpses into the characters.

I had one therapist friend suggest that the scene paints the male as being paranoid and narcissistic, which is not at all what I intended!

What I know:

I know the wife character is very intelligent, driven and has a persuasive - if not domineering - personality. She wants what she wants and she gets it. Right now, she wants a divorce.

What I know about the male is that he is extremely passive, has no self esteem and has begun to sleep in a fetal position when forced to share the bed with his wife. There is no “intimacy” between the two except those occasions where she demands sex. As the story unfolds from here He feels more and more “numb”.

The therapist scene could give us insight to the fact that the male knows he’s getting divorced because the woman wants it. He also knows that The Wife wants him to resist this, even though getting this divorce will be both very demoralizing and humiliating to the him.

Given all that, it felt as if there was some kind of mental abuse going on, or else the male may have been seriously flawed going into all this and is just getting flakier yet?

Or is it really a simple catch 22 situation where the male also wants out, but isn't allowed to say he wants out, so that the strong female can blame him for it? (okay now my head's spinning!)

If it isn't abuse, then what might realistically justify all this odd behavior?

--and my apologies for asking it this way, but sometimes when the characters take over the writing, I'm just clueless to the motivations!

I so very much appreciate the time and comments.

Thank you all!

veinglory
05-18-2009, 08:36 PM
I think the technical name for that is "being a total bitch"? It skates very close to sexist stereotype IMHO. i.e. assertive working women demasculates husband.

Izunya
05-18-2009, 09:51 PM
First is that an abuser is the last person to want a divorce. These are the people who fight the unfightable. I've seen them argue with a judge as to whether the judge has the authority to divorce them. I can't see a scenario in which an abuser would seek a divorce. Among other things, abusers tend to be highly resistant to change.

I can imagine a situation in which an abuser would threaten to file for divorce, have their bluff called, and convince themselves that they meant to go through with it all along. Abusers need to be in control and they can't stand being wrong, IME. If the abuser can come up with an excuse to call off the divorce—"I've decided to give you one more chance"—they will, but it needs to be an excuse that gives them the perceived moral high ground.

That being said, the husband in this scenario doesn't seem like he's at the bluff-calling point.

Izunya

C.bronco
05-18-2009, 10:12 PM
First is that an abuser is the last person to want a divorce.
I was going to say that. The abusers want control. They may threaten divorce as a means of control, but the last thing they want is to let go of the people they are controlling.

C.bronco
05-18-2009, 10:13 PM
Oops, I guess ditto Izunya too! I hadn't scrolled down that far yet.

JamieFord
05-18-2009, 10:23 PM
(( If it isn't abuse, then what might realistically justify all this odd behavior? ))

Google PTSDs and Dissociative Disorders. You'll find all kinds of symptoms that fit with what you're looking for, but perhaps not so obvious, but more confusing and troubling. Dissociative disorders can relate back to all kinds of trauma and abuse, and can be triggered in all kinds of ways.

backslashbaby
05-19-2009, 01:01 AM
I've seen abusive folks move on when they meet a new person at work, etc, and see that they can just leave the first family and have a new person to abuse. They get to do all sorts of nasty things through divorce to the first family. And they have a great ally in the new person, for the first years.

I agree that the typical abuser wants to control the abusee forever, but some do see the ability to do that while divorced.

Taken to the extreme, these are the folks who off their first 3 spouses and are looking for a new one.

frimble3
05-19-2009, 10:48 AM
So she's intelligent, driven, and domineering, that's not necessarily abusive.
She married him because he admired her brains, put up with her 'assertiveness', and went along with what she told him to do. He married her because he wished he was more like her, she saved him from having to think for himself, and because, well, she told him to.
Now, time has passed and they're both fed up with the deal they made. She's sick of being in charge all the time, and he's tired of constantly being told what to do. As for 'demanding' sex, well, two people with different sex drives, 'demanding' is in the eye of the beholder.
The marriage spirals down, she berates him for not 'being a man', he cowers, she shouts at him for cowering, he's afraid of setting her off.
Maybe she's found a new man and wants a divorce, but he's afraid of being on his own and having to look after (or at) himself. She wants him to resist? Well, she certainly wouldn't want to think that she was being rejected! She'd prefer to think that he didn't want to lose her. Or, maybe he dreams of freedom, but thinks she'll really blow a gasket if he tries to 'escape'.
I could see him clinging, limpet-like, to her for security, as she tries to chew her arm off to get free.
Another two people who married for all the wrong reasons.

KellyAssauer
05-19-2009, 11:45 PM
So she's intelligent, driven, and domineering, that's not necessarily abusive.
She married him because he admired her brains, put up with her 'assertiveness', and went along with what she told him to do. He married her because he wished he was more like her, she saved him from having to think for himself, and because, well, she told him to.
Now, time has passed and they're both fed up with the deal they made. She's sick of being in charge all the time, and he's tired of constantly being told what to do. As for 'demanding' sex, well, two people with different sex drives, 'demanding' is in the eye of the beholder.
The marriage spirals down, she berates him for not 'being a man', he cowers, she shouts at him for cowering, he's afraid of setting her off.
Maybe she's found a new man and wants a divorce, but he's afraid of being on his own and having to look after (or at) himself. She wants him to resist? Well, she certainly wouldn't want to think that she was being rejected! She'd prefer to think that he didn't want to lose her. Or, maybe he dreams of freedom, but thinks she'll really blow a gasket if he tries to 'escape'.
I could see him clinging, limpet-like, to her for security, as she tries to chew her arm off to get free.
Another two people who married for all the wrong reasons.

What a wonderful bunch of responses because I like this as much as all the other reasonings, entirely possible and no psychosis needed. Although some of the behavior isn't quite normal. But your description here makes almost as much sense as anything else, so I'm going to keep writing away and let the reader make up their minds as to how twisted or in need of help these characters are. If there had been a single repeated red warning light flashing from all the people who have taken the time to comment here then, at least I would have had one particular area to study, but alas, perhaps we'll just let it fly and see what happens... this is going to be interesting!

penny manning
05-26-2009, 09:12 AM
Here's a link:

http://www.batteredmen.com/

And the search I used:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&num=100&newwindow=1&q=domestic+violence+against+men&aq=0&oq=domestic+violence+against&aqi=g10

Hope that helps.