ABUSE – A NASTY BUSINESS

City of Fresno domestic violence statistics.
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Would you know if you were being emotionally abused? We hear a great deal about domestic violence these days and the statistics in the UK are shameful: two women are still murdered every week by their partners or spouses. But what about someone who is being emotionally abused?

If you are on the receiving end of this type of torture – and I consider all domestic abuse to be a kind of torture for the victim – you will experienced the most horrendous drop in self-esteem. You will start to believe that you are so worthless, that no other person could ever love you again. And that’s just for starters. Emotional abuse is hard to recognise, because we live in a culture where shows like Big Brother allow us to witness people abusing each other verbally and emotionally and accept it as entertainment. Well, it may be entertainment when we see it on TV, but in the confines of a relationship or a marriage, it certainly isn’t.

Everybody should keep a weather eye out for changes in a relationship that are affecting one or other of the partners in a toxic way. For instance, is your partner very demanding? I mean VERY. So much so that you have to put everything on hold to look after their needs. This demand for constant attention makes you spend all your free time with that person and yet, no matter how much you give, it’s never enough.  And when you stray from the path, you are subject to constant criticism and are continually told off, because you aren’t fulfilling their needs in the way they think you should. Sounds familiar? Yes it might, if you were dealing with a toddler, but if it applies to your adult partner, then he or she is being emotionally abusive.

Another form of emotional abuse is constant arguing. No questions is ever given a straight forward answer. It always becomes an argument that can go on for hours and is never adequately resolved. The abuser is in constant conflict with everyone and in particular, with their partner. This can be a horror story without an ending for the victim. Of course, the opposite can be equally damaging. Have you ever been on the receiving end of ‘the silent treatment.’? I don’t mean a short sulk after a dispute about the football, I mean all out denial of another person’s emotional needs. One way to do this is to withdraw communication, affection and most cruel of all, sex.  If this behaviour is carried out with the intent of hurting, punishing or blaming the victim, it is very nasty indeed.

I have a good friend; middle-class, well-heeled with a husband who is a university lecturer. He’s a brilliant academic, but a complete emotional abuser. He constantly denies her version of events – in the nicest possible way, of course. When ever she challenges him, he always replies: ‘I think you’ll find you have got that wrong, dear…” or ” I simply don’t know what you are talking about…”  My friend knows her facts are accurate, but her husband remains adamant.  He has even been known to suggest that she is going a little insane, or that her memory might be fading, if she continues to fight her corner. Another little trick he keeps up his sleeve, is to overrule any view she might have. When this is done in company, she feels so embarrassed, that these days, she hardly goes anywhere with him. His denial of her intelligence and status, has lowered her self-esteem and creates unnecessary conflict between them on a day to day basis. His invalidation of her feelings, her reality and experiences has led her to mistrust her own perceptions and at times, to think she might indeed, be going crazy. My friend is now, with the help of her family, seeking a divorce. This charming, clever man can’t understand why. He is shattered. He can’t change because he doesn’t want to. He likes being emotionally abusive. It’s a power thing, although he would never admit it.

Another form of emotional abuse that I have seen in couples I know, is that of domination and I don’t mean the type that involves high heels and whips! When one of you wants to dominate the other by controlling every action, that’s abusive.  If your partner HAS to have their own way or if not, will make life hell for you, you will start to lose respect for yourself. If this behaviour is teamed with emotional blackmail, that’s a double whammy!  Everyone has buttons that if pressed, will lead to a reaction. If your partner knows how to press the right button to unleash your empathy, your fear, your compassion, to get what they want, then that’s emotional blackmail. Every one fears rejection in some form or another. But to be constantly told that if you don’t give, you will be abandoned, totally rejected or receive the ‘cold shoulder’, then they are using fear tactics against you.

To live with someone who is emotionally unpredictable, who has sudden and unexplained mood changes, reacting differently at different times to the same behaviour from you, can be like living in a nightmare. I think that constant unpredictable responses can lead to insanity.  You are always on edge, always waiting for the next change of mood or outburst. This  behaviour is seriously messing with someone’s head!

So emotional abuse can be hard to understand, or recognise. And like physical abuse, it can cross all social classes, ethnicity and religions. I remember  some years ago, when I attended a conference on domestic violence, listening to the speakers winding up, after what had been an amazing and informative day, the last speaker, a woman in her fifties who was a barrister and one of the organisors, started to say the usual goodbyes and thanks to the contributers, when she suddenly stopped and appeared to be unable to speak. Another woman went up to ask her if she felt unwell. The woman burst into tears. After a moment, she stopped crying and said in a soft, beautifully spoken voice: “I have to tell you all something. If I don’t, I will be a fraud. I have been abused for all of my married life. Both emotionally and physically. My husband is a judge.”   You could have heard a pin drop. Stereotypes encourage us to believe that domestic violence, either physical or emotional only goes on in certain types of homes; the Wayne/Waynetta scenario. It doesn’t. It’s everywhere.

Emotional and physical abuse in relationships is something no civilised society should tolerate.  It is going on as I write this, in the UK and all over the world. We have to do everything we can to help the victims of this brutal crime and find ways of stopping it happening.

TROUBLE IN HADES!

Question Time set in Oxford
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What a month it has been! The shame and embarrassment knows no bounds! Our political leaders have shown themselves to have feet of clay so large, so heavy, so stuck in the mire that I am starting to feel sorry for them! Not at all the sentiment I would have expected to feel, having read through their misdemeanors as reported in The Telegraph, a usually right-wing broad sheet and known as the in-house magazine of the Tory Party. But they have shown no mercy to any of the political parties. It seems they are all tarred with the same dirty brush!

Watching two politicians squirming on the BBC TV programme, Question Time this week, and hearing the anger expressed by the audience who refused to shut up, I longed for a comforting bit of satire. When the government is on its knees, we need another dose of That Was The Week That Was! So I ask myself, how could so many presumably intelligent people make such huge gaffs? Surely not deliberately? That would be fraud… How then, could they make so many mistakes? Were those expenses forms that hard to fill out? If they made so many mistakes,  can we trust such people to govern us? The questions go on and on!

And still, not all the sh** has hit the fan. We are promised more revelations tomorrow in the Telegraph, Sunday 17 May. Can’t wait! Even though I know that I can’t believe everything I read, The DT is not a paper to put its head on the block lightly. So who else will be falling from a great height? Even those politicians one couldn’t imaging claiming money that wasn’t absolutely Kosher, seem to be tainted by this  and joining the lemming-like march over the edge. How many careers will be ruined? How many faces so red as to be permanently stained?It really does beggar belief!

I am old enough to remember Watergate and Clinton’s memorable words: “I did not have sex with this woman…”  What happens to people when take up politics?  I’m always hearing our elected leaders preaching on about public service and democracy. We know how corrupt other governments can be. But there is something particularly hypocritical about us Brits, when we cover all the dirt with this fine veneer of ‘niceness’…  I have heard some nice excuses this week!

I saw Margaret Beckett on Question Time using the: “I am a nice, patient, reasonable  person and can explain everything….” mode when questioned by a member of the audience about the £70+ expenses she had claimed. She may well have a cast iron alibi and who am I to doubt her, but faced with the animosity of the people questioning her and knowing what her fellow politicians have been up to, she came across as scared witless. Poor Mrs Beckett. On the other hand, she is our elected representative and surely is intelligent enough to interpret the rules about MP’s expenses properly? I also remember her words about the furnishings in Sadam’s palaces…. It all feels like a very sorry mess.

Where do we go from here, I ask myself. This ghastly story will run and run and at this stage, no-one knows what the long term outcome will be. We all know we need people in government who are beyond reproach. But is that an expectation far too high for us poor mortals? How do we police the people who have to, as part of their jobs, police the country? All this mayhem is taking up precious time and news coverage. The other story is that people are losing their jobs and houses, because our city institutions have been allowed the freedom to behave like pirates!

As I write this, the rain is pouring down and a brisk wind is blowing. Now and then, a weak sun struggles to push it’s way through the clouds, promising better weather to come. I can’t predict when, but I try to be optimistic. Surely a metaphor for current situation?

AUGUSTO BOAL

I have just heard that Augusto Boal has died.

I am so sorry this wonderful man is no longer with us. He will always be in my heart because his work in theatre touched me, as it did so many people across the world. I studied with Augusto back in the early nineties and I will never forget the impact that time had on me. I learned so much about myself as well as about theatre.

Thank you Augusto. The world will not be the same without you, but the legacy you have left us will go on for ever.

My sincere condolences to Augusto’s family.

Lyn Ferrand

“Come closer he would say. Come closer.

Now he is further away than ever — and yet we may feel closer than ever to him. The greatest Joker has left the stage.

Augusto Boal, our good friend, teacher and inspiration has died. Many of us loved him. It has been my privilege to interpret his words in print — but for this moment he prepared no text for me to use. The world is a poorer place without him. He touched the lives of thousands, possibly milllions of people. He gave us an invention, a discovery, the Theatre of the Oppressed, which helps us make sense of the world, but even that wonderful invention cannot entirely soften the blow of his loss. The consolation of course is that his work will live and continue to grow – theTheatre of the Oppressed is already the richest legacy anyone could hope for.

Augusto taught us that the tenses of TO are present and future, not past. So while we grieve in the present, and celebrate the life of our great mentor, we must look to the future and work out how to respond as a community, how we can ’come closer’, and what form of memorial which can create in his name.This space is has been created by our friends at Formaat to solicit interventions from all spectactors responses, condolences, ideas and thoughts in this sad time — all are welcome. Our thoughts are with Cecilia, Julian and Fabian. “

 Adrian Jackson

e closer he would say. Come closer.

Now he is further away than ever — and yet we may feel closer than ever to him. The greatest Joker has left the stage.

Augusto Boal, our good friend, teacher and inspiration has died. Many of us loved him. It has been my privilege to interpret his words in print — but for this moment he prepared no text for me to use. The world is a poorer place wit

HOW TO BE A SENIOR FEMALE WARRIOR

Nick Clegg and Joanna Lumley
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Joanna Lumley is my HEROINE!

Undaunted, she has taken on the British government and won! Not one of them could stop her. She knew what she wanted and though sheer force of purpose she has sent Downing Street into an apoplectic fit. Absolutely fabulous!

Her campaign to get justice for the retired Gurkhas has been a learning curve for all women over sixty who feel invisible and unheard in today’s society. Ms Lumley is 63 and has a voice that will be heard. She sits atop the moral high ground and woe betide any flabby politician who dares to try to push her off. She has the country behind her and she has older women behind her, in their millions!

There has always been a certain type of hypocrisy in this country where older women are concerned. They have to have money, be royal or have achieved some sort of public notoriety. If you are simply the ‘old bag’ who lives next door, then you are nothing, nobody, no one.

In hospital wards, dozens of grey haired older women lie in their beds, quietly acquiescing to the chaos around them. There are so many of them, because they outlive the men. They know how to smile sweetly and allow themselves to be patronised and ignored. If they do not, they will be labelled on their notes, as difficult. Their families will play the same game; hoping that keeping silent but appearing grateful and grovelling to the medics, will get better treatment. In my opinion, old women in hospital wards are the most neglected and over-looked of patients and that’s because in this country, we have no respect for them anymore.

Standing in a queue in New Look the other day, I could have been a Martian. The shop assistant, a stick-thin twelve year old, looked traumatized by the fact that a woman of my age could step over the threshold, let alone want to buy something. Another young mother with two unhappy toddlers, asked me to hold the baby while she tried on a skirt. I took the infant without a word and we stared at each other, this new human being and this ageing one, both unsure how to respond. All I wanted to do was choose a top for my daughter, pay for it and go home. But it seemed that I was there to fulfil a particular purpose; to abide by the THE RULES FOR OLD WOMEN and wear the Granny garb.

This attitude, when wonderful women like Joanna Lumley achieve miracles, is untenable. But then, are we our own worst enemies? Walk down any high street and you see the army of granny-victims following their daughters and grand children around like the unpaid Nannies they probably are.  There is an unspoken need to keep old women in their place, unless they are one of the very few who have money. I think this must be a global phenomenon, because old women are the poorest and most neglected people on the planet.

Statistics show that the there will be huge numbers of people over 60 in this country as the century grows older, most of them women. Older women have to step up and be counted, Ms Lumley has made that clear. She’s shown us we do have a voice and we do not have to be victims for anyone.

So, a good place to start might be the NHS, where a bit more training for young doctors and nurses would not go amiss. People have history. The 80 year old waiting silently in the bed for her medication, or a change of bed linen, has a past. Learning about that past, makes the grey haired lump under the dirty sheets a person, with a unique life that can unlock the key to kind and empathetic communication. Of course, there is always the excuse of  no time and no resources. That’s a nonsense. It’s attitude that is the problem.