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When Sexual Assault Doesn’t Look Like Sexual Assault

There is a form of rape or sexual assault rarely discussed. It occurs the result of manipulative luring, particularly of women already in a relationship. A woman’s existing relationship may be good or may have its issues, but if not for the strategies, patience yet perseverance of the perpetrator, that woman would never have been lured into an adulterous looking relationship.

The perpetrator in these circumstances uses techniques of social isolation, exploitation of a person’s vulnerabilities and is frequently presenting himself as troubled by events in his life and needing the emotional support of his target.

We certainly recognize how a young child can be lured: the young child can be offered candy; can be asked to view a puppy; can be told their parent asked that they be picked up. The lures of the adult in some ways can appear similar yet are more sophisticated and sinister: I heard some colleagues talking badly about you. I can’t tell you who, but I have your back.

Consider that lure, that hook.

Instantly, the perpetrator creates a sense of dependency in his target causing him to appear to provide safety in a fictitious situation he creates to make the target feel unsafe. She is now suspicious of her colleagues. He is the only one who can help her through. This is an unbalancing technique.

As the dependency is fostered, then the perpetrator steps up the game: My wife/partner doesn’t understand me…”

Now the target, already unbalanced and likely feeling indebted for him having her back is manipulated into feeling sorry for him. He now needs her support which if withheld would cause her to feel ungrateful. Further, if she withholds her support, she can fear him withholding his and she might therefore be at the mercy of colleagues who may be out to get her. How psychologically manipulative is that!

As one can imagine, this is a scenario that can be further manipulated over time to the point where she is pulled towards sleeping with him. The period of further manipulation is known as grooming. Rarely is this appreciated as a premeditated and insidious form of sexual assault or rape.

As she tries to make sense of her behavior, he may further his brainwashing and grooming of her by alleging they each have feelings for each other. She needing to make sense of a seemingly insane situation may hold on to the perpetrators construction of reality and may engage further in a seemingly romantic tryst, while all the while feeling bewildered, confused, isolated and afraid.

The impact of these manipulated sexual assaults is devastating.

Victims are left to question their morality and indeed it was their morality that was twisted, distorted and used against them. They feel their personal integrity has been shattered.

The woman’s partner also rarely understands or appreciates the dynamics involved; how the perpetrator can actually be better at manipulation than many of us are at not being sucked in. Rather than seeing the woman as a victim of a sexual predator, she is cast as a cheater or adulterer. If her marriage was already troubled, then this can be further used against her by her partner to cast blame and avoid responsibility for issues within their own relationship. These situations so remarkably would undermine even the most otherwise stable and reasonable relationship.

I am seeing more and more of these situation.

The matter comes to me for either couple therapy or mediation to resolve their separation.

If mediation, there is much unresolved anger as the whole situation is cast superficially as a tremendous affair. By the time the couple has separated, it may be impossible to roll back the clock and reconstruct the narrative of what has transpired and why.

In couple therapy, it is no easy task either, but hopefully the couple can more meaningfully unwind what transpired. Hopefully the couple can resist blame and shame of the woman and come to appreciate the insidiousness of the perpetrator’s luring and manipulations and how most anyone can be vulnerable to exploitation.

It is important in couple therapy to support the woman’s partner. The partner will have to address the many personal and inter-personal implications of what has transpired. Anger leading to blame is a common starting point. This is not to be dismissed or seen as inappropriate to begin. It can take considerable discussion and time to come to terms with this seemingly infidelity, not yet appreciated as an insidious sexual assault.

These are remarkably tangled webs to unweave and bear considerable discussion and understanding of not only those involved, but also of their friends and family.

While the effects of the actual sexual assault are many, it is the psychological impact in these situations that are most destructive.

Hopefully this blog post can be of service to those who are in these situations. It can take much time to recover. The aftermath is considerable and counseling with someone attuned to these dynamics can be critical to recovery.

Not all sexual assaults are understood for what they are. Not all sexual assaults look like sexual assault.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

Settling Disputes Between Separated Parents

One of the biggest challenges for separating parents is to separate their conflict from the care of the children between them.

Frequently I hear from one parent how the other parent doesn’t deserve to see the children the result of a dispute between the parents. However, the parent-child relationship is not a right of the parent, but a right of the child. This can be a very challenging concept for parents to appreciate. To add, the other parent doesn’t have to be a good parent, merely adequate – another tough concept to appreciate.

In these circumstances though, people go to court, at times spurred on by their lawyers but without realizing that the parent complained about will continue to see the kids (absent any real abuse and based upon tangible evidence). Further, over recent years, Court decisions have been more towards a more equalized residential time sharing arrangement than ever before.

So if you are going to court, not liking the other parent and absent tangible evidence that the other parent is truly inadequate and seeking to limit or curtail the other parents access or seeking to limit support obligations, you may be in for a shocking surprise. The kids will be seen and parents will have to pay. This is why mediation and collaborative law can be so beneficial.

With a realistic appraisal of your situation as well as knowledge of current court trends, you can craft an agreement at a fraction of the cost of litigation and have something where you have a say and control of the outcome.

When I conduct mediation with lawyers present, I often ask the lawyers what a likely court order would be in the circumstances described. While no one can guarantee what a judge would necessarily say, all the lawyers are well able to advise of likely outcomes.

That’s right, before all the affidavits, court hearing and even a trial, the lawyers already have a good idea of the likely outcome. The whole fight then zeros in on typically small differences… small differences. However, achieving those small differences come at great costs both financially and emotionally and often to no measurable benefit.

Lawyers will happily take your instruction to fight the fight, but before giving that instruction, ask your lawyer what a likely outcome could be. Next try to figure out the cost both financial and emotional to achieve that outcome. Lead with your head, not your upset.

I completed a mediation a short while ago where parents were recently separated; one was withholding money and the other the children. Neither parent had yet spoken with a lawyer. This could have gone to court with disastrous consequences for everyone, but instead, both parents heard the same information at the same time and were able to set aside their differences to settle their matters.Thereafter I sent the couple to some lawyers to review the intended agreement – lawyers who were specifically trained in helping parents settle peacefully.

People don’t have to like each other to settle their separation, but they must learn or be able to manage their own emotions and behavior. If a parent can’t manage their own emotions or behavior, then pre-mediation counseling or support from a separation coach can help pave the way.Those unmanaged emotions or extreme behavior can set the trajectory for nasty and unremitting court battles to which children are then exposed.

Mediation or Collaborative Law more provides the opportunity for parents to learn conflict resolution skills and to keep their children as the priority of concern. Most parents don’t even realize, you can see a mediator before seeing lawyers. After developing your agreement, then you can see lawyers as recommended by your mediator.

Congrats to those recent parents who despite their upset with each other were still able to achieve a reasonable parenting plan. While they started each advising of what the other did or didn’t deserve, they learned about: the impact of their dispute on their kids; how to facilitate the exchange of the children between them; how to resolve future disputes; and how to behave more reasonably towards each other.

I am so pleased for their children.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

 

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

When is Letting Go an Option in Child Access Disputes?

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I am seeing more and more contested parenting disputes regarding children 12 years of age and older.

These disputes have long histories of court involvement, allegations of untoward parental behavior and issues of troubled access.

Whether the access did continue until then or not, come about age 12, it is as if the dispute between the parents is taken over by the child directly. The child seeming having found a voice is now aligned with one parent against the other. Despite what may have actually been a good prior relationship, despite what was said, the child is now indicating disdain for the other parent. The child is resisting contact, the child is trying to determine rules, rights and expectations placed upon them in the home of the other parent.  The child is now becoming a handful and disruptive to family life in the home of the other parent.

Very often the other parent is in a new relationship and there may be new half-siblings or step-siblings. Those relationships that were once enjoyed are also increasingly being depicted in negative terms.

There is a resurgence of lawyer involvement leading to court involvement. The parent on the receiving end of this up-tick of new behavior is at his or her wit’s end. Child protective services may be evoked to involvement by either the targeted parent calling for CPS to conduct an investigation into their child being coached and/or manipulated, or alternately by the primary residential parent who otherwise appears to sit dormant, but now may suggest the other parent is somehow abusing the child.

As one client described, it, “It is a shit show without end.”

To add, one parent may seek for the child to attend counseling, while the other may resist. The concern with counseling is that it may be used sinisterly to provide another vehicle of complaint by the child of the targeted parent to bolster a position for no access in the parenting dispute.

Parent in these situations both look to lawyers, judges, social workers, child protective services, therapists, teachers, doctors and others to intervene on their behalf, validate their respective views and uphold their version of the preferred outcome.

Spoiler alert. Not all the king’s horses or all the king’s men could put Humpty together again.

These are the worst situations of disputes by separated parents.

These disputes more often than not, prove intractable.

These disputes lead to mental health and behavioral disturbances, academic failure, early onset sexual behavior, drug and alcohol abuse and suicidal ideation/behavior in children. Mental health issues take the form of depression, anxiety and personality disorders. Behavior issues can include self-harm, withdrawal in some children and aggression in others. School related problems can be affected given those issues and in some cases, we see children who become perfectionists, anxiety fueled with the secret belief that by at least controlling this aspect of their lives, they can survive the other aspect of their lives.

Some of the best clinical and legal minds have sought to develop programs to address these very situations. The programs are expensive and the outcomes are mixed. Attendance is virtually always the result of a court order. However, as the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water….”

Woe betides the clinician who advises the parents of the above, that their dispute is creating the conditions for their child’s demise. In those circumstances the clinician, followed by the lawyers, judges and child protection services become the next target of blame. Many clinicians have opted to not provide service in these circumstances seeking to avoid complaints to licensing bodies.

What is a parent to do?

Given the average cost of two days of litigation is about $19,000 in Ontario (Family Legal Services Review, Justice Annemarie E. Bonkalo, December 31, 2016), more parents are opting to represent themselves if going to court. However, the same report shows statistics to suggest that the unrepresented litigant wins about 18% of the time at hearings and about 35% of the time at trial. Beyond winning a case though, the issue then becomes follow-through. One needs to ask, even in winning, given the animosity, what is the likelihood of the loser following through as ordered. Even if the loser doesn’t follow through, it will be the child who will argue he or she is exercising their choice and what court is going to put a child in jail for not following an access order? You can win at court and still lose in the end. Court really doesn’t resolve these problems.

Beyond court, I now see some parents opting out of the residential agreement. In other words, they are no longer being held hostage to the increasing demands of the child for special treatment and privileges in order to attend and they are no longer willing to react to the missives of the other parent. They are letting go.

This is not necessarily a bad idea in the circumstance. The issue is how to let go and the message you send, recognizing that the message sent can still be bastardized, misconstrued and turned against you.

The better message is one that doesn’t contain blame or shame, sets a boundary and establishes rules and expectations for re-engagement thus leaving the door open. The challenge in delivering the message is managing one’s own anger or animosity.

Better messages I have seen created go like this:

I am so sorry seeing me/us creates so much tension and turmoil. Hopefully though there may come a time when you can come and stay over, when we can all abide by the rules and expectations in our home and we can live peacefully with due regard to our responsibilities to ourselves and each other.  I/we would only love to see you here, but clearly the time is just not right for now. This makes me/us so sad but I want you to know that regardless of what you may think, I/we still love you. I/we look forward to the time when we can discuss matters; how this came about; and then continue in a respectful relationship. If in the meantime, you would like to connect by phone, email or text, or if you would like to get together at anytime, it would only be my/our pleasure to do so. If at any time you need me/us, I/we would be there for you. It is just that under the current conditions, I/we recognize this just isn’t working and is hurtful to everyone. So you cannot come over at present. I am so sorry you are in this position. You don’t deserve it and when you would like to do something different yourself with it, I/we are here. I/we do love you. I/We are not abandoning you, I/we just recognize we can’t go on with the situation as it is.”

If there is a benefit to this it may be that the child is freed from the ongoing hostilities. It also provides the child time with the primary residential parent to sort out that parent’s contribution to distress in the absence of you as the foil. The hope is that with the passage of time and maturity, the child may come to reconnect, particularly when feeling free from the influence of a parent on whom the child has been dependent.

I have had a parent explain to me that doing this, without any particular advice to do so, was considered by that parent an act of faith and courage and felt to be in the better interest of the child than the impact of the ongoing and unrelentless dispute.

It may come to be that re-connection occurs in later life, the result of crisis or the result of a counselor suggesting the relationship be revisited.

Letting go.

I am not suggesting this is the right thing to do, only that I am seeing more parents take this option.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

Getting on the Same Parenting Page with Children Who Divide and Conquer

Children learn to divide and conquer several ways.

Whenever a parent says, “Go ask your [other parent],” the child instantly learns the parents aren’t on the same team and are ripe for exploitation. Sometimes it is one parent  not wanting to play the heavy, hoping the other parent will play the heavy and sometimes a parent while not wanting to allow the request, wants to blame the other parent if the request is granted and the outcome of whatever happens next is poor.

Another way kids learn to split parents is by capitalizing on conflict between the parents.

During times of parental conflict some parents still want to be perceived well by the child, so caving to the request of the child is meant to curry the child’s favor and is used as a weapon against the other parent. However, this is a knife that cuts both ways and both parents can then be exploited by the child with the child increasingly learning to pit one parent against the other for their own gain.

These issues and ploys create havoc for families. These ploys create children who rather than experiencing love, limits, expectations and consequences, learn how to be inter-personally exploitative for their own gain. It must be understood that particularly when appropriate attention is scarce, gaining access to objects and special privileges is experienced as a valuable consolation prize to the child. However, as the parents become increasingly split, then their disdain for each other grows as does the blame game in terms of who is the worse parent.  With this, the child checks out of the relationship with the parents and the child’s chief mission becomes doing as they please while their parents are distracted.

To stop the madness, parents must eventually get on the same page.

Liking each other or not, getting on the same page really means comparing notes and discussing the behavior and requests or demands of the child. It also means that the parent must not seek to have their role of parent validated by being the one their child likes most only by virtue of being bought.

In these situations, it is wise for parents to forever compare notes and discuss ANY request made by the child and before either parent signals their views of the request whatsoever. So there is a wrong way and a right way to do this. For example:

Child asks for a sweet before bedtime:

Wrong way: I think it would be OK, but go ask your [other parent] first.

Right way: That is something I will ask your [other parent] and after WE decide, I will let you know.

Child asks to go to a party:

Wrong way: One parent makes a unilateral decision and grants the child’s request. The other parent learns of the decision and doesn’t agree. Child is caught in the middle and parents are at war with each other. No matter what happens, someone will remain angry.

Right Way: I’ll have to discuss that with [other parent] and get back to you.

Think of these examples from the child’s perspective. With the wrong way of responding to the child either the other parent is set up as the villain and/or someone is going to be quite upset in the end. However with the right way of doing this, then the child learns that the parents cannot be split or exploited and that the parents are united in their parenting.

The question that remains though, is what are parents to do when they don’t agree on the answer.

The challenge is to resist all or none thinking – that way of making problems and solutions an either/or debate.

Rather than those circular arguments based on either/or thinking, parents can:

  1. Get more information to better understand the request and what may be at stake;
  2. Generate more alternative options;
  3. Share the dilemma with the child.

For instance, although a child may want a sweet before bed, perhaps with more information, one can determine what kind of sweet and how much of it the child wants. That sweet may either be a little treat or a full meal supplement! With more information, some decisions make themselves or alternatives can be self evident.

With the discussion of the party, it may be that both parents also need more information and may need to speak to a parent where the party is supposed to take place. By seeking more information, better decisions may be made. To add, more alternatives can also be generated. Perhaps parents agree to pick-up and deliver the child to and from the party; perhaps a parent agrees to chaperone; perhaps there is a curfew place on attending. So the magic here is not to get caught in a knee-jerk yes or no, but to more fully understand what is at stake and to develop alternative suggestions to facilitate solutions.

Sometimes though parents may still not agree. However, rather than telling the child which side of the fence either parent is on, both parents advise they are together undecided and speak with the child about their concerns. Maybe in speaking with the child, the child can then generate alternatives or options to make the request acceptable.

Lastly, parent can seek the guidance of a trusted family member or friend or seek professional input. These options are still better than being split by the child and creating family divisions, divided loyalties and interpersonal conflict and animosity.

Conflict in and of itself is not harmful to children, assuming non-abusive. What is harmful is unresolved conflict and conflict that leads to animosity and people taking sides. Children who are exposed to parents sorting out conflict learn how to resolve conflict themselves; how to collaborate on solutions; and how to live harmoniously versus exploitively.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

Child Behavior: Tame the Beast in 4 Steps!

Frustration tolerance refers to the ability to withstand distressing events. Resilience refers to the ability to not only withstand distressing events, but to also overcome those distressing events.

In the absence of an ability to withstand frustration though, there is no opportunity to learn to overcome.

In today’s society, parents are so paving the way for their children that they are removing all obstacles of frustration. Hence so many of today’s kids haven’t yet developed the capacity to simply withstand frustration.

  • Child whines – gets the toy;
  • Child whines – doesn’t have to eat what is prepared;
  • Child whines – avoids the consequence.

This has gotten so out of hand that even when expecting the most simple of tasks, a whiney child can undermine parental authority. Now I am not talking about an authoritarian parent expecting undue hardship and challenges from the child, but more the reasonable expectations such as brush your teeth, get ready for bed, hang up your coat.

This is not to lay blame upon the parent either though. Parents today are stressed themselves.

To maintain the family economy many two-parent families have both parents employed, sometimes at more than two jobs between them. Then there are single-parent led families as well as many blended families. Time and resources for parents are spread thin. This creates the conditions for many parents to take the path of least resistance when faced with an onery child.

Problem is, the path of least resistance is a slippery slope. Giving in as a means for the tired or stressed out parent to cope only creates spoiled kids who when finally held accountable, fall to pieces. These kids cannot handle frustration and in the face of frustration, act out in anger rather than realizing one doesn’t always get one’s way, that there are expectations and that at times, we may have to put up with things we would much rather not tolerate.

What’s the answer?

Well, if you don’t want to create a monster or if you are looking to tame a monster, then you too will have to tolerate frustration. You will have to put up with some whining and pushback as the child then learns they cannot always have their way.

To do this well it is important for the parent to demonstrate frustration tolerance themself – to stay calm in the midst of a tantrum or meltdown – to appreciate that their child is only now beginning to experience what and how managing frustration is all about. If you lose it, then what would you expect of your child? Manage self before managing child!

We actually want the parent to empathize with the child and not scold for the tantrum observed. This is not the time to punish but to show some degree of understanding. If anything, the parent in this situation can be apologetic, apologizing for not having created the conditions to learn frustration tolerance early. This is not to be facetious, but sincere. It is difficult for a child to hold or harbor anger when a parent genuinely and caringly demonstrates support in the midst of frustration. So punishment is out, empathy is in.

As you hold your ground managing your own frustration and support your child in managing theirs, then they can come to learn that frustration is not necessarily a bad thing, but only a signal to perhaps be more creative or collaborative in problem solving.

Once the child realizes you will not simply remove the obstacle on their behalf, then you create space for problem solving and collaboration – the hallmark of resilience. By the way, collaboration is not about doing for, but doing with on mutually acceptable solutions.

So:

  1. Resist the path of least resistance;
  2. Allow for frustration;
  3. Demonstrate calm and empathy;
  4. Once the child is calm, facilitate collaborative problem solving.

Lessons learned.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

Recognizing Abusive Behavior

I chatted with a few women in the past week who were in abusive relationships without realizing it. Because they were not being hit, the abuse wasn’t recognized.

Physical abuse (hitting, kicking, hair pulling, pushing shoving, strangulating, burning) is only one form of abuse although the physicality can take many forms with varying levels of dangerousness.

Less obvious forms of abusive behavior include being harassed to perform or engage in sexual acts to which you do not agree. Even if you do not follow through, being harassed, badgered, guilted, manipulated to still perform or engage in those acts is a form of sexual abuse and psychological abuse.

Other forms of psychological abuse include being frequently lied too; having your thoughts and views dismissed; being blamed or shamed particularly for things beyond your control or for matters that simply are not of your making; being made to feel guilty as a means of manipulation; being told things are other that what they appear.

Verbal abuse includes being called names, causing you to feel less about yourself which in turn can also be categorized as psychological abuse.

Lording power and control over another person for one’s one gratification is yet another form of abuse. This includes controlling all the money; not allowing the other to input or allocate spending; restricting contact with others be they friends or family; controlling how one dresses and where on goes; threatening harm to self, you, pets, children, your friends or family; forcing religious beliefs or practices.

In truth, the list of abusive behavior continues and takes many forms. Underneath the abuse is someone seeking to control or limit or manipulate the behavior of another for their own personal gain or gratification.

Physical abuse tends to be obvious. The other forms of abuse may make you feel like you are trying to catch smoke – difficult to see and get your hands on.

If you feel like you are being driven crazy, if you are at your wits end, then you may be in an abusive relationship.

Get help.

Women can always call their local women abuse shelter. Virtually all women’s shelters provide counseling services. You don’t have to go into a shelter to receive the counseling services. Their services are very discrete and many women’s shelters can send someone to meet with you wherever you feel safe. You can discuss your situation and determine your next steps.

Very often women in these situations are told by their partners what their legal options are and they believe their partner. More to the fact, they are often provided misinformation that favors the abuser. You can usually be provided bias-free legal information through the women’s shelter services or they will refer you to receive free legal information so the information you receive is untainted by the person providing the information.

Bottom line – you need to manage yourself and obtain unbiased – neutral information. You need to explore your options. Beyond that, what you choose to do is up to you.

Men in abusive situations similarly need support. Because there is a differential and systemic power imbalances that is gender based in society, there tends not to be available public services for men. Men can still seek support at general public counseling services and both men and women can also try their family doctor for support and referral.

I referred the women who called this week to a local women’s shelter.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships

In the Face of Blame

I received an interesting question in response to my blog about sending parents first for counseling. I would like to respond. First, here is the question:

Well said, thank you greatly for your wisdom. I work in co-occurring disorders. I frequently hear from clients that “bad parenting or lack of parenting” as the reason or excuse for substance abuse and maladaptive behavior and thinking, along with mental health issues, and unhealthy interpersonal relationships …(“Its not my fault, if only I had this and that as a child then I wouldn’t have these problems.”) What are your thoughts?

Answer:

It is not uncommon to hear the refrain that essentially states, I am not responsible for myself, my problems are someone elses fault, most notably my parents.

This is not an uncommon refrain. Truth is, the person may be right.

We now know that underneath many substance disorders as well as many mental health disorders is a history of trauma. The most common place for being exposed to trauma is in one’s own home. There is a substantial piece of research to even back that up. Indeed, some trauma is transgenerational although not all trauma falls at the feet of one’s family. Some trauma is institutional, some by social structures and some by situations truly at the hands of life itself.

There is the the ACEs study. ACE stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences and the study demonstrates the greater the number of those adverse experiences particularly from one’s family, the greater the likelihood of not only addiction and mental health disorders but of a multitude of physical disorder too. The study is very robust and an interesting and easy read for anyone. I certainly recommend it for addiction and mental health professionals. Clients may also benefit from reading it.

With children we work with the parents because we seek to address the conditions that may have lead to their challenges. If however, the challenge is as a result of genetics or biology, we still want to work with the parents to help them cope and adapt to their child’s unique needs.

Once that child is an adult presenting with addictions, mental health or other life challenges, to the extent possible, we still want to work with the family to address the conditions that lead to the problems.

However, come adulthood people are then in a position to take responsibility for themselves and despite the cause of their issues, can look at how they can take charge of their life to any degree possible.

The adult is typically emancipated and seeks to live independent of their family of origin despite there often being some emotional and perhaps economic ties. We seek to help the adult develop the skills for independent living, part of which includes at times examining their life to then learn more productive ways of coping with the adversity that had befallen them.

When the person laments, its not my fault and blames the parents, we can actually join with them in agreement. We can help them grieve the life they didn’t have. Then it is our job as the counselor or therapist to promote the challenge: Then how or what do you need to overcome those earlier life circumstances?

Empathy is a powerful tool in this exchange between the client and therapist, but the challenge to the therapist is to not be inducted into the fatalistic view of the client so to still be able to offer a way out. So rather than getting hooked on blame, we can use the past to explain and then offer the supports and skill development to change life’s trajectory now in adulthood. We can challenge our clients to consider, so what would you change for yourself on a go-forward basis? At times, that first step is minuscule, yet should be celebratory.

These are the challenges to the counselor or therapist. We are there to help often against a background of dread, fear, loathing, pain and anguish.

Truth is  we are helpful to very many people in such circumstances, but we are not helpful to everyone.

Much like when people see their oncologist. Some will live and for some, the cancer will consume them. We help some but not all. We too must live with that reality.

So don’t get dissuaded or discouraged by the client who laments a view that they have no control or agency over themselves the result of their upbringing. That is but the opening note of the next song that has yet to be written. To whatever degree possible, we help people move past blame to take as much control of their lives as possible.

If the task is overwhelming, seek support for yourself to cope with treatment challenges or failure. That too will happen, but let’s not let it undermine our resolve to help who we can.

We enjoy our successes. We learn from challenges lost.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.