The myth of the woman who craves abuse

A couple of months ago, I wrote that the misogynistic jerk who always gets the girl is a myth made popular by TV and movie characters. I’ve come across some interesting discussion about that post in forums and comments that makes me think I should clarify a few things. In that article, I mentioned:

Now people really believe there are women out there who realize “I am being treated like garbage” and decide “I like it – I want me some more of that, oh, yes.”

Those women don’t exist either.

stock image

Ever hopeful, Cindy kissed a few toads, but never developed a taste for it.

I stand by this. There are no women who think, “Gee, I like being treated like shit” just as there are no real life bad people who think, “I’m evil! I love being evil! Let us revel in my evilness!” Both of these are fictional caricatures, oversimplified so everyone’s crystal clear on who’s who in the drama. In real life, bad people think they’re doing what’s right or at least acceptable, and women who get into and/or stay in relationships where they’re being mistreated imagine their situations to be something other than they are. There are four major reasons why women stay in abusive relationships, but before I talk about any of them, I must point out:

Men stay in abusive relationships, too, but nobody talks about that.

In order to maintain the myth that Manhood is some special state above and beyond mere humanity, our culture refuses to acknowledge that men can be vulnerable and overemphasizes the vulnerability of women – in some ways. This is tricky, so read carefully: yes, we frequently turn a blind eye to the abuses women endure when it would help to pay attention. But for titillation’s sake – when it appeals to the heterosexual male gaze – we are all over those abused women, yes, sir. Crime shows parade before us a steady stream of bruised, teary-eyed babes in need of a rescue. These depictions bear no resemblance to the uncomfortable and ugly rape and abuse scenarios portrayed on Cagney & Lacey almost thirty years ago to raise awareness. And in these same shows, the few male victims who appear are usually victims of fake female victim lies. The idea that women victims are really wolves in sheep’s clothing is more palatable to our culture than the idea that a man could find himself in a relationship with a woman who systematically undermines his self-confidence, isolates him from family and friends, and maybe uses the kids or household finances to manipulate him into staying (the exact same things male abusers often do). It doesn’t matter on TV or in movies which direction the abuse travels as long as everyone looks like they’re in their usual gender roles.

This is all meant to reinforce the myth that sex is inherently dangerous for women (and therefore should only be had by women under circumstances carefully controlled by the men who run our lives) and an unfettered, glorious good time for men. Men can easily see how “sex” turns out to be less than carefree when they get saddled with support payments or charged with rape, so these are the storylines many of them most easily relate to on TV. More subtle – and humiliating – are storylines in which sex and/or love trick a man into over-investing in a relationship with a woman who is too damaged to love him: the female equivalent of the misogynistic jerk. Men are supposed to be too powerful for that, aren’t they?

The upshot of all these denial myths is a collection of devastating messages:

  • Boys, you can score a hot babe by treating women like shit.
  • Let’s all pass judgment on women who stay in abusive relationships. Dumb pathetic sickos! (But they’re kinda sexy, too, right?)
  • Men who stay in abusive relationships? Never heard of ‘em. And if we did, we’d publicly humiliate them to make sure no one ever, ever tries to expose the myth of masculinity as less than perfectly sound again.
  • Those women who claim men have mistreated them? Bullshit. First of all, they’re just lying to get money or revenge. And second, women like being mistreated. So no way are they telling the truth.

These messages don’t hurt women or men. They potentially hurt every honest person on the planet while making it easier for the amoral to walk all over everyone with impunity. With all this established, now I can move on to talk about something that went beyond the scope of my first article.

The myth of the woman who craves abuse

I said above there are four major reasons why women stay in relationships outsiders recognize as abusive.

  1. They don’t think the relationship is abusive. They rationalize that it’s their fault, or that he’s struggling to overcome his own abusive childhood, or that they can change him (another devastating fictional myth – that the love of a good woman is enough to “fix” a man damaged enough to engage in abuse).
  2. They don’t know there are men who treat women better (think that can’t be true in this day and age? Just a few years ago, I overheard two very young, very pretty women comparing how much their boyfriends earned and how often they hit them. The one whose boyfriend earned less (but still 6 figures) realized she was getting hit more often than the other woman, so now she felt wronged).
  3. Religion. A common ploy of abusive men is to play the perfect gentleman – feminist, even – until they’ve got you committed. For religious women, this can mean you’ll get no sign of the abuse until you’re married in front of God. Not only may divorce be something you’re ashamed to consider, but religion also perpetrates the myth that you and God together can fix the abusive personality. Sorry, folks: the abuser has to want help before you, God or a fleet of doctors can do a thing for him/her. And sadly, the vast majority of them don’t (even though they put on a convincing act of it to string everyone along).
  4. That she’s neurotically seeking relationships that mimic a relationship that screwed her up early in life in hopes it’ll turn out differently this time and some inner compulsion to find the solution will be released. This is a very complex mechanism that TV writers should not be allowed to touch without a license. [ETA: this is not the only reason, but all the psychological reasons will be similarly complex, and equally unlikely for screenwriters to get right, unless they've actually had the life experience themselves, or done interviews and serious amounts of research. It is not, in other words, an appropriate topic for this week's episode of Cops & Robbers.]

TV and film have dealt both responsibly and frivolously with the first two cases. Those are the versions of the story that can happen to anyone, even feminists and even men, unless you’re armed with enough wisdom about psychiatry or the nature of human beings and their personalities. And maybe I’ve been watching the wrong stuff, but I’ve rarely seen #3 depicted on screen at all, so I’ll leave that one aside.

#4 is the one TV and film writers use way too often and way too ignorantly, with the distinct air of having a really sick kink for the idea of a beautiful woman who seeks degrading and unhealthy relationships. Women who seek abusive situations are actually quite rare because it takes some serious neurosis to get to that point – so much so that relationships won’t be the only part of their lives in disarray. Unlike 99% of TV portrayals, this woman won’t appear to be “together” in every aspect of her life but her sick relationships with men. She’s stuck in a psychodrama that consumes her, pulling her away from work and other pursuits, from supportive family and friends. A good dose of feminism or common sense won’t help her; she needs therapy (psychiatric or otherwise) and lots of emotional support.

People occasionally tell me about some female friend who is so smart and successful, yet keeps picking jerks when there are nicer men to be had. How, they wonder, can I argue that she doesn’t crave abuse? Simple. Often what she’s seeking is a fellow recovering victim, but she ends up with an abuser instead. By the same token that you may be unable to relate to someone who grew up bossing illegal immigrant servants around while you were the child of illegal immigrants, a woman who grew up with abusers but recovered (and I speak from personal experience here) can have trouble connecting with people who don’t understand abuse and think it happens to some segregated chunk of society that fits conveniently under a rug. This woman will seek men who can understand her, often via their own history of childhood abuse. Unfortunately, men are less likely than women to fully recover from childhood abuse, mostly because the cult of masculinity insists they can overcome anything simply by “being a man”, which aparently does not include the very emotional work required for full recovery. So they end up abusive, or – more often – somewhat abusive but not enough to stop you from thinking full recovery is right around the corner. (This last has not been my personal experience, but I’ve seen it happen to others and have experienced the flip side: I attract abuse victims who got stuck in victim mode rather than abuser mode, and leech onto my strength until I’m worn out supporting them in an effort that never reaches payoff.)

To the outside observer, it can look like this woman is really smart and together in every aspect of her life except for her insane choice of who to date. Why on earth won’t she date that Nice Guy? The woman may be unable to articulate what her instincts are telling her – not everyone feels my need to spend hours distilling it into words – but you may be absolutely wrong to think she’d be better off with the Nice Guy. For one thing, he may be an abuser that’s good at hiding it, and she’s picked up on this but you haven’t. For another, he may not be an abuser, but he may harbor some offensive beliefs about abuse – that your problems with your sociopathic parent are just an exaggerated personality conflict and you should sit down and talk it out with the parent (and he won’t stop nagging until you do), that it would be wrong not to let any children you might have know their grandparents, etc. Nice people can be incredibly ignorant. Do please excuse the woman who opts for someone who has a clue what she needs in her life, even if it means putting up with the occasional demeaning remark and a tendency to call her too many times a day for fear she’s off somewhere betraying him. You are in no position to judge.

But that’s the position TV and movies put us in – the position audiences like to be in (yes, in this case I think the audience bears at least half the responsibility). We like to judge women and put them under a microscope and review every detail salaciously. It’s exceedingly rare that we put a man under a microscope (there’s Dan Rydell on Sports Night and… um…?) where we can see the unhealthy family dynamics that led to his issues with women. Why? Partly because the cult of masculinity can’t stand seeing men as victims, and because the system we have entitles men to most everything while simultaneously expecting more of women and limiting our opportunities. But also partly because in our warped culture, and especially in our fiction, the entire experience of human emotions is a burden heaped onto women. Because it so embarrasses those who believe the advice “Just be a man!” fixes everything in male experience to look at men who need more from them than a bullshit platitude, we’re only comfortable examining the emotional experiences of all humanity in our female characters.

Therefore, a lot of the damaged women you see on TV and film – most frequently the ones who seek damaged men who will hurt them – are actually projections of men, and this is why they don’t ring true to women viewers who know a thing or two about abuse. These TV and movie women are often completely unconscious of themselves and their motives in a way only men (and sociopaths) can be in a culture that teaches us from girlhood to look at ourselves in third person, anticipate what others will think of us and change ourselves to create the right impression in accordance with their biases, and teaches boys to focus solely on outperforming the competition. Many of the TV/film women you see staying in abusive relationships make more sense when you flip the gender. For example, how many women do you know who stay with abusive men because the men are hot and their friends envy them? Now, really think about it and ask yourself: how many men do you know who stay with abusive women for the same reasons? How often do we talk amongst ourselves about truly decent guys who keep dating nasty women when (often less gorgeous) nice women are right there in love with them? Isn’t that the same phenomenon disguised by a different terminology? From my experience and from listening to what people tell me, I’d say about equal numbers of men and women stay with partners who are perfect on paper yet make them feel like shit.

But which do we see on TV and in movies 1,000 times to the other?

The woman who craves abuse because she was abused is a gross distortion of the psychiatric observation that abused children who don’t get help early enough can end up locked in abuser or victim mode in adulthood. Note the word “children”, not “boys” or “girls.” Note the phrase “abuser or victim”, not just “victim.” It’s true girls are slightly more likely to get stuck in victim mode because our society encourages women to feel helpless and men to seek power, but by focusing almost exclusively on men who become permanent abusers and women who become permanent victims, TV and film do a disservice both to the people who need to understand abuse in order to foster their own recovery and the people would be in a position to help them, if only they could get so much as a hint from their culture that these problems don’t get solved in a 44 minute storyline with a dramatic gun-wrestling climax at minute 42.

Comments

  1. Mecha says

    The connection to ‘sex as threat to women’ is an interesting one too, and I think you’ve got something there. These ideas play right into the common narrative, and extended slightly turn into: women can’t help but want to be abused if they enter into relationships , so we have to protect them. Makes you wonder what would happen if people were actually taught how to deal with relationships as opposed to having to fumble it all out.

    I also think it’s worth noting that religion is just the best/most common/most commonly damaging example of a specific example of external shame/pressure to stay married (at least, it’s common if you pay attention to news as opposed to TV drama.) One would expect similar (although far less common) occurrences inside of rich or other ‘keep the family looking like it’s together’ situations. And that type of #3 _has_ been done: the idea of someone who is abused trying to hold a family together It’s similar to #1, but has more of an external social/expectations angle.

    I think the point about wanting someone to understand them is a very strong one. It makes me think of people I know who struggle in their relationships to make the other party understand how they are feeling, and why they feel ways, with the absolute minimum amount of rational explanation (because that’s very hard to do, even if you’ve figured it all out), even for ‘normal, mundane’ issues. There’s no reason that wouldn’t carry into more painful things as well.

    I do think that a lot of these things you mention about projection/generalization are wrapped up in a ‘stereotype vs individual’ situation. There are TV shows, comedians, etc., I can think of that show/talk about men experiencing these same sorts of problems, but they do not make the leap to stereotype, nor do they disassemble the stereotype about women.

    -Mecha

  2. sbg says

    I’m still digesting this post. I hope I’ll some day have something to contribute.

    It’s exceedingly rare that we put a man under a microscope (there’s Dan Rydell on Sports Night and… um…?) where we can see the unhealthy family dynamics that led to his issues with women. Why?

    I think Don Draper on Mad Men (a show I’m so very conflicted about), may be an example of this as well.

  3. says

    Good for you–challenging the myth that women want abuse. What seems to be the case for many is that they take too much responsibility for the bad behaviors of abusers. We are taught to care about others and not to hurt them. When someone accuses us of being uncaring and hurtful, we may feel guilty and try to make up for something we did not do. This can hook us to an abuser.

    I wrote a book about this called On Being a Sh*t: Unkind Deeds and Cover-Ups in Everyday Life. Read this book and you will be ready to unhook yourself from an emotionally abusive relationship. I wrote the book because I am so tired of victims being blamed. If you email me, I will send you a copy for free. jgilgun[at]gmail[dot]com

  4. Izzy says

    Good article!

    Now, really think about it and ask yourself: how many men do you know who stay with abusive women for the same reasons?

    Many. Especially, in geek circles in college, for reason 1–the “I can fix them”–syndrome. And I used to sympathize, but I really don’t now, because it seems to stem from some pretty sexist attitudes: they want to be the White Knight, so they have to find a Damsel in Distress, which means they’re *actively looking* for women who are, kindly phrased, damaged. There’s only so much I can sympathize there–dude, if you’d gone looking for an equal partner instead of wanting to be all manly and caretaker-like, you wouldn’t have ended up here, so…maybe not quite so much with the “chivalry” next time?

    • Casey says

      About the chivalry/white knight thing…

      When I was younger and less fluent in feminist theory, I/my friends called that “Captain Save-a-Ho Syndrome” or that the man in question liked “fixer-uppers”. (but the fixer-upper thing I also used to describe women who thought if they just “loved their boyfriends hard enough” they’d change for the better)

  5. says

    @Mecha, you’re right – a variation of #3 is the social pressure to keep the family together and measure a relationship’s success through its longevity rather than by whether it enriches the lives of those involved in it. This is another thing Burn Notice does right, BTW – our main character is a freaky-deaky loner spy because his mom thought keeping the family together was better than dumping the toxic father. It’s a hindsight nod rather than a closeup examination, but interesting.

    @SBG, I’m hearing so much about Mad Men – I really should check it out, but time has not been on my side lately.

    @Jane, that’s another good point – we’re taught to be caretakers and take responsibility for men’s actions. It’s no surprise some women get confused about the line between being a giver and just plain taking shit. I’ve emailed you about your book, too. :)

    @Izzy, I actually hadn’t thought about the chivalry angle, but now you mention it I have known guys who seemed to operate from exactly that angle. And you’re right – just like the man who avoids women who are particularly strong, self-sufficient or smart, Mr. Chivalry’s main problem is that he’s intimidated by equal partners.

  6. says

    We are taught to care about others and not to hurt them. When someone accuses us of being uncaring and hurtful, we may feel guilty and try to make up for something we did not do. This can hook us to an abuser.

    Yes. That.

    Anything else I have to say in this forum would be inappropriate.

  7. Stella says

    There’s also the issue of abusive relationships which aren’t romantic. I’ve seen people stick with emotionally abusive “best friends.” Do you think the phenomenon are related?

  8. says

    Stella, I would say so – based on personal observations and experience. It may even be easier to find yourself tolerating emotional abuse from a best friend than from a lover or family member because it’s the least talked about abusive relationship I can think of. And it can have all the bonds of loyalty that marriage requires.

  9. MaggieCat says

    It may even be easier to find yourself tolerating emotional abuse from a best friend than from a lover or family member because it’s the least talked about abusive relationship I can think of.

    This is exactly what I was thinking of as I found myself nodding along with large parts of this– my “best friend” from 4th grade through 9th. If only I’d realized a few years sooner that the reason she befriended me was because I was extremely shy and had been softened up by my grandmother’s emotional reign of terror to be easily controlled. It took several years for me to figure out how awful she was (anything I was good at? Useless. Anyone I liked who she didn’t, or who didn’t like her? Loser. I don’t think I had one project make it home from school undamaged in those years, and don’t even want to think about what happened if I disagreed with her), probably because I’d gotten so used to my grandmother’s ill treatment. I started wising up about both of them around the same time.

    But she wasn’t always like that, she was a lot of fun sometimes, and as the second shyest girl in school I wasn’t about to cut loose one of the only people who had my back against the easily identifiable bullies. The threats about how she could turn the rest of our friends against me weren’t helpful either. But kudos to my mother, who had the good sense to be there to pick up the pieces when my feelings got smushed again but never let on just how much she hated that girl until I started figuring out that she sucked on my own. I knew my mom wasn’t her biggest fan, but I had no idea the depths of hatred there until after she was moving; which is a good thing because that just would have made me more loyal– the whole thing started largely with “Why are all the teachers/parents so mean to her?” because it looked so unfair from where I was standing when I met her. They were not kidding about that good intentions as paving stones thing.

    The day I found out she was moving away was the happiest day of my 14 year old life. Heh, the first few days of 10th grade people even kept commenting about my personality changing… nope, that was always there, I’d just learned to keep it to myself. On the plus side, it did help me spot very similar signs in a couple of guys when I got older before I had time to get burned. So there’s that. On the other hand I quickly wound up in the opposite cycle mentioned above, the “attracting people who got stuck in victim mode” thing both in friends and men, but at least it’s less painful and ultimately still far less exhausting for me than suppressing my personality for 5 years was. At least now I occasionally get to kick asses on behalf of the downtrodden rather than being the downtrodden.

  10. MaggieCat says

    Whoa, sorry for the novella there.

    (But can you BELIEVE this same girl tried to get a hold of me a few years ago after 10 years of no contact by tracking down my mother at my old phone number? Man, it took all the self restraint I have ever possessed not to call her and give her a piece of my mind….)

  11. Katie says

    But which do we see on TV and in movies 1,000 times to the other?

    I would like to note, though, the thriving genre of “lovely man in relationship with castrating abusive bitch,” a la Saving Silverman. That is a – the? – common portrayal of an abused man. And of course, it’s always misogynistic beyond words.

  12. sbg says

    @SBG, I’m hearing so much about Mad Men – I really should check it out, but time has not been on my side lately.

    It’s very well written and most of the characters are layered. What troubles me is my own weird inability to see it wholly as a social commentary on The Way The World Was Back Then without thinking someone, somewhere is also classifiying it as The Good Old Times.

    Plus, while we do get background to understand Don Draper’s (the lead if there is one in such a large ensemble) treatment of women, it still makes me ooky when he 1) has an affair, 2) pimps out his wife as a social tool only and 3) finger-rapes a woman (the same woman he slept with earlier) in a massive power-play to get her to do what he wants, which is to, ironically, control a man.

    But that is probably another post.

  13. says

    Abused by sex and or violence or both since early childhood, by Father, Mother and Step-Mother, Grandparents, an endless list, by other children, teen and a step-sister. From there forward, accepting and expecting less for myself, in fact I may be missing (self) kidnapped and raped all night long at age 13 in 1967.
    The Mother of two wonderful Sons. Married 20 years, now divorced but living with X AH Husband, not too happily with other forms of male domination, even lost a job with a male chauvinist competing against me in the work place. I have so much anger and rage and at the same time an amazing amount of denial that can still operate. Please be aware that I intend to use your honest female supportive web writing to try and save my soul. It already has given me hope and you are to be held in high esteem for having the courage to address this issue about whether Women Seek Abuse and why or why not. TY Lisa

  14. DragonLord says

    I’d like to suggest another reason for why the image of women wanting abusive relationships is perpetuated, and that is the main streaming of BDSM. For anyone that’s involved in BDSM there’s some fairly strict guidelines that everyone that participates is supposed to operate by (such as Safe Sane and Consentual, communication, safewords, etc.), however in the films, photos, stories (fantasies), etc. these things don’t come out, and as this is the face that most people will see of BDSM I can see how it could be easy to get the wrong POV.

    On the subject of white knights, speaking as someone that has those tendencies I think that for many people like that the urge is to help, comfort, and be friends with people that seem to need it. The problem is that when you get to know people they become human, and the way they look and act in public becomes less important. And so for some white knights I wonder if the attraction comes after they’ve got to know the person better.

    • says

      I actually disagree, and here’s why. Most BDSM images I’ve seen on TV are of the dominatrix and her subs (guess they’re trying to show the lifestyle at its MOST deviant, gasp – woman on top!), so if your theory were correct, wouldn’t people believe *men* like being abused? Which I honestly kind of wonder about, since given all the power they have, dozens of abusive civilizations are what they made of it. ;)

      That aside, the idea that women seek brutal men as protectors has been perpetuated as a truism for centuries, and as evolutionary common sense for a couple of centuries. There’s the whole genre of “bodice rippers” – romance novels with rape fantasy scenarios – and I can see women’s interest in that genre being misinterpreted as an interest in actually being raped, especially if that’s what someone would like to get out of it. I don’t know where the idea started; I just know it’s a myth for the reasons I outlined, and a false dichotomy in that men surely subject themselves to loads of abuse from each other as well as women, and think abuse is a perfectly normal way for social survival of the fittest to take place. (I’m generalizing, of course.)

      • Jane Gilgun says

        What’s really scary and so true is your statement about how many men believe abuse of women and of each other are norms.

        Jane Gilgun

      • The Other Patrick says

        I’m not sure how the mainstreaming is meant; if it’s meant as mainstreaming in porn, that might be a point; there is, of course, porn specifically catering to bdsm practitioners, but I think there’s also a lot of especially degradation and humiliation in the more mainstreamy “extreme” porn where it often looks like consent was deliberately disregarded. That might give men the idea that women love this. But there’s always the question of how much people are able to tell that it’s just a fantasy.

        On TV, as far as I can see bdsm is still deviancy, and as you say, most often with dominatrixes in ridiculous outfits :)

        • says

          That’s true. I just think the idea that women like abusive men has been around a lot longer than modern BDSM imagery, porn or otherwise.

          Another possible source: most people boggle my mind with how they fail to distinguish “abusive/brutal” from “strong.” My idea of “strong” is someone who refuses to be bullied, not someone who does the bullying, but I’ve had a lot of conversations about strong people in which it eventually came out we’d been at cross-purposes the whole time, because they thought by strong I meant bullies. Which I find bizarre.

        • DragonLord says

          I did indeed mean main-streaming in porn (a place that is still an overwhelmingly male utilised space) where you see around 99 scenes with a female bottom (sub) to every 1 scene with a male bottom (sub).

          IIRC In real life there’s about 4 male subs to every 3 female subs (last time I checked).

          Personally I agree that the stronger people are the ones that don’t feel the need to prove that they are stronger, or the ones that don’t have the physical strength to even try to prove they are stronger but get on with life regardless, without rising to the bait.

  15. trying to be anonymous here says

    This is a great start, but I believe there are lots of reasons why. For me, being with a man who doesn’t hit me just feels weird and wrong. For one thing I feel guilty, and I feel like I’m getting away with murder. But I also just feel like I’m in a world that doesn’t make sense. Even though I know I’m not living with my Dad anymore and I know that getting beaten up because he doesn’t like his breakfast is behind me, it doesn’t actually feel like it’s over. It doesn’t feel like I was abused before and now that is over. It only feels like I’m not getting abused right now, but surely the next beating is coming at any moment because it just doesn’t make sense that it wouldn’t.

    I know logically that it isn’t true, but it feels like that. So I feel like I’m constantly in anticipation of the next beating, which is terrifying. If it would come already, it would actually be a relief, because the anticipation is worse.

    I know this must sounds so completely insane, but I can’t help it.

    Sorry for the late comment. :-/

  16. says

    trying to be anonymous here,

    I don’t think you sound “insane” at all. You sound like someone who’s aware of her own mind and how it works, which is more than I can say for most “sane” people. Our upbringings shape our expectations of life and how it works and how we can make our lives work. Your response to your upbringing is no more “insane” than someone who grew up in the Depression continuing to penny pinch in an era where a dollar here and there won’t make a bit of difference in one’s solvency or lifestyle. [ETA: I didn't mean to trivialize what you're dealing with via a comparison of something as safe as penny pinching - hope it didn't read that way.]

    Thank you for sharing what you’ve shared here, because you’re right – there are a lot of reasons why people end up in abusive situations, and I’ve edited the post to reflect that.

  17. Heather says

    Thank you for writing this in 2008. I inadvertently stumbled on to it when I was searching for the name of the disorder where people subconsciously fight against abuse, stand up for themselves and then, at the last minute, give up.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Jennifer Kesler at the Hathor Legacy – The myth of the woman who craves abuse: A thought-provoking answer to the question, “But why doesn’t she just leave [her abusive parent/spouse/significant other]?” and its implication, “Well, she didn’t leave, so she’s responsible for the abuse she suffered.” There are no women who think, “Gee, I like being treated like shit” just as there are no real life bad people who think, “I’m evil! I love being evil! Let us revel in my evilness!” Both of these are fictional caricatures, oversimplified so everyone’s crystal clear on who’s who in the drama. In real life, bad people think they’re doing what’s right or at least acceptable and women who get into and/or stay in relationships where they’re being mistreated imagine their situations to be something other than they are. There are four major reasons why women stay in abusive relationships, but before I talk about any of them, I must point out: [...]

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