Domestic violence expert and author Lundy Bancroft closed out our Domestic Violence Awareness Month programming with a discussion on a broad range of topics related to domestic abuse. The following highlights Lundy’s responses to topics from the Q&A.
If you want to watch the whole program, it is available on our YouTube channel here.
On domestic abuse in the Jewish community:
The myth that domestic abuse wouldn’t happen in Jewish relationships is connected to the misconceptions that people have about abusers in general. Abusers do not fit the same profiles. They come from a wide range of demographics, including all levels of education and wealth. Domestic violence is fundamentally about a person who is a bully in intimate relationships. They believe in their right to rule and that their partner owes them obedience, and even more importantly, the right to punish.
On how the community can help:
Understanding how an abuser thinks is really important to how the community responds to the abuser. If we think the problem as just having to do with the violence, then we think we have to teach the abuser anger management. That is not why abusers are abusing.
This pattern of behavior is not nearly as out of control as it looks. There is a method to the madness, and it’s not rooted in psychological, behavioral, or emotional problems. It is societal training and bad role models that create this pattern of behavior that virtually all domestic abusers use. Addressing the societal and family issues will begin to break the cycle.
On the effect of domestic abuse on children:
The abuser is pitting people against each other and does tremendous damage to kids’ relationships with their other parent (the victim/survivor) and to kids’ relationships with their siblings. We also need to look at the struggle that kids are having internally with deciding who is to blame for what is happening.
On the long-term effects of witnessing domestic abuse:
Children are just as likely to have long-term mental health problems from believing the abuse is their mother’s fault just as if they think it is their fault.
The research finds that boys who grow up believing that it was Mom’s fault are the next generation of abusers. From the perspective of a boy, if it was Mom’s fault when I was growing up and I’m abusing my girlfriend now, it must be her fault. If you are a girl and are told the abuse is Mom’s fault, then when you’re in an adult relationship and you’re being abused, it’s your fault.
On how to parent with an abusive partner:
As a parent, it is better if you don’t speak badly about the abuser to your children, no matter their age. You can and should speak about their behaviors. Kids are noticeably less likely to internalize abuse when they can name the behavior, like “that’s scary behavior” or “that’s mean” or “that’s a put down”.
Explain that each parent is responsible for what they do. Mom is not responsible for what Dad does and the child is responsible for what they do but not for what Dad or the siblings do. We have to go over and over and over this with kids because it is just as dangerous in the long run for kids to believe that the abuse is Mom’s fault as it is for them to believe that is their own fault.
On post-separation abuse:
When you decide the problem in the relationship is the conflict, then when the couple splits up there’s nothing to worry about anymore, right? The courts order these kids to have normal visitation with the parent who abuses. The problem is that children’s’ continued exposure to a highly toxic, manipulative individual who wants to damage the relationship with the other parent is very harmful to the children.
You can view the whole program here.