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When abusive behaviour becomes very public

['Perspectives with Shirley Hallee']
['Perspectives with Shirley Hallee']

Perspectives with Shirley Hallee

The guy just doesn't get it. Just when you think it is impossible for him to put his foot in his mouth – yet again – he does exactly that.

Not only has Donald Trump defended the White House staff secretary, Rob Porter, but then he wished him well in future endeavors - and essentially fluffed off the probable physical, verbal, and emotional abuse two ex-wives and Porter's former girlfriend suffered. I say probable because the allegations have not been proven in a court of law. However, when three women report the same thing the chances are pretty good Rob Porter is an abusive man.

White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, initially referred to Porter as a “man if true integrity and honour,” and stated he could not “say enough good things about him.” Kelly pulled back a bit when new allegations were released. Kelly denounced domestic violence but still stood by his earlier comments.

Here's the thing that Trump and many others don't get – a charismatic, good looking, intelligent, and capable person can be an abuser. In fact, that is often the real description of an abuser. Those who work with or socialize with the fellow are likely to see that person as charming, just a great person. Most woman who have suffered abuse will tell you how wonderful their guy seemed during the early stages of the relationship and even into the marriage. There is a tendency to think an abusive husband or partner sits around in a ratty old tee-shirt with beer in hand. Not necessarily so.

There also tends to be more than one woman who has experienced abuse at the hands of an abuser, as is demonstrated by the fact that two ex-wives and a girlfriend of Rob Porter have come forward. The abuse has nothing to do with the woman and has everything to do with the abuser, and it is a good bet that the next woman in Porter's life will see charm and charisma disappear and anger and controlling behaviour appear as the relationship moves forward. There is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde aspect to the abuser's personality.

There are certain traits common to abusers. There is controlling behaviour such as preventing their partner from coming and going freely. The abuser equates jealousy with love. The strong emotion they feel is jealousy – they will accuse their partner of flirting with other men and they tend to check on their mate. The abuser may “talk the talk” about women being equal but they see women as inferior. The abuser tends to blame the victim for his behaviour. Something she did, or didn't do made him fly into a rage.

The abuse can be verbal in nature, such as put-downs or name-calling. It can be psychological – humiliating or embarrassing their partner, refusing to communicate, extramarital affairs, or provocative behaviour with the opposite sex. Abuse can be financial in nature - using money to control. Abusive behaviour can be physical, such as shown with the black eye suffered by Rob Porter's first wife. Abusive behaviour tends to escalate, and all too often we pick up the paper and read about yet another woman dying at the hands of the man in her life.

Leaving an abusive relationship requires planning,even if the abuse has not become physical. A very dangerous time for a woman is when she first leaves the relationship, and good advice on how to stay safe can be accessed through Autumn House. This same organization can provide counselling for men who want to change their abusive behaviour.

Unfortunately, there are many kinds of abuse. Adult children or caretakers can be abusive toward elderly people. Children can be abused by parents. Men can be abused by their spouses or partners. However, it is usually women who suffer abuse in a relationship. This week has been proclaimed Family Violence Prevention week. Awareness of this problem can help with prevention. Those who are abused must seek help, and hopefully there will be some abusers who also reach out for help.

Shirley Hallee’s column appears weekly in the Amherst News.

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