The Myth that Women Don’t Abuse People

I was reading a news story when I came across this link of Top Ten signs You’re in an Emotionally Abusive Relationship.  Out of the 10 slides used to illustrate abusive behavior, all either feature an adult man as abuser and/or an adult woman as victim.  It uses masculine nouns/pronouns for the abuser and feminine for the victim.  The NEXT TO LAST slide acknowledges that women might also be abusers. 

Even if we accept the premise that relationship means romantic relationship (I happen to think the term encompasses more relationships, including family relationships), there’s still the matter of women who abuse men, not to mention same sex couples where both the abuser and victim are the same gender.  How about a little bit of variation in the photos and the genders of the nouns/pronouns?   

I was a college/grad student in the 1980s and 1990s.  I was also a reporter/department editor for a campus newspaper.   We were encouraged to use either gender neutral language or to vary nouns/pronouns if it wasn’t possible to use gender neutral language.  So why is the language of abuse so tied to male as perpetrator and female as victim?  Women may get the worst of things in a physical altercation due to size differences, but it isn’t always the man who starts it.  And emotional abuse seems to be pretty equal opportunity.  I know men who have been emotionally and sometimes physically abused by their female partners.

Furthermore, why are we narrowing relationship abuse down to romantic relationships?   If you’re reading this because of your own experience of being abused by a parent with a Personality Disorder  and/or addiction, chances are some of the actions/tactics portrayed in those slides look pretty familar.  Such as being isolated and unfairly blamed/shamed/berated.    For many of us, it was our mothers who did most of that abuse.  I know it was in my case. 

Why is mother/child relationship abuse swept under the rug the way it is in our society?  Even when people are willing to acknowledge it, we are told to “get over it” or “she’s your mother” or “there’s nothing more important than family”.  Even when mothers continue the emotional abuse vs. their children into adulthood. 

I’m focusing on this slide show because it’s representative of most of the efforts which are out there on emotional abuse.   A more accurate portrayal of gender and abuse is necessary for the following reasons:

1) many people, both male and female, who are being abused by women don’t recognize it as abuse.  They keep trying harder thinking if they do more or prove how much they love their abusers it will get better. 

2) other people don’t recognize it as abuse, which makes it harder for the victims to find support.

3) this kind of emotional abuse of children primes them to become victims of an abuser as they grow up and develop their romantic relationships as teens and adults

Women aren’t inherently kinder and gentler than men.  We’re  just trained to handle aggressive impulses in a much less direct way.  It’s all I can do to prevent my eyes from rolling out of my head when someone speaks up with that “well, if we had more women leaders, there would be less wars”  routine.  Anyone who believes that never dealt with a NPD mother or a Queen  BPD and/or Witch  BPD mother.

4 thoughts on “The Myth that Women Don’t Abuse People

  1. Yes. I almost don’t hear this anymore, but when I was growing up there was a “common sense” idea expressed casually by (some) people that if women ruled there would be no war. Guffaw! What poppycock, as if women are saints or are not ambitious enough or aggressive enough to engage in war. I believe that’s what’s known as a benevolent stereotype.

    Nice post.

  2. That bugs me too, the abuse sites where the abusers are male, and then they give lip-service to the fact that “sometimes women can be the abusers,” but the way the whole thing is written up, it gives the impression that for every 1000 male abusers there might be one female abuser. People also easily believe you if you complain about a man abusing you. If your abuser is a woman, then you must have just misunderstood. “I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that.” I bet that’s also true when you get the police involved. Call them about a man hurting someone, and the guy gets hauled off in handcuffs, whether he actually did it or not. Call about a woman? Unless she’s waving a gun around, nothing happens.

  3. Thank you for calling your mother a witch NPD…love the nastiness of your tone…
    I have the same kind of mother…and siblings who are narcissists, or caretakers.

    Expressing the anger and pain of being a scapegoat and abused is healing, and its honest.

    My mother is the worst! And no one (except therapists) have believed the abuse one woman could hand out…physically attacked by her through my teens for “being too pretty” (I was anorexic-guess why)…she went to my ex-boyfriends wedding even though she wasn’t invited (he got some girl pregnant in HS–I was over him–she wasn’t–and kept his photo up in her house for 5 years after he married his ‘baby momma’)

    one of my ‘favorite’ actions of hers was when she sold my car when i moved to NYC (needed some time to get settled and find an apt)…but she couldn’t wait. my parents co-signed on the loan…but she forged my signature plenty of times before…and thought it was totally fine to sell things I had stored at their home (for what was only going to be a short while) and keep the money from the sale of my new car.

    I guess she expected me to thank her?

    I don’t talk to her anymore. After 37 years of so much abuse by a N mother, I had enough. After having to go through so much emotional torture and following the advice of my therapist, I cut off ties, and killed off the role I was expected to play for her and my siblings. I had to tell them off–I had no choice–and I no longer care how they live with themselves. I finally told her that I’d see her again at some point, and would make sure I brought flowers with me to the funeral. As harsh as that sounds–I don’t carry any guilt over letting her go–and spending $30,000 in therapy taught me that I could free myself of abuse from others, including my own family…

    Being honest enough to get angry was an important step that I had to take. I’m glad that I’ve come as far as I have…I’ve been working on forgiveness over the past few years…don’t know how long this road is….but I’m not going back to them. Home is where the heart is, and I’m happy with what I have, right here.

  4. Dragonfly, if you haven’t read it already, Anna Valerious did a great blog entry over at Narcissists Suck which deals with a lot of this. How people refuse to believe a mother could behave evilly to children because that kind of evil mother only exists in fairy tales. From her blog entry:

    “I don’t blame the ignorant for their ignorance on this matter. In fact, there is something kind of innocent and sweet about them. They had a mother who truly loved them. How can they conceptualize a mother who is the complete inverse of good motherhood? What precedent could they use to pattern your mother after? Only fictional ones. Which is why they think these mothers only live in fiction. Therefore, you are making it up. Only the children who have witnessed the evil mother behind closed doors…the only place where her true evil was on full display…can attest to the existence of the soul-sucking mother who actually hates her children. Don’t despise the innocent folk who were blessed with loving mothers. In fact, try to shelter these innocents from the truth of your mother. They are not equipped to handle what you know. Spare them when possible. Your mother is the stuff of nightmares. Don’t foist those nightmares on the innocent if you can avoid doing so.”

    Definitely worth a read. Here’s the link to the full entry:

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