‘He just gets me’ – The layering of psychological abuse

Liam Reid

“He makes me laugh. He makes me cry. He makes me feel beautiful. I love him like I have never loved anyone before. If he doesn’t get out do I just shrug my shoulders and say, ‘oh well'”. She later texted: “He’s the best kisser I’ve ever kissed” and he was “seriously the best – it’s like he just gets me“.

How many of us remember the intensity of a new relationship: the excitement of anticipation, the breathlessness of conversation, the moment when we cannot wait to gaze upon each other? The above comments could have been pure Mills and Boon: The Elusive Relationship.

The article this came from is not Mills and Boon but a newspaper article (reported by Ian Steward and Michelle Robinson, Christchurch Press, July 18, 2013). It refers to a current case being heard in the Auckland District Court involving a lawyer, a convicted rapist and murderer, a cellphone, cigarettes and other contraband.

The lawyer, Davina Murray is accused of supplying Liam Reid, a prisoner with contraband items – cigarettes and an iPhone – at Mt Eden Prison on October 7, 2011.  She believes Reid is innocent.

What caught my attention is how this situation unfolded. Has this woman walked in with both eyes open, or is there more going on? To understand let me quote some further comments from the newspaper article.

In one conversation played to the court the pair talked about the identification codes on mobile phones. Reid became angry with Murray when she incorrectly took down a number.

He impatiently told her to “f…… read it back“.

Thank you, we got there,” she cheered when she got the number right.

Reid later talked about struggling to sleep because he was “plagued by weird f…… dreams“.

At one stage he asked Murray to get some results for him by tomorrow “or else I’ll f…… smash you“.

Reid said he was tired and said Murray needed to do something about Corrections Department staff “recording these phone calls“.

The calls showed Reid alternating between being abusive and strangely nurturing.

The push/pull game is a seductive one. But let’s think about this as a process of psychological entrapment rather than romantic love.

Stockholm syndrome also came to mind when I read this article. Let me give you some of the history. On August 23rd, 1973 two machine-gun bank robbers held four hostages, three women and one man, for the next 131 hours. The hostages were strapped with dynamite and held in a bank vault until finally rescued on August 28th. You can imagine their ordeal of fearing for their lives for five days, being threatened and abused.  What comes next is the interesting part of the story.

When interviewed after the ordeal it was obvious that the hostages were actually protecting the bank robbers and felt their captors were actually protecting them from the police. One woman later became engaged to one of the criminals and another developed a legal defense fund for the men.  Clearly the hostages had “bonded” emotionally with their captors.

How does this relate to psychological abuse and the case before the Auckland District Court?  Stockholm syndrome can also be found in family, romantic, and interpersonal relationships. The abuser may be a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, father or mother, or any other role in which the abuser is in a position of control or authority. The list below outlines the main strategies used:

  • Positive feelings by the victim toward the abuser/controller
  • Negative feelings by the victim toward family, friends, or authorities trying to rescue/support them or win their release
  • Support of the abuser’s reasons and behaviours
  • Positive feelings by the abuser toward the victim
  • Supportive behaviour by the victim, at times helping the abuser
  • Inability to engage in behaviours that may assist in their release or detachment

It has been found that four situations or conditions are present that serve as a foundation for the development of Stockholm syndrome. These four situations can be found in hostage, severe abuse, and abusive relationships:

  1. The presence of a perceived threat to one’s physical or psychological survival and the belief that the abuser would carry out the threat.
  2. The presence of a perceived small kindness from the abuser to the victim
  3. Isolation from perspectives other than those of the abuser
  4. The perceived inability to escape the situation

Which of these three out of four do you think are operating in this case? Love to hear your thoughts.

For a very good in-depth article on Stockholm syndrome and psychological abuse go to http://counsellingresource.com/lib/therapy/self-help/stockholm/ by Dr Joseph M Carver, PhD.

Published on Wednesday, July 24th, 2013, under Family violence, What Ken thinks

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