Alyce LaViolette Day 37 Part 1

Day 37 Morning Session – Alyce LaViolette

Stephens: Ms. LaViolette, you are still under oath, do you understand?
LaViolette: Yes, I do.
Stephens: Ms. Willmott, you may continue.
Willmott: Thank you, your honor. Good morning, Ms. LaViolette.
LaViolette: Good morning.

Other career activities

Willmott: I want to start talking a little bit about some of the other things that you’ve done throughout your career, okay?
LaViolette: Alright.

Working with police

Willmott: Have you ever worked with police before?
LaViolette: Yes, I started doing volunteer training with the police in 1980, first in the squad room with officers around the issue of restraining orders, and protective orders; that law had just gone into effect in 1980, and then into cadet academy, and then into advance officer training. And I did that probably for at least about ten years, until the police department started doing all of its own training in-house and then I stopped doing that.

Working with corporations

Willmott: Alright, and have you ever worked with large corporations?
LaViolette: Well, actually I’ve done some training in corporations, like the Housing Authority and that sort of thing, but I am on the Board, the Advisory Board of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence.
Willmott: What is that?
LaViolette: Um, it’s an organization that was formed by State Farm Insurance because back in the 90’s State Farm stopped insuring women, who were, who claimed they were battered women or where they knew they were battered women. They were counting it as a pre-existing condition, and so there was a lot of bad press that went out with State Farm and they thought they had to do something about that. And they did, they formed, they pulled together a hundred people from around the country who were educators, business people and people who worked in domestic violence. And we put together a plan to have corporations and other organizations and domestic violence folks work together to prevent violence, and so they’re working with lots of organizations. Liz Claiborne is one of them, Mary Kay is one of them, they have people from the NFL, but State Farm has continued to do that. And I’m on the Advisory Board, which actually means I do pretty much nothing. My name is just on the Advisory Board.
Willmott: But did you do something when it first started?
LaViolette: I did, I worked really hard for three days when we were .. we worked twelve hours days to put this plan together.
Willmott: Alright, and what time .. when was this?
LaViolette: It was the mid 90’s, but I am not sure of the exact year.

Use of humor

Willmott: Okay, and when you’re doing training, and you’re giving a speech I would imagine to a group of people, do you ever in those trainings, I mean it’s obviously about a very serious topic, but do you ever use humor in your training?
LaViolette: I do use humor in my trainings.
Willmott: Why is that?
LaViolette: I use humor in my trainings because it’s such a serious topic and because it’s hard for people to listen. And some of my trainings are all-day trainings, but even if they’re two hour trainings it helps people to take it in. It’s easier to listen if you can occasionally laugh and spend some of the tension that you have when you’re hearing about things like this, so, for instance…. and I, so I tend to say things kind of spontaneously and I was asked once why people come into my program. Why would they
Martinez: Relevance.
Willmott: It explains what she does with regards to training. It goes to her experience.
Stephens: Overruled.
LaViolette: They ask why would people come into your program, and I said for well the most part, people don’t come into my program because they think personal growth is far out and they can’t wait to do it, but they come in either because their partners leave or threaten to leave and they really take that seriously, or God speaks to them through the SWAT squad and they have a religious experience. And so people thought that was funny and they laughed at it. And I also said that I think it is a very hard thing for people to ask for help; that asking for help when you are hurt people that you love is a very difficult thing. And so being able to sort of balance that out helps people to listen and helps people to take things in, I think.

Work with military

Willmott: Alright, in your experience have you ever worked with military?
LaViolette: I currently work with the military, but it’s in a program called Heroes and Healthy Families. I do training; I’ve done training at Twenty-Nine Palms, Camp Pendleton, and Barstow for the Marines; and for both the Family Services folks in the marines, and also for the marines themselves. Heroes and Healthy Families is a really wonderful program that a judge in California, Judge Iles and her Court Assistant, Leslie Howard put together, and it’s basically to expand the notion of not leaving your buddies behind to include mental health issues. And it’s supported by the Generals, it’s a really wonderful program, and what they do is they expand the notion to suicide, homicide, child abuse, spouse abuse, substance abuse, and they have speakers on all of those topics. In fact, there’s a You Tube video that I didn’t put on there, I found out. One of my friends called and said you’re on You Tube Alyce; I didn’t know I was, and it was from Heroes and Healthy Families and it’s on PTSD and domestic violence. And so they use all of those videos and they people from the military speak, primarily from the military speak, and then I speak for those groups too. And they are usually six hundred to eight hundred enlisted men, sergeants um; usually enlisted men, that come and then there are retired military. We’ve had Congressional Medal of Honor winners speak about wishing they had gotten help and that sort of thing; so it’s very moving.
Willmott: You talked a little bit about when you first started in the late 70’s and early 80’s that domestic violence wasn’t something that people really paid attention to, is that right?
LaViolette: That’s correct.

What discrimination did you face

Willmott: Um, in the beginning when you first started training and speaking about domestic violence and battered women, did you ever face any type of discrimination or type of name calling, being called things like a man hater or being accused of things like that?
Martinez: Objection, relevance.
Stephens: Approach.
Willmott: Ms. LaViolette, did you face that type of discrimination when you first started?
LaViolette: Yes, I did. And I think for the most part people in the movement did, and part of it was justified, I think because there was a lot of anger in the movement at that time to get things done and to try and see laws change and that sort of thing, because there weren’t any laws at that time. Um, but I think pretty quickly people
Martinez: Objection, beyond the scope of the question.
Stephens: Sustained.
Willmott: May we approach?
Stephens: Ask another question.
Willmott: Alright, so during this discrimination, what kind of discrimination did you face?

What kind of discrimination

LaViolette: People seeing us as angry, people seeing us as prejudiced, people seeing us as trying to push an issue that wasn’t worth pushing, that sort of thing.

Work with men

Willmott: Okay, and ultimately, did you, you told us yesterday that actually worked with men?
LaViolette: Yes, I do work with men.
Willmott: And that’s from the beginning up until present day, is that right?
LaViolette: That’s from within the first six months, yes.
Willmott: Okay, and from the beginning until present day have you worked with women as well?
LaViolette: Yes, I work with men and women.

Number of cases

Willmott: Since you started taking cases for forensic reasons, for court-type cases child custody and criminal cases, um I think that you told us that you have done about sixteen to eighteen for the defence and about nine for the prosecution?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: In that time, um, have you ever been asked to represent somebody or be retained as an expert and turned a case down?
LaViolette: Yes, I have. I have turned down more than one case.
Willmott: Alright, and what are reasons why you turn down a case?
Martinez: Objection, relevance.
Stephens: Approach.
Willmott: Ms. LaViolette, when you have turned down cases have you done that because you didn’t have enough time to dedicate to that particular case?
LaViolette: Yes, in fact I have ..
Martinez: Objection, beyond the scope of the question.
Stephens: Sustained.
Willmott: So have you recently turned down a case?
LaViolette: I turned down a case yesterday.
Willmott: Okay, and is that because you don’t have enough time to dedicate to it?
Martinez: Objection, asked and answered.
Stephens: Overruled.
LaViolette: It’s because I didn’t have time to do a good job on a case, and I don’t want to do a case unless I can do a good job on a case.
Willmott: Alright, and also have you turned down cases because, um because there’s not enough information there for you to make a good analysis?
LaViolette: Yes, I’ve turned down cases where I didn’t feel there was enough evidence to merit my participation in that case.
Willmott: Okay. Um you’ve been, have you testified before?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: In other cases?
LaViolette: I’ve testified about eighteen times.
Willmott: Eighteen times?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: Okay, and have you ever testified, or worked on behalf of, been retained by people who are representing a man?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: So, have you ever testified on behalf of a man?
LaViolette: I was actually sitting in court to testify and was not called, but I sat there for six hours ready to testify.
Willmott: Okay, and that’s for a client who was a man?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: Okay,
LaViolette: Who was accused of domestic violence.
Willmott: Oh, okay. So he was accused of domestic violence and you were representing, you were on his side of the case?
LaViolette: Well, he was accused of domestic violence and I was able to get him into a
Martinez: Objection, beyond the scope of the question being asked, whose side she represented.
Stephens: Sustained.
Willmott: Okay, were you retained by his defence?
LaViolette: I was retained in a Family Law case, it wasn’t a
Willmott: Not criminal?
LaViolette: It wasn’t a criminal case.
Willmott: Okay, and have you testified when clients have been women?
LaViolette: Yes, I have.

This case

Willmott: Alright, and obviously you’re testifying in this case, were you retained in this case?
LaViolette: Yes, I was.
Willmott: And do you remember when you were retained?
LaViolette: I was, I think first interviewed in September of 2011, and I began working on the case in October of 2011.
Willmott: Did you say, when did you say you were first interviewed? September did you say?
LaViolette: I think the very end of September or the beginning of October.
Willmott: Okay. In 2011?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: Are you being paid on this case?
LaViolette: Yes, I am.
Willmott: And how much do you get paid an hour?
LaViolette: Two hundred and fifty dollars an hour for research and three hundred dollars an hour for court appearance.

Continuum of Aggression and Abuse

Willmott: Alright. Um, I want to talk to you some more about some of the articles that you’ve created or that you’ve written, I guess.
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: Um, did you ever write an article in a journal for child custody?
LaViolette: Yes, I did.
Willmott: Okay, and in doing so did you ever author something called a Continuum of Aggression and Abuse?
LaViolette: Yes, I did.
Willmott: And what is that?
LaViolette: The Continuum of Aggression and Abuse is a way to look at domestic violence and aggression that can also occur in otherwise healthy families, isolated acts of aggression. And it looks at a range of behaviour and a range of responses and then looks at some exacerbating factors that can play into these cases. It’s so that we don’t look at domestic violence in a kind of one-dimensional way, but look at a real range. Um, and part of that is to be able to look at how we intervene in this cases, so that we’re intervening more effectively.
Willmott: Alright, how did you go about making something like this?
LaViolette: Well, initially I saw a continuum that was created by Michael Johnson in 1994. And he had a continuum that was anchored on side with what was called common couple violence and the other side with patriarchal terrorism, because what he was looking at, were men who were in batterer’s intervention programs. And he was looking at was called common couple violence, which was what he called most of domestic violence, which was hitting, pushing, slapping, grabbing and what he called mild injury, and then looking at patriarchal terrorism which was looking at not only extreme domestic violence, but the use of the system; whether that be a spiritual system, whether that be a criminal justice system, whether that be a child custody system, whether that’s finances, but use of the system. And I liked that he did a continuum but I thought it needed to have more points on the continuum than just two.
Willmott: So, how did you, how do you that? You have a continuum, but you wanted to add more data to it or more information to it?
LaViolette: I wanted to add more breadth to it, but I also wanted to look at the fact that in healthy families, there can be isolated acts of aggression that happen in those families, and that we don’t call everything domestic violence; that we look at a context that it’s occurring in, so that we’re better able to describe it.
Willmott: So is that part of what you did when you created the continuum?
LaViolette: Yes, I did that, and I also used, um, there was research done in the 90’s by Amy Holtz-worth Munroe and Gregory Stuart. What they did was they took ten pieces of research and they kind of put them together and they took the similarities from each of those pieces of research and created what were called behavioral typologies which are simply what are the similar behaviors in each of these groups of abusive people. And they were like family-only people who don’t do anything outside of the family, and pretty much it’s very hidden from everybody else; um, and move to what’s called borderline or dysphoric or overly-controlled hostile, which are people that would act out more in public as well; and then um they used antisocial. And antisocial were people that usually had some sort of experience in the criminal justice system, may have been arrested, may have a rap sheet, that sort of thing.
Willmott: Alright, did you use that information to help create your continuum?
LaViolette: I used that and I used my experience, and also I met quite regularly with people in the field. I’m in an organization, we meet monthly and I talk to other people who are doing the work, and I talk to people around the country, and actually some people in other countries who are doing the work. And so I used all of that to put together my continuum.
Willmott: Alright, Judge may I approach the witness?
Stephens: You may.
Willmott: Ms. LaViolette, I’m showing you what’s been marked as exhibit number 558, do you recognize this?
LaViolette: Yes, that’s my continuum.
Willmott: Alright, this is something that you created?
LaViolette: Yes, it is.
Willmott: Alright. And would it help you when we talk about the continuum to be able to look at it and be able to talk about it and explain it to the jurors, to be able to look at?
LaViolette: Um, it could help, but I know it pretty well.
Willmott: Alright, would it help the jurors to be able to understand?
LaViolette: It would help the jurors, yes.
Willmott: Alright, Judge the defence moves for exhibit number 558 into evidence.
Martinez: Objection, heresay, land earned treatise.
Stephens: Approach. 558 is admitted.
Willmott: Okay Alyce I’m going to show you, sorry Ms. LaViolette, I will show you the continuum; let’s get it all on there, okay. Alright so, alright so what I want to do is I want you to be able to explain what this is because just looking at it doesn’t necessarily tell us what you’ve done here, so can we talk about what you have with the different columns,
LaViolette: Sure.
Willmott: and how it works, the columns versus ..

Common couple aggression

LaViolette: Sure, it’s actually a continuum and that’s just kind of linear, so there’s range of behaviour between the categories. But the first category common couple aggression, and I’ve changed violence to aggression, um, because that
Willmott: Where, in the first column, right?
LaViolette: Yes, yes, that would be considered an aberrant act, an unusual act in that family. It could be a family, for instance, um, when we see really difficult economic times like we are now, sometimes the stress that families are under, somebody winds up doing something that they don’t normally do. It doesn’t occur in the context of an abusive relationship, it is something where there is a balance of power and the couple is basically in a healthy relationship but there’s some kind of escalation, there’s some kind of stress in the family, there’s some kind of buildup and an isolated act of aggression occurs and it doesn’t create fear in the other partner, it doesn’t create apprehension in the other partner because it’s an unusual act. There’s genuine remorse for it, because it’s not the way either person believes things should be handled.
Willmott: Ms. LaViolette, can I interrupt you, when you say an act of aggression, can you give us an example of what you’re talking about?
LaViolette: Well, it could be slapping or hitting someone, it could be throwing something; it could be a verbal act of aggression that is abnormal in that situation. So it’s an act of aggression that happens in an otherwise healthy family. And there’s no, as I said, no power in-balance there. Age is also a factor, because younger people, and I think, you know I remember when I was in my twenties, I was a lot different with the way I handled conflict in my relationship than I was when I’m in my sixties. So I think most of us can look at the change in the way we handle things over time; and that um, when we have, you know, less life experience, less handling of conflict that we have less experience in how we do it. And so age can be a factor in this as well.
Willmott: Alright, and then you have things in the same column such as no injury?
LaViolette: Yes, in general, you would not see an injury.
Willmott: Alright, and it could happen in any family, so is that exactly what it means?
LaViolette: Yes, it could happen, and what I mean by that, is that most people, and some of what has happened over time, is that we’ve counted any act particularly a physical aggression, um as domestic violence. And although, I don’t think that’s a good way to handle things, what I also know in working with families and in knowing lots of people, is that people can have an isolated act of aggression and not be an abusive person.

Balance of power

Willmott: Okay, and the balance of power in a relationship, what does that mean?
LaViolette: It means that basically they have a friendship and they work things out together; that they respect and like each other and so when there’s a decision to be made in the family, they make the decisions together and they respect each other and they like each other.
Willmott: Okay, alright and so you said this is a continuum, so does that mean we kind of follow up here to high conflict?
LaViolette: Yeah, and high conflict, um, is still not a domestic violence category in a sense, but it’s a category of um unhealthy relationship. It’s a relationship where there may be a balance of power, but people are disrespectful and mistreat each other in a verbal way. There might be occasional acts of aggression, but they can go one way or the other, and they are not afraid of each other, because the development of apprehension tends to happen over time in a domestically violent relationship. In non-domestically violent relationships you don’t tend to see the development of apprehension over time.
Willmott: Alright so, and what’s anger is an issue?
LaViolette: Oh, basically that this couple has, you know, problems because they don’t solve their problems; they don’t come to a solution in conflict that really resolves things, and so what happens is over time they stopped really appreciating each other and they basically erode the friendship that they have with each other. They just stop liking each other. So, it might be a tense family, it might be a family where they treat each other disrespectfully even in front of other people, that sort of thing.
Willmott: Alright, and we move from, we see, we move from remorse to may have remorse?
LaViolette: They may be sorry that they did this, and they may just both feel so negatively about each other that they don’t have much remorse, depending on how much good will remains in that family.
Willmott: Alright, and the sporadic physical aggression, so in other words, does that mean that we’re looking at more than one aberrant act?
LaViolette: Yes, and you could actually see more than one aberrant act in common couple, but you wouldn’t, I mean I’m talking about long term relationship.
Willmott: Okay.
LaViolette: So you could have more than one aberrant act. In high conflict, what makes the difference is that it goes back and forth, and if it were domestic violence, there would be, at least the more current research looks at, that over time if there’s mutual aggression, that what winds up happening in a heterosexual relationship is that the male partner becomes, over time, more aggressive with an aggressive female partner.
Willmott: Okay, and then what’s, can have emotional abuse?
LaViolette: Excuse me?
Willmott: What is, in the column you have, can have emotional abuse?
LaViolette: Well, what I mean by that is that they are disrespectful and talk in a very disrespectful way to each other. Um, and it’s different than character assassination; usually it’s more name calling but name calling at a lower level, is what I say.
Willmott: Okay.
LaViolette: And basic disrespect.
Willmott: Okay. But in this high conflict column, I notice at the bottom you still have balance of power in the relationship.
LaViolette: Yes, that neither party has more power than the other in the relationship; that they both, um they both, they’re not afraid of each other.
Willmott: Okay.
LaViolette: That they both believe that they have power in the relationship and they both might have power in the relationship; that out of balance power relationships tend to be more present in domestic violence relationships.
Willmott: Okay, alright so in this high conflict column, this is still not considered abusive?
LaViolette: Well, it could be. It’s not healthy, let’s just put it that way.
Willmott: Okay.
LaViolette: It’s not healthy. And there’s controversy about whether that would be domestic violence, but for the most part, I would say it’s more a mutually disrespectful relationship where the friendship has eroded and there’s no good will, or not much good will in that family.
Willmott: Alright. Okay, so let’s move on to the third column you have for abuse. Tell us what this means.

Name Calling and Character assassination

LaViolette: What I did was to look at a range of domestically violent relationships, and abusive relationships are at the lower level of that range. But when I say that, I don’t necessarily mean, in the lower level of fear; I mean in the lower level of behaviors, and what happens. So when I’m talking about abusive relationships I’m looking at relationships where there’s physical aggression, but there’s usually longer periods of time between physically aggressive episodes. So there’s a period of recovery. You could have six months, a year, whatever, between episodes. The episodes tend to be kind of short-lived. If they’re yelling at each other, it tends to be not a long period of time when they’re yelling at each other. And they tend to do more cussing or generic kinds of name calling than they do character assassination. They are not character assassinating each other.
Willmott: Ms. LaViolette, can you explain to us the difference between name calling and character assassination?
LaViolette: Yeah, name calling um, is it okay to swear? I mean, is it okay to say the names, I don’t know?
Willmott: Judge, is that okay?
Stephens: Yes, you may continue.
Willmott: Okay.
LaViolette: Calling somebody a bitch, calling somebody a bastard would be more name calling, cussing at somebody. Um, character assassination goes to tearing apart the character of the person, calling them a whore, calling them a slut, telling them they’re ugly, telling them they’re fat, telling them that nobody likes them or cares about them, that they’re not worth anything. It’s tearing apart the character of the person, which uh, when I work with battered women they say it is some of the more difficult, and I’ve worked with some male victims as well, few, but it’s the thing that really rips at their hearts. It’s the tearing apart of who they are as a person.
Willmott: Okay, and so in the third column under abuse, we see name calling but not character assassination, yet?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: Is that right?
LaViolette: Yes.

Verbal versus psychological abuse

Willmott: Okay. And then verbal abuse but not psychological, what’s the difference?
LaViolette Well, in a way, it’s splitting hairs. And what I mean is that kind of name calling or cussing, that sort of thing, um. I remember one of the men that I worked with who came in who said, um, you know I came home to my family and nobody was there and they left me a note to call. And I don’t understand because I’ve never done anything physically abusive to anybody in my family. And I said, well what do you do when you get upset, what do you do when you get angry? And he said, well, you know, I yell. And I said, what kind of things do you yell? He said well, I scream and I curse and uh, I call them names and stuff. And I said, what else do you do when you’re angry? I said, do you hit things or do you throw things? He said, yeah, I punch holes in the walls sometimes, and I hit things, but I’ve never hit anybody in my family. And it took awhile for him to understand that the family was sort of living, you know, walking on egg shells about, wondering what would happen when he got angry. What’s going to happen when he gets angry? What’s he going to do and how far is he going to go? And you know, what they said was, or what he said was, well, they should know I wouldn’t do this, but they don’t know that. They’re not sure how far it’s going to go, so they live in that sort of, walking on egg shells apprehension.

Men’s groups, empathy

Willmott: Okay. And incidentally, part of the treatment that you do with men’s groups, is that working with somebody to understand how their actions affect other people?
LaViolette: Absolutely. We do a lot with empathy in our groups, and we actually look, because most of the men that we work with have come from families where they’ve been exposed to domestic violence or exposed to violence and abuse, and so I think they are adult victims of childhood abuse myself. And so we’re doing, like one of the things that I might do with them is to ask them to think about a time in their lives where they felt powerless or afraid prior to the age of ten, because they can begin to look back at their childhoods and then to think about what the situation was, to talk about the situation, to talk about the situation, to talk about who they had that they could talk to about it, did they have a safe adult that they could talk to or a safe family member that they could talk to, and who they avoided telling. And um, who they blamed, because a lot of people blame themselves for being victimized and then, was the situation ever resolved, because if it wasn’t resolved and there wasn’t a way to resolve it, it’s hard to get over it. And then, um, how they feel when they talk about it now, because part of that is looking at how long the effects of victimization are on people, so they can look back to ten and they can still feel things when they’re forty years old, or thirty years old, or fifty years old, or sixty years old. They still have feelings about that. And it helps them to understand what it would be like for their family members, what it must be like for them to feel the way they felt, because once you understand how you feel it’s easier to understand how someone else feels.


Willmott: Alright, and in this column, back to your column with abuse, we still have may be remorseful.
LaViolette: Yeah, actually they tend to be remorseful. They tend to still be sorry because they have less entrenched belief systems that violence or aggression is a good way to handle things. When you start looking at battering and terrorism, you’re looking at people who have a belief system that it’s okay or that it’s appropriate to solve problems with violence or aggression. And the other thing I would just say with the threats, that
Willmott: The threats of abandonment?
LaViolette: Yeah, um, a lot of people talk about people threatening, threatening to kill, threatening a lot of things, but when people are more abusive, they tend to threaten abandonment. They tend to threaten to leave the other person, to maybe, if there are children to take kids, or to take money, that sort of thing, but they tend not to threaten to harm or kill.
Willmott: Okay, and the last one, aggression takes place without witnesses?
LaViolette: For the most part, in these relationships, and this would kind of compare with Holtz-worth Munroe and Stuart’s category of family only. They occur within the family and these people, many of them are very well thought of in the community, they are very well appreciated because it would surprise anybody to think that this person was acting out at all. It would throw people off, and so they’re more concerned with how they appear to other people. So there’s, you know, one of the things about working with folks when they come in and they need to be in a program, or they feel that they need to be in a program is that they can be pretty motivated to change, because they don’t want people to know, they don’t want to lose their jobs, that sort of thing.

Battering column

Willmott: Okay. Alright, and so then we would move on next to the battering column?
LaViolette: Right.
Willmott: Alright, and what’s the change in that? What do we see?
LaViolette: Generally, more frequent physical violence in that category; generally more controlling behaviors. Jealousy is a controlling behavior where people get jealous and they don’t want the other person to spend time with, for instance, if it’s a male female relationship, if the male were the victim, the female doesn’t want him to spend time with other women, or if it’s a male perpetrator, doesn’t want the victim to spend time even with family members because oftentimes, they’re coming from a place, I sort of think of it as deprivation mentality, that there’s not even love to go around, and that if you give it to this person then I don’t have any of it; so, that kind of thing.
Willmott: Is that what the perpetrator is thinking?
LaViolette: That’s where the perpetrator would be coming from. So there’s generally more frequent physical abuse, there’s generally more frequent verbal abuse.
Willmott: And when you speak of frequent, can you give us an idea of what you mean by frequent? You’d said earlier that the times between physical aggression could be up to six months to a year when you were talking about, I think, high conflict?
LaViolette: No, when I was talking about abuse, actually.
Willmott: Oh abuse, I’m sorry. Thank you, thank you. So when you’re talking about more frequent, what do you see?
LaViolette: You know, it’s different, because one of the things is when you’re looking at verbal and emotional abuse; it tends to occur much more frequently so it can occur weekly. It can occur monthly because the results of having somebody that you love say something really egregious to you, sticks with you, it feels bad and it stays with you for awhile. But it can escalate and it depends on the relationship. Every relationship is different and the characteristics in that relationship are different, but you can have cases where they’ll tell you that it’s happening almost daily. That’s more unusual, but it doesn’t have to happen that frequently to feel like it’s happening that frequently. I think of people who are depressed, and I use this analogy sometimes that, depression is called the common cold of mental illness because most people have had a depressed period of time, and if you’re depressed, you can have good days during that period of time, but if somebody asked you how you felt, you’d say I was depressed. Well, that’s the same kind of .. it’s the establishment of a mood in a relationship so it doesn’t have to happen every day to create a mood. So it could happen every two months. It really depends on the nature of what’s being said, the nature of what’s being done and how the person receives that.

Frequency to determine abusive relationship

Willmott: So is what you’re telling us, is that there’s no magical number of frequency before you can determine whether or not a relationship is abusive?
LaViolette: No, there’s no magical number.
Willmott: Okay, alright, back to battering. You were talking about what we see; that we see more frequent type of physical aggression. What else do we see?
LaViolette: You can see more public physical aggression. I’ve had people, there was a man in our group, we called him the drive by fruiter because he carried literally raw fruit in his car, and when he had road rage he would peg people, you know. We’ve had people that pull people off the freeway, run them off the road. We had people who walk through the mall and they don’t like the way you look at them and they wind up acting out.
Willmott: And how is that related to domestic violence though when you’re talking about people acting out on aggression to other people that are not in their own family?
LaViolette: Well, they’re also acting out to people in their own family.
Willmott: Okay.
LaViolette: But the other way of looking at that is vicarious trauma. So if I’m in a relationship with somebody who’s doing things to other people that are violent, it affects how I feel about my own safety. So if I, for instance, see my partner kick the side of a car in, which is an actual case, then I wonder what that partner’s going to do me, even if they haven’t done something to me at that point.
Willmott: Okay, okay. Alright, so you see there’s more this type of aggression; what else do you see?
LaViolette: You see, you tend to see more controlling kinds of behaviors, that might be calling during the day to see if you’re at work or texting you a lot so that I know where you are. It could include those kinds of things, and you tend to see a change in the name calling. It tends to sort of slide into the character assassination, into calling the person names, tearing their character apart.

Non-forceful sexual coercion

There also generally, is sexual abuse that does not have to be uh, it does not have to be forceful, but it has to be coercive psychologically or some way. In other words, the person feels like they should participate in it. That could be an example.
Willmott: You mean the victim of the relationship would have to feel like they should submit to some type of sexual acts?
LaViolette: Yeah, and, you know, when they don’t .. they really may or may not want to, but they may feel like they need to, to keep the relationship intact. That can be part of it.

Checking social media

Willmott: Okay. You talked about controlling, and calling somebody, or texting somebody throughout the day, or a couple of times to see where they are. What about looking at people’s, what we have now these days, Facebook and MySpace and Twitter Accounts. Looking them up and seeing what they’re up to.
LaViolette: See, that’s absolutely true, I don’t think that way because it’s not my generation and I don’t tweet or text or anything, but I’ve got clients where that’s part of what’s happening. GPS stalking, we’ve seen more, but that tends to be more, the more controlling behaviors tend to be in terrorism, but they also can be in battering where you’re looking at people using different ways to control people. So emails, texts, tweets, um, we’ve had people GPS stalk, you know, their partners, that kind of thing.


Willmott: Alright, and jealousy, you talked a little bit, you started to talk about jealousy. What is it about jealousy, you said, it’s a controlling behavior. How is jealousy controlling?
LaViolette: Well, if you’re dealing with someone who’s jealous, what happens is they let you know in lots of ways that they are and they don’t have to be in obvious ways like saying, you know, I don’t want you to see so and so. It can be in ways that I give you the silent treatment when you come home after you’ve spent time with friends. And I don’t talk to you for a while. Or, I ask you a lot of questions, I interrogate you. And I’m talking about people I’ve actually worked with. These are things that they’ve said that they’ve done. Um, where they are, texting the person during lunch so that they know where they are, so that they’re not really leaving their desk, or they’re calling them at home and saying, you know, I hope you’re home so I can call you. It can be in subtle, less obvious ways.
Willmott: Okay, and when you talk about jealousy is it, is it always jealousy of other people, so, you know, if we’re talking about a man and woman and the man is saying to the woman, you’re saying that the man is jealous, um, you talked about being interrogated or questioned about when the woman goes out with her friends, how is that jealousy when we’re talking about maybe if she’s going out with girlfriends?
LaViolette: Um, that comes from, I think, the place of that deprivation which is there’s not enough love to go around. So, if you’re spending time with other people, you’re taking it away from me as opposed to you can spend time with other people and it actually can enhance our relationship. It’s more you’re taking it away from me and you’re enjoying these things with other people so it becomes threatening. Just that you’re enjoying time with other people can be threatening.
Willmott: Okay, threatening to the perpetrator?
LaViolette: The perpetrator.

Putting down friends and family

Willmott: Okay. And you say putting down friends and family. What does that mean?
LaViolette: It can be talking about putdowns of other people’s, their family and friends, like saying, your family gets in our way, they butt in, your family’s stupid, your family, you know, and it’s usually not that obvious by the way at the beginning. People usually work up to this, it doesn’t start there, but the whole notion of saying, you know, your friend so and so said something about you. It can be something like that, or I wonder if so and so is a good friend because they did this or they did that, or your family is hardly ever there for you, you know, those kinds of things, where you sort of create a wedge between the person and their family or you create a way of looking at the family, that sort of thing.
Willmott: Okay. It’s not always, you’re saying that it doesn’t always start as calling the family members names necessarily?
LaViolette: No. It usually, when you’re looking at domestic violence there’s an escalation over time in intensity and frequency. So you don’t see things um, generally, real drastically at first. Occasionally, you’ll see a very drastic episode. I remember one of the very first women at the battered women’s shelter, and she was in the relationship for a while, but the first physical act was so intense that she said she saw stars, and she said that I knew that he could always to that, so he never had to do anything that serious again, because I knew it was possible. For people who haven’t had that kind of serious thing done, they anticipate that something more serious could happen.

Destruction of property

Willmott: Okay, um, what about destruction of property? Is that something you see more of in the battering column then?
LaViolette: Destruction of property happens in abuse and in battering, but it tends to be more extensive as you across the continuum. So where you might see somebody punch a hole in the wall, or kick a piece of furniture, or, you know, something like that, in an abusive situation, um, as you move across the continuum you can see something more extreme. One of the men in my group destroyed his wife’s twenty-five thousand dollar crystal collection. That took some time so what you see is the energy, the rage that goes over time that can create that, can be pretty terrifying, that can create that kind of sort of physical rant if you will.
Willmott: And part of destroying that property, in that particular example, is that because it’s directed to something that she, that is hers?
LaViolette: That can happen, and it can happen to something that isn’t particularly important to the person either, but absolutely you see more direction. I remember one of the fellows ripped … his wife was a gardener, and ripped all the plants out of …, and I worked with a woman whose, they were both professional people, and he had very expensive suits, and she cut his suits up. So that there’s this destruction of something that is of value; you see more of that as you move across the continuum.
Willmott: Okay, um and, what does self absorbed, how does that refer to in this column?
LaViolette: Well, it’s sort of looking at the world as it affects me. It’s not being able to empathize very much, so I see the world as it affects me. So if I hurt you, what I’m concerned about is that you’ll leave and then I will be without you as opposed to that you’re hurt.
Willmott: Okay, and we see the sexual abuse again, is that the same?
LaViolette: The sexual abuse, it can be more forceful, it can be more forceful, it doesn’t have to be, but it can be more physically forceful.
Willmott: Okay, and what do you mean by change in victim’s personality?
LaViolette: When you go further across the continuum, what you see is that the victim can have a personality before they start; they can be friendly, they can be more self confident, they can be even, you know, gregarious, they can be the person that plans activities for their friends, and then, you know, over time what happens is they become more withdrawn, they become less self confident, they become more self blaming, their self esteem goes down. So you see a real change. So you can see somebody who is fully gregarious become withdrawn and isolated. You see that kind of a change.
Willmott: And timeline, when we’re talking about time, is this something that you’re going to see in two months or what kind of time are you talking about?
LaViolette: You know, it really depends on what happens in the relationship. You can’t just give that a timeline either, but it usually occurs over a period of time. You know, I would say, I can’t even say. I was trying to say, but I really can’t say what that timeline is. But, depending on what the other person does and where … depending on where the victim is when they get in the relationship, and how vulnerable they are when they get in the relationship, they can be easier to intimidate and, you know, change their personality. That can happen more quickly, but it takes a period of time for that to happen and it takes a context for it to happen.
Willmott: Okay, so is it more like there’s no magic number again? To be able to discuss timelines when you can expect to see certain things on this continuum?
LaViolette: No, there’s no magic number that I’ve ever seen or known about or had anybody in the field talk about, ever, a magic number with physical abuse or emotional abuse.
Willmott: Uh, alright and then at the end you say, more generally violent.
LaViolette: And that’s what I meant by that they can be violent in the outside. So there can be a lot of road rage that takes the form of, you know, pulling somebody off the freeway, it can bar fights, it can be more violence that they’re not so concerned about being public about.
Willmott: Okay, that the perpetrator isn’t concerned?
LaViolette: Right.

Last column : terrorism

Willmott: Okay. Alright and into the last column we see terrorism, what do you mean by terrorism? We have abuse, battering and terrorism.
LaViolette: Well, as you go across the continuum, I mean one of the reasons I took out patriarchal terrorism that Johnson had was in case we were dealing with female perpetrators that were doing some of these things, then we would also be able to look at female perpetrators as well, and, um, gay lesbian relationships. In terrorism as you move across the continuum, things just get more extreme, so you see usually more intensity in what’s happening. And I have stalking up there and when I’m talking about abuse and lower end battering, I talk about normal stalking and people wonder what normal stalking is. Willmott: What do you mean by normal stalking?
LaViolette: By what I mean by normal stalking is, when a relationship ends most people aren’t ready to have, there’s usually one person who isn’t ready to have it end and that’s for any of us. Most of us have had relationships where they ended before we were ready to have them end; we’ve had at least one. And you’re not quite ready to have it end, so you might call the other person just to hear their little voice on the answering machine, or you might drive by, you know, their house or something to see if they’re there. You might show up somewhere where you think they are and people who are domestically abusive or who live in domestically abusive relationships don’t believe each other. You know, if I am perpetrating domestic violence I don’t believe you’re going to leave me and you don’t believe that I’m going to stop hurting you. So there’s a period of time where that person is used to pushing and getting what they want. And they push and they get what they want. So that’s what happens. They continue to do that. So what I’ve seen and most of us talk about, is that violating protective orders is very common in domestically abusive relationships because they don’t believe that you really mean it and so they’re going to keep pushing to see if, you know, that changes. And over time, once they know their partners mean business, that stalking behavior decreases. When you’re dealing with a terrorist, once they know you mean business, the stalking increases if they’re going to stalk. So they become more, you know, sort of aggressive in their stalking behavior.
Willmott: Okay, and the monopolization of perception, and actually we had that on battering and I don’t think we explained it. What is it?
LaViolette: The monopolization of perception is a precursor to the hostage syndrome, but I um..
Willmott: What does that mean?
LaViolette: What?
Willmott: Okay, you said it’s a precursor to the hostage syndrome, ..
LaViolette: Well, I can kind of give an example of what it is.
Willmott: Okay.
LaViolette: It’s basically a situation where you stop having the ability to see the world through your eyes and you see it through the eyes of the person who has more power in the relationship. So, for instance, I was working with a couple and I usually do a basic social interview and I assess for levels of power difference because levels of power difference are very important in domestically violent relationships. And so I ask who wants to come in first, I speak to each person separately, so I can hear sort of the story and the new revised edition of the story. I want to know what’s going on from both peoples’ perspective and um, he said why don’t you go in first? So she came in first, and I asked her some questions. I found out that there was a twenty year age gap between the two of them and age is power. Age has power associated with it, and I found out that she had just gotten out of med school and he had been a doctor for a while so she had student loans and he had money. Money is power. He was her first sexual experience, that’s; sexuality is power. And he was her supervisor in med school, so there were a lot of power differences in this couple. And I like to assess for isolation, and what I mean by that is a person’s ability to function in the world with other people. And so I found out from her that her friends and family still lived in the area and she had gone to high school and college and med school in the same area. So I asked her if her and her partner had gotten together, or got together with her friends, and she said no that they didn’t, he wasn’t real comfortable with that. And I understood that because of the age difference, I thought that might be not a really fun thing to do, and I said but what about you? Do you get together with your friends? And she said well, he’s not real comfortable with that either. And I said, um what about your family, I know you’ve been close to your parents. Do you get together with your parents? And she said, well he thinks my family is kind of intrusive and he doesn’t want to spend a lot of time with them. And I said, well what about you? I know you used to go to family dinners. Do you go to your family dinners on Sunday nights? And she said, well he’s not real comfortable with that either. And I said how do you know he’s not comfortable with that? And she said well, when I come home he won’t talk to me. And I said, well for how long? And she said well it used to be a few hours, but now it can drag on for days and it’s really uncomfortable. And I said, well are there other things that would make you think he’s uncomfortable? And she said, well he asks me a lot of questions. And he asks her questions that wind up being like a full blown interrogation. And so she pulls back and she stops seeing her family. She stops seeing her friends so much. And I said to her does it make sense to you that somebody you love doesn’t want you to spend time with other people that you love? And she said it didn’t use to make sense to me, but now I look at through his eyes. So she began to see the world through his perspective and stopped seeing it through her own, and that’s what I mean by monopolization of perception.
Willmott: Does that mean that she doesn’t .. that when people are seeing it through the perpetrator’s eyes, does that they mean that they tend to not blame the perpetrator for these actions? You know what I mean, like is she not getting angry with him for him not letting her go see her family and things like that because she’s able to see it from a different perspective, from his perspective?
LaViolette: Well she saw, in this particular case, she saw him as kind of insecure about the relationship. So she thought if she backed off, and spent more time with him and gave him the things he wanted, that he would feel more secure and that they would have … that it would change. So she believed there would be a change created by this.
Willmott: Okay, okay. Alright, and then we see insidious psychological abuse. What do you mean by that?
LaViolette: Um, I mean in psychological abuse, you can have more controlling behaviors. You can have things that are more subtle. You can have somebody who’s putting somebody down in a really insidious way, but not directly necessarily. So, you could have somebody, for instance who, you’re talking about having just gotten a job and you’re really excited because you just got this job and you were hired on your first interview. And the person says well, they must be hiring anybody. And you say well that hurts my feelings. That’s not what I meant. I mean, why would you say that to me? And they say, that’s not what I meant. I meant you got hired so quickly. Of course, you’re the best person for the job, that kind of thing. So they wind up shifting your perception a little at a time. So you start thinking, oh I guess I misinterpreted that. So a lot of things like that, it’s sort of mind control in a subtle way, which is actually how you do mind control. It’s much more subtle.
Willmott: Okay. Um, and comments like that, like your example with the job, does that lead to the victim of the relationship, the woman, whichever, does that lead to her thinking, ultimately thinking that oh, it’s the way I think whenever something goes wrong.
LaViolette: Oh right, You mean is she thinking …
Willmott: The shift of perception ..
LaViolette: Oh, the shift in perception, okay so what happens, is you start seeing it differently and you start thinking oh maybe I misinterpreted it. So you start to doubt the way you see things. You start to doubt that your perception is accurate, and that maybe you’re misperceiving. You know, I didn’t get what you meant, so you start doubting the way you look at things.
Willmott: Okay, okay. And the well thought out to kill, what do you mean by that?
LaViolette: Well, someone who is battering may threaten to kill you or harm you in some way but the person, or suicide, that’s another threat that’s very potent in relationships.
Willmott: Hold on a second, so wait a minute, so we have a well-thought out threat to kill, so do you mean that it can be a threat to kill themselves?
LaViolette: It can be a threat to kill themselves, too.
Willmott: Okay, let’s talk about that
LaViolette: But, the battering would be less well thought out. It would be more like I’m telling you I’m going to kill myself, I’m telling you I’m going to kill you, I’m going to hurt you, I’m hurt somebody you love, something like that. The well-thought out, I’m going to tell you how I’m going to do it, or I’m going to be more specific with that.
Willmott: Okay, and how is that terrorism? I mean, when they are talking about killing themselves, not killing the other person, how does that relate to abuse and terrorism?
LaViolette: If you are with somebody you love and they threaten to kill themselves, it is terrorizing to people who love you. It is terrorizing to anybody in that family; it’s terrorizing to children in that family. It’s when you talk to families where there are threats of suicide, it can control the entire family because they are so worried that that could happen. And I think it’s something, you know, I see when I work with parents and they have teenagers, and the teenager is acting strange and they are afraid that the teenager is going to hurt themselves, and the teenager hasn’t even threatened it. But because the parent believes that it could happen, they are terrorized by that.
Willmott: Alright, and you said it controls the family. How does it control the family?
LaViolette: Because your focus shifts from everybody else to the person who is suicidal or you believe is suicidal, or that you believe is homicidal. In a family where there is domestic violence, the focus is more often on the perpetrator from everybody in the family because you have to be careful of that person so your focus is much more on that person. You know the old saying, you oil the squeaky wheel?
Willmott: Umhmm.
LaViolette: And I think that’s sort of what happens.

Torturing pets

Willmott: Okay alright, and you talked about torturing pets. Is that something you see?
LaViolette: I’ve seen that. I haven’t seen that much, partially because I think people who do things to animals are reluctant to talk about them. Um, so there are many things that are not talked about. I actually had a young man who was a very bright graduate student at UCLA, very handsome, very charismatic guy who came into group one night, and he was crying and he said, I kicked my puppy to death. And it was horrible, and it was horrible for all of us. And he admitted to it because he said I need help. I have to have help. But it’s very hard to talk about hurting children and about hurting, or doing anything that you think would be considered strange. So, you know, any kind of strange psychological abuse or that sort of thing, it’s hard for people to talk about that in group. They might talk to you about it afterwards, they might talk to you about it during an intake session, um, or they might wait to know you. I’m working with a young man right now who said, Alice, I know some things that are causing me problems, but I’m not going to tell you because I don’t know you right now. And I said that’s fine; I don’t expect you to tell me things until you have some reason to trust me.


Willmott: Alright, let’s see, and then we have extreme isolation.
LaViolette: Isolation allows somebody to do mind control. And isolation can take a lot of forms. Isolation doesn’t have to be as obvious as you never get to see anybody that you care about. Isolation can be that you’re not talking to anybody about what’s going on in your life and that’s common in domestically violent relationships. That people don’t talk to other people; they don’t talk to their friends; they don’t talk to their family about what’s going on because they want people to like their partner. They want people to care about them, they want people to hang around with; they don’t want anybody to think they have lousy taste. They care about that, so they tend to keep it to themselves. That’s a form of isolation. Looking at what people write and telling them they can’t write certain things, so that they can’t say certain things is a form of isolation. And then there are real obvious forms, like taking the spark plugs, I don’t even know if cars have spark plugs anymore actually, but dismantling the car, so that somebody can’t use the car, or taking the keys away. There are lots of ways to isolate people.
Willmott: Can a person be isolated in, what I’m hearing you say, is that a person can be isolated even though it’s not necessarily an extreme situation like dismantling the car?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: And can a person be isolated just because they have no one else to talk to about what happened?
LaViolette: That’s really the main reason they are isolated, because they stop talking to anybody else and so the ability to put things in perspective becomes lost in that relationship. So whether you’re male or female, if you’re in a situation and you can’t talk to anyone else then the reality of the person you’re with, that whatever they tell you, becomes more real because you don’t have another mirror to look in to. So I’ve had, for instance, I had two women come into the shelter in the same week who both believed that they were ugly and overweight, and they were both very thin and attractive. And they believed that because they had been told that so often and they were pretty isolated. So you can believe what the person tells you more easily if you’re isolated.
Willmott: Can you tell the difference though, when a woman chooses to not tell other people, like if she has family and she just doesn’t tell them what’s going on, or if she has friends and she just chooses not to tell them. Is there a choice in the matter where she’s choosing to isolate herself or is that part of the psychological or something that happens in an abusive relationship where it’s not really her choice?
LaViolette: Well, I don’t think that a victim of domestic violence feels that they have a choice.
Willmott: Okay.
LaViolette: I think that what happens is your choices get narrowed, your world gets narrow. Then your choices about how you handle things get narrower because um, you’re concerned …. you know, I see over and over again, that people I’m with are very concerned about the reputation of the partner that they have. They are concerned about, you know, if it’s a school teacher, they’re concerned about that school teacher losing their job if anybody finds out, they worried about a reputation that somebody has. I always remember a woman who called anonymously on the hotline and she was married to a minister, who was local apparently, and I don’t know who it was, I never knew who it was but she called the hotline and said nobody will believe me, and I can’t ruin his reputation. He’s very good with people in the church, so I don’t want to ruin his reputation, and I hear that over and over again. Even people who own their own businesses, they don’t want them to lose work. Police officers, people in the military, there’s a lot of concern from victims across the board that the person they’re with is going to have a marred reputation or lose their career behind, you know, or their standing.
Willmott: And so does that factor into the feeling of a victim, feeling like she doesn’t have a choice to talk to other people?
LaViolette: Yes, that absolutely factors in.

Balance of power

Willmott: And you talked a little bit about balance of power, and I know in the first two columns we see that there is a balance of power in the relationship and then that seems to disappear starting with abuse. What is the importance of that?
LaViolette: Well, the balance of power means that there’s, you know, pretty much positive regard for each other, that we like each other, that I value your opinion and my relationship. I want to hear what you have to say about it, when we, you know, buy things we kind of talk about them unless they’re your things, you know, but that, you know, we value, we value, we make decisions. If we have children, we talk about how we’re going to discipline them, or we try to work together or try to figure out a way to do that even if we’re not sure how to do it. But when you look at a shift, you begin to see that the person who perpetrates has more power, because the other person has given up so much of who they are, that they lose the ability to have that balance of power. And I don’t think it’s always thought out, I don’t think people necessarily, who are perpetrating domestic violence, are consciously saying, I’m going to take your power away. I don’t think they’re necessarily doing that at all, I think they’re more reflexive. I think it’s more of an emotional reflex that, you know, for them it feels more like survival. How am I going to survive? And they act out. The ones that are terrorists and high-end battering, they are more thoughtful about what they do.
Willmott: Okay, the last thing we had on there, oh not last actually, the generally more regular physical abuse that may occur without physical.

Example of terrorist with no physical abuse

LaViolette: Right, you can have a terrorist who never lays a hand on anybody. I worked on a murder case in the late 90’s with a woman who had been very financially successful, and the way her family started to notice that things were not right was that she went to them and started asking to borrow money. She was pregnant. Her partner wouldn’t go to appointments with her, and when she was having contractions wouldn’t go to the doctor with her. When they went out with other people, there was an occasion where he kicked the side of a car in, in front of her and in front of the other people, because he didn’t, you know, he got furious. There was an occasion where he chased a guy on a bike and beat him up in front of this person who is a rugby player. When she separated from him, they had a child at that time, when they separated she went and moved in with her parents. Her father and mother were in their seventies and um, he began to call the Department of Children and Family Services and make anonymous phone calls that there was child abuse and so social workers would come out to investigate. They were never substantiated but there were so many calls, that they came out one night and they were going to remove the child from the home because of these threats. And the social worker was the one who said to this family, you know, this is a battering relationship. They had no idea because they watched television, and they know that if you’re battered, you’re carried out on a stretcher. They didn’t think that this was abusive behavior and he was stalking and he was making threats, calling and leaving messages, I’m going to be your worst nightmare. And then when he had custody of his little boy he would take him to the hospital and force them to, you know, say that something was wrong and force them to do tests on this little child. And so the father, her father who had been a prisoner of war during World War II, developed post traumatic stress and he was also told by the doctor that if he didn’t do something that his wife was going to have a heart attack and die, and he wound up emptying a gun into this man. And he said, I’m giving my life for my daughter. But he was in a fugue when he did it, but he was … his neighbors, he did in his neighborhood and he walked down the street, and his neighbors who had known him for twenty-five years looked at him and said, they said it was like he was sleepwalking. He didn’t know what he was doing, he just walked down the street and he didn’t know what he was doing. He was so terrified about what was happening that, you know, he reacted.
Willmott: So that’s something where somebody was terrorizing someone else without any physical abuse?
LaViolette: No, no physical abuse in that case.

Sexual humiliation and degradation

Willmott: Um, you also have sexual humiliation and degradation. What do you see with that?
LaViolette: Um, sexual humiliation is where you’re having people do things that they might go along with but lowers their self esteem and it can be any kind of thing that’s humiliating or degrading to someone in a sexual way, or using sex as a way to control. So it could be anything, it could be something that the other person isn’t comfortable with, they go along with. It could be forcing somebody to be sexual and there are strange things that happen in that area. We’re less likely to get information on that area because I find that victims of domestic violence do not like to talk about sexual abuse because they feel that they are as responsible as the other person. They sound a lot like folks I work with who are incest survivors; that they blame themselves and they hold themselves accountable for the sexual abuse, so there’s a lot of shame and they don’t talk about it much. It’s the area we get the least information on, I would say.

Exacerbating factors

Willmott: Okay. Alright, and I see at the top of the continuum, you talk about exacerbating factors. What are those, what does that mean?
LaViolette: Those are all areas that can take somebody from one part of the continuum to the other. They are factors that can exacerbate behaviors.

Family of origin

The first one, the family of origin issues, have to deal with what kind of family you grew up in and was there violence in that family, was there psychological, physical abuse, sexual abuse in that family, neglect in that family, what kinds of things did you witness as a child, um, and how deep does that go, did you have multiple family members involved in that violence, um, that sort of thing. So you’re looking at how far back you can take violence in that family of origin, but also the quality of the violence that occurs, you know, and the context.
Willmott: What does that do if somebody comes from their original family of origin that has a … the things that you’re discussing, the violence or neglect, things like that. What does that mean with regard to this continuum for domestic violence?
LaViolette: Well, it ups the ante.
Willmott: Okay.
LaViolette: Because you have, in general, less ability to handle things. I don’t expect people who come from a monolingual family, a Spanish speaking family or an English speaking family, to speak fluent, if they come from an English speaking family to speak fluent Spanish or Spanish speaking family to speak fluent English, because there’s not exposure to it in a monolingual family. I don’t expect people who come from violent households to speak the language of mental health, because they haven’t learned it. And so they have to have somebody, you know, I tell a lot of the folks I work with that’s this is just school. You’re going to school to learn some things that you didn’t learn when you were growing up. And this can help you in terms of being able to handle situations when you feel powerless. It’s almost, when you look at family of origin, there’s like emotional reflexive-ness. It’s that you act, you react as opposed to respond. You don’t think as much as you react in that situation.

Previous abusive relationships

Willmott: Alright, and um there’s, previous abusive relationships?
LaViolette: Um, what I look at, with that, is has this person been involved in other situations where they have had abusive relationships and has there been an escalation. So for instance, if they’ve been physically aggressive in the relationship that I am working with, do they punch or have multiple attacks or whatever, and did they earlier on just hit or slap cause there tends to be an escalation over time. If they were verbally abusive or psychologically abusive, has that increased over time? Because unless there’s intervention, it tends to, it doesn’t always, but it tends to so I look at the history of abuse with the perpetrator.
Willmott: The history of abuse that the perpetrator has done to other people?
LaViolette: Yes, has done to other people. And the exacerbating factors are all about looking at the perpetrator.
Willmott: Okay, okay. And what are the other ones?

Substance abuse

LaViolette: Substance abuse um, when we look at substance abuse, substances are dis-inhibitors. So somebody can be more likely to act out if there’s a substance, but we find that about forty to sixty percent of the people that we’ve worked with have had some issue with domestic violence when they’ve been using, but about forty to sixty percent haven’t. The other thing to look at with substance abuse is that the first year is not really about recovery. The first year is focused on not doing the bad thing, which is why you hear people in twelve step programs say, I’m in twelve step program for the rest of my life or for a very long time, and I go to meetings every week, or I go to several a week. Because what they know, is that they continue to change and grow if they stay with that program. They continue to learn things that they didn’t learn before. So I look at the first year as being problematic too, because when you’re dealing with domestic violence if you’re also dealing with substances, um, that person is now a domestic violence perpetrator without an anesthetic so it can be a dangerous time. So we look at not only the current use, but have they recently stopped using.

Psychological issues

Willmott: Okay, and psychological issues?
LaViolette: Psychological issues can be all kinds of things. They can be whether somebody’s, occasionally we have somebody whose diagnosed as bipolar in group, are they on their medication or not? Generally you don’t have people who are long-term using psychological, you know, psychotropic drugs are not in our group, because they can’t function as well in a group. So when we’re working in group, we have to look at people’s ability to function in that group, so that the group is effective for them.
Willmott: Okay, alright. Does that explain your continuum and how you’ve used it?
LaViolette: I think it does.
Willmott: Alright, Judge, now might be a good time
Stephens: Alright ladies and gentlemen, we will take the noon recess.

Next : Alyce LaViolette Day 37 Part 2