Alyce LaViolette Day 37 Part 2

Afternoon Session

Stephens: You may continue.
Willmott: Thank you, your Honor. Ms. LaViolette, just before we finish talking about the continuum, and this is exhibit 558, have you ever used this in court before?
LaViolette: Yes, I’ve used it in family court primarily because there was a perception that there was a flight risk with a father who had dual passports and he didn’t fit into what is commonly seen as a perpetrator. He wasn’t like the guy on television, or the guy in the movies, but he clearly fit into somewhere between some of the characteristics of abuse and some of the characteristics of battering so it was used to explain to the court what that range of behavior could look like.
Willmott: When you talk about range of behavior, when you’re looking at a potential batterer, or potential abuser, perpetrator, is it possible for them to be, have characteristics of more than one of these columns?
LaViolette: Oh yeah, absolutely. That’s why it’s a continuum, because there can be behaviors from different categories that are present in one person.
Willmott: Alright, and ultimately after you created this continuum was it ever published anywhere?
LaViolette: It was published in the Journal of Child Custody which is a peer-reviewed journal; that means that other people in your profession are asked to look at it and review it, and decide whether it’s worthy of publication or not.
Willmott: So when something is peer reviewed, does that mean those people who are looking at it, do they have the ability to say no it’s not worthy?
LaViolette: Yes they do. In fact I’m a peer reviewer for the Journal of Child Custody and sometimes we get an article that we just don’t think is up to standard and you can either recommend that people rewrite it if, you know, there are minor changes or you can recommend that um, it not be published at all. And so that happens.
Willmott: Okay. And this morning when we were talking about this continuum and you were talking about the batterers or the perpetrators, you talked about them having control over the family members or the fear that they can instill in the family. When you talk about family, who are you talking about?
LaViolette: I’m not necessarily talking about family in the standard kind of way, because it can be people who very much care about them. So they don’t have to living with that person, they don’t have to be married to that person, but they need to be intimate enough that that person really cares about them.
Willmott: And is there a correlation in the work that you’ve done between people who um, the type of abuse or the more serious of abuse that can occur with the type of relationship between the abuser and the victim?
LaViolette: Generally speaking, in intimate partner violence, most of the rage is directed at the intimate partner, but it can also be directed at children, as well if there are children involved. Otherwise, there tends to be, it tends to be directed at the safest target and that tends to be the intimate partner, adult partner.
Willmott: Why, why is the intimate partner a safe target?
LaViolette: Because the intimate partner is probably not going to tell anybody about it and the intimate partner has um, if they’re married they’ve, you know, made a promise to stay. If they’re not married, they’ve probably made some kind of a commitment in terms of just loving each other. And because people are generally more cautious when there are logical consequences and witnesses, which is why you don’t see a lot of people who are perpetrating domestic violence are not acting out at the workplace, because if they act out at the workplace, there are witnesses and there are logical consequences right away. And when you’re home, there might be the consequence that your partner gets upset with you, but generally, it takes a lot longer time before your partner would leave or there would be a logical consequence, like the police coming or something like that. And there are no witnesses, other than the people that you’re intimate with.
Willmott: Okay, you talked about intimate partner violence, is that, I don’t know if you’ve used that term yet, but is that somehow different than domestic violence?
LaViolette: Actually intimate partner violence is the new terminology because it covers people that aren’t married, and when you talk about family violence or domestic violence, sometimes people think you’re talking about child abuse as well. So they’ve kind of called it intimate partner violence now.
Willmott: Is that the new terminology?
LaViolette: That’s the new one, yeah.
Willmott: Okay. Alright can, there’s a lot to be said about intimate partner violence where one partner will stay, and it rises I’m sure the answer to that is something long and I don’t want to go there yet, but my question is can you walk us through a domestic violence relationship? I mean, how does it start?
LaViolette: Well, I use this kind of example when I’m doing training because the question I’m still asked the most is why does someone stay in an abusive relationship? So what I try to do is make it something that we can all get, because most of us would fit in, in this kind of a situation. So I usually walk people through, I ask people to think about the very first time they were in love, the first time they were seriously involved with somebody and usually that’s late teens, early twenties, you know, in the twenties sometime, and I ask them to think about what that’s like for them, and where they learned about being in love. I asked them to think about what they saw in their own families, what they’ve seen on television, what they’ve seen in the movies, what books they’ve read. For some of us, we can go back to the radio, what we heard on the radio. So, to look at this range of places that we get information, and so I ask people to think about that. And then I ask them to put themselves in their first relationship and what that was like for them. And um I tell them, you know, I have a couple of theories about relationship, and one of them is that most of us could live with someone who is abusive for about a year, and we could live with them, and if we were in love we wouldn’t notice. Because they would be on their best behavior for a period of time; and the energy of new love is bigger than the energy of fear. And for a lot of people who are abusive, they’re really coming from a place of fear even more than rage, and the rage kind of covers that up. So, um, I talk about that a little bit, and then I ask them to think about being in this relationship and spending time with this person and going out on dates and meeting each other’s friends and maybe eventually meeting each other’s family and having some holidays together. And um, then this person that you love gets angry at you and gives you the silent treatment for a day or two, and um, you’re kind of wondering what’s going on, and you’re a little nervous. And then that person calls you back like nothing’s happened and you’re fine. And then you go a little further into the relationship and the person gets angry at you and calls you some names that you find really offensive and you’re upset with. And then I ask people, do you think you would leave at this point when a person calls you these names that you don’t like, what do you think you would do? Do you think you would leave? And most people say no. And so I ask them to go a little further in the relationship, and now you decide that you’re really serious about each other so you’re spending more time together. Um, and as you’re spending more time together, some other things happen and you get in an argument and this argument is a little different from the other arguments that you’ve had, and during this argument your partner picks up something that you care about and throws it into the wall and breaks it. And I ask people, would you leave now? And most people say no. And by the way, it hasn’t mattered what group I’ve spoken to, I speak to all kinds of groups. I speak to church groups and professional organizations and probation officers, and therapists and it doesn’t seem to matter. It’s pretty consistent.
Willmott: Okay.
LaViolette: Um, and then I go a little further, and I say, now you’ve been together, you know, and maybe you’ve been together about a year and a half or two, and maybe you decide you’re going to live together or maybe you decide that you’re just going to keep seeing each other, and you’re really tight with each other. And you have an argument this time that’s different than any of the other arguments that you’ve had and in this argument, your partner slaps you across the face. And you’re very involved in this relationship and you love this person. Do you think you’re going to stop loving and liking somebody because they hit you? And most people say no, that that is not true for them. And they think about getting angry and they get upset, and I said how do you feel when somebody does that to you? And people are upset and most people believe that in a relationship they should be treated well, that they shouldn’t be hitting or being hit, that sort of thing. But they also have a clash of values at the very beginning of that relationship. And the clash of values is, I shouldn’t be mistreated but I should be a forgiving human being, I should be a compassionate human being, I should be an empathic human being, I should stand behind somebody through thick and thin, which a lot of us believe. If we’ve made any promises in the relationship, we think about those promises and commitments we’ve made in the relationship. And what winds up happening, is those things tend to weigh more than the thing that says, the value that says I shouldn’t be mistreated.
Willmott: Is that the ultimate then clash that this person, the victim for lack of a better term, is that the ultimate, what they’re going through, is the feelings of being treated poorly versus being the good person who forgives?
LaViolette: There is that clash very early on and it’s confusing, I think, for any human being because we all, I believe, come up with the belief that we should be good human beings and we have standards for that, and those standards are important, those beliefs are important, and I think define who we are, I think they’re significant to us. And so you’ve got this clash of, you know different beliefs that are coming together at that point, but there may be more on the being a good person than there on protecting yourself.
Willmott: And so when you’re having this clash of, um, between these two feelings is that something that is in your experience keeping people staying in the relationship?
LaViolette: It does, particularly at the beginning because you believe that there is a possibility of change and there’s a concept that Kate (Muldury?) coined back in the 80’s called learned hopefulness.
Willmott: What is that?
LaViolette: Excuse me?
Willmott: What is that?
LaViolette: Okay, well there was a term called learned helplessness that was a psychological type of experiment and people thought that victims, and we call them survivors, who would stay in a relationship because they feel helpless, they feel like no matter what they do that doesn’t change what happens to them. So there is that, but one of my colleagues did a really significant piece of research, Ola Barnett, on battered women, and found that the two major reasons they stayed was hope and fear. And that hope was really big, that between episodes you have time to regroup, you have time to fall back in love with that person or care about that person. Your anger goes away, and you have an opportunity to believe that things are going to change. And when that happens, you develop a pattern of hope, and I think what’s interesting for me is that, that’s a good thing for most of us. Hope keeps us, you know, if we’re in a position where we just lost our job, it keeps us in a position to think, well I’ll get another job, and I’ll be able to support my family, I’ll be able to do this and that, um, so it’s a good thing. But in an abusive relationship, it winds up backfiring to a certain degree, because it keeps people kind of stuck.
Willmott: Okay, and you mentioned fear, the other part of the ..
LaViolette: Fear takes a longer time usually to develop.
Willmott: Okay, alright. And so you were walking us through where we get to the relationship, and after all this time now, the person has slapped the other partner.
LaViolette: Yeah.
Willmott: And in most of your teachings and speaking, and in your experience, are people telling you commonly that they wouldn’t leave?
LaViolette: They most commonly tell me they wouldn’t leave and people who are in positions that seem powerful, like probation officers and that sort of thing, I’ve had people come up to me after so many of my speaking engagements. They come up and they say, I don’t want anybody to know this, can I talk to you? And, I either give them my card so they can call or we go in another area and talk, because there’s a lot of shame attached to being a woman or a man who has money, who has the ability to leave and doesn’t leave, because they‘re not looking at the emotional reasons that people don’t leave.
Willmott: Well, that brings up a good point. So if somebody has the financial ability to leave, does that mean that they’re going to leave necessarily?
LaViolette: Not at all. When I worked at the shelter, we saw a lot more women who were, you know, didn’t have money and didn’t have resources. They might not have had family around to stay with; they may not have had the money to stay in a hotel, and so because there’s not a lot of bed space, in any given city, you have to sort of sift through people’s issues and really prioritise who you’re going take into the shelter. So when women had resources we might plug them into counselling or something like that, but maybe not take them into the shelter. Um,
Willmott: But in your experience, did you see women who had resources who would stay?
LaViolette: Right. What would happen is, in the shelter I saw people with limited resources. When I went out into private practice, I started seeing people with resources and finding that there were a lot of reasons that people stayed that didn’t involve finances.
Willmott: What about couples with children? If there’s no children, because we often hear that children is the reason to stay whether it’s right or wrong, so what about couples who don’t have children?
LaViolette: Couples who don’t have children still have the emotional bond with each other, because, that’s, right? The most significant adult relationship we have is with our intimate partners, and so that is significant, and we also have belief systems that tend to be a little different for men and women around this, because women tend to still believe that if the relationship fails, they fail. So there’s an old, old piece of research, and I don’t even know who did it, that was something that I heard at a substance abuse conference and I see it as sort of analogous with domestic violence that women who live with male substance abusers tend to stay in those relationships longer than men who live with female substance abusers. That the men are able to pull away faster than the women, and that tends to still be true based on, you know, kind of societal attitude.
Willmott: Okay. Um, alright we started with you walking us through a relationship, a domestic violence relationship. Is that how far you get when you talk about it?
LaViolette: No, I get further than that. I usually go, um, to a place where people are more, you know, more abused and I also ask people to think about this. For instance, what would happen if you were in a relationship and you had religious beliefs that said that divorce was wrong, or that she should turn the other cheek and forgive, and that you had a spiritual community that really supported you staying in the relationship? Or what would happen if you were an undocumented immigrant and you had a green card that was dependent on the person who hurt you? Or their green card was dependent on you, what would you do, how far would that go? What would happen if you were in a community that was marginalized and were afraid to interact with the criminal justice system?
Willmott: What do you mean?
LaViolette: Um, a community that has bad experiences with the criminal justice system, and would be less likely maybe to make contact.
Willmott: Okay.
LaViolette: What if you were gay or lesbian and had to worry about outing yourself or your partner? And so I take a lot of things that come at people from the outside. What if you’re poor and you don’t have the money? I always think about one of first women who came to our shelter, who actually, I think she saved for six months unmonitored change, to be able to pay for herself and her children to come on the bus from Los Angeles to Long Beach to get into the shelter. So there are all these different kinds of scenarios you can look at, and different reasons that make it difficult for people to leave.
Willmott: In your experience, have you found, you talked about religion, have you found that to be a big factor in why people don’t leave?
LaViolette: I have absolutely found it to be a big factor. There is a wonderful little book called Keeping the Faith by Marie Fortune, who is a woman, a female minister, and also one by Reverend Al Miles that both talk about the religious community and domestic violence. And um, I have, one of my first clients in private practice, was a woman who came from a community, who when she talked about leaving her spouse, was told that she was damming her children’s souls and her soul to hell. And she was afraid to leave because of that, she sort of weighed those two, you know, staying in the relationship or damming her soul to hell and her husband was a probation officer and a deacon in the church, and it wasn’t until he choked her in front of the kids that she went to her minister herself and didn’t just go to the women’s group, and she was talking to her minister and she was talking as if she was talking about someone else. She was pretty detached from what had happened because people tend to detach when they’re traumatized and she pulled down her turtleneck and she had marks around her neck and talked about being choked into unconsciousness and it was then her minister supported her and really told her to leave, and that’s when she actually felt that she could and I found that with numbers of people in religious communities, that they need the support of that religious community to be able to leave.
Willmott: And so in that woman’s case did it take the actual proof of physical abuse?
LaViolette: It did, it did in that particular case, yes. It doesn’t always, but it did in that case.
Willmott: Well, in your experience do you often see women who ever have proof of physical abuse?
LaViolette: No, a lot of women have no proof of physical abuse because they haven’t reported. When I’m working in family law cases, primarily you very seldom have evidence because most people don’t make police reports, most people when they go to the doctor .. in fact I had a client a couple of years ago whose boyfriend took her to the hospital because he had hit her in the head and she had a concussion. And when, there’s mandatory reporting when there’s an injury, and so when the doctor said to her I’m going to have to take a report and left the room, she left the hospital. And that sort of thing happens frequently, where you’re not wanting to get your partner in trouble so you don’t make a report, you don’t tell anybody, and you lie about what happened in the medical report, so if you go to the doctor and you’ve got, you know, you have to have stitches you say that you fell.
Willmott: Alright, so when you’re describing the typical, what you might see in a domestic violence relationship, the progression of it, um, what does isolation have to do with it?
LaViolette: Well, because you can’t, you’re not talking to your friends and family, and by the way, um, I’ve heard people say, well, if you have support of friends and family you can talk to them. Oftentimes that’s not true, because your supportive friends and family might want you make a decision that you’re not ready to leave. They want you to leave or they want to, you know, force the person into therapy, or they want to make a police report and you’re not ready to do it. So, the less you talk to other people, the more isolated you get, so it’s not necessarily that the perpetrator is intending to isolate you, but that you feel that you can’t talk to people about what’s going in your life and so you don’t.
Willmott: Alright, and what happens to these women, what happens to their self esteem when they’re progressing through a relationship like this?
LaViolette: Well, over time what generally happens is they’re crossing their own bottom lines, so things that they believe shouldn’t happen to them are happening to them. Things they said, this will never happen to me, if this happened to me I would do this or that. And I think about that, you know most of us, sort of establish bottom lines when we’re in junior high school, I think, and those bottom lines, and I think sort of universally with men and women, we have bottom lines about infidelity, that if somebody is unfaithful, we’re going to do this or that. Or we’d never put up with this or that. But if you read Cosmo and Redbook and some of those things, you find out that lots of people put up with infidelity. And so we cross our bottom lines. With people who are abused, every time they cross their bottom line, it’s like another place where they feel terrible about themselves. So as their bottom lines get crossed and they feel worse about themselves, their apprehension is also going up. And I ..
Willmott: Apprehension of what? That’s fear, right?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: Fear about what?
LaViolette: Fear about what’s happening in the relationship. Um, and most of the time by the way, they don’t say they’re afraid. When I interview people who are victims of domestic violence, they repeatedly say they’re not afraid. And so I ask them, do you get afraid when the person is angry? And then they say yes. But they’re not universally afraid unless it’s really progressed to a place where the abuse is happening frequently, where the person is so isolated, that sort of thing.
Willmott: And what does it do, what does it add to a domestic violence relationship when you have one partner with such low self esteem, if it’s continuing to lower, what does that do to the relationship as far as domestic violence is concerned?
LaViolette: Well, here’s the thing. Most people get in a relationship and they are attracted to the person where they are, and that’s true for people who are abusive as well, so as your self esteem goes down, you become another person, and usually the person who is mistreating you stops respecting you at all as well. So it is easier to mistreat you. The more your bottom lines sort of collapse, the more I disrespect you, the more I feel justified in being able to hurt you.
Willmott: So as an example of a bottom line, we might start with, that a person would never let another call them names, right?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: Would most people think that’s something they wouldn’t allow?
LaViolette: I think most people don’t like to be called names.
Willmott: Okay. So if that’s a bottom line, as you describe the relationship and everything that you’re putting into this relationship, and the time involved and the love that you have for this person, is that something that people allow that bottom line to be crossed by that point?
LaViolette: Yes, and the other thing that is happening, is that the longer that you’re together the more investment you have in that relationship, and depending, I mean some people buy things together, some people take trips together. You go on vacations and you have pictures of those trips; that’s a very bonding kind of situation. You buy things together; that’s a very bonding kind of situation, you’re making more of an in-depth commitment to that partner.
Willmott: Okay, so what about, is there such a thing as victim blame?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: What does that mean?
LaViolette: Victim blame was actually a term coined by Wolfgang, who was a criminologist in the 50’s, and what he was looking at was why victims tend to be flaky. And what he meant was, you know, sometimes they won’t show up in court, sometimes they won’t return calls by, you know, the attorneys who are trying to get information. They won’t do interviews or they change their description of somebody, or they change what they said initially, and he found that we tend to blame victims for their own victimization. And so, if I’m not a victim and you’re robbed and I say, well, gee you didn’t lock your door so I can blame you for that. I can say, you know, she or he didn’t lock their door so it’s not going to happen to me. It sort of alleviates my fear because I can lock my door and now I’m not going to get victimized. But it doesn’t help victims much. And we find that victims do that. And I use an example, I usually ask people when I’m speaking, has anybody in the room ever been robbed, or had their house or car broken into and there are always at least a few people in LA that have, that’s for sure. So, I ask them about that and I ask them, what did the police say when they came out? And they will ask if the doors are locked or whatever; and I say, well the police have to determine the penal code also, but your friends don’t. And what do your friends ask you? Will your friends ask you if your door is locked, do you have a security system? Did you leave any windows open, that sort of thing. And if you tell your friends that you left your windows open, what do they do? They go, you know, well of course, you know, that person, you’ve seduced that innocent person into your house to steal your best things and I think people go there, and it’s that subtlety of blaming victims that we hold them accountable.
Willmott: Well, I was going to say when you talk about subtlety, so it’s not as though they’re saying, well it’s your fault that you got robbed because you left your door open, is it more subtle the way that they ask you questions about your door being open?
LaViolette: It could be more subtle. It could be, depending on your friendship, it could be not subtle at all, but it can also be that you, that it could be that somebody just shrugs their shoulders or just looks at you a particular way, you know, so that what you know is you shouldn’t have been, you wouldn’t have been mugged if you weren’t walking out in that bad neighborhood, or you know, that sort of thing.
Willmott: And how does that apply to a domestic violence relationship?
LaViolette: What most of us in the field have commonly said is that the more intimate the victimization, the more blame is attached to the victim. So for instance, in sexual assault, we tend to blame the victim. In domestic violence we blame the victim.
Willmott: Okay, tell me what you mean with the sexual assault, blaming the victim.
LaViolette: Um, we look at provocation, particularly in domestic violence. In sexual assault, we might look at the way somebody is dressed, or who they’re hanging out with or if they were drinking or whatever. We, you know, we use them.
Willmott: In other words, that the person put themselves in that situation?
LaViolette: Yes. In domestic violence, there’s, a lot of times, the issue of provocation. People will say, well, you shouldn’t have said this, or you shouldn’t have done this, and you’re provoking the person. So there’s some attachment; there’s this cause and effect attachment that if you hadn’t done this then I wouldn’t have done this back to you, kind of thing.
Willmott: So as an example, if a person, um, if the abusive partner is jealous and the other partner knows that the abusive partner is jealous, are we talking about blame then, if the other partner mentions that she went out with someone else, with her friends, knowing that the abusive partner is going to get upset?
LaViolette: That could be seen as, as … it depends on who’s looking at it. I mean, I don’t see it as provocation, but someone who is abusive might see it as provocation.
Willmott: So the abusive person is the one who would say, well look what you made me do?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: You told me about me about this?
LaViolette: I always remember two of the teachers I worked with, who, he was in my program, but I was doing …, he had been in the program for awhile, and his wife wanted a session with him. And they both agreed on what happened in the session, and what happened was that he spent a lot of time on his computer, and she would get upset about it. So he would uh.. she walked by him on a Sunday night and said, I don’t know why you’re playing with your computer, I wish you would come up and spend some time with me. So he shut his computer down and he went up to spend time with her, and she looked at him and said, what are you doing up here, you like to spend all that time with your computer? Why don’t you go down and play with your computer? And I thought, well that would irritate me if somebody did that to me. That would, I would understand being irritated at that. The problem is that he went on and on berating over and over her again, telling her what a terrible person she was, what a terrible wife she was, that nobody liked her at school and she was a lousy teacher. And just berated her, so in domestic violence, the punishment doesn’t really fit the crime.
Willmott: Okay, okay. Um, does that also have to do with the batterers externalizing blame?
LaViolette: Yes, that’s about externalizing the blame, that’s about blaming the other person. And one of the things I ask him, is when would it be okay for your wife to get angry at you? And he said never. And I said, what happens when she gets angry? Well, it feels like a commentary on his whole person; it’s not like she’s just mad at him for playing with the computer, it’s like calling him, in his eyes, an awful human being, because his self esteem isn’t very good, or her self esteem depending on who is being abusive. Their self esteem isn’t very good either. You can’t keep hurting people you love and feel good about it.
Willmott: Um, is that something that you find in treating men who have been perpetrators of abuse, about their self esteem, that it’s lower, that it’s low?
LaViolette: Yeah, and they may not appear that way at all. They may be very successful, they may be very charismatic, they may have positions of power on the outside, but it’s more how you feel on the inside. And it’s more how you feel in that intimate situation cause you can feel very powerful anywhere else, but in that intimate situation, you can still feel powerless. I remember one of the psychologists I went to hear speak, John Jolliffe, and he said I climb those icicles that melt, I climb them, I rock climb, I repel off mountains, I sky dive, I’m doing all that to prepare for the scariest thing of my life, which is a relationship.
Willmott: What is behavioral self-blame, is that what we’re talking about?
LaViolette: Behavioral self-blame would be, you didn’t lock your windows so I lock your windows, you change your behavior.
Willmott: Okay, I missed the first part where you said, you like what?
LaViolette: It’s like, I didn’t lock my windows, right? It’s like I um, change what I do. I don’t smart mouth you or I don’t get angry back or if it’s something like, you know, locking my windows I lock my windows. I may blame myself for being victimized; it’s not just the outside that blames you, you tend to blame yourself too. I hear people all the time, who’ve gotten robbed who think or have gotten mugged who are blaming themselves, who are saying, what’s wrong with me, I can’t believe I was that stupid. I left my door unlocked or I left the keys in my car, you know that kind of thing. Um, so people feel that way. They blame themselves, so behavioral self-blame is an easier self-blame to deal with because all I have to do is change my behavior and when I change my behavior I start feeling okay again. I think, okay I’ve got this one solved.
Willmott: Do you mean changing your own behavior, versus changing your partner’s behavior?
LaViolette: Right.
Willmott: Is that what you mean?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: So it’s easier if a person is blaming themselves for getting into this horrible fight where they’re being attacked by words, emotional abuse basically, is it easier to blame their selves sometimes because they know, if I change, maybe if I just didn’t provoke him then it won’t happen again?
LaViolette: Yeah.
Willmott: Is that what victims do?
LaViolette: If they’re early enough on, they usually will blame themselves but feel like they can change it, and that’s the hope. The hope is you can change it; the belief is you can change it; and by the way, the perpetrator of domestic violence usually believes they can stop it as well.
Willmott: That they can stop, he can stop himself?
LaViolette: behaving that way. Yes, stop behaving that way.
Willmott: Okay, and that, you said had to do with the hope, I guess, on both sides then?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: The hope of the man and the hope of the woman?
LaViolette: Yeah, and so that’s behavioral self blame. There’s another kind of self blame that’s called characterological self blame.
Willmott: What is that?
LaViolette: Characterological self blame is when you stop blaming your behavior and start blaming yourself. So you might say, what did I do to provoke it, but then you say, if I’m really a good person, why am I being treated this way? Maybe I’m not such a good person. Or if I’m smart, if I’m bright, why do I stay in this? So you can blame yourself for staying, you can blame yourself for leaving, you can blame yourself for what’s being done to you because you start to believe that there’s something wrong with you, and that’s why it’s happening.
Willmott: And when in the progression of a domestic violence relationship does the characterological self blame happen?
LaViolette: Well, it usually happens after the behavioral self blame, but once again, there’s no magic number with that either.
Willmott: Okay, and what does that do ultimately, to someone who starts to blame themselves, their own character? What does that do them and their ability to leave?
LaViolette: It makes it very difficult to leave, because you don’t even think you’re worthy. You don’t think you’re worthy, and I think the other part that’s tough is that when you blame yourself, it’s harder to ask for help, because you are so ashamed. What it does is add to the shame and humiliation, and shame and humiliation will keep people stuck.
Willmott: In the same place?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: Okay, we talked a little bit about when we were talking about the continuum, we talked about the monopolization of perception and you had mentioned something about a precursor to the, what is it, the hostage syndrome?
LaViolette: Right.
Willmott: What is that?
LaViolette: Well, the hostage syndrome was named after a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden and there was a bank robbery, tellers were held hostage over a period of time, and over this period of time, they developed some characteristics and later, I think it was two out of the three tellers, testified on behalf of the hostage takers. And they found this to be true in skyjacking, and they found it to be true for men and women both, that they sort of fell into these categories, where they started identifying with the aggressor. So they were looking at the precursors, and I use that sometimes when I doing assessments, the precursors to the hostage syndrome are; the first one is that you have to perceive a threat to your physical or emotional wellbeing. So you have to believe that there’s a threat. And the second thing is, you have to believe that the person who makes that threat or is implying that threat, can carry it out. The third thing is the perception of kindness on the part of the perpetrator. Now if you’re dealing with a stranger hostage situation, it can simply be the absence of violence. For instance, people generally at the beginning of a hostage, I can’t say generally, but at the beginning of the hostage situation, maybe, you know, have guns held on them, they might be threatened, they might be kept apart, they may be physically mishandled. All kinds of things, and then over time, the relationship sort of stabilizes and what you see is people are allowed to go to the restroom or they’re allowed to talk to each other, things like that. So hostages in stranger situations can see the absence of violence as kindness, the perception of kindness. So what happens is because of the isolation and the fear, their perceptions get skewed. Now the fourth precursor is the monopolization of perception, which I went over this morning, but it’s really looking at the fact that when you’re in a situation and you’re terrified and you’re afraid that somebody’s really going to hurt you, and you’re isolated, but you hope you can get out of it, that your focus is on the people that have the power, and so the monopolization of perception. And the fifth thing is the perceived inability to escape. Now in a stranger hostage situation, that can be true, because most people even in that situation, don’t plan their escape. They perceive that they cannot escape, even in stranger situations. But in an intimate situation, there’s the perception that you can’t get out. That if you leave, if there are children involved for instance, you might not be able to get out because you’re going to have custody and exchanges and that sort of thing. But the perception is that you can’t leave and those are the precursors. And by the way, the perception of kindness is absolutely not just a perception in an abusive relationship because people who are abusive are also kind. And they can be very kind to the person, and very caring for the person, which is part of the conundrum, and it’s part of what keeps people in that relationship is, that it’s not just a perception of kindness, there really is kindness.
Willmott: Okay well, how, you talked about these precursors and how does it apply to a domestic violence relationship? And I know we just discussed about the perception of kindness, but how do the other ones, the perceived threat of physical violence, the belief that the person can actually perpetrate the violence?
LaViolette: Well, it’s not just a perception of physical violence; it’s also a perception of emotional violence.
Willmott: Okay.
LaViolette: So there’s a perception that your emotional wellbeing is at stake, and so somebody can do that by repeatedly telling people that they’re going to leave them, or putting them down, or whatever that is. So it doesn’t have to be just physical. But if it’s physical, then you have more than a perception; you have the accuracy of that perception, and if the person has done it to you, then that person is capable of doing it, so the person who makes the threat is capable of making the threat. And between episodes, there’s kindness. There’s sort of, you know, you can go on vacation together, you can have good times with each other, you can enjoy things in common. You can have evenings where you’re just sitting and watching TV together or enjoying your other family members or having parties or whatever. So there is real kindness and bonding kinds of things that are going on in that relationship.
Willmott: And what does that do to a victim’s ability to leave, when you have these periods of kindness and real bonding?
LaViolette: It makes it really difficult to leave because that’s what you hope. You hope that it will stay like that. You hope that the relationship is going to remain connected in that way and your belief is, gee, I think it can be, I think we can keep it like this, I mean I have this evidence that we’ve just had this period of time and we’re doing well and it looks good and so you’re hopeful again and you’re seeing that person as they were when you fell in love with them, or when you develop that love for them. You’re seeing them in that way at that time; until the relationship has gone on long enough where you stop believing that it’s going to get better.
Willmott: You stop the hope?
LaViolette: You stop the hope. And that depends on the person, how long that takes.
Willmott: Okay, you knew my next question, how long. Okay, what is chronic apprehension?
LaViolette: Chronic apprehension was actually a term coined in the substance abuse movement, but it’s once again, something I think applies to domestic violence, and it was coined by Jayle[sic] Greenleaf and what she said was that people who are substance abusers get a break. They party, they drink or use, they act out, they get support from the people they’re acting out with for a period of time, for a period of time they get support from their families, but the people who live with substance abusers never get a break, because they live in chronic apprehension of the next episode. And I think that applies very well, it’s a good analogy for domestic violence, because after a period of time, you stop feeling like you have a break; you’re emotionally tired and that’s what happens to people in relationships where there is repeated episodes is that you get emotionally tired. And as your resistance goes down, you begin to believe or wonder when the next, the shoe is going to fall.
Willmott: So even though you might be experiencing this time of calm in the relationship, with a person who is under chronic apprehension, are they always tense, or are they always waiting for the next episode so they’re not able to have that relaxation?
LaViolette: By the time they’re chronically apprehensive, they are tense a lot of the time. But, you know, there’s a buildup with any of these things, so there’s a buildup of that. You don’t have chronic apprehension until you get it, whenever that is. But you begin to develop that apprehension because you begin to believe that this is going to happen again.
Willmott: Okay. And I guess, is that the important part to know, when we talk about the steps of how a relationship like this can be formed, um, you know, where you’re asking people when he first calls you a name would you leave, and things like that. Is that the importance of how a relationship is formed, that it doesn’t start immediately. In other words, on the first date you go out, you know, if he hits you what is the chance the person is going to leave on the first date?
LaViolette: Oh, pretty good.
Willmott: Okay. So is that something that you look at then, with your patients basically, with the length of time, I guess not always the length of time, but the buildup of that relationship?
LaViolette: You do look at the buildup of the relationship because the relationship generally is more gradual and there is a period of time where things look good, and there’s a period of time where the perpetrator of domestic violence is not as afraid, because that energy from new love is bigger than the energy of that fear, and so it takes awhile for the relationship to stabilize and the energy of new love to sort of come down and the fear to come up.
Willmott: Okay, can we talk about the cycle of violence?
LaViolette: Sure.
Willmott: I mean, that seems to be a term that’s out there. Is there a definition for it, or what is it?
LaViolette: The cycle of violence is a term that was coined by Lenore Walker. She is probably the godmother of the domestic violence movement. She wrote one of the first books, and it was the first book to really reach national acclaim and it was called The Battered Woman. And she wrote it in 1979. And she describes a cycle of violence, and the cycle of violence is basically a tension-building phase, an episode and a honeymoon phase, so that what happens is there’s tension, it builds, there’s an incident whether that incident is emotional or that incident is physical, whether that incident is verbal, that happens, and then there’s the honeymoon. And the honeymoon phase is where they make up, there’s that rekindled hope again, there’s that belief that things will change. We used to say people bring flowers or gifts during that period of time. Now, the difference is that some people never get a honeymoon, depending, or that the honeymoon phase sort of diminishes over time; and then what happens is you get the tension-building and the episode but you don’t get the honeymoon. You don’t get the remorse, you don’t get the gifts; you don’t get the apologies over time.
Willmott: Okay, and when you talk about these phases, is there a timeline that you can guess at all, or give us an idea. I mean when you talk about tension-building are you talking about two minutes of tension because we’re arguing, then the episode and then honeymoon for the next five minutes? Is it something like that or longer?
LaViolette: There’s no magic number with that either. I mean depending on the relationship and maybe how many prior relationships have been abusive and that sort of thing, depending on the relationship you could have a long tension-building phase. And I think most of us who have been in long term relationships, know about tension building, cause we can have periods in their relationship where things are tough and there’s a tension that builds. And so you can look at that, the cycle of violence, and you can sort of say, well gee, that happens in my relationship because we’ve had this tension and then we get angry. We have an argument and then we make up. It’s just the cycle of violence includes abusive behavior and it’s different. And so relationships can be cyclical, um, but what we’re really looking at, is that this goes on over time, there is a diminishing of being, you know, sorry. There is an escalation, generally, in what the incidents look like, and so there’s not a time that you can actually say because it depends on the relationship. Now there are relationships that are really, really horrific and that can be, you can have a tension-building phase, and you can have incidents every week. Some people have incidents several times a week, but most people get a little better break than that.
Willmott: So you’re saying that, even in healthy relationships, you can see this cycle?
LaViolette: Well, what you can see is, not the cycle of violence, you see a cyclical nature, which is, you know, we have tension and maybe we don’t have the money to pay the bills this month, so there’s tension. And I don’t like the way you spend it and you don’t like the way I spend it. So we build up and we have an argument with each other about that and then we make up and we figure out how to solve the problem. That’s the difference.
Willmott: Okay. Well, and the tension and when you say the episode, in a healthy relationship, the episode is just an argument?
LaViolette: The episode is an argument, and the episode is just conflict that gets, hopefully, gets resolved.
Willmott: But in a violent or domestic violence type relationship, that episode would be different then I guess?
LaViolette: The episode would be different because it would be abusive in some way,
Willmott: Okay.
LaViolette: And then what you would have is the person making up may be, you know, for a period of time anyway, but there wouldn’t really be a resolution that happened, you know, because it would repeat itself. So what we tend to say or what we used to say was, the cycle of violence escalates over time, and in intensity and frequency. And that doesn’t happen in a healthy relationship where you learn how to manage conflict.
Willmott: Okay, because then I guess in a healthy relationship, is that conflict resolved?
LaViolette: It can be resolved or it can go on, but you don’t do the same thing with the information because you’re not coming from the same place.
Willmott: Okay, okay. Um, is there a difference in your practice in counselling men and women, is there a difference between men and women’s anger?
LaViolette: I’m sorry?
Willmott: What I actually want to talk about first is fear. Let’s talk fear first. Is there a difference between the way men and women fear?
LaViolette: There tends to be a difference in the way that men and women fear. Um, there’s a piece of research that was done in, I think, the late 80’s by Pat Rose and Kim[sic] Miserotti where they looked at the number of behaviors that women do in terms of safety precautions every day, for instance, not walking out maybe alone at night, having your keys out, maybe looking in your car first, maybe restricting your behavior based on where you’re going. For some people, they won’t get in an elevator alone, cause you’re told basically not to, that’s a self defence kind of thing that they talk to people about, and men usually don’t do that in the same way. But most women by the time they are in their thirties have had some kind of exchange with a man where they feel run down, and so they know they are physically vulnerable in that way. The other thing is that women tend to develop or get vicarious trauma over time, and it’s something you live with, it’s something you walk around and you don’t think about during the day. I don’t think about taking my keys out, but I do. I don’t think about, you know, I do go out with people at night. I don’t go out by myself, in particular walking, at night without someone else around. And so we tend to take more precautions and people do that. Parents do that with their children. Usually parents who have boys and girls tend to be a little more cautious of what happens and give their boys and girls different advice, in terms of going out at night, with you know, and that sort of thing. So, um, the other thing that happens with women a lot, is that there are a lot of television shows on and a lot of movies where women are being stalked, or you know, 48 Hours Mystery, Dateline, Lifetime Channel, a lot of places where you‘ll see domestic violence or you’ll see somebody who looks like they’ve been great all their lives, and then all of a sudden, there’s a divorce or a breakup and this person goes crazy and hurts their partner. So I believe that we take that information in too, and that, you know, we’re not immune from it and then once we take it in, if somebody does something that’s frightening, we get more frightened by it. Um, it’s not that there aren’t abused men cause there are, but it’s more difficult to physically abuse a man because men tend to feel like they still have control. If I was coming at you and hitting you, you might feel like you could grab my arms and stop me, in a way that I might not feel like I could do with you. Um, unless I had an equalizer, you know, so if I had some sort of a weapon that would be, maybe, the way that you would be afraid. But you wouldn’t be afraid of me probably in other ways, unless I made a viable threat to you, or something like that. So, it’s not that men can’t be battered; it’s that it takes a little bit more because women tend to be afraid more quickly. The research, the latest research, looks at what happens in a heterosexual relationship when a man hits a woman, and a woman hits a man. And the response tends to be if a woman hits the man, that the man tends to laugh it off or be angry at her, and if a woman is hit by a man, that she tends to be humiliated and afraid. So the psychological response tends to be different, as well.
Willmott: You mentioned vicarious trauma, do you mean that’s because of what women see on these channels?
LaViolette: Yeah, it’s because of what people see, it’s what people read, it’s if they’re reading, you know, murder mysteries, they’re reading .., you know, they’re seeing things on television and a lot things, you know, and a lot of the movies that are out too, involve stalking women, you know, they involve rape, they involve a lot of crimes against women. And so, women do have a certain amount of vicarious trauma when they see that. And if somebody scares them, then they tend to get more scared rapidly and you can also be scared for a period of time. I’ve had numbers of clients who um, have had things happen, like somebody try to get into their house after them, and when they back, you know, into that situation even months later, they’re still afraid. You know, if they came in on a certain specific evening and it was, they were walking into the house at that evening and it was dark out, that when they walked in they would show behaviors where they looked around, where they made sure their keys were out, that sort of thing.
Willmott: Okay, what about anger? Is there a difference between how men and woman are viewed when they’re angry?
LaViolette: Yeah, and this is something else I do in my workshops. I will ask, when we’re talking about gender and anger and that sort of thing, um, when are women praised for their anger? And I ask men and women that and, generally, what I get is never or in defence of your children. And that’s true, and I ask them what do people call angry women? And I think you can probably guess, I don’t need to say it, because there’s a perception that angry women are judged, tend to be judged more harshly than angry men in the same way that men are judged more harshly for other emotions. Maybe they show, they show that they’re feeling bad, or they look like they’re sad or they’re depressed. They may be judged harshly on those issues too. But women tend to be judged harshly in regard to anger and assertiveness.
Willmott: So how does that fit into a domestic violence relationship?
LaViolette: Well, in a certain way you’re crossing a cultural norm to be angry, but it’s more how you’re judged or perceived when you are maybe out of that relationship or if you are in the relationship and you wind up saying something that isn’t very nice to your partner, or whatever, and nobody knows why you’re saying it, but you sound angry, you look angry. It’s not an emotion that, it’s not like women don’t angry; it’s just that they tend to be less direct with it, more sort of this way.
Willmott: Okay, um, are you aware of any new studies that have been done with regard to the difference in men and women’s brains?
LaViolette: Well, actually there’s a study that just came out with Daniel Amen. I watch Dr. Oz, so it was on Dr. Oz, and he did the largest gender-based study on the brain, and it was forty-six thousand brain scans.
Willmott: Let me interrupt you for a second, I know that you said you saw it on Dr. Oz, but is this somebody, Dr. Amen, is this someone that you know or have researched other than seeing him on TV?
LaViolette: Oh yes, yes. Dr. Amen is somebody whose, he’s controversial, what he does is he does brain scans on people who have been violent and people who have been using drugs and that sort of thing. And he compares them with a normal brain, and he shows areas of the brain that light up or the areas of the brain that area deficient and that sort of thing, um, he does that comparison. So he compared men and women’s brains and he found that
Martinez: Objection, lack of foundation, outside of her expertise.
Stephens: Approach. You may continue.
Willmott: Ms. LaViolette, in your experience, have you seen, with the women that you have treated, have you noticed them to be empathetic?
LaViolette: Yes, I have noticed them to be empathetic. In fact, one of the things we used to say at the shelter was, they over empathized.
Willmott: Okay, and is that something in particular, that you have noticed with women?
LaViolette: Yes, I’ve noticed that with women, although I’m sure, that had I worked with some men who were battered, I would notice empathy with them too, but you tend to notice it with women and you tend to notice that when they get really upset and there’s been an incident, that once they have time to have a little recovery period, they tend to feel for their partners, for at least a period of time and sympathize with them. As I said, when I started with the shelter, the women in the shelter would say to me, you know, our partners have been abused as children, and we understand that and so when, we feel bad for them and we know that they are acting this way because of how they were treated as children.
Willmott: The women having empathy does that, how does that play into a domestic violence relationship?
LaViolette: Well, it is one of the factors that can keep somebody in a relationship for a longer period of time, because you keep understanding why that person is doing what they’re doing and you sort of dismiss how you feel to look at how they feel and so it can keep you stuck.
Willmott: Keep you from leaving?
LaViolette: Keep you from leaving.
Willmott: And are you aware of any studies other than, just because you saw something on Dr. Oz, have you actually read through studies that talk about women’s empathy?
LaViolette: No, I have not.
Willmott: Okay, are you aware of a study with regard to empathy and brain scans?
LaViolette: I am, but it’s a study that Dr. Amen did.
Willmott: Yes, right, okay. And um, with regard to Dr. Amen, you didn’t partake in that study, right?
LaViolette: No, I did not.
Willmott: Okay. And brain scans are not your speciality?
LaViolette: No, they’re not.
Willmott: However, are you able to understand what Dr. Amen did?
LaViolette: I am able to understand what he reported, that, I think everybody would understand what he reported.
Willmott: Alright, and did he report with regard to women and empathy?
LaViolette: He did, he reported that women’s brains
Martinez: Objection, again lack of foundation, Daubert.
Stephens: Approach please.
Willmott: We were talking about women and how you’ve noticed women have empathy, which can cause problems in their relationships, if they are in an abusive relationship, um, what about the men that you treat in the groups that you have, your men groups, do you have a goal for them?
LaViolette: I have, you know, I mean besides their goals for themselves, one of the goals that I have is to try to change belief systems because if you don’t change the belief, the behavior change doesn’t stick as long. And it just takes longer to change beliefs like beliefs about using aggressions or belief about themselves, you know, those beliefs about what the world is like for them, you know. So I work hard to change the belief about themselves and the belief about using aggression to solve problems.
Willmott: And do you work with empathy with the men that you work with?
LaViolette: Yes, we do a lot of empathy work with the men and, I gave an example this morning, of one of the exercises that we do, but I think about, for a lot of the men, that once they can identify with their own victimization and how they were mistreated as children, most of them, that it is easier then to make the leap for them to understand what it’s like for someone else and it’s harder … The way I see empathy move, generally, in group is that first people feel bad for what happened to them, they feel bad about their lives and how their lives are looking, and then they identify with the other men in the program and they start to feel bad for them. The place that is easier to get people, even very violent people, to identify is if they have children. It’s easier to move through, because they tend to empathize with their children and the last place that they tend to empathize is with their adult partner, and so we’re moving in the direction of being able to empathize with the adult partner but sometimes we have to use other things. And one of the things, and I think about, one of the young men in gangs that we worked with and he had a daughter, and we asked him what he would like a relationship for his daughter to look like, to get him to start thinking about what he would tolerate with his own daughter and how he treated his own wife.
Willmott: So is that how you try and build empathy with the men in your group by talking about situations close to them but not them specifically?
LaViolette: No, I talk about situations with them specifically and situations that are not about them specifically. Sometimes it’s easier to empathize with someone else, but it’s easier for them to empathize with themselves when they were children, which is why, you know, I sometimes ask them to think about when they were children, to the empathy that they might have for themselves as children. I remember one of the men was talking about his little brother and him, and they were aggravating the heck out of their dad, their mother was at the market, and their father took a knife and chased them, and they were running away and he was trying to protect his little brother and he was pushing his little brother under a bed and his dad was doing this with the knife. And the mother came home, and the knife is placed back in his waistband and nobody says anything about what happened. And the mother doesn’t know what happened, but the little boys don’t talk about it. And this was a man in his forties and as he’s telling this story, he feels so emotional about it he starts to cry and talk about how afraid he was, and it’s that ability to see not only that you can feel things so much longer from when they actually happen, and that you can still have feelings about something that happened to you; that you can still be traumatized by what happened to you. And so, he notices the long-term effects, so he wants his partner to forgive him, he’s got more understanding that it might take his partner longer than he wants it to take. But that he also sees what it’s like for him and then you can say to somebody, well, how do you think it feels for the people in your life when you treat them badly? What do you think it feels like for them? But you give people a chance to really get into their own feelings. You don’t ram anything down their throats.
Willmott: Along those lines, let me give you a hypothetical, okay?
LaViolette: Alright.
Willmott: So, let’s say you have a man who’s in your group and he’s talking to you about his childhood, okay? In his childhood this, as a boy, he had extreme neglect from his parents. At times this boy was homeless, didn’t have a place to live. At times, because he was homeless, he was unable to clean himself or have good clothes and he would get made fun of at school. At times he knows that his parents were drug addicts, so he had to deal with that. At times there were, he would see or hear about violence between his dad to his mom and his mom to his dad. Somebody growing up in a family situation like this, even if he doesn’t see everything but he’s part of this family, what do you expect for that man now, now that he’s a man in your group, how is that person, what type of things do you see then, as a man treating him?
LaViolette: Well, you can see a lot of things, because there are variables that can help him along the way, but if you’re making an assumption that there’s no intervention, and
Willmott: Let’s assume there’s no intervention. Let’s assume that he does not have an adult to count on, at a young age.
LaViolette: It’s very difficult for a child who grows up like that not to have a number of issues in relationship, because children who grow up in abusive families, tend to have a lot of feelings of powerlessness. They tend to be, they tend to haveMartinez: Objection, she’s not answering the question, lack of foundation, there’s not an abusive family mentioned.
Willmott: May we approach?
Stephens: Approach.
Willmott: Ms. LaViolette, a child who grows up in an environment like that, who is neglected, who can’t bathe all the time, who has parents who are violent to each other, who have parents who are drug addicts, would you consider that abusive?
LaViolette: Yes, I would.
Willmott: Is that an abusive family environment?
LaViolette: It’s an abusive family environment.
Willmott: Okay, so I know you just mentioned abusive, so even though, if that child wasn’t necessarily wasn’t hit, do you consider this type of environment for a child to grow up in, is that abusive?
LaViolette: It’s very abusive.
Willmott: Okay, so now back to what you would see with a man, when they’re coming, what do you expect to, what do you expect this child to do when he grows up? How does this child deal with what he lived with as a child?
LaViolette: There’s something that happens based on the personality of the child and how they take it in. It’s whether they blame themselves for what happened. It’s whether they feel like there’s any way out for them. But what they’ve learned is a lot of negative coping skills. What they’ve learned, if you think about what someone learns, and I think about that. You know, I love my parents and I think they were terrific parents, but even when you have terrific parents sometimes you say, you know if I have kids I’m not going to do exactly what my parents did, or there’s this thing, I’m not going to do that my parents did. And when your back’s against the wall, and you get upset with your kids, sometimes you wind up channeling the very thing you said you weren’t going to say. You know, some of those things like, because I said so, you know, the things that we say sometimes as parents, and when someone has learned to be fearful, because I don’t think that you can live in a drug addicted family with people who are violent, and not be fearful. You learn to be fearful, you go into your adult life and where that plays out, it may not play out in your professional life in the same way. In your professional life you might be okay because you are not challenged emotionally at the same kind of level that you are as in an intimate relationship.
Willmott: But what do you mean professionally speaking, that person can have a .
LaViolette: You can be successful in your job; you can have a good job. But where you tend to be tested the way you were or in a, not exactly the way you were, but emotionally is in your intimate relationship. So, what I hear from the men that I work with, is they get in a situation with their partner and they’re thrown back to that powerlessness that they had when they were kids and they don’t know what to do with it, and so they act to stop that powerlessness and a way to stop powerlessness is to get bigger and more powerful, either verbally, emotionally, physically than that other person who they see as making them feel powerless. And the other thing I think that’s really important to look at with children is that kids don’t have cognitive ability to explain what’s happening to them. They don’t have the language to say what’s happening and they don’t have the life experience, so they’re left. Kid’s are pretty feeling beings, they’re left with the feelings. And the feelings are what come up when they are in an adult relationship and they feel powerless.
Willmott: Does having this type of traumatic childhood, does it affect somebody when they’re young, like say up to six or seven years old, versus if they were a teenager when it started to happen?
LaViolette: There are things that happen to older kids that can be tolerated a lot better than when they’re little, because older kids have the ability to have friendships, maybe they’ve had a solid childhood until they’re older. And so they’ve had this period, um, where they’ve had consistency, they’ve had a good life, they’ve had people they can count on and then they have something traumatic when they’re teenagers, but they have more of an ability to handle it, where little kids, you know, may not. For instance, a family that came into the shelter with five children under the age of six, the infant was suffering failure to thrive. Based on what was going on in the family, all of these children were little. All of these children had full-blown post traumatic stress disorder, and would hide under beds when any adult came in the room. It didn’t matter if you were male or female. They were afraid of adults and they were very hypervigilant and it took them a little while to be able to be comfortable with even, you know, being able to walk in the room with them. So, things that are tolerated by teenagers may be very hard to tolerate for a small child.
Willmott: And so a child who grows up like this, who has this type of childhood when they’re young, and they grow up, do they learn how to deal with their relationships, without intervention, do they have a specific way of how they deal with relationships because of what they learned when they were a child?
LaViolette: Well, I wouldn’t say that it was specific necessarily, but I would say that that they would not have the skills to deal with an intimate relationship because they didn’t learn the skills to deal with an intimate relationship. I mean most of us, probably haven’t seen our parents fight a lot, you know, some parents will go behind closed doors and they’ll have their arguments and whatever. But if your parents acted out a lot in front of you, you’re shaken up in a different way than when you don’t see that. If you see loving affection between your parents, and it’s consistent, you see that that’s how you treat somebody in a loving relationship. I always remember my dad coming home from work,
Martinez: Objection, relevance.
Stephens: Sustained.
Willmott: Okay.
LaViolette: Okay.
Willmott: Alright, are you familiar with the term chronic combat readiness?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: What does that mean?
LaViolette: Chronic combat readiness is a term that was used in an article by Bruce Perry who does a lot of work with children who have committed violent crimes, or children who have grown up in abuse and what he says is, if you live in an abusive household that what you grow up with is the kind of situation, you’re living basically in a war zone. And if you live in a war zone you have to be hypervigilant, you have to see the threat in things, because a lot of these kids grow up and they see things as threatening that the rest of us wouldn’t. They see a look, or a tone or whatever that we might be unaffected by that affects them in a way. So chronic combat readiness is like the notion of living your life in a combat zone, if you grow up in a violent family, if you grow up from childhood in a violent family and you have a number of years in that violent family then you’re flooded with stress hormones, you know, you’re in flight versus fight a lot of the time, which means you’re not operating from your cortex as much. You’re operating from your reptilian brain, you’re operating from a place where the blood’s rushing to your extremities and you’re ready to fight. And kids do a lot of things in that situation, I mean, I would suspect, a lot of the people I’ve worked with who have bully people came from violent families.
Willmott: Okay. And the men that you’ve worked with, in all of the years that you’ve done this, um, do you have an idea of percentage of these men that you’ve worked with, who have come from traumatic childhoods or abusive childhood families?
LaViolette: My experience has been that almost everybody I’ve worked with has come from some sort of violent situation, and that could have been foster care, that could have been with their parents, that could have been with their primary care givers and it could also be exacerbated by living in a violent neighborhood, but the research was showing something like sixty to seventy percent. But that’s because most of the research was done before people really understood that they live in violence. In other words, they would say, well, you know, that happened to me because I needed to be disciplined so, you know, of course I had to be beaten because I did something to deserve it. And so they didn’t define it as violence, and it wasn’t until after they understood violence a little better. So I would say it’s much closer to, you know, we’re not supposed to say a hundred percent to anything, so I won’t say a hundred percent, but it’s closer to that. And it depends once again, on the degree to which somebody acts out in their own intimate relationship. The worst kinds of violence tend to be perpetrated by the people who’ve lived in the worst kinds of environments and grown up in the worst kinds of environments.
Willmott: Okay, Judge.
Stephens: Alright ladies and gentlemen, we will take the afternoon recess.

Stephens: You may continue.
Willmott: Thank you, your honor. Ms. LaViolette, I know that we talked about victims of abuse and how in your practice you’ve seen them not file police reports, and not tell the doctors what actually happened. Have you ever seen situations of what happens when these victims of abuse come to trial to testify?
LaViolette: It’s um,
Martinez: Objection, lack of foundation.
Stephens: Approach.
Willmott: Ms. LaViolette, in your practice, have you spoken with many women victims of abuse?
LaViolette: Yes, I have.
Willmott: And you said that you’ve counselled these women as well, is that right?
LaViolette: Yes, I have.
Willmott: And in speaking with them have they talked to you about whether or not they’re able or have been willing to make police reports or report their abuser to the police?
LaViolette: Yes, they have.
Willmott: And have they talked to you about whether or not they have been willing to seek medical treatment when their abuser has harmed them in some way?
LaViolette: Yes, they’ve talked to me about that.
Willmott: And have they talked to you about when they have been called to testify about ..
LaViolette: Yes, yes.
Willmott: Is that a yes? Okay.
LaViolette: I’m sorry.
Willmott: And when they talk to you about these things, what do they say about police reports?
LaViolette: Many of the women don’t make police reports. Some of the ones that do, change their minds when the police actually come out and they might change the story if they’ve called 911. They may come back. Some of the women actually follow through. It sort of depends on where they are in that whole progression.
Willmott: Of the relationship?
LaViolette: Of the relationship. But, some of the women absolutely follow through with the police report.
Willmott: And then have they talked to you about, if they follow through with the police report have they talked to you about what happens if they are called to testify against their abuser?
LaViolette: Yes, um, many of them recant. I think we have about, this is what I’ve been told by the court, that there are about eighty percent ..
Martinez: Objection, lack of foundation.
Stephens: Sustained.
Willmott: Have you worked with the courts before?
LaViolette: Yes, I have.
Willmott: And when you’ve worked with the courts, what have you done?
LaViolette: Well, we had a domestic violence court in Long Beach.
Willmott: Yes.
LaViolette: So the judge would meet with us on and off. I have consulted on some cases. I’m not sure, are you talking about the ..
Willmott: Well, in order to have knowledge about, you were going to give us, I think, a number or some sort of what happens when women recant.
LaViolette: Oh, right.
Willmott: How do have that knowledge?
LaViolette: I have that knowledge, because I have talked not only to people who run battered women’s shelters, but also because I know some of the judges, or I knew some of the judges. We had a domestic violence court and um, the judge is in Sedona now, she moved. And so we don’t have that court any more, but when we had it we had it for eight years. And they gave us information about what they saw, as did the shelters talk about what they had seen, and the victim advocates cause there are victim advocates in the court.
Willmott: And then that information, plus you speaking with these women yourself, right?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: And so, what happens when these women get to court, you said, they recant? What does that mean?
LaViolette: It means that often times, and I would just like to say that frequently there is a long period of time between when a case is filed and when it gets to court, and so it might be a month, it could be two months before it actually gets into the court process. And during that time, if the couple stays together, many of them have reconciled. So, you could
Willmott: So what happens when a couple reconciles then, with regard to the woman wanting to testify?
LaViolette: She doesn’t want to testify because she doesn’t want her partner to lose his job, or she doesn’t want that on the record, and in California there are a lot of fees associated with proceeding. There’s a penal code 273.5 which is called corporal injury to the spouse, and if you plead nolo contender, that you’re not contesting it, or you are found guilty of 273.5 you have to do fifty-two weeks in a batterer’s intervention program, a minimum of fifty-two weeks. You have to pay a fine to a battered women’s program, you have to pay court fines for going through the court process. You have to do community service, and depending on what you do, depends on how much community service you have to do. And you also, although you’re on probation for three years, can be reduced. You can file to have it reduced to two years, but you’re on probation for a period of time. During that one year period, you also to have come back every quarter with a court report from your program to show, you know, what you’re doing and how you’re progressing in that program.
Willmott: And so how does that affect women whether they recant or not?
LaViolette: It affects the family financially. It also affects the women, depending on how angry the men are that they have to go through this process, and in my groups, some of the men are very angry and blaming their partners for being stuck in court, for being stuck in a program for a while, that sort of thing. But beyond that, for many of the men, there is a relief in being in the program actually. But they still have to pay fines. They still have to pay fees for the group every week. And in California, we do a sliding scale which means we have to serve people on a range of incomes, so there’s usually an opportunity for somebody to get help and to be able to afford it, but it is financially sometimes a burden on the family to go through that.
Willmott: And so how often, based on all the knowledge you have with regard to the women you’ve seen and speaking with the judges, and working with the domestic violence program, how often do these women recant?
LaViolette: There’s, the estimate is about eighty percent of the time.
Willmott: Okay. So even if they’re able to get to the point where they’re able to make the report and not change their mind when police come, once they get to court, eighty percent of the time, these women are actually taking it back?
LaViolette: That’s the estimate that I’ve been given. The other thing I would say is that for some of the women, that the court process has been very difficult for them and they don’t feel that they’ve gotten supported when they’ve, for them, stuck their necks out. And so the ability for them to then go forward and, you know, push or to report a second time is diminished because depending on what happens the first time.
Willmott: Does that go back to the feeling that an abuse victim might have that no one is going to believe her if she reports it?
LaViolette: It goes back to not only feeling believed, but feeling blamed, because adult female victims are oftentimes blamed. You know, child victims are seen as helpless child victims, but adults are oftentimes, their victimization is not recognized in the same way, and they are seen as more culpable. So there’s a lot of judgment and it depends on how you feel you’re treated in the court, how you feel you’re treated by the original police officers that come out, and in many cities, there’s a domestic violence unit, and people are especially trained. And they go out, and they have what are called Dart teams, domestic abuse response teams, and they actually go out and really take an interview and do that kind of thing, and give resources to people. But if there are children involved, they also will send out a child abuse worker to respond with the kids, so if there are children involved they have to send somebody out. So they’re trying to address this in a more holistic way, so there’s more support for families or individuals where there’s domestic violence.
Willmott: Okay, if you have someone coming to your men’s group, joining your men’s group, do you do some sort of an intake or an interview with them?
LaViolette: Yes, I do.
Willmott: And what do you do? Who do you interview?
LaViolette: In my groups, I do something that’s unusual, and it’s because of the work that I did in the shelter. Because I worked in the shelter, I knew more of the whole story initially because I would have the women and children in the shelter, and I knew what happened to them. And sometimes we’d have medical records or police records but we’d also have the women and children that were interviewed. Um, so when I do my initial assessment with the men who were in relationship to those women, oftentimes the stories were very, very different. And so I thought, it’s very important for me to be able to do my work well and to really have a picture of what’s going on and sort of assess a level of dangerousness. It’s important for me to be able to interview the victim, so what I do is if there is no protective order and the couple is still together, I invite the victim to come into the intake but I see them separately. So I get um, and if the victim does not want to come in, if the survivor does not want to come in, then I try to do an interview over the phone because I want to get a bigger picture about what’s going on and I generally will not get it from the person who’s coming into my program because there’s a lot of shame attached to telling me, you know, about what happens. Actually, Lenore Walker used to say, you know the old saying, if there are two stories, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Lenore would say if there are two stories and there is domestic violence, the truth is worse than either of them because everybody is minimizing and denying. So even in that kind of a situation, I find that people play down what’s going on.

Willmott: So, do you find that with the men who are coming in to ask you for help, that they play down what they’ve done or what’s going on?
LaViolette: Yeah, for instance, um I might have somebody I’ll ask a question about substance abuse, you know, are drugs or alcohol a problem in your family? And that’s not where I start, but that’s a question that I will ask, and um, you know, one of the men said, no, you know, we’re social drinkers and we have, you know, a couple of martinis at night. And so I ask his partner, his wife the same thing and I said, if are drugs or alcohol, you know, a problem in your family? And she said, absolutely. And I said, well, what’s a problem, drugs or alcohol? She said, alcohol and I said, why is that a problem or why is that a problem for you? And she said, well because um he says we have one or two drinks a night, but his drinks are like in a vat, so when we have one or two drinks, it’s like he has three drinks for every one, so it’s like he’s having six martinis instead of three.
Willmott: So does that give you a bigger picture when you’re interviewing both?
LaViolette: It absolutely gives me a bigger picture.
Willmott: And when you’re interviewing the woman or the victim of abuse, do you find that that person tends to minimize what’s actually happening in the home?
LaViolette: Most of the time, the women are protective of the men that they’re with and they are very cautious about telling me, for instance, I’m a mandated reporter, so if they report child abuse I have to report it. So, I tell them the limits of my confidentiality; that these are the things that I’m going to have to report. I have to report child abuse if that’s occurring and I have to report a danger to self or others. So, if there’s an imminent threat, so if somebody comes into the office and says, I’m going to, you know, seriously injure or hurt somebody I have to do something about that. So I tell them the limits of my confidentiality and then, you know, we talk.
Willmott: Uh huh.
LaViolette: And it’s very conversational. I don’t have a lot of papers and fill things out. I try to just have a conversation with people. But I ask them questions. I ask them both the same kinds of questions, to sort of see if there’s a great difference in the stories because if there’s a big difference in the stories, I’ve got a bigger problem. And if the stories match up a little bit it’s usually because both people are feeling like they can tell the truth a little more and there’s not as much shame attached for them to do that.
Willmott: Okay, um do you ever counsel couples together if they are in a domestic violence relationship?
LaViolette: I will not, I can’t think of domestic violence couples I’ve counselled together for a few reasons. One is that, first of all, when I do an intake, even in couple’s counselling I separate people, so I can hear two different versions, whatever they’re going to tell me about what’s going on in their lives because I never know if somebody’s referring to me for domestic violence or couple’s counselling, I don’t know and so I separate couples so I get more of a picture of what’s going on. And um, then when I bring people back together, we can talk about what might be a good strategy, what might be a good way to work, what might be a good referral if they need a referral, that sort of thing. But if it turns out that they’re coming in and he’s going to, you know, participate in my group I’m definitely not going to, first of all, it would be a conflict to counsel them together, but if there’s domestic violence safety is an issue that we look at very seriously, so the safety of the survivor is really important. If we bring them together in a couple’s counselling situation, we actually don’t know what happens when they go home if it’s contentious in that situation. We don’t know what we could be, you know, sort of generating in that situation, so, safety reasons. The second thing is that when there’s a situation where one person feels like the bad guy, they usually feel like their partner is a better person than they are, and if they don’t know how to make that level the only thing they know how to do is level the playing field. So if you’re leveling the playing field what happens is as you leave and you’re in couple’s counselling is you remember what the therapist has said about your partner and not what they’ve said about you. So, you know, doing couple’s counselling, for me, means that there has to be some kind of balance in the relationship so you don’t have a, you know, good-guy bad-guy situation going on. Um, and the third,
Willmott: Oh, I’m sorry, go ahead.
LaViolette: No, go ahead.
Willmott: No go ahead, I was going to, if there’s a third thing I was going to talk about something else.
LaViolette: Okay, and the third reason I don’t do couple’s counselling is because if somebody, if I want somebody to change in a domestically violent situation, I want a perpetrator to change, you know, I can’t continue to confront that person in front of the person that he or she has hurt, because they’ll never feel good enough about themselves to take responsibility for what they’ve done or to even look at it. So it’s like continually shaming somebody in front of somebody that they’ve hurt. So they’re better off doing separate things.
Willmott: Okay, alright, and you talked about the leveling of the playing field, when you’re interviewing these people, do you look for that balance of power that you’ve talked about?
LaViolette: I absolutely look for a balance of power and, you know, I ask questions. I ask some questions that I almost ask all the time, and sometimes they go a different way because the people I’m working with are different. But, for instance, I usually ask people why they’re there. What brings you here? What is the situation that brings you here? Sometimes there’s a very different story even in that situation, but I want to get both peoples’ perspective about what’s brought them there. And I ask them if they like each other. They’re separate at this time, so I ask them, do you like your partner? Oh, I love, I love my partner. I said, I didn’t ask if you loved your partner. Do you like your partner? Is your partner your friend? Because I want to see, sort of, what the condition of the relationship is, do you like this person, do you respect them? I usually ask them if, what they do, how they handle conflict when they get upset with each other, how do you handle it? You know, I ask them if they’ve ever laid hands on each other, because if you ask if there’s pushing or slapping or grabbing, you’d have to ask each thing. If they tell me they’ve laid hands on each other, I can ask them what happened and how that happened. I ask them if they ever call each other names when they argue, and one of the things I want to see is what they think is normal. What they think is okay, what they feel they’re entitled to do when they have an argument with each other. I generally ask them if they’ve ever threatened their partners, you know, do you ever threaten to leave, do you ever threaten in any kind of a way do you threaten to do physical harm. I find out that kind of information. I ask them about family of origin kinds of things. And this is really important because what I find is that I get so much more information from the survivor than I do from the perpetrator, even on these issues. And so when I ask, for instance, I had a young man and a young woman in and I asked him about his family, and he told me that he came from, you know, a family that wasn’t very close, but he made it sound like it was a fairly normal family but his mother had died when he was young, but didn’t describe a lot with that family. When I interviewed his wife, she said, did he tell you what happened to him when he was six? And I said, well I can’t tell you what he said, but you can tell me whatever you want to tell me. And she said, well when he was six years old, he was sitting on the couch with his dad and his brother and they were watching a movie. And his mother came in, and she just looked at the family and then she left and went into the bedroom. And two shots rang out in the bedroom, and nobody ever got off the couch to see what happened until a commercial, and when they went in, his mother had shot herself. Now that tells me a lot about this man’s life that I would not have known had I not brought both people in. So I get a much better picture all the way around. I can also find out about targets of abuse, sort of, you know, do you ever get in fights outside of your family, that kind of thing, information about that. Sometimes I find out if somebody has a criminal record. There are just lots of different ways to get information with this.
Willmott: And ultimately, does that help you then once you start figuring out, if a man is coming in to your men’s group, does that ultimately help you to figure out where you need to go with him?
LaViolette: It does. It helps me to figure out, you know, it’s not one size fits all. It’s sort of like you have to tailor what you’re doing to the person in the room with you and so without breaching anybody’s confidentiality, you can do that. For instance, I had a young man who was very jealous and used to interrogate his girlfriend and do lots of, you know, different things like that. Well, I don’t say to him, your girlfriend told me you were jealous, but what I can talk to him is, I can talk about, for instance, in group that night we might talk about non-physical ways of controlling somebody. And we can talk about the ways those things happen and make that more specific to that person or, you know, but generalize it to the group.
Willmott: Okay, we talked a little bit about the cycle of violence. Is that something which is something that Lenore Walker created, is that right?
LaViolette: Yes, Lenore Walker developed that concept.
Willmott: Um, and I think you said that was in 1979?
LaViolette: Yes.
Willmott: Is the cycle of violence, is that idea, is that still used today, or is there any controversy about it?
LaViolette: You know, it’s not used as much today, although a lot of victims of domestic violence really resonate with it. It’s not used as much because there’s controversy about the honeymoon phase, because over time, a lot of survivors don’t get a honeymoon. And so the honeymoon can simply be and I’m using honeymoon in quote, it can simply be the absence of aggression and it feels like a honeymoon because nothing really bad is happening. So the terminology is controversial.
Willmott: Okay, and since Ms Walker has written her book in 1979, has there been a lot of research since that time, adding on to the ideas and the knowledge we now have about domestic violence?
LaViolette: There’s a lot of research and there are people who specialize in working with victims of domestic violence and have written on victims and responses of victims. And there’s a book, two books, right now, that are very good with looking at nonphysical violence. One’s called The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans, and one’s called The Emotionally Abusive Relationship and that’s by Beverly Engel. And there’s one that Evan Stark just did, I think about four years ago called Coercive Controlling Behaviors that’s really about coercion in relationship without having to use physical violence, but using purely psychological abuse and verbal abuse.
Willmott: What you’re describing, the later research that’s been done it makes it sound as though Ms. Walker’s research was based on physical violence only? Is that what you mean?
LaViolette: Actually, she had other, she had physical, verbal and sexual, I believe, in the book. It’s been so long since I read it. My memory is a little, you know, but Lenore talked about sexual violence, she talked about physical violence and she talked about psychological. She talked about psychological abuse too. In her book, she talked about really extreme forms, so a lot of people that we worked with didn’t connect with it because they thought, oh, that’s not who I am, that’s not who my partner is because it was so extreme. They were really extreme cases. So we had a lot of victims of domestic violence who didn’t think they were victims of domestic violence because they didn’t fit in these extreme categories, extreme descriptions I should say.
Willmott: Okay, um, I want to ask you some questions about what you know about the history of battered women, and not like history as in school, but I mean history if you have a woman that you’re counselling, do you want to know about her history as well?
LaViolette: Her childhood?
Willmott: Yes, her childhood.
LaViolette: I absolutely work with people’s childhood history because, um, what you see is sort of compound trauma. If you’ve got somebody who has been abused as a child, and then grows up and maybe has been assaulted as a teenager or something, and then goes into an abusive relationship, there’s sort of, there is a lot of vulnerability that comes from multiple trauma. So the other thing that we see is, and we looked at this, when we looked at the research on battered women, that there was no consistency in the history of battered women. In other words, there were women from very healthy families; there were women from moderately healthy families, women from good families, women from very abusive families. There was the full range of women represented, so there was no consistency in the history of battered women, unlike with perpetrators, there’s more consistency.
Willmott: So with perpetrators, there’s more consistency with the more violent or traumatic a childhood, the more likely they are to become a batterer? Am I saying that correctly?
LaViolette: The more violent their history, and or, actually children tend to be affected even at low levels of domestic violence. So there are effects on children and it depends on the resiliency of the child, the personality of the child. There are a lot of factors, you know, if they have another family member they can count on, if there’s a community organization, there’s a lot of compounding factors. But with perpetrators of domestic violence, they tend to come, they don’t have to come from the worst abuse, but they are generally what are called, exposed, to domestic violence, so the new terminology are children exposed to domestic violence.
Willmott: Children exposed. Okay, and versus, when we talk about women who are in abusive relationships, or who are being abused, is that what you’re talking about that you see them come from all types of families?
LaViolette: Yes, they don’t have to come from abusive families to be abused.
Willmott: Is there any research that talks about what happens if they come from an abusive family versus a healthy family? Is there any difference at all then?
LaViolette: There’s less there’s, I don’t know about research on that. I haven’t seen research on that. What we have with that is just a lot of talking to each other in the field about that. And what we tend to see anecdotally is that women who come from chronic abuse, tend to repeat abusive relationships more frequently and that women who come from basically healthy families tend to learn more from that situation, tend to leave more distance between relationships and tend to be less likely to repeat.
Willmott: Less likely to go into another abusive relationship, you mean?
LaViolette: Yes, yes.
Willmott: Okay, is there, in the women that you treated regarding either psychological abuse or physical abuse, is there something that women universally have been telling you about psychological or emotional abuse?
LaViolette: Women generally say that psychological and verbal abuse, are worse for them than physical. Part of that is because there’s usually a greater distance between episodes of physical abuse. And with psychological, you know, psychological, emotional, verbal abuse tend to create the mood in the relationship. But it is also happening more frequently, so, you know, there’s articles on psychological emotional abuse being mutilation of the soul, for instance, there’s an article on that. But they generally will tell you that that’s terrible for them.
Willmott: Is it problematic, or do you find that psychological abuse can be subtle versus physical abuse, you know when it’s happening to you?
LaViolette: Yes, I mean one thing about physical abuse is if somebody hits you, you can say I got hit. If somebody says something to you, and you’re not quite sure; you feel like you’ve been stung, but you can’t exactly explain why you feel like you’ve been stung. And then, of course, there’s much more obvious psychological abuse too, but there’s very subtle psychological abuse. Where people will say, you know, sort of things you could take more than one way but there’s an edge to it. You know that it means something other than a nice way.
Willmott: Is that what you were talking about earlier about switching the perceptions, that, I think you gave us the example of the person getting hired. The partner comes home and says, hey, I got a new job and, you know, they must be hiring anybody.
LaViolette: Yeah.
Willmott: And then he explains himself to say, oh no, you just misunderstood me.
LaViolette: Right.
Willmott: So is that an example of subtle psychological or emotional abuse?
LaViolette: That’s an example of it. It could be anything. It could be, you know, and once again you’re looking at a context and you’re not looking at an isolated situation. So I’m not talking about when somebody says that dress makes you look fat. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about somebody who might say repeatedly, wow, are you gaining weight? You know, you look great, you know, I don’t care if you gain weight. Um
Willmott: So it’s a, oh
LaViolette: You know, they can go on; they can say things like, you know, I thought anybody would be able to figure that out, and then laugh about it. Or they call you a name and then laugh about it. Oh, I didn’t mean that. There’s so many ways that people can psychologically abuse, but what happens and what’s important about it, is that it becomes a mood in the relationship. It’s not something that somebody says and then they don’t say it again. It’s something where there’s a consistency in the treatment. There’s a consistency in the way someone is treated.
Willmott: Okay. And does that make it more difficult, with that subtlety does it make it more difficult then, for somebody to either understand that it’s happening or report it, or tell somebody else?
LaViolette: It absolutely makes it difficult because it’s hard to tell somebody, well, you know, somebody I love said to me and I’m not sure if they meant it, or they said this to me and somebody would say, well, you know, anybody could say that. But it’s the repetition, it’s not saying, it doesn’t have to be the same thing, but it’s the repetition that creates the mood, that creates the belief that says; this is who I am. You know, this is what the person I love actually thinks of me. This is how they think I ought to be treated, this is what they think should be said to me.
Willmott: Incidentally, does that have more impact on somebody, when it’s somebody that we love who tells us these things versus somebody that we don’t know?
LaViolette: Yes, absolutely it does. I mean, it’s not fun to hear things about who you are from people you don’t know, but I do public speaking, and so, you know, sometimes I get an evaluation that’s not great and
Martinez: Objection, relevance.
Stephens: Overruled.
LaViolette: And, and when, when I look at that, I think, well gee, I got these others and they’re all good and this person doesn’t know me. And if they make constructive criticism, that’s great, you know, and I can look at it. But if they’re just saying something to sort of be mean, you know, it doesn’t feel good but they don’t know me. They’re not my family; they’re not the people who I respect and care about their opinion like that. I mean, I care what people who are close to me think; most of us care about what our friends and our family, we care about what they think about us. And so when somebody who loves us is tearing us apart, I mean, I don’t think there’s anything that hurts much worse than that.
Willmott: Can we talk about the history of the abusive person for a second?
LaViolette: Sure.
Willmott: And I know you’ve talked, well, are there common risk markers?
LaViolette: The only common risk marker is exposure, because even when they look at things, they try to look at behaviors that, you know, people are jealous or people are threatening or whatever. You know, there’s such a range with that behavior, but there’s also a range in the level of what people do, there’s a range in their childhood histories, so I’m not sure.
Willmott: Well, we’ve talked about the common risk marker, in other words, being somebody who’s coming from a traumatic childhood, or a violent childhood.
Martinez: Objection, beyond the order, if we may approach please?
Stephens: You may. You may continue.
Willmott: Let’s talk about the children who are growing up in these homes, and that’s what I’ve been saying, that we’ve discussed children who grow up in an abusive family, do they always, do these children always turn out to have problems or turn out to be abusive themselves?
LaViolette: We actually have no way of knowing that. Because we don’t have everybody in our programs, but I would just say this, that if you grow up
Martinez: Objection, beyond the scope, lack of foundation.
Stephens: Sustained.
Willmott: Do you have knowledge with regard to when, depending on the child’s personality, does that make any difference?
Martinez: Objection, lack of foundation, the issues we discussed.
Willmott: I’m asking if she has knowledge.
Stephens: Alright, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to take the noon recess.

Next : Alyce LaViolette Day 38