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Domestic Violence - Why Women Stay

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Why Do Women Stay?

Domestic violence is a serious and complex plague of society that affects all, but women make up the largest number of victims in most case studies. In the United States alone, "1.5 million women are raped or physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year. More than 500,000 women victims require medical treatment, and 324,000 victims are pregnant at the time of assault" (Berlinger, "Taking" 42). Numbers like these show how intense the situation of domestic violence truly is. "Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner and domestic violence accounts for 22% of all recorded violent crimes" (Jamil 70). Domestic violence takes such a large number in percentages regarding violent crimes, yet often is dismissed by many with the idea that "this won't happen to me". Somehow, somewhere, domestic violence will touch everyone whether by someone they know or by televised publication. Though domestic violence affects men as well, the female subject is more often the victim. Domestic violence has a continuous cycle that has been influenced since birth and can be stopped with intervention but each victim's reason for staying will vary.

Researchers are still trying to understand domestic violence, what causes it and how far back psychologically does it go. A Scottish psychoanalyst, W. Ronald D. Fairbairn, conducted studies such as these. These studies had a grand influence on British object relations and he founded the "Object Relations Theory" and the "Dynamic Structure of the mind" (Stringer). Similarly to Sigmund Freud's "id", Fairbairn has levels of the internal unified ego that will split as a self defense mechanism in relation to the emotional pain a child is feeling (Celani 62). This unconscious strategy is necessary. The internal unified ego is composed of the self-esteem of humans and is divided into three parts according to Fairbairn, the libidinal, the anti-libidinal, and the central ego. In the 1940's Fairbairn states, "The first psychological consequence of deprivation on the infant is fixation on the maternal object," where the infant will focus its attention on the non-gratifying object and over time develops a huge backlog of neglectful thoughts and resentment (Celani 63). Fairbairn's reference to an "object" is referring to the mother or father in charge of taking care of the child at hand. In this quote he comments on the mother because at the time of this theory it was primarily the mother's responsibility to care for the children. As the child grows, the needs for fulfillment will be displaced from the parent to a future lover (63). This psychological damage can be devastating and the child will eventually have to deal with her internal pain. She will take the depiction of the parent that has hurt her and internalize it, turning that image into an idea that she can treasure and count on as her happy place in times of need (63). The depth of internalization depends on the level of neglect. It is difficult for a child to stay attached to a parent that she fears and hates the most (64). Splitting of the unified ego allows the child to "protect its hope for love by objects in the future," similarly to a person with split personalities, only internalized (65). "The child's sub ego that relates exclusively to the frustrating and rejecting object was called the anti-libidinal ego," by Fairbairn, if the child looses her mother in reality a substitute figure is needed, but if "the father or any substitute is missing, the personality creates one imaginatively," which relates to the internalizing image that the child has made to be good to her (65). When this imagination gives promise of love, it is referred to as the exciting object and the sub ego that relates to this exciting object is called the libidinal ego (65). "Defensive splitting is not found in children who have parents who gratify their legitimate needs and celebrate them as persons in their own right," (66). These children are able to cope with life situations because they have the love and support they need to grow healthy and happy. "The Moral Defense Against Bad Objects [] a defensive strategy used by children to lessen their anxiety about being dependent on objects who continuously frustrated their needs," Fairbairn continues to say that a child will become bad to make his parents seem good (Celani 66). The anti-libidinal ego will grow each time the child feels anger or disappointment towards the rejecting parents with regards to psychological support, approval, and/or her physical needs being met. In order to prevent a collapse of her entire ego structure, the libidinal ego grows at the same rate to maintain the idea that the rejecting parent will love and approve of her someday (67). As the two sub egos grow, the central ego becomes smaller (67). "The central ego is anchored by many internalized good-object memories that control normal individuals' anxiety (and prevent splitting) when they encounter rejecting parts of their objects," (68). Once again relating to the child that has their emotional and physical needs met they are seemingly more capable of handling simple problems or challenges presented by their parents or by others. A woman that has developed these large libidinal egos with a small central ego will unconsciously look for a partner that continues to maintain what her egos have grown to know. So why are these women not attracted to "normal" men? "Her libidinal ego was created from unrealistic, larger-than-life fantasies about her objects. She is seeking a man who can fit into her unrealistic expectations... Conversely, her anti-libidinal ego demands that her chosen object be deeply disappointing and enraging so it can resume the battle with the rejecting part of her new displaced object," (69). She is looking for a man who promises everything, delivers nothing, and possibly is physically controlling.

In the beginning of time animals and humans only chose a mate for procreation and it was not until the last thousand years that humans would choose a life partner. The only problem with dating is that people put on a facade and the true self takes time to get to know. In a domestic violence relationship there may be months or even years of psychological and emotional abuse that might start off as jealousy, which many women find flattering, but will escalate to name calling or making her feel guilty over some uncontrollable situations (Marvin 16). Over time this will crush what little is left of her central ego making her feel responsible and no longer in control. This characterization of verbal abuse and sometimes mild physical aggression is the first in a three stage pattern in



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