Anatomy of Abuse

June 23 2016 | by

SAINT ANTHONY was an advocate of women. He helped many to forego prostitution, an ‘occupation’ often forced upon women who had escaped abusive marriages, but then had no way to earn money to support themselves and their children. Recently we had an experience that could have used St. Anthony’s gentle guidance.

Friends, who are moving to our area, had been trying to purchase Samantha’s (not her real name) house for approximately six months, but they could not agree on a price. Discouraged, our friends bid on two other houses, but the deals fell through, so they asked Samantha again. This time, Samantha agreed and closed on the house immediately.

On the day of the closing, our friends asked us to clean out the house. “We had so much trouble with that woman that we don’t want anything of hers,” they said.

When we unlocked the front door, we stepped into a living room littered with toys as if left behind by children who didn’t have time to gather them up. Two crayon drawings, that looked like they were done by a 10-year-old, were signed Anna [name changed]. One was in a pile of girlie goodies including fingernail polish, bracelet, and pink change purse. The other was tacked to a bedroom wall over a plastered in-hole the size of a fist. The refrigerator, freezer, and pantry were full of food. On the stove sat a frying pan, broiler pan, and spatula encrusted with the remnants of fried egg. Dirty dishes and cups were in the sink, on the counter, and in the dishwasher. The toilet was not flushed. In the master bedroom, a pile of men’s clothes was spilled on the floor of a closet in which were hung two pairs of neatly pressed men’s pants and two men’s belts.

We found several unpaid bills, a summons to appear in debtor’s court, and a foreclosure notice, all addressed to Samantha.


Pathetic letter


We also found a fresh looking letter on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper, folded in half and addressed on the backside to Samantha. The letter, containing grammatical and spelling mistakes which are here omitted, read:

Samantha, I know I have not been the best person in your life lately, and I have made many mistake past and present. I can say sorry a thousand times and it means nothing to you right now. I more than want you, I need you. I’ve taken you for granted thinking you would love me no matter what I did. I see the problems I have caused, and I need to stop being so uptight. I love you more than anything, and I am willing to change what I’m doing. I do it for you, Anna, and the dogs. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I want to be the man for you. I waited 4 years for you to be mine, only to lose you because of my attitude. I don’t want to argue with you anymore, and I would like the chance to show you I can change for you, for Anna, and for my children. I know I have hurt you many times and pushed you away, but I deserve a chance to try and pull you back. I have known since the first day I met you that you were the one for me. I know you love me because you gave me children, and I want to be here to help you raise them. I can’t give up on you and I don’t want to leave my kids. I can do better; I love you very much. (signed)


I, Me and Mine


The letter suggests abuse. As if writing to a child, the man printed in capital letters, but signed his name in flamboyant cursive writing, implying the man’s high opinion of himself while viewing Samantha like a child.

Focused on themselves, abusers frequently use the words ‘I’ and ‘me’. These words appear 38 times in this letter.

Abusers inappropriately seek to dominate and possess. The man thinks that he ‘owns’ Samantha. “I waited 4 years for you to be mine.”

The letter is indicative of the remorseful stage in the cycle of abuse. After the abuser perpetrates an episode of aggression, belittling, or violence, he feels guilty because he may suffer some consequence. In this case, Samantha probably threw this man out of the house. He wants to come back. He has to appear repentant. “I want to be the man for you.” “I can do better.” “I love you.”

At the same time, he blames the victim, a tactic which abusers commonly use. “I have taken you for granted, thinking you would love me no matter what I did.” This implies that, had Samantha told him what she would not tolerate, he would have behaved differently.


Lust for power


St. Anthony recognized “the love of domination, of which St. Bernard says, ‘I do not fear fire and sword as greatly as the lust to dominate.’” St. Anthony has harsh words for “those who want to lord it over others rather than serve them, and to take their ease in the vale of carnal pleasure, besmeared like pigs with the filth of temporal riches.” In these people “the faith of Jesus Christ is destroyed… under the compulsion of sin, [a person] desires to be superior… is captured by the demons and taken to… the heat of carnal desire” (Sermons for Sundays and Festivals II,  Edizoni Messaggero Padova, pp. 40-41).

Seemingly, Samantha took this man into her home, shared her temporal riches with him, fed him, satisfied his carnal desire, and bore his children while he dominated and abused her. Samantha is one of an alarming statistic. Over 1/4 of all women and over 1/10 of all men experience domestic violence.

Samantha probably foresaw that, if she took this man back, his abuse would resume. Psychologists who study abusive behavior warn us that “Your abuser’s apologies and loving gestures in between the episodes of abuse can make it difficult to leave. He may make you believe that you are the only person who can help him, that things will be different this time, and that he truly loves you. However, the dangers of staying are very real.”


No co-habitation


None of the paperwork left behind indicates that Samantha was married. Today, nearly 75 percent of women aged 30 or younger say they’ve lived with a partner outside of marriage at some point in their lives.

The Church, today and always, has opposed cohabitation because it involves sexual relations outside of marriage. Anthony wrote, “It is not marriage, it is the abuse of marriage that leads many astray… They enter upon marriage, not to found a family, but from carnal desire” (Sermons II, p. 46).

Based on carnal desire, Samantha’s relationship soured. It seems that Samantha intended to sell the house, pay her debts, and move. However, once she received the letter (and maybe also other communication) which indicated that the abuser was trying to come back, she hurriedly left. We can only hope that Samantha and her children are safe.


Updated on September 30 2016
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