“Living with the Dominator”

by Natalie P.

March 31, 2009 | Filed Under Lifestyles of the Heartlessly Bitchy, The Heartless Bitch Way | 3 Comments

I recently received a copy of this book by Pat Craven.  (ISBN-10: 0-9558827-0-8  ISBN-13: 978-0-9558827-0-8)

Pat’s book is an adjunct to a workshop/programme she holds called The Freedom Programme, in the UK. The book is largely about 8 types of “Dominator” behaviors that abusive partners can exhibit, and the power and control tactics they use in relationships. It’s about how to see them for what they are, and what belief systems underlie and reinforce their behaviors.  In many respects, I think the title might be more appropriate if it were, “Recognizing the Dominator”, because really, that’s what this book is about.

Jacky Fleming has instructive and entertaining cartoons throughout the book that emphasize the points without being too flip or maudlin.

Pat worked for years as a probation officer, and spent two years working on their programme for male perpetrators of violence against women. In addition to learning about the attitudes and behaviors of abusive men, (and changing some of her own) she also came to realize that, “There is a very common misapprehension that a woman who has been abused has some understanding of what has happened to her. This is simply not true. When a woman is being subjected to abuse she feels that she’s in the middle of a very confusing mess and that it must be her fault.”

This compelled her to create The Freedom Programme in the UK.  I wish we had a similar programme here  in Canada.

If the email feedback I have had from this site is any indicator, I concur that abused women often don’t realize that the behavior they are experiencing is abusive, and seldom realize the very negative effect it has on their children (especially true if he is has not yet become physically violent). That’s why I think the section “Home Improvements”, in Pat’s book is so important. It explains the very real benefits to you and the children when the dominator is gone.  Women who are living with abusers need to have a vision of what life can be like without that person in their lives.

Pat counteracts the descriptions of the Dominator types with their “good” counterpart, so the reader knows what an emotionally healthy individual looks like. I think this is an important component, since so many women caught up in abusive relationships lose perspective, and lose trust in their own judgment. As Margaret Atwood said in “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “Normal is what you get used to.”  Unfortunately, for abused women, “normal” can be pretty fucked up.

Pat does an excellent job of analyzing the underlying social constructs, media,  and cultural history that reinforce the behavior and beliefs of the Dominator and Dominator sub-types. She also talks about how that socialization affects the beliefs of women as well, and how we can internalize that twisted thinking to reinforce the abuser’s behavior, or reenact it ourselves.

It’s difficult to read at times – Pat describes quite graphically what the each type of dominator does, and I learned some things that sexual dominators do that horrified me. But for women who don’t realize they are being abused, it might just be the wakeup call they need.

Each section starts with a quote, and the one for chapter 10 is the most chilling, but a statistic I had heard before: “Most women are killed or injured when leaving the relationship.”

In this section Pat discusses, ‘The Rules of the Game’ – a circular series of events and tactics that keep the victim in the cycle of abuse. It’s kind of like Karpman’s drama triangle, in that there is no easy way out, and it’s a no-win situation if the other person is intent on keeping the cycle going.

She talks about all the ways that women “break” the (often changing) rules by refusing to comply with the dominator’s tactics, in order to try and escape.  But she also highlights that this very often results in violence and lies, the purpose of which is to get the woman back into the cycle and compliant.

While she talks about ways to recognize the lead-up to a violent outburst, I think this is where the book could have used a few more tools or more information on what a woman needs to do to NOT get sucked back in and to protect herself from that potential for violence.  ESPECIALLY since this is the point at which she is most likely to be killed or injured.

At the end of the book, Pat has some very good pointers for recognizing the early warning signs of each type of dominator. I found this very similar to the Red Flag List on HBI, but quite a bit more succinct.

Though the book references services and incidents in the UK, I think the concepts and archetypes are universal when it comes to abusive behavior. All in all, it’s a relatively quick and enlightening read, and well worth getting if you think you, or someone you care for might be suffering at the hands of an abusive partner. In fact, I think it should probably be required reading for most teenageers so that we can start breaking the cycle of dominance and abuse that is still so pervasive in our society.

It’s not yet available on Amazon.com, but you can get Living with the Dominator from Amazon.co.uk.

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3 comments so far
  1. Natalie P. March 31, 2009 11:17 pm

    I forgot to mention that Pat also sent me a bunch of business cards that had descriptions of “Mr. Right” (the non-abusive man) on one side, and “Mr. Wrong” (An abusive man) on the other side. It’s a great idea.

  2. Barbara April 9, 2009 6:33 pm

    This book sounds excellent, especially coming from a probation officer’s first hand knowledge.

    Have you read WOMEN WHO LOVE PSYCHOPATHS by Sandra Brown yet?

  3. Annie June 7, 2009 5:45 am

    This book would help me a lot as at the start of last year i managed to get out of a 9 year domestic violent relationship with a guy. Unfortunitly I then met a “nice guy” who I was convinced really loved me and wanted to help me at least it started off that way now im in even more of a confused mess and he has gone.

    I agree with this article fully, when i came out of the violent relationship the only lessons i had really learned was that he was a total jerk and that my survival skills had kept me alive.

    I have had some pretty horrible comments thrown at me over the years like “oh you must really like being hit then as your still in a relationship with him” “if your unhappy dump him” its not that simple i did try but as the article says about being killed or injured, he did turn very nasty with me and with people who were around me at the time. So to save them and myself I would go back out with him which with hind sight was the worse thing that i could have done but when you’re in a situation it is so hard to see the whole picture.

    I think this book will help a lot of people who have found themselves in the same situation as i have been.

    Annie


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