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There is no ‘typical’ abuser of women but they all use violence as a means of control

The idea that men who physically abuse their wives are unemployed, alcoholics or drug addicts, or that their victims are poor, uneducated and financially dependent on their husbands is a myth, according to Tasso Gaitani, a psychologist who works on a help line. «The women who call us are aged 17 to 75, housewives and cleaners but also lawyers and university professors,» she said. The men involved run the gamut, from laborers to the financially powerful and academics. «A man who is systematically violent toward his wife believes that he has sole rights to her. His goal is to break her will. Even if he does not resort to physical violence, he will insult her to the point where she feels like garbage.» Control through violence According to famous French psychoanalyst Alain Legrand, the typical abuser, irrespective of his social or cultural level, feels threatened by the fact that he does not control his mate. «By abusing her, he feels that he regains control. In this type of relationship, the woman is not the object of desire but of a need. The man believes it a case of survival – his or hers.» His outbursts are not provoked by anything in particular, nor are they always the result of jealousy. «These men could be violent even with the calmest of women, for the slightest reason. This is a man who always wants to impose his will on those around him. Otherwise he feels he does not exist. Sometimes the violence is pleasurable for the perpetrator. By humiliating the victim, he obtains great satisfaction,» says human behavioral analyst Dimitris Danias. The phase of tension before the initial outburst of violence could last for months; the explosion is followed by reconciliation. «Broken bones are followed by gifts, making the women conclude that the violence will not recur. The woman must realize that if she lets her abuser believe that a punch means nothing, then she automatically accepts the culture of violence, and the likelihood of recurrence is up to 85 percent,» said psychiatrist Antonis Kasimatis. According to a European poll, about 300,000 Greek women have at some point in their lives suffered some form of abuse. Many of them suffer in silence. «When it first happens, the woman does not want to believe it, and hopes it doesn’t happen again. Then comes fear and shame. She vacillates; one moment she wants to leave, the next she doesn’t, even if she is young, intelligent and financially independent, but she feels she is destined to give without receiving,» says Gaitani. «Her self-respect is below zero. She is forced to lead a double life – a superwoman at work and isolated at home, a person who is afraid of social ostracism as she has swallowed all of society’s stereotypes.» The experts say the only way to avoid the problem is to be careful about choosing one’s mate, and to break off a relationship before it is too late should there be any signs of violent behavior. They also call for more real education about the problem, teaching schoolchildren about how to deal with violence between the sexes. Another step in the right direction is strict legislation to protect the victim and properly punish the abuser.