Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Boiling Frog Syndrome

Wendy Squires wrote a very thoughtful and personal article on the Nigella Lawson domestic violence incident. 'Not another article on domestic violence' you may be thinking. Given the wide spread prevalence of domestic violence in our society, it will touch our lives sooner or later (see the statistics in the article). Hopefully not directly, but we'll know someone who is or has experienced domestic violence. The more we know of the subject, the greater the possibility that we may be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

While there are many aspects to this story, the one that stands out for me from Squires' article is related to the following passage:
We could have asked how such a smart, capable, successful, intelligent woman as Nigella found herself in this position, but there was no need. We've both been there and still can't answer that question ourselves. Neither of us can pinpoint just when it became OK to think that this is normal. This is love. This is what I deserve.
I've supported a number of women who have been involved in an abusive relationship. I've read a lot of articles and studies on the subject. The question how they ended up in an abusive situation when they know better is so common it has become cliché.

When I listen or read about the history of a relationship, I see the boiling frog syndrome. It is, of course, complicated by the relationship, but I see so often the boiling frog syndrome.

The boiling frog syndrome refers to the anecdote where a frog will jump out of a pot of boiling water, but will stay and be boiled to death if placed in cool water and the heat of the water gradually increased.

An abusive relationship often starts with a harsh word here or there. Then some name calling. A few derogatory remarks. A shove or two. Finally it ends in physical violence. The first time is a one off, and the relationship complicates matters. This graduation process normalises the process.

What I've seen with women who question how they got to the position they found themselves in - I must be stupid, I must want it on some level, etc - is simply re-victimising themselves. Suggesting the boiling frog syndrome I've found resonates with some domestic violence survivors, and has positively affected how they view how they view themselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments make my work all the more relevant as I use them to direct my research and theorising. Thank you.