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ICSA resources about psychological manipulation, cultic groups, sects, and new religious movements.


Cultic Studies Journal

Mind Control and the Battering of Women

Psychological Manipulation and Society: cults, cult groups, new religious movements

Cultic Studies Journal
Psychological Manipulation and Society
Vol. 3, No. 1, 1986

"Mind Control" and the Battering of Women

Teresa Ramirez Boulette, Ph.D. &
usan M. Andersen, Ph.D.

This paper describes one variation in the battering phenomenon which was initially observed among low-income women. The strategies of coercion and deception utilized by the abusive male in these relationships are described and compared with similar strategies of mind control utilized in more traditional cultic systems. The debilitating effects of these techniques on the battered female are described, as is the battering male's own separation reaction, and the probable dynamics of the men and women involved in this pathological family system. Some preliminary assessment and treatment guidelines are offered.

Over the last decade, increasing attention has been paid the phenomenon of wife battering, a syndrome that appears to transcend both social class and ethnicity (Berk, Berk, Loseke, & Rauma, 1983; Martin, 1976; Dobash & Dobash, 1979; Gelles, 1974, 1976; Hilbermam, 1980; Steinmetz, 1977; although, see Fagan, Stuart, & Hansen, 1983; Snyder and Fruchtman, 1981). Little research, however, has identified or differentiated probable variations in the battering phenomenon (with some exceptions, Snyder and Fruchtman, 1981; Walker, 1979). Nor has it adequately specified the situational and dispositional factors that may come to precipitate or characterize these various forms of abuse.

The present paper seeks to describe one variation in the battering phenomenon that the authors have frequently observed among low-income women and, perhaps indirectly, to encourage the identification of other variations in the phenomenon of spousal abuse. At the heart of the particular syndrome to be described here is a form of  mind control or brainwashing -- that is, a set of potent social influence techniques levied against the victimized female by the abusive male. Elsewhere termed the marital brainwashing syndrome (Boulette, 1980, 1981), this familial pattern is characterized by many of the same features of psychological coercion and deception that may be used to distinguish religious or political cults from other tightly knit social systems in society (Andersen, 1984; Andersen h Zimbardo, 1980). Further, it is unlikely that this syndrome is limited to low-income couples (see Dutton & Painter, 1981), even though these processes were initially observed among these individuals (Boulette, 1980). Thus, additional research is necessary to determine the prevalence and limiting conditions of this particular Abattering-syndrome.

The persuasive strategies that are intimately a part of this phenomenon are detailed below, along with the debilitating effects of these techniques, the battering male's own separation reaction, and me probable dynamics of the men and women involved. Some preliminary assessment and treatment guidelines are also specified.

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