Dear Carolyn,

My husband has abused me our entire 40-year marriage. I have been a stay home mother but the children are all now grown and self-sufficient. On my many trips to the emergency room I have lied about the causes of the injuries. I have been afraid to take out domestic violence paperwork for fear he would kill me in retribution. He controls all the money. He even forces me to help steal money from his employer with having me forge paperwork for reimbursements, which is against my moral code. I do have my car keys at the moment. I have some sisters who are willing to help me escape. What do you think about my situation?


Carolyn Answers,

Escape now. Do not wait, as you certainly have waited long enough. October is domestic violence awareness month, so let us honor the thought of your wellness with an exit from the situation. Given the length of this abuse and your unwillingness to utilize law enforcement procedures, I want to mention Stockholm Syndrome.

Stockholm Syndrome denotes hostages bonding emotionally with abductors. Certainly you have not been abducted, but one common factor you do have is your refusal to cooperate with the public resources that could help you with the violence situation – such as police and domestic violence restraining orders. Stockholm Syndrome is not part of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that mental health professionals use for diagnosis. There was debate in the last version, DSM-V, for inclusion, but currently it is under Disorders of Extreme Stress. However, there are some interesting examples.

One example is the abduction of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst. In 1974, she was taken prisoner of the Symbionese Liberation Army. In 10 weeks, she had bonded so much she helped her captors rob a bank. Then in 1994, Dee Graham published Loving to Survive, applying Stockholm Syndrome to the fears women feel and experience in an abusive and controlling relationship with a male. In 2019, Jess Hill wrote See What You Made Me Do, which describes Stockholm Syndrome in terms of misogyny.

Your solution is to get out and detox from the relationship. Learn to live a more normal and healthy life away from the current situation. Therapy may help you understand that this was not your fault and that you can start over.



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