"Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked. A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do"
~ Timothy Snyder, Resist Authoritarianism by Refusing to Obey in Advance: From Nazism in Austria to the Milgram Experiment
Tom, this is the beginning of understanding that by living in an abusive home I gave up my power, I freely gave away my power to the batterer, thereby teaching power what it could do.
I did not learn this lesson until after I ran away with our three children, returned to school, earned a Bachelor's Degree, looking for the answer to the question, "How does a mentally healthy, mature adult think and act?"
I completed a Master's degree at Whitworth College, now University, in the Leadership Institute Of Spokane (LIOS) program. My question during this training was, "How do I create a home that is healthy for all of its members?"
Bob Crosby, the founder of LIOS, was my harshest and finest teacher. He challenged me at every opportunity saying that I was not a victim. I gave my power away. He reminded me that in running away I began the journey to mentally healthy, mature adulthood.
It was at LIOS that I wrote my thesis, "Toward a Theory of Family Violence, Its Antecedents, Treatment, and Prevention." I based my research on Broverman, Broverman, Clarkson, Rosenkrantz, and Vogel (1970) studies. They explored gender and sex-role bias.
Thanks, Joan, for your account. Your escape with children was far more difficult than mine. You had a strength in you that kept you at it.
My parents’ violence made escape necessary. A war and the GI Bill made escape possible.
In my early teens I enjoyed my much younger (not yet five) sister and brother but I didn’t want a life like my dad’s—endless work providing for children. I disliked Catholicism’s demand that I have children and HATED its refusal to help me pay for them.
I considered suicide and if I had known a non-violent way to do it, such as taking a pill, I might have. For a time I wondered if insanity and life in an asylum would work but I did’t know how to go insane. I did well enough in school to like learning, and masturbation’s pleasure helped me through my many single years.
Required to register for the draft, I joined the Naval Reserve so if the Cold War got hot the Army wouldn’t get me. When a war started in Korea, I was activated. I became a shipboard electrician and for the first time in my life, work wasn’t so boring that I wanted to die. The GI Bill made college possible and I started studying math for electrical engineering. The Navy made me a civilian and I became the first in the family to go to college.
Some family trauma helped me get rid of religion. Graduation, a good job, marriage, group therapy and political activity helped me get rid of the authoritarianism I’d learned at home and in Catholic schools. I’m deleriously happy that I didn’t add to the earth’s population.