Verbal Abuse Part 3: Is There More to It?
Material adapted from information on Dr. Susan Weitzman's website,
Not to People Like Us.
In the Assembly system, as in many cultic systems, the verbal abusiveness of the wife training
did not stand alone. It was intended to be an instrument to implement
the husband's complete control over the wife. Some couples did not take
this seriously. They duly practiced the training routines as instructed,
but did not change the structure of their relationship from partnership
to dictatorship. Many husbands, however, were "true believers" and used
the training to institute their complete domination over their wives.
This was domestic abuse.
The way it was practiced in the Assembly
closely resembles the early stages of what Dr. Susan Weitzman calls "upscale
domestic violence." Dr. Weitzman, a psycholinguist at San Diego State
University, enumerates the following early warning signs:
- The man dominates the woman
verbally, criticizing and belittling her, throwing her off balance or
causing her to doubt her own worth and abilities.
- He makes all plans, neither
inquiring as to the woman's desires nor gathering input from her.
- He alone sets the sexual pace,
initiating all contacts and rejecting any of the woman's sexual
- He makes most of the decisions
about the future and announces them to the woman instead of including
her in planning and decision-making. He refuses to compromise on major
- He is moody, making it
difficult for the woman to predict what the next encounter with him will
- He demands control over the
woman's contacts with friends, family, and/or finances.
- He publicly humiliates the
woman. This sometimes began as "put-down" humor, but rather than
apologizing, he urges her to "Get a thicker skin!" or "Lighten up!" when
she protests. In the Assembly, this might have occurred in couples
- He has an uncontrolled temper
or unprecipitated anger at others. He is highly critical of the woman.
Notice that at least half a dozen of these behaviors were explicitly encouraged in
Assembly wife training.
Dr. Weitzman gives the following profile* of the typical "upscale
- There is no honeymoon period
after an abusive episode. "This is very distinct to my study, because
what has been found prior to this has always been that after a violent
episode, the man always does his best to win the woman back. That's
always been found in studies of lower-income batterers. Almost all of
the women I've worked with did not report such a honeymoon period. In
other words, the men feel no regret, remorse - no need to apologize.
They in fact feel like the wronged one." [Here is a diagram of the cycle
- The man believes he is
entitled. He tends to blame his wife for any mishap or bad feelings he may
feel about himself. He has a grandiose sense of self-importance and the kind
of treatment he deserves. He also believes that he has the power and
leverage to [do what he wants]."
- He is charming but
- He is self-absorbed and
lacks empathy for others.
- He needs to be in control
[his wife] in every situation.
- He requires excessive
admiration and recognition.
- His demands about how his
wife should look or behave are not necessarily clear, and usually
impossible to meet.
Again, most of these characteristics were encouraged in Assembly
husbands, and justified by twisting the scriptures.
What can you do
if you are stuck in this kind of post-Assembly marriage? Susan M., in
her story of
domestic violence in the Assembly, tells how things began to change,
even though the abuse had already escalated to physical violence,
when her family began visiting a healthy church and got counseling :
We began attending another local Baptist church on alternate Sundays.
Over the course of a few months, Tom and I sought marital counseling, as
we were now making friends with healthy couples and families. The last
time Tom tried to strike me I threatened to call the police, the
brethren, his boss, and everyone under the sun. The physical abuse
Change won't necessarily happen automatically. Become informed on the
issue of domestic violence and get marriage counseling.
*Dr. Weitzman has a footnote to this profile. "There are many aspects
to this profile; this is an initial and partial list. For a more
detailed list, see
Not to People Like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages" (her
book). Also see her
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