Wednesday, March 13, 2013


As an adult, I’ve made many decisions in my life that taxed my nerves and my resolve. I’ve let go of a few convictions and adopted others, realized certain biases that stuck to my skin like dirt and tried to shake them off, made mental decisions to take specific stances, crossed my heart with promises to let go of lies and strive for truths.
No different than any other person, I’ve journeyed through the growing years discovering things about myself, some I liked, many I embraced with a grain of salt, and many more I resisted to acknowledge, struggled to change, and then had to shamefully accept and try to control.

When I worked with domestic abuse victims, I repeated a sentence many times to the clients who’d been through Hell and back with their abusive partners, and still expected their relationships to improve.

No one changes his or her nature.

In my clients’ eyes, there was the expectation that something foreign triggered the abuser into action. Most victims believed they were that foreign element. If only they could change whatever trait they had that caused the abusive treatment, their lives would be better.  Very few, and I think they were the lucky ones, realized that it’s inherent in the abuser’s nature to treat them that way.

But he’s taken the anger management course.
But he’s been going to therapy.
But he changed jobs, and he’s no longer stressed.
But he’s promised to keep taking his medication this time.
But his parents are out of our lives now.
But he loves me.

I know many therapists, counselors and reformed abusers would have a fit with what I stated. But I truly believe that no one can change his or her nature. That’s what I tried to drill into my clients, the ones who listened, anyway. The ones who didn’t, and kept going back to their partners after each trial to break away, asked for help again and again. Sometimes, it took them months, sometimes years, and unfortunately most of the times, way too late.

Examining my own struggles to improve the kind of person I am, I see how difficult it is to shed an undesirable trait, whatever that may be. It takes determination, with all the inner strength I can muster. If I take telling lies, as an example of such a trait, I’d have to be constantly aware of what comes out of my mouth, my mind fact checking all the time, my conscience awake and alert (and yes, my conscience takes long naps sometimes.)

For abusers, it should be logical to let go of a behavior that causes harm to the people they supposedly love, shouldn’t it? But it’s not logical. And it’s not easy. It’s not something that can be handled with outside forces, a disease that can be treated with pills or therapy. Abusive behavior is a lifestyle choice. It’s a conviction, a belief by the abuser that he has the right and the power to dominate. Like a religious persuasion, an unwavering faith that needs to be shaken from the core to be able to adjust it. But first, he’d have to make the decision to accept his behavior as his own manufactured product. Accept it, and then try to modify it.

I’ve had many clients with success stories, moving on in life and finding a measure of fulfillment. Many clients remained stuck in their own bubbles, not for lack of trying, but for lack of understanding the roots of the issue. Those are the ones that wake up my conscience when it falls to sleep, exhausted, frustrated and sometimes defeated.

So, if you are in an abusive relationship, get out. Don’t wait. Don’t cling to a hope that will never materialize. He will not change.

If you know someone who’s being abused, help her break away. If you can’t do it yourself, do the research on her behalf. Find out about Women centers and organizations in her area and give her the information. If you can’t do that, tell her she deserves better, that she’s worth more in everyone’s eyes but his. Empower her.

If you know an abuser, do something about it. Don’t have a drink with him and laugh at his jokes, wincing internally at your helplessness. Tell him. Confront him. Better yet, smack him around for once and see how he likes it. Look him in the eye and show him what kind of man he is. If you can’t do that, then for God’s sake, find someone who can.

Lilas Taha is a novelist, winner of the 2017 International Book Awards  and is the author of Shadows of Damascus and Bitter Almonds.

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