Toronto Star

December 8, 2001

Controlling behaviour easy enough to spot

Jim Coyle, Toronto Star

MORE THAN once when she was on the stand at the Hadley inquest, Constable Cheryl Carter of Durham Region police made the same observation. The best predictor of anyone's future behaviour, she said, is how they have behaved in the past.

Carter was the person who best recognized the lethal risk in the broken marriage of Oillian and Ralph Hadley when she answered a complaint at the house in February, 2000, a few months before the 34-yearold postal worker killed his wife and himself. She was the one who feared what his recent behaviour of assault and harassment might mean, the one who foresaw dire consequences, the one who most forcefully said so.

To Carter, domestic violence has a predictable pathology. And in some ways, that's a recurring sub-theme of the eight week-old investigation into the Hadley murder suicide. How best to spot patterns, recognize clues, assess risk?

The inquest's primary purpose is investigative and prescriptive -- to determine how the deaths occurred, to recommend how similar deaths might be prevented. But it is also educational, a chance to help people spot warning signs, to teachthem it's easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of it.

Submitted as an exhibit was a report prepared by the Violence Prevention Council of Durham Region on abused women and their families. If, as some scholars say, males have a biological susceptibility to violence, the council suggests there are also socialvalues that affect families and relationships.

Among them are these: The family is a sacred and private place. Certain subjects are taboo and should be kept secret. The attainment of perfection is a goal. Cognitive skills and abilities are valued more than feelings. Approval from others is more important than one's own sense of worth. Being powerful and in control are positive attributes. There's always a right and wrong answer. Love must be exciting and immediate. Romance is wonderful. Marriage vows are forever. The man is the head of the household.

These are values that promote rigid thinking, power and control. They tend to represent values for which men are socialized. And the result is, the study says, that "some men who have not developed the caring, emotional and intimate side of the character can become dependent upon the woman in their lives to provide the emotional depth and intimacy. In some situations, this results in men who need to control or be in control of their partners' lives and relationships."

If violence does occur, the woman tends to minimize or deny it and the danger to herself

Controlling relationships, the council says, are recognizable.

The victim is kept in a constant state of fear or anxiety, made responsible both for staying silent and keeping the family unit together. By degrading comments, threats and the enforcement of trivial demands, the controller is both the source of fear and the source of respite from it.

The woman, and it is usually a woman, becomes isolated and compliant. She sunrives by vigilantly monitoring her partner's moods. She is kept focused on him, is weakened mentally and physically, develops aryriety and despair, and has esteem and confidence eroded. She tends to be dependent onthe approval of others, particularly men.

If violence does occur, the woman tends to minimize or deny it and the danger to herself, views it as her fault, insists it probably won't happen again.

A man who uses control as a tool is apt to hold negative attitudes toward women, to minimize the abuse or rationalize it as having been provoked. He is extremely jealous and possessive, may create fantasies of his partner's involvement with ther men, stalks or monitors her, is unable to resolve or let go of past events, often shows little or no respect for his partner's opinions or feelings, cuts her off or answers for her. He will insult and degrade her in front of others, often in the form of jokes, to reduce her to a childlike status. He is extraordinarily remorseful in the wake of episodes.

He has a limited range of feelings, is generally "fine" or "angry." He is emotionally dependent on his partner, while denying and detesting that reality.

His poor image of himself is masked from others but used to win his partner's sympathy. He may appear to others as nice, caring, charming.

It is impossible to have sat through the Hadley inquest without ticking off many, many items.from such checklists.

On her own dime, Carter had taken courses in some of this. It was why, when she met Gillian Hadley, she was able within two hours, and without having met her husband, to make a chilling prediction.

"I said that I believed that he would kill you, that he was losing control of you."

Jim Coyle's column usually appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

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