Monday, September 11, 2006

As long as He Needs.......

Reading this story the other day, I was reminded of the fictitious archetype in Dicken's 'Oliver Twist' - the relationship between the murderous Bill Sykes and his abused girlfriend Nancy, which culminated in Nancy's death via a brutal beating by his hand.
It was a similiar scenario in many respects - one of which being an older man taking advantage of a vulnerable young girl.

My initial feeling when I read of Ms Bryl going back to her abuser was one of exasperation. Why would anyone go back to a man who had persistenty beaten and psychologically abused her for so long, especially when she had such a caring mother?

Then I recalled Nancy expressing in the novel the foresight that Sykes would eventually kill her. Yet she still stayed with him. It is curious that somebody expressed the view that victims of trafficking (forced prostitution) bear a similiarity to victims of domestic violence, that they often go back to their abusers. Although it seems far from unlikely, there is as yet no concrete evidence that Beata had worked as a prostitute for the man she was involved with, as was the case with Nancy. But whether she did or not is incidental to the ultimate dynamics of the relationship, although it certainly would have played a large part. I have seen it happen myself - young women returning to abusive relationships seemingly against all common sense, and against the best efforts of family and friends. Not all these women are sex workers, although the illegality of this particular profession leaves women more open to abuse than they otherwise would be.

These relationships often have their own dynamic and they are more complex than a simplistic analysis akin to that of 'Stockholm Syndrome' will allow for. They are more complex than many feminist analysis will allow for, in which suggesting that women like Nancy or Beata played some part in their ultimate fate is akin to blaming the victim. Such an analysis is often crude and indeed unhelpful in understanding the psychology. It is far more than fear that keeps the victim in a relationship like this. The dynamics between the victim and the abuser often have a sado masochistic quality, and they are very intense relationships. In the musical adaptation, after a beating from Sykes Nancy croons 'As long as he needs me'. Who knows, perhaps Beata felt the same way about whoever it was she met her end at the hands of. Perhaps this was why she returned to him.

And in a perverse way men like this do ultimately 'need' the women who are at least on some level 'willing' to be their victims - be it through naivety, loneliness or whatever other factor. A friend of mine, a sex worker, shared with many of her co-workers a crush on a local pimp. I'm certain she even knew he was a brute, he had even told her of what would become of his 'girls' if they crossed the line too far. But love that is young and obsessive doesn't see in terms of common sense, as men likely to take advantage of it will no doubt know. The laws of attraction don't work how we would always like them to. It's quite plausible that many such men will mistake what is adolescent loneliness or neediness on the part of their potential victims as admiration for their superficial and stereotypical virility, as was the case with the cheap hood 'Vinnie' in his estimation of the desperate drag queen 'Georgette's' hopeless crush on him in 'Last Exit to Brooklyn', the Hubert Selby Junior novel.

There will always be some manifestations of the human psyche and sexuality that will be beyond the reach of any amount of feminism or philanthropy, or familial concern.

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