Yesterday, I was driving around nowhere Texas, listening to my satellite radio as one does, when driving across a desert, feeling a bit vulnerable and alone and wishing I had renewed my triple A membership… when I happened across a talk radio show called “The Doctor Is In” on Sirius radio.
I like medical things, and I love shrink talk shows, being a big fan of Dr. Jenn on Cosmo Radio (really, don’t turn up your noses folks, because it’s Cosmo Radio. She’s wonderful.) So I thought this show might be an interesting distraction from the dismal landscape.
(To any defenders of the Texas landscape out there — I was inspecting farms and had to look at 900 acres of withered corn, killed by the drought. I stand by “dismal.”)
The channel was EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network and the doctor is Dr. Ray Guarendi. I’m telling you this so you can avoid this channel at all costs, perhaps melt the radio dial so it won’t turn in that direction, or write a letter to the Pope and see if this doctor can be defrocked.
A very timid sounding woman called in to say she was in an abusive marriage and she wanted to know how to leave. Guarendi stopped her right there and trumpeted “ABUSIVE?!” And then in the most condescending of tones he said that, well, in his practice, people — mostly women — come in and say they’re in an abusive relationship. “But what does that mean?” The other person (the “abuser”) may think its just a “difficult” relationship, or an unloving relationship, or really have no problem with the relationship at all! So this abuse thing, is totally in the eye of the beholder!
He refused to listen. He refuses to honor her reality. He refused to consider there could be any sort of power or abuse dynamic in a relationship. And if there was one? Well, hey, it was equally shared. What did you do to make him that way?
And I confess I didn’t listen past that point. I tried to. But I just got angrier and angrier, while he pontificated and this woman didn’t say another word. Perhaps she did later, but after a long diatribe about people making up abuse, I had to turn the channel.
I wondered how many horrible shrinks are out there saying similar things to people. As it’s a Catholic channel, well, hey their bias is going to be against divorce. But I want to believe there are compassionate priests and shrinks out there who would urge a person to leave an abusive relationship. This guy, the guy with the radio show — he wasn’t that voice. He was shaming that woman for speaking up. He was minimizing her abuse and denying her reality.
So, why would she say another word? Because you KNOW her abuser is pulling the same mindfuck on her. Whether he hits her or cheats on her or verbally abuses her — you know that man has tried to get her to believe it’s her fault. That she’s exaggerating. It’s Not That Bad. And abusers isolate you, so the fact that she called a radio show (and refused to give her name), was probably a big step — and this asshole, quack Guarendi just shut her down.
When you get a bad shrink, or a bad priest, or heck, even a bad friend — it can really set you back. It takes a lot of reality checks to leave an abuser — so when you turn for help and that “professional” just abuses you further? It’s reprehensible. And yeah, I say abuse — that’s what that man did. He mocked her. He minimized. He made her pain about him and his platform.
Whatever you feel about the information age, I think one big positive is that chumps can come together and compare notes. I hope that woman googles and finds a support forum of other people who have lived what she’s living. Guarendi clearly has no clue. The collective wisdom can provide her with hundreds of reality checks – as many as she needs — to finally leave that abuser.