Hear, See, and Analyze Real Domestic Abuse on Video

[Update note from Hannah: I would mention a bit of a disclaimer. Some of the videos can be very triggering to some parties.]

Hannah, at Emotional Abuse and Your Faith has assembled a series of posts enabling viewers to see and hear domestic abuse in action and learn to evaluate what is really happening. Since the abuser involved is not a batterer (well, his battery is generally considered to be within socially acceptable boundaries), this is particularly powerful.

This situation is the type of abuse many thousands of families in the church tolerate every day, with no understanding of how destructive it is. The family featured makes no claim to being Christian, as far as I know, but their family life is not substantively different from Christians.

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The Link Between Illness and Abuse

This post was written by a friend of mine and she communicates it so well, I am copying the post in its entirety.

This is such a huge issue, which is still almost completely unnoticed in the church’s ignorance of abuse. And it is affecting many, many people sitting in our pews.

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ILLNESS AND ABUSE: My Doctors Said…

By Sharon Merhalski

I am a survivor of childhood abuse: every kind of abuse from my mother (22% of pedophiles are women) and sexual abuse from my brother. As an abused child I experienced a childhood of illnesses. I now understand illness is an expected scenario given the constant internal and external stress an abused child (and children raised in domestic violence) carries. And I now understand until abuse issues are dealt with and healed, that internal stress cannot be alleviated, resulting in continued illness in the adult years.

I believe the Bible gives plain affirmation on this subject (words inside parenthesis are definitions for the previous word from the Strong’s Concordance).

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire (longing) cometh, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

A victim living in an abusive situation constantly hopes the abuse will end. When they are separated from the abuse by age or living situation there is usually an internal longing (especially with child abuse)–hope for a healthy relationship with the abusive parent. When hope longed for doesn’t happen the Bible says it makes their heart (feelings, the will and even the intellect) sick (be weak, sick, afflicted, cause to grieve, diseased, put in pain, be wounded) If our feelings, will and intellect are sick we are under extreme stress and on our way to physical illness.

In spring of 1984 I was 35 years old. I had severe allergies requiring weekly allergy injections and a lot of allergy medication. I was always fatigued, in bed a lot of the time, fought sinus and bronchial infections and yeast infections constantly and was an overall miserable mess.

In September of 1984 I came to a crossroad in my spiritual and emotional life that ended in my allowing God to take my very damaged heart and emotions and heal them with His Word. About six months into this lengthy process my allergies were so minimal that I no longer required allergy shots and I seldom took allergy medications. By mid-1985 the sinus infections and yeast infections were few and far between. The bronchial infections maybe happened once a year.

At this time I began to see a licensed physician who is a dear Christian man. He was the first doctor I asked about the ‘coincidence’ of my emotional healing and healing from allergies and infections. I remember clearly his saying to me it was no ‘coincidence’ and then teaching me about inner stress. He assured me what I experienced was a normal reaction to my internal healing. Since then I have asked two other physicians the same question and received the same answers.

In the last twenty-plus years I have been entrusted by God to both counsel and work with many women who are survivors of abuse…child abuse and/or domestic violence. The pattern I have observed is almost all of the women with unresolved/unhealed issues have been physically ill in some way…from allergies to cancer. And, those women whom I have observed through their personal spiritual and emotional healing process have experienced a lessening, if not total healing of their physical illnesses, i.e. arthritis, allergies, repeated infections, stomach and/or bowel problems, Candida/yeast infections, etc. I have always been very thankful I can share with each woman why their health was improving…using the words of my physicians—my Heavenly physician/Jehovah-Rapha and my earthly physicans–spoken to me. (The Bible has much to say on this subject.)

A few years ago I began to find research on this perceived ‘phenomenon’ of relieved stress and healing. Recently there has been much research done on this subject. I now understand fully the reasons for an increase in health when there is a decrease in stress…internal stress and external stress.

If you are a survivor or victim of abuse, or know a survivor or victim of abuse, I hope you will assimilate this information for yourself and/or pass it along to others.

Links to articles:

Physical Abuse Raises Women’s Health Costs Over 40 Percent The implication of this is that there are all these women suffering long-term health problems as a result of abuse.

possible link between sex abuse and Interstitial Cystitis

Child abuse ‘impacts stress gene’

Facial Fractures Speak Volumes

Childhood Abuse Raises Psychosis Risk in Women

Teenage Stress Has Implications on Adult Health

In this search page there are a couple posts about studies on domestic violence and ill health.

Measuring the Molehill

There have been some great comments on yesterday’s post, that I think merit some space of their own.

BloggerT7165 said:

The last time I checked there was roughly 70 reported cases a week of clergy sexual abuse in Protestant churches. Those are just the reported cases.

Danni replied:

So, that would be 3,640 accusations per year. Some of those will turn out to be false allegations – generally 1-3% if I remember correctly. So at the outside, that would still leave 3,531 credible accusations of Protestant clergy sex abuse per year. Then consider that MOST clergy sex abuse is never reported. So what number should we multiple that 3,531 by???

Now multiple by what for domestic abuse? If my comparative ratios dealing with people personally are used as a general guide, you would have to multiple 3,531 by 10 to even start to get a glimmer of an idea. That would be at least 35,310 instances of domestic violence in Protestant homes per year. And each of those represents a family, not an individual, experiencing abuse; not just once, but as an ongoing way of life.

These numbers are obviously not exact or scientific. But I know they are fairly accurately representative. This is what I’m seeing as reality from the inside actually working with this issue rather than pretending it doesn’t exist.

Molehill anyone???

As Hannah said:

So [if] its a small number of people dealing with this … its okay NOT to deal with it?

That would be my point exactly. How small is it really? This isn’t small! And if it were small, does that entitle the church to ignore the problem? How small does it have to be to say it doesn’t matter?

That is why Jesus said the good shepherd would leave the 99 who are safe and go rescue the one! That is our mandate as the church!!!

As BloggerT7165 said:

And one person suffering abuse is one to many.

EXACTLY.

And to all believers said:

churches wake up, stop [tickling] the ears!

Amen.

How Can I Honor An Abusive Parent?

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

(This is written with the parent as male gendered, only because I had to pick one. It applies equally to male and female parents.)

How do I respect an abusive parent?

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Exodus 20:12

Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.
Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)
That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

Gal. 6:1-3

Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

Col. 3:20

The church teaches “children obey your parents” and “children honor your parents” – but if the issue of domestic violence in marriage is largely invisible in the church, you can bet the issue of honoring an abusive parent is even further off the radar. What do you do when your parent is abusive?

First of all, the situation is different if you are still a minor under their care or if you are an adult. If you are a child and under their care, you need to go to a counselor and tell them what is going on. That is not dishonor, as I will explain shortly.. If you are an adult, that parent does not have as much immediate dominance, and the power of the law, standing behind them.

So what is honor and obedience, in the context of a parent/child relationship?

Honor – to give weight, to promote (Hebrew kabad)
Obey – to hear under (as a subordinate), i.e. to listen attentively; by implication, to heed or conform to a command or authority:–hearken, be obedient to, obey. (Greek hupakouo)
Honor – to prize, i.e. fix a valuation upon; by implication, to revere:–honour, value. (Greek timao)

The church teaches children obey/respect your parents as a necessity for God’s blessing – after all it is the first commandment with a promise of long life! Who doesn’t want that? However, the way this is taught is shallow and takes no account of situations that are not quite cut and dried. This is particularly difficult for children with an abusive parent because our Christian culture has all eyes on children being obedient and respectful, and tends to easily accept the side of a parent who claims their child is disobedient and disrespectful.

Let’s look first at the word obey in the Greek verses. It means “…to listen attentively, to heed or conform to a command or authority…”

The verse says children are to obey their parents in all things. Does that mean in ALL things? If a parent tells a child to commit a crime, or expects their participation in criminal behavior, is that child supposed to obey his parent? If a parent tells or expects a child to participate in behavior which is clearly and directly against the Word, is that child supposed to obey his parent?

Stating the obvious, we cannot take one or two verses out of the context of the whole of the Word and make a doctrine out of them. The Word also says,

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Mt. 10:37

This principle is universal across Scripture. To put any human directive above God’s is idolatry. We can’t put the command for children to obey their parents above our primary focus on loving God. Wherever there is a variance between a parent’s expectations and God’s, the parent’s expectations cannot be met.

A child’s obedience would also be limited to the duration of his childhood, during which he was under his parent’s authority. Once he is no longer a child, but an adult, the directive has obviously expired. Obedience as a child does not extend into adulthood. It would be foolish to assume an adult must obey their parent in all things when they are living separate adult lives. However, this idea is used by abusive parents to extend their authority far beyond reasonable boundaries.

In these verses, obedience and honoring are obviously considered synonymous. However, the church seems to emphasize honoring as a separate action and attitude than obedience.

So, let’s look closely at the meaning the word honor, both in the Hebrew and Greek. Is there any indication or implication present to assume that a child is required by God to remain in relationship with an abusive parent?

I can value my parent as a person and as a person who gave me life, without being in any type of relationship with him whatsoever. Honoring a parent is about my attitude toward him – that is all that is required by the Word.

But honoring a parent does not mean I must accept unrighteousness. Honor will keep me from answering back in kind when someone is treating me inappropriately because, as a person created in God’s image, he does not “deserve” that, no matter his behavior. I respect God’s creation – it is not about the man or his behavior.

However, because I respect him as God’s creation, I will not and cannot enable him to continue in sin by doing nothing when he has persistent sin against me and against God that he will not address or acknowledge. I respect him enough to attempt to turn a sinner from the error of his ways. In a respectful manner.

Let’s take a quick look at what honoring is not:

  • Staying in relationship with someone who will hurt me or those for whom I am responsible.
  • Never saying anything to anyone about the other’s “faults.”
  • Enabling a sinner to remain in sin by my silence and inaction.
  • Thinking a person is “wonderful” when they are not.
  • Having feelings of love.

Giving honor is a choice, not a feeling.

That said, an abuser cannot expect not to have consequences for his/her behavior. Parents are not immune from consequences. When a parent has indicated a persistent pattern of abuse, it is fully appropriate to sever relationship with that person so they do not have the power to continue to cause pain and to continue in sin with the child’s blessing through ignoring or tolerating it.

The book Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life, by David Cloud and John Townsend is very helpful to learn to see what is and is not appropriate, and how to step away without dishonoring. It is both possible and appropriate to honor an abusive parent without remaining in relationship with that person if he refuses to respect appropriate relationship boundaries or attempts to insist on ungodly behavior. Again, honoring God takes precedence if the parent makes demands in violation of godliness.

In light of the prevalence of abuse in today’s church, this subject needs to be taught with more sensitivity and depth. Hitting the highlights without a deeper understanding has the negative side effect of piling guilt and condemnation on people who have an abusive parent in their life.

Child Abuse Alters Brain Genetics

New research supports something I have long suspected – child abuse alters brain genetics.

This fascinating article by BBC News says, “Analysis of brain tissue from adults who had committed suicide found key genetic changes in those who had suffered abuse as a child.” The article then goes on to explain these changes.

Be sure to read the article – it is very insightful. Yet another support for the contention that this matters. Doesn’t the Word say we are to stand for the afflicted and oppressed? Where is the outcry in the church?

You Carry the Cure in Your Own Heart


Emotional abuse of children can lead, in adulthood, to addiction, rage, a severely damaged sense of self and an inability to truly bond with others. But—if it happened to you—there is a way out.

by Andrew Vachss

Originally published in Parade Magazine, August 28, 1994

This article is courtesy of The Zero.

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The attorney and author Andrew Vachss has devoted his life to protecting children. We asked Vachss, an expert on the subject of child abuse, to examine perhaps one of its most complex and widespread forms—emotional abuse: What it is, what it does to children, what can be done about it. Vachss’ latest novel, “Down in the Zero,” just published by Knopf, depicts emotional abuse at its most monstrous.

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I’m a lawyer with an unusual specialty. My clients are all children—damaged, hurting children who have been sexually assaulted, physically abused, starved, ignored, abandoned and every other lousy thing one human can do to another. People who know what I do always ask: “What is the worst case you ever handled?” When you’re in a business where a baby who dies early may be the luckiest child in the family, there’s no easy answer. But I have thought about it—I think about it every day. My answer is that, of all the many forms of child abuse, emotional abuse may be the cruelest and longest-lasting of all.

Emotional abuse is the systematic diminishment of another. It may be intentional or subconscious (or both), but it is always a course of conduct, not a single event. It is designed to reduce a child’s self-concept to the point where the victim considers himself unworthy—unworthy of respect, unworthy of friendship, unworthy of the natural birthright of all children: love and protection.

Emotional abuse can be as deliberate as a gunshot: “You’re fat. You’re stupid. You’re ugly.”

Emotional abuse can be as random as the fallout from a nuclear explosion. In matrimonial battles, for example, the children all too often become the battlefield. I remember a young boy, barely into his teens, absently rubbing the fresh scars on his wrists. “It was the only way to make them all happy,” he said. His mother and father were locked in a bitter divorce battle, and each was demanding total loyalty and commitment from the child.

Emotional abuse can be active. Vicious belittling: “You’ll never be the success your brother was.” Deliberate humiliation: “You’re so stupid. I’m ashamed you’re my son.”

It also can be passive, the emotional equivalent of child neglect—a sin of omission, true, but one no less destructive.

And it may be a combination of the two, which increases the negative effects geometrically.

Emotional abuse can be verbal or behavioral, active or passive, frequent or occasional. Regardless, it is often as painful as physical assault. And, with rare exceptions, the pain lasts much longer. A parent’s love is so important to a child that withholding it can cause a “failure to thrive” condition similar to that of children who have been denied adequate nutrition.

Even the natural solace of siblings is denied to those victims of emotional abuse who have been designated as the family’s “target child.” The other children are quick to imitate their parents. Instead of learning the qualities every child will need as an adult—empathy, nurturing and protectiveness—they learn the viciousness of a pecking order. And so the cycle continues.

But whether as a deliberate target or an innocent bystander, the emotionally abused child inevitably struggles to “explain” the conduct of his abusers—and ends up struggling for survival in a quicksand of self-blame.

Emotional abuse is both the most pervasive and the least understood form of child maltreatment. Its victims are often dismissed simply because their wounds are not visible. In an era in which fresh disclosures of unspeakable child abuse are everyday fare, the pain and torment of those who experience “only” emotional abuse is often trivialized. We understand and accept that victims of physical or sexual abuse need both time and specialized treatment to heal. But when it comes to emotional abuse, we are more likely to believe the victims will “just get over it” when they become adults.

That assumption is dangerously wrong. Emotional abuse scars the heart and damages the soul. Like cancer, it does its most deadly work internally. And, like cancer, it can metastasize if untreated.

When it comes to damage, there is no real difference between physical, sexual and emotional abuse. All that distinguishes one from the other is the abuser’s choice of weapons. I remember a woman, a grandmother whose abusers had long since died, telling me that time had not conquered her pain. “It wasn’t just the incest,” she said quietly. “It was that he didn’t love me. If he loved me, he couldn’t have done that to me.”

But emotional abuse is unique because it is designed to make the victim feel guilty. Emotional abuse is repetitive and eventually cumulative behavior—very easy to imitate—and some victims later perpetuate the cycle with their own children. Although most victims courageously reject that response, their lives often are marked by a deep, pervasive sadness, a severely damaged self-concept and an inability to truly engage and bond with others.

We must renounce the lie that emotional abuse is good for children because it prepares them for a hard life in a tough world. I’ve met some individuals who were prepared for a hard life that way—I met them while they were doing life.

Emotionally abused children grow up with significantly altered perceptions so that they “see” behaviors—their own and others’—through a filter of distortion. Many emotionally abused children engage in a lifelong drive for the approval (which they translate as “love”) of others. So eager are they for love—and so convinced that they don’t deserve it—that they are prime candidates for abuse within intimate relationships.

The emotionally abused child can be heard inside every battered woman who insists: “It was my fault, really. I just seem to provoke him somehow.”

And the almost-inevitable failure of adult relationships reinforces that sense of unworthiness, compounding the felony, reverberating throughout the victim’s life.

Emotional abuse conditions the child to expect abuse in later life. Emotional abuse is a time bomb, but its effects are rarely visible, because the emotionally abused tend to implode, turning the anger against themselves. And when someone is outwardly successful in most areas of life, who looks within to see the hidden wounds?

Members of a therapy group may range widely in age, social class, ethnicity and occupation, but all display some form of self-destructive conduct: obesity, drug addiction, anorexia, bulimia, domestic violence, child abuse, attempted suicide, self-mutilation, depression and fits of rage. What brought them into treatment was their symptoms. But until they address the one thing that they have in common—a childhood of emotional abuse—true recovery is impossible.

One of the goals of any child-protective effort is to “break the cycle” of abuse. We should not delude ourselves that we are winning this battle simply because so few victims of emotional abuse become abusers themselves. Some emotionally abused children are programmed to fail so effectively that a part of their own personality “self-parents” by belittling and humiliating themselves.

The pain does not stop with adulthood. Indeed, for some, it worsens. I remember a young woman, an accomplished professional, charming and friendly, well-liked by all who knew her. She told me she would never have children. “I’d always be afraid I would act like them,” she said.

Unlike other forms of child abuse, emotional abuse is rarely denied by those who practice it. In fact, many actively defend their psychological brutality, asserting that a childhood of emotional abuse helped their children to “toughen up.” It is not enough for us to renounce the perverted notion that beating children produces good citizens—we must also renounce the lie that emotional abuse is good for children because it prepares them for a hard life in a tough world. I’ve met some individuals who were prepared for a hard life that way—I met them while they were doing life.

The primary weapons of emotional abusers is the deliberate infliction of guilt. They use guilt the same way a loan shark uses money: They don’t want the “debt” paid off, because they live quite happily on the “interest.”

When your self-concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it—you play the role assigned to you by your abusers. It’s time to stop playing that role.

Because emotional abuse comes in so many forms (and so many disguises), recognition is the key to effective response. For example, when allegations of child sexual abuse surface, it is a particularly hideous form of emotional abuse to pressure the victim to recant, saying he or she is “hurting the family” by telling the truth. And precisely the same holds true when a child is pressured to sustain a lie by a “loving” parent.

Emotional abuse requires no physical conduct whatsoever. In one extraordinary case, a jury in Florida recognized the lethal potential of emotional abuse by finding a mother guilty of child abuse in connection with the suicide of her 17-year-old daughter, whom she had forced to work as a nude dancer (and had lived off her earnings).

Another rarely understood form of emotional abuse makes victims responsible for their own abuse by demanding that they “understand” the perpetrator. Telling a 12-year-old girl that she was an “enabler” of her own incest is emotional abuse at its most repulsive.

A particularly pernicious myth is that “healing requires forgiveness” of the abuser. For the victim of emotional abuse, the most viable form of help is self-help—and a victim handicapped by the need to “forgive” the abuser is a handicapped helper indeed. The most damaging mistake an emotional-abuse victim can make is to invest in the “rehabilitation” of the abuser. Too often this becomes still another wish that didn’t come true—and emotionally abused children will conclude that they deserve no better result.

The costs of emotional abuse cannot be measured by visible scars, but each victim loses some percentage of capacity. And that capacity remains lost so long as the victim is stuck in the cycle of “understanding” and “forgiveness.” The abuser has no “right” to forgiveness—such blessings can only be earned. And although the damage was done with words, true forgiveness can only be earned with deeds

For those with an idealized notion of “family,” the task of refusing to accept the blame for their own victimization is even more difficult. For such searchers, the key to freedom is always truth—the real truth, not the distorted, self-serving version served by the abuser.

Emotional abuse threatens to become a national illness. The popularity of nasty, mean-spirited, personal-attack cruelty that passes for “entertainment” is but one example. If society is in the midst of moral and spiritual erosion, a “family” bedrocked on the emotional abuse of its children will not hold the line. And the tide shows no immediate signs of turning.

Effective treatment of emotional abusers depends on the motivation for the original conduct, insight into the roots of such conduct and the genuine desire to alter that conduct. For some abusers, seeing what they are doing to their child—or, better yet, feeling what they forced their child to feel—is enough to make them halt. Other abusers need help with strategies to deal with their own stress so that it doesn’t overload onto their children.

But for some emotional abusers, rehabilitation is not possible. For such people, manipulation is a way of life. They coldly and deliberately set up a “family” system in which the child can never manage to “earn” the parent’s love. In such situations, any emphasis on “healing the whole family” is doomed to failure.

If you are a victim of emotional abuse, there can be no self-help until you learn to self-reference. That means developing your own standards, deciding for yourself what “goodness” really is. Adopting the abuser’s calculated labels—”You’re crazy. You’re ungrateful. It didn’t happen the way you say”—only continues the cycle.

Adult survivors of emotional child abuse have only two life-choices: learn to self-reference or remain a victim. When your self-concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it—you play the role assigned to you by your abusers.

It’s time to stop playing that role, time to write your own script. Victims of emotional abuse carry the cure in their own hearts and souls. Salvation means learning self-respect, earning the respect of others and making that respect the absolutely irreducible minimum requirement for all intimate relationships. For the emotionally abused child, healing does come down to “forgiveness”—forgiveness of yourself.

How you forgive yourself is as individual as you are. But knowing you deserve to be loved and respected and empowering yourself with a commitment to try is more than half the battle. Much more.

And it is never too soon—or too late—to start.

The Devastation of Denial

“It can’t be true. I know him and he would never do that.”

This is one of the most common things I hear in nearly every case of alleged clergy sex abuse, as well as in alleged abuse in Christian families. For every person who says these words, they are absolutely sure that this time it is the truth and it is all a big misunderstanding or conspiracy. In every separate incidence, not only are people close to the situation adamant their friend is innocent, they are often extremely angry at those who dare to believe otherwise.

Denial is incredibly powerful. Denial can stand in the face of the most blatant and obvious evidence to the contrary. When there is little or no visible, indisputable evidence, denial stands on even stronger ground. Denial will even find ways to explain away a confession.

I saw this happen in my own family’s abuse situation. Even when my ex-husband admitted in court that he had, in fact, violently abused his children over the course of many years, during which time he had successfully denied my accusations, his family and closest friends still believed my latest accusations were false because he had a perfect public image and denied any wrong-doing. Not one of them registered the slightest alarm or concern to hear him admit the things I had been saying for more than 10 years were true after all. What were the chances that my current accusations were not true when he admitted to the actions I had been trying all those years to tell about? This meant that every time I said “abuse” previously I was telling the truth and he lied. But this time I was lying and he was telling the truth? How likely is that?

But it was as if they did not even hear what he said. No one seemed able to see the obvious, including the judge. A squeaky-clean Christian, super-Boy-Scout leader façade won the day. The judge said, “Boy Scouts don’t lie…I don’t believe he’s the monster you’ve painted him to be.” Boy Scouts don’t lie, so if a bunch of Scout leaders say it ain’t so, it ain’t so. All they could see was the public face, and the public family solidarity. They couldn’t see past this to the fact that abusers always hide behind socially-acceptable fronts and know how to intimidate or manipulate family into maintaining the picture in public.

How much stronger is this conviction when the accused is a pastor or church leader? It cannot be true; it is impossible. But it is true.

And denial only increases the damage. Denial hinders people from genuine healing. Denial lightly heals the wound, or falsely heals it because people refuse to admit they are wounded or refuse to accept the real nature of the wound.

Denial also inherently lays blame on the victim, increasing the damage to that person, and making the church a toxic environment for victims instead of a healing haven.

Worst of all, it reinforces the problem of abuse in the church because denial enables abuse to continue. Denial doesn’t just affect a single family or church. Since denial is nearly universal, the entire church collectively fails to acknowledge or address abuse in the church. This means the whole church is crippled, abuse in the church is systemically enabled, and the world can look at the church with justifiable blame for being characterized by a tolerance for the most abhorrent behavior.