What is Narcissism?

four person standing on cliff in front of sun

WHAT DOES NARCISSISM MEAN in the context of psychology? Narcissism is self-idealization. It is a personality trait all people possess that exists on a continuum. However, the degree to which people are narcissistic varies. In and of itself, narcissism is neither good nor bad. It is simply a necessary component of the human personality structure. In fact, a normal or healthy degree of narcissism has a range of health benefits. Narcissism becomes problematic only when there are aberrations.

The words narcissism and narcotic both originate from the Greek narkao which means “I numb myself”. In other words, narcissism has a similarly soothing affect on our senses as a narcotic. Holding a slightly flattering view ourselves serves to dull the impact of otherwise painful existential realities.

12 Signs of Normal or Healthy Narcissism?

Clinical psychologist Michael Kinsey, PhD, an expert in personality dynamics, breaks down some of the most prominent characteristics of healthy narcissism as the ability to:

  1. Admire others and accept admiration from them.
  2. Believe in the importance of our contributions.
  3. Experience gratitude and appreciation.
  4. Empathize with others, while prioritizing self.
  5. Embody self-efficacy, persistence and resilience.
  6. Respect self in health habits and boundaries.
  7. Feel confident about being seen.
  8. Tolerate others disapproval.
  9. Set goals and pursue them with desire.
  10. Be attentive to the external world.
  11. Be aware of emotions.

As a trait, narcissism is very different from its subtypes in a number of ways. It is flexible and can change over time. Most importantly normal or healthy narcissism helps us develop a positive self concept and helps form healthy relationships with others as healthy narcissism helps us extend our love to others.


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6 Signs of Love Bombing with Dr. Steve Sultanoff

Signs of Love Bombing with Steve Sultanoff, PhD

LOVE BOMBING is a manipulation technique used by one person to gaslight another in order to control and dominate them. It is commonly used by highly narcissistic people and people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), but it can be used by other types of manipulators as well. The aim is to give the perpetrator an advantage over the recipient of the abuse. This is accomplished using a schedule of intermittent reinforcement that alternates between love bombing and devaluation to deliberately induce, escalate, and then soothe anxiety in the victim-survivor. One of the dangers of love bombing is that it feels so good it can be difficult to recognize it for the psycho-emotional abuse that it is. Today, we’re going to highlight 6 Signs of Love Bombing with clinical psychologist Steven M. Sultanoff, PhD

For more than thirty years, Dr. Sultanoff has been a professor at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology. He’s also served as a clinical supervisor and spent twelve years as clinical director of a psychology training network. In 2012, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award in therapeutic humor from the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: What is something most people don’t understand about love bombing?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: The extreme narcissist is a “big game hunter.” He is stalking his prey, and the thrill is in the hunt and capture of the prey. In order to capture the prey, the narcissist will go to almost any length to achieve that goal. The result is self-congratulatory: “Look what major feat I accomplished!” In other words, “I made you fall for me.”

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: What you are describing it sounds more like entrapment than love.

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: He is on a quest to “do” whatever it takes to achieve the goal: capturing a “love” connection or perhaps more accurately capturing the object of his desire. Nothing will stand in the way. Whatever it takes (behaviorally) he will do. He will shower the “love object” with whatever might be pleasing including gifts, flowers, romantic getaways, etcetera.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: This is an excellent analogy because it illustrates how little a narcissist’s behavior has to do with the person they are pursuing and everything to do with their self-image. What’s the pay off for the narcissist?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: Once the goal is achieved, he will feel “full,” valued, worthy, etcetera until the moment of the accomplishment wears off.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: So, they obtain narcissistic supply through success in pursuit and conquest of someone they regard as “prey”. It gratifies their ego and fills them with a sense of pride in their ability to manipulate the person they targeted. What is the first major red flag that people should look out for?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: One tell-tale sign is over the top extreme behavior that, of course, feels like being nurtured and loved.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: But in reality it’s neither of those things because the narcissist is using the capture and conquest of their “prey” to feed their ego. Dr. Sultanoff, you have been practicing for over thirty years. Please share something you’ve observed about narcissists in your clinical experience.

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: Most narcissists are men, although women are not immune to the disorder.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Indeed, that’s consistent with the research. Can you please share some other signs you think might help people recognize when they are being love bombed?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: Narcissists are frequently absolutely charming and they make a great appearance. For example, they are often coiffed meticulously. They are usually generous with money and material things, showering the object of their affection with an assortment of gifts mostly of monetary value but not necessarily. Depending on their style and expertise, they may offer more personal gifts such as poetry, writing songs, sunsets on the beach, looking at the stars, etcetera for their partner. They make a major effort to be in contact with their partner and may frequently text or email with lots of emojis or other endearing extras.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: It’s often said that narcissists target people who have one or several blind spots. Can you talk a bit about this?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: One sign that is often overlooked is the partner’s reaction to the love bomb. If you feel enamored, giddy, or enthralled especially to the point of discussing all the gifts with others then you may want to examine the relationship. It is easy for the partner to be “sucked into” the love bomb since it “feels” so good to be loved at such an extreme level.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: That’s a very astute and helpful tip! Dr. Sultanoff, do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share on this topic?

Dr. Steven Sultanoff: Bottom line, if he is too good to be true, he likely is too good to be true. Look for the signs of excessively loving behaviors, look for feeling immersed in his love, look for constant actions of his love and desire to be with you, and finally look beyond his loving actions and ask yourself, “What is the substance behind the actions. Is he who I can love if all these loving actions were not present?”

Dr. Sultanoff’s 6 Signs of Love Bombing

To summarize, Dr. Sultanoff highlighted six signs of love bombing and they are:

  1. Too good to be true
  2. Charm
  3. Flamboyance
  4. Generosity
  5. Excessive Attention
  6. Euphoria

Visit Dr. Sultanoff’s website humormatters.com to learn about therapeutic humor.


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What Narcissists Look For in A Partner with Dr. Rick Patterson

what narcissists look for in a partner

DR. RICK PATTERSON spoke candidly with me about what narcissists look for in a partner. He is the author of Shame Unmasked: Disarming the Hidden Driver Behind Our Destructive Decisions, an insightful book about the inner thoughts associated with extreme narcissism. In his work, Dr. Patterson underscores that toxic shame is the driving force of narcissistic aggression.

He explains “A person with internalized shame believes he is inherently flawed, inferior and defective. Such a feeling is so painful that defending scripts (or strategies) are developed to cover it up. These scripts are the roots of violence, criminality, war, and all forms of addiction.”

The role of narcissism in toxic relationships

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Dr. Patterson, what is something most people don’t know about love bombing?

Dr. Rick Patterson: As a reforming narcissist myself, I’ve seen this play out in all types of venues. Love bombing isn’t just a romantic thing. It can happen in any relationship anywhere, including the workplace or where you worship. 

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: As a recovering narcissist, could you share your thoughts on what qualities a narcissistic person or NPD looks for in someone they think will be susceptible to the love bombing tactic?

Dr. Rick Patternson: A narcissist can sense someone’s need and their openness to being manipulated.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Your mention of need is interesting because it’s a word associated with being impoverished, lacking, or hungry. Could you explain a bit more about what you mean when you say that someone is open to being manipulated?

Dr. Rick Patterson: Someone experiencing love myredbook sacramento bombing is thinking that this attention doesn’t make sense combined with a feeling of needing it to make sense.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: In your opinion, what drives the need to make the absurd make sense?

Dr. Rick Patterson: Ironically, someone’s need for attention from a narcissist comes from their own narcissism.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Given that narcissism is a trait that exists on a continuum that we all have, it makes sense that a highly narcissistic person or someone with narcissistic personality disorder would excel at recognizing and appealing to narcissism in others. What exactly does a narcissist see when they set their sights on someone?

Dr. Rick Patterson: They see the narcissism of the person they target presenting as neediness, which opens them up to a person whose narcissism presents as manipulative. Both individuals have complementary and codependent forms of the same shame-based malady.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: One is the yin to the other’s yang.

What drives narcissists to manipulate others?

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Let’s talk about what motivates a narcissistic person to love bomb someone. What drives this behavior?

Dr. Rick Patterson: There is something in it for the narcissist.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: So, it’s avarice. The narcissist is seeking to benefit from the person or people they love bomb.

Dr. Rick Patterson: This happens in volunteer organizations and the workplace all the time. Volunteer organizations need people to work for free. The best way to make that happen is through compliments. There is nothing wrong with donating to a cause – just do it for the cause and not the person showering you with attention. Your workplace has also learned that they can pay employees less when they give more compliments. They describe it as “worker retention”, but it helps “retain” workers when they can’t pay as much.

The role of sociotropy in narcissistic abuse

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: If a person has been targeted for narcissistic abuse what are three things they need to understand and be mindful of going forward?

Dr. Rick Patterson: Think about these things:

  1. Neediness – Your need and your openness to being manipulated
  2. Resources – There something in it for the narcissist to shower this attention.
  3. Vulnerablity – A willingness to give up your freedoms for praise.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab: Excellent points. An excessive need for approval and acceptance can cause people to lapse into denial when confronted with red flag behaviors. Sociotropy or people pleasing creates blindspots. It’s a green light for a predatory personalities.

Dr. Patterson: The danger for the recipient of love bombing is the needier you are for the praise you receive – in other words, the more shame drive you have – the less likely you will be to see what’s going on. Find someone you trust to give you some clarity.

Shame Unmasked: Disarming the Hidden Driver Behind Our Destructive Decisions is available for purchase on Amazon.


Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org.
In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.


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Book Review: ‘Unmasking Manipulation’ by Meredith Wesley

Unmasking Manipulation: Maneuvering the Undertow with Shrewdness and Innocence by Meredith Wellesley

MEREDITH WESLEY’s Unmasking Manipulation: Maneuvering the Undertow with Shrewdness and Innocence is the first book I’ve selected to review because it is an excellent self-help resource.

I had the honor of endorsing the book in 2020, the year of its publication after the author sent me an advanced copy. I knew that the focus of the book was psychological manipulation but what came as a pleasant surprise was that Wesley had written a how-to manual for women seeking to untangle themselves from the powerful tentacles of psycho-emotional abuse.

I mentioned that Unmasking Manipulation is written for women, as it uses the feminine gaze and its contents speak directly to anyone who has experienced manipulation in the context of misogyny. Keeping in mind that the women’s rights movement began in 1848 and has been in progress for less than two hundred years, it is essential that women share their stories and perspectives in a world that has historically erased them. 

Perhaps the most valuable part of the book is Wesley’s ability to detail a range of manipulation tactics and teach readers to recognize them in daily life. However, another characteristic of the book I found especially useful is the practical way that it is structured into sections, each one addressing common aspects of the manipulation process. Wesley excels at explaining complex topics in clear and direct language, which is helpful for readers in the early stages of recovery from psycho-emotional abuse who may be struggling with anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress.

In Unmasking Manipulation Wesley compares misogynistic abusive power and control to warfare and illustrates why she has come to this conclusion. She effectively articulates the shocking sensation of having one’s face pressed up against the glass of the systemic oppression of women.

Unmasking Manipulation: Maneuvering the Undertow with Shrewdness and Innocence by Meredith Wesley is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book stores.

Narcissistic Abuse Rehab Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reproductive Coercion Affects 50% of Women Ages 18-44

crop man covering mouth of woman

A RECENT POLL showed that 50% of women between the ages of 18 and 44 have been targeted for reproductive coercion, in which a person or group influences another person’s right to reproductive freedom and self-determination.

Studies show that women targeted for coercive control and women who have unplanned pregnancies are more likely to be targeted.

There are three main types of reproductive coercion:

  • Pregnancy coercion
  • Birth control sabotage, and 
  • Controlling the outcome of a pregnancy

The practice is also known as coerced reproduction, reproductive control, or reproductive abuse.

The poll, commissioned by BBC News, also showed that:

  • 2/3 women were pressured by a current or former partner or family member not to use contraception. 
  • 1/5 women were forced to have sex without contraception.
  • 1/10 women said their contraception had been intentionally tampered with, hidden, withheld, or deliberately damaged.
  • 1/10 women reported that their partner had removed the condom during sex without their consent.
  • 15% of the women in the survey were pressured to undergo a pregnancy termination against their will.

Forcing women to have sex without a condom turned out to be the most common type of reproductive coercion.

Non-consensual condom removal is a form of sexual assault in which a man removes or sabotages a condom during sex without the consent of his partner. Colloquially known as stealthing the practice has been on the rise in dating culture since 2017. Non-consensual condom removal is classified as rape under UK law and in some US states.

Why Do Men Practice Reproductive Coercion?

Men who practice reproductive coercion tend to be highly narcissistic. It is an act of abusive power and control driven by desire to dominate, manipulate, and dupe their partner to satisfy the perpetrator’s sense of entitlement.

There are online groups that encourage men to practice this insidious form of sexual assault that is ultimately a manifestation of misogyny.


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3 Effects of Narcissistic Parenting on Minor Children

a sad young girl

TRAUMA IS THE WORD most commonly associated with extreme narcissism – and with good reason. People who have been targeted for narcissistic abuse often scoff when the pathology is described as shame based because they are distracted by the spectacle of the narcissistic person’s formidable defenses. But in reality, narcissistic personality disorder is a post-traumatic stress adaptation. It is usually developed to resolve intense feelings of inferiority and shame often connected with psychological devastation.

Extreme narcissism is a kind of scar tissue that develops to protect unhealed trauma. It numbs, hardens, and desensitizes the mind, eventually severing consciousness from feelings of incessant vulnerability, fear, and hyper-vigilance. It restricts the ability to genuinely bond with others, making empathy an elusive prospect. The deeper the trauma, the more narcissistic people disconnect from their emotions to cope. The overarching feelings of inferiority and shame become submerged in the subconscious mind. There, a false self is generated to serve as a bulwark to keep unbearable, vulnerable emotions at bay. The words narcissist and narcotic originate from the Greek narkao which means “I numb myself”.

Early life wounds fuel the adult fury boiling under the surface of this personality type. It’s what drives the explosive narcissistic rage that detonates with every real or perceived threat to their cherished false self. It feeds their obsessive need for control and it can blind them to the fact that they perpetuate the very trauma that wounded them on others, especially their children.

3 Effects of Narcissistic Parenting on Minor Children

  1. Research shows that children who witness narcissistic abuse suffer the same degree of harm as the parent who is the primary target for the narcissist’s aggression.
  2. Children who witness or experience narcissistic abuse are at risk for long-term physical and mental health consequences.
  3. Some children who witness narcissistic abuse may have an increased propensity to act out the same violence in their own relationships.

“Children learn first and foremost by what they see and what they observe.” explains Clinical Psychologist and parent-child attachment specialist Dr. Michael Kinsey, “There are going to be lasting impacts of trauma in a context where there is emotional and physical abuse.There are things people can do to buffer against the permanent arresting of development that can happen as a result of witnessing or seeing that type of abuse.”


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What Is Coercive Control?

What is Coercive Control?

COERCIVE CONTROL IS AN ACT or a pattern of acts used by one person to harm, punish or frighten another person to secure psycho-emotional dominance. It begins with occasional incidents of strategic aggression that escalate over time to full-scale campaigns of intimate terrorism.

Coercive control was conceptualized by Evan Stark, Ph.D. in his book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. Perpetrators of coercive control also harm their children as part of their wider campaign to isolate the primary recipient of the abuse.

Signs of Coercive Control

1. GaslightingThe perpetrator deliberately distorts the victim-survivors’ reality.
2. IsolationThe perpetrator isolates the victim-survivor from family and friends. 
3. Control of Daily LifeThe perpetrator dictates where the victim-survivor can go, see, wear, and eat.
4. Monitoring timeThe perpetrator oversees where the victim-survivor is, where they are going, and what they are doing at all times
5. Put-DownsThe perpetrator may repeatedly tell the victim-survivor that they are worthless or useless, they may publically humiliate the victim-survivor by calling them degrading names or by criticizing their appearance, intelligence, etc.
6. Monitoring CommunicationThe perpetrator may use spyware to track the victim-survivors’ digital communication.
7. Rules and Regulations The perpetrator creates a set of ever changing rules which they enforce by humiliating, degrading, or dehumanizing the victim-survivor.
8. ThreatsThe perpetrator may threaten to hurt or kill the victim-survivor, their child, family members, friends, or pets; they may threaten to take away their child; they may threaten to reveal private information such as intimate photos or revelations about your sexuality.
9. Deprivation of Basic NeedsThe perpetrator restricts the victim-survivors’ access to healthcare and food.
10. Obstruction of EmploymentThe perpetrator may stop the victim-survivor from obtaining employment, going to work, and earning their own money.
11. Financial AbuseThe perpetrator takes control of the victim-survivors’ finances, making sure they have little access to money so that the victim-survivor is dependent on them.
12. Criminal DamageThe perpetrator may damage or destroy the victim-survivors’ personal property.
13. Assault or RapeThe perpetrator may physically abuse, sexually assault, or rape the victim-survivor.

Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
In the USA call 1-800-799-7233 or log on to thehotline.org.
In the UK call 0808 2000 247 or log on to nationaldahelpline.org.uk.


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What Is Reproductive Coercion?

gray scale photo of a pregnant woman

REPRODUCTIVE COERCION is a kind of abuse in which one person or group controls another person’s right to reproductive freedom and self-determination. Perpetrators of reproductive coercion use manipulation tactics, from psycho-emotional abuse and rape to restricting access to healthcare.

Perpetrators may oscillate between covert and overt expressions of coercive control. They may also use intermittent reinforcement. For this reason, some people impacted by reproductive coercion may not immediately recognize the behavior as dysfunctional or abusive. Moreover, the perpetrator’s aggression may become normalized over time.

A common tactic of reproductive coercion is so-called stealthing, which is the non-consensual removal of a condom during sexual intercourse.

Reproductive coercion includes: 

  • Forced sexual intercourse without the use of contraceptives
  • Stealthing, or the non-consensual removal of a prophylactic during sex
  • Contraceptive sabotage
  • Refusing to use a prophylactic though the woman requests it
  • Lying about having had a vasectomy 
  • Forced continuation of a pregnancy 
  • Forced termination of a pregnancy 

Is reproductive coercion illegal?

Many forms of reproductive coercion do not yet have status in the criminal justice system. However, in the UK stealthing is classified as rape and coercive control has been criminalized since 2015. However, these crimes are seldom prosecuted and convictions are rare due to a lack of evidence.

Forced termination of a pregnancy

Forced termination of a pregnancy, also known as coerced or forced abortion, is illegal in the United States.

Coerced abortion can look like:

  • Pressuring a person to have an abortion against their will
  • Restricting their access to healthcare providers
  • Withholding relevant information

1 of 4 survivors of human sex trafficking have been subjected to forced termination of a pregnancy.

Resources are available at the Center Against Forced Abortions.

References

  • Rosenfeld EA, Miller E, Zhao X, Sileanu FE, Mor MK, Borrero S. Male partner reproductive coercion among women veterans. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Feb;218(2):239.e1-239.e8. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2017.10.015. Epub 2017 Oct 19. PMID: 29056537; PMCID: PMC5807143.
  • Harte, A, Stonehouse R (2022, March 14). Reproductive coercion: ‘I wasn’t allowed to take my pill’ BBC News. Retrieved on March 22, 2022.
  • Lederer, Laura; Wetzel, Christopher A. (2014). “The health consequences of sex trafficking and their implications for identifying victims in healthcare facilities” (PDF). Annals Health. Retrieved March 22, 2022.

Confidential support is available 24/7/365 to anyone experiencing abuse.
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Child-To-Parent Violence Occurs in Up to 1 in 10 Families

man in black zip up hoodie sitting on purple sofa

CHILD-TO-PARENT VIOLENCE (CPV) is estimated to occur in up to 1 in 10 families. ITV News reports that a growing number of people are experiencing parental abuse by children. Experts say that the incidence of child-to-parent violence increased during the coronavirus pandemic. Due to the stigma associated with this most taboo form of domestic abuse, two out of three parents experiencing child-to-parent violence are unable to get the support they need.

It should be noted that children can be used as part of a wider campaign of coercive and controlling behavior waged by one parent against the other in order to isolate them. Dr. Evan Stark, author of the book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life, describes how batterers weaponize children, explaining that older children are sometimes used as “co-abusers” in dysfunctional families. It is in the abusers interest to undermine the targeted person in their parental role and willfully sabotage their relationship with their children.

Dr. Joanna North specializes in providing support for people affected by child-to-parent violence, also known as child/adolescent to parent violence and abuse (CAPVA). She says it happens far more than one might imagine. She underscores that the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns exacerbated stressors many young people are experiencing, leaving them frustrated and angry – even children who were not normally aggressive.

Because of the stigma associated with child-to-parent violence, it can be difficult for parents to seek support.

“Parents often find themselves blamed and shamed,” says Doctoral Researcher Thien Trang Nguyen Phan, “It’s essentially a lose-lose situation for parents because they often get that blaming language when they try to get help.”

Michelle John is the founder of PEGS – Parental Education Growth Support , a service provider for people experiencing child-to-parent violence. The organization receives hundreds of referrals of people experiencing parental abuse by children. PEGS recognizes that child-to-parent violence should be treated like any other kind of domestic violence.

She explains, “We would never, ever send an intimate partner victim of domestic abuse on a program on how to be a better partner – it just wouldn’t happen. But, automatically, parents are told ‘you’re at fault, you’re to blame.”


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Marlee Matlin on William Hurt’s Violence: ‘I Was Afraid I Might Not Survive.’

Marlee Matlin on surviving William Hurt's Violence

ACTOR WILLIAM HURT died of natural causes on Sunday, March 13, 2022. That evening as Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin walked the red carpet at the Critics Choice Awards, a reporter asked her to comment on the news of Hurt’s passing. 

Matlin squared her shoulders, gave her head a quick shake as if ingesting a bitter tonic, and summoned the grace to say:

“We’ve lost a great actor. Working with him on the set of Children of a Lesser God will always be something I remember very fondly. He taught me a great deal as an actor. He was one-of-a-kind.”

Matlin’s response was so charitable and respectful, that for a brief moment it transcended the reality of the intimate terrorism Hurt allegedly subjected her during a two-year relationship that left her fearing for her life. 

A History of Battery and Rape

Marlee Matlin was involved in a romantic relationship with the late William Hurt when she was a teenager. They met in the 1980s during her screen test for the film Children of a Lesser God. Hurt, then 35, was at the height of his acting career while nineteen-year-old Matlin was a Hollywood newcomer.

In her 2009 autobiography I’ll Scream Later, Marlee Matlin disclosed that William Hurt subjected her to repeated emotional, physical, and sexual abuse throughout their two-year relationship. Hurt was a brilliant but complex person who struggled with substance abuse for most of his life.

Accomplished and experienced, Hurt was able to take advantage of the glaring power imbalance in their relationship due to his status as a revered performing artist, their age gap and the privileges of his positionality in the world. He was free to manipulate and abuse Matlin with impunity and without any consequences.

According to The Daily Beast, Matlin recalls a horrific incident when inebriated Hurt, “…finally came home around 4:30 A.M. drunk and woke me up. The next thing I knew he’d pulled me out of the bed, screaming at me, shaking me. I was scared, I was sobbing. Then he threw me on the bed, started ripping off his clothes and mine. I was crying. ‘No, no, no. Please Bill, no.’ The next thing I remember is Bill ramming himself inside me as I sobbed.”

Several independent witnesses confirmed Matlin’s account. Among them are members of the crew on the set of Children of a Lesser God, her translator, a medical doctor, and Hurt’s children who treated her injuries after Hurt’s brutal attacks.

A Shift in the Balance of Power

Children of a Lesser God received multiple Academy Award nominations, including nods to Hurt and Matlin. Matlin made history that year when she became the youngest person ever to win the Oscar for best actress. Hurt walked away empty handed. This only increased his envy Matlin and was the beginning of the end of their relationship.

Matlin recalls that Hurt told her that she didn’t deserve her Oscar, and told her, “What makes you think you deserve it? There are hundreds of actors who have worked for years for the recognition you just got handed to you. Think about that.”

Matlin recalls feeling anxious and confused by Hurt’s mood swings and explosive violence. She described the extent of Hurt’s abuse to Nancy O’Dell of Access Hollywood:

“I always had fresh bruises every day. There were a lot of things that happened that were not pleasant. I loved him. I did. Or maybe I thought I did.”

She recalls how his attacks on her confidence intensified after she won the award. Hurt suggested that she take acting lessons and his aggression toward Matlin escalated. Eventually, she says she started losing her will to live, “I felt lost, helpless. I realized I didn’t care whether I lived or died.”

DARVO in Intimate Partner Abuse

Many of Hurt’s described tactics are typical of intimate partner violence. Matlin describes receiving a letter from Hurt in which he DARVOs her, blaming her for his aggression and domestic violence, “He said in that letter that he was guilt-ridden about what he called his ‘physical anger.’ But he blamed me for doing things that made him crazy angry.”

The relationship finally reached its breaking point after a horrifying episode of Hurt’s explosive rage.

Matlin remembers, “I have never been so scared in my life before or after that day. The struggle turned violent. I was afraid I might not survive.”

She alleges that she reached for the telephone to call for help but Hurt jerked it from her grasp and beat her severely, striking her arms and face. She says she realized that Hurt wasn’t going to change his ways and, if she returned to him, she might never find the courage to leave.

Matlin explains, “I understand how women are afraid to leave an abusive relationship. They should, but at the same time, I understand how they don’t know how.”

Guilt as a Tool of Control in Intimate Partner Violence

When Matlin escaped from the relationship, she did not file charges against Hurt because she was afraid her substance abuse would be used against her.

“I was so wrapped up in his world and my drugs,” She says candidly, “The drugs took over my life, took over my brain.” 

Hurt also struggled with substance abuse. However, he eventually became sober, which he considered to be one the greatest triumphs of his life.

Marlee Matlin was asked by a journalist if Hurt had been informed about the book before its publication, and allowed to refute her claims, and she responded, “I had no contact with him. Really, I had nothing to say to him. He knows what happened, I know what happened. We both were there.”

In a statement issued by Hurt in 2009, the actor did not deny Matlin’s allegations.

He said: “My own recollection is that we both apologized and both did a great deal to heal our lives. Of course, I did and do apologize for any pain I caused. And I know we both have grown. I wish Marlee and her family nothing but good.”

Perhaps Hurt was merely being cautious with his words to avoid litigation but his statement effectively minimize the severity of his violence toward Matlin while underscoring her purported transgressions against him. This response is typical of a highly narcissistic person side stepping accountability. His acknowledgement and apology is so vague one might think he wasn’t speaking about battery and rape, which are criminal acts.

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