Receive Survivor Success Tips & Insights and get life-saving, life-enchancing support by email.
First Name:
Last Name: (optional)
Zip Code: (optional)

We respect your privacy.
We do not sell or share
email addresses.






Systemic Abuse:

The Challenge Facing Domestic Abuse Suvivors

By Jeanne King, Ph.D.


Brief Description

Far too often, domestic abuse survivors go from the frying pan to the fire on their way out of an abusive relationship. And they wonder how this can happen. While it doesn’t always happen, it’s more common than most people realize. This article shines the light on the concept of “systemic abuse,” what causes it, symptoms of it and what to do when entangled in it.

Body of Article

I lived systemic abuse; I write about it, I know it from the core of my being. But, I never understood it so thoroughly until I was asked to explain it to someone whose life was altered dramatically by it.

What is “systemic abuse?” The word “systemic” is defined as “relating to or referring to the whole organism.”


I liken systemic abuse to any systemic disease. It erodes the very elements that sustain the organism. Systemic abuse, as I see it, is the manifestation of abuse by that deemed to protect the abused. The net result: the perpetuation of domestic violence by the very systems that purport to stop it.

Survivors of domestic abuse far too often meet systemic abuse face-to-face in their efforts to seek safety from an abusive partner. She* can be the defendant in a domestic abuse arrest, the party restrained by an ex-parté order of protection, the protective parent with supervised visitation or the battered mother cut out of her abused children’s lives.

These victims are black, white, yellow and many of mixed origin. They are rich, poor, professional and many without technical skills. There are as many variations of the story of systemic abuse as there are people living it. And when it’s yours, you know it; not only do you feel violated, but you also see no aid, no options and you learn that you are your first responder.

What causes systemic abuse?

  • The systemic abuse players’ greed, ignorance and absence of their professional ethics and fiduciary responsibility.
  • The intimate partner abuser’s need to save face, get even and, last but not least, to maintain control.

When you put the pathology of a perpetrator together with an economically driven industry or with a blind legal and/or healthcare system, you get the most perverted self-sustaining abuse dynamic that you could ever imagine. Sadly, the mere placement of the intimate partner abuser together with the players of systemic abuse may even led to the perpetrator falling prey to the systemic abuse.

I’ve seen many cases where systemic abusers keep perpetrators engaged with promises to carry out their mission to destroy their victims. Once they have turned the batterer upside down and shaken every dime out of his pockets, systemic abusers let the perpetrator go. Then, there are those batterers who rise above this ploy by filing for bankruptcy when the game is over.


How do you know you are engaged in systemic abuse?

There are a few compelling tip-offs that evidence systemic abuse.


  • Law enforcement denies you the right to press charges or file a complaint for a documented breach of the criminal law.
  • Your civil attorney throws your case to opposing counsel.
  • The court agents don’t/won’t/can’t see you for who you are, but rather only as your perpetrator desires you to be portrayed.
  • Your children’s desperate cries for help are muffled, and their pleas for safety fall upon deaf ears.
  • The healthcare system falls into your perpetrator’s hand and becomes an accomplice in your demise.
  • Opposing counsel plays psychiatrist—without a license, much less a knowledge base—when the court psychiatrist won’t/can’t give you a psychiatric diagnosis.


When it’s all over, normal people scratch their heads trying to understand your net outcome. And those individuals that care about you genuinely struggle to wrap their brains around the absurdity of your irrational, tragic predicament. In utter confusion, they say, “How can this happen?” “It can’t, but it did.” you silently think to yourself.


What should you do when you are entangled in systemic abuse?


  • Take care of yourself: your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
  • Keep your eyes open: know your rights and know the laws affecting your case.
  • Understand the abuse dynamic objectively and subjectively: learn the subtle communication patterns of abusive relationships and cultivate trust in your gut.
  • Play your cards carefully: read and understand everything presented to you, and secure what’s not presented to you that is relevant to you.
  • Recognize and understand social judicial politics: be mindful that what can’t be done doesn’t mean it won’t be done.
  • Find an excellent, credible consultant who knows the enigma of systemic abuse, before you settle too deep into its devastation.

With all this in place, you can fan off the dragon. You can thrive and so can your children. We have helped hundreds of women hold their own through the roughest tides. If you need help contact, Dr. Jeanne King Consultants, LLC at the link below in the author biography section.

While it is true we are available to help those dealing with systemic abuse, the true intention of this article is to serve as a public service for domestic abuse survivors. My goal is to make the silent crime of systemic abuse, afflicting thousands of women every year, visible. So visible that the day will come when people see systemic abuse and they say, “Oh yes, people rob banks;” rather than, “Oh my God, how can this happen!”


Footnote* Intimate partner violence crosses genders, however in heterosexual relationships females are more often on the receiving end of the battering dynamic, particularly those further subjected to systemic abuse. My reference to “she” as the abused or as the victim reflects this trend. But it does not imply that male partners are not victimized by their female or by their male partners, nor does it imply that females do not use the system to batter their victimized male partners.


Author Bio

Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. is a psychologist, author, speaker and leading expert in identifying intimate partner violence and the subtle communication patterns of battering relationships. Author of All But My Soul: Abuse Beyond Control, Dr. King developed the online Intimate Partner Abuse Screen to help people properly identify, understand and stop domestic abuse before it spirals out of control. For information on systemic abuse help, contact Dr. Jeanne King Consultants, LLC at  


©Copyright 2007 Dr. Jeanne King Consultants, LLC

All Rights Reserved.

This article is available for reprint so long as the author’s copyright, bio byline and contact information are included.

Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing is the treatment of pain, stress-related illness, and relationship abuse issues pertaining to survivor safety and recovery. If you need help, please contact Dr. Jeanne King Consultants, LLC