Domestic Violence: Are Victims Borderlines
or Do Borderlines Think They Are Victims?

Dr. King

by Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

Even though “borderlines” think they are abuse victims, this doesn’t make domestic violence victims “borderlines.” We hear victims frequently labeled as being “borderlines;” that is, having a borderline personality disorder. However, I think what’s more accurate is that borderlines frequently think they are abuse victims when the fact is they aren’t victimized by others.

This article is intended to clarify the way in which these two conditions differ and how they compound matters when they co-exist. This understanding will benefit those who help victims of domestic abuse, as well as those personally experiencing intimate partner violence and who are also psychiatrically certified as borderlines.

The Borderline Personality

Here’s what they look like. They are unstable in their relationships, vacillating between idealizing other and devaluing other. They have significant feelings of emptiness and major self-worth issues. They strike in the face of their perceived abandonment and rejection.

The word borderline comes from “on the border” between psychosis and neurosis, implying a loss of reality from time to time. (For those not familiar, psychosis is fundamentally being “out of touch” with reality.)

Borderlines Verses Domestic Abuse Victims

For example, a borderline will claim victimization when they are perceiving abandonment by their idealized other, (whether that be significant other, care giver, etc). And they will strike aggressively while wallowing in that perception.

But for these individuals, there is NO victimization in the actual and classic sense. There is no “control” in play, other than their own mind/thinking over themselves.

Their perceived injury occurs in the absence of the other person having or exhibiting jealousy, possessiveness, externalization tendencies and the use of battering to establish or maintain control—all characteristics of intimate partner violence.

Those with this disorder are not victims relative to another person, they are victims relative to themselves. One might go as far as to say, they are victims of their own psychopathology. They are not victims of intimate partner abuse.

When Borderlines Are Domestic Violence Victims

Now that we have clarified how borderlines and victims of domestic violence differ, take a look at what happens when borderlines are indeed domestic violence victims as well. This person will exhibit symptoms and characteristics of both syndromes and their psychopathology could very well interfere with their ability to ever end the cycle of abuse.

They may go from one abusive relationship to another again and again, and not have the cognitive clarity or emotional capacity to comprehend what sustains intimate partner abuse. Moreover, their repeating participation in abusive relationships serves to further magnify and solidify their borderline personality disorder. It’s a nasty vicious cycle of dysfunctional interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships.

To understand more about the dynamics of intimate partner abuse, see Domestic Abuse Dynamics: Identifying Abuse. To learn about Crazy Making in domestic violence divorce, see Crazy Making Legal-Psychiatric Abuse: Signs and Prevention. Psychologist Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps people recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse.

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© Copyright 2009 Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D.

Dr. Jeanne King is a licensed psychologist and domestic abuse consultant. Feel free to contact us if you need help with physical and/or emotional pain, stress-related illnesses, or relationship abuse issues at home or in court. Contact Us to reach Dr. King.