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by Michael and Shelly Marshall
Cedar For, 2010
Review by Kumari de Silva on Jul 24th 2012

Respect-Me Rules

The goal of this book is simply to offer some empowerment tools that help "targets" stop abuse within their relationship while improving their own self-worth and general state of happiness.  What is a target? A "target" is the authors’ preferred word in lieu of "victim" or "survivor."  The word choice itself is designed to empower the reader.

This book is NOT a self-diagnosis tool. Such self-help books usually delegate the bulk of information to examples, and homey stories designed to get the reader to recognize themselves. Usually those books have only one chapter devoted to "what to do"; quite often that advice is to seek professional help. By contrast this book spends the bulk of itself outlining very specific tools. A much smaller part tells the reader when to get out -- and how to seek professional help.

The tools as described in the book are reminiscent of what was known as "assertiveness training" in the 1960’s and 70’s.  "Assertive communication" is not obnoxious and is characterized as non-aggressive.  Respect-me rules will work for either gender, although it is recognized that women more commonly than men make themselves the target. 

"Targets" as described in the Respect-me-Rules are people who respond to aggression with increased compliance thus "training" their abusers that rude behavior is an effective means of communication.  The dynamic between the two partners can be upset by changes in the target’s behavior, regardless of whether the abuser changes.  This is important, because as the authors point out, even if the target feels the abuser is at fault, we have no control over what others do. (emphasis mine.) Therefore, if targets wish to see change in the relationship, change they must.

Why are they "targets" and not victims? Not survivors? The authors suggest that children are true victims because children lack the means to leave.  Readers of this book, by contrast, are adults. It is useful for adults to remember that they are capable of making choices. Interestingly the authors would prefer the target NOT leave. Leaving prior to learning the Respect-me rules might set up a situation where a new abuser is quickly found. The authors suggest that implementing these techniques before the reader considers divorce will create one of two situations: either the abuser will leave finding the new dynamic untenable, OR the situation will repair itself, with both partners now exhibiting respect.

This book is designed for people who perceive their partner is snide, sarcastic, unsupportive, narcissistic, or bullying. This book states that it is NOT for relationships that have already reached a level of physical violence.  Readers who are experiencing physical abuse are in danger and must leave.

The rules should be carefully read and completely comprehended.  Initially the  abuse may escalate in response to Respect-me behavior. Starting haphazardly will merely teach the abuser that more abuse is necessary to get effective results.  By contrast, consistent application of the rules will teach the abuser new boundaries.  If the target falters even once, the abuser learns what he/she needs to do is increase abuse to get things back to "normal." One hundred percent consistency will teach the abuser that abuse is not effective. Therefore, if a target is not emotionally ready to implement it is preferable to not start at all.  

The Rules:

Respect me:

Three step enforcement

·         Pause and choose

·         Set a boundary

·         Implement a consequence

Never defend or explain

Do not accept or believe derogatory statements or actions

Respond with strength

Use repetition

Do not reward nasty and negative behavior

Do not keep his/her secrets

Record everything

Call attention to verbal abuse

Use a prompt

Be a model of respectful behavior

It is important for the target to recognize various forms of abuse. Chapters are devoted to abuse patterns and cycle, "benefits" of victimization, secrets: how and why to tell them, choosing the therapist ad support groups.  This is useful nuts and bolts information for the person who upon self reflection is ready to take responsibility for their half of the relationship dynamic and wishes to change.  This book might be frustrating to the friends and relatives of an abuse target because once you realize how much the abuser and target both contribute to the situation, you won’t feel like using the word victim any more.

Why not use the word "survivor"? Many support groups do.  I quote directly from page 136 regarding this subject, 

"Using the word "survivor" denotes that we are victims of larger force beyond our control, such as a plane crash.  If one is raped, yes, she is a survivor. She did not choose anything. She is a victim of a heinous crime. But we do choose our partners. We are not talking about physical violence, which is something we may have little control over and of which we may indeed be a victim and survivor. But when it comes to verbal and emotional abuse. . . .You can respond to this rather unfortunate situation by thinking either "When the arrow hits I will survive," or "I am the target." The latter thought demands evasive action.  . . .If we don’t want to be a target, we’d better get out of the line of fire."

While this book is specifically directed toward love relationships, I observed that the tools can be used in any relationship where one feels disrespected such as a parent/child, with associates and co-workers, friends, acquaintances and relatives.  


© 2012 Kumari de Silva


Kumari de Silva, RYT, IS a yoga instructor in Southern California with a BA degree in History from the University of Hawai'i.

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