I am compelled, through personal stories, a desire for truth, balance and an opportunity to educate, to write this today.
Due to my own incredible history of familial and spousal abuse, my studies, research, lectures and conference presentations, I have developed a keen sense for recognizing controlling and abusive patterns in the lives of others. Many friends and “strangers” have shared their own stories and sought my advice, knowing that I am someone who may identify issues, and listen without judgement. Surprisingly, some of these people are men.
Research demonstrates that the same abusive tactics and behaviors demonstrated by men (physical, verbal and emotional threats and intimidation) are also demonstrated by women. The resulting shame and fear of being abused, as well as the excuses made to cover up the abuse, are not gender-specific.
Men who are “trapped” by control and abuse have the same denial issues as women. Humans of either gender are adaptable to familiar situations, patterns and lifestyle, and in my experiences as an observer and listener, I have seen men deeply struggle with the possibility that their circumstances fall under the category of “abuse”. The concept of victimhood does not often make sense to a construction worker, martial arts master, or firefighter. I see my former self in their shock and denial every time.
When I was court ordered to a Victims of Domestic Violence course after a dramatic escape from my husband, I was stunned.
I remember telling the instructor, “there’s been a mistake, I’ve never been a victim of anything in my life. I am a well-oiled machine.” By the third class I was even more surprised, realizing that my situation was blatantly abusive, meeting every physical and psychological category of behavior, patterning and conditioning presented.
There are many reasons people stay in abusive relationships, ranging from believing abuse is normal, to embarrassment, abuse/why-do-people-stay/, Cultural and societal pressures condition many to believe that relationships are to last FOREVER, regardless of the circumstances. Many people tough it out, even in the midst of escalating pain and entrapment.
Of course both the abuser and the one receiving the abuse become unhappy and dominated by the patterns of control. I do have compassion for all involved, as those who act out with abusive behaviors are suffering as well, and often times will never learn to recognize or seek help for their conditioned outrage. Gender is not indicative of who is dominated and who is subdued.
Whether or not you are a tiny woman or a burly man, if you call your partner 14 times in a row, making up stories in your head why they are not answering, and intently hit them while they are asleep, you have a serious issue that needs addressing. If you are accepting this behavior, it is important to seek an education in the area of pattern changing and get the hell out of Dodge.
We all have experiences throughout our lifetimes as being perpetrators, victims, hero’s, failures, and everything in between. Recognizing these attributes, admitting they are a part of us and keeping it all in check, regardless of what side we may be on, is the key to growth and expanding the best possibilities for ourselves.
Here are some very common traits that present themselves in those who are abusers, these traits are not gender specific. It is not the purpose of the listing to imply that every person with some of these attributes is an abuser or potential abuser.
- At the start of the relationship, an abuser will equate jealously with love. The abuser will question the victim about who the victim talks to, accuse the victim of flirting, or become jealous of time spent with others. The abuser may call the victim frequently during the day, drop by unexpectedly, refuse to let the victim work, check the car mileage, or ask friends to watch the victim.
- Controlling behavior
- In the beginning an abuser will attribute controlling behavior to concern for the victim (for example, the victim’s safety or decision-making skills). As this behavior progresses the situation will worsen, and the abuser may assume all control of finances or prevent the victim from coming and going freely.
- Quick involvement
- A victim often has known or dated the abuser for a brief period of time before getting engaged or living together. The abuser will pressure the victim to commit to the relationship. A victim may be made to feel guilty for wanting to slow the pace or end the relationship.
- Unrealistic expectations
- An abuser expects the victim to meet all of the abuser’s needs, to take care of everything emotionally and domestically.
- An abuser will attempt to isolate the victim by severing the victim’s ties to outside support and resources. The batterer will accuse the victim’s friends and family of being “trouble makers.” The abuser may block the victim’s access to use of a vehicle, work, or telephone service in the home.
- Blames others for problems
- An abuser will blame others for all problems or for the abuser’s own shortcomings. Someone is always out to get the abuser or is an obstacle to the abuser’s achievements. The victim or potential victim will be blamed for almost anything.
- Blames others for feelings
- An abuser will use feelings to manipulate the victim. Common phrases to look for: “You’re hurting me by not doing what I want.” “You control how I feel.”
- An abusive person is easily insulted, perceiving the slightest setbacks as personal attacks.
If you are in an abusive situation that you feel you can not safely leave, seek help.
*Tell Somebody. If you have covered it up for so long that it is hard for those around you to believe, tell it anyway.
*Contact a Domestic Violence Prevention Advocate or call the HotLine: 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
*If you are monitored by your abuser go to the library or use a friends computer to view the Domestic Violence Website: http://www.thehotline.org/help/
*When you escape file a restraining order ASAP. The piece of paper cannot protect you from physical attacks, but if you are threatened or attacked and you have the piece of paper it can cause a quicker, easier conviction and jail time for your abuser. If you are killed by your abuser the restraining order points the police in the right direction.
*Attend meetings for survivors of domestic abuse. Swallow your pride and go to these meetings. Every city has domestic shelters and classes. They are free. I was court assigned to a 12 week course. It was mortifying at first because I did not view myself as “one of those women”. The class ultimately changed the course of my life by giving me information and tools to step away from patterns of abuse and victimization.
*If you are abused you have nothing to be ashamed of. You are not weak. You deserve your freedom and your own voice. Please leave the situation. You can do it. I did it.