The Enduring Marriage… Marital Rape? IPSV?

My friends often wonder why I feel so bad for those who were marital raped, when I too was. They couldn’t understand why I did not see what was happening in my own relationship, but could see it in others. Only thing we could come up with was the strength of my denial at that stage. I majorly minimized my own abuse and continually defended him and tried to make sense of something that made absolutely no sense. The longer time passes and the more my ex does, the easier it is to get out of denial, not that dealing with the truth is easy though. He has a pattern and it’s made me realize that he never loved me and only used and abused me.

And now the stuff with my ex is really starting to get to me. I think its time to share some of our 5 year history and get it out once and for all. Honestly, I don’t know what you want to call it. It makes me feel vulnerable to even think about. So I am just gonna lay it all out there. All I know, it wasn’t loving. He wasn’t loving.

PLEASE NOTE.
ONLY READ IF YOURE IN A GOOD PLACE TO READ. I DON’T WANNA TRIGGER OTHERS. ITS NOT MY INTENTION.

When we were dating:

We were friends as he was 37 and I was 18 when we met. He was also married. We were coworkers and I told him, after his wife left him, that I would never date a coworker. I didn’t know he liked me until two months later when he kissed me.

For the first three weeks, he slept on the couch and gave me his bed. But then he had a party with me, my friend, her bo and his roommate. He bought $100 worth of alcohol and by the end of the night, we were all wasted. I had just turned 19. Since my friend was over, Marc slept in the bed with me. He started kissing and rubbing and taking off my clothes. At one point, he was on top of me, about to go in me, when he asked, are you sure? I just nodded. He did all the work. I just laid there. Afterwards, for months, he made me feel guilty saying that he wished we would have waited and weren’t drunk.

About three months later he asked me to marry him. And two months after that, I got back into church. We had one month before the wedding. During that month, I asked him for us not to have sex until then. Part of me wanted it to be special and the other part knew how the church frowned upon sex before marriage. I asked, he said ok.

Within those 4 weeks, he kept advancing me for sex. Telling me how it was ok and trying to convince me. I would continue to tell him no, I didn’t want to, I wanted to wait, over and over again, but in the end, I stopped saying no and it happened anyways. Nine days before our wedding, I broke down in tears begging him for us to please not have sex anymore until the wedding. That it was only 9 days. It finally stopped. I shut this part out of my brain until years later it surfaced. I was so ashamed. He still denies that we had sex during that time. Just told me to pray and ask for forgiveness.

After we were married:

Six weeks after we were married, I found out I was pregnant. Which was a shocker for me as he told me when we were dating that he had a vasectomy and couldn’t have any more kids. When I showed him the test and asked him about it, he told me, “no I told you I went to the doctor but I never got it done.”

Throughout the next 4 years, I was going throughout life like my past abuse and rapes didn’t affect me. What I now realize is that they affected me very much.

During intimacies, I would check out and never realized it. My husband never asked if I was ok or stopped to check on me. It took 4 years to realize this happened, and when I talked to him about it, he said, “I know. I could tell when you didn’t want it or wanted if to be over with, so I just tried to hurry.”

I had to rub him to “get him in the mood” (even if it wasn’t my intention, remember I rubbed him every night, so there was no saying when). But on the nights he mentioned having sex, I would have to rub him and bite on his nipples (which I HATED doing). Sometimes this would get him to the point of already wanting to cum. But he would still want “sex” to cum in me. I didn’t realize. And then the other times, when he felt like it , would climb on top of me and start pushing his way into me. He was turned on I guess but not me so it took a bit of time and energy for him to get in me. Instead of easing in or getting me aroused for sex, he would put a lot of pressure on me to get himself in me. Sometimes he would be more gentle, other times, not so much. I would hurt days later, but thought it was normal. Between the two scenarios, sex lasted between 15 seconds to 2-3 minutes. It never did anything for me, most of the time I was checked out anyways.

He usually wanted on top, missionary. But on certain occasions, he wanted me to be on top. Or, his most lazy position was laying on his side trying to spoon me (vaginally or anally). Both hurt, were uncomfortable, and extremely less intimate. This became sex for the longest time. Most of the time in the late hours of the night, him with his eyes closed half asleep but trying to get sex because he was horny. Sometimes I would be out and he would wake me enough to start it. It did nothing for me, sometimes id be barely awake but after he was done he’d be asleep and I’d be awake. He liked “having sex” and getting off because it helped him sleep. So I was a means to that.

I would rub him almost ever night. Sometimes he wanted to get off, sometimes not. When he did, I would either get him off or he would jump on top of me, as he was about to get off, and cum inside me. He would tell me that he wanted to feel him inside me and then proceeded to say how guilty he felt that he wasn’t able to get me off (in that, not even, 15 seconds). I felt like he had used me because he didn’t wanna clean up the mess. He had withdrawn from sex around that time and would jack himself off in the shower, so the only “sex” we ever had was when he jumped up and came in me. It was always a surprise and I never knew when it was or wasn’t going to happen. It happened so quickly that I didn’t know what to do or say. Besides, he was my husband.

He would want me to go down on him or do things I didn’t want to do. I did give in to the oral at times just to make him happy. Sometimes when I did that, he would push my head down farther on him during. He liked to pull my hair extremely hard and then tell me I liked it. I didn’t. It hurt a lot, but I just thought he did all this because he was enthusiastic. In the middle of kissing once, my husband tried to go down on me. I begged him not to, tried to push him away, told him I didn’t want him to. He was stronger, told me that it would be ok, that he wanted to. And he did. I didn’t know what else to do. He also told me that I was enjoying the sex, the more difficult the sex became. He said it was because I was tight, but because of the pain and the fact I was dry, that wasn’t the case. Anyways, I thought it was part of my wifely duties to do all this stuff.

One part that stumps me all the time was the anal sex and how much he hurt me and didn’t see it as a problem. There were a few times I jumped up off the bed in pain and in tears. I would ask him to go slow, ease it in, but he wouldn’t. He would say ok, and then next thing I know, he would thrust hard or at a bad angle. I don’t know what he did but I was crippled over in pain. He still wanted to continue, so he waited until I managed to lay back down in bed. He would try anally again, but if I was in too much pain, he would want to continue vaginally instead.

He also didn’t use lubrication most of the time which could have added to the pain. I was never aroused for sex anyways and he never eased into with any type of lubrication. If there was, it was me grabbing whatever I could find to help with the pain.

I was embarrassed because I never wanted to do it. He would play oops wrong hole all the time. So when he stopped having sex with me, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. So I did something that hurt me. And didn’t vocalize my pain. Not like he could see my face anyways. Other times it hurt, but I didn’t jump up like I did. I would just pull away. Or tell him to stop. Or endure it. When he did stop, it was for a few seconds until he would do it again. But then again, he always told me that “if I started it, I had better finish it.” Oh, and Marc always said, it’s weird, never acted like he liked it. But then after a year of stopping it, he started up about it again.

Nearing our separation:

It all started because I wouldn’t have sex with him one night and I didn’t like him touching me. I was being triggered and having nightmares and all he cared about was having sex, since our daughter was with the grandparents. He was emotionally void and couldn’t even hold my hand but he could touch me in my private areas and try to have sex. When we were laying in bed, he kept advancing me and I tried to get him to hold and cuddle me instead. He kept on so I told him no. He threw a fit and went to sleep on the couch. Thirty minutes later, he came in and threw the biggest guilt trip telling me “let me know when I can touch my wife again” and how much I don’t want him anymore. In the past, when he did that kind of crap, I would give into sex and feel shitty about it afterwards. Mainly because after I spread my legs for him, and he did his thing, he would tell me how crappy of a person I was and how I changed and whatever fight we had would continue afterwards. But in my head, anything to “fix” our marriage or make him happy would allow me to pretend our marriage was fine as long as the sex was still there. But this time he threw the guilt trip, he walked out of the room and all I could think was I am glad I didn’t have sex with you. I guess he wanted me to chase after him like I did in the past. But I was done with the games.

I hope if anyone reading this can relate, please know you aren’t alone and it’s not your fault. None of this is consensual. No matter how much they tell you it is or was. It’s not a wifely duty. It’s not about inflicting pain on your spouse. It’s about love and respect and care. None of which I received. Rape is not love. Abuse is not love. It took a while to open up about this and realize that it was not right. I’m not perfect, it still scares me to death to share this. But his actions and control are not my fault. Luckily, I got out of it. And hopefully by sharing parts of my story, others will find that they are not alone.

Emotional Abuse is more than just yelling

Seems like all I do lately on here is update how things have been lately. I guess this will be another one, with a twist.

Been going through divorce and custody battle (which is HELL), dealing with my baby being gone for the allotted summer visit time, and dealing with memories and emotions of the past… all while trying to get doctor visits, court dates, school, and birthday stuff done all within the last month. I don’t know how parents do this every year. I don’t see how anyone deals with a divorce or having kids with an abuser either. Before, when I was in (more of) denial, I could handle it easy-peasy, lately, seems to be more a struggle… especially since he threw a girlfriend into the works.

The more I deal with life and am reminded of things, the more I see how abusive he was and it becomes harder to deny it. To call it rape? Still haven’t gotten there. Sexual abuse? Financial abuse? Spiritual abuse? Emotional abuse? Yes, on all counts. No person deserves to be controlled the way I was. No one deserves to feel like a sex object or be demanded to do whatever someone wants and then feel guilty when it doesn’t go exactly how they want. Shoot, the other day, I was folding towels and out pops his criticism about how I was folding towels wrong.  Is there really only one way to fold towels? Am I wrong if they are neat and folded and put away? A few years ago, yes… today, hell no!

The one phrase that kept going through my mind today? ‘I am human, I stick my foot in my mouth sometimes, I’m not perfect. I asked for forgiveness, there’s nothing more I can do.’ I have to remind myself I am not perfect because for so long I had to be and I am afraid of not being a perfectionist. Emotional abuse is horrific. It’s not just someone screaming and yelling at you. It’s those who diminish everything you do, criticize you, and make you feel incompetent (among many other things). Sometimes its difficult to understand how things can be so complicated and how so many people don’t see that as Domestic Violence because the person did not hit them.

My ex said all the wrong things in the right tone of voice. He would tell me he loved me in the same sentence he would tell me that I was getting fat or was I sure I wanted to eat that or how I shouldn’t correct him or how I needed to let him be right at least once. I thought it was my fault. I thought I did things horribly wrong. He used to tell me that I was gonna leave him for a younger person, how if we ever got a divorce or separated that he would do anything and everything to get his child, and make comments about the people I dated in my past because they were a different ethnicity. Along with making comments about our daughter not being his, she being the mailman’s (which was a woman) and making other homophobic comments. All of this was “funny” to him. This was his sarcasm. He thought he was so funny. What he didn’t realize was that he was squashing the person I was and trying to mold me into what he wanted.

Even after speaking about my rapes, I asked him not to say comments about sexual or homophobic comments towards me as they trigger me and make me uncomfortable. His response? I’ll try but I cannot promise anything. Before I dealt with being raped by my female abuser, I used to lay in bed worried that I was gonna talk in my sleep about it, that he was gonna find out about what happened and blame me. I was going to go to my grave with her abuse because of the comments he made towards me. Eventually, he told me as his wife, he had a right to know about my abuse, then when I wrote it for him to read, he told me that he didn’t need to know because he knew how to handle rape victims (he used to be a cop), which was an obvious lie.

Who speaks to their spouse this way? Who thinks this is appropriate? A narcissist, controller, manipulator, abuser.

If anyone reading this has been put down by their partner and they think they have a right as your partner, please know that is not the case. The more I hear about guys and the games and relationship issues, the more I realize that I have no time or energy to deal with bull ish. After years and years of abuse, I realize that I do NOT have to settle for whoever looks my way. I am a loved individual, just like everyone else, and no matter who or what gets in my way, as long as I push forward in my healing and speak my mind when something bothers me, I can get to a better place… we all can! We don’t have to live this life silenced or confined into someone else’s mold of us. Speaking up is difficult, but so worth it in the long run.

I have never been more relieved to be away from my ex. I feel bad for his new girlfriend, but am relieved that the majority of the abuse has finally stopped… now if I can just get through this divorce in one piece 🙂

I am sooo confused!

I sit here looking at my life wondering where it all went wrong? I keep running in my head the last few conversations I had with my husband and wonder where I am supposed to go from here. I mean, once you hit rock bottom, is there any way up? Is change possible if no change is allowed? Do people change after getting married, and should I feel guilty for changing towards a healtier self? Am I really healthy if I am no better off than I was months ago? … WHO KNOWS!

In our last conversations, he made some pretty confusing statements, and this is what I have taken from them…

  • “I hate that ring” — He didn’t stop me from buying the ring, but I guess I was supposed to know by him practically pushing me out the car when I didn’t want to give up my original wedding ring.
  • “Sometimes I don’t like touching you [there]. I think it has to do with our age difference, in fact, I know it does.” — He has no problems being intimate or fathering a child by me, but touching me must revile him?
  • “I didn’t want to pressure you or make you feel like I was pressuring you to sign for the car.” — In fact, he didn’t say a word. They threw out numbers and he sat there chill, not having any type of communication, which in turn made me feel like there was more pressure on me to sign the car or not… but as he sees it, I turned it around on him.
  • “We just see things differently and always will.” — Right after a conversation where he yelled at me because I wanted our daughter to be put in her booster, like the law says. Apparently, I was yelling and he was tired of it.

There are others, those are just some that have been on my mind lately. {sigh}

Messaged My Rapist

My message to him:

Hi Jack.

Do you remember me? Cause I sure remember you. We only dated for 6 weeks in high school. But for the last 8 years, I have been plagued by the memory of you. I have held so much blame and guilt for the night that I couldn’t comprehend. On March 5, 2004 (yes, I remember the day), you raped me. I told you over and over NO, I’M NOT READY and PLEASE STOP but you wouldn’t. I was so petrified of what my first experience would be like, and in no way, did I want my first time to be rape. I did NOT consent to have sex with you. It was like you couldn’t even hear me. You barely said two words to me and couldn’t even acknowledge my pleas for you to not pursue me. Not to mention how crappy you made me feel (all over again) the next morning when I found out you were trying to have sex with other girls. They begged me to break up with you after they found out I was your girlfriend and NOT your stalker, but you took something precious from me and I didn’t feel like I had any right to break up with you. I felt like a slut for “giving it up” at such an early age, but the FACT is, is that you took it. I guess in the three weeks we dated, I didn’t “put out” soon enough for you. You stole my virginity from me. I didn’t give it to you. I wanted to wait. I wanted to do it when I was ready, and I guess it was dumb of me to expect you to RESPECT my wishes! I wish I never met you! You were only after one thing the whole time we were together, weren’t you? Time after time, all I can ever remember is how you kept trying to get me to pleasure you. Why, when I said no those times, you stopped? Why couldn’t you stop the night you raped me? Did your friends think you were cool when you told them we had sex? Did it make you feel like a man when I laid there pleading with you to stop? You have kept me silent for too long. I have held this burden for 8 years, and I will no longer hold this in anymore. I am not to blame. I am not the guilty party here. What you did was a crime. You have no right pressuring someone when they tell you they are not ready. NO MEANS NO. Not once did I say yes or consent to anything that happened that night. Because of you, I now have to find a way to put back the pieces of my life. Because of you, I am in therapy trying to undo what you did. Because of you, I struggle to find that happiness that I so deserve! I want you to feel remorse for what you did to me and how you have made me feel for the last 8 years. I want you to know how violated you made me feel and how sick I get when I think of you. I never could understand how a boyfriend could rape his girlfriend. If so, I probably would have told someone. I wish I did. I trusted you. You came into my house and used all those vulnerabilities against me to get your way! I want you to admit what you did and sincerely be sorry for raping me. This is not my burden to bear anymore… it’s yours. This is all on you. Stand up to it. You can only run from it for so long. You might not have thought that much of me, but that doesn’t mean I am worthless. How do you live with what you did? Oh I sure hope you didn’t hurt anyone else too!

Sincerely,
Your victim no more

His response:

Im sorry you feel like this after 8 years but I was a virgin too. In no way did you act as if that time wasn’t consensual. We then repeated the act. We also went and ate years after and you said nothing. I do not know what this is exactly about. It was high school, relationships don’t last that long. Im sorry you feel this way.

My reply:

Wow. This isn’t surprising at all. EXCEPT for the fact that you told me that you told me that you had been with someone before. For the fact that I told you I wasn’t ready. You know know what, I wasn’t even mentally there the that night because I couldn’t believe what was happening. It’s called shock. I was hoping someone would walk in because that’s how petrified I was. Oh boy i wish i reported you. You don’t know what this is about? It’s about rape jackass. The FACT that I said no and you couldn’t respect my wishes. After that night it didn’t matter what anyone did to me because I was a slut for “giving it up” to you. I was damaged goods. You did that to me. And NO we didn’t go out to eat years after. You told me through MySpace that I was the best girlfriend you ever had at the time. I’m not stupid. I know high school relationships don’t last. But really why could I say no the other times and you not listen that time. I told Krystal back then but she told me she didn’t wanna think it was a possibility that you raped me so I suppressed it for a long time. THAT’S what this is about. Because every time people mention old boyfriends or something is said about virginities I breakdown and cry. Do you even remember what happened that night? I told you my mom was going on a date and told me I could go to the movies with you. You were helping your sister move and said you could come over real quick and tell them you were doing to the store to get drinks. Why would you think I would wanna lose my virginity by a quickie. You think that it was fun for me to watch you run to the bathroom (doing who the heck knows) and then grabbing your clothes and leaving? Then to wake up the next morning and find out that you were trying to hook up with priscilla. Yeah. If you hadn’t raped me the night before, I so would have broken up with you. The only reason I stayed with you was because you stole something from me. Something precious to me. I couldn’t believe that a boyfriend could rape a girlfriend. I looked it up and looked it up and couldn’t comprehend what you did to me. I felt so much blame and guilt and shame because of that. It might have taken me a while to come to grips with your actions, but I refuse to stay silent because you think I’m a slut or whatever you think of me. Do you remember me consenting? Saying yes? From what your response was, doesn’t seem like you remember anything. Maybe you should look up stuff about rape victims because you’d see how you’ve made me feel. Stay in denial if that’s what makes you sleep better at night. Just hope nobody you know is ever raped. Denial might save you for a bit. But I know the truth and God knows the truth. Own up to it.

Seeking out Help for Emotional Healing

Going to bed in a few minutes, but I wanted to thank everyone for reading this blog and for their concern. It truly touches my heart. Just wanted to share two things before I crashed.

1. Monday, I went to a mental health facility to help me with the loads of emotions I have had lately. I’ve had many times in the past months where I just cry out I need some help. So that’s what I did. I sought out help. Now, my therapist and psychologist (at the clinic) are going to work hand in hand to make sure that my therapy helps, along with the antidepressant they prescribed me. Therapy IS what will help me recover and heal from what has happened to me, but temporarily being on Zoloft should help control the mood swings where there’s a possibility to feel actual happiness. I did not come to this decision lightly. I just know that if I cannot actively seek avenues to heal, I will never get there. I’ve noticed how I have been, and so have others. The clinic classified it as PTSD, but I think it’s more depression and anxiety. I could be wrong though. Who knows.

2. I was on Facebook the other day and saw a link from Emerging from Broken. Darlene talked about how Emotional Healing Does NOT Depend On… I thought it was perfect. And SO TRUE! With the current situation I am going through, one part stuck out to me (ok maybe two lol).

“My emotional healing did not happen because my husband stood by me. In fact he DIDN’T stand by me at all.  He fought me and he fought the process. My healing and taking my life and individuality back threatened his control over me. It threatened his orderly little world where he was King and I was his servant.  He had his life all organized the way HE wanted it. He liked me messed up and compliant and he is the first one to admit that today.”

“Overcoming dysfunctional relationships and emotional healing depends only on ME. Not on results, outcomes, negotiations, agreement from others, the law, or whether or not I lost or gained weight. Emotional healing does not depend on people or on “things”, money, or circumstances.”

Her insights and thoughts were so inspiring. I can so relate to what she said and hope that one day, I can finally heal from all of this and look back stronger and happier. I’ve seen other victims who think that “if this” or “if that” they could be healed, but the honest truth is that this is all about EMOTIONAL healing. The physical stuff is behind us. The law could be working with us, failing us, or not even be in the picture, but it CANNOT heal us. The law is for what little justice it dishes out, and that’s it! Whether our perp is dead or alive doesn’t heal us. I know some who thought it would, and they are still as stuck as ever in their own misery. We all have to have the will and fight to move past this. Don’t rely on anyone but yourself and your support system. Keep those who will help you close and push all others away. Be selfish a little. My big problem is I never felt “worthy” to be first, second, third, or fourth on anyone’s list. But how can I have them so high on mine, and they not even feel I am worth more than the last slot on their list? Their list doesn’t matter… mine does. And I come first on mine. HEALING is PRIORITY!

Anyways, my medicine is finally kicking in. Think it’s bed time now. Hope everyone can push all the other voices around you out of your head and focus on what you feel will help you in your healing and recovery. I have had to do a lot of seeking out on this, as I used to be in a group on Facebook, but the negativity and lack of uplifting brought me down and kept me stuck where I didn’t wanna be. What is right for some victims isn’t right for others. We all progress in our own time. As long as we keep moving forward, we are doing the right thing. All I can do is imagine the day where this doesn’t affect me like it does. The day I can say yes, I used to be a victim, yes I still have my days, but I am STRONGER because I DIDN’T let them win. I am a fighter. Are you?

Signs of an Abusive Relationship

Many victims of rape (ok maybe not many, but definitely I), have struggled with relationships and finding a healthy relationship with healthy boundaries. I have noticed the problems within my own life in the last few days and have had much anxiety about all of it. I told a friend that I would look into abusive relationships. This happened to be shared by a friend a few months before. I thought I would share it here. (And again, I wish I knew who wrote this, as it has helped me tremendously tonight).

And here are charts that I found that seem to simplify what this article has written – labmf.org/facts/relationships

There are many signs of an abusive relationship. The most telling sign is fear of your partner. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner—constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow-up—chances are your relationship is unhealthy and abusive. Other signs that you may be in an abusive relationship include a partner who belittles you or tries to control you, and feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and desperation.

To determine whether your relationship is abusive, answer the questions below. The more “yes” answers, the more likely it is that you’re in an abusive relationship.

SIGNS THAT YOU’RE IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP

Your Inner Thoughts and Feelings
Your Partner’s Belittling Behavior

Do you:

  • feel afraid of your partner much of the time?
  • avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your partner?
  • feel that you can’t do anything right for your partner?
  • believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated?
  • wonder if you’re the one who is crazy?
  • feel emotionally numb or helpless?

Does your partner:

  • humiliate or yell at you?
  • criticize you and put you down?
  • treat you so badly that you’re embarrassed for your friends or family to see?
  • ignore or put down your opinions or accomplishments?
  • blame you for his own abusive behavior?
  • see you as property or a sex object, rather than as a person?

Your Partner’s Violent Behavior or Threats
Your Partner’s Controlling Behavior

Does your partner:

  • have a bad and unpredictable temper?
  • hurt you, or threaten to hurt or kill you?
  • threaten to take your children away or harm them?
  • threaten to commit suicide if you leave?
  • force you to have sex?
  • destroy your belongings?

Does your partner:

  • act excessively jealous and possessive?
  • control where you go or what you do?
  • keep you from seeing your friends or family?
  • limit your access to money, the phone, or the car?
  • constantly check up on you?

Physical abuse and domestic violence

When people talk about domestic violence, they are often referring to the physical abuse of a spouse or intimate partner. Physical abuse is the use of physical force against someone in a way that injures or endangers that person. Physical assault or battering is a crime, whether it occurs inside or outside of the family. The police have the power and authority to protect you from physical attack.

Sexual abuse is a form of physical abuse

Any situation in which you are forced to participate in unwanted, unsafe, or degrading sexual activity is sexual abuse. Forced sex, even by a spouse or intimate partner with whom you also have consensual sex, is an act of aggression and violence. Furthermore, people whose partners abuse them physically and sexually are at a higher risk of being seriously injured or killed.

It Is Still Abuse If . . .

  • The incidents of physical abuse seem minor when compared to those you have read about, seen on television or heard other women talk about. There isn’t a “better” or “worse” form of physical abuse; you can be severely injured as a result of being pushed, for example.
  • The incidents of physical abuse have only occurred one or two times in the relationship. Studies indicate that if your spouse/partner has injured you once, it is likely he will continue to physically assault you.
  • The physical assaults stopped when you became passive and gave up your right to express yourself as you desire, to move about freely and see others, and to make decisions. It is not a victory if you have to give up your rights as a person and a partner in exchange for not being assaulted!
  • There has not been any physical violence. Many women are emotionally and verbally assaulted. This can be as equally frightening and is often more confusing to try to understand.

Source: Breaking the Silence: a Handbook for Victims of Violence in Nebraska (PDF)

Emotional abuse: It’s a bigger problem than you think

When people think of domestic abuse, they often picture battered women who have been physically assaulted. But not all abusive relationships involve violence. Just because you’re not battered and bruised doesn’t mean you’re not being abused. Many men and women suffer from emotional abuse, which is no less destructive. Unfortunately, emotional abuse is often minimized or overlooked—even by the person being abused.

Understanding emotional abuse

The aim of emotional abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. If you’re the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship or that without your abusive partner you have nothing.

Emotional abuse includes verbal abuse such as yelling, name-calling, blaming, and shaming. Isolation, intimidation, and controlling behavior also fall under emotional abuse. Additionally, abusers who use emotional or psychological abuse often throw in threats of physical violence or other repercussions if you don’t do what they want.

You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars. But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep. In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse—sometimes even more so.

Economic or financial abuse: A subtle form of emotional abuse

Remember, an abuser’s goal is to control you, and he or she will frequently use money to do so. Economic or financial abuse includes:

  • Rigidly controlling your finances.
  • Withholding money or credit cards.
  • Making you account for every penny you spend.
  • Withholding basic necessities (food, clothes, medications, shelter).
  • Restricting you to an allowance.
  • Preventing you from working or choosing your own career.
  • Sabotaging your job (making you miss work, calling constantly)
  • Stealing from you or taking your money.

Violent and abusive behavior is the abuser’s choice

Despite what many people believe, domestic violence and abuse is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over his or her behavior. In fact, abusive behavior and violence is a deliberate choice made by the abuser in order to control you.

Abusers use a variety of tactics to manipulate you and exert their power:

  • Dominance – Abusive individuals need to feel in charge of the relationship. They will make decisions for you and the family, tell you what to do, and expect you to obey without question. Your abuser may treat you like a servant, child, or even as his or her possession.
  • Humiliation – An abuser will do everything he or she can to make you feel bad about yourself or defective in some way. After all, if you believe you’re worthless and that no one else will want you, you’re less likely to leave. Insults, name-calling, shaming, and public put-downs are all weapons of abuse designed to erode your self-esteem and make you feel powerless.
  • Isolation – In order to increase your dependence on him or her, an abusive partner will cut you off from the outside world. He or she may keep you from seeing family or friends, or even prevent you from going to work or school. You may have to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone.
  • Threats – Abusers commonly use threats to keep their partners from leaving or to scare them into dropping charges. Your abuser may threaten to hurt or kill you, your children, other family members, or even pets. He or she may also threaten to commit suicide, file false charges against you, or report you to child services.
  • Intimidation – Your abuser may use a variety of intimidation tactics designed to scare you into submission. Such tactics include making threatening looks or gestures, smashing things in front of you, destroying property, hurting your pets, or putting weapons on display. The clear message is that if you don’t obey, there will be violent consequences.
  • Denial and blame – Abusers are very good at making excuses for the inexcusable. They will blame their abusive and violent behavior on a bad childhood, a bad day, and even on the victims of their abuse. Your abusive partner may minimize the abuse or deny that it occurred. He or she will commonly shift the responsibility on to you: Somehow, his or her violent and abusive behavior is your fault.

Abusers are able to control their behavior—they do it all the time.

  • Abusers pick and choose whom to abuse. They don’t insult, threaten, or assault everyone in their life who gives them grief. Usually, they save their abuse for the people closest to them, the ones they claim to love.
  • Abusers carefully choose when and where to abuse. They control themselves until no one else is around to see their abusive behavior.
  • They may act like everything is fine in public, but lash out instantly as soon as you’re alone.
  • Abusers are able to stop their abusive behavior when it benefits them. Most abusers are not out of control. In fact, they’re able to immediately stop their abusive behavior when it’s to their advantage to do so (for example, when the police show up or their boss calls).
  • Violent abusers usually direct their blows where they won’t show. Rather than acting out in a mindless rage, many physically violent abusers carefully aim their kicks and punches where the bruises and marks won’t show.

The cycle of violence in domestic abuse

Domestic abuse falls into a common pattern, or cycle of violence:

  • Abuse – Your abusive partner lashes out with aggressive, belittling, or violent behavior. The abuse is a power play designed to show you “who is boss.”
  • Guilt – After abusing you, your partner feels guilt, but not over what he’s done. He’s more worried about the possibility of being caught and facing consequences for his abusive behavior.
  • Excuses – Your abuser rationalizes what he or she has done. The person may come up with a string of excuses or blame you for the abusive behavior—anything to avoid taking responsibility.
  • “Normal” behavior — The abuser does everything he can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. He may act as if nothing has happened, or he may turn on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time.
  • Fantasy and planning – Your abuser begins to fantasize about abusing you again. He spends a lot of time thinking about what you’ve done wrong and how he’ll make you pay. Then he makes a plan for turning the fantasy of abuse into reality.
  • Set-up – Your abuser sets you up and puts his plan in motion, creating a situation where he can justify abusing you.

Your abuser’s apologies and loving gestures in between the episodes of abuse can make it difficult to leave. He may make you believe that you are the only person who can help him, that things will be different this time, and that he truly loves you. However, the dangers of staying are very real.

The Full Cycle of Domestic Violence: An Example

A man abuses his partner. After he hits her, he experiences self-directed guilt. He says, “I’m sorry for hurting you.” What he does not say is, “Because I might get caught.” He then rationalizes his behavior by saying that his partner is having an affair with someone. He tells her “If you weren’t such a worthless whore I wouldn’t have to hit you.” He then acts contrite, reassuring her that he will not hurt her again. He then fantasizes and reflects on past abuse and how he will hurt her again. He plans on telling her to go to the store to get some groceries. What he withholds from her is that she has a certain amount of time to do the shopping. When she is held up in traffic and is a few minutes late, he feels completely justified in assaulting her because “you’re having an affair with the store clerk.” He has just set her up.

Source: Mid-Valley Women’s Crisis Service

Recognizing the warning signs of domestic violence and abuse

It’s impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but there are some telltale signs and symptoms of emotional abuse and domestic violence. If you witness any warning signs of abuse in a friend, family member, or co-worker, take them very seriously.

General warning signs of domestic abuse

People who are being abused may:

  • Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner.
  • Go along with everything their partner says and does.
  • Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing.
  • Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner.
  • Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness.
  • Warning signs of physical violence

People who are being physically abused may:

  • Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents.”
  • Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation.
  • Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long
  • sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors).
  • Warning signs of isolation

People who are being isolated by their abuser may:

  • Be restricted from seeing family and friends.
  • Rarely go out in public without their partner.
  • Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car.
  • The psychological warning signs of abuse

People who are being abused may:

  • Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident.
  • Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn).
  • Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal.
  • Speak up if you suspect domestic violence or abuse

If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, speak up! If you’re hesitating—telling yourself that it’s none of your business, you might be wrong, or the person might not want to talk about it—keep in mind that expressing your concern will let the person know that you care and may even save his or her life.

Do’s and Don’ts

Do:

  • Ask if something is wrong.
  • Express concern.
  • Listen and validate.
  • Offer help.
  • Support his or her decisions.

Don’t:

  • Wait for him or her to come to you.
  • Judge or blame.
  • Pressure him or her.
  • Give advice.
  • Place conditions on your support.

Adapted from NYS Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

Talk to the person in private and let him or her know that you’re concerned.
Point out the things you’ve noticed that make you worried. Tell the person that you’re there, whenever he or she feels ready to talk. Reassure the person that you’ll keep whatever is said between the two of you, and let him or her know that you’ll help in any way you can.

Remember, abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims. People who have been emotionally abused or battered are depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They need help to get out, yet they’ve often been isolated from their family and friends. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing.

Understanding domestic violence and abuse

  • In the U.S., call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).
  • UK: call Women’s Aid at 0808 2000 247.
  • Canada: National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-363-9010
  • Australia: National Domestic Violence Hotline 1800 200 526
  • Or visit International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies for a worldwide list of helplines, shelters, and crisis centers.

Male victims of abuse can call:

  • In the US, The Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men & Women specializes in supporting male victims of abuse and offers a 24-hour helpline: 1-888-7HELPLINE (1-888-743-5754)
  • UK: ManKind Initiative offers a national helpline at 01823 334244.
  • Australia: One in Three Campaign offers help and resources for male victims.

Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person. Domestic abuse that includes physical violence is called domestic violence.

Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you. An abuser doesn’t “play fair.” Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.

Domestic violence and abuse does not discriminate. It happens among heterosexual couples and in same-sex partnerships. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels. And while women are more commonly victimized, men are also abused—especially verbally and emotionally, although sometimes even physically as well. The bottom line is that abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a man, a woman, a teenager, or an older adult. You deserve to feel valued, respected, and safe.

Recognizing abuse is the first step to getting help

Domestic abuse often escalates from threats and verbal abuse to violence. And while physical injury may be the most obvious danger, the emotional and psychological consequences of domestic abuse are also severe. Emotionally abusive relationships can destroy your self-worth, lead to anxiety and depression, and make you feel helpless and alone. No one should have to endure this kind of pain—and your first step to breaking free is recognizing that your situation is abusive. Once you acknowledge the reality of the abusive situation, then you can get the help you need.

Respect the Women in Your Life

“What does it mean to be female in our world? … It means you can be raped by a man and told that it is your fault. Or maybe you are told that that person couldn’t control themselves. Well that is just not true. Rapists are not poor troubled boys or disturbed men. Rapists are people who want to control and inflict pain on another person… You deserve to be treated with respect and you have a right to say NO!” (Impower You)