Moving Froward from My Ex-Abuser

I didn’t think this would be so difficult. I thought that once court was over and the judge granted the divorce, my life would seem more normalized. I thought that once my ex-husband moved on, I would be happy and feel some sort of peace. I mean, in my ideal situation, he would leave me alone, have limited access to our child, and I could get on a path towards happy and healthy.

The reality of the situation is that I am struggling… a lot! I am not struggling because of my want to be with my ex or jealous because he moved on, but the harsh reality that no matter what happened between us, his life has kept going and not stopped. Neither have his lies. It makes me sick hearing and seeing him with his next victim, flaunting her around our child, and confusing her. Don’t get me wrong, I feel bad for his next wife, but I feel worse for my daughter being thrown into the middle of it. I want to feel sorry for his girlfriend, but then again, there are so many red flags and until she can see them, she has to deal with the demons in her closet. That’s the only thing I can think of. For someone to get with him, they must have demons they haven’t dealt with. No one in their right mind would be with him. I wasn’t in my right mind, but then again, I was 19 and was raped and abused in my past (i.e., my demons).

For the last three months, at least, I have had to be so strong and sane because I was fighting for custody of our daughter. I think this weekend was the first time that I let my guard down. My daughter has been with her father since Thursday and for the first time in a long while, I cried. I see all the signs, I see his pattern, I see how much he used me, but I can’t stop it. I cannot unmake all the things he did during our marriage. I cannot stop him from dragging our daughter through the dirt. I am so glad that the judge chose me over him, but I cannot save her. I so want to save her.

So the question is… How do you move past an abuser? My ex-husband? My daughter’s father?

I know what I want and what I don’t want now. I know which steps I will take in my life before getting into another relationship. That part is not the problem. My problem is seeing all the damage and the pattern he has, but I cannot help how I feel about it. Yes, I know, one day at a time. That’s all any of us can do. I guess this is something I will have to speak to my therapist about because I am really at a loss.

For now, I will stay focused, get my life back on track, take care of my daughter the best I can, and not worry about him, as he can no longer abuse me or control me anymore. I am scared for this next step in my journey. I have been a mess the last year trying to get through this divorce, and now it’s over. I am scared to look for new jobs and all that other stuff. Nothing is holding me back, but myself. I have never gotten this far, and now I am here, it is here, and I am scared. I have a potential job in my folder that was given to me that pays more than I am making now and is fits my skills, but I am scared to read it, scared to apply for it.

Maybe it’s not just my abuser that is bothering me. Maybe everything is because this is a new world that I have never lived in before. I know they are positive steps. I have been so afraid and in fear for so long that those feelings have become comfortable for me. New feelings, emotions, events, just seem very foreign to me.

Anyways, wish I had something insightful to say. Not today.

Seeing the Effects Rape has Caused

Sorry I haven’t been on here in a while. I have been dealing with personal issues that have truly crippled the person I used to be before dealing with being a rape victim. It turns out that I was able to manage life (however much in denial I was) before I defined it as rape. Now that I am a victim, I see how much it  has truly affected my life and how upside down I feel most days.

See, I met my husband four years ago. I told him back then there was something that happened with my first boyfriend, but I could never call it rape, he did. In fact, I remember that “something” affecting how I reacted to guys when it was brought up again. I’m not proud of how I reacted, but I was trying to protect myself. Anyways, when I told him back then, he didn’t push me into the intimacy part of a new relationship (like every single guy before him did). I was comfortable with him and fell in love with him. We married six months later.

Turns out we were having difficulties for a while, but I was never strong enough to stand up for myself (or I thought that was how I was supposed to be as a girlfriend, wife, mother). So when I started to isolate myself and do things other than what he had been used to, it really aggravated him. Would tell me I am changing. That if I just got off of my support group, then things would be back to normal, etc. None of that was a key to a healthy relationship as I started to see that we didn’t have a healthy relationship.

About three or four weeks ago, I started having multiple panic attacks a day for five days until the “big” one came. I literally was lying on the dining room floor so dizzy and ready to pass out, crying my eyes out, barely able to breathe because the thought of moving to a different state with all of my marital problems put me in a tailspin. Needless to say, the hubby has not been supportive at all. It took him until I reached my breaking point before he would see that things NEEDED to change or we wouldn’t make it.

I reached the point where I literally thought “too little too late”. The thought of death was more appealing than living how I was living or putting my child through a divorce. I still wonder if it is a better option, but I know that I could never kill myself (and I thank God for that). My faith and my fear of dying has held me up when nothing else would. Not that I have practiced my faith, but what I do know helped me not give up when all else failed me.

I often wonder if my husband is doing all of this because I told him things have to change, if he is doing it because he is afraid to lose his daughter (not me), or if he is doing it because he is afraid of another failed marriage. Either way, he is trying, and I feel like I need to let him try… even though he’s had many chances and things get good, and then turn sour quickly. I really don’t know if I will make it through another one of those episodes. He told me after four years of marriage that he finally took down some wall he had up in our marriage. I was like what the heck?! You think I set you up because I didn’t tell you all my problems before we married and you have a WALL up???

Anyways, I say all of this because it truly has made me see how my past has affected my present. It pains me to see the effects. It’s not like I can go back to being in denial about our issues, I just have to find a way to work with them or walk away. And last thing anyone wants to do is walk away. I love my husband, but I need support. He can tell I am depressed. I’ve been depressed for a while now. Even while writing this, I am in a fog… distancing myself from any kind of real emotion and just overwhelmed with the thought of pushing forward to heal. It’s sad. I really am an optimistic woman. I’ve just been torn down so much that I feel myself protecting myself from anything… like I am the one with the barricade around my heart not letting anything in, until I am ready.

I really love being inspirational and sharing information on this blog, but I thought I’d share a little bit about what I am going through lately. None of it has been easy. I am still going through counseling, finally scheduled my depression evaluation (just in case meds could help me get a hold of things for now — never permanently — hate meds really, but I NEED HELP), and am searching other avenues to help me heal.

What ways have helped you through your journey?

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.