Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Emotional and Verbal Abuse-A Real Life Situation

      While living in an abusive relationship it is almost impossible to see the abuse. Because we are so wrapped up in our fear we don’t see the obvious tactics and ploys the abuser uses to control us. However once you step out of that relationship, the manipulation and the blame and the threats become very obvious.
      I have been separated from my abusive husband for almost a year now and with every day that goes by I am more able to take each situation and look at it without my emotions distorting the truth. I would like to share an incident that took place last week, break it down and analyze the tactics he employed to threaten and intimidate me.
      In the following dialog, my soon-to-be-ex and I are discussing expenses related to our daughter’s cheer leading. In our current situation, I pay him child support so he is responsible paying expenses related to our children’s activities. We had previously discussed each of us claiming one child on our taxes.  All communication was done through text messaging.
All names have been changed except my own
Dave-my husband
Sally-my daughter
Sam-my son
The Set Up: This is where the abuser will be calm and rational, maybe cheerful and cooperative. In fact it is a way of getting the victim to let their guard down, of putting her off balance so when he attacks she is not prepared to defend herself emotionally or physically.

Rachel 8:27am-The hotel for this weekend is 135 a night split between me  you and Kathy. Sally will need enough money for food for 4 days. And extra for just in case. Have you paid for the shuttle yet?  And we have to get tickets for her to go to Orlando in April. Right now they are about 250 round trip.

Dave 8:39am-K 135 for hotel. Money for four days. No I haven’t paid for the shuttle. How do I pay the fifty dollars.
Rachel 8:41am-Send it to the gym. Oh she will also need money to check her bag  probably $50.
Dave 8:42am-k. Expensive child huh:)
Rachel 8:45am-Oh yea. The hotel does not have free breakfast.  And she was talking about wanting to go to the aquarium or maybe some shopping
Dave 8:58am-I will do my best

Even though I knew better, I fell right back into that trap of trusting and believing the words that he was saying. As this portion of our conversation ended I found myself remembering the man I used to love. For the first time in almost a year I felt a tiny bit of fondness for him. I remember thinking that maybe now we were at a point where we could at least discuss issues related to our children civilly. For a minute I forgot that I was dealing with a man who cannot stand to be told anything by anyone else. I forgot that he swore to make me regret leaving him, that I would be sorry.
The Attack: The attack maybe be verbal or physical, it can come as yelling, screaming and name calling or the whisper of  hurtful, blaming words, or it can be the unspoken threat of ‘you will be sorry’. The attack can come for many reasons but mostly it is the way the abuser establishes or asserts control and dominance. In my relationship it occurred most frequently when my husband felt his “position” was being challenged; when he felt that I was making decisions without consulting him. Note that one of the first things my husband said to me was “I did not give you permission”.

Dave 11:23am- Rachel. My income tax was kicked back because of you claiming Sally, I did not give you permission to do so. What you did was illegal. By you doing so it lowered my return. My return was to be used to pay the taxes on the house. 2600 dollars is what you just took from my ability to protect a marital asset. You are going to have to pay for Sally; I have to come up with the money to pay the taxes

Rachel 11:42am- I don’t have the money to pay for Sally this weekend so you can tell her and the gym that she can’t go.

Dave 12:12pm-No. You can tell Sally and the gym. You stole the tax money for the house and now I have to come up with it. You could use your illegal refund to pay for Sally this weekend you know. But you choose not to. If I tell Sally I will tell her the truth. Do you still want me to handle it?

Dave 12:21pm-You screwed over your daughter for your own personal gain. You call yourself a mother

Rachel 12:23pm-You have the child support money to pay for Sally. So no, I’m not screwing her.

Dave 12:27pm-Your child support doesn’t cover shit. Not even groceries

Rachel 3:54pm- I did nothing illegal. I followed the advice of my lawyer. Taxes and Sally's cheer leading are 2 separate issues. I am doing my share by paying child support, paying for the plane tickets and taking the time off work to be with her. It's your choice to do your part or not. If you can't do your part I will tell her.

Dave 4:03pm-Your child support does not even cover half of Sally's cheer leading that alone groceries lunches insurance cell phone etc etc. You still owe back gym fees of $1688 that you were responsible for and did not honor your part. Where is your half of the house taxes? If you want half the house you are responsible for half the taxes. Oh and what you did was purely illegal. Don't trust your lawyer on this one.

Rachel 4:44pm- Do I need to tell Sally and call the gym or not

When dealing with an abusive person the best way to communicate is with short, neutral sentences and to always stick with facts. Do not react emotionally to goading or threats.

In this exchange Dave:
1. Tried to instill fear in me that I had done something illegal-this is a threat, an implication that I will suffer consequences.
2.  He called me a thief, he told me I am a bad mother, he called me irresponsible-each of these statements is verbal abuse.
3.  He stated that my monetary contributions are worthless and didn’t even acknowledge my time investment-belittling and devaluing a person are emotional abuse.
4. He threatened to tell our daughter that I ‘stole’ money and refuse to spend it on her- this is emotional blackmail
5. He tried to confuse the situation by combining how we file our taxes with our daughter’s cheer
leading expenses into a single issue, when in fact they are separate issues-creating diversions and “muddying the water” are emotional abuse tactics used to confuse and distract a victim from the reality of the situation
6. He said that I should believe him over my lawyer regarding a legal issue-This is an attempt at isolation. Abusers do not want their victims talking to or getting information from outside, neutral sources.

In our past relationship, the Attack was usually followed by my giving in and feeling guilty because I had ‘disobeyed’ him, or I didn’t ‘get permission’ or because I had ‘upset’ him. He would then tell me that I had done the right thing, apologize if he said anything to hurt me (but it was the only way he could make me listen and understand) and reassure me that everything would be wonderful as long as I trusted him and did what he said. In our current relationship, I refuse to give into his threats and blackmail, I do not believe his cruel words, I stay focused on the topic at hand and I reach out to my support system to help me see the situation clearly.

The Continuation: Abusers are unrelenting in their attack. The longer they keep you engaged the more control they have. If you don’t participate in their game and play your part the way they think you should they will try harder and harder to draw you back in. In many cases they will use whatever or whoever they have to with no regard to the implications of their behavior.

Dave 7:06pm- Sam just donated his paycheck to Sally so she can go.

Dave 7:28pm-The kids are very tight and you screwed with Sally

Dave 8:48pm-One day you will awake all alone and no one will care.

In our previous exchange I did not allow myself to get drawn into his game. Because he did not ‘win’, it was necessary for him to stop our dialog, re-think his strategy and reload his arsenal.

If you are unable to communicate with the abuser in short, neutral sentences and stay on topic, do not respond to them. You are only playing their game and feeding their fire. Do not react emotionally to goading or threats.

In this exchange Dave:
1. Played the martyr to our son-abusers will do this to try and garner support for their position. They then use the sympathy they get from others as verification that their abusive behavior is acceptable.
2. Tried to instill guilt and shame in me- When a victim is feeling guilt or shame she is less able to defend herself and take ownership of her own behavior. Weakening the victim’s defenses increases the abusers power.
3. He threatened that our children would ban together against me- this is emotional blackmail
4. He prophesized a horrible future for me-abusers will predict dire consequences for the victim if she does not listen to him. Another threat, “do what I say or else….”

Emotional abusers will use many different ploys and tactics to subjugate their victim. If one doesn’t work, they will move on to another or combine several at the same time. While in the process of leaving an abusive relationship, or if evaluating a new relationship, it is important to step back from each situation, look at the various components and make a rational decision on what actually transpired. If you are unable to separate yourself emotionally talk to someone who is not involved in the situation.


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