What does domestic abuse really look like?

bruised woman

Another season, another domestic abuse story in the headlines.

Another movie star/athlete/politician or otherwise stand-up guy has been accused of harming his partner.

An another week of doubting and bashing the alleged victim.

In has been just a few weeks, and  Amber Heard has already been painted as the antagonist by too many after she reported that her movie star partner, Johnny Depp, beat her up. Their story is just beginning to weave its way through the justice system, but the court of public opinion is driving forward on a predictable timeline. Media outlets are already digging through her past to discredit her allegations, while giving the microphone to Depp’s supporters.

In the United States, we have a Constitutional presumption of innocence. This seems to only apply to the alleged abuser _ not to the alleged victim.

For some reason, we have an impossible time believing that the guy we “know” could be capable of beating his partner. It is much easier to believe that the alleged victim must be a lying gold-digger or some other kind of degenerate willing to fabricate a lie and blow up her world for some sort of gain or revenge.

This presumption is despite studies and statistics that show one in every three women will at some point in their adult life be the victim of intimate partner abuse and that one in 10 men have abused a partner. Studies also show that cases of false accusations of domestic abuse may only make up as few as one percent of all cases.

Maybe we struggle to understand this because we still believe that domestic violence is more a couple’s dynamic problem that criminal assault with a victim. Maybe we are invested in maintaining our opinions of the accused abuser.

Maybe we don’t understand what victims are truly going through.

In my case, I was physically abused for 10 years by my then-husband. He beat me, choked me, stomped on me, threw me, spit on me, slapped me, grabbed me, threatened me, shoved me against a wall and bruised me many times.

We were a middle-class couple living in suburbia with lots of friends, careers, children, a mortgage, a mini-van and all the other signs of an American family. In front of people, we looked normal with “normal” baggage. He was a nationally known sportswriter covering the NFL.

But every day of our 15-year relationship, we were in a complicated and psychological dance between victim and abuser that was stressful for me and our children. As a result of this, I suffered for years from PTSD and my children have emotional pain they are just beginning to understand.

If anyone would have looked through the windows of our four-bedroom home, they would have seen me alone with our children most of the time. My ex spent very little time with us, even when he was in the house. When he did, there was rarely shared happiness.

Though I can’t speak for my ex, I know that my relationship needs weren’t met and I was incredibly lonely and hopeless on a daily basis. When tensions escalated, often it ended with some form of violence.

One of the last incidents of abuse, I walked into his home office and complained about something I don’t remember. He was upset with me for it and wanted me to leave him alone. I leave his room and instead continued bitching. The next thing I knew, he shoved me with quick force and I stumbled, uncontrolled across the room. I couldn’t get my balance and I fell onto a small loveseat. He jumped on top of me. I balled up to protect myself as he pummeled me again and again. When he finally stopped, I pulled myself up off the sofa and fought to get out of the room while he followed me screaming in my ear. When I got to the door of his office, I turned around and shouted back at him. He hacked up the mucus from deep in his lungs and spit the wad in my face. His mouth was inches from my face. His eyes showed the hate in his heart.

I experienced dozens and dozens of violent acts equally as dramatic, scary and traumatic for years.

The only feeling I felt as I wiped his spit off my face was shame.

I kept our secret for more than a decade and never called the police or told a single friend.

To do so, would be to blow up the family I so wanted.

When I finally left, his abuse continued. Living apart helped put an end to the physical abuse but the verbal and emotional abuse and intimation increased.

Domestic abuseAll while he maintained a public persona of a devoted family man, an accomplished sportswriter and a friend to many. He still paints himself that way and fools a lot of people. He has thousands of Twitter followers who read about his opinions on NFL players who beat their partners or his pride as a father to our children. But, I know the truth. He is an abuser. He doesn’t deny it. If anyone asks him, he tells the story of how hard it is to live with what he has done. However, he doesn’t tell me that. He continues to make threats, diminishes my pain when he can and discredits me to people in my life when he has the opportunity.

Abusers want you to believe their spin and the story we’ve help create about them. And they are excellent actors and liars.

The next time the news breaks with another sad story of domestic abuse, I beg you, please don’t jump to conclusions that lead to victim blaming. Please just take a step back, but not a step away mind you. Victims need your support, desperately. Abusers need your condemnation. Children need a society that knows how to handle and end domestic abuse. Silence and turning the other cheek doesn’t do it.

Please insist on investigations that are thorough and conducted by trained professionals. And please help stop our collective denial that domestic violence isn’t real or that we don’t have too large a segment of our society willing to exploit others for their own gain.

 

 

 

 

Why Abusers and Narcissists Should be Feared

no-more-logo1.jpgMy life with an abuser, someone who exhibits narcissist behavior, has been traumatic to say the least. I don’t use those terms lightly or as hyperbolic bluster. I was beaten for years by my husband, who continued the abuse emotionally, legally and financially after divorce.

I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. I worked for years on recovery through difficult therapy and eye-opening research. I have survived by my own hope and responsibility for my children. My kids have suffered through a kind of chaos only children of domestic abuse understand.

This happened to me, a middle-class, professional woman, because I diminished the warning signs of a troubled man and dismissed my gut feeling that I was settling for less. It happened to me because I believed that love would conquer all negatives and would eventually bring out the best in everyone.

I was idealistic, foolish and wrong.

I didn’t know that a narcissistic, abusive man was never capable of being anything other than a threat to me and our eventual children. It didn’t matter how much he told me he loved me or how many moments of delight we might have been able to string together.

Believing that “for better or worse” applied to a union with a narcissistic abuser turned out to be a costly mistake.

I wish I had known then what I know now.

No one should ever marry a narcissist or anyone willing to exploit another. They are dangerous. They will cause their family unimaginable pain, likely for the rest of their lives. No one should ever allow these people to be a primary parent or co-parent with another. No one should ever allow one of these people to be in charge of another human being’s daily life. They create life-changing, toxic environments for the victims dependent on them.

These people are known to be:

  • Liars
  • Manipulators
  • Selfish
  • Abusive
  • Entitled
  • Ragers
  • Blamers
  • Willing to discredit their closest friends and family
  • Exploiters of the weak
  • Willing to capitalize on others’ pain
  • Revisionists
  • Insecure
  • Braggarts

And they are willing to train all these negative powers directly on the closest people in their lives the minute they realize whatever consequences there might be aren’t enough of a deterrent to outweigh the gain it brings them.

They can’t be trusted. They have horrible judgment that is often masked by bravado and spin. They are often fired, repeatedly throughout their careers, or suffer other forms of failure. They don’t have long-term friendships that are rich and deep. They have dysfunctional relationships with their children and family.

If you are in a relationship with one of these people. You may be in denial or still clinging to hope that somehow, under the right circumstances or with your love, things will change. You might experience a temporary improvement of your relationship conditions, but it will never last and before you know it, you will be back in a mess that you can’t seem to figure out. “High maintenance” doesn’t even cover the way you will have to manager this relationship.

If you are in a relationship with one of these people, and you want happiness and peace in your life, then you must get out as carefully as you can. They don’t like to be dumped and they will retaliate.

If you are being courted by someone who looks a bit like this, you need to seriously take stock of your next steps. You may not have stumbled on a narcissistic abuser, but to be on the safe side, you need to find out. A lot is at stake.

Because if you have partnered up with a narcissistic abuser, you are in more emotional, financial, psychological and physical danger than you realize. You owe it to your future self to find out.

 

 

 

Excerpt from new book about co-parenting with an abusive ex

How to co-parent coverThis new Amazon ebook is due for release Dec. 13, 2015. Here is an excerpt:

“How to co-parent with an abusive ex and stay sane _ is that even possible?

What’s next, “How to lose weight without dieting or exercising?” Sure, whatever. If I overeat and sit around all day, I’m not going to lose weight.

How does anyone co-parent with an abusive ex and stay sane? Simple, don’t co-parent with an abusive ex.

Frankly, if you have that choice, take it. It’s the best option.

Abusers abuse and divorce doesn’t stop their need. If you share children together, you will always be an easy target.

However, most of us don’t have that choice. Since the mid-1990s, family courts believe abusers have the right to parent their children, and children have a right to be parented by abusers _ because the abuser is a parent.

To make matters worse, most family courts don’t want hear too many details about the abuser’s actions. Nor do parenting coordinators or attorneys. Even family and friends don’t want to know. And maybe even your children don’t want to know.

I didn’t either and I was the victim.

Abuse is painful and hard to look at, especially when we are invested in the abuser. No one wants to see the ugliness of domestic abuse. Why would we? Abusers look normal enough that we may marry them. We start to build a life with them. Trust them. Love them. Then at some point, they pull the rug out from under us.

They show their true colors and rip us apart. Who wants to see that….

How can you co-parent with your abusive ex and stay sane. Well, the truth is, it isn’t easy and sometimes you can’t stay sane through this. But, I know from my own experience and the experience of others that with life hacks, resiliency and your undying love for your children, you can maintain your sanity and even thrive through this craziness.
Though I know that this book doesn’t give you the real, direct answer you want _ to avoid co-parenting with your abusive ex_ I hope it will give you solid tips to help you get through this nightmare without losing your sanity forever.”

 

Raw data from survey of domestic abuse victims now co-parenting with abuser

I have been collecting data with a simple Google survey posted on Twitter, here and divorcedmoms.com about domestic abuse and child custody.

After a few weeks on social media, here the results from 33 anonymous responders. I have removed page 14 of the results in order to protect the identity of a few responders who volunteered their names and emails.

Feel free to comment if you would like more information or please, take the survey yourself. It’s only 31, quick questions.

Thank you to those who have already taken it.

Pages 1-13

Domestic abuse & child custody cases without names- Google Forms

Pages 15-17

Domestic abuse & child custody cases pages 14-17 – Google Forms

 

Please help with this anonymous survey

Dear victims of domestic abuse,

I am collecting data about how domestic abuse continues after separation and in particular how abuser can often use children in their efforts to gain back control and power in the relationship.

Please consider helping by taking the survey, a Google form document. It is anonymous, and no way for me to track your information, unless you give it to me. If you do, I will not share it with any third party and only use it to communicate directly with you.

Take the survey by clicking this link.

And thank you for reading this blog, a much needed and useful therapy that has literally saved me from craziness.

Be safe. Be well. Speak out.

Thank you.

 

Are You Open About the Abuse?

Dear Readers,

I’m writing a story about women who no longer hide that they are an abuse victim. Are you will to be a part of an article I am writing about this subject for divorcedmoms.com? If so, please msg me at Thriving in Crazy Land on divorcedmoms.com. I would like to interview as many women victims of domestic abuse as possible.

Thank you for your help.

Sincerely,

J.B.Cole

Tips on divorcing a narcissist

Dec. 7, 2014 _ If you are reading this, it is likely because you’ve been searching for help in dealing with your partner, soon-to-be ex-partner or ex, or co-parent of your children.

First, let me tell you, that no matter what you think, you are not alone or the first person facing this.

Second, without knowing a thing about you, I’m going to take a stab at your journey:

  1. You are a women dealing with a man.
  2. You have been trying for years to understand just why this relationship has been so difficult, maybe you have even sought couples counseling or your own therapy for help, but you haven’t been able to make heads or tails of it.
  3. Your mate had a difficult childhood with his parents that involved some form of attachment issues. For example, he was left to raise himself by a single, working mother too busy to truly attend to his needs, or by older parents, or he was an only child, or raised like one with much older or younger siblings. Or, his parents never regulated his emotions as he grew and didn’t offer social guidance, at all. For example, his parents would let him carry on whenever he didn’t get his way without so much as one comment about a better approach, but rather they would allow him to use over the top reactions, ignore it or reward it, but added distance to the equation so they could get a break.
  4. Your mate has had difficult relationships in the past with family members, coworkers, friends, girlfriends, etc.
  5. He was charming, or seemed charming, in the beginning of your relationship and that is what got your attention. He might have come on strong, quickly, with you about love, future, commitment. He seemed to truly “get you.”
  6. He is still charming when you are together in public. In fact, he is his best when you are “playing couple” with others watching. But, behind closed doors he is cold and not interested in couple conversations or “togetherness.”
  7. However, there is something a little off with his charming act. Maybe its that he laughs too hard at his own jokes. Or that his opinions all seem a bit condescending. Or he just doesn’t seem authentic.
  8. You can’t string together more than a few weeks of your life with him that doesn’t involved some sort of crisis or drama or deep pain.
  9. You are either in the middle of an emotional crisis with him; recovering from an emotional crisis with him; or feel an emotional crisis coming.
  10. You are tired, hopeless, depressed.
  11. You just want it to stop and for everything to be normal in your life.
  12. You take some, if not all, of the responsibility for the relationship. For example, you say things like “I married him, so I have no one to blame but myself.”
  13. You feel that your daily life surrounds trying to figure this relationship out and how to make it better.
  14. You really can’t understand how it got this way or who is right or wrong any more.
  15. You don’t see your relationship as abusive. At best, you see that you are a strong woman who signed on to love your man through thick and thin and he needs your help. At worst, you are a co-conspirator or even the reason why he gets so mad. He tells you that, too, often.
  16. You believe that you have brought this on somehow, by, you believe,  your tendency to love troubled men or maybe you believe your a handful.

Statistically, if you are involved with a narcissist that is causing you great pain and ruining your union, you are likely an empathic, loyal, never-say-die woman. Women are hardwired to be tolerate of childishness. We stay with abusers to the end or at least close to it.

I am not a mindreader or a mental health professional. I am just a victim of domestic violence at the hands of what I came to believe was a narcissistic abuser. I spent 15 years with him. We went to 8 different therapist from the beginning of our union until the end and even after we split up. He went to batterers intervention, anger management class, and therapy on his own. I read all the marriage self-help books of the day. He even tried to read a few. After I left, I spent years in therapy, group support meetings, basically in various stages of trauma recovery no different than a returning war veteran.

Learning about narcissism and how it works was the first step to my healing. Learning about trauma and how it lingers in our emotional attics is how I healed.

You can, too. But it is really hard to do alone. So here are my tips, one victim/survivor to another:

  1. Learn about the psychology that is driving your mate. Not from him, but from experts. You don’t have to hold a PhD to understand emotional and personality disordered. You’re not going to be prescribing medicine for yourself or you mate. You are just going to understand the rules of the playing field your on.
  2. Don’t listen to bad advice, including from him. Narcissist will NEVER be concerned with your needs, what’s fair or being honest. They may act that way for a conversation or two, but it is acting. Don’t take advice from someone who despite your years together will lie to you in a second if it means he benefits even in the smallest way.
  3. Build a team of people around you who truly care about you. This is going to be along haul navigating a breakup with a narcissist. They will lash out at you again and again. You need emotional help in handling this well. Think of it this way, you need “sponsors” who will be there for you to listen as you recount one injustice after another. Its in the telling that you will begin to heal. But, you need good listeners, not advice givers by people who take the “it takes two to tango” philosophy. When you are with a narcissist, the dynamic is different that typical marriage. Typical advice doesn’t work.
  4. Find an excellent therapist who understands well personality disorders and trauma treatment. This is a specialist. Not a family counselor. You have to ask for this. You will know it the first time you are in the office if you have picked the right one. They are excellent, active listeners. Don’t interrupt you over and over with comments on what you can do to help the relationship. Your local domestic abuse shelter should have names for referrals.
  5. Find an excellent attorney who is NOT a narcissist. (In fact, stay away from any narcissist right now.) Attorneys who care about you, helping you navigate this and want to protect you with all legal avenues is what you are looking for when you begin to shop around. You must stay away from the attorney who tells you how great they are or how many cases they have won or don’t have experience with narcissist. In a small town, this is very hard, because attorney can be consumed with building a reputation among judges and other attorneys over a reputations with clients. When you find  an attorney who will listen and offer you options and then guidance in those options, you have a winner.
  6. If you can’t afford any of these first steps, then make your way immediately to your local domestic abuse shelter and ask for help. Most shelters today offer way more serves than shelter. I can be humiliating at first or spark shame in you. But try with all your might to get past that emotion and act. I found three years of FREE trauma therapy at my local shelter. I was horrified, simply horrified the first time I called and them stepped foot in the door. It went against everything I believed in. I felt like a charity case and that was demoralizing at a time when I didn’t need further humiliation. Truth was, I needed them very much and they were going to help me out of shame. My ex was not.
  7. Begin to see the truth about abuse. You didn’t cause it. You are a victim, which means that something out of your control happened to you that caused you deep pain. You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t send some special message to the universe that brought it on. You don’t deserve it. Look at it this way, if you had some control over this, wouldn’t you have had success at trying to get him to stop being such an ass? You don’t control the actions of another person, no one does. He abuses for his own reasons. He chooses to abuse you rather than talk through your difference, anger, pain, etc. He chooses to hide from his own demons, rather than face those issues from his past, etc. and heal. He chooses emotional Unhealth over emotional health. You have no control over that. None. Zilch. No matter he says. No matter what you have said. No matter what.
  8. Get and stay educated on this. There is more and more very helpful research coming out every day that explains why this happens and what to do about it. Stay connected and you will stay strong.
  9. Make a plan before you act. Reacting to an abusers actions can be just as damaging as the first action. It is completely normal to want to scream at someone who is messing with you in a painful way, but not helpful to the situation. You need to move away from your instinctive brain and get to your thinking one. First, build margin in your life so there is time to feel the pain his action caused you away from him, then scream at the stars, then think about what has happened, then react only if you feel that it is necessary. For example, my ex used to email me multiple times a day with all sorts of nasty and accusatory comments about me. Because I had a smart phone and a business to manage, I would check my email many times a day and that meant that at any minute I would be emotionally gut punched by my ex and want to react instantly. And that he why he did it. Because I would fire back an email and engage. I soon realized that was not working for me. So, after having the same email for 13 years, I changed my email address and left the old one for him. I took it off my phone and no longer got automatic pushes from that account. All my business clients, friends and family now had another email address. As it turns out, I realized that I left a lot of spam mail behind, too. My new address collects those who I really care about and my old email address is for my ex and all junk mail 13 years of an address will get you. I check it when I’m emotionally ready to read his junk and he no longer gets off by getting instant reaction from me.
  10. Make a plan before you leave. You MUST forget about trying to play fair or be nice the narcissist you are trying to leave. It will not bring out the best in him and it may bring out the worse. Instead, you have to think of him as a business colleague gone wrong. Yes, keep your integrity and don’t forsake your soul. Even if you have momentary thoughts of revenge, the narcissist will ALWAYS one up that. He will ALWAYS be willing to hit lower than you. But, your inner voice to look for a way to work together, be fair to him and keep a goal of civility can not be your driving force. You must think about what you need to do to get out with as few scars and problems as possible. Narcissist fill out history with all sorts of horrible things they have done, including murder, to get the upper hand in ending a relationship. You must protect yourself by understand what you are up against. So, you no longer tell him anything about your plan. This is between you and your attorney. He is now on the other side of the table and against you. You must face this. You no longer owe him intimacy or knowledge about who your are or your intentions. In fact, you can’t give him this. He will use it against you. Shut down all discussions with him about what you are doing to get out even if it means you leave him in the dark about the fact that you are leaving. You are NOT manipulating him. You are protecting yourself just like if you were to hid in a bedroom closet during a break in. You know that nothing good could come of you walking up to the intruder and announcing “I am calling 911 right now, just so you know you should get out.” Narcissists don’t have morals so don’t expect moral decisions to come in the face of your morality.
  11. When you are strong enough emotionally, meaning you have sought help and your therapists thinks you are well on the way to recovery from the injury, hold your abuser accountable. This means that you will set firm boundaries no matter his verbal antics, do not respond to any accusation, no matter how silly or explainable (your abuser is throwing up gorilla dust to get a rise out of you. You must don’t respond to this.) Learn the laws in your community regarding his actions. For example, if your abuser is constantly emailing you, your state might consider that cyberstalking. One email from you telling him in writing that he may not contact you or he may only contact you under certain restrictions (your children’s health for example) may be all it takes for him to understand that you are serious about protecting yourself from further abuse. You can not reason with him to stop abusing you. You can only set boundaries of tolerance. When you do, you stand a chance of getting away from it. Learn about restraining orders also. Please, please learn about them first because many a child custody case has been decided by a judge who thought a woman with a restraining order was a women with an ax to grind and not worthy of custody of her child.  But, thankfully, that tide is changing, too. Learn about the VAWA, violence against women act, a federal law that identifies what is considered “violent” and what is not legal. Knowing these laws can help you set firm boundaries, build confidence and face the evil in your life.
  12. Lastly, this is a long journey, but well worth it. I have been divorced for nine years and I am grateful to God every day that I was able to get out. Yes, I am much less financially stable then when I was married. Yes, it is difficult to be a single mother. Yes, at times I’m exhausted by life. But, I also have wonderful moments of peace, something I rarely felt while married. I have also made a ton of mistakes in this walk, and that is OK. I went through at least 5 therapist before I finally heard the truth and then another two before I found help in navigating this and healing. For years, I was white-knuckling my trauma and hoping I would make the “right” decisions. Being perfect is impossible. Mistakes while under incredible duress is absolutely expected. You do the best you can, pray and pick yourself up and move on to the next day.

I hope this helps. I know it is too long for the internet, but if you are like me, you have been search and search for help. Remember, you are not alone. Not even close. Narcissism seems to be on the rise. The odds of you meeting one are high and to fall in love with one, high as well. In fact, the very reason that makes you liked by people, you are empathic, is why narcissists grab you. And let me tell you, you don’t need to change that about yourself. That doesn’t make you wrong. You do need to learn that not everyone deserves to benefit from that side of you and you deserve to have people in your life, whether friends or a partner, to treat you the same way and cherish that that makes you, you.