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.

 

 

 

 

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

What does domestic abuse look like ….

Did you have these men in mind?

Chris Brown, singer

Sean Penn, actor, director, Haiti fund-raiser and advocate

Charlie Sheen, actor

Aaron Hernandez, NFL football player

Sean Connery, actor

Eminem, singer

Roman Polanksi, director,

Woody Allen, director, actor

Ike Turner, singer

Mike Tyson, boxer

Harry Morgan, actor

Glenn Campbell, singer

Tommy Lee, singer

Bobby Brown, singer

O.J. Simpson, football player, actor

Wesley Snipes, actor

Darryl Strawberry, baseball player

Jason Kidd, NBA star

John Daley, golfer

Mel Gibson, actor

Yanni, musician

Floyd Mayweather Jr., boxer

Tommy Mottola, music executive

Pete Doherty, rocker

Chad Johnson, NFL football player

Terrence Howard, actor

Deion Sanders, NFL football player

Dennis Rodman, NBA player

50 cent, singer

Josh Brolin, actor

Gary Busey, actor

Nicolas Cage, actor

Jose Canseco, baseball player

Randy Moss, NFL football player,

Eric Roberts, actor

Micky Rourke, actor

Christian Slator, actor

Rob Morrison, TV News anchor

 

 

 

 

 

What does an abuser look like

July 6, 2013 _ If there is one thing I could do to help victims of domestic abuse, of course it would be to pull them away from the abuse … but, that really wouldn’t prevent further abuse, believe it or not.

Abuse is in the control of the abuser, not the victim or anyone else. But, I have learned from my own experience and others’ that abusers abuse because they can get away with it.

Studies show that most abusers are interested in maintaining control and power over someone for whatever reason that makes sense to them …. usually related to the fears created by a twisted sort of low self-esteem/sense of entitlement. Abusers believe that they are entitled to power all the time, but they suspect that they don’t have power because of some short-coming in their actions. Therefore, they are motivated to get power at any cost, including the sinking to moral and ethical lows such as abuse.

They may know that abuse is “wrong” in the eyes of society, but that conflicts with their deep feeling that they can do anything to gain the upper hand in a relationship and should. So, they only physically abuse those who won’t expose it or who will tolerate it. If an abuser hit their boss, they would not get the upper hand in that relationship. They’d get fired and they know that. If he hits his wife, she is not likely to expose it, because she has a vested interest in maintaining the relationship, especially if there are kids or financial dependency.

Abusers are so driven to maintain power and control over others, that they have many, many tricks to do so. Physical abuse is just one way.

It is so important that we understand abusers in our society because in doing so, we have the best chance of stopping it. Our society has the wrong picture in its head about who are abusers. We seem to think that abusers stand out, are poor, are uneducated, are mean and unhappy all the time, and don’t know that abuse is wrong.

But, the facts don’t support that. Most of the people in my life were shocked beyond belief to learn that my ex-husband was abusing me. He is a successfully, nationally known sports writer who is married, pays (mostly) his child support, is on television, radio, knows famous people and can be charming.

He is like that in public. In private, he is shallow, detached, lacks empathy, is self-centered and self-serving, closed and arrogant on his best days. On his worse, he is so deeply offended that his opinions, desires, wishes are not being completely honored that he will yell, hit, insult, and hate his family member.

This is so horrible and confusing for anyone who wants the intimacy of a family relationship. Family members of an abuser struggle with this behavior. We want something difference from him. Me and my children didn’t want to throw away our husband and father. We just didn’t want to be abused.

Abusers are everywhere and we all just keep trying to keep them in the box where we had them. As a wife, I didn’t want a divorce. I wanted a happy family and couple life … so despite the in-my-face evidence that my husband didn’t want the same thing, I kept forcing the facts into compartments that allowed for my fantasy. I wanted a happy marriage with the father of my children … so I had to find a way to make this work with my abuser. I tried years of therapy, relationship books, couples seminars, anger management, abusers intervention group, and on and on…. Until finally, I realized my fate. I wasn’t going to have a happy marriage with the father of my children and every day I pretended that, I was a day closer to death.

My abuser looked normal to everyone, albeit a bit opinionated. My friends and even some of my family want a fantasy too. They want to be free of conflict. Domestic abuse doesn’t allow for that. Holding an abuser accountable, means that you must force yourself out of the fantasy of peacefully co-existing with this person.

My hope is that abuser will find it harder and harder to get away with abusing. That when an abuser is exposed, that we shun him, charge him, offer painful consequences, call him out and hold him and him alone responsible. Only then, will it stop. Today, unfortunately, an abuser can talk his way out of that responsibility and a lot of people buy it.

My ex-husband’s wife bought his story that he only hit me because I was such a bitch that he was driven to hit me and he is so ashamed. She has a vested interested in him being correct. My children want their dad to be great, so they try to sort through the pain of the truth. It pains me to watch it. Our friends who know want to believe that the person they know who is charming and fun and a great dad and husband, only abused because of some dynamic problem that brought out uncharacteristic behavior.

And most people still believe that domestic abuser are crazed monsters who looks and sounds the part. Hollywood paints the picture of this and we believe it. What a disservice to the victims of real domestic abuse.

 

 

What will stop DV

June 30, 2013_ After years of surviving the trauma of domestic abuse, both emotional and physical, and learning to manage the hurt, damage and pain of my walk being attached to a domestic abuser, I stand today wishing there was a way to make it all stop, for me and for every other victim of this senseless abuse.

Often, when my ex is in the throws of pulling us over the cliff of abuse, I feel a panicked instinct to hold back myself, my kids even my ex from going over the cliff of destruction that abuse causes everyone. My ex makes choices in the moment of his life and doesn’t always think through to the end of how his actions will effect others or even himself.

Abusers, and my ex is not an exception, don’t understand how to live in relationships with others so they watch others and play at being a role. Sometimes, when they have learned well, they can mimic a healthy relationship for a while. My ex has learned how to be a good employee for example and he does this “work” because he wants a certain outcome for himself _ the job that gives him positive feedback. He eats up two forms of feedback 1. Adoration and 2. Fear. That is what he is always seeking from the relationships in his life. Those in his orbit must give him one or the other or both. If they don’t, then he will work to get them to or he will eventually dump them and move on.

I work very hard to provide neither for my ex because I believe today that it is best for all of us, my children, him, his wife, if I am not in his orbit at all. Unfortunately, because of our children, I still am no matter what I do. So, I can never totally leave.

This journey is difficult and taxing on me and my kids. I am emotionally re-traumatized all the time because I care for the well-being of my children. I care that my ex will take us all over the cliff again and again for no good reason. When my ex sued me for custody of two teen-age children, I knew that he was making a horrible decision for himself and not just me and the kids.

I knew that he would not win all that he sought. I knew that had he spoken to me first about what he wanted, I would have come to a form of agreement. I knew that he would have to pay a boat load of money and I knew that the kids would resent the court order that would then dictate their lives. I knew that custody suits don’t leave anyone without scars and I knew that it was a horrible parenting decision to do it.

I also knew that the case would drag on for months and would end sometime in my oldest son’s 17th year, so close to 18th birthday when legal custody dissolves.

To me, the custody battle was a pointless, damaging jump over the cliff that would hurt all of us deeply.

I believe that to my ex-husband, it was an opportunity to dominate me causing me to fear him and it was an opportunity that would be lost with my child’s 18th birthday. He had to act fast in order to capitalize on our child’s minor age and get the last drop of abuse that he could out of me over this.

My ex also found a way to dominate another human being legally and that matters a lot to him. The one thing that kept him from abusing me physically or any other way, was if someone found out that he was breaking a taboo and stained his image. Abusers, and specifically narcissistic personality disorder abusers, link every choice they make back to their own thoughts on how they think others perceive them.

For a very long time, my ex didn’t want anyone to know that he would hit me. He believed that if he was labeled an abuser, he would loose his status in his society. He saw professional football players, many who he wrote about as an NFL national sports writer, get beat up in the press for their abuses of their girlfriends and wives, so he was afraid of that happening to him. He also was able to read that in polite circles, DV didn’t happen. So he didn’t want to be outed.

I didn’t want it outed either. First because I was trying to keep a fantasy going that we could be happy. Then, because I didn’t want my children to have a bad childhood. Until, I finally wised up and realized that silence is what keeps DV going.

In the quiet, hidden corners of relationships, abuse happens everyday because abusers know completely that they can get away with it … that it won’t sink their reputations.

My ex eventually told his new wife that he hit me, but he did it through tears of regret and his own victimization. Of course, I wasn’t there, but between court testimony and his own story he told me, he explained, I’m sure very effectively that he was essentially abused by me and found himself with no good choice but to hit.

An I imagine, because I’ve been there, that his wife is holding onto the fantasy that her husband is not a monster who would hit his wife.

And when his wife bought into the idea that I was evil, of course she would deem me an unfit mother and wonder why my ex wouldn’t want to protect his children from me with a custody fight. Of course, I don’t know what goes on behind the closed doors of their lives, but I did hear some pretty unbelievable spin during a court case and heard my ex’s wife speak through clenched teeth about my short-comings as a mom and ex-wife.

And of course, the reason why my ex was able to push and push a custody battle for teen-agers who had lived quiet well and happily for five years post divorce is because he could. Lawyers don’t care about the damage the suit would do to my children. Judges don’t question why a case has been filed even a tenth more than they just judge the allegations. But worse, friends and family don’t want to get involved in the dirty laundry of others.

Most people struggle with their own dramas that they don’t want to engage in others. It is a sad state of our society that we all don’t want to help each other out more. It is so easy to just sit and judge from the position of well, I may think what I think with limited informations, but I don’t want to engage.

As a victim of domestic trauma, I can’t tell you how little I am asked about it. I know it is because people don’t feel that it is an acceptable subject to discuss for any of us. I wish I could tell them, that I want to talk about it. It is helpful to do so and helps me feel it instead of bury it, where it continues to do damage.

I wish people would look at my ex and tell him to his face to stop hurting his ex-wife and children. If they did and didn’t buy any of his bullshit spin, then he would stop abusing. It really is that simple. Abusers abuse because they can. The day they will stop is the day that it because socially unacceptable to abuse …. even more than the legal status of abuse.

The day my ex will stop abusing me and his children will come when he is shunned by people, not even everyone, but by most for doing it. For every person that believes that giving him the benefit of the doubt is helpful, he grows stronger in his belief that he can get away with this very unhealthy coping skill. And that is all that it is for him, when he is struggling emotionally for whatever reason, dominating someone makes him feel better.

If you want to help in the fight to stop domestic abuse, then start by letting the abuser know that it is not OK with you how he chooses to cope with his pain.

How Lance Armstrong is just like any other narcissist, including my ex

Jan. 19, 2013 _ Lance Armstrong’s public apology for lying and bullying for many, many years doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. I’ve seen how narcissism works up close and stepping up to the mic and declaring “I did it” isn’t that big a deal for people with that condition.

My ex has made repeated apologies to me throughout our relationship about how bad he felt for hitting me, lying to me, leaving me, and so on. He has written me letters confessing these sins to me. He has declared in a deposition that he hit me and generally mistreated me.

The trouble is, that my ex’s apologies don’t mean that his mistreatment is over. Nope, not at all. Every single time that my ex hit me or physically abused me, he would apologize from “deep within his heart.” However, he never cried while owning up to slamming me against a wall, choking me while I was 9 months pregnant, disappearing for 3 weeks leaving me with two young children. You would think that after committing those horrendous acts against his wife and the mother of his children, he would have some sign of remorse emotionally. But, he never did.

He could create the sentences that flowed through his mouth that sounded sincere, but like a person with a false smile, you can see the lack of real emotion in his eyes. During the clips of Lance Armstrong’s interview, you could see the stone within in his gaze, too.

It’s not that a narcissist isn’t sorry, though they aren’t, its that they don’t understand the emotion in the first place. They have learned that when their lies are exposed, a certain behavior is required in order to spin the turn of events into something they can use to put them back on top.

Narcissist are very talented and fight nearly to the death to maintain their position of power, image and control, and when it looks like they have been exposed and knocked down to the dirt (where some belong), they don’t slither off to a place never to be seen again. They come back.

Narcissist don’t learn or never feel contrite. They feel temporarily offset and they go off to recalculate their actions to find their way back into the game.

An apology is just empty words spit out like an actor on the stage reciting Shakespeare. Wonderfully written with the emotion of a man dead 400 years ago, but not the sentiments of the speaker.

I expect Armstrong to find a way to earn public attention again after this. Maybe he will be allowed back into sport. Maybe he will become a TV personality. A reality TV show, perhaps. Maybe he will become a commentator on some Xtreme sport show or the E! channel. I’m sure he will be writing a book about it all.

My ex had apologies down to a science. I believed them for nearly 20 years! And I have a very high IQ. But, funny how the apologies never, never ever lead to a change in behavior. He always abused again. Still does in fact, just not physically.

Apologies are a necessary tool, equal to violence, lies, anything that helps the abuser maintain his dominance. And afterall, narcissist’s apologies are a twisted form of victimizing themselves. Remember Lance’s words “I have to live with that for the rest of my life.” he told Oprah…. Big freakin deal. Try living with what his victims have to live with. Victims of real trauma caused by Lance Armstrong.

Lance is like two personalities, one who did it and one who has to live with the consequences of it. Neither is sorry for what he did. He is sorry that he got caught. Sorry that he has to admit a mistake. But, now that the spinning is underway in Lance’s head, you can bet that he is eating up the attention.

My ex told me once, while fighting with me about our kids, that he told his new wife “through tears” that he beat me and that she was oh so understanding as he cried to her one night at their kitchen table about what he has to live with. Wow. He never cried with me about what he did TO ME by CHOICE year after year. And of course, after that tearful confession to his wife, he then sued me for custody of our teenagers. Um, how sorry are you if you are willing to put me and our children through the trauma of a custody suit. (Which he lost, by the way.)

Oh, I’m not angry about it despite how it sounds and frankly I feel very sorry for his wife. She has got to be struggling with his crazy-making behavior. But, narcissist can always find a way out of their consequences and can con very smart people into believing their bull shit.

If Lance is really sorry for his actions and lies and bullying, then he should fade into the woodwork and let those people he tried so hard to destroy heal. Instead, he grabs the limelight we all so willing shine his way and does yet another dance. Rest assured, Lance will not fade away yet. He is still to interesting to the voyeurs in us.

Me too. I watched all of 3 minutes of his interview with Oprah before I thought, “what the hell am I giving this asshole my precious time” and turned it off.

I know that doesn’t make me an expert on his interview. But the truth is, I’ve heard his apology a hundred times before. I could quote it word by word.

Narcissist will stay around trying to suck the air out of the room as long as we give them the venue to do so and as long as we fantasize that they will change. Few do. Instead they go down fighting to stay on top anyway they can with no shame.

Control? What does that mean in a bad relationship

Dec. 1, 2012_ In 1990, I met the father of my children, my first and only husband, my partner, my abuser, the man who beat me so many times I can’t count, who left me with babies for days on end in good times and bad, who used me, cursed me and who lied to me maybe millions of times.

He was a wife batterer. He was a controller.

But, though I understand completely that the bruises on my body after one of his episodes meant that I was a victim of violence and he was an attacker, I have always struggled with describing my ex-husband as someone who wants to control me.

I’ve read so many stories about abusers who wouldn’t let their victims out of the house, spend time with friends, work, handle money, and so on. But, my ex-husband never did that. My ex-husband didn’t try to control my every move, my waking hours, my whereabouts, my goings-on. So, he couldn’t be controlling, right? He didn’t fit the mold of an abuser, I thought.

That logical has kept me up at nights, spinning in my mind just how does this all compute. If my husband is an abuser, then shouldn’t I feel controlled? Shouldn’t he be checking up on me during the day to make sure I was doing or not doing whatever he wanted? Shouldn’t he be ordering me around? Shouldn’t he be paying attention to my whereabouts? Shouldn’t he care?

He didn’t.

He didn’t check up on me. He didn’t keep money, friend or family away from me. He didn’t restrict where I went, with who or when. He didn’t call me repeatedly. He didn’t follow me around. He wasn’t even jealous, suspicious or dramatic about my relationship with anyone.

He didn’t really show any concern about my daily life at all. He didn’t pay attention to me in the slightest.

How on earth could my husband be a controller? This didn’t compute. And in my darkest, silent hours, I still struggle trying to get my head around this puzzle. How could I call him a controlling abuser if he didn’t really care about me at all.

But, he is. And he does care about me. And he is controlling as hell. Just not about anything he doesn’t care about. And what he cares about …  is him.

My ex-husband cares only about how his world is functioning at every moment and like the Earth that has a moon in its orbit, my husband cares about me and my interactions with him when I’m hovering over his horizon or messing with his gravity.

My ex-husband to this day controls his world with precision.

He controls everything when it matters to him and nothing when it doesn’t.

When we were married, I was exhausted with my husband’s constant comments on everything we did or I did that effected him. He had something to say, an opinion to render, a learned position, a condescending explanation of how much better this would be or that would be if I would just stop the direction I was headed and follow the course he laid out.

Often, he would notice what I was making for dinner and he would chime in that green beans were a better choice than corn or bowls were necessary instead of plates, or when we should sit down or when the children should be excused.

For years, I didn’t realized the number of times he offered his opinion on every move I made because so often I trusted myself way more than I trusted him. I thought it was cute,  supportive and frankly wrong most of the time. I used to read his involvement as loving.

I would enjoy his input as a partner would. I felt we were in the foxhole of life together and I was happy that he wanted to participate. That was a bit of a new experience for me in my life. I had spent my adult years so far on my own and it was exciting to have someone who cared that much about “us”.

However, soon the constant corrections he offered became annoying. I knew his life story, or at least the version he told me. I compared it to mine and I was not impressed that he had much to add to what I already knew. Because of how I was raised, I could handle a lot on my own. I was a bit of a tomboy, too, so gender roles didn’t work for me either.

I could do a lot. I could cook, sew, clean, sure. But, I could also mow a lawn, drive a car well, fix a flat, paint a room, build a shelf, train a dog, take care of babies, handle money, and so on. My ex, who had lived with his alcoholic mother as an only child in the same two bedroom apartment his whole life, had never mowed a lawn, enjoyed a big Thanksgiving family gathering, swung a hammer, walked a dog, or any number of typical childhood experiences or early adulthood mistakes. He had never lived alone, either. I had for years.

When my ex offered his two cents on my endeavors, most of the time they weren’t worth rubbing together. He was smart, but he wasn’t street smart. He wasn’t even really book smart. He was however, very clever.

And like all evil monsters, he used his brain power for bad instead of good. Well, in truth, he used his mental fire power to stay ahead of his demons and control his world.

I didn’t feel like he was controlling me, because I wasn’t listening to him.

However, he was trying like hell to do it because every day of his life, he is trying to control his second to second existence. He is controlling for sure. He is trying to control his own thoughts. He is trying to control how people think of him, all people. He is trying to control his environment and how people react to him. He is trying to control the outcomes of events, minor and large.  He is trying to control his every moment and that takes a lot of energy.

His radar scans the worlds in orbits with him at the center. I was and am irrelevant to him when I am outside his detection. He doesn’t care one wit what I do then. But, when I orbit around into his range and suddenly affect his mood, desires, fears, image of himself, thoughts, whatever, then I become something to control.

And you know we all do that to some extend. We all are afraid of the unknown from time to time, or hope that we are liked or respected. We all want control over our own lives, at the very least.

But my ex-husband, is willing to do anything to have it.

He will say or do anything to keep me under his power. He will direct me, talk over me, lie to me, hit me, leave me, threaten me, bull shit me, walk away from me, accuse me, assign motive to my actions, lie about me, hurt me, yell at me, call me names, laugh at me, smile at me, lie to himself, throw me aside, tell me he loves me, do anything to maintain the higher ground, or at least think that he has it.

He will control his world and anyone who comes into it.

I am not an easy woman to control. I’m independent, capable, smart, educated, friendly, strong, responsible, worldly, a jack of all trades. Some may think that I’m stubborn. I also trust myself and don’t seek help, even when I need it. I don’t like the feeling that I need anything from anyone because it makes me feel vulnerable and unlikeable, even unlovable. This is not an ego thing. I am not prideful. I truly would love the support and advice of someone who cares. I am untrusting that anyone will WANT to come to my aid, that I am worth that to anyone. I take care of myself, because I believed for so long that no one else would. This makes for an interesting dynamic and an abuser.

At first, his control over me was completely foreign to me. I didn’t know what it was. I had never experienced anyone taking such an interest in what I thought or did. Then I started to like his involvement because it was better than the void of disinterest when my ex’s radar beam was pointed in the opposite direction and I was invisible to him.

Then, I became annoyed. He seemed to always take the position that he knew better than me, even when it was clear that he didn’t.

Then, I was resentful and angry, especially since he spent so little time at home and didn’t care very much when he was. And after all, he was solving our emotional turmoil with abuse.

His control of me, or lack there of, confused him and upset him. When he wanted what he wanted and if I was in his way, he would pull out his bag of tricks and begin to work me and the common situation until he got what he wanted, and he always did. Even when he didn’t get exactly what he wanted, he would spin it in his head to believe that what he got was what he wanted all along. But, not in a way of accepting … you know “you win some, you loose some,” But in a “No one is going to get over on me,” way.

Even today, as we are forced to co-parent our children, he will do anything to make sure that he feels like he is the puppet master pulling the strings, that he is in-charge. When he doesn’t feel like he is, he zigs to the left or the right and keeps seeking a way to feel his own power. It has got to be exhausting.

My ex loves control, and we all do at times. But, my ex can not accept that somethings are not in his control. That makes him crazy. He plays a daily psychological game with himself that he is dominant over everything. That the world has nothing on him. That he is the master of his world in the worse possible way.

He will do anything to maintain that belief system.

Including hit me, file a custody suit against me, blame me or anyone for anything negative in his life, take little responsibility for his actions, choices, repercussions.

Knowing this, I try to stay out of his radar, but its hard to do. First, we have minor children together, so this makes it difficult to have zero interaction. Second, I can’t anticipate where is beam of radar is turning next. I can’t try to anticipate crazy. Who knows what will get his attention.

The years I spent with him, I wasted many, many hours of my life trying to figure him out and figure out what he wanted. I put so much energy into him, that I didn’t put much into my own life. No wonder why I was so unhappy and unhealthy. My choice sucked. I struggle even know as I write this, that I am still wasting time on him.

When I decided it was time that I make a better choice, I had to accept, though it took me years of therapy, that my ex would always have some power over me because I was not willing to play this game by his rules. I was not willing to hurt anyone at all cost to win.

I had to accept that I will likely forever be involved with a controlling abuser and there was nothing much more I could do about it.

Like someone who has had cancer and constantly wonders or worries if the bad cells will come back, I am haunted by the knowledge that my abuser is out there, capable of doing devastating harm to me, my children, my life, if I happen to get to close to his atmosphere.

The years I spent worrying about how to avoid getting hurt by him and the efforts I have made to achieve a harmonious existence with him sometimes seems like a waste of my time, my life. But, regrets don’t change much.

I fight today to find peace, despite my bad relationship with the father of my children and know that I can’t change it. I work to keep my distance as much as I can. No phone calls. No meetings, unless we are with a counselor. I don’t even make eye contact when we are in the same room. Again, still spending energy on him.

I try to find grace when confronted with one of his only current ways of engaging with me … emails. I try hard not to respond to his rants and accusations. I try hard to avoid comment whenever possible. I’m trying to find my way around space without brushing up against him, without coming into his focus. But, I don’t want to spend too much of my shortening life on this dance that took so much of my time in the past.

It isn’t easy.

I struggle with it.

I am co-dependent by nature and so breaking away isn’t a picnic.

But, with the help of a great therapist and this blog and friends and family and the smiles of my wonderful children, I’m getting there. I hope someday soon I won’t wake up needing to write about this relationship and the pain it has caused me. I hope one day to find a relaxed existence that doesn’t include a moments through about him. I hope to no longer need to control my world for fear that if I don’t, disaster will fall. I don’t want to be as exhausted as my ex. I want to be me. Happy. At peace. One day I will.

The wheel of power and control

My ex-husband and abuser beat me many times during our 15-year relationship. He left many hundreds of times in anger and with threats of divorce and financial ruin. My abuser cursed me out more times than I can count and lied to me just as much. Sometimes he lied about little, silly things. Sometimes he lied about very large things. Lying was his most common form, in fact.

I used to say, as if I was the only person on the planet trying to figure out abuse, that it was like he had a toolbelt of horrible attacks that he would use against me. I knew why he was using those tools. He was looking to better his position, no matter the circumstance. My abuser, like most abusers, was unable or unwilling to take personal responsibility for anything, so the tools in his belt helped him wiggle out from under blame.

When I look at the well publicized Wheel of Power and Control, I’ve highlighted all the tools that my ex did and still used on me whenever he feels he is in emotional trouble or his sense of control is slipping.

Here is a look at what I’ve experienced beyond the list above:

October if Awareness month

September 2012_ Abusers dsn’t move on. They are very emotional ill and they need to want to get help before their behavior changes. They don’t always look like abusers or even bad people. They can look normal and sound normal. But you might be able to pick through the pieces of their lives and find red flags. You might not.

Victims have a hard time moving on, too. There may be a reason why a victim was a victim, there may not be. But, victims don’t cause abuse. Victims are victims of abuse.

As a victim of physical abuse, I still struggle with moving on. I still suffer from trauma and stress. Sometimes it feels like I am about to get hit. I lived for so many years under the fear of future physical abuse and emotional abuse that I still look over my shoulder today from time to time. Actually, the more accurate description is that I feel the weight of the fear on my chest so strong that is can be hard to breathe.

I’m told that is a symptom of post traumatic stress and it sure makes sense. When anything looks like the behavior that so messed with my life, I get scared.

Unfortunately, my abuser still tries to abuse. He calls me names and makes threats. He works on the minds of our children to spin details of our lives, separate as they are, to paint a pictures of him as the victim. This is very difficult to tolerate because it hurts the wounds of the past all over again.

I work very hard at trying to move past the pain and stress of the demented relationship.

Therapy is the answer. But only with a therapist who understands the wheel of power and abuse. Grieving is so important as well. The five stages matter.

Next month is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. It is a great time to share your story here on this blog or others. It is a great time to let someone you know who has faced DV that you care. Ask about their story. Show your support. Be a friend. It matters.

With love to all of the readers and DV survivors. Help stop this awful problem around the world.

 

Real Housewives highlight real issues around domestic abuse

Dec. 9, 2011 _ The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills television show has been knocked and mocked repeatedly for its unrealistic portrayal of women in California and supposed fake or scripted behavior of its characters and even an alleged victim of domestic abuse hasn’t been spared the jeers.

I would agree that the lifestyles portrayed in this show and most reality programs are laughable most of the time.

However, Housewife Taylor Armstrong’s behavior and subsequent disclosure of abuse hardly seems out of the ordinary and the confusion of her co-stars also seems to fit reality.

In fact, there are many typical issues exposed during the recent shows that fit the patterns of abuse within a family and within a circle of friends.

For starters, Taylor’s behavior is confusing, erratic and hard to understand. Bloggers and critics have made fun of the woman for her emotional break-downs and dramatic behavior captured by the rolling cameras. But, as a victim of domestic abuse, her behavior can be explained in one way: She is afraid.

She is afraid of her husband’s reactions, her daughter’s future, her own financial dependency, what her family, friends and fans will think of her, she is afraid of what the truth will cause and the cameras capture the struggle that victims face as they sit between a rock and hard place.

To victims in the thick of their daily struggle, there is simply no good choice and they often hope that something will happen that will change their situation for the better. You can see that this housewife tries marriage counseling as she desperately tries to preserve her fantasy of a healthy family.

Taylor’s friends also act typically in their attempts to help Taylor and their doubts about the abuse. One of her co-stars even says, “Well I have never seen any abuse, so I don’t know.” A very common sentiment, but no abuser is going to abuser his victims before the eyes of others. In fact, abusers are terrific at acting the part of a caring husband in front of other people so that they can reap the compliments from others about how “good” they are.

Her friends also struggle with loyalty between the married couple and don’t know how to act toward Taylor’s husband. They are friendly toward him and even talk to him about the struggle with respect and reserve, but they don’t approach the abuse with him.

But, it is understandable why her friends, and in this case, millions of viewers, are unsure if the allegations are true.

Another issue surrounding domestic abuse so subtlety  exposed in these episodes is that the victim doesn’t want to leave their abuser. Taylor is surrounded by many friends offering their homes _ no mansions _ as a sanctuary, yet Taylor doesn’t take them up on the offers. Taylor so clings to the hope that her husband can change and she can stay with him, that she is not looking for a place to go.

Her friends also take a common position of believing that they would never stay in such a relationship and they can’t relate to Taylor’s decision to stay despite her claims of abuse. So often people feel this way and can’t understand why someone who not run out of the house the first time they got hit and never look back.

You see it too when you look at politician wives who swear they won’t stand by their man if he ever does her wrong, only to see them on the podium right next to the apologetic official.

What people tend to forget is that when families are formed, they are bonded and vested together and breaking those bonds, hopes and maybe fantasies are difficult. How many people excuse questionable behavior of their loved ones?

I can related to every issue exposed in these shows. I know what it is like to judge another woman’s choice to stay in a marriage full of behaviors that I would not tolerate. I can related to the woman who has hope that their mate will change and get better. I can related to the denial. I can understand the doubt. I can understand the confusion.

In my case, I could have called on many people to put me and my children up for a few days or maybe a few weeks so that I could get out of the house of my abusing and violent ex-husband. But, then what? What would I do after I’d worn out my welcome injected into someone’s life? Besides, while I lived with my abuser, I was giving all of my efforts to trying to “fix” the relationship, end the violence so that we could keep our family in tact. Denial is a powerful perspective.

It took me years and years to accept that my ex wasn’t going to be “fixed” and that I was throwing my efforts into a foolish pursuit and in fact, was wasting my time and the lives of my children. It is sad that it took me 10 years after the first attack, to finally have the courage to face facts, but I was stubborn in my hope that I could have my happily-ever-after.

I believe that there are many, many women spending time in abusive relationships doing the same thing. They aren’t staying because they don’t have a place to go to escape immediate abuse, they are staying because they aren’t ready to give up on the dream of a perfect, peaceful life with their husband.

I know there are many women who don’t leave because they are afraid of their abusers’ reaction to divorce. In my case, I worried about how my ex would treat my children and I knew that in marriage, I would be able to protect them. I knew it would be much harder to protect them after divorce. I was very motivated to find a way to stop the abuse within the marriage rather than outside it.

I always knew that I could stop the abuse if I left. I am a smart person and I didn’t need anyone to tell me that. But, for so many years, I didn’t want to leave. I was too afraid to face what my life would look like, what my children’s lives would look like, if we left.

I am sad that it took me so long to find that path out and to finally say to myself that I would not settle for someone who is willing to hit me when he didn’t get what he wants. But, thankfully, I finally did tell myself that I would not continue living life with so little.

I am not married now, nor am I in a relationship. I have been in love since my divorce 6 years ago, but that relationship didn’t last. My children are teen-agers now and have settled into the routine of divorced parents. It is not perfect. I am tired most days. I juggle work, single motherhood, and financial insecurity. But, I am so much happier than I ever was when I was with my ex.

Unfortunately, my ex can still abuse me, emotionally, and he still tries. We will always be connected by our children. But, I can go to my house, lock my door and rest assured that I have peace and safety within.

His continued abuse does cause me stress and there are times that I feel sorry for myself because no one should have to deal with the abuse of another. But, I can talk myself into the reality that we all have problems to handle, this is just mine.

Counseling, this blog, and good friends help me today to face the abuse my ex inflicts today. I have learned that silence is the worse approach. Abusers tend to be insecure. My silence only give my abuser power.

Today, the best approach seems to be to disengage in every way that I can. The least amount of contact, the best. Even then, I never know when he will strike again.

I hope that Taylor can learn to cope with the scars of abuse and violence and move forward to a better life. I hope now that she knows she has a better change for it.