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

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.

 

When your abuser is in the public eye, it all gets a lot worse

Sept. 12, 2014 _ Over the last few weeks, I have watched the NFL Ray Rice saga with uneasy interest because not only is it tragic and unsettling just to watch such a video, my abuser is now on twitter tweeting about it as an expert NFL sports writer.

He is on a national stage, a guest on sports radio around the country, pontificating and judging about the players involved and their missteps and crimes.

I try to stay clear of his internet posts and really stay clear of him in general, but I have stumbled on his words a few times in these weeks.

It is enough to make me sick.

I pray that Janay Rice is staying away from all the media attention and internet comments. I pray that she is with people who truly love her and are showing her they care.

Victims of abuse can be retraumatized as quickly as a war Vet jumps from loud noises years after combat. It sucks.

I have shed more unexpected tears in the last few weeks than I have in many years. Suddenly, I’m caught of guard by a comment, a new item or watching my 15-year-old face when he sees the video as it pops up on TV during his morning bowl of cereal.

I wish that we lived in a world where domestic abuser are not allowed to get away with it. I know that Ray Rice hasn’t. In fact, I actually feel very good about the way society is generally responding to this incident. I mean, its very hard not to be shocked by a video of a man cold-cocking his girl in an elevator then dragging her out like a rag doll with little concern or remorse. But, I think finally we are turning a corner on acceptance of this crime. James Brown’s comments Thursday night were so comforting.

But, this incident also shows me again just how much my ex has gotten away with it and lives with little consequences. Even in this case, my case, where there is no he said she said. He is on court records admitting to all of his abuses, including choking me while I was 9 month pregnant, spitting on me, attacking me over and over. Actions that if he worked for the NFL, would get him banned for life. Instead, he has a national soapbox, a national platform, where he gets to play holier than thou and draws an interested crowd of thousands.

No one tells him that he is wrong. No one tell him that he is a criminal who has no right to do anything about this and he should keep his mouth shut. Using this issue as fodder for his public persona hurts me, and his two children, who struggle still with the pain of domestic abuse in their family, and is yet another moral and ethical line he crosses with ease. Just as shocking as prying his hands off my throat or watching an NFL football player punch is wife unconscious.

In the end, I have turned again to what helps me process this, writing and sharing my story.

And remember to be grateful. Grateful that I got out, not away, but tonight I go to bed in my own space that doesn’t include him. I also am grateful that I am not him. It does occur to me that he is like a wax-wing bird flying to close to the sun. If he is ever outed after the pressure he put on player after player, the NFL and now Goodell, the NFL commissioner, well … my guess is that there will be hell to pay.

I am grateful that I don’t have to live with that.

 

This morning, finally, maybe the beginning of social un-acceptance

Sept. 10, 2014 _ I think we might have turned a corner. I’m holding my breath, hoping its true.

Have we, our society, our male role models, reached a point where enough is enough and standing up against abusers is the right thing to do instead of an act not done in polite circles? God, I hope so.

As I’ve followed twitter and news media on the punishment of NFL player Ray Rice and his violence against his wife, I’ve been in tears a lot. It is nice to see players and other men call the abuser out over and over and leave the victim alone. She is not being blamed or shamed because of what he did.

Player after player have posted their comments about the punishment Rice received, and they are blunt and to the point.

Bronco’s player Chris Harris tweeted:

“The NFL should have zero tolerance for domestic violence. There is never a reason for any man to be violent towards any woman.”

Bless you Chris. Your words help so much. Your words will alone will stop some guy out there from hitting his wife. Your words will help heal a victim who thinks she caused the abuse. Your words will help put an end to this crime. Your words will save a life.

Abusers abuse because they can. Because they don’t loose too much if they are caught. Look at Rice. Convicted with a slap on the hand, two game suspension, endorsements in tact. … At first … just a few days later, the consequences of the choice to abuse just skyrockets for Rice. And other abusers are watching.

I know that my abuser, my ex-husband, and national NFL writer, is watching. He said the same stuff as Rice. He is sorry. He is horrified by his actions. He has to live with this horror. He, he, he, he … Never though does he say a thing about what I live with. Nightmares. Flashbacks. Shame. Broken dreams. …. Rough, yes. But, its hardest when I stumble on my ex’s latest sports show or column where he pontificates about the abusive NFL player … hard to watch, so I try hard to stay away from that. Because, when he does that, I know my abuser thinks he got away with it, and therefore, will do it again. Maybe not hit me, but he might sue me, or worse, hurt my children.

This morning, I have a little hope personally that my abuser will keep his head down and leave me alone. This morning, I am comforted by complete strangers, men of the NFL who are standing up and saying no more. This morning, I am reminded that my ex can hurt me again, but I am a survivor who has a good life despite him and because of me, my loved ones, my friends and family. This morning, I am hopeful that we are moving in the right direction and maybe we can put an end to this crime.

Abusers aren’t bad husbands or out of control guys with anger management problems. Abusers are criminals and need to be told over and over again, “NO. You can’t do that.” And they need to hear it from everyone. Not just their wives. That is how it will stop.

It has been awhile since I’ve posted

June 22, 2014 _ I am a survivor of Domestic Violence and Abuse, recovering from PTSD, a mother of two wonderful children, 51 years old, divorced, a writer, businesswoman and unfortunately co-parenting with my abuser under court-order.

It has been 20 years since I was first physically attacked by then husband, 9 years since the last time he attacked me.

It has been one day since he last emotionally abused me. He did it by creating a fight with me while our child is in his care by telling me that our child is upset with me over my parenting style and a “decision” that he fears I’ve made. When I wouldn’t engage with his abusive texts, he contacted the parenting coordinator and told her to call the judge and report me as neglecting my duty to communicate. I asked to see our child so that I could hear the concerns directly, my ex said no.

After 20 years of abuses my ex has expressed, the details aren’t really all that important anymore. There are so many incidents of controlling, malicious behaviors, that they blur together.

My brain works very logically. I want to understand relationship dynamics because I want to get along with everyone. It is part of my co-dependent nature. When sudden trouble shows up in any of my relationships, I am immediately disturbed and begin the exhausting process of pealing the events and actions back so that I can understand how we got off on the wrong track.

However, relationships with some people don’t work, no matter the path it takes. Some people have problems, to say the least. And that notion has always been hard to get my head around. I’ve always believed in the fantasy that with enough, acceptance and explanation to avoid misunderstanding, people’s better nature will win out and relationships will run smoothly.

That fantasy has caused me years of pain.

It took me just about half a century to learn that some people are very broken and their better nature is hopelessly entangled in their own fear and personality disorders and impossible to operate normally, and

I don’t have the power to cause anyone to operate through their better nature.

Some people aren’t waiting to clear up a misunderstanding.

Some people don’t want relationships to run smoothly.

Some people don’t care if another person is hurt, or worse, want others hurt.

I think that fantasy is one many hold. I don’t think that I am alone. In fact, I’ve seen many people believe that my ex, an admitted abuser who relishes dominating people in every way, can be reasonable, even kind and loving if only he is in the right circumstance.

I’ve seen that in many domestic abuse cases. So much of our society believes that abusers are abusing because of circumstance and not because they are criminals. It doesn’t compute to believe that a person can follow the rules of society, like marriage, jobs, children, etc., and still be a criminal.

My therapist said it this way to me, “Crazy people still go to the grocery store.”

So true.

The danger in assuming that all those people milling about the grocery store are sane and reasonable, is that we afford a lot of latitude to sane people _ we don’t have protecting boundaries in place for ourselves and for our children.

Last night as I worried about my child, I forced myself to watch a sad movie. It is a trick I have to make myself cry _ really. I have to find ways to make myself cry when I’m worried about my children and my ex because if I don’t, the fear of trauma is trigger in me. Years and years of abuse means fight or flight reflex is easily accessed with who knows how many extra synapses created in my brain. Crying, feeling sorry for myself, actually helps way more than my normal reaction … to problem solve (part of the reflex).  But, years and years of abuse, means that I want to problem solve way more than I want to feel sorry for myself.

So, I force the feeling to come using tricks, designed by my therapist. Watching sad movies, listening to sad songs, photo albums … Essentially, I am forcing myself to feel the real feeling behind all of this.

I am sad that I was abused by my children’s father. I’m sad that I won’t grow old with my children’s father. I am sad that I couldn’t stop my children from having a fucked up childhood. I am sad that my children are forced to navigate life with an abusive father. I am sad that he won’t ever get better.

Feeling the real feeling helps me to no end. Oh, it sucked last night as I cried my eyes out. But, just a few minutes later, I felt a lot better and I accept that there is no problem solving I can do, no fight or flight reaction that will change the truth about my situation … that my ex, the father of my children is a criminal and the courts and society don’t truly acknowledge domestic abuse as a real crime against a person.

Even the term, “domestic abuse” downgrades the crime. “Domestic” implies a lesser crime that just assault. It implies that there is something within the control of the domicile that caused the abuse, rather than the truth, that one person has criminally assaulted another. And in fact, it is worse that stranger assault, because within a relationship, the victim doesn’t have boundaries in place to protect against abuse. Instead, there is trust that abuse won’t happen.

The terms we use actually help keep domestic abuse going and let the abuser know they can get away with it.

One day, I hope that we stop calling it domestic abuse and start calling it what it is: assault.

My ex is a criminal. Make no mistake.

He was never arrested, because I never called the police. And frankly, with the laws in my state, it is really possible that we both would have been arrested if I did call the police, even though I was the attacked.

When abuse means attack and emotional abuse means conspiracy to harm another and corruption of a minor, then we will making some progress.

But, we aren’t there yet.

The movie I watched to set off my healing, cleansing tears was Philomeana … a true story about an Irish women who had her son taken away from her  at an Irish home for unwed mothers run by the Catholic church. On her baby’s 50th birthday, she tried to find him with the help of a journalist. She did find him, except, that he had died years before as a result of AIDS. In her search, she finds out that the nuns had sold her child out from under her, without even able to say good-bye and when she finally confronts one of the aging nuns who did it and showed no regret, Philomeana instantly forgives her. Wow, powerful. This poor woman, I thought as I cried a river.

But, back then, the church believed a fantasy too. That this was best and Christian. How truly sick is that, well really sick. But, an entire institution thought it was OK.

Thank God I didn’t have my children taken away from me. Thank God I didn’t go through that hell.

With time, and awareness and understanding, I pray that we as a society come together and change the collective fantasy that domestic abuse is something within closed doors and between two people and therefore is none of our business. I pray that we realize that abuse is criminal and criminals should not go through life without additional boundaries.

Criminals have been given the same choice as all of us. They could have navigated their lives and pain without taking it out of others by committing crimes against others. They had the same choices as you and me. To make mistakes, to get angry of course.

Those who attack others have shown their colors. We should believe them and act accordingly. Today, would we give those nuns the keys to the nursery? I don’t think so.

Watching Philomeana forgive that nun, reminds me that forgiveness is best. But, wow, so hard to do. However, forgetting is not required and boundaries should never be loosened.

To all those women getting bruised today, hang in there and get help. You need it and deserve it.

October is a time to remember

Sept. 28, 2013 _ As Domestic Abuse awareness comes on us again, I pray for those victims still entangled with their abuser. They need my prayers and those of everyone else.

Living with an abuser is horrible and traumatic and it doesn’t really matter if the abuse is physical, emotional or all the other ways abusers work. Victims are trying to survive mental anguish caused by the fact that their partners, who are suppose to love them, are exploiting them on a daily basis.

I was talking to my sister yesterday about the dynamic. Abusers will do anything in the moment to get the momentary high of power and control. They fear what will happen to them if they loose control for even a second and will do anything to maintain what they believe is dominance over anything that could disrupt their world.

Most people can relate even a little bit to those feelings, so when we see it in others, we assume that it is normal and the abuser is managing it like the rest of us. However, the abuser is not. Instead, the abuser is hypersensitive to those feelings and work every second of their day to stamp down the insecurity and fear by creating a belief that they are in control of everything.

That makes it hard to be a partner with anyone. And it is exactly the reason why spouses are targets.

Because the abuser is so consumed with internal struggles and “voices”, he or she has no real ability to have compassion or empathy for others, even those closest to them. Or the patience to let someone else be in control of anything, like a good partner would.

I used to spend hours and hours trying to reach the empathy in my then husband whenever I was the direct target of his abuse. I didn’t know what I was doing, because I had very little understanding of the dynamic. I still thought our marriage was sort of normal, albeit in trouble.

Sometimes I would stay up with him until the wee hours of the morning trying to “get through” the wall he built around himself. He acted as though it would kill him to care about me or anyone else. He was like a little child refusing to open his mouth to his vegetables. Sometimes, i would break through and he would finally seem to let his guard down and we would hug and he would tell me he was sorry and I would be relieved. I had hoped that now that we understood each other, we were healed.

Finally, I was just worn out and didn’t want to work that hard to get to some emotional place with my husband that still included violence.

But, when I think back on it now, I know that understanding why I put up with 10 years of abuse is very important to my recovery.

My recovery has taken years. Therapy. Friends. This blog. And time.

It has also included something fundamental. The end of physical abuse and a respite from abuse and trauma.

It is impossible to heal from trauma while it is still going on. While trauma is happening, survival is the only goal and doing whatever is necessary to do it.

And part of recovery is the sad truth that an abuser can’t be changed by anyone.

My abuser will always see me as a source, called narcissistic supply. A well where he can find the sense of dominance or adulation. As long as we have children together, he will always have a way to dominate me.

My abuser will always need to seek a feeling that is only generated when he is either dominating another human being or is worshipped by them. Of course, he doesn’t always get this, but it is what he seeks. Like any addict, the feeling he gets is more important than anything else.

And it is vital that I understand that and accept it. I can’t change him. Sure, he can change if he wants to. But, like all addicts, it is solely up to him. So, until I see that happen, I accept that I have an abuser in my, and my children’s lives and we will always be in danger of his actions.

I haven’t been physically abused for years by him, but he has lashed out at him using our kids again and again and I still have cause for concern whenever my kids are with him. The simple truth that most people just can’t believe, is that an abuser can do permanent damage to others, even cause death.

Most of us belief, completely, that THAT kind of danger and destruction is only in the movies, or would some how be controlled or unveiled by the authorities. And that though we see horrible events on the news, that kind of thing doesn’t happen to people we know. I belief, that is why people have the hardest time accepting that an abuser is dangerous.

It certainly is the reason why I believed, despite event after event of physical and emotional abuse by my husband, wasn’t domestic violence. And that my husband was basically a good guy who was in a bad way.

But, the reality was and is, that my ex-husband is very dangerous and is capable of anything. It is the grace of God that I was not killed while married to him. He attacked me so many times, I can’t count. Life is fragile and precious. Any one of those times could have resulted in my death. He certainly wasn’t concerned with to what degree he was hurting me at the time.

I don’t accept anyone’s impression that my ex is a good father because he gets involved in their lives, or drove them to school or made their lunch. A good father doesn’t choke their pregnant wife. A good father doesn’t use other people ever. A good father is honest. A good father has character. Integrity. And lives by the law.

A good father would never put another human beings’ live in danger willingly.

That is the truth of an abuser. There is no other way to look at it that makes sense.

Trying to give the abuser the free pass that he can treat one person one way and another person another way and call him healthy or a good parent, is what endangers so many victims to this day.

I pray that during this coming month of Domestic Abuse awareness that we all think about what we are allowing to happen, because we don’t want to get involved or believe that abuse is in fact, domestic. It is not.

Abuse is abuse and it is wrong no matter whether it is in a home or not.

Reach out this month to someone who is a victim and let him or her know you care.

 

The rise and fall of an abuser

August 24, 2013 _ As followers of this blog know, I have been in a relationship with an abuser for more than 20 years and have been victimized and survived many forms of abuse found on the power and control wheel.

My abuser, someone I believe to be a narcissist, has used me over and over as a way to build himself up in ways that are both “normal” (such as marrying me and become a part of a family) and abnormal (such as beating me in order to feel dominance).

He has also played me in order to gain attention of any kind, including negative attention, just like a small child might act out. It doesn’t matter to him if he reaps a harvest of admiration, respect, sympathy, or anger, distain, fear or pity. To him, all attention is good.

Healthy people tend to want positive attention, not negative, respect not pity. But, a narcissist will take their “supply” in any form because it all puts them at the center and that is the goal.

For my abuser, he has spent his life trying to find a place of belonging with people, but that place must be a position of power, control, and as the center of the relationship.

Narcissism is the ultimate form of self survival because no matter the environmental circumstance, narcissist can twist it to serve them and provide their supply.

I have been through a lot of drama and trauma with my abuser, my ex-husband and co-parent to my children. When I first met him, he was pumping the well of pity and sympathy. He told his story of a child of horrible abuse and neglect. He was poor, disorganized and tormented, but somehow was rising above his station. He played on half-truths to pull pity out of others, for example he told how his father “committed suicide” on my abuser’s first day of his senior year of high school. The truth later revealed to me by his mother, was a bit different and suicide was not the cause of death. But, my ex learned that when he told the story, people, generally women, dropped their walls and immediately empathized if not pitied him. I was one of those women.

Later, sometimes in the same day, my ex would spin another narrative of a man, who was “raised by wolves” (he used to say with a sly grin), and pulled himself up by his bootstraps to ultimate fame and success (He became a nationally recognized NFL sportswriter for a major media outlet.)

No matter the version of the story, he never gave anyone credit for his success, not editors who gave him a break, not friends or family, or wives and children. And he always blamed others for his hardships. His mother was to blame for his childhood. Editors were to blame for not recognizing his superiority. And of course, me for causing him to abuse me.

When I left my abuser eight years ago, I left a man who began to play the sympathy card with anyone who would listen. I left him because I got skinny and was shallow enough to take his children away from him. To me, he played the “I’m so sorry and you had to leave me” card, which I actually believed for years that he meant.

After his sources of supply changed, his story changed. Now I was the abuser and he left me. He was superior and deserved to be treated that way by everyone, including me. He was the better parent, more reasonable and educated. He did everything he could to get above me in every respect. It was during this time that he sued me for custody of our teenagers (and of course didn’t get much in our settlement more than what he already had.)

But the act of the suit was the high for him, not how it worked out. Because the circumstances don’t matter for my abuser. The details are just the cards he has been dealt and he will decide how to sort it all out to come out on top. In his world, he will always win so the goal is always a moving target.

Today, my abuser is on the downward spiral of life, lost his job three months ago, limited income and just got hit with a $30,000 college bill for our 18-year-old. (and that is just for one semester)

He is on thin ice with his children because they are getting older and have questions about his actions. They love him for sure, but he is falling off the towering pedestal.

God only knows what is going on with his current wife, but my guess is that if he stays unemployed much longer, his wife is going to loose her patiences and begin to question his lies. I know first hand how that can turn out for her.

As my ex faces the rise and fall of his life, I have a good idea of what he is emotionally juggling. But, of course, it is only my guess. I am doing my best to keep my distance as much as possible. As he seeks pity instead of respect, I won’t become a source of that for him. I know better.

And even through he has hurt me in more ways than I can count, I am still vulnerable by my own feelings of empathy for this broken man. I feel sorry for him for sure. And I am still stocked that anyone could go through life so detached from other human beings and only concern themselves with themselves.

However, I have accepted that it is true and my ex is broken beyond repair and his relationship with his fellowman is one I would never want. No matter how much damage he has done to me, he hasn’t broken my heart to love, feel and grow. What a blessing, thank God.

In the end, abusers’ ups and downs through life will never bring them what they really seek, to fill the holes in their hearts, a deficit that they can’t even understand, but know they want.

I used to say to my ex-husband, and it used to drive him crazy when I did, “Please just be real with me.” It made him mad because it is the one thing he will never get.