Types of Abuse and How to Escape The Relationship
3 Main Forms of Abuse
Abuse can come in all forms, emotional, physical and a combination of both. Oftentimes the victim is a wife or girlfriend and the abuser is the man. So for the sake of ease, throughout this article, I will refer to the abuser as “he”.
Are You in This Type of Relationship?
Emotional abuse is the hardest to prove. You cannot call the police and have photos taken of bruises, so this makes it a tricky situation. As an adult, it can be even harder to make your case for emotional abuse because adults are supposed to just “take it”, or “not get upset” simply because they are adults.
Physical abuse is the abuse that comes to mind most often when someone says “abuse”. Physical abuse is when the victim suffers physical injuries from blunt force trauma, being hit, kicked, poisoned, thrown against a wall and so on. The abuser will usually scream cruel remarks but then calm down and be loving and apologetic. These apologies make the victim feel guilty for getting upset at being injured.
Combination abuse is when the victim is denied basic human rights, such as freedom, but may not suffer beatings or other physical abuse very often. The abuser may be very kind to their victim, making sure they have food, water, and may even seem to “spoil” them with gifts. But behind closed doors, the person, usually a wife or girlfriend, is told she cannot choose her own clothes or may be threatened to the point that she becomes submissive. She has probably sustained quiet injuries.
For example: my ex would hold my forearm, and my hand. While speaking very softly to me about what I did “wrong”, he would twist my hand until he heard a “pop” sound. To the outsider, it looked like he was hold my hand and talking sweetly, after all, he had a big smile on his face while he was hurting me. He would warn me not to grimace and threaten to hurt me more later, or worse, hurt one of the kids.
A woman in that situation may have difficulty convincing people that she is being abused because there are no marks on her skin, only swelling. The controlling type of man will convince doctors that she fell and sprained her wrists. He will convince her that she was wrong about his intentions when he spoke to her, he did not raise his voice, how could she take what he said as bad? That would be the way he would reason and justify his behavior. As long as he did not raise his voice, or cause bruises, it was not abuse in his mind.
Women Who Marry an Abuser May Have Been Abused as a Child
As a child, my parents were very strict. Nothing, I mean nothing, I did was good enough. I smiled wrong, I walked wrong, I was too short, too skinny, my hair was the wrong color. When I was nine years old I was staying after school with a friend of mine. As always, I watched the clock. I had to have dinner started by 5. At 5 minutes until 5:00 pm, I went and sat on her couch. I watched the front door. She came and sat next to me, asking me what I was doing. My reply? “It will be time for the beating soon, don’t you get beat every day at 5:00?”. She was horrified and I was embarrassed. I thought everyone got a daily beating at 5:00 pm. Her mother started cooking dinner and I panicked, thinking I was in horrible trouble because I had not gotten out to the kitchen to cook dinner. I was playing (a rare thing) and time had gotten away from me. I learned that day that I was being abused.
Into my teenage years, I figured I was going to die any day, so I stayed honest. If what my grandmother taught me was correct, then if I stayed honest, I would get a better life after death, but only if I did not commit suicide. She told me that after my first attempt. After that attempt I got beaten almost to death because of trying to take my own life.
Trends in Dating When Abused as a Child
In interviewing women for this article, I spoke to women in forums and at shelters. The theme seemed to be the same, when abused as a child, the victim dated a lot, may guys, trying to find love. That is not wrong, but most admitted that they dated abusers.
You Can’t Know
On dating or marrying abusive men, do not feel bad!! You can’t know what you were never taught. How do you know the signs of a good guy if your father/stepfather etc…did not set a good example? You can’t. You go out into the dating world and flounder. You try this type guy and that type guy. Some women get lucky and find a good, nice guy that gives them the love and respect they deserve. Most get another abusive man.
For me, I did not really date. I was afraid to date. Of course my parents did not really allow it anyway, so that did not help. I still managed to attract the abusive type.
My first date, the guy tried to rape me in the driveway of my house and when my oldest half brother saw what was going on, he just watched. He told my mom I was “making out big time”. When I was finally able to get away from this guy and run to the front door, I was met with a slap in the face hard enough to knock me back down the stairs. The guy that tried to rape me sped off and told everyone at school how he saw me get beaten for not “putting out” for him. That incident set the rest of my life in motion. I accepted that I was supposed to be beaten and cut down. I was nothing. I was a battering ram and a yelling board. I was nothing. I dated a couple guys but the really nice one, I did not recognize as a good guy because I didn’t know.
Nobody had shown me any compassion or love, so I thought it was only in books, movies and songs. It wasn’t real. So when this really wonderful guy tried to come into my life, I thought he was just a friend…
This happens to most of us. Do not beat yourself up over it. Remember, you can’t know what you don’t know.
After I graduated high school I married a guy I didn’t want to marry only because my parents told me to. The guy had something about his that was “off”. I could not say what it was, I just knew that I did not get a good feeling. But, I thought I was wrong, after all, I had always been told I was wrong. I could not think for myself, I was stupid, even though my grades in school proved otherwise. I was taking up air space. By this time, I had tried a couple times to commit suicide again, even though my grandma said I was going to hell. I figured it was not any worse than my life. I learned I was a failure at suicide too.
Again, with passion, remember is that you can’t know what you have never been taught. I was never taught that I was worth anything, I was never taught that it was wrong to be beaten or talked down to by people. I had even turned my parents in to the authorities, but they saw it as a teenager trying to get attention. This can happen, if it does, try a different officer.
My first marriage was built around the religion and my family telling me I had to stay with this guy. He knew how to talk to people, how to convince everyone how perfect he was. He did not hit me, no, not at all, but he told me I was ugly, I could not even dress myself, I was stupid (even though my IQ was higher than his). He had me get a physical exam before we were married because he did not want an inferior wife. My parents saw nothing wrong with this, I had lost contact with my friends and was afraid to tell anyone anyway, after all, I was stupid and wrong. Everything I saw was wrong, I misinterpreted everything, that is what I was taught. Any time I would challenge his words to me, he told me I “misperceived” what he said or did. I was always wrong and since I had grown up being told this, I thought it must be true, even though it defied logic. When I gave him beautiful children, even a daughter, when his side of the family had not seen a baby girl born in decades, he told me I “did not deserve” flowers or even love or affection. He did not visit me in the hospital but did show up to bring me home. He told everyone at church not to call me, that I did not want to talk to anyone. So, with him doing this will all the babies, I never got visitors. I told the women in church that he was wrong, that I wanted visitors, but they did not want to defy my husband. I will always wonder if they were/are abused like I was…
Combination of Abuse
This husband would set up booby traps, things to cause me to get hurt. He would dig holes in the yard and then cover them up with leaves, then tell me the goats were eating my garden. When the babies were all little, he would loosen the screws in the cribs and then try to convince me I had done it. He would take their clothes off while they slept and then tell me I forgot to dress them, because I was that stupid. The list goes on and on and on, the things he did to me. He always managed to talk smooth and convince others how I was wrong, how crazy I was. I was afraid to sleep, for fear of what he would do to the kids while I was sleeping. I was hospitalized for exhaustion but they released me because I was too worried about my kids. He would tell me if I ever went to the doctor again, he would put the kids in foster care while I was in the doctor office. So I quit going, no matter my injuries, I did not go to the doctor until the kids were old enough to fight going into foster care.
Marital rape is a real thing. If you have had your husband force sex on you, without your consent, it is rape. Being married did not change that. Rape is rape.
Are You Hypervigilant?
If you are not sure if you are being abused check yourself. Are you hypervigilant? Are you always on edge, making sure you do everything over-the-top perfect. Are you the model wife out of fear? Do you find yourself putting his needs far, far above yours because you feel you do not deserve or are worthy of such things? If you feel this way, you are in an abusive situation. A person should bring out your good qualities, make you feel better about yourself, not worse.
Here is my example.
I worked so hard to please him, just like I had done with my parents. I did everything over-the-top. I rarely slept, I was always ironing my parents clothes, cleaning house, then married, I was scrubbing the floors, cooking food. He wanted his food hot and fresh the second he walked in the door, no matter the hours and anything less, he would throw the food at me . Or he would quietly walk over to the trash can and dump his food, telling me to make it again. When I would end up sick from exhaustion, it was always my own fault. He would say that I “chose to stay awake” that he was not forcing me to doing the things I did. But I knew he would threaten to hurt one of the kids if I did not meet his standards. Every day he would choose a child and tell me that if I did anything wrong, he would do something to that child. His mother tried to help the kids and I get away, but sadly, she passed away before we could. Then the same thing happened when my own mother finally accepted I was in a bad situation and then she tried to help. Natural causes, both of them, but oddly coincidental.
This husband wished death upon me. After all, then he would be a single dad to six kids. He could get all sorts of attention for being a widower. He did get a lot of attention for saying he had to help with a wife with a broken foot or arm. So, he made sure I stayed dependent on him, all the while being sneaky so he could honestly say he had never struck me. He could honestly say, he, personally, never laid a hand on me. Yes, he put his knee in my back, causing multiple herniated discs when he “accidently” kneed me when getting out of bed. But he would say he never “laid a hand” and everyone took that to mean he never hurt me.
He insisted that I keep his side of the bed perfectly clean for him, lest he be inconvenienced by putting away his own clothing in the dirty clothes hamper etc..But it was my fault if there was anything there. My fault he crossed the bed, putting his knee in my back. It was my fault he tied me to the bed so I could not move while he stood on my ankles, causing hair line fractures and sprains. I had done something that he felt was wrong and since I only knew abuse, I thought I must have done something wrong too. The kids could do no right in his eyes either, but at least I kept the abuse focused on me so I could protect my/our children.
Yes, he would do things to hurt me. He was careful to set things up to look like an accident. He would tell people he was doing all this stuff to help out around the house, but the reality was, he was threatening this child or that child, sometimes, all of them, if I did not keep the house up, keep the kids perfect etc.. He quietly terrorized me.
Controlling Behavior and Emotional Abuse
Controlling behavior is when someone:
- Monitors your bath time, or any time alone
- Monitors your phone calls or does not allow you to make phone calls
- Controls all money, maybe keeping you on an allowance
- Not allowing you to choose your own clothes to wear
- Not allowing you to choose the food you eat
- Distancing you from friends and family
- They may tell people you are too busy or don’t want to socialize
- Not allowing you to drive
- Cutting off all means of independence
- Telling you that you cannot take care of yourself
- Telling you that others only want to hurt you
- Telling you that they are the only ones that love you
The list can go on and on, but you get the idea, or you already know from first- hand experience.
How To Prove It
Now, how do you prove that you are in the situation? If you are not already very isolated, start telling your friends that you feel someone is trying to control you beyond what is comfortable. They may already see the signs but are afraid to speak up; for fear that they may be overreacting. If you are the friend or loved one trying to help, speak up! The person going through this may think that being treated this way is “normal”.
It is important to understand the mentality, the mindset of a person in an abusive relationship. We are going to cover physical abuse in a bit, but right now, let’s stay on emotional abuse.
The person being abused may feel that the person truly loves them and only wants the best for them. When their loved one tells them “I only want the best for you” or “I love you, that is why I am doing this”, they probably say it very smooth and convincing. It is hard to be mad at a person that is talking calm, even soothing. It makes you feel that your concerns of being a victim of abuse, really is all in your head.
One red flag, one thing that most abusive people say to the victim is “You are crazy”, “You are misperceiving the situation”, “You just do not understand”, “You are not smart enough to understand” etc…The controlling person wants to make the victim feel little. They will talk down to and about you. They want to undermine your self esteem to gain and keep control. If you are weak, they are strong. That is the only way they are strong.
Why Do They Do This? What is Their Motive?
In my experience, and what I have learned through school and talking to other women, a controlling person is weak. They control you because it builds their own self esteem. It is the only way they can succeed, by bringing others down. They cannot stand on a pedestal without standing on others.
This is very important to remember. They are not strong. They may know the right people, they may be coercive, but they lack self esteem, they lack correct social skills. They use their own insecurities and twist them to make them your insecurities.
In speaking with other women who were in such relationships or trying to get out of them, one thing stood out among all others, EGO. The controlling person had a huge ego. His ego is paramount to anything else. He will keep his ego. He won’t say that is what he is doing, but he has himself as all important and anyone else is inferior to him.
He pampers himself, telling you that you have not earned such privileges, or are somehow, not worthy. He deserves the new clothes, the new car; the best food. You only get cheap bologna while he eats steak.
The emotional control is very subtle. It happens slowly over time. In my case, I was taught that it was the woman’s place to let the man be “over” her. I had no rights as a woman; to stand up against “the man of the house”. Some religions teach this. This can make the situation even more complicated. Because of the different religions, I will not cover that topic at this time. Let’s stay focused on the plan to get away from the situation.
Physical Abuse in the Emotional Abuse Situation
Physical abuse happens in an emotional abusive situation, but it can be so subtle that you may say you over reacted.
Example: You are getting something from the refrigerator and things that are not normally on the refrigerator fall onto you, causing various injuries. You know you did not put those items there but your boyfriend or husband insist that you did.
This is both emotional and physical abusive. You are injured but yet you question whether it was on purpose or maybe you really did put those things there. You question whether your boyfriend or husband accidently put them in such a manner as to fall and hurt you. You find yourself going over every move you made during the last 24 hours, trying to piece together how those items could have gotten up there. You also have the physical injury to deal with. Perhaps the bones in your foot are broken or you have a laceration on your face. Maybe you have a bruise on your arm. He insists you are not injured enough to get medical care and you are not allowed to leave the house without him, so you go without medical care.
That is more physical abuse but trying to prove it is so very hard because friend and family may see it as an accident. After all, he seems so nice to everyone.
He IS nice to everyone. How else can he convince everyone that you are crazy and he is perfect, if he does not play the part? Remember, this is his ego, his way of life depends on his acting job. He knows he must keep up the act in order to keep his control and to the controlling person, this is as important as breathing.
What Do You Do?
Take pictures and keep a journal, with dates. If you can, keep an old cell phone charged, just for taking pictures. Keep the phone hidden so he does not know you have it.
If you do get to go to the doctor, be strong. Tell the doctor that you need to speak to them privately, without your husband or boyfriend. Tell the nurse if you can. This may take a few tries, but keep at it.
I made the mistake of trying to give eye signals that something was wrong. I could not get away from my person and I was too afraid to openly say anything. I did not know that if I spoke up, even with him there, I would get police help. Now the laws are tougher. If you speak up, it is supposed to be reported. Getting the abuse in a report is very, very important.
Keep a Journal
Keep a journal. This may be your only record of what happened. I know it may be hard, it may seem impossible, but do it. Find a way. I used to write things on paper towels while I was cooking dinner. I would then stuff them in my bra or pants, slip away to the bathroom and add them to my notebook that I had hidden behind the toilet. I was the only one who did the house work, so this worked for me. Look for opportunities like that.
Are you the only one who cooks and does dishes? You can keep a small journal hidden in the flour canister or behind the canned goods.
Be sneaky!! Be sneaky to the point of feeling you are being paranoid!! This may save your life!
Yes, if he finds anything you have hidden, he will try to convince you that you are crazy and paranoid. He may even beat you up if that is his style, so be careful, but do it. The journals, dated, with the time, may be the only proof you have of what he is doing.
Photos, photos, photos. Try really hard to take photos of everything. If you see his footprints around a fresh hole in the ground, and he just sent you out along that path to do something, take a photo. Cell phones are small so easier to conceal than a regular camera. Those footprints may be all the proof you have of him setting up traps to cause you harm. Some controlling men are sneaky like that. They do not want to be blamed; their goal is to make you look crazy because it makes them look better. In fact, they may even get sympathy for having to put up with you and your crazy ways. They may look like a strong person because they put up with you. Or they may be the type to openly, physically hurt you. Take pictures!!
With the open, physical abuse, take pictures, go to the police, tell friends, tell strangers, tell anyone that will listen, what is going on. It is far easier, though it can still be hard to get help when you have bruises than a hair line fracture from a booby trap he set up in your yard.
I had a few officers advise me (I will not give their names, to protect them), to cause bruises, or red marks, something I could take pictures of. For example, when I stepped in a hole in my back yard, one with footprints around it, I got a hair line fracture in my ankle. Yes, that time, I did get to go to the emergency room, after all, what could I say, other than I stepped in a hole? There was a police officer in the restroom area and since my person I was with at the time could not go in the restroom, I took the opportunity to ask what to do. This is when she told me to cause a bruise or red mark, just enough to get in a photo. I could then say he squeezed my arm or tried to push me, which caused me to fall in the hole. Yes, it is lying. You have to be very careful with that!! But the point she was making was that sometimes you have to seem overly dramatic to get the attention you need to your situation. No, I could not press charges at that time because I could not prove it was abuse. I was also beaten down emotionally to the point that I felt unworthy of being helped.
From the Frying Pan Into the Fire
I did get away from the first husband. I married again, I thought I was getting a good guy…He knew he had an anger problem, so he kept it well hidden until we were married. He was kind and loving, never said an unkind word to me, bought me flowers and made me feel special until we moved in together after getting married.
All of a sudden I was ugly, too short, too fat (I only weighed 135 lbs and had no body fat, according to my doctor). Everything and anything he could find to fuss about he would. He would slam me against the wall and yell in my face because there was food in the cupboards. I was supposed to have all the food cooked for him all the time, even when he was going to be gone for a few days and I had no idea what time of day he would get back. If there was a can on the shelf, I got strangled. I had 6 kids I was trying to raise, of course there is going to be food!! I learned to hide the food around the apartment so he would not know it was there.
I was seeing a counselor about my first husband to learn what was wrong with me. I was determined to be a better wife and now I am getting strangled and beaten, I must be a bad person, right? Wrong!! Only it took counseling to get me to understand that. I ended up with a cracked vertebrae in my neck from this husband before I got away. I tried to get to talk to the doctor alone, without my husband, but when he would not budge from my bedside, that was that…I had no rights. He was staying. I was too beaten down to know that I could have gotten louder about my intentions and by law, they had to protect me from him.
Do not get to that point! If you are at that point, remember, you have rights!
YOU. HAVE. RIGHTS.
One thing that my counselor asked me, as I began my road to recovery from what all I went through was this “What right does he have to be in control over you?” “How is he a more worthy human being than you are?”.
I had reached the point that I could not even choose my own clothes, for fear I would choose the “wrong” ones. What she said to me empowered me. He was not my mother nor am I a child in need of guidance. I am an adult who can make my own choices.
Remember that. You choose. You have rights and you have the right to not be abused. Keep telling yourself that. You have the right to not be afraid, to not be injured, to choose what happens to you. They have no right to have that kind of power over you.
Third Time’s a Charm? Maybe Not…
I learned I needed to be healed before moving on. This third experience may not have happened if I had taken my emotional self more seriously, but I thought I was ready.
My third husband was a person I had known in school. He “joked” a lot. Always cutting me down. I thought I had learned enough from the counselor to not get involved again, but I felt lost. I now know that I just did not know how to NOT be abused. He was not as bad as the other two, but his words drove me to the point of trying suicide. He had rules, he had rude comments, he made fun of me, then would tell me I was too serious to “take a joke”. If I did the same back to him, even seconds after he did or said the same to me, he became enraged and would storm off.
Good! He left, he is not abusive, right? WRONG!!! He still used words to keep control. He knew before we got married that I was allergic to smoke. He promised it would never, ever be a problem for me. I learned his idea of keeping me safe was to tell me to leave the room or leave the house so he could smoke his cigarettes. We never watched movies together or ate meals together, no breakfast or even having a cup of coffee together, because his smoking was more important. I was so sick in his house but he said I should leave the room if I did not like the smoke.
I thought it was my duty as a wife to leave the room, so I did. I hated myself for doing that because I knew I had rights, but yet I fell back into my old patterns of submissive. I knew I had to be the one to change.
Time For Change
One night I set up my voice recorder to see if I could catch him doing anything to me, or at least talking about it to someone, while I slept. I knew he liked taking pictures of me sleeping and could not set up a video camera without him seeing it. So…I set up the voice activated recorder and heard him laughing while I was having an asthma attack in my sleep. Before I started wheezing, I heard what sounded like someone blowing at me. He was saying things like “Let’s see if this really kills you, if you are really allergic” then he would cackle. We was a serious alcoholic too, which he kept well hidden before we married. So he was very drunk when he was doing this, but he still did it and he was still cruel in his words. When time came to leave him, it was civil. We agreed that my allergies were too much for him to handle and I should just leave. Yes, he was angry, but I had gotten out with only some injuries.
Now, Let’s Get YOU From That Person.
You have the right to get away. You have the right to a life without that stress and pain. One very important thing…YOU have to be willing to change, to break that cycle of abuse by doing all you can to be free. Be strong!
You have your journal, you have photos. Do you have a person to help? Have them make copies of your journals, in case something happens. Give someone copies of the photos. Being sneaky is of the utmost important. You do not want your plan to be found out. Be careful though, about sharing them on social media, you do not know who all he may have watching your every move. He may have friends disguised as game friends or in a group, but they are really there to help him keep track of you. If you are lucky enough to get out of the house without him knowing, take that chance and don’t look back. Go to the police station, go to a public place, stay in view of other people. Ask a stranger if need be, to call the police for you. Tell the police what is going on, that you are finally away and need help.
You will probably be directed to the nearest women’s shelter. GO! They are trained to help women escape. They can help to keep you safe. You must not run from them. If your person that you are running from finds you, stay with other women. There is safety in numbers.
If you decide to press charges and not simply disappear into the night, hoping he will not track you down, your journal, with dates and times, will help in proving your case. I cannot stress hard enough that you need to make copies of your proof. I could not make copies right away, so I took photos of my journal pages, then later put them on my computer. I also made several copies of everything I had as soon as I could.
You can argue in court that he did such and such at such and such time. Make the burden of proof be on him, not you. I do not know the laws in your area, but both sides of the situation should be heard, make yours strong and do not back down, no matter what he says. Make him prove that he did not do those things. You may be able to get legal help through such programs as Legal Aid or whatever is available in your area. The shelters should be able to help with that.
I know, I know, the thought of going to a shelter may be scary or make you feel like a failure. But I know first-hand the strength it takes to get away. You can do it!! You have survived all he has done to you, now, you can survive getting away.
© 2016 Cynthianne Neighbors