There is a misconception that domestic abuse is mainly physical. Research has shown that some of the most devastating forms of abuse are not necessarily physical. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical or sexual assault, or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner to another. Domestic violence also includes physical violence, sexual violence, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, and spiritual abuse.
In this article, I will attempt to describe the abusive patterns that many times go unnoticed by the victim due to desensitization (the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative, aversive or positive stimulus after repeated exposure to it). My purpose in writing this article is to awaken those that have been abused for years and possibly for decades and have not realized it. These more subtle forms of abuse leave a wreckage of scars and trauma that will take years to heal from and overcome.
There are thirty-one reflections — one reflection for every day of the month to commemorate Domestic Violence Awareness Month which takes place every October in our nation. The reflections are not gendered specific, although women suffer the most abuse at 85% of reported abuse cases coming from women versus 15% of males having been abused.
An abuser will eviscerate your heart and mind in every way possible for you to lose your identity and personhood.
Abusers deny the truth and then accuse the victim of making things up. The #1 statement made by abusers to their victim is that they are crazy and are mentally ill.
Abusers are unable to say that they are sorry or take responsibility for any of the conflicts that they have created. Instead, they blame the victim for everything.
Abusers disengage, stonewall, and give the victim the silent treatment. This form of rejection is meant to shame the victim and increase their feelings of unworthiness.
Abusers do not allow the victim to become the person they were meant to be. They prevent and stunt their growth in all areas of life by limiting their freedoms. This control tactic leaves the victim in a perpetual state of immaturity and low self-worth. Sadly, with reverence and fear, the victim complies.
Abusers do not want their victim to have any form of support system. They systematically love to alienate, separate, and keep the victim away from the people that they love and that love them. Abusers many times physically move the victim out of state away from their family and friends. These necessary relationships are then prevented since the abuser wants to be the only influencer in the victim’s life.
Abusers willfully intimidate the victim by using different tactics within a systematic pattern to gain ultimate power and control over their partner. According to many psychologists, mental and psychological abuse produce more detrimental and lasting effects on the victim than physical abuse.
Abusers do not allow the victim to work or pave a financial path of independence for themselves. They will provide for the victim’s physical needs such as food and shelter since the fringe benefits of control and power outweigh the sacrifice. Abusers neglect all of the other critical basic needs. They want the victim dependent on them financially so that they never leave.
Abusers keep the victim in the dark about their finances while at the same time blaming them for their debt. The victim is accused of being lazy and not wanting to work or contribute to the family. When the victim attempts to get a job, the abuser sabotages their attempt towards financial independence.
Abusers gaslight the victim by psychologically manipulating them into perpetually second-guessing all of their decisions and their sanity. The abuser’s smooth and seamless mental destruction of the victim leaves them lacking confidence and stuck in a cycle of never-ending confusion.
Abusers feel the greatest accomplishment when they successfully turn their children against the other parent. To an abuser, this is the ultimate sign of victory since their self-esteem comes from being revered. The continual pain it causes the victim is very gratifying to them. The abuser is fully aware that parental alienation will destroy, devastate, and significantly weaken the victim.
Abusers are incapable of treating their partner with equality and equity. Instead, the victim is treated more like a child than as an adult. Their relationship is not a partnership; it is more like a parent/child relationship. The victim needs to ask permission for everything and is not trusted to make decisions on their own. The abuser controls their every move with a heavy hand.
Abuse victims don’t always know that they are being abused due to the high level of love and trust they have for their partner. All they know is that something is not right. By the time they figure it out, the relationship is often irreconcilable. The abuser then intensifies the mistreatment so that the victim denies their perception and reality instead of getting stronger and leaving the abuse.
Once abuse victims realize that they have been in an abusive relationship, anger sets in. The victim feels violated and grieves the loss of the relationship they thought they had. The abuser reacts to the victim’s anger and grief with accusatory statements of blame and shame. They tell the victim that they are out of control and crazy. There is never any compassion or empathy for the victim.
Spiritual abusers use the Bible to condemn the victim and make them feel shame. Abusers take scriptures out of context and teach their children that to honor God they must reject the other parent who is being disobedient. The children listen to the abusive parent because they fear going to hell. The abuser uses this technique to teach the victim a lesson and to keep them isolated and shame-based.
Spiritual abusers like to quote the verse in the Bible that says that God hates divorce. Since the victim loves God, that statement immediately instills fear in them because they want to please God. The abuser will also say to the victim that the word divorce is not part of their vocabulary while neglecting to make any of the changes necessary to stop the abuse. They want to ensure that the victim in their mind feels that they have no way out.
Abusers intimidate and control the victim through physical force. They physically punish the victim the same way they would use corporal punishment on their children. To the abuser, the victim is perceived as subhuman. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, only slightly more than half of intimate partner physical violence is reported to law enforcement, and 76% of the victims are females, 24% are male.
The abuser doesn’t believe in divorce. This confuses the victim and makes them believe that the abuser must love them since they want to remain in the relationship. The victim doesn’t realize that to the abuser it is just a game about power and control. The victim wants to believe that they are loved and needed, so they remain in the same abusive cycle. They think that by staying that they will influence their partner to change. They also feel they are setting a good example to their children by staying and taking it.
Abusers believe that they own the victim’s body the same way they hold their mind. Abusers have a great sense of entitlement, and they perceive the victim as property to be used for their pleasure. This form of marital rape is used to intimidate, control, and humiliate the victim. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 9.4% of women in the U.S have been raped by an intimate partner.
Abusers will try to prevent the victim from having any form of modern technology or education. They don’t like to see the victim succeed or progress in life. If the victim does manage to accomplish something for themselves, they will not get any recognition for it. Abusers do not want the victim to have any outside influences that would cause them to ponder their circumstances. The abuser thwarts advancement in the life of the victim to keep them uneducated and unable to make a positive change.
Abusers like to homeschool their children. This fertile ground is used to control, remove outside influences, isolate, and brainwash their family. Abusers do not want mandate reporters such as teachers and counselors involved in their children’s lives. According to the nonprofit organization called Homeschooling’s Invisible Children, there is ample research and a complete database of cases involving all forms of abuse and homicide by homeschooling parents.
Abusers like to intentionally stalk and instill paralyzing fear into the heart and mind of the victim. The abuser intimidates the victim by threatening to harm or kill them, their children, and their extended family. This form of emotional abuse terrorizes and significantly weakens the victim. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, 1 in 4 stalking victims will contemplate suicide as a way out.
Abusers don’t allow the victim or their children the opportunity to receive necessary medical and mental health services. The victim threatened and told never to attempt to get help or else. The abuser denies that the need even exists. They refuse family counseling of any kind because the only one with a problem is the victim. They do not permit outside intervention. The spiritual abuser reminds the victim that God alone will help them with their problems.
Spiritual abusers minimize and reject the victim’s request for forgiveness on any matter. They tell the victim that their repentance is not real because if it were, then they would change. The victim believes this lie. They start second-guessing God’s love for them and their worth. The spiritual abuser puts themselves in place of God and manages to twist the victim’s perception of God. They want total allegiance from the victim.
Abusers like to have partners that are much younger than they are to groom and mold to their liking. They scout out someone who is trusting, naive, and unassuming. The abuser’s dream is to create a fantasy partner. Once found, they begin the calculated process of forming new ideologies in the victim’s mind one brick at a time. The victim slowly changes who they are and never becomes the person they were meant to be.
Abusers make sure that the friendships that are allowed are only with like-minded families. Other victims then surround the victim. Unfortunately, they do not know it. This lifestyle then cements in the victim’s mind that their life is normal. The abuser points out other victims within their circles and uses them as role models for the victim to emulate. This type of comparison leaves the victim feeling confused and worthless.
Abusers love to alienate their children from the abused parent. The children learn to be abusive as well to prove their allegiance to the victimizer. The abuser gains their loyalty by giving them unlimited freedoms and monetary perks. The children continually dishonor the other parent as a form of punishment never realizing that they are hostages who are also being abused. The abuser wants the victim to break at all cost.
Abusers commit emotional incest with their children. They withhold essential information from their partner and share it with their children instead. The children become the abuser’s confidants. They feel honored to be entrusted with such valuable information. The children start looking down on the victimized parent. This kind of sick dependency could last a lifetime because of the value that is derived from it.
Abusers constantly put down the victim’s culture and background. They destroy the family roots and bonds that provide security to the victim. Abusers eradicate the nostalgic feelings associated with the victim’s memories. They forbid them from hearing music or watching TV shows from their past. The abuser wants to be the only one at the forefront of the victim’s mind. The present life is what the victim must dwell on.
Modern day slavery exists in abusive homes. The abusers have a great cover-up operation going on. They serve as leaders in their church, supervise and manage people at their work, and are philanthropic. They dress nice, live in beautiful homes, and drive nice cars, yet their families are secretly destroyed within. Their Facebook page is envied by many. When the victim finally reaches out for help, they are not believed. Many friends and family members side with the abuser.
Abusers utilize many forms of tactics to control and keep the victim sequestered. Their children become the main instrument by which the abuser inflicts the most damage. The victim must find enough courage to leave amidst the bombardment. The abuser tells the children that the victim has abandoned them to fulfill their dreams. This form of sinister abuse creates deep scars in the heart and mind of the children.
You are not alone in this fight. The injustice will not go unnoticed as long as there is a God who sees it. Your truth is your truth, and only you can make the changes necessary to live a normal life. There is help available, and I believe your story.
Florida Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-500-1119
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233
AVAD- Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse in Delray, FL 1-800-355-8547
Make an appointment with a family therapist that is VERY educated and experienced with abuse.
Life Coaching is also vital in the healing process.
Please visit my website at www.mymomentlc.com for more information. Do not hesitate or wait another moment to reach out for help. This is your moment! I am here for you as well as other professionals who understand the complexity of your situation.
There are many lessons to learn from hurricanes. In recent years I have thought a lot about hurricanes and their massive destruction and have equated them to marriage regarding what we should and should not do. Last year we had Hurricane Matthew hit Florida. I had time to ponder these ideas then. This week we had Hurricane Irma. I have had lots of time to revisit the same thoughts. In case you don’t know, the name Irma comes from Latin, and it means exalted. Exalted she was at 80 miles wide and set the record for the biggest storm in size and intensity in US history. Imra, the male version of the name Irma means stubborn.
There is no doubt that hurricanes are scary. Hurricane Irma this past week caused 6.3 million people to be ordered to evacuate from Florida. Many left their homes and headed west or north to find safety. I headed to a shelter with my son and younger brother while my parents left with my younger sister who has special needs to Orlando. Continue reading