Sanctuary for the Abused
Friday, June 16, 2023
Signs To Look For In An Abusive Personality
1. Jealousy: At the beginning of a relationship, an abuser will always say that jealousy is a sign of love; jealousy has nothing to do with love, it is a sign of possessiveness and lack of trust. He will question the other person about whom she talks to, accuse her of flirting, or be jealous of the time she spends with her family or friends. As the jealousy progresses, he may call frequently during the day or drop by unexpectedly. He may refuse to let you work for fear you will meet someone else, or even do strange behaviors like checking your car mileage or asking friends to watch you.
2. Controlling Behavior: At first, the batterer will say that this behavior is because he is concerned with your safety, your need to use your time well, or your need to make good decisions. He will be angry if you are late coming back from an appointment or a class, he will question you closely about where you went and whom you talked to. As this behavior gets worse, he may not let you make personal decisions about your clothing, hair style, appearance.
3. Quick Involvement: Many people in abusive relationships dated or knew their abusive partners for less than six months before they were married, engaged or living together. He comes on like a whirlwind, claiming, “You are the only person I could ever talk to” or “I’ve never felt like this for anyone before. He will pressure you to commit to the relationship in such a way that you may later feel guilty or that you are “letting him down” if you want to slow down involvement or break up.
4. Unrealistic Expectations: Abusive people will expect their partner to meet all their needs; he expects you to be the perfect boyfriend/ girlfriend, the perfect friend or the perfect lover. He will say things like, “If you love me, I’m all you need and you are all I need.” You are supposed to take care of all of his emotional needs.
5. Isolation: The abusive person will try to cut you off from all resources. He accuses you of being “tied to your mother’s apron strings,” or your friends of “trying to cause trouble” between you. If you have a friend of the opposite sex, you are “going out on him” and if you have friends of the same sex, he may accuse you of being gay.
6. Blames Others for Problems: He is chronically unemployed, someone is always waiting for him to do wrong or mess up or someone is always out to get him. He may make mistakes and blame you for upsetting him. He may accuse you of preventing him from concentrating on school. He will tell you that you are at fault for almost anything that goes wrong.
7. Blames Others for Feelings: He will tell you, “You make me mad,” “You are hurting me by not doing what I want you to do,” or “I can’t help being angry.” He really makes the decisions about how he thinks or feels, but will use feelings to manipulate you.
8. Hypersensitivity: An abusive person is easily insulted, and claims that their feelings are hurt when really he is very mad. He often takes the slightest setbacks as personal attacks. He will rant about things that are really just part of living like being asked to work overtime, getting a traffic ticket, being asked to help others with chores.
9. Cruelty to Animals or Children: This is a person who punishes animals brutally or is insensitive to their pain and suffering. He may tease younger brothers or sisters until they cry.
10.“Playful” use of Force in Sex: This kind of person is likely to throw you down or try to hold you down during making out, or he may want you to act out fantasies in which you are helpless. He is letting you know that the idea of sex is exciting. He may show little concern about whether you want affection and may sulk or use anger to manipulate you into compliance.
11. Verbal Abuse: In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful, this can be seen when the abusive person tries to degrade you, curses you, calls you names or makes fun of your accomplishments. The abusive person will tell you that you are stupid and unable to function without him. This may involve waking you up to verbally abuse you or not letting you go to sleep until you talk out an argument.
12. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Many people are confused by their abusive partner’s “sudden” changes in mood -- you may think he has a mental problem because he is nice one minute and the next minute he is exploding. Explosiveness and moodiness are typical of people who are abusive to their partners, and these behaviors are related to other characteristics like hypersensitivity.
13. *** Past Battering: This person may say that he has hit girlfriends in the past but the other person “made him do it.” You may hear from relatives or past girlfriends that he is abusive. An abusive person will be physically abusive to any one they are with if the other person is with them long enough for the violence to begin; situational circumstances do not change a person into an abuser.
14. *** Threats of violence: This could include any threat of physical force meant to control you: “I’ll slap you,” “I’ll kill you,” or “I’ll break your neck." Most people do not threaten their partners, but the abusive person will try to excuse his threats by saying, “Everybody talks that way.”
15. *** Breaking or Striking Objects: This behavior is used as a punishment (breaking loved possessions), but is mostly used to terrorize you into submission. The abuser may beat on the table with his fists, throw objects at or near you, kick the car, slam the door or drive at a high rate of speed or recklessly to scare you. Not only is this a sign of extreme emotional immaturity, but there is great danger when someone thinks they have the “right” to punish or frighten you.
16. *** Any Force During an Argument: This may involve an abusive partner holding you down, physically restraining you from leaving the room, any pushing or shoving. He may hold you against the wall and say, “You are going to listen to me.”
My partner loves me . . . he didn’t mean to hurt me. (Abuse is about power and control. It is not about love.)
My partner promised to get counseling. (Abusers tend to make promises when they feel they are not in control.)
When you file charges, you have taken control away from your abuser, who is likely to promise anything to get that control back.
It is just that my partner was under a lot of stress . . . or drunk. (You can chose to believe that there are reasons, but there can never be a justifiable reason for your abuse.)
It will never happen again. (It might. Chances are, it will if your abuser is not held accountable.)
It’s really not that bad, we have had great times. (All relationships have good and bad times, but violent relationships are not good for anyone. Healthy relationships are based on caring, equality and respect. They are not about power and control.)
Types of Abuse
EMOTIONAL ABUSE - This is often the first sign of abusive behavior exhibited by someone who batters. In the beginning it may as simple as the silent treatment, but it often progresses to angry words and put downs.
Finding faults in all your friends/family (this is the first step in the isolation process)
Withholding emotions, not talking or sharing, withholding approval or affections
Does not acknowledge your feelings
Name-calling, mocking, put-downs
Yelling, swearing, being lewd
Pressure tactics (using guilt trips, rushing you, threats to leave)
Humiliated in public (including outbursts of anger to insults in public)
Manipulation by lies, omitting facts, or telling only portions of the facts
Angry gestures, slamming doors, throwing things, hitting walls or furniture near you
Threats (to harm you, to not pay bills, to not buy groceries, etc.)
Using children (making threats to take them or to call DHS, criticizing your parenting skills)
ECONOMIC ABUSE - Again, this begins in subtle ways and develops into the abuser's dominant control over all economic aspects.
Insisting that you quit your job (saying he will take care of you, sites faults with coworkers and bosses - point out how they "mistreat" you)
Recanting on promises to pay bills (for example, your car payment, insurance, etc.)
Makes you account for your spending with no accounting for abuser's spending
Limiting your access to funds (taking ATM card or removing your name from accounts)
Not paying bills, buying groceries, or taking care of the children's needs
PHYSICAL ABUSE - This is usually first exhibited by getting "in your face" or invading your personal space during an argument and progresses into offensive and harmful touches.
Shouting at you
Invading your personal space
Refusing to let you leave
Being locked in/out of house
Destroying your possessions
Abandoned in dangerous places
Disabling car, hiding keys to car
Refusing medical care
Hurtful/unwanted touching of sexual parts
Rape (use of force, threats, coercion, or manipulation to obtain sex)
Intimidating by blocking exit, making threatening gestures
Refusing to let you sleep until he is ready to sleep/or making you go to sleep at the same time he does
Are You in an Abusive Relationship?
Answering the following questions may help you determine whether the relationship you are in is abusive. Check the questions that apply to you:
Does your partner:
Embarrass you in front of people?
Belittle your accomplishments?
Make you feel unworthy?
Criticize your sexual performance?
Constantly contradict himself/herself to confuse you?
Do things for which you are constantly making excuses to others or yourself?
Isolate you from many of the people you care about most?
Make you feel ashamed a lot of the time?
Make you believe he is smarter than you and therefore more able to make decisions?
Make you feel like you are crazy?
Make you perform sexual acts that are embarrassing or demeaning to you?
Use intimidation to make you do what he wants?
Prevent you from doing common-place activities such as visiting friends or family, or
talking to the opposite sex?
Control the financial aspects of your life?
Use money as a way of controlling you?
Make you believe that you can not exist without him?
Make you feel that there is no way out and that "you made your own bed and you must lie in it?
Make you find ways of compromising your feelings for the sake of peace?
Treat you roughly (grab, pinch, push, or shove you)?
Threaten you (verbally or with a weapon)?
Hold you to keep you from leaving after an argument?
Lose control when he is drunk or using drugs?
Get extremely angry, frequently, and without an apparent cause?
Escalate his anger into violence . . .slapping, kicking, etc?
Not believe that he has hurt you, nor feel sorry for what he has done?
Physically force you to do what you do not want to do?
Do you believe you can help your partner change his abusive behavior if you were only to change yourself in some way, if you only did some things differently, if you really loved him more?
Believe that you deserve to be abused or punished?
Find that not making him angry has become a major part of your life?
Do what he wants you to do, rather than what you want to do, out of fear?
Stay with him only because you’re afraid he might hurt you if you left?
If you answered "yes" to many of these questions, you have identified an abusive relationship. If the abuse has occurred during dating, it is very likely to continue after marriage. Once physical abuse has occurred, it is likely to occur again and to escalate over time. You cannot change your partner’s behavior. You can only change yourself. It is not necessary to stay in a relationship of fear. You have the right to choose how you wish to live.
Traits And Characteristics Of Violent Offenders
1. Low Frustration Tolerance - Reacts to stress in self-defeating ways, unable to cope effectively with anxiety, acts out when frustrated. Frustration leads to aggression.
2. Impulsive - Is quick to act, wants immediate gratification, has little or no consideration for the consequences, lacks insight, has poor judgment, has limited cognitive filtering.
3. Emotional Liability/Depression - Quick-tempered, short-fused, hot-headed, rapid mood swings, moody, sullen, irritable, humorless.
4. Childhood Abuse - Sexual and physical abuse, maternal or paternal deprivation,
rejection, abandonment, exposure to violent role models in the home.
5. Loner - Is isolated and withdrawn, has poor interpersonal relations, has no empathy for others, lacks feeling of guilt and remorse.
6. Overly sensitive - Hypersensitive to criticism and real or perceived slights, suspicious, fearful, distrustful, paranoid.
7. Altered Consciousness - Sees red, “blanking,” has blackouts, de-realization/depersonalization. ("It’s like I wasn’t there" or "It was me, but not me”), impaired reality testing, hallucinations.
8. Threats of Violence - Toward self and/or others, direct, veiled, implied, or conditional.
9. Blames Others – Projects blame onto others, fatalistic, external locus of control, avoids personal responsibility for behavior, views self as “victim” instead of “victimizer,” self-centered, sense of entitlement.
10. Chemical Abuse - Especially alcohol, opiates, amphetamines, crack, and hallucinogens (PCP, LSD), an angry drunk, dramatic personality/mood changes when under the influence.
11. Mental Health Problems Requiring In-Patient Hospitalization - Especially with arrest history for any offenses prior to hospitalization.
12. **History of Violence** - Towards self and others, actual physical force used to injure, harm, or damage. This element is the most significant in assessing individuals for potential dangerousness.
13. Odd/Bizarre Beliefs - Superstitious, magical thinking, religiosity, sexuality, violent fantasies (especially when violence is eroticized), delusions.
14. Physical Problems - Congenital defects, severe acne, scars, stuttering, any of which contribute to poor self-image, lack of self-esteem, and isolation. History of head trauma, brain damage/neurological problems.
15. Preoccupation With Violence Themes - Movies, books, TV, newspaper articles, magazines (detective), music, weapons collections, guns, knives, implements of torture, S & M, Nazi paraphernalia.
16. Pathological Triad/School Problems - Fire-setting, enuresis, cruelty to animals, fighting, truancy, temper tantrums, inability to get along with others, ejection of authority.
Alan C. Brantley, Traits and Characteristics of Violent Offenders, FBI Academy.
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
Narcissistic Mothers' Characteristics
1. Everything she does is deniable.
There is always a facile excuse or an explanation. Cruelties are couched in loving terms. Aggressive and hostile acts are paraded as thoughtfulness. Selfish manipulations are presented as gifts. Criticism and slander is slyly disguised as concern. She only wants what is best for you. She only wants to "help" you.
She rarely says right out that she thinks you’re inadequate. Instead, any time that you tell her you’ve done something good, she counters with something your sibling did that was better or she simply ignores you or she hears you out without saying anything, then in a short time does something cruel to you so you understand not to get above yourself. She will carefully separate cause (your joy in your accomplishment) from effect (refusing to let you borrow the car to go to the awards ceremony) by enough time that someone who didn’t live through her abuse would never believe the connection.
Many of her putdowns are simply by comparison. She’ll talk about how wonderful someone else is or what a wonderful job they did on something you’ve also done or how highly she thinks of them. The contrast is left up to you. She has let you know that you’re no good without saying a word. She’ll spoil your pleasure in something by simply congratulating you for it in an angry, envious voice that conveys how unhappy she is, again, completely deniably. It is impossible to confront someone over their tone of voice, their demeanor or they way they look at you, but once your narcissistic mother has you trained, she can promise terrible punishment without a word. As a result, you’re always afraid, always in the wrong, and can never exactly put your finger on why.
Because her abusiveness is part of a lifelong campaign of control and because she is careful to rationalize her abuse, it is extremely difficult to explain to other people what is so bad about her. She’s also careful about when and how she engages in her abuses. She’s very secretive, a characteristic of almost all abusers (“Don’t wash our dirty laundry in public!”) and will punish you for telling anyone else what she’s done. The times and locations of her worst abuses are carefully chosen so that no one who might intervene will hear or see her bad behavior, and she will seem like a completely different person in public. She’ll slam you to other people, but will always embed her devaluing nuggets of snide gossip in protestations of concern, love and understanding (“I feel so sorry for poor Cynthia. She always seems to have such a hard time, but I just don’t know what I can do for her!”)
As a consequence the children of narcissists universally report that no one believes them (“I have to tell you that she always talks about YOU in the most caring way!"). Unfortunately therapists, given the deniable actions of the narcissist and eager to defend a fellow parent, will often jump to the narcissist’s defense as well, reinforcing your sense of isolation and helplessness (“I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that!”)
2. She violates your boundaries.
You feel like an extension of her. Your property is given away without your consent, sometimes in front of you. Your food is eaten off your plate or given to others off your plate. Your property may be repossessed and no reason given other than that it was never yours. Your time is committed without consulting you, and opinions purported to be yours are expressed for you. (She LOVES going to the fair! He would never want anything like that. She wouldn’t like kumquats.) You are discussed in your presence as though you are not there.
She keeps tabs on your bodily functions and humiliates you by divulging the information she gleans, especially when it can be used to demonstrate her devotion and highlight her martyrdom to your needs (“Mike had that problem with frequent urination too, only his was much worse. I was so worried about him!”) You have never known what it is like to have privacy in the bathroom or in your bedroom, and she goes through your things regularly. She asks nosy questions, snoops into your email/letters/diary/conversations. She will want to dig into your feelings, particularly painful ones and is always looking for negative information on you which can be used against you. She does things against your expressed wishes frequently. All of this is done without seeming embarrassment or thought.
Any attempt at autonomy on your part is strongly resisted. Normal rites of passage (learning to shave, wearing makeup, dating) are grudgingly allowed only if you insist, and you’re punished for your insistence (“Since you’re old enough to date, I think you’re old enough to pay for your own clothes!”) If you demand age-appropriate clothing, grooming, control over your own life, or rights, you are difficult and she ridicules your “independence.”
3. She favoritizes.
Narcissistic mothers commonly choose one (sometimes more) child to be the golden child and one (sometimes more) to be the scapegoat. The narcissist identifies with the golden child and provides privileges to him or her as long as the golden child does just as she wants. The golden child has to be cared for assiduously by everyone in the family. The scapegoat has no needs and instead gets to do the caring. The golden child can do nothing wrong. The scapegoat is always at fault. This creates divisions between the children, one of whom has a large investment in the mother being wise and wonderful, and the other(s) who hate her. That division will be fostered by the narcissist with lies and with blatantly unfair and favoritizing behavior. The golden child will defend the mother and indirectly perpetuate the abuse by finding reasons to blame the scapegoat for the mother’s actions. The golden child may also directly take on the narcissistic mother’s tasks by physically abusing the scapegoat so the narcissistic mother doesn’t have to do that herself.
4. She undermines.
Your accomplishments are acknowledged only to the extent that she can take credit for them. Any success or accomplishment for which she cannot take credit is ignored or diminished. Any time you are to be center stage and there is no opportunity for her to be the center of attention, she will try to prevent the occasion altogether, or she doesn’t come, or she leaves early, or she acts like it’s no big deal, or she steals the spotlight or she slips in little wounding comments about how much better someone else did or how what you did wasn’t as much as you could have done or as you think it is. She undermines you by picking fights with you or being especially unpleasant just before you have to make a major effort. She acts put out if she has to do anything to support your opportunities or will outright refuse to do even small things in support of you. She will be nasty to you about things that are peripherally connected with your successes so that you find your joy in what you’ve done is tarnished, without her ever saying anything directly about it. No matter what your success, she has to take you down a peg about it.
5. She demeans, criticizes and denigrates.
She lets you know in all sorts of little ways that she thinks less of you than she does of your siblings or of other people in general. If you complain about mistreatment by someone else, she will take that person’s side even if she doesn’t know them at all. She doesn’t care about those people or the justice of your complaints. She just wants to let you know that you’re never right.
She will deliver generalized barbs that are almost impossible to rebut (always in a loving, caring tone): “You were always difficult” “You can be very difficult to love” “You never seemed to be able to finish anything” “You were very hard to live with” “You’re always causing trouble” “No one could put up with the things you do.”
She will deliver slams in a sidelong way - for example she’ll complain about how “no one” loves her, does anything f1or her, or cares about her, or she’ll complain that “everyone” is so selfish, when you’re the only person in the room. As always, this combines criticism with deniability.
She will slip little comments into conversation that she really enjoyed something she did with someone else - something she did with you too, but didn’t like as much. She’ll let you know that her relationship with some other person you both know is wonderful in a way your relationship with her isn’t - the carefully unspoken message being that you don’t matter much to her.
She minimizes, discounts or ignores your opinions and experiences. Your insights are met with condescension, denials and accusations (“I think you read too much!”) and she will brush off your information even on subjects on which you are an acknowledged expert. Whatever you say is met with smirks and amused sounding or exaggerated exclamations (“Uh hunh!” “You don’t say!” “Really!”). She’ll then make it clear that she didn’t listen to a word you said.
6. She makes you look crazy.
If you try to confront her about something she’s done, she’ll tell you that you have “a very vivid imagination” or that you "made it all up" (this is a phrase commonly used by abusers of all sorts to invalidate your experience of their abuse) that you don’t know what you’re talking about, or that she has no idea what you’re talking about. She will claim not to remember even very memorable events, flatly denying they ever happened, nor will she ever acknowledge any possibility that she might have forgotten.
This is an extremely aggressive and exceptionally infuriating tactic called “gaslighting,” common to abusers of all kinds. Your perceptions of reality are continually undermined so that you end up without any confidence in your intuition, your memory or your powers of reasoning. This makes you a much better victim for the abuser.
Narcissists gaslight routinely. The narcissist will either insinuate or will tell you and others outright that you’re unstable, otherwise you wouldn’t believe such ridiculous things or be so uncooperative.
You’re imagining things.
You’re completely unreasonable.
You’re over-reacting, like you always do.
She’ll talk to you when you’ve calmed down and aren’t so irrational.
She may even characterize you as being neurotic or psychotic.
Once she’s constructed these fantasies of your emotional pathologies, she’ll tell others about them, as always, presenting her smears as expressions of concern and declaring her own helpless victimhood.
She didn’t do anything.
She has no idea why you’re so irrationally angry with her.
You’ve hurt her terribly.
She thinks you may need psychotherapy.
She loves you very much and would do anything to make you happy, but she just doesn’t know what to do.
You keep pushing her away when all she wants to do is help you.
She has simultaneously absolved herself of any responsibility for your obvious antipathy towards her, implied that it’s something fundamentally wrong with you that makes you angry with her, and undermined your credibility with her listeners. She plays the role of the doting mother so perfectly that no one will believe you.
7. She’s envious.
Any time you get something nice she’s angry and envious and her envy will be apparent when she admires whatever it is. She’ll try to get it from you, spoil it for you, or get the same or better for herself. She’s always working on ways to get what other people have. The envy of narcissistic mothers often includes competing sexually with their daughters or daughters-in-law. They’ll attempt to forbid their daughters to wear makeup, to groom themselves in an age-appropriate way or to date. They will criticize the appearance of their daughters and daughters-in-law. This envy extends to relationships. Narcissistic mothers infamously attempt to damage their children’s marriages and interfere in the upbringing of their grandchildren.
8. She’s a liar in too many ways to count.
Any time she talks about something that has emotional significance for her, it’s a fair bet that she’s lying. Lying is one way that she creates conflict in the relationships and lives of those around her - she’ll lie to them about what other people have said, what they’ve done, or how they feel. She’ll lie about her relationship with them, about your behavior or about your situation in order to inflate herself and to undermine your credibility.
The narcissist is very careful about how she lies. To outsiders she’ll lie thoughtfully and deliberately, always in a way that can be covered up if she’s confronted with her lie. She spins what you said rather than makes something up wholesale. She puts dishonest interpretations on things you actually did. If she’s recently done something particularly egregious she may engage in preventative lying: she lies in advance to discount what you might say before you even say it. Then when you talk to anyone about what she did you’ll be cut off with “I already know all about it…your mother told me… (self-justifications and lies).” Because she is so careful about her deniability, it may be very hard to catch her in her lies and the more gullible of her friends may never realize how dishonest she is.
To you, she’ll lie blatantly. She will claim to be unable to remember bad things she has done, even if she did one of them recently and even if it was something very memorable. Of course, if you try to jog her memory by recounting the circumstances “You have a very vivid imagination” or “That was so long ago. Why do you have to dredge up your old grudges?” Your conversations with her are full of casual brush-offs and diversionary lies and she doesn’t respect you enough to bother making it sound good. For example she’ll start with a self-serving lie: “If I don’t take you as a dependent on my taxes I’ll lose three thousand dollars!” You refute her lie with an obvious truth: “No, three thousand dollars is the amount of the dependent exemption. You’ll only lose about eight hundred dollars.” Her response: “Isn’t that what I said?” You are now in a game with only one rule: You can’t win.
On the rare occasions she is forced to acknowledge some bad behavior, she will couch the admission deniably. She “guesses” that “maybe” she “might have” done something wrong. The wrongdoing is always heavily spun and trimmed to make it sound better. The words “I guess,” “maybe,” and “might have” are in and of themselves lies because she knows exactly what she did - no guessing, no might haves, no maybes.
9. She has to be the center of attention all the time.
This need is a defining trait of narcissists and particularly of narcissistic mothers for whom their children exist to be sources of attention and adoration. Narcissistic mothers love to be waited on and often pepper their children with little requests. “While you’re up…” or its equivalent is one of their favorite phrases. You couldn’t just be assigned a chore at the beginning of the week or of the day, instead, you had to do it on demand, preferably at a time that was inconvenient for you, or you had to “help” her do it, fetching and carrying for her while she made up to herself for the menial work she had to do as your mother by glorying in your attentions.
A narcissistic mother may create odd occasions at which she can be the center of attention, such as memorials for someone close to her who died long ago, or major celebrations of small personal milestones. She may love to entertain so she can be the life of her own party. She will try to steal the spotlight or will try to spoil any occasion where someone else is the center of attention, particularly the child she has cast as the scapegoat. She often invites herself along where she isn’t welcome. If she visits you or you visit her, you are required to spend all your time with her. Entertaining herself is unthinkable. She has always pouted, manipulated or raged if you tried to do anything without her, didn’t want to entertain her, refused to wait on her, stymied her plans for a drama or otherwise deprived her of attention.
Older narcissistic mothers often use the natural limitations of aging to manipulate dramas, often by neglecting their health or by doing things they know will make them ill. This gives them the opportunity to cash in on the investment they made when they trained you to wait on them as a child. Then they call you (or better still, get the neighbor or the nursing home administrator to call you) demanding your immediate attendance. You are to rush to her side, pat her hand, weep over her pain and listen sympathetically to her unending complaints about how hard and awful it is. (“Never get old!”) It’s almost never the case that you can actually do anything useful, and the causes of her disability may have been completely avoidable, but you’ve been put in an extremely difficult position. If you don’t provide the audience and attention she’s manipulating to get, you look extremely bad to everyone else and may even have legal culpability. (Narcissistic behaviors commonly accompany Alzheimer’s disease, so this behavior may also occur in perfectly normal mothers as they age.)
10. She manipulates your emotions in order to feed on your pain.
This exceptionally sick and bizarre behavior is so common among narcissistic mothers that their children often call them “emotional vampires.” Some of this emotional feeding comes in the form of pure sadism. She does and says things just to be wounding or she engages in tormenting teasing or she needles you about things you’re sensitive about, all the while a smile plays over her lips. She may have taken you to scary movies or told you horrifying stories, then mocked you for being a baby when you cried, She will slip a wounding comment into conversation and smile delightedly into your hurt face. You can hear the laughter in her voice as she pressures you or says distressing things to you. Later she’ll gloat over how much she upset you, gaily telling other people that you’re so much fun to tease, and recruiting others to share in her amusement. . She enjoys her cruelties and makes no effort to disguise that. She wants you to know that your pain entertains her. She may bring up subjects that are painful for you and probe you about them, all the while watching you carefully. This is emotional vampirism in its purest form. She’s feeding emotionally off your pain.
A peculiar form of this emotional vampirism combines attention-seeking behavior with a demand that the audience suffer. Since narcissistic mothers often play the martyr this may take the form of wrenching, self-pitying dramas which she carefully produces, and in which she is the star performer. She sobs and wails that no one loves her and everyone is so selfish, and she doesn’t want to live, she wants to die! She wants to die! She will not seem to care how much the manipulation of their emotions and the self-pity repels other people. One weird behavior that is very common to narcissists: her dramas may also center around the tragedies of other people, often relating how much she suffered by association and trying to distress her listeners, as she cries over the horrible murder of someone she wouldn’t recognize if they had passed her on the street.
11. She’s selfish and willful.
She always makes sure she has the best of everything. She insists on having her own way all the time and she will ruthlessly, manipulatively pursue it, even if what she wants isn’t worth all the effort she’s putting into it and even if that effort goes far beyond normal behavior. She will make a huge effort to get something you denied her, even if it was entirely your right to do so and even if her demand was selfish and unreasonable. If you tell her she cannot bring her friends to your party she will show up with them anyway, and she will have told them that they were invited so that you either have to give in, or be the bad guy to these poor dupes on your doorstep. If you tell her she can’t come over to your house tonight she’ll call your spouse and try get him or her to agree that she can, and to not say anything to you about it because it’s a “surprise.” She has to show you that you can’t tell her “no.”
One near-universal characteristic of narcissists: because they are so selfish and self-centered, they are very bad gift givers. They’ll give you hand-me-downs or market things for themselves as gifts for you (“I thought I’d give you my old bicycle and buy myself a new one!” “I know how much you love Italian food, so I’m going to take you to my favorite restaurant for your birthday!”) New gifts are often obviously cheap and are usually things that don’t suit you or that you can’t use or are a quid pro quo: if you buy her the gift she wants, she will buy you an item of your choice. She’ll make it clear that it pains her to give you anything. She may buy you a gift and get the identical item for herself, or take you shopping for a gift and get herself something nice at the same time to make herself feel better.
12. She’s self-absorbed. Her feelings, needs and wants are very important; yours are insignificant to the point that her least whim takes precedence over your most basic needs.
Her problems deserve your immediate and full attention; yours are brushed aside. Her wishes always take precedence; if she does something for you, she reminds you constantly of her munificence in doing so and will often try to extract some sort of payment. She will complain constantly, even though your situation may be much worse than hers. If you point that out, she will effortlessly, thoughtlessly brush it aside as of no importance ("It’s easy for you…/It’s different for you…/You aren't as sick as I am").
13. She is insanely defensive and is extremely sensitive to any criticism.
If you criticize her or defy her she will explode with fury, threaten, storm, rage, destroy and may become violent, beating, confining, putting her child outdoors in bad weather or otherwise engaging in classic physical abuse.
14. She terrorized. For all abusers, fear is a powerful means of control of the victim, and your narcissistic mother used it ruthlessly to train you.
Narcissists teach you to beware their wrath even when they aren’t present. The only alternative is constant placation. If you give her everything she wants all the time, you might be spared. If you don’t, the punishments will come. Even adult children of narcissists still feel that carefully inculcated fear. Your narcissistic mother can turn it on with a silence or a look that tells the child in you she’s thinking about how she’s going to get even.
Not all narcissists abuse physically, but most do, often in subtle, deniable ways. It allows them to vent their rage at your failure to be the solution to their internal havoc and simultaneously to teach you to fear them. You may not have been beaten, but you were almost certainly left to endure physical pain when a normal mother would have made an effort to relieve your misery. This deniable form of battery allows her to store up her rage and dole out the punishment at a later time when she’s worked out an airtight rationale for her abuse, so she never risks exposure.
You were left hungry because “you eat too much.” (Someone asked her if she was pregnant. She isn’t).
You always went to school with stomach flu because “you don’t have a fever. You’re just trying to get out of school.” (She resents having to take care of you. You have a lot of nerve getting sick and adding to her burdens.)
She refuses to look at your bloody heels and instead the shoes that wore those blisters on your heels are put back on your feet and you’re sent to the store in them because “You wanted those shoes. Now you can wear them.” (You said the ones she wanted to get you were ugly. She liked them because they were just like what she wore 30 years ago).
The dentist was told not to give you Novocaine when he drilled your tooth because “he has to learn to take better care of his teeth.” (She has to pay for a filling and she’s furious at having to spend money on you.)
Narcissistic mothers also abuse by loosing others on you or by failing to protect you when a normal mother would have. Sometimes the narcissist’s golden child will be encouraged to abuse the scapegoat. Narcissists also abuse by exposing you to violence. If one of your siblings got beaten, she made sure you saw. She effortlessly put the fear of Mom into you, without raising a hand.
15. She’s infantile and petty.
Narcissistic mothers are often simply childish. If you refuse to let her manipulate you into doing something, she will cry that you don’t love her because if you loved her you would do as she wanted. If you hurt her feelings she will aggressively whine to you that you’ll be sorry when she’s dead that you didn’t treat her better. These babyish complaints and responses may sound laughable, but the narcissist is dead serious about them. When you were a child, if you ask her to stop some bad behavior, she would justify it by pointing out something that you did that she feels is comparable, as though the childish behavior of a child is justification for the childish behavior of an adult. “Getting even” is a large part of her dealings with you. Anytime you fail to give her the deference, attention or service she feels she deserves, or you thwart her wishes, she has to show you.
16. She’s aggressive and shameless. She doesn’t ask. She demands.
She makes outrageous requests and she’ll take anything she wants if she thinks she can get away with it. Her demands of her children are posed in a very aggressive way, as are her criticisms. She won’t take no for an answer, pushing and arm-twisting and manipulating to get you to give in.
17. She “parentifies.”
She shed her responsibilities to you as soon as she was able, leaving you to take care of yourself as best you could (i.e. covert incest). She denied you medical care, necessary transportation or basic comforts that she would never have considered giving up for herself. She never gave you a birthday party or let you have sleepovers. Your friends were never welcome in her house. She didn’t like to drive you anywhere, so you turned down invitations because you had no way to get there. She wouldn’t buy your school pictures even if she could easily have afforded it. As soon as you got a job, every request for school supplies, clothing or toiletries was met with “Now that you’re making money, why don’t you pay for that yourself?” You worked three jobs to pay for that cheap college and when you finally got mononucleosis she chirped at you that she was “so happy you could take care of yourself.”
She also gave you tasks that were rightfully hers and should not have been placed on a child. You may have been a primary caregiver for young siblings or an incapacitated parent. You may have had responsibility for excessive household tasks. Above all, you were always her emotional caregiver which is one reason any defection from that role caused such enormous eruptions of rage. You were never allowed to be needy or have bad feelings or problems. Those experiences were only for her, and you were responsible for making it right for her. From the time you were very young she would randomly lash out at you any time she was stressed or angry with your father or felt that life was unfair to her, because it made her feel better to hurt you. You were often punished out of the blue, for manufactured offenses. As you got older she directly placed responsibility for her welfare and her emotions on you, weeping on your shoulder and unloading on you any time something went awry for her.
18. She’s exploitative.
She will manipulate to get work, money, or objects she envies out of other people for nothing. This includes her children, of course. If she set up a bank account for you, she was trustee on the account with the right to withdraw money. As you put money into it, she took it out. She may have stolen your identity. She took you as a dependent on her income taxes so you couldn’t file independently without exposing her to criminal penalties. If she made an agreement with you, it was violated the minute it no longer served her needs. If you brought it up demanding she adhere to the agreement, she brushed you off and later punished you so you would know not to defy her again.
Sometimes the narcissist will exploit a child to absorb punishment that would have been hers from an abusive partner. The husband comes home in a drunken rage, and the mother immediately complains about the child’s bad behavior so the rage is vented on to the child. Sometimes the narcissistic mother simply uses the child to keep a sick marriage intact because the alternative is being divorced or having to go to work. The child is sexually molested but the mother never notices, or worse, calls the child a liar when she tells the mother about the molestation.
19. She projects.
This sounds a little like psycho-babble, but it is something that narcissists all do. Projection means that she will put her own bad behavior, character and traits on you so she can deny them in herself and punish you. This can be very difficult to see if you have traits that she can project on to.
An eating-disordered woman who obsesses over her daughter’s weight is projecting. The daughter may not realize it because she has probably internalized an absurdly thin vision of women’s weight and so accepts her mother’s projection. When the narcissist tells the daughter that she eats too much, needs to exercise more, or has to wear extra-large size clothes, the daughter believes it, even if it isn’t true.
However, she will sometimes project even though it makes no sense at all. This happens when she feels shamed and needs to put it on her scapegoat child and the projection therefore comes across as being an attack out of the blue. For example: She makes an outrageous request, and you casually refuse to let her have her way. She’s enraged by your refusal and snarls at you that you’ll talk about it when you’ve calmed down and are no longer hysterical.
You aren’t hysterical at all; she is, but your refusal has made her feel the shame that should have stopped her from making shameless demands in the first place. That’s intolerable. She can transfer that shame to you and rationalize away your response: you only refused her because you’re so unreasonable. Having done that she can reassert her shamelessness and indulge her childish willfulness by turning an unequivocal refusal into a subject for further discussion. You’ll talk about it again “later” - probably when she’s worn you down with histrionics, pouting and the silent treatment so you’re more inclined to do what she wants.
20. She is never wrong about anything. No matter what she’s done, she won’t ever genuinely apologize for anything.
Instead, any time she feels she is being made to apologize she will sulk and pout, issue an insulting apology or negate the apology she has just made with justifications, qualifications or self pity: “I’m sorry you felt that I humiliated you” “I’m sorry if I made you feel bad” “If I did that it was wrong” “I’m sorry, but I there’s nothing I can do about it” “I’m sorry I made you feel clumsy, stupid and disgusting” “I’m sorry but it was just a joke. You’re so over-sensitive” “I’m sorry that my own child feels she has to upset me and make me feel bad.” The last insulting apology is also an example of projection.
21. She seems to have no awareness that other people even have feelings.
She’ll occasionally slip and say something jaw-droppingly callous because of this lack of empathy. It isn’t that she doesn’t care at all about other people’s feelings, though she doesn’t. It would simply never occur to her to think about their feelings.
An absence of empathy is the defining trait of a narcissist and underlies most of the other traits I have described. Unlike psychopaths, narcissists do understand right, wrong, and consequences, so they are not ordinarily criminal.
She beat you, but not to the point where you went to the hospital.
She left you standing out in the cold until you were miserable, but not until you had hypothermia.
She put you in the basement in the dark with no clothes on, but she only left you there for two hours.
22. She blames. She’ll blame you for everything that isn’t right in her life or for what other people do or for whatever has happened.
Always, she’ll blame you for her abuse. You made her do it. If only you weren’t so difficult. You upset her so much that she can’t think straight. Things were hard for her and your backtalk pushed her over the brink. This blaming is often so subtle that all you know is that you thought you were wronged and now you feel guilty.
Your brother beats you and her response is to bemoan how uncivilized children are.
Your boyfriend dumped you, but she can understand - after all, she herself has seen how difficult you are to love.
She’ll do something egregiously exploitative to you, and when confronted will screech at you that she can’t believe you were so selfish as to upset her over such a trivial thing.
She’ll also blame you for your reaction to her selfish, cruel and exploitative behavior. She can’t believe you are so petty, so small, and so childish as to object to her giving your favorite dress to her friend. She thought you would be happy to let her do something nice for someone else.
Narcissists are masters of multitasking as this example shows. Simultaneously your narcissistic mother is:
1) Lying. She knows what she did was wrong and she knows your reaction is reasonable.
2) Manipulating. She’s making you look like the bad guy for objecting to her cruelties.
3) Being selfish. She doesn’t mind making you feel horrible as long as she gets her own way.
4) Blaming. She did something wrong, but it’s all your fault.
5) Projecting. Her petty, small and childish behavior has become yours.
6) Putting on a self-pitying drama. She’s a martyr who believed the best of you, and you’ve let her down.
7) Parentifying. You’re responsible for her feelings, she has no responsibility for yours.
23. She destroys your relationships.
Narcissistic mothers are like tornadoes: wherever they touch down families are torn apart and wounds are inflicted. Unless the father has control over the narcissist and holds the family together, adult siblings in families with narcissistic mothers characteristically have painful relationships. Typically all communication between siblings is superficial and driven by duty, or they may never talk to each other at all. In part, these women foster dissension between their children because they enjoy the control it gives them. If those children don’t communicate except through the mother, she can decide what everyone hears. Narcissists also love the excitement and drama they create by interfering in their children’s lives. Watching people’s lives explode is better than soap operas, especially when you don’t have any empathy for their misery.
The narcissist nurtures anger, contempt and envy - the most corrosive emotions - to drive her children apart. While her children are still living at home, any child who stands up to the narcissist guarantees punishment for the rest. In her zest for revenge, the narcissist purposefully turns the siblings’ anger on the dissenter by including everyone in her retaliation. (“I can see that nobody here loves me! Well I’ll just take these Christmas presents back to the store. None of you would want anything I got you anyway!”) The other children, long trained by the narcissist to give in, are furious with the troublemaking child, instead of with the narcissist who actually deserves their anger.
The narcissist also uses favoritism and gossip to poison her childrens’ relationships. The scapegoat sees the mother as a creature of caprice and cruelty. As is typical of the privileged, the other children don’t see her unfairness and they excuse her abuses. Indeed, they are often recruited by the narcissist to adopt her contemptuous and entitled attitude towards the scapegoat and with her tacit or explicit permission, will inflict further abuse. The scapegoat predictably responds with fury and equal contempt. After her children move on with adult lives, the narcissist makes sure to keep each apprised of the doings of the others, passing on the most discreditable and juicy gossip (as always, disguised as “concern”) about the other children, again, in a way that engenders contempt rather than compassion.
Having been raised by a narcissist, her children are predisposed to be envious, and she takes full advantage of the opportunity that presents. While she may never praise you to your face, she will likely crow about your victories to the very sibling who is not doing well. She’ll tell you about the generosity she displayed towards that child, leaving you wondering why you got left out and irrationally angry at the favored child rather than at the narcissist who told you about it.
The end result is a family in which almost all communication is triangular. The narcissist, the spider in the middle of the family web, sensitively monitors all the children for information she can use to retain her unchallenged control over the family. She then passes that on to the others, creating the resentments that prevent them from communicating directly and freely with each other. The result is that the only communication between the children is through the narcissist, exactly the way she wants it.
24. As a last resort she goes pathetic.
When she’s confronted with unavoidable consequences for her own bad behavior, including your anger, she will melt into a soggy puddle of weepy helplessness. It’s all her fault. She can’t do anything right. She feels so bad. What she doesn’t do: own the responsibility for her bad conduct and make it right. Instead, as always, it’s all about her, and her helpless self-pitying weepiness dumps the responsibility for her consequences AND for her unhappiness about it on you.
As so often with narcissists, it is also a manipulative behavior. If you fail to excuse her bad behavior and make her feel better, YOU are the bad person for being cold, heartless and unfeeling when your poor mother feels so awful.
Wednesday, March 29, 2023
VERBAL, EMOTIONAL & PHYSICAL ABUSE IS ABOUT CONTROL
CONTROLLING HER TIME: The abuser controls his partner's time by making her wait. He will say he is ready to talk, but will continue doing something else while his partner waits. He will tell her he is ready to go to bed, then make her wait. If she complains of having to wait, he will blame her for "not having enough patience", "I have to wait on you too", or "Do you expect me just to drop everything!"-- thereby blaming her for HIS making her wait.
This also commonly occurs when the abuser is called to a meal, family activity, or that everyone else is ready to leave. If the partner does something while waiting, the abuser will then angrily proclaim that "HE has been waiting on HER".
A subtle way of controlling a partner's time is to leave most, if not all, of the work for her to do-then complaining about anything she does for herself, or what she does not get done.
Other examples are procrastinating promised work (especially what she is counting on), "watching just one more program" or "playing one more game" (that goes on and on and on), refusing to give a simple and direct answer to concrete and direct questions (Are you going to do this or that. "We'll have to wait and see, I suppose, maybe, what do You think, I didn't know I was supposed to...why don't you figure it out!")
The abuser may also control his partner's time by grandstanding. If she tells him she is unhappy about an incident, he will deny it happened, discount her feelings, or accuse her of trying to start a fight. He might also proclaim that "you're causing the problem by bringing it up," "no one else notices," "everyone else does, so why can't I," Diverting, countering, blocking, "forgetting," forcing her to explain, making her repeat because the abuser was not listening or paying attention, and "prove it" are also common ways to control the partner's time and energy.
It is rare that an abuser will be willing to discuss or negotiate HIS plan-to do so would be giving up control. This type of control is two-fold: Control her time in some way, any way, then blame HER for it.
CONTROLLING HER MATERIAL RESOURCES: The verbal abuser may control one or all of his partner's material resources by WITHHOLDING information as well as by withholding work which he has promised to do, often by "forgetting", "I don't know how", or "I didn't know I had to".
Another common practice of the abuser is to withhold needed money, then compound the abuse by forcing her to act on her own, beg, plead, or do without. He then begins blaming his withholding on her acting on her own, begging, pleading, or "trying to be a martyr."
In more severe cases, the controlling abuser will keep money from his wife that is necessary for her survival and that of their family (whether it is the promised food budget money or his entire salary). He gives no thought to "spending his own money," or what his control and selfishness is doing to his wife and family who are either deprived of necessities or working desperately to support themselves while HE feels in control and free!
CONTROLLING WITH BODY LANGUAGE AND GESTURES:
The verbal abuser uses body language to control his partner, just as he uses words. The words and gestures often go together. This can be seen as using HIMSELF to control his partner. Following are some hurtful and intimidating ways of controlling that are forms of withholding and abusive anger:
Refusing to talk
Refusing to give her something
Hitting or kicking something
Refusing to make eye contact
Boredom-crossed arms, eyes closed, head down, deep sighs
Withdrawing or withholding affection
Showing disgust-rolled eyes, deep sighs, inappropriate sounds
Strutting and posturing
CONTROLLING BY DEFINING HER REALITY: This form of control is very oppressive. When he tells his partner what reality is, he is playing God, he is discounting the partner's experience by defining "THE TRUTH"-which in fact is a LIE. Some examples: That's not what you said or That's not what I said or That's not what you did or That's not what I did or That's not what happened. That's not what you saw. That's not what you felt. That's not why you did it. I know you better than you know yourself!
CONTROLLING BY MAKING HER RESPONSIBLE: By telling his partner she is responsible for his behavior, this verbal abuser attempts to avoid all responsibility for his own behavior. In other words, he avoids accountability by BLAMING. Examples include:
I did it because you...
You didn't remind me.
You just don't see what I do.
Just show me how
Set a good example
CONTROLLING BY ASSIGNING STATUS:
Putting her down, especially on what she does best.
Putting her up, praising or thanking her for trivial things rather than the big things she does, which demeans her talents, time, and energy, while implying she is best suited to do trivial or demeaning tasks. This category also includes statements such as: That right! You're a woman!! (said with disgust) What makes you think you can do that? I'm the leader, the boss. You're not THAT stupid. Just THINK about it. ITS THAT'S SIMPLE.
CONTROLLING BY DIMINISHING YOUR PARTNER:
Laughing at or smirking
Mimicking your partner
Scornful, disdainful, contemptuous tone of voice
Ignoring, "I'm not listening to you"
Avoiding eye contact, turning away
Expecting partner to talk to you while you're watching TV, reading, game playing
Words like "Sooo" or "So what!" or "That means NOTHING to me" or "Whatever"
Bafflegabbing - talking in ways intended to mislead or baffle your partner
Insulting your partner
Making inappropriate sounds
Making inappropriate facial expressions-rolled eyes, grimaces, deep sighs
Starting a sentence then stating, "Forget it.."
Accusing her of being "controlling", "having to have the last word"
CONTROLLING behaviors such as those above are used by verbal abusers to gain feelings of power and control whenever the suppressed fear and pain in his own life start to "seep out" - terrified of not being in control, terrified of "feeling," terrified of her leaving.
VERBAL, EMOTIONAL, FINANCIAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL & PHYSICAL ABUSE ARE ALL FORMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.
Saturday, February 25, 2023
Why Not Everyone Can Just "Move On" and "Get Over It"
Victim, survivor, victimology, victim abuse... why are victims being told to deny their reality?
You have been methodically and diabolically abused and suddenly you hear "don't be a victim, choose to be a survivor." The concept that a victim can always consciously choose how to proceed, is wrong.
The phrase, "move on with your life" is common. In a commanding, offhand and arrogant tone, those who have fought and lost a custody battle, their home, car and savings, family, job and may be suffering physically (adrenal fatigue, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, crohn's disease, etc. are common) are stunned to be told, "well, better move on with your life."
The entire infrastructure of a life is often destroyed leaving the victim, stunned, numb, hypervigilant, indigent, betrayed and perplexed as to why they are expected to "choose" to not be a victim. Give them a time machine and this can be done. Give them revictimization abuse and it cannot. They are victims.
It's time to give that word back its status and in doing so, give respect to the abused. Respect comes in the form of providing help. An empowering, compassionate approach to those who have been stripped of dignity through repeated abuse in courts of law, or by their partners, begins with recognizing and defining the situation of the victim.
What is the definition of a "victim"?
According to the dictionary a victim is: One who is harmed by, or made to suffer from an act, circumstance, agency, or condition; a person who is tricked, swindled, or taken advantage of.
The victim of a narcissist or abuser is traumatized. There are biochemical changes in the body and structural changes in the brain. Thought patterns change, memories are lost, immune system strongly affected, brain cells die, there is chest pain, muscle pain, feelings are intense and emotions chaotic. Victimization is never deserved.
Why are victims revictimized?
So why does someone brutalized, abused, and traumatized have to be afraid of the word "victim" ? Because it's politically correct to say, "I'm not a victim, I'm a survivor." Much the same way, people think the capitalist economy gives everyone an equal chance to become wealthy (which of course it does not - if everyone started with the same funding, self esteem, contacts, educational background, health, then that would be true) but when the playing field is not level some have an advantage.
Not everyone who is the victim of emotional, verbal, and narcissistic abuse are the same. Some have more resiliency than others. Some are numb, some are without any resources or support. Many have physiological changes that need to be addressed. And when those who need help come looking for it, instead of being welcomed, they find "helpers" that tell them they are responsible for their healing and they better choose it now or they will always be a victim and never a survivor. These people are revictimizing those they want to help because "choice" is NOT always an option.
Dr. Frank Ochberg, Harvard trained MD and trauma expert, says our culture now disparages, blames, isolates, and condemns someone for being a victim.We must reclaim the word "victim" and renew our commitment to those who are victims. We should examine the role of a victim impact statement and victim advocate for those who are traumatized emotionally as well as from a criminal act.
Are you being victimized again by someone who says, "if you won't stop being a victim. I won't help you"? Maybe your attorney, therapist. siblings, or friends are claiming you can just choose to stop being a victim. Maybe they think you can start a company without money, and buy a house with bad credit. Maybe they don't know what they are talking about.
As a victim of any kind of abuse you deserve:
3. Freedom from therapeutic verbal abuse
4. A support team to open doors to resources
5. A friend, therapist or counselor who can teach you the skills to rebuild your life.
Depending on who you are, this may take a long time or not. Variables include amount and length of abuse, health, supportive family or not, finances, genetic explanatory style (optimism or pessimism), coping skills you may already have and many others. As a victim, you have the right to say, "STOP" to those who blame the victim. An entire self help industry has arisen that believes if you just really really wanted to, you can be happy and healthy and fully functional as soon as you choose to be. A starting point for recovery are post traumatic stress sites. There you will find trained and compassionate support people with articles that explain trauma healing methods.
The Scientific Basis of Healing, Happiness and Recovery
It doesn't matter if you call yourself a victim, survivor or Martian. No one should deny you victim status. It is what is. A victim is not a slothlike creature, nor stupid. Nor is a victim responsible for what happened to her and we must stop worrying about language and start helping. A victim is a person with a life in chaos. What matters is that you get the help you need and the compassionate trained person to give you the skills.
The good news is that happiness is trainable, resiliency comes back and psychologists are moving from the Freudian model which has dominated psychology for too long and was wrong to boot, to a model that moves from pathology as the dominant scheme. The process of de-traumatization begins with validation. It then moves to retraining explanatory style. Depending on the depth and time of the abuse, it may take a long or short time to process to empowerment and control. IT IS NOT NECESSARY to analyze every event. It IS necessary to be heard and listened to and to tell your story. Validation is critical.
Monday, February 06, 2023
A Same-Sex Domestic Violence Epidemic Is Silent
by Maya Shwayder
Two months into their relationship, Chris's boyfriend José pushed him to the ground in a fit of anger and ripped the clothes off his body. "We had gone out dancing, and when we got home, I was changing in front of him," said Chris, 34.
"I had on my favorite pair of underwear; it was the pair I had worn the first time we went out. He saw the underwear, and just flew into a rage, saying, 'How dare you wear those! Those are for me!'"
José threw him on the floor of their bedroom closet, and smashed the only light bulb in the room, leaving them in darkness. He loomed above Chris on the floor as he tore the underwear away. That was the first time things had ever turned violent between the two.
"I was in such a state of shock," Chris recounted seven years later, his fingers tapping at a wine glass stem and his brown eyes drifting. "I thought, 'Oh, he's just jealous; it's the drinking,' and I let it go. There was a lot of drinking in this relationship. No drugs, but lots of drinking."
The second time was worse. "He was angry at something—I can't remember what—and I was laughing," said Chris. José again became incensed, strode into the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife. "He pulled me by my hair, had me on my knees and had the butcher knife at my neck."
Chris says he didn't react. At the time, his sister was pregnant, and he wanted to live to see his niece. "I talked him down, told him to give me the knife. I put my hand on his, and we put the knife back in place together," said Chris, demonstrating by holding his two hands together.
That night, José locked their bedroom door for fear that Chris would escape and tell someone. The next morning, he told Chris, "You know I didn't mean it, right?"
"That was his way of apologizing to me," Chris scoffed. The relationship lasted nine months, but continued to affect Chris for years after it ended.
Sam, 25, describes himself as having been "naive and impressionable," during the time he was dating David. "He's not a stupid person," Sam told me over Skype. "He never hit me or threw things directly at me, but he would frighten me enough to make me back down."
According to Sam, David became increasingly controlling after they moved in together, three or four months into their relationship. At that point, because of the apartment lease, he said, "it was too late to just up and go."
One of David's main methods of control was evoking pity and threatening to harm himself.
"He would get very sad and upset which, in hindsight, was a plea for compassion," Sam said, "As time went on, he became controlling through jealousy. Any attention that I didn't give to him—whether I gave it to friends, family, or other guys, even just other gay men who were my friends—he would get very upset if I hung out with them too much."
David eventually forced Sam to open a joint bank account so that Sam couldn't "stockpile" any funds and move out. He increasingly tried to cut off Sam’s contacts with friends and family.
After two and a half years, Sam managed to end the relationship after David admitted he had returned to using cocaine.
LaTesha, 18, is a consummate Queens girl. Tough and stoic behind her soft voice and hooded sweatshirt, she is about to graduate from high school and wants to study criminal justice in college. She has already been beaten up by a girlfriend. "It only happened when we got into an argument," she said, her brown eyes getting serious. "If she felt like she was being disrespected, she would swing at me."
"We always argued," she continued. "But you know how a couple can argue and then just be back to normal? We would argue, be back to normal. When we argued again, she would bring up the last argument. And it would just build up.” There was always something to argue about and usually, LaTesha said, it was girls.
"She was so insecure," LaTesha recalled. "If I'd be hanging out with one of my friends who was a girl, she'd see me and say 'What's this? You cheating on me?' And I always told her, 'You need to stop.' And then we would get into it. It was a pattern. We would break up for one week, get back together another. We must have broken up about 20 times."
The final break-up happened when Monique landed several punches on LaTesha in front of the staff of Safe Space, an LGBT community center in Jamaica, Queens.
Chris, Sam, and LaTesha are smart people with educations, plans, and busy social lives. They all identify as homosexual, and they all have had experiences with physically or psychologically abusive partners who left them financially, mentally, or emotionally damaged. Domestic violence—or as it's often referred to today, intimate partner violence—is usually discussed in the context of heterosexual relationships. But partner violence is also an issue in the LGBTQ community, a fact that has only come to light in recent years.
Tre'Andre Valentine, the Community Programs Coordinator at The Network/La Red, a Boston-based domestic violence support group specifically for LGBTQ people, says that because domestic violence is still thought of as a heterosexual problem, there can be major hurdles when trying to find funding and conduct research, as well as when providing services to people who don't fit in the stereotype of a domestic violence survivor. "The idea that a woman can be the one who's abusive throws a wrench in the traditional view," Valentine said. "The idea that only men can be batterers makes it a lot harder for men to get access to shelter."
Yejin Lee, an associate at the Anti-Violence Program in New York City, said that the assumption of heterosexuality has been a huge stumbling block for gays and lesbians seeking refuge from an abuser. "One problem is the way domestic violence has been framed for the past 30 years," she said. Since the entire movement against domestic abuse started as a battered women's movement, Lee said, we are ingrained to think that victims are all are married, straight women.
As a mental health counselor with the Violence Recovery Program in Boston, Jessica Newman says that because the default assumption is that people are straight, there can be an attitude within shelters that a gay person somehow “deserved” the violence. "Same-sex relationships are often demonized or marginalized," she said, "So some people's attitudes are 'it serves you right.'"
But Newman, Lee, and Valentine all added that there are also internal factors that keep a cover of darkness over the issue of domestic violence in the gay community.
"There can be a fear of making the community look bad," said Newman. "Some people might have a real and legitimate fear of being looked down on, or not finding services through the police, judicial system, or a shelter. People don't want that negative image of the community out there."
Valentine added, "There's the idea that we'll be airing dirty laundry. It sort of discredits the community to say that abuse is happening, after all the work we've been doing [to enter mainstream society]. There's the feeling that we don't want to attach something additionally bad to us, so it's not talked about."
Sitting in a small restaurant near Madison Square Garden, Chris mulled over his past. "I know gay couples in the Bronx who beat the shit out of each other," he said. "The weird thing is, it's like fighting with your brother. You're going at each other, and you're not taking it seriously, and you don't think of it as a problem, it's just the fabric of your relationship. But you don't realize it's a piece of fabric you can cut out."
Raised in a conservative, military family, with a history of sexual abuse running on both sides, Chris said he always felt like the odd one out growing up. "I was raised to tolerate what was dished out," he remembered. "It was just dysfunctional. I grew up with a closeted uncle who died of AIDS and a mother who hit my father, who would then turn around and hit us."
Chris moved from Chicago to New York when he was 21 so that he could live life as an out gay man, he said. "I had a full time job, full time benefits, and my own apartment," he said. "That didn't last."
Chris met José at a lounge in Washington Heights in late September 2004, and for him, it was love at first sight. "I saw his eyes, the way he dressed," he said. "He made me feel secure. He was a husky guy. My ideal: a masculine Latino."
A honeymoon period ensued and within three months the two were living together. Chris said he doted on José, alienating friends and family in the process. But the honeymoon period ended soon after José moved in. He started taking over everything in Chris's life. "It started with verbal abuse," Chris said. "Little things: put downs about the apartment, about me, and then it turned into everything. He wasn't happy with anything."
"I grew up self-conscious. I was made to feel inferior at school and at home," Chris continued. "And I just lost all the self-esteem that I had found when I came here and came out. I'm smart! I graduated from college, I've won awards. And he just made me feel like so much less than I was. [But] the less happy he was, the more I would try to fix things."
Chris sensed José wasn't happy, but it never occurred to him that the relationship had turned bad, or would soon turn physically violent.
"I didn't tell anybody [about the violence in the relationship],” Chris said. “I didn't want to! They're just going to tell you what you don't want to hear."
The summer after José moved in, after those first incidents of violence, Chris was mugged on the street outside their apartment. The thief punched him in the nose, but when Chris went to run after him, José grabbed his arm and stopped him.
"He wouldn't let me call the cops," recalled Chris. "José didn't have legal papers to be in the U.S. and he was scared of what might happen."
Furious, traumatized, and gushing blood, Chris turned around and backhanded José on the street. The two stood looking at each other. Chris remembers this as the moment when the relationship truly began to go downhill.
"I didn't think about leaving until that moment," he said. "It got to the point where I was crying in public. I was crying at work. I couldn't speak my feelings."
The very last time José turned violent was close to the end of their relationship. "He was always on the phone a lot," Chris said. "So one time I reached for his phone to go through it and see who he was talking to, and he just grabbed my wrist and twisted."
By this point, Chris remembers, José was out all the time and coming home late, or not coming home at all. In August of 2005, Chris kept a promise to himself. "I told him, 'I can't count on these fingers how many times you've lied,'" Chris said, spreading all ten fingers out on the table in front of him. "And I promised myself once I couldn't count your lies on these fingers, it would be over.'"
That night, Chris went out without José. "I told myself if I could kiss someone else, then I didn't really love him. Well, I kissed someone else, and I went home and told him to move out."
Data on the rates of same-sex partner abuse have only become available in recent years. Even today, many of the statistics and materials on domestic violence put out by organizations like the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Justice still focus exclusively on heterosexual relationships, and specifically heterosexual women. While the CDC does provide some resources on its website for the LGBT population, the vast majority of the information is targeted at women. Materials provided by the CDC for violence prevention and survivor empowerment prominently feature women in their statistics and photographs.
In 2013, the CDC released the results of a 2010 study on victimization by sexual orientation, and admitted that “little is known about the national prevalence of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking among lesbian, gay, and bisexual women and men in the United States.” The report found that bisexual women had an overwhelming prevalence of violent partners in their lives: 75 percent had been with a violent partner, as opposed to 46 percent of lesbian women and 43 percent of straight women. For bisexual men, that number was 47 percent. For gay men, it was 40 percent, and 21 percent for straight men.
The most recent statistics available on same-sex intimate partner violence from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which focuses on LGBT relationships, reported 21 incidents of intimate partner homicides in the LGBT community, the highest ever. Nearly half of them were gay men and, for the second year in a row, the majority of survivors were people of color—62 percent.
In 2012, NCAVP programs around the country received 2,679 reports of intimate partner violence, a decrease of around 32 percent from 2011. However the report noted that many of the NCAVP’s member organizations were operating at decreased capacity due to limiting the number of cases they were able to take. The report said that excluding data from organizations, there was actually a 29 percent increase in reports of violence from 2011 to 2012.
"Statistics are very controversial," wrote Curt Rogers, executive director of the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Program, in an email. "And it's possible that men are underreported. The bottom line for me [is that] it happens to men, period, so we should be inclusive in our approach and not marginalize the male victim population."
Valentine, from The Network/La Red, said that in his experience, the rates of violence in the LGBTQ community seem comparable to those in the straight community. "The rate of domestic violence that has been documented is one in four women, and it's pretty much the same for LGBTQ folks," he said.
"Reporting can be really difficult, and historically we [LGBTQ people] have not had a very good relationship with police and law enforcement, so folks may not be reporting it."
In any case, he continued, the police might not believe the victims when they call, the attitude often being, "You're both men, work it out between yourselves," or, "Women aren't violent; they don't hit each other."
Indeed, according to the NCAVP report, only 16.5 percent of survivors reported interacting with the police, but in one-third of those cases, the survivor was arrested instead of the abuser. A mere 3.7 percent of survivors reported seeking access to shelters.
"We need to change the way we look at domestic violence," Rogers said. "I don't see it in any way as a gender issue. I see it as a power and a control issue."
Sam met his first and, so far, only boyfriend, David, outside of a club one night while he was in his second year of college. "The first thing I remember thinking when I saw him was 'Oh God, never,'" he said, laughing. "As in, I would never date somebody like that. He was very assertive; almost a purposely bitchy persona, which is not uncommon in the club scene."
But date they did. After a bit of flirting back and forth on Facebook, within three or four months, as Sam remembers it, they were living together.
"In hindsight," said Sam, "I sort of already knew things were off, which really should have been my chance to get away. But it wasn't until we moved in when I started to realize that amount of control that was going on."
David soon became aware that Sam was unhappy and, according to Sam, he increasingly tried to force a façade of a stable life and healthy relationship on him.
"He went from using emotions to manipulate me, to smashing things, to threatening to commit suicide, to threatening to harm our cat, to threatening to ruin me in various ways—socially, academically, that kind of thing. About a year in, I tried twice to get out of it. He would say 'Okay, that's fine,' and then he would smash up the apartment. He would smash mirrors or push the Christmas tree over or threaten to kill himself. That's usually when the threats became the worst, when he was trying to control me into staying," Sam said, recounting once incident when he tried to break up with David, and David smashed an entire rack of drying dishes, saying, 'Well I guess we don't need any couples dishes anymore.'"
Sam insisted that David was delusional and trying to cling to the idea of a stable, normal life with Sam. David, as it turns out, did not have a stable background. He came from a troubled family: His mother was alcoholic, and his parents, while loving, were dysfunctional and destructive. In addition, David told Sam that an older boy had molested him when he was 12 or 13. He developed a cocaine habit that, he told Sam when they met, he had kicked.
Both men eventually grew depressed, and Sam felt increasingly frightened and isolated by David's behavior—not to mention embarrassed that the neighbors could always hear when David flew off the handle. He had only one friend he felt he could turn to, who of course pleaded with Sam to break things off.
During this time, David began slipping back into cocaine use, and Sam buried himself in his studies. Focusing on earning an honors degree, he said, helped get him through.
"Often he would try to 'guilt trip' me about the time I spent doing school," Sam recalled. "But I was able to hang on to that as sort of a hope and a goal."
In December 2010, David forced Sam into an engagement. "I was so afraid of what he was capable of," Sam recalled. "It was less problematic to keep this up than to break it up." Then, in mid-August 2011, David came forward and admitted he had started using cocaine again.
"I was in the shower," said Sam. "And he came in the washroom and said, 'I have something to tell you. I've been doing cocaine again. A lot of it, and spending a good chunk of our money on it.' We'd been really struggling money-wise, like, probably below poverty line at some points."
Sam got out of the shower and went out, and David began making calls to friends and family, admitting his problem, telling them that he'd been lying to them and taking money from them.
"Years ago, he had had one slip up," Sam said. "And I said, 'Okay, I get it, you're a recovering addict. But you do it again, you slip up again, and it's over.' And that's the card I pulled. I'd been looking for a way out for two years."/br>
The psychology of domestic abuse, both those who perpetrate it and those who survive it, has been studied for years. Multiple factors have been shown to contribute, including childhood abuse, mental illness, cultural norms, stress, and unbalanced power dynamics in the relationship.
Brian Norton has been a therapist in New York for 12 years, specializing in "challenges related to gay men (homophobia, coming out, etc.)" and couples therapy. He said that often a controlling or abusive personality forms in childhood.
"We all recreate the same dynamics over and over again. Ninety-nine if not 100 percent of the time, victims have had previous abusive relationships."
Abusive relationships are, of course, emotionally draining for the victim. "It's disorienting," Norton said. "One minute they're telling you they love you, and being strong, and loving and positive; then they're cheating on you, or not respecting you, and not paying attention to what you need."
Benjamin Seaman, also a New York-based therapist who has been practicing since 2001, specializes in polyamorous relationships and has also seen the "full spectrum" of gay couples. In Seaman's philosophy, violence and abuse are "usually the tools of someone who feels powerless." Seaman agreed that bad relationships fuel other bad relationships and that sometimes the lingering stress of abusive childhood incidents leads to an ongoing shame in adulthood. This can further contribute to stress in a gay relationship, said Seaman, when one or both of the people are "self-loathing" gays.
Norton gave the example of one couple currently in his care. "One person in the couple doesn't have his life together, and his partner does. He feels intimidated and threatened by the success and stability of the partner. So he became abusive."
LaTesha, the high-school student from Queens, admits that when she was in first grade, she used to "do things that we weren't supposed to do" with a next door neighbor's daughter. The first person she came out to was her best friend when she was 15. Her mother found out by reading her diary. "She was just like, 'You love girls now? Not in my house!' and she started bashing me. And so I told her I would never tell her anything ever again."
LaTesha was 16 when she met Monique, who was 18, in school. The two started dating, and soon after, started fighting. "This scar, on my neck? Her," she said softly, massaging the thin line with her fingers. "That's from her nails."
LaTesha insists the two didn't physically fight often in their 19 months together. "I'm not the type to do that," she said. "If I love somebody, I will never put my hands on them. I just figured that she got mad, and she swung. That’s what happens when people get mad—I didn't see it as she was beating me. I didn't see it as that. But then I had to realize that's not always the answer for when we get into altercations.”
Others noticed. "People would come to me and ask what happened, 'cause I would usually have scratches or a little bruise on my face. I'd tell them I got into it with her and they'd say, 'I don't' understand why you're putting yourself through this.' I'd be like, 'Well, I love her, and I'm going to accept her for who she is.'"
Monique began trying to manipulate LaTesha, telling her who she could and couldn't hang out with. She bought LaTesha a cell phone and then took it back when she thought LaTesha was texting other girls. When they fought, Monique would hurl insults at LaTesha, saying, "I hope you die of AIDS," and calling her a slut. After the last time the two broke up, LaTesha said, "She just wouldn't let it go. She tried to get back with me. I was still in love with her [Monique], but I didn't want to be with her anymore."
At the time, LaTesha had started dating another girl. Monique didn't like this, tracked the pair down at Safe Space, and came in swinging at the new girlfriend. A final confrontation occurred in front of staff, counselors, and peers at Safe Space. LaTesha had begun volunteering as a peer educator there after she and Monique broke up for the last time. "I could have gotten banned from Safe Space," LaTesha said of the fight.
"We weren't even together, and she was, quote-unquote, in love with me. I was just like, 'No. You're not going to hit her. You got a problem, it's between me and you.' And she swung at me. She got in my face and said, 'What are you gonna do?' And she hit me, and then she did it again."
The Safe Space staff managed to separate the two, and LaTesha remained a peer counselor with the group.
Lesbian women can have a very hard time finding shelter. And sometimes, an abuser will call a shelter claiming to be a victim. "What may happen," said Valentine at Network/La Red, "is that both a survivor and an abuser can access services, so it might not be the safest harbor for a lesbian survivor."
Newman at the Violence Recovery Program said that proper screening techniques can help enhance shelters' safety. "We screen both parties," she said. "And we won't work with batterers. We'll refer them to a batterer's intervention program. But I've definitely seen it. People will see themselves as victims when they're not."
It's tough enough to get into a domestic violence shelter if you're straight, no matter your gender. Kristen Clonan is a spokesperson for Safe Horizon, which claims to be New York City's largest provider of domestic violence residence with nine shelters and around 725 beds throughout the city. Clonan said that in 2011, nearly 2,500 women, children, and men sought out shelter at Safe Horizon, and Safe Horizon's three hotlines field 163,000 calls annually.
That's a lot of demand for 725 beds. And shelters that cater to LGBT people are even more perilously few and far between. Cassildra Aguilera, the LGBTQ program coordinator for Safe Space, said there is one shelter in New York City that identifies as LGBTQ-specific, with 200 beds. Of the mainstream shelters, only 12 are LGBTQ friendly, and all are based in Manhattan. According to Network/La Red in Boston, only two of the 30 domestic violence shelters in Massachusetts are specifically geared toward LGBTQ people: Network/La Red, and the Gay Men's Domestic Violence Program. Of mainstream programs, only eight accept LGBT people. Many shelters, even if they say they're LGBT-friendly, reportedly fail when it comes to providing for LGBT safety needs.
Valentine of The Network/La Red said there's a lot of homophobia in shelters among shelter residents. "The staff might have a non-discrimination policy, but it's not enforced, and that definitely affects a lot of survivors."
Transgender people have an especially hard time, according to Newman. They might not find a shelter, because often neither men's nor women's shelters take transgendered people. If they find a place in a homeless shelter, they might be housed with the men, which could be dangerous, or with women, which can agitate shelter residents. Curious people may ask intrusive questions, or they might not be seen as "real" women or "real" men, which, Newman said, is tremendously demeaning.
A month after breaking up with José, Chris tried to commit suicide. He failed, and shortly after began a course of therapy that, he says, helped him come to terms not only with this damaging relationship, but also with his tumultuous family life. After a rough few years during which he suffered from depression and severely decreased libido, he has just begun to make his way into the dating scene again. He has a steady job working in children’s after-school education.
Sam graduated from college and has begun a master’s degree program. He and his friends work to actively ignore and cut David out of their lives, despite David's repeated attempts to be in touch and get back together. And Sam says he has begun to date again, as his mental health has slowly improved with the help of his psychiatrist and his counselor.
Soon after the last violent encounter with Monique, LaTesha met the girlfriend she is currently seeing and says that she has definitely learned from her experience with Monique.
"The girlfriend I have now, she's so much different than before. You know, if we argue, we just won't talk to each other. If we play-fight, and we know it's about to get serious, we'll stop."
LaTesha is still a volunteer peer educator with Safe Space. Every week, she works to educate the Queens community about the LGBT population and spread the message of safe sex and healthy relationships.
In May 2013, President Obama re-authorized the Violence Against Women Act. While the law still focuses on women in heterosexual relationships, it has a new section that includes coverage of same-sex partners—a big sign that attitudes are changing. Rogers and Newman both agree that circumstances are improving for gays seeking shelter and help.
"Twenty years ago there was nothing," Rogers said. "Now there are significantly more resources and a much higher likelihood of a positive response from mainstream providers and first responders."
As individuals and society come to recognize same-sex partner violence as an existing problem, there is hope.
Copyright © 2015 by The Atlantic Monthly Group