If someone could simply execute the simple exercises, agreements and use the two skills taught in the course, then the abuse would stop. But, in most cases of abuse the abuser is not interested in changing any of his, or her, behavior. The principles in my course may help contain, limit or diminish some of the bad consequences of controlling abusive behaviors, but it will not address healing the reasons this person goes quickly to abuse and cannot control it. My coursel is not designed for couples who have experienced physical violence in the last 6 months. Some of the techniques in the book, such as Time Outs, are helpful for couples in which there has been recent violence, but the book is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is probably a form of ‘Toxic Hope’ to believe that a partner will change his or her abusive behaviors if that person has not at the minimum, committed to professional treatment for abusive behavior. Just like with addictions and addictive behaviors, there are instances of people who make a complete reversal of their behaviors without professional treatment. Often, these changes are a part of a spiritual and emotional transformation. Sometimes fear alone works great! Fear of jail is the most influential factor as to why a perpetrator does not relapse and become physically violent again. So, fear works… as a good start. But, then the physical violence is replaced with mental, emotional and verbal abuse.
If a man or woman who has crossed the line into abusive behavior says that he, or she, will go to regular counseling, rather than specialists who focus on abuse and violence; or the person promises to go to generic relationship workshops or marriage counseling, these will probably not substantially help the problem. There is that old saying, “Abusive men (or women) will never change.” This is somewhat true. I would only add that abusive people very rarely change unless they are getting professional help specifically designed for changing controlling and abusive behaviors. Now, I am not saying here that good therapy or applying good spiritual principles may not have miraculous effects sometimes. These are the exceptions and not the rule in most cases. In the reference to Dr. John Shore’s article in the column to the right, on “Seven Reasons Women Stay In Abusive Relationships”, there is a letter written to him by a woman. The woman’s sister has been abused many times by a man who claims each time shortly that Jesus has cured him of the impulse to abuse her. The odds are lower for achieving success in controlling these behaviors if you seek treatment from professionals who are not expert in the subject area. The difference in results are probably as dramatic as someone with a form of cancer seeking treatment from a general family practitioner vs. a cancer specialist.
The problem is one person’s abusive behavior…. period.
We do not look at what someone else did that the abusive person became abusive. That would be justifying that abuse can occur when the partner does certain things. We do not want to leave any impressions that there is ANY reason for becoming abusive. There has been a long standing public service announcement and campaign that says, “There’s No Excuse For Domestic Abuse.” Couples counseling assumes that the couple has problems of communication. When one person uses abuse, intimidation or violence, then the problem is his, or her, individual problem of controlling abusive behavior. Only his, or her, commitment to anger management or domestic violence treatment is sufficient to begin believing that there is a ‘Real Hope’ that the relationship can change. And, even with a commitment to attending treatment, the real test is whether the behavior begins to happen less frequently, with less intensitiy and for a shorter duration. With actual evidence that changes are happening, we can now say that there may be some ‘Real Hope’ for the relationship or marriage. There is a continuum of behaviors within a relationship that can be called abusive. They range from being slightly disrespectful to your partner, such as raising your voice in an argument; increasing to using physical violence to control the partner. Most disrespectful and violent behavior is about controlling the partner. There is a common understanding that these men and women Research shows that about 5% of violent relationships are where females are doing the intimidation. I may hear from men that the women are violent with them, and that they should be in treatment. Of course, this statement usually long precedes that man’s full change in his behavior. But, more important than this is a fact that most of us who peruse newspaper headlines can confirm just with our anecdotal experience.
When a woman is violent with a man, it can be embarrassing…& maybe painful. When a man gets violent with a woman It can mean life and death!
What To Do When There Is Physical Violence, Intimidation Or Emotional Abuse While Time Outs are an important part of handling abusive relationships; using these methods is not a replacement for professional treatment when physical abuse is present in a relationship. Do not attempt couples counseling when intimidating or violent behavior is occuring. Couples counseling creates the illusion that the problem is a communication or couples problem, when the real problem is the violent person’s impulse control. So the first order of business is that that person seeks professional help to control and cease his, or her, violence and intimidation. That may consist of at least 5 or 6 months of treatment; before beginning to work on marital communication issues with both partners in the room.
Violence is not a communication or couples problem.
It is the impulse control problem of an individual.
Only do couples therapy sessions after a period of the abuser doing abuser treatment. Whenever, there is violence and abuse, the violent one must FIRST get treatment for his or her problem of not controlling the violence/abuse. The one who is physically violent or emotionally abusive needs to seek help for his or her individual problem of lack of control. Group treatment by trained violence professionals is known to be the most effective type of therapy. Standard individual psychotherapy, by therapists not trained in anger management or violence may even be counterproductive. Please refer to the 800 799-SAFE domestic violence hotline telephone number or contact a women’s shelter in your area for guidance and support. The best place to find referrals for therapists with experience in treating abuse is the municipal court, probation or city attorney. They will often have a list of county approved programs and therapists who meet the requirements for court ordered group treatment for battering. Shop around and speak with a few therapists before you decide. If a therapist says I can treat both you and your partner, that therapist is not practicing good ethical standards. After all, who is his patient then, when things get tough between partners if he is seeing both parties. It’s O.K. to do collateral, or periodic joint visits that can include the partner, but if the other partner needs psychotherapy then it would be best if a referral is made to another clinician with similar experience in controlling relationships. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE NATIONAL CRISIS HOTLINE 800 799-SAFE (7233)
There is a continuum of behaviors within a relationship that can be called abusive. They range from being slightly disrespectful to your partner, such as raising your voice in an argument; increasing to using physical violence to control the partner. Most disrespectful and violent behavior is about controlling the partner. There is a common understanding that these men and women do not change. This is only true when the person is not getting treatment. Research shows that about 5% of violent relationships are where females are doing the intimidation. I often hear from men that the women they are with are violent with them, and that they should be in treatment. Of course, this statement usually precedes that man’s full change in his behavior. But, more important than this is a fact that most of us who peruse newspaper headlines can confirm just with our anecdotal experience.
When a woman is violent with a man,
it might be embarrassing & maybe painful for the man.
When a man gets violent with a woman
It can mean life and death!
The common wisdom is that abusive people do not change. This is generally true; but actually it only applies when the perpetrator does not seek treatment specifically for abusive behavior. Treatment for abusive behaviors has only been around since the 1970’s and the results of long lasting behavior changes are about as successful as addiction treatments.
What is the difference between getting a little mad vs getting abusive? Is it O.K. to blow off some steam once in a while? Can’t a person just get angry in this country without some politically correct buttinsky telling me that I’m being abusive now? Is yelling at your husband who has just called you stupid called abusive. Where do I cross the line? Is it at raising your voice by a certain percentage? 200%? 300%? When do we call something a ‘scream’ instead of a ‘yell?’ These are interesting questions, but they should not dominate our discussion of abusive behavior. Of course we are human beings and getting angry is a normal part of being alive and having feelings. Showing our anger should be normal also. So, where do we draw the line and call it Verbal Abuse? I like what Wikipedia says about Verbal Abuse- ” Verbal abuse is best described as an ongoing emotional environment organized by the abuser for the purposes of control. The underyling factor in the dynamic of verbal abuse is the abuser’s low regard for him or herself. The abuser attempts to place their victim in a position to believe similar things about him or herself, a form of warped projection.” I like this description because in the definition it also lets you know WHY it’s happening The abuser’s low self esteem is compelling him, or her, to control the other so that the other will feel the bad feelings that the abuser has about him, or herself, that is not being dealt with. The abusers may be totally unconscious of the bad self esteem that they feel about themselves. A good reference piece in Wikipedia on domestic violence is HERE. There are good links on this brief page. It does’t matter whether you intended to harm the other … it is abusive if it has a damaging effect. That it harms. We all know abuse when we see it or when we hear it. Abuse usually contains some element of a threat whether physical, emotional or mental. It also contains a felt sense of danger or threat. I can say to a woman I am divorcing, in a calm voice, that I’ll make sure she never sees her children. The fact that I did so in a calm voice does not take away that I was being extremely threatening. John Shore wrote on his blog an article called Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships. It is an excellent piece of writing and speaks very practically about the reasons someone stays in a bad relationship. The article is worth looking at, even if you are not someone, nor do you know someone who is abusive. The answers John gives helps us understand how it is that we may do things that do not seem like it’s in our best interest. It is a wonderfully well written, easy to understand and non-clinical approach to answering the question, “Why do some women stay in abusive relationships?” Here are some of the section headings from his article-
John’s book on this subject can be bought on Amazon HERE. for just 99 cents as a kindle, or $7.95 as a paperback! The discussion makes for a robust and thought provoking take off point whether you are a professional, a victim of abuse or an abuser. I highly recommend the reading. Good Song From NickelbackThat Captures The Thinking After A Bad Incident If you’re a man (or woman) who might have a problem with being controlling or aggressive in his tone of voice this song may help think about a future.
Some people won’t change until you leave them.
And, even then.. maybe not.
I offer three ways you can ask yourself if you should stay or leave the relationship HERE.
Financial dependence on abuser making it difficult to imagine how to survive on one’s own. If there are children, fear that they will be deprived. Lack of an available support system to assist them in recognizing and escaping abuse. Friends/family who never see the partner’s negative side may not believe the victim at first or may minimize the situation. Friends/family who have tried to help in the past only to see the victim return to the abuser may; be disappointed or angry and less inclined to offer help again. Failure bv societal institutions to understand soouse abuse to take the problem seriously and totake appropriate action. Examples: Clergy who focus on sanctity of marriage and emphasize maintaining the relationship at all cost; counselors who subdy or overtly side with the-abuser, law enforcement officers who minimize and do not arrest abusers or do not treat victims with respect; doctors who do not address obvious signs of abuse in their patients. Increased threats by abuser when victims tries-to separate. Threats by abuser to kill victim, children or other family, and/or to commit suicide. Knowledge of other battered women who were killed after separating from their abusers.
At first they stay because they love or care about the abuser.
Warning Signs Of Controlling Relationships
ARE YOU GOING OUT WITH SOMEONE WHO…
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE NATIONAL CRISIS HOTLINE 800 799-SAFE Final Words If You Are The Abuser If you listen to the still small voice within, you may know that you have a problem and that you are out of control. Maybe it’s fear, or pride, or not believing that anyone CAN help, or simply not knowing that there is compassionate help available for you. Please do not let these things delay you from seeking help from professionals who do this type of work. It may be hard to believe but I can say for myself, we do have empathy, compassion and a basic level of respect for the men in the Violence and Anger Management groups and classes. Abusive people do not stop (O.K. rarely, if ever) their patterns without help. The odds of changing your harsh behavior increases exponentially when you are in treatment.
This article summed up my experiences with those who commit abuse or violence.
Things Abusers and Manipulators Say to Their Victims
People who have strong narcissistic tendenciesand are otherwise toxic people are known for their manipulation tactics. Some of them are consciously cunning and deceiving. While others are more primitive and blunt in their disturbing behaviors.
Here are some of the things abusers and toxic people say to their victims, and what it means:
It’s for your own good. Meaning, you should be grateful, not upset.
You’re too sensitive. Meaning, your reaction to my toxicity is unreasonable.
It’s your fault. Meaning, I did nothing wrong here; it’s you.
You deserve it. Meaning, you are deserving of being mistreated.
Don’t be so dramatic. Meaning, you’re overreacting and instigating conflict.
You are so cold, cruel, and lack forgiveness. Meaning, you shouldn’t hold me responsible for my hurtful and manipulative behavior.
You made me do it. Meaning, I have no control over myself in this instance; you’re responsible for what I did.
You are never satisfied. Meaning, you should not complain or be dissatisfied with my behavior.
Things just happened. Meaning, I am not responsible.
I don’t remember. Meaning, it didn’t happen.
Nobody will believe you. Meaning, you’re isolated, and I will turn people against you.
You’re just crazy. Meaning, I did nothing wrong; it’s you who has a problem.
Don’t play a victim. Meaning, you shouldn’t feel hurt, and you’re being manipulative.
I promise it will never happen again. Meaning, I want you to treat me as if nothing happened.
You’re so manipulative. Meaning, it’s not me who’s manipulative, it’s you.
You’re hurting me. Meaning, I’m the victim here.
You provoked me. Meaning, my behavior is merely a response to your abusive actions.
I hate you. Meaning, I want you to suffer. You’re unlovable. You’re bad.
I make decisions around here. Meaning, you have no saying or self-agency.
Know your place. Meaning, you’re stepping over the line; you should be more obedient.
Shut up. Meaning, stay silent, obey, and don’t question anything.
It’s not important. Meaning, you shouldn’t think about it.
You’re just exaggerating. Meaning, it’s not as bad as you think and feel it is.
You will be sorry for this. Meaning, you’re hurting me.
You know I love you. Meaning, I want you to continue giving me what I want.
I know you love me. Meaning, I know better how you feel about me than you do.
You always / never do this. Meaning, I will use exaggerations to make you look extremely stubborn.
You can’t live without me. Meaning, you need me to survive so you better not jeopardize this relationship.
I already apologized, so why are you punishing me? Meaning, you’re treating me unfairly.
It’s not a big deal. Meaning, you’re just overreacting.
I was just joking. Meaning, it’s a joke when you call me out on it, otherwise it’s not a joke.
I will let everybody know what kind of person you are. Meaning, I will slander you and turn people against you.
Nobody’s perfect. Meaning, you shouldn’t question my behavior.
Who do you think you are? Meaning, you’re nothing.
Nobody likes you. Meaning, I want to isolate you and make you feel worthless.
You shouldn’t listen hang out with to them. Meaning, I don’t want you to escape or see the unhealthiness between us.
You can’t do that. Meaning, you should listen to me, not to yourself.
Relax, everything will be fine. Meaning, you are overreacting to my completely reasonable behavior again.
You don’t know what I’m capable of. Meaning, I will do all I can to hurt you.
I will make you pay for this. Meaning, you wronged me and I will punish youfor that.
These are just a few things toxic people say to others in order to shift responsibility and get what they want. The list is endless….
What of those have you encountered? What are other things you’ve heard that are not on this list? Let us know in the comments below.
Alyce LaViolette, 2001 www.AlyceLaViolette.com
You are in an abusive relationship if your relationship is characterized by fear (emotional and/or physical), oppression and control.
Intimates should aim to keep their friendship and partnership alive and well.
Most of us learn about adult relationships by reading books, watching television or going to the movies. We learn that love equals romance, that men and women have specific
roles once they establish an intimate bond and that real love is a crazy, roller coaster ride. Unless we observed our parents treating each other respectfully and affectionately, these media caricatures become our reality. But real love is not crazy or based on fear. Fear gets in the way of love. Real intimacy is about friendship, affection, trust, respect, sexual and mental health.
Children who grow up in abusive families are affected even if they don’t witness an incident. They feel the tension, hear things or see the results. And they learn survival skills that get in the way of their adult relationships. They learn that violence and rage – solve problems. They learn to be reactive and not proactive. They learn to interpret the behavior of others as threatening or betraying even when it isn’t… and they learn how to survive in a persistent state of fear. You can interrupt the intergenerational cycle of violence by getting help.
Here is a copy of Los Angeles resource-
Many women think they’re going to have to assume a whole new identity if they force a break-up with their man. In their heart of hearts, they believe that initiating and securing a permanent separation from their former Mr. Right means irrevocably transmogrifying from the Selfless Conciliator they’ve always been, to a Selfish Terminator they’ve never imagined themselves being.
Whether via nurture or nature, a lot of women identify themselves as Uplifting, Self-Sacrificing Healer. Their understanding of who they are is deeply vested in their fulfillment of the role of dutiful daughter, supportive mate, loving mother. They’re the ones to whom others turn for comfort and counsel. They heal. They support. They sustain. They forgive. They sacrifice. They reconcile. They … well, take to the role of Emotional Martyr like Flipper takes to water. Which in a great many ways is a beautiful thing, of course. Where would any of us be if none of us knew how to put others first?
But you take a woman whose identity is inextricably bound up with her self-image as a Sacrificing Giver, put her in the position of really having to choose between her own personal well-being and the man to whom she once pledged her love, and what very often happens is that her internal life splits. She’ll have no idea what to do. She’ll have no internal emotional paradigm for assuming the role of Xena, Relationship Terminator.
Selfless, she knows.
But selfish? Not so much.
If you sense that you may be staying in a bad relationship because you’re resistant to changing your self-image from Healing Nurturer to Selfless Terminator, then it is absolutely vital for you to understand that the least healing and nurturing thing you can do for yourself and the people you love is to remain in a bad relationship. There’s virtually nothing you can do that’s more healing to yourself and those around you than to once and for all kick a bad man out of your life. Here are some reasons that’s true:
1. It’s extremely encouraging to others. The people who care about you want both you and themselves to be okay. You having the inner strength and wisdom to rid yourself of a bad man not only shows the people around you that you’re okay, it also models for them how they can be okay, too. Seeing others take definitive steps toward healing themselves greatly encourages others to do the same thing in their own lives. Healing begets healing.
2. It refutes the Women as Victims model. Children grow up to build relationships just like the ones their parents had. Mothers who remains in bad relationships teach their children, every single day, that the natural role of women is to be hurt and demeaned by men, and that the natural role of men is to treat women like garbage. That’s a terrible thing to believe is true about life.
3. Enabling a person to act poorly only hurts them. You do a man no favors by allowing him to continue to treat you shabbily. You don’t train a dog to stop biting by letting it chew on your leg. Enabling dysfunctional behavior can’t help but make it worse.
4. No one changes anyone. You can think, imagine, and dream that somehow, some day, you will change your abusive man. But he will only change when, how, where, and if he wants to. Period, end of story, close that lame, ancient fairy tale.
5. You are in a life and death situation. Just because it’s happening slowly, bit by bit every day, doesn’t mean that remaining with a bad man isn’t destroying your life. Drowning an inch at a time is still drowning. You don’t get another life. This isyour life. Get desperate about improving it.
6. You are alone. You have exactly two choices: Take the steps necessary to save yourself, or wait until you die for someone else to save you. No one is going to come riding in on a white horse and make your life all better for you. You do that yourself, or it doesn’t get done. (Even if, as many who are profoundly suffering do, for peace and understanding you turn to a Higher Power, that’s something you have to do. God — however you perceive of that phenomenon — doesn’t make a habit of entering rooms into which he/she/it hasn’t first been invited.)
Stalking can be one of the most difficult abuse tactics to safety plan around, especially when police involvement and protective orders are either not possible or not helpful in stopping the abuse. Stalking prevents the victim from being able to cut off contact with the abusive partner, which makes it much more difficult for healing to begin. Oftentimes, stalking causes the victim to experience so much fear and anxiety that they return to the relationship because that seems like the only solution to get the abusive partner to stop.
According to statistics published by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 76% of women murdered by an intimate partner were stalked first, while 85% of women who survived murder attempts were stalked. Additionally, 89% of femicide victims who had been physically assaulted before their murder were stalked in the last year prior to their murder.
Considering how dangerous stalking is, it is important to be informed and to know what your safety planning options are. To start, what is stalking, and how can you know if you are being stalked? Stalking is generally understood to be a pattern of behavior directed at a specific person, with the intention to intimidate and frighten the victim. According to a US Justice Department study on Stalking and Domestic Violence, “Stalking generally refers to harassing or threatening behavior that an individual engages in repeatedly, such as following a person, appearing at a person’s home or place of business, making harassing phone calls, leaving written messages or objects, or vandalizing a person’s property. These actions may or may not be accompanied by a credible threat of serious harm, and they may or may not be precursors to an assault or murder.” While stalking behaviors can present during any part of an abusive relationship, the study found stalking to be most common after a victim has left the relationship, and women are significantly more likely to be stalked by a spouse or ex-spouse rather than a stranger, acquaintance, relative, or friend. Considering this, if you are planning to leave an abusive relationship, it is essential to factor in the possibility of stalking when creating your safety plan.
The legal definition of stalking does vary from state to state, so if you think you are being stalked, it may be helpful to reach out to local law enforcement or a legal advocate to learn more about the specific laws in your area. The National Stalking Awareness Month website also has information about stalking laws in every state as a part of their resource database.
Also, if you believe you are experiencing stalking, document as much about the behaviors in question as possible to create evidence of a pattern of a behavior, which can be helpful when making a report to law enforcement. We do know that stalking can include a variety of tactics and behaviors, some of which are more obviously threatening, and some of which, taken in isolation, can seem innocent or not worth mentioning. Document anything that makes you feel afraid or uncomfortable, no matter how small it seems.
Stalking can be physical and/or digital, and could include tactics such as:
This list is not inclusive of every behavior that a stalker might use, as stalking tactics will be targeted towards what will impact the intended victim the most. Threats of violence may be implicit or explicit. Remember, even if the stalker’s behaviors are not considered illegal in your state, their behavior is still abusive and there is nothing that you could ever say or do to deserve to be treated in that way. Stalking is never your fault; it is a tactic the abuser is using to intimidate and frighten you so they can (re)gain power and control over you.
If you are being stalked, what can you do? Common safety planning tips for physical stalking include:
Safety planning tips for online stalking include:
It is important to save any text messages, emails, voicemails, or letters for documentation purposes, and to keep in mind the possibility that blocking or attempting to block the stalker’s access to you could cause them to retaliate further. The stalker might keep changing their phone number or email address, or even create spam accounts to try to friend you on social media. If some of the above safety planning tips feel too extreme, you might decide to keep your old phone number active but let their calls go straight to voicemail and not answer calls from unknown numbers, or you could keep your old email address but not respond to any of the emails they send.
Whatever you choose to include or not include in your safety plan, it is important to remember that you do not owe this abusive person a response. After you’ve initially asked them to stop contacting you, it is typically safer to not respond to them. It is unlikely that you will be able to convince them to stop stalking you by telling them to stop repeatedly, as stalking is about gaining power and control over you. If the stalker promises to stop contacting you if you meet with them to talk in person, that is likely an attempt to put you in a vulnerable position so they can use other abusive tactics against you. Threats against your family and friends are similarly meant as emotional blackmail to convince you to give the abuser more access to you. Acknowledging their behaviors with a reply to their harassment is likely to be taken by them as a sign these tactics are working, which could cause the abusive behavior to increase. It also increases the likelihood that you could be accused of collaborating with the abuser, weakening any legal case you have against them moving forward.
Remember, this situation is not your fault! Abusive individuals are known to be charismatic and manipulative. Once you’ve communicated your boundaries and asked them to cease contact, you do not owe them further communication, and its generally best to end contact altogether and take steps to keep yourself safe from them.
What if you’ve tried all these tips and nothing is working? Other creative safety planning tips include:
If you think you are a victim of stalking and need safety planning assistance, do not hesitate to call 1-800-799-7233 or online chat with an advocate about further options and support. You deserve to live a life free from abuse and fear. We are here to support you 24/7!