Hostility, Contempt, Intimidation & Abuse

Can This Course Help Abusive Or Violent Relationships?

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 intensity 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.   

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)

Things to think about when you consider ending a relationship.

  • If you even slightly feel scared that your partner might hurt you physically, even if he has not shown any history of physical violence with you, then it may benefit you to speak with a professionally trained person.
  • The worst advice from non-trained personnel is when a woman is told to simply leave him.  This is often said as if it were a simple act.  What these people don’t appreciate is that this is the most dangerous time for the relationship and for the woman.  It is best to get advice from trained people at the hotline, before considering leaving, or saying you’re leaving.
  • If any form of physical control, intimidation or violence occurs, does it get justified (ie. “I wouldn’t have done it if you didn’t…. If you are afraid of your partner go call the 800 799-SAFE (7233)  number to speak with a trained staff person at this national domestic violence agency.
  • If apologies are made is there reference made to the person’s intention about changing future behavior, or is there further justification for the disrespectful behavior?
  • Are you growing in this relationship?
  • Is the other person growing in this relationship? Is there improvement? It’s a process. Is there an expressed willingness to grow? Or are you assuming your partner wants to change his/her behavior and attitudes. Remember we’re looking for ‘Progress and not Perfection’…the rest of the list of things to consider is contained in the manual.)
  • When your partner apologizes does s/he mention both what s/he did and how s/he’s hurt you?

What If There Is Abuse Or Violence In My Relationship?

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 can be embarrassing… & maybe painful.  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.

Ten Things To Do if You Are In An Abusive Relationship:

  1. When violence occurs, or if you are threatened or afraid, call 911.
  2. Take your children and go to a safe place.
  3. Go to the Emergency Room if injured.
  4. Call 800 799-SAFE for referrals to a domestic violence shelters.
  5. If leaving home, take important documents: birth certificates, bank, car & insurance documents; social security cards; picture I.D.  Try to set aside extra cash and all the items above in a one place, or simply know ahead time where these things are; before you need them.
  6. If you believe you will not be hurt, then tell your partner that you cannot see a future in this marriage unless he, or she, gets counseling for being verbally abusive and/or violent.   And, not just generic counseling, but Domestic Violence or Anger Management therapy.   About half of our group members in the Los Angeles Domestic Violence class, that I co-facilitate with Alyce La Violette, MFT, come to our group without being referred by the court.  We call these spouse ordered, but these men do deserve the respect that comes with seeking help on a voluntary basis.  Alyce’s  agency,  ‘Alternatives To Violence.’    We have groupls in Long Beach and West Los Angeles.
  7. Keep an extra set of car and house keys outside or at a neighbor’s house.
  8. Pack a set of clothes and shoes for you or your children and store with a friend, neighbor or church.
  9. Obtain a Protection From Abuse order through the court.
  10. Know that you are not alone, and confidential, affordable help is available.  The Cycle of Violence can be stopped!

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 an article on his blog  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:

  • The Challenge of Having to Create a New Self Image
  • Fear of the Unknown
  • Fear of Embarrassment
  • Replaying Your Family’s Old Tapes
  • You Love the Lovable In Him
  • How Could He Be So Different From You?
  • He Lies
 John’s book on this subject, “Seven Reasons Women Stay In Abusive Relationships”,

can be bought on Amazon HERE. .


Reason #1: The Challenge of Having to Create a New Self-Image

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.)

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Some people won’t change until you leave them. And, even then… maybe not.

Three Exercises To Help You Decide If Hoping Your Relationship Can Change ~ Is There Real Hope Or Just Toxic Hope?

I offer three ways you can ask yourself if you should stay or leave the relationship HERE.

Why Do Victims Stay With Abusers?

Situational Factors

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 spouse abuse to take the problem seriously and to take appropriate action. Examples: Clergy who focus on sanctity of marriage and emphasize maintaining the relationship at all cost; counselors who subtly 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.

Additional Factors And The Progressive Effects Of Abuse

At first they stay because they love or care about the abuser.

  • Believe that the violence is temporary and/or caused by unusual circumstances.
  • Hope that it will soon stop.  This hope is typically reinforced by periods of time in which there is no abuse and partner is loving or at least civil.  Maybe the partner cried afterward.  Just know that sometimes the tears are more about self-centered awareness of potential loss, than a real empathy or compassion with the damage done to the partner.
  • Belief that they should understand their attacker and help them to stop their abuse.  For women especially this is part of the spousal role. Her inability to help her partner may mean to her that she is failing in the role of nurturer .  My Vulnerability To Hostility graphic here shows how the abuser is actually experiencing powerlessness or pain, or fear, or sadness.  You knowing this will not change the fact that the disrespect, abuse or violence will probably continue until help is sought.
  • Belief in the value of holding the family together putting this value above their personal pain, fear, etc. May feel pressure from family, religion, etc. to do this.
  • Feelings of personal incompetence such a feeling that one must have a partner to get by in the world, even though they are abusive.  Self-blame.
  • Belief that they are in part responsible for the abuse; Their abuser is punishing them for their inability to at properly or to meet the abuser’s expectations.  NOTE: Self-blame is a recognized side-effect of repeated traumatic stress.  Increasing mental and physical exhaustion due to unpredictability of abuse.  Victim experiences increasing confusion and difficulty in thinking clearly as a result of the pressure of living with someone who changes from kind to cruel without warning, of never knowing what’s going to set them off next, of living on continual alert Increasing mental and physical exhaustion.
  • Growing self-doubt about their value as a person, their judgment, capabilities, and attractiveness as the effects of abuse eat away at self-esteem (“Maybe he’s right, maybe I’m exaggerating; and anyway, how could I manage on my own?” t4How will I ever find anybody else?”, etc.)
  • Need to defend the abuser. Battering reduces faith in oneself and increases isolation so that victim comes to feel they cannot survive without the abuser. At this point any threat to the abuser may be perceived as a threat to themselves, and they may act to protect the abuser.
  • Belief that all men are abusive.  This is reinforced by growing up in a culture in which physical aggressiveness is considered manly.  May come from being raised by abusive parent(s).
  • Belief in omnipotence of abuser caused by abuser’s control tactics. 
  This will be stronger if victim has separated and been forced or enticed
into returning only to have abuse continue.
  • Terror induced by prolonged abuse.  “There is no better way of making people compliant that beating them up on
 an intermittent basis.” Richard Gelies, Director of the Family Violence
Research Program at the University of Rhode Island, quoted in Newsweek.
7/4/94, page 29. National Domestic Violence Hotline 1 800-799-SAFE (7233) 800 787 3224 (TTY) Trust your sense of danger! If you are afraid of more physical abuse or stalking then don’t act until you’ve spoken with domestic violence professionals.

Warning Signs Of Controlling Relationships

  • Acts jealous or possessive? Tells you who you can see & who you cannot.
  • Is bossy, gives you orders… ignores your wishes?
  • Never seems to be able to say, “I see I did something that hurt you.
  • Cannot seem to take ANY responsibility for problems in the relationship.  When there is abuse he, or she, says it would not have happened if only you did not _______ .
  • Threatens to hurt you?  Threatens you financially or emotionally?
  • Verbally abuses you (puts you down, calls you names)?
  • Criticizes you, humiliates or degrades you?  Especially in an unwanted sexual context.
  • Makes all the decisions in the relationship?
  • Has a violent temper, has weapons, has a violent history?  Partner has tortured animals.
  • Won’t let you have friends of the opposite sex?
  • Pressures you for sex?
  • Constantly wants to be with you and know where you are at all times.
  • Does he, or she, have a history of bad relationships and blames the “ex” all the time?
  • Has your friends and family warned you about the person?
  • Are you are afraid of the person?   What is the partner’s response when you say you are afraid?   If it is dismissive of your concern and there is no remorse then it will continue in the future.
  • If so, you may be in danger of experiencing abuse within the relationship.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

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.

Things Abusers and Manipulators Say to Their Victims

This article summed up my experiences with those who commit abuse or violence.

By Darius Cikanavicius

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.

Whatever the case may be, such people tend to project heavily, not take responsibility for their actions, blame others, and use gaslighting.

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.

Tips For Victims of Domestic Violence

By Alyce LaViolette, MFT, 2001
  • Don’t blame yourself for provoking the abuse in your relationship. In a healthy relationship you can make mistakes, get angry or even be critical and not pay such a high price. You are not the “cause” of your partner’s rage or violence and you cannot be the cure.
  • Acknowledge your efforts to maintain good home for your family, to create a safe environment and to support your partner. When we make promises to stay for better or worse, in good times and bad, we take those promises and commitments seriously. The important thing to realize is that one person cannot keep those commitments and promises; it takes both adults in the relationship.
  • You cannot change someone else’s behavior. Try to focus on problems you can solve like breaking your isolation by talking to people you trust, creating a safety plan for you and for your children, nurturing and caring for yourself.
  • Get help. Call a local domestic violence hotline. They can provide you with direct services including counseling and, if you need it, emergency housing. They can also give you referrals to additional community resources.
  • Compassion for your partner may mean strongly encouraging him/her to seek help, calling the police or even leaving. Remember love shouldn’t hurt.
  • You may be in an abusive relationship if:
  • Your partner has an explosive temper
  • Your partner threatens, criticizes or puts you down enough that your self-esteem is effected
  • Your partner breaks or throws things
  • Your partner grabs, kicks, shoves or slaps you
  • Your partner attempts to isolate you from family, friends or co-workers
  • Your partner attempts to control your ideas and/or behaviors
  • Your partners is extremely jealous
  • Your partner drinks or uses drugs often
  • Your partner gives you the “silent treatment”
  • Your partner blames you for problems in the relationship while refusing to take responsibility for his/her own behaviors

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.

  • All relationships have their share of problems and difficult times.   No relationship is perfect.   Adults expect particular things from each other.
  • We do not unconditionally love, we have some conditions even though acceptance of the other person’s basic personality is very important.
  • Abuse gets in the way of intimacy.  It creates a mood of apprehension and not a mood of trust.
  • Abusive partners do not just stop being abusive because they tell you they will or make promises that they will change. Your abuser will not change without appropriate intervention, but you can change things for yourself and for your family.

Stalking Resources And Tips

Here is a copy of Los Angeles resource-

Stalking Safety Planning


By Dana, a Hotline Advocate

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:

  • making repeated and unwanted phone calls or texts
  • sending unwanted letters or emails
  • following or spying on you
  • showing up wherever you are without a legitimate reason to be there
  • driving by or waiting around at places (home, work, school, etc) you frequent
  • leaving/sending unwanted items, presents, or flowers for you to find
  • posting information or spreading rumors about you on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth
  • looking through your property (including trash cans, your mail, or your car)
  • taking your property
  • collecting information about you
  • taking pictures of you
  • damaging your home, car, or other property
  • monitoring your phone calls, email, social media, or other computer use
  • using technology, like hidden cameras or GPS, to track you
  • threatening to hurt you, your family, friends, or pets
  • finding out information by using public records or online search services, hiring investigators
  • contacting friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers about you

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:

  • varying your routine (including using a different bank and grocery store, taking a different route to work and/or school, changing the places you normally frequent)
  • not traveling alone; use the buddy system as much as possible
  • staying in public areas as much as possible
  • notifying friends/family members/neighbors/landlord/school/day care/coworkers/supervisor about the stalking
  • developing a code word to use when the stalker is present or when you’re worried you may be in danger (when you text a friend or family member the code word, they know you need help and they follow a previously outlined plan to get you the help you need- this may involve calling the police)
  • increasing home security (installing deadbolts, window locks or grates, visible security cameras, motion-activated outdoor lights, and/or a home security system)
  • making a police report and getting a protective order against the stalker (this might not prevent the stalking, but it will allow you to report any violations of the order to the local police, increasing the likelihood that the stalker will eventually face legal consequences)

Safety planning tips for online stalking include:

  • blocking their phone number and blocking them on social media (and asking your friends to block them/report their account as spam)
  • contacting your e-mail provider to see if they can block an e-mail address
  • changing your phone number and e-mail address or creating new ones for daily use
  • increasing internet security on all devices
  • checking devices for spyware
  • finding out if your state has any laws specific to cyberstalking and online harassment

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:

  • keeping the curtains/shades in your home closed all the time, or making a habit of turning on random lights in different parts of the home at different times of day (or installing a timer on existing lamps), so that lights being on are not an indication of when you are home
  • putting a sign with the name of a security system visible in your yard or a window
  • notifying neighborhood watch or your homeowner’s association about the situation (if you don’t feel comfortable being public about the stalking, mention that you have seen a “suspicious person” frequenting the area and give a physical description of the stalker)
  • sharing the make/model/license plate number of any vehicles you know the stalker uses with anyone you have notified about the stalking, both so they will also be able to document and so they can reach out to warn you if they see the stalker
  • asking your landlord or neighbor to stop by the property at random times to “check” on it
  • asking your bank and doctor’s office to password protect your information and account
  • giving a trusted friend a key and ask them to stop by randomly to “water your plants” or “feed your pet” which increases the likelihood of catching the stalker in action
  • getting a dog that barks to discourage the stalker from coming near your home
  • putting bells or chimes on all your windows and doors
  • asking co-workers to screen your calls and help you keep a lookout for the stalker
  • adding encrypted passwords to your phone and email
  • getting new devices (phone, computer, etc.) altogether, if you’re concerned spyware has been installed
  • asking the police to send an officer to patrol the neighborhood at a time the stalker often comes by, if any pattern can be discovered (call 9-1-1 and give an anonymous tip of a suspicious person in your area if you don’t want to or cannot divulge the abuse formally to the authorities)

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!