How to Escape an Abusive Relationship
Call For Help A.S.A.P.
Do know someone that is being abused? Are you being abused?
Abuse is about control; and controlling other people in social interactions and relationships is not good, healthy, or appropriate.
Control in a work or school setting is different, yet should not be abusive. In the context of employers requiring certain workplace behaviors and productivity, teachers requiring specific classroom behaviors and assignment completion, parents requiring appropriate child behaviors, governments requiring citizens to follow voted-upon and approved laws, etc., such control is acceptable. (Anarchists may disagree.)
HOTLINES - US National Domestic Violence Hotline
- MAIN NUMBER 1−800−799−7233
- New York 1-800-942-6906
- California 1-800-524-4765
Addicted to Abuse
Unfortunately, abuse can become addicting to both the abuser and to the target of the abuse. This phenomenon is highly complex and often must be handled by a complete break of the wife, husband, partner, or child from the abuser(s).
Until the abused person is absolutely ready to escape, they will not try to do so and they will not listen to advice about it. Why? They may be afraid of worse consequences if they leave, such as their murder, which does sometimes occur. They may be addicted to the abuse, thus feeling that they can change the abuser - they 100% cannot change the abuser, ever; this is part of the addiction.
Another part of the addiction is the phenomenon of the abused party (target/victim) becoming addicted to discussing their abusive partner's "psychological or psychiatric diagnoses and treatment" as a means to feeling in control or as a means of feeling special - and many of the abused feel special because they are abused. It is true that the target may have special talents that result in envy from the abuser, but we are not better people because we can "take" the abuse. Similarly, a psychiatric diagnosis is not special and good.
I cannot overemphasize that this can get out of hand. No one has the right to label a person with a psychiatric diagnosis if not a licensed professional, have not done a thorough evaluation (a proper one takes days and includes testing, family and individual histories, etc.), or have not been told that the person suffers from such a diagnosis. In some or even many cases, the labeling and discussion of that labeling is a distraction from seeking effective help in escaping the abuser.
Strictly speaking, to label a person this way without the proper credentials and procedures is like driving without a lesson or a license when you are 10 years old - It is also 1) name calling and 2) practicing medicine (psychiatry) without a license. That means it's a crime in most states. It's misdemeanor in my state and carries a penalty that escalates on the fourth violation.
So, please don't make things worse by saying, "He has ____ (diagnosis name)". Please tell your friend to see a professional counselor on the grounds that the behavior sounds disturbed or scary or abusive. If you see the alleged abuser attack your friend, then call the police, but don't be surprised if they won't file charges or if they drop charges later.
Also know that the person who is telling you about a diagnosis could be making up the diagnosis on their own, thus compounding the problem with gossip. There is a lot about which you must use your judgment skills in these cases.
The best thing you can do is to be available to your friend for venting and emotional support and be ready with information about resources when they ask you for help.
Don't be surprised if they change their minds 5 or 6 times or more before taking action. It is not easy to follow through and escape. Many times, they go back to the abuser at least once before they stay gone.
Whatever you think is "wrong" with the person doing the abuse could be the result of a brain tumor or a nutrition deficit, low blood sugar, or some other medical condition. .
If a person shares their partner's diagnosis of any type - physical or mental - with you, please ask them why they are telling you, because if they want sympathy or prayer that might be fine. Further, if they want to vent in private to you, that would likely be fine. However, if they want to use an illness or label as an excuse for the abusive behavior, that's incorrect.
No illness is justification for abusiveness to others. One teaches people how to treat one by what one accepts from them.
If you cease to interact with abusers every time they treat you abusively, they eventually learn that you won't take it - or they escalate the abuse. If they don't learn or if they escalate, then you don't need to see them again; but, you may need help escaping from these person(s). Call the police or a hotline listed above.
Few abusers change, but those few actually change with therapy or other help. Abuse won't go away by itself.
Types of Abuse
Abuse happens in a number of contexts, some of them unexpected. One of the major factors to remember and be alert in recognizing is that anyone who plays mind games associated with basic needs - food, shelter, clothing, sex - is someone to avoid, because this is abuse.
A partial list of types of abuse includes the following contexts:
Most types of abuse start with verbal abuse and progress to other forms, because if the target will accept verbal abuse, they may then likely accept other types.
Verbal abuse confuses the target and makes them sometimes feel that they deserve the abuse.
Many people do not know what constitutes abuse. Verbal abuse leaves deeper scars internally that physical abuse on the outside of the body. Many people never recover from verbal abuse if it is extensive. Abusers themselves often deflect attention away from their unwanted behaviors by accusing other of abusing them.
- See Patricia Evans' site for help: www.verbalabuse.com
If you have a problem with someone, it is permissible to discuss their unwanted or inappropriate behaviors with them, but it is never morally or functionally correct to call anyone a label-name at any time.
If you have children in your care, do not allow them to call anyone names.
- Gaslighting is, for example, convincing a person that they are imagining things by staging odd events and telling that person that the events did not happen. This term comes from the film Gaslight, a truly terrifying movie in which a man tries to convince his wife that she is insane in order to profit financially.
Gaslighting is a Technique Used in Abuse
- This abuse can include physical assaults, restraints, causing a person to live in a dog crate or a locked basement, refusing food and water, refusing sanitary conditions and many others. The film Room is a good example of many of these abuses applied simultaneously to a woman and her child.
- This is a continuum of inappropriate control that spans rape, incest, and child molestation to demanding a partner perform sex acts offensive to him/her.
- Example: A woman took in 6 foster children and was paid a high daily rate for their care. She required the youth to work summer jobs when they became 14 years old and took every penny that they earned. When school started, they did not have any shoes, but she had a $40,000 sports car.
- Example: In my state there is no law requiring a husband to support a wife or a wife to support a husband during the marriage. I know of several cases in which the wife was sick and not able to work, there was no food in the house, and the woman could not receive food from social services, because her husband's income was too high. Churches were afraid to intervene with help. These woman had to leave and go to a domestic violence center in order to survive. The same thing happens with men who are unable to work.
- Example: A grandmother was held captive in her own basement, because she was crippled with sever arthritis and her daughter-in-law and son that lived there took all of her Social Security Disability Checks. There was no phone in the basement and the woman could not climb the stairs. One day she was able to drag herself upstairs in the empty house, found her son's car keys on the kitchen table, got in the car he had left in the driveway, and drove to a high-end department store. She stole a large expensive camera in order to be arrested so that she could tell the judge that she needed help. She was cleared of the charges and moved to Arizona with the help of the courts and was able to return to work full-time in the drier climate that helped her physical condition.
- Some abusers deny education to their children.
- Some abusers deny medical care to their children, spouses, or aging parents.
Religious and Spritual
- All sorts of abuse is occurring in our country, but Americans are becoming more aware of them and thus better able to prevent them and help those individuals that are ready for help. Anti-abuse and anti-bully programs are entering our school programs and can make a difference.
© 2007 Patty Inglish MS