Domestic Violence: Perpetrators Perverting Peoples' Perceptions
Here is my story of "round 1", written in 2006. Unfortunately, I was silly enough to fall for his BS again, and put myself and my kids through "Round 2". (Trust me, there will NEVER be a "round 3"!) I share this with you as an example of how perpetrators pervert people's perceptions:
In the beginning, he was my knight in shining armor. He first rescued me from my husband, or should I say he convinced me he had, and then for a short time, he cherished me, gave me a wonderful sense of security and earned my complete and utter trust and undying love....
But then it all changed. Very slowly, he isolated me from my friends and family, who he and I had both managed to convince that he was this incredibly wonderful man. In doing so, I ended up being completely dependent on him for all love, affection and companionship. I didn't even realize until it was complete, by which time he meant so much to me I loved him more than life itself. I never even saw the trap he had set to turn me into his own personal domestic, financial, social and sexual slave.
The abuse always managed to catch me by surprise. He would sit on his butt all day everyday (he was on the dole) and then when his family came over he would be busy gardening or fixing a car or doing the dishes or cooking dinner and would tell me I should go and relax and I would be so grateful and think wow, he’s making an effort, and I would go and rest ( I got 4 hours of sleep a night because of work and chores) then when they left, he would tell he how embarrassed he was over my laziness.
He twisted everything and manipulated situations and people so effectively that I became blind to what was really going on. He would go off at me and be really cruel and then when I was all upset and confused and distraught would calm down, and be all loving and sorry and if I asked why he had done or said what he had, he would say it was just that he had misunderstood me or that I had misunderstood him.
Over time it got worse. He would tell me over and over again how useless I was and how I never did enough and how selfish I was and how screwed up my head was that I became convinced, as were all our friends and family, that I was everything he said I was.
He would praise me and commend me one day, usually just before he wanted sex, and then demean and criticize me in front of his friends and family the next. He would blame me for every little thing or mess (even his own) and break my things if I didn't grovel for forgiveness...
He would accuse me of cheating on him (I never did) and call me a slut. he told me what I liked and didn't like and how I felt and how I should act and what I should do, and if I didn't agree, he would either tell me I made his life so miserable he wanted to die or that it would be better for everyone if I was dead.
When I became depressed he would leave a loaded gun on the table and say there was one way I could make every-one's life easier, and then go out, and when he came back and saw that I hadn't used it he would tell me I was a coward.
But in between there would be times of what I thought were love, trust and appreciation, and I would live for those times. But that meant that I was always trying too hard to make him happy because I loved him and couldn't bear the thought of losing him, and because I was scared that he would get angry, call me lazy, stupid, ugly and crazy, and then break stuff if I didn't do everything he wanted, and I thought that my failure please him was because of my incompetence, and started to believe that I was useless.
In short, he turned me from a confident, competent, popular, happy, healthy individual into a depressed, unwell, frightened, unsure, incompetent social outcast. Then he took me to the doctor and told him that I was crazy and needed to be medicated, so I was put on antidepressants which made me numb for a while.
Funnily enough, it was years later before I realized what the truth really was - I was actually incredible!
The whole time I was with him, I was kind of like a super hero. How? Well, this is my job description of that time:
~I worked 2 jobs (while he sat on the unemployment benefit )
~I did all the cooking, cleaning, paperwork, shopping, gardening etc...
~I played mum, nurse, counselor, tutor, taxi driver, mediator, bank, disciplinarian, drug therapist and friend to his older kids
~I paid for all their school, medical, social, sporting expenses
~I was the one who shopped for and paid for all their Christmas and birthday presents
~I was the one who remembered their birthdays
~I sorted out all his legal and financial problems
~I took on all his debt by getting a loan in my name
~I took on more debt to finance 3 of his older kids' cars
~I bore him 2 beautiful babies
~I then sacrificed part of my motherhood by leaving them home with him so I could work to pay our mortgage, even though he had promised he would earn the money after they were born so I could be a real mum.
Like I said - super mum person, not world class loser as he claimed.
What did I get in return? He would tell me I was a useless mother until I felt I couldn't trust my maternal instinct. He would not let me parent the way I wanted to or thought I should.
And yet, it took me a long time before I ever considered leaving, because back then, I believed in him, and did not recognize the abuse for what it was. I did not want to take my kids away from their father.
Yet but becoming a mother changes you. I did start to realize something was wrong when my first baby was about 9 months old, but when I tried to leave him, he tried to kidnap her. This was the first time the police and DCD became involved. And of course, once I had her back, I would not try to leave again because I was scared he would take her for good.
Shortly after this I became pregnant again, as the result of him raping me. I felt more trapped than ever...
But DCD used to ring and check on me and this made me do some research (why did they care when he wasn't violent), and would ask the lady from DCD questions. She told me it was a form of D.V and it would eventually turn to physical violence. She said that it would never stop unless he admitted it (rare) and even then it would take years for him to change. She pointed out that my kids would grow up thinking that the way I was treated was acceptable. That freaked me out - My girl would grow up and marry someone just like him and my boy would grow up and be just like him!
It took another year to leave, but it was only after this realization of the effect it was having on my kids that it even became a viable option for me. Thereafter followed constant threats, stalking, physical violence (in front of my children), the abduction of my kids for 4 days, 6 weeks in a womens' refuge with my two distraught kids who would not let me out of their sight and even insisted on sleeping in my bed, and months at court, and so far 2 and a half years at domestic violence counseling(without which I would have either returned to him or lost my kids to him and probably taken my own life) and my fear of him still partly affects my decisions when dealing with him, although I am much stronger now...
The hard thing to understand about domestic violence is the power of the perpetrator over their victim, and their ability to pull the wool over other people's eyes - their victim's, their family and friends, professionals, and even their own...
The bruises that you see and the bangs and crashes and yelling that you hear are really only the tip of the iceberg. The emotional hold that the perpetrator has over their victim is invisible, both to them and everyone else, and it can be hard to wake up to it because it never happens straight away, they suck you in first and then slowly the mental manipulation creeps in and they change you.
A lot of victims of domestic violence might never experience physical abuse, but they are not necessarily the lucky ones. Emotional abuse can be just as harmful and even fatal. Personally, I have experienced physical, emotional, mental, sexual, psychological, spiritual, financial and verbal abuse as well as social isolation, and think that the emotional types of abuse are much worse than the physical violence.
Blood and bruises are tangible things. They are there, you can see them. No-one can deny it. Other people can see them too, people who will support you and give you hope if you let them. I also think that emotional abuse is the core issue in any form of abuse. Most victims would never tolerate from a stranger the abuse that they endure from a family member or significant other. The emotional hold that they have over their victim(s) is invisible, both to the victims and to everybody else. That is the power of the perpetrator.
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Copyright © 2010 Mel Stewart, "safe-at-last", of Perth, Western Australia. All rights reserved.
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Copyright © 2010 Mel Stewart, "safe-at-last" and Licensors Nodtronics Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.