Living with an Abuser

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Copyright 2000

Most abusers are males, although there are female abusers. In this article we will speak of the abuser as a male since a much higher percentage of male abuse than women. The definition of abuse for this article will be that of physical violence of a man against a women in a relationship.

Abuse happens in all races, status, economic levels, and even in so-called good families.

Are You in a Abusive Relationship or Heading in that Direction?

Violent physical abuse seldom starts all once, but tend to grow from small beginnings. It starts with small slights and builds to the physical violence. Where are is your relationship on this continuum? Is there....

  1. "Jokes about habits, characteristics, or faults of partner
  2. Ignoring or denying partner's feelings or needs
  3. Withholding affection or approval as punishment
  4. Yelling, shouting, invading partner's personal space
  5. Name-calling, insults
  6. Insulting or ridiculing beliefs, religion. family, race, etc. . .
  7. Repeated insults, labeling, and/or name-calling (e.g. "Stupid" "Jerk" "Crazy" etc. . . )
  8. Repeated humiliation (private an/or public)
  9. Controlling (insisting s/he dresses a certain way, having him/her account or his/her actions, controlling with whom s/he associates, not letting him/her have a job, not giving him/her a role in making decisions, etc. . .)
  10. Blaming partner for your abuse or behavior
  11. Manipulating partner with lies and contradictions (playing "mind games")
  12. Slamming doors, hitting walls, breaking objects (displays of anger and violence)
  13. Threats of violence or retaliation (either direct or implicit)
  14. Threats of violence to his/her family, children, friends
  15. Puts downs about abilities as a parent, person, worker, partner
  16. Demanding all partner's attention and resenting children
  17. Throwing objects at partner
  18. Jealousy (accusations, following him/her, making him/her account for his/her time. etc.. .)
  19. Isolation (scaring or driving away friends and family, insisting that partner not work or be involved in activities without you, depriving him/her money, etc. . .)
  20. Manipulating others against partner destroying meaningful possessions
  21. Threats to get custody, abuse, or kidnapping children
  22. Threats to hurt or kill him/her or children
  23. Suicide threats/attempts
  24. Hurting or killing pets
  25. Suicide/Homicide"

(Excerpt from Male Awareness Program (MAP) in Anchorage, AK)

Children in Abused Homes

Men who abuse women, do so to control them because they do not or will not control themselves. Abusing others is usually a learned behavior. Children that grow up with an abuser in the home tend to become abusers themselves because this is what was modeled for them. This behavior becomes the way to handle life and its problems. Children in homes where abuse is going on are learning this behavior now! The girls are learning to be doormats to become abused in the future if not already being abused by the male abuser in their home. The boys are learning to be abusers because that is how they see this is how they are to treat women.

No matter how lousy the home life for children living with an abuser, this home life becomes the template of what home is. When the child looks for a mate, subconsciously s/he searches for the opposite part of the equation that will reenact the home life atmosphere. Example: The little girl sees mother verbally, emotionally, and/or physically abused. The child subconsciously searches for a mate that will abuse her as Father did mother, even though she desperately wants to get out of her home of origin because of the abuse. The reason for this is that this is what a normal home life looks like to her, she knows no other. A happy loving relationship is foreign She will be abused, feel worthless, and her children will learn these behaviors and continue the cycle one generation after another.

A Change in Behavior of the Abuser

  1. It is not often that a male abuser will choose to change, because this would mean changing his whole character. That's a lot of work and it takes SELF-CONTROL. This is something he has little or none of.
  2. Males in general are seldom seen in counseling unless they are court ordered.
  3. Abusers will probably never admit that they have a problem. Instead they say that the abused causes the problem.
  4. The average abuser would rather lie than admit that he had a problem to anyone, especially a professional. He is usually very good at lying because it becomes a tool to cover up his abuse from the world. He lies even to himself. He comes to believe that all the abuse is the fault of the abused. If only she would ... then we wouldn't have this problem.
  5. Unless the abuser admits the problem resides in himself then all the counseling in the world will never help him because he believes he doesn't have a problem. Since he is not the problem there is no reason to change. The want to change has to come from inside an individual, not exteriorly from others wanting him to.

What is Needed

1. The abuser must want to change but he can't do it alone. He will need a good psychologist who specializes in this type of work, to help him change. This takes a great deal of time, about a year or more of real working with a professional. Then it takes a lifetime of constantly guarding himself to make sure he doesn't slip into the old abusive patterns.

2. The abused woman and female children who reside in the home, also need to see a psychologist also to reconstruct self esteem and to teach better relational patterns.

3. The male children of the abused who reside in the home need a psychologist to help them learn self control and how to treat others properly.

Why the Abusive Relationship Continues

Many people wonder would why a woman would stay and take the abuse. There are many reasons...

  1. The woman truly loves the abuser.
  2. He may be the father of her children.
  3. He has undermined the woman's self esteem to the point that she believes that she is good for nothing and no one else would ever love her or have her.
  4. He has brainwashed her into believing that the problems in the relationship is all her fault.
  5. He has cut her off of friends and family so that all she has is him. This also provide him the secrecy he needs to carry out his abuse of her in privacy, so he doesn't have to answer to others for his abuse.
  6. He has left her without money or means to get away.
  7. He has threatened to hurt or kill her and/or the children or other family members if she tries to leave.
  8. He threatens to commit suicide.
  9. She feels she has no where to go.
  10. He threatens to go to court and take the children from her. He tells her that no judge would give the children to her because she is such a slob. She, because of the constant belittling and brainwashing, believes him.
  11. The abuser checks on the abused continually through the day to make sure she is still there. Sometimes he will drop in unannounced or call.
  12. The abused is secretive of the abuse from others because she is ashamed to admit that her own sweetheart beats her, that she can't keep her man happy, that she is a failure at this relationship, and because she fears another beating or death of herself and her children, if she does tell.
  13. The cycle of violence has its ups and downs. After violence occurs there is usually a time of hearts and roses in the relationship. The abuser tells the abused that he does love her and that it will never happen again or that he is sorry that she caused the problem and he still loves her. Then after the loving and making up period, pressure builds up in the relationship or in the abusers life. The abuser becomes agitated and then finally the abuse happens to relieve the pressure. Then the whole cycle starts again.
  14. Most abused women will tell you that her abuser really does love her, that her sweetheart just gets too angry and doesn't mean to hurt her.

Get Out Now!!!

  1. If you are in an abusive relationship you have to get out now. You and/or your children are being battered.
  2. Abuse is never your fault, but that of the abuser who is someone who cannot control himself.
  3. There are shelters for battered women and their children. They can help you reestablish your life without him and provide counseling to help you and your children gain good mental health.
  4. Do not tell the abuser or let on that you are leaving. Choose a time that the abuser is not around to leave.
  5. Call the shelter and tell them you want to come in. Ask their advice in how to accomplish this.
  6. Often you can pack a things ahead of time that will be needed, but not missed by the abuser and leave them with a nearby neighbor. Then when you are ready you can get them and make your escape. Some of these may be...
  7. Know your resources. If you have family, this is the time to use them.
  8. The greater the distance between you and the abuser the better chance you have of living a life free of danger brought on by the abuser.
  9. Try to leave no trace of your whereabouts. Remember that you are putting individuals in danger if they know where you are. Some abusers are not above committing violence, terrorism, or vandalism on others or their property to get what they want. Many abusers are also stalkers who murder their runaway abused. Again... Leave NO trace of where you are.
  10. Counselors at the shelter, can help you set up the necessary legal paperwork for you to gain legal custody of the children, file a restraining order against the abused, file for a divorce, and other legal issues that must be taken care of.

Never Return

  1. Many women are sweet talked into coming back into the abusive relationship.
  2. You know that the abuser is a liar. He know what you want to hear. He will tell you anything to get you back, but as sure as he breaths, he will never keep his promises to you. He never has in the past and never will in the future.
  3. If he says that he will get help and the abuse will never happen again, make him prove it up front. Tell him that he'll need about a year's worth of psychological help and that you want him to get it before you will even consider go back to him.
  4. Learned patterns of behavior between family members especially between spouses is difficult to change, especially after years of practice. Another words the outlook is slim to none that he will ever treat you any differently that he has done in the past.
  5. Let say that you go back into a relationship with him. How many chances should you give him, if he slips and hits you again. The answer is zero!!! Any women that is slapped once needs to get out fast, because that first slapped in any relationship will only lead to more in the future.
  6. Statistics are all to plain ...
  7. Almost all women who stay in abusive relationships are eventually killed by their abuser!

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

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