The trailer was running again during the normally mindless commercial interlude.
Startled I heard my familiar mental retort explode from my lips. “NO! Stop perpetuating and romanticizing that falsehood.” They don’t change. When a girl starts to shout at the television, it’s time to put pen to paper.
Five Decades Of The Same Question –
“Mommy why do you allow him to mistreat you?” It makes me sad.
“Momma why do you allow him to mistreat you?” It makes me sad.
“Mom why do you allow him to mistreat you?” It makes me sad.
Her response was always the same. “Wendy you don’t understand.” And to this day – she is absolutely incorrect. I emphatically understand the multitude of “complex whys”. Yet none of them were worth the destroyed life she lived.
Mental exhaustion, fear and isolation are the trifecta of toxic nutrients that cloud and corrode the mind. Understanding the behavior of an abuse victim begins with understanding what occurs in their mind.
It’s All In Your Mind – Mental Exhaustion Is Real
I want to deliver the three-second knock out punch that few expect or comprehend. The abuser’s diseased, warped mind will (not might) steadily poison and warp the victim’s mind.
From the moment she opened her eyes until the moment they closed rest and peace eluded the weary mind of my mother. She expended massive amounts of mental energy anticipating and potentially diffusing the next abusive episode. With the skills of a scientist searching for a cure, Mom meticulously dissected every nuance of her daily life in the futile hope of eliminating his known abuse triggers. Note the word futile. For everything she eliminated, another reason emerged.
Abusers don’t need an excuse to abuse. They abuse because they like to feel powerful.
A perpetual state of mental exhaustion is the guaranteed byproduct of an atmosphere of turmoil. Under these torturous circumstances, the ability to accurately comprehend information is short-circuited. It’s as if you are speaking English while everybody else is communicating in Greek.
The Daily Ritual of Sorting Through Garbage –
Around mid-afternoon Mom would conduct a garbage inspection. The image of her bent over the filthy trash can as she rummaged through the contents like a raccoon still strikes a chord of sorrow even after forty years. Was an apple only half eaten? Did someone use too many paper towels? There were ten cans of soda in the refrigerator this morning and now only six remain. Make certain there are four empty cans in the garbage can. Take this candy wrapper and hide it. He’ll want to know who ate it…
Debunking Abuse – This is not glamorous. This is degrading.
It’s All In Your Mind – Fear Is Real
There are two distinctly different fear categories, Personal Fear and Inflicted Fear. Personal Fear is your typical garden-variety fear of storms, snakes and unknown sounds. This fear is characterized by dreading something that may happen, but seldom ever materializes.
Inflicted Fear is an entirely different animal. It’s a darker sinister-variety which is the choice weapon that manipulative controllers use to force submission from another. These are not idle threats bellowed by a hot head. I wish that were true. But that would never accomplish the abuser’s goal of control. Inflicted Fear is the evil twin that carries out every threat. Bold punishment threats rapidly become reality in the victim’s world.
Compliance instilled by threats and punishments destroys the hope that abuse will ever end. Sadly, all too often that fear is well founded.
Personal Fear is apprehension based. I hope I don’t see a snake.
Inflicted Fear is terror based. Obey me or I will force you keep a snake in your room at night.
Debunking Abuse – This is not thrilling. This is torture.
It’s All In Your Mind – Isolation Is Real
Struggling alone isolated from any voices of truth or examples of healthy relationships, the victim gradually becomes anesthetized to the egregious behavior perpetrated against them. Think the frog in the pot scenario. Dysfunction becomes the new normal. The pinnacle achievement of isolation is to create a greater dependency between the abused and their abuser. In isolation the abuser can successfully convince his victim of nearly anything. A favorite tactic that flourished during our isolation was frequently rehearsing fabricated evidence to convince Mom she was losing her mind. And perhaps in need of institutionalization. Does that sound slightly familiar? I’ll give you a hint – his first wife…
Debunking Abuse – This is not a fairytale. This is a nightmare.
We existed in a topsy-turvy, schizophrenic world. Up was down. Wrong was right. Cruelty was caring. Hate was love. Reality was fantasy. Harm was harmless.
It’s All In Your Mind – Consensual or Appeasement
There is a treasure trove of misconception connected to the word Consensual in the life of an abuse victim. Let’s start with the definitions.
Consensual: involving or based on mutual consent
Appease: to make concessions to (someone, such as an aggressor or a critic) often at the sacrifice of principles
Unabated suffering from mental exhaustion and fear of harm gradually extract their toll. In the prison of isolation, the fragile tormented mind of the victim begins to masterfully blur the lines between acceptable and unacceptable behavior with the deftness of a defense attorney. Consequently the distinction between consensual and appeasement is entirely erased while engulfed in an abusive episode. The victim of repeated abuse has but one thought. What can I say or do that will hasten the end of this? There is no other thought except – MAKE IT STOP!
Outwardly it appears consensual to the world. But, does that nullify the devastating effects? Inward appeasement is often the only weapon a victim can wield as a temporary defense. The bottom line a victim: will weigh the benefit of submitting to degrading behavior against survival.
We must change our perception of consensual when it pertains to abuse. There is a far better question to ask other than, “Did they consent?”
What is the motivating factor behind consenting?
Was it survival? Was it battle fatigue? Was it crippling fear? Was it a threat of harm toward someone Mom loved? John used this one often, because it always produced excellent results.
Sadly, I have an intimate experiential understanding of this consensual, appeasement debate. Because I was forced to make these identical decisions as a child and young adult. I understand what rages through your mind during abuse. Whatever must occur, must occur. I resorted to this. Did I consent? Yes, technically I did . Did I want to consent? No but yes.
The irony of placating quickly is that often it incites the escalation of abuse like a match thrown on gasoline. Let me explain. Controlling manipulators like John are never completely satisfied with submission. Placating is an exercise of the victim’s will. That was never enough for John. What quenched his thirst to wound? Pushing you beyond the boundary of reason to the point of hysteria while pleading for him to stop. Once his dominance was reaffirmed, the episode was over. A satisfied grin crept across his face as he surveyed the spoils of war. A broken soul now drowning in a pool of gangrenous self-loathing for succumbing.
Call It What It Is – Evil
Known and unknown readers this is the place I fully feel the constraint between writing and speaking most profoundly. At a table of friendship I could share the untold devastation abuse brings to a life. I could explain the maladies that motivate the abuser. And the winding path of deception that transforms the naive into controlled marionettes.
Allow my heart plea to rise from the boundaries of words presented on a page. I am the daughter raised by a controlling manipulative abuser. And worse – I am the daughter that watched her mother gradually relinquish control of every area of her life. With each area abdicated to him, she became weaker and he became stronger. And then craved even more.
An abuser should never get a second opportunity to abuse you.
Propagandizing a tolerance toward abusive behavior as a harmless gateway to a fairytale ending is potentially fatal for our daughters and sons. Could we please stop painting abuse with a flowery word brush? It is not romantic. It is not glamorous. It is not passionate. It is not consensual. It is not a fairytale.
Look In The Eyes Of Your Sons And Daughters –
Humor me for a moment. The next time your beloved child skips, walks or runs into the room, pause and study the soft innocence of their face. Gaze into sparkling eyes radiating joy mingled with a tiny touch of mischief. Eyes that captured your heart the first time they stared back at you.
The twinkly-eyed child now stands before an adult. Lately the subtle changes in demeanor are undeniable. This time the nagging suspicion refuses to be silenced. When a gentle inquiry is dismissed a bit too quickly your stomach lurches. The attempt at denial was nearly convincing except for one tiny-huge thing – the eyes. Once radiant, they are now hollow reflections of sadness and despair. And the warning siren announcing danger grows louder. The next firm inquiry barely escapes your lips when the floodgates of truth open wide. And you hear words that no parent is prepared to hear. I am in an abusive relationship.
Initially your brain is deaf, refusing to acknowledge the words it heard. Everything in the world is now distorted and spinning out of control.
Thoughts are fighting thoughts. Questions demand answers. And the answers sicken you.
Why did my daughter stay?
Why did my daughter continue to believe the lies?
Why did my son believe it was acceptable for someone to hurt him?
Why did my son hide the truth from those who would never harm him?
If your child were treated like the actor on the screen how would you feel about it? I know beyond a shadow of doubt you would be horrified. And then overwhelmed with sadness that your beautiful gift had endured such torment.
Influencers Have A Responsibility –
This morning while finishing this blog a revelation struck me. As parents, we are given a priceless gift to train and guide our little ones to healthy maturity. With that gift also comes a great responsibility to help them recognize and navigate potential dangers. Just think about the time spent teaching, practicing and rehearsing the dangers of crossing a busy street.
Some Eye Opening Statistics –
#1 The risk of death for a pedestrian is 1 in 47,253.
#2 The risk of a man being abused by his female partner is 1 in 4.
#3 The risk of a woman being abused by her male partner is 1 in 3.
One, two, three – that daughter is abused. One, two, three – that granddaughter is abused. One, two, three, four – that son is abused. One, two, three, four that grandson is abused.
We train our children to make safe choices, remind them of hidden dangers and repeatedly warn them of the consequences of bad decisions. But tragically we seldom teach them to recognize the characteristics of an abusive person and the consequences of abuse in any relationship. This omission must change. Lives depend on it.
Friends, everybody leads and everybody follows someone. Influencers impact their loved ones, peers and acquaintances everywhere with every word, with every choice. Please never underestimate the influence power of the choices you live out before others.
Rarely in history does a movie or series of movies contain the power to influence current and future culture with such a diabolical message about abuse. Perhaps you believe the word (diabolical) is hyperbolic. Trust me, diabolical is an accurate description.
I clearly understand that unless you’re personally acquainted with the complexities of abuse it’s extremely difficult to comprehend. I am so thankful that this topic is foreign territory to many of you. However, dismissing the dangerous content of Fifty Shades of Grey as benign entertainment is a costly mistake, especially for those ignorant of the abyss of abuse. Ignorance (lack of knowledge) enables the deception that surrounds abuse to flourish unaware.
Working together armed with knowledge, we can silence the lying lips of abuse by propagating the truth to all we influence, guide and lead. Countless impressionable souls deserve to hear the truth that will prevent them from becoming one more victim of abuse.