Victim No More - Staking Your Ground to Reclaim Your Worth, Empowerment, and Respect
Emotional or psychological abuse often coexists with other forms of abuse, and it is the most difficult to identify. So we are taking a moment to raise awareness for domestic violence issues.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and is a way to unite individuals and organizations working on domestic violence issues while raising awareness for those issues. The single greatest risk factor of becoming a victim of abuse is a childhood history of having been abused – includes emotional abuse and neglect in addition to physical and sexual abuse.
Abuse of alcohol or other mood altering substances is highly correlated both with becoming an abuser as well as becoming abused. Mood altering substances lower inhibitions and self control, both of which result in poor decision making and an inability to manage one’s own behavior.
Domestic Violence Statistics
According to Psychology Today, "Nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million people. What is less talked about, though serious, is emotional abuse that ranges from withholding to controlling, and includes manipulation and verbal abuse. The number of people affected is astronomical. Emotional abuse is insidious and slowly eats away at your confidence and self-esteem. The effects are long term, and can take even longer to recover from than blatant violence.”
Statistics show that victims of violence endure an average of up to seven attacks. The dominant reason is dependency: Control by the abuser, shame about the abuse, and the dysfunctional nature of the relationship lowers the victim's self-esteem and confidence. It also often causes the victim to withdraw from friends and family, creating even more fear and dependency on the abuser. The abuse itself is experienced as an emotional rejection with the threat of being abandoned. This triggers feelings of shame and fears of both more abuse and abandonment in the victim, which are then relieved during the honeymoon phase. Then victims hope the abuser will change. After all, there are good times between episodes of abuse. There are reasons why the person loves or once loved the abuser, and often children are involved.
Spousal or Partner Abuse
Victims do not have to go through getting to safety alone! Help is available to those who seek it. Some abusers will agree to get help. Seek a therapist who is knowledgeable to treat couples with a history of domestic violence. However, if an abusive or manipulative person does not acknowledge their behavior is hurtful and/or minimizes the effects of their abuse or manipulation and/or continues to abuse despite multiple interventions, it is highly unlikely the abuse will stop. For the sake of your, your children’s, and your pets’ safety, utilize the provided resources to get help.
Leaving a physically abusive relationship can be threatening to the partner’s physical well being, or the well being of children or pets. It requires a safety plan. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline can help create a plan that is suitable to each person’s situation.
It is difficult to address emotional abuse as long as physical safety is still a threat. For immediate danger: call 9-1-1. For community resources: call 2-1-1.
Psychological Signs of Abuse and Manipulation
Signs of psychological abuse is one of the most difficult to recognize. Psychological manipulation is a more subtle form of abuse, but has endured over time and can have just as damaging effects as direct abuse. These are some examples of manipulation:
Failure to respect privacy (snooping into phone, diary, emails, etc)
Withholding affection as a punishment
Isolate a partner from their family or friends
Gaslighting, or making a partner believe that the partner is at fault or “crazy for thinking that way”
Monitoring where a partner goes, who they call, and who they spend time with
Making accusations of cheating
Jealousy of outside relationships
Telling a partner that they are lucky to be with them
Telling a partner that they will not find anyone better
Controlling partner’s finances
Open belittling or criticizing partner
Taking increasing control over how partner dresses, spends their time, and thinks
Needy with unrealistic expectations of a relationship
Needs to be right and in control
Hypersensitive and reacts aggressively
Insists on having his or her way and won’t compromise
Has outbursts of anger
May have a double personality – really nice to the outside world but cruel or demanding at home
Suspicious and insecure. Sees the outside world as a threat
Rationalizes, denies, minimizes their behavior and/or the harmful effects of their behavior
Self centered and lacks empathy
Never satisfied, partner never seems to be good enough
Stalking (either on internet or physically)
Abusers also manipulate with “feel good” behaviors such as such as praise, superficial charm, flattery, ingratiation, love bombing, smiling, gifts, attention (“I only act this way because I love you so much”)
Abusers and manipulators also threaten to hurt themselves as a means of controlling the victim’s behavior
Strategies to Finding your Power in a Manipulative Relationship
Coming to terms with whether you are experiencing manipulation in your relationship can be difficult. Remember that to get out of being a victim of emotional abuse, you have to stop waiting for the other person to change. This only reinforces your position as a victim. You have to be willing to change something about yourself. Here are some other strategies for finding your power:
Stop or limit your own substance use. Substance use is one of the greatest risk factors of being a victim of abuse
See the manipulative behavior for what it is. Stop making excuses or taking responsibility for the abuser’s behavior. Why would your abuser come of out denial of his/her behavior if you won’t come out of yours?
Stop thinking you need to do more, love more, do better, love better, explain more, cry more, etc to try to get the person to change. This is the victim taking responsibility for the abuser’s behavior when the responsibility for change for the abuse lies squarely on the abuser
Come to terms with whether you witnessed or experienced manipulation or abuse as a child. If so, you are more likely to choose a manipulative partner in adulthood
Knowledge is Power. Increase your educational status. Google is free. Learn about resources from the internet. Just because you have found yourself in an abusive or manipulative relationship does not mean you have no choices
Increase your personal employment, financial status. Be less dependent financially on your partner
Stop believing you can magically change your partner. You can’t. You can only change yourself. So what can you do differently to make your life better?
Stay in frequent touch with friends, family, coworkers and neighbors who care about you and who you can trust.
See a therapist to cope with all the feelings that accompany being in an abusive/manipulative relationship: depression, shame, helplessness, powerlessness, embarrassment, fears of abandonment, low self worth, guilt, anxiety, suicidal thinking, hyper-vigilance, poor concentration, mood swings
BELIEVE that you deserve to be treated with respect at ALL times. If you do not believe it, why should anyone else? When you decide that you have had enough and you deserve better, seek help to learn how to set boundaries
Be willing to let go of the relationship if the person absolutely will not respect your emotional or physical safety
Get help for your self-harming coping skills such as: substance use disorder, eating disorders, self-harm, sleep problems, verbal or emotional abuse of someone “weaker” than you (like a child), unprotected or promiscuous sex (high risk factor for becoming a victim)
Get help for health problems commonly associated with being a victim such as chronic pain, muscle tension, hypertension, gastrointestinal disorders, auto-immune disorders
Where To Get Help
When you are ready to change yourself, you are putting power back in your own hands and thus, becoming a victim no more. THERAPY CAN HELP! Helping you set boundaries is what we’re made to do! But we know that sometimes you need more help. Here are some incredible resources to help you:
Florida Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-500-1119
Palm Beach County Victim Services : 866-891-7273 or 561-833-7273 (24 hour hotline); 561-355-2418 (Monday-Friday office line)
Each victim is assigned an advocate from our office. The advocates are available to assist the victims after the perpetrator is arrested. Advocates work even on holidays and weekends. The victim advocates:
Accompany the victim to court for hearings and trial
Educate the victim of his/her rights in the legal process
Refer the victim to counseling or crisis intervention services
Assist the victim in finding safe shelter and creating a safety plan
In addition, the division provides assistance such as:
Refer victims to the Legal Aid Society if the victim needs a civil attorney and cannot afford one
Register victims for the Victims’ Crime Compensation Fund
This fund, which is provided by the Attorney General’s Office, assists in providing for relocation and restitution expenses for victims. Examples of restitution expenses are: medical, dental, hospitalization and counseling. Many of the victims’ expenses can be covered as long as the victim cooperates with the State Attorney’s Office in prosecuting the offender
Provide cell phones that are programmed to dial 911
Provide listings of: women's shelters, family shelters, transitional housing, residential treatment centers and other residential services for women
Many shelters also provide services such as alcohol and drug rehab treatment along with clinics, and best of all supportive housing options
PBSO Domestic Violence Detectives: 561-688-4185 561-992-1015
PBSO Domestic Violence Advocates: 561-688-3972 561-688-4195 561-992-1016 561-688-3974 561-688-4162 561-688-3978
Thank you so much to #teamsoulspring counselor Wynne Stallings for her contributions to the content of this article.