Posted in posts by us

The Game of Boundary Roulette.

***THIS POST CONTAINS DESCRIPTIONS OF ABUSE THAT MAY BE TRIGGERING***

In many conversations about abuse, so many of us feel like we have been stupid somehow, falling for such obvious tactics as those employed by a narcissist. 

Though we feel like this, at the same time we also know that really we had very little choice. Explaining this to others is probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do. So I’ve written this post which hopefully describes how covert and cruel abuse of any kind is and how it sneaks into our relationships without us really noticing and how it escalates like standing on a sandbank when the tide comes in behind you. Before you know it, you’re swimming home and you’ve forgotten how to swim.

Please feel free to comment and share your own experiences.

***

One of the first things a narcissist will scream to the rooftops once they are called out is, “BUT I AM THE VICTIM!”. 

They will immediately, actively begin seeking sympathy and understanding from anyone who will listen. Telling woeful tales of what drove them to such abhorrent behaviour. It will begin with tales of how the circumstances were just too much to deal with. How petty irritations just got to them. How the stress of work or money or family pressures just tipped them over the edge. It’ll all be smattered with false guilt and doe eyed promises that it isn’t really who they are, they just made a mistake. How somehow, if you really listen, and if you discount the screaming, spitting, pushing, punching behaviour of theirs… it was all the other person’s fault. Do you see? 

Then it’ll escalate. The more sympathy that they gain, the more momentum the lies gather. It becomes more direct, incidents exaggerated beyond recognition, things said that weren’t said. Lies upon lies. Especially when no contact has been enforced. The ex becomes the nightmare ex. And the nightmare exes… all of them. The tales of emotional abuse and terrible lack of care that they allegedly suffered spew out of their mouths like vomit and, for all of the truth these statements hold, it might as well be. 

The narcissist doesn’t know when to stop. It got them into this mess and they will use it to try and get out of it too. 

They are the archetypal One Trick Pony.

If you are the new partner, they hope that you can overlook the abuse that they inflicted on others. One other or, more usually, many others. The physical. The psychological. The sexual. They hope that with enough persuasion will understand their terrible plight. 

Only YOU can see the real them.

Only you and them have that special connection that bonds you spiritually together. 

If only they had met you before all of the others.  

But it is, of course, a lie, like everything else they say.

“But I am a victim!” isn’t a statement of truth, it’s a battlecry. 

It is now, if you are the new partner of an abusive narcissist, that the game of Boundary Roulette begins.

Firstly, the narcissist needs you to feel sorry for them. They need you to think that they are vulnerable so that your defences drop. Once you start to drop your defences the narcissist will claim a love like never before! 

Beautiful, huh? Except no, it’s definitely not. 

This is designed to make you feel somehow obligated to them and to draw you in fast, they may tell you personal things in confidence and make you promise never to reveal them. They will talk endlessly of trust, more specifically, whether they trust you. They will assume that you trust them regardless, as they will be playing the role of meek and damaged victim. They may make up ways for you to earn their trust, like a point scoring system, and bestow each level of their ever deepening trust upon you like shiny medals. All of this will be because you are so special. So very special.

You will be love bombed. They will do anything and everything to make you feel like the most important person in the world. No issue is too much trouble for them. After all they love you like they’ve never loved anyone before and you’ve earned that ever elusive trust that so many before you have trampled all over.

Occasionally the mask will drop, a snidey, shitty, self centred them will make a brief reappearance but it will be quickly covered up and excused depending on your reaction to it. These are little tests, designed to assess your boundaries and where they can be stepped on. Too much of a reaction and the narcissist will back down for a while, because you’ll catch on far too quickly to the ensuing boundary trampling that they are planning for you. The idea here is to make YOU apologise to them for whatever minor indiscretion they have chosen to focus on. They need to act upset enough to elicit a reaction in you that feels like “oh my goodness I’m so sorry. I had no IDEA that would upset you so much”. They will then quickly turn up the sympathy card and bingo! 

You’ve just lost game number one in boundary roulette!

You won’t know this though. You’ll feel relieved you were able to rectify the accidental pain you’ve apparently just caused. 

These little tests will slowly increase, in between the all consuming love and adoration they bestow upon you. It’ll slowly encroach on your life. They will tell you “you know WHY I have issues with THAT.” and, although it’s probably just a normal behaviour or action for anyone, you’ll curb it here and there to reduce the distress you think you’re causing the narcissist. 

A little thing here, a little thing there, your boundaries wilting away inch by inch. 

Because each issue is so tiny, it’s almost as if you, yourself are willingly eroding your own boundaries. Slowly, insidiously, under the cover of darkness, control gains a foothold. 

Here, you reach a sticky point. It may be that all these little demands begin to feel wrong somehow. That you are now watching your behaviour a little too much for your own liking. But you’re a bit stuck now. To go back on any of them will make you a liar to the narcissist. That golden trust that was bestowed upon you is now at risk and any small deviation will be twisted as a mistruth and make you a bad person. To call them out isn’t an option, there will be a myriad ways that things can get explained away. Of course, you’re not a bad person, and you sure as hell don’t want to be seen as a bad person. So you shrug and carry on and explain it away to yourself as not too bad anyway and they are so good to you, it’s the least you can do, right? It’s no real trouble.

It doesn’t stop though. The narcissist keeps encroaching on those boundaries. Ten little things, twenty little things, one hundred little things and suddenly, without you realising it, you’ve got several very big things that you have no idea how to deal with. 

On top of this the mask drops more often, partly because there are now many issues in your life that the narcissist has a problem with and partly because you are now moving into a new phase. In this phase the narcissist gradually swaps from mostly loving and can’t do enough with occasional outbursts to mostly outbursts and criticism with occasional loving moments. 

And yet, still, you don’t feel you’re in an abusive relationship. There is an excuse for everything. Yes, some sound a little far fetched, but mostly you can see, however vaguely, that it could be a reason. You trust them. You live for the good times. You structure life around the narcissist’s wants to keep them happy, ignoring your own needs or, even, aligning your needs with theirs for a more harmonious life. Because you’re human, you make mistakes, and when you do the narcissist is enraged. “How COULD you!” and “You don’t care about anyone but yourself!” become the most common phrases you hear. 

The mistakes you make are compounded further by the ones you don’t. The narcissist can find a million ways to make the perfect day somehow imperfect, and it’ll be your fault. 

I mean yes, you looked after the children, you cleaned and worked 9 hours and bought the narcissist some new clothing BUT…

“Why didn’t YOU walk the dog? Why do you ALWAYS leave things to me?!”

An argument ensues, as you try to explain that you didn’t have the time. You offer to go now but you’re told “No! I’ll do it… you clearly don’t want to!” Hurtful things are said, things that leave you reeling in shock, things that have nothing to do with walking the dog, things that you never ever though they would use to hurt you, never mind over something so petty. So the dog is reluctantly walked, and you’re left at home feeling guilty about the dog and a few other things that were also dragged up in the argument. As the narcissist comes back home, resentment written all over their face, you apologise for being so thoughtless, you promise it won’t happen again. You resolve, to yourself, to make sure the dog is walked every day before they get home from work. It is now your responsibility. 

And time goes on. So, you looked after the children, you cleaned and worked 9 hours, bought the narcissist some new clothing and walked the dog… BUT…

“What time do you call this?! Where is dinner?! I’m starving and I’ve been at work all day and you’re flouncing about the park with the dog and the kids! Do you expect me to do EVERYTHING?!”

You apologise profusely. You haven’t had time yet, it’s planned it’ll be ready in 20 minutes and… crash!… the crockery is swiped off the kitchen side violently. You’re shocked and terrified and tired and you have NO IDEA what to do. The narcissist is shouting about selfishness and laziness, getting close to your face and holding your arm until it hurts. They are saying more hurtful things about you as a person, things you’ve confided in them about and things that you have told then are painful for you. They shout and shout for hours, while you’re scurrying about the kitchen desperately making dinner as fast as humanly possible. You’re told you are useless, pathetic, and that no one would ever put up with this. You’re nothing short of lucky that they do, even though it’s so awful for them.

You cook dinner. They aren’t hungry any more. Dinner goes in the bin. They go to bed. You’re left feeling afraid and confused and yet you still clear up the mess they created before heading to bed yourself, exhausted. In the morning life continues as normal. You get a cursory apology and some vague explanation about having a bad day at work and how they aren’t as good at cooking as you are. They suggest “How about you make us something special for dinner tonight? I’ll get us a bottle of wine.” You agree. 

You also decide to always make sure dinner is cooked. This is now your sole responsibility. 

More time passes. You’ve looked after the children, you’ve cleaned and worked 9 hours, bought the narcissist some new clothing, walked the dog and cooked dinner… BUT…

“Why are you so tired?! Why aren’t YOU initiating sex with me?! You’re SO DAMN SELFISH!”

And you feel bad. Because you’ve lost all sense of normal. You lost all sense of your boundaries and you can’t even quite remember when or how that happened. They told you how they feel about always having to initiate sex. They told you it makes them feel insecure, unloved and unwanted. They told you how the others never did and it hurt them so very badly. And now YOU are doing this to them?! You said you were different. Better. Special. Kinder. More loving. 

They rant and shout and hold your arm until it hurts and you swear, just for a second they were going to hit you, maybe you were wrong, you’re tired, you’re over emotional, you’re confused. 

So you sigh. You apologise and you take your tired, achey body to bed and initiate sex. You feel empty. You feel violated. But you’re too tired to argue. Afterwards the narcissist tells you that you’re amazing, special and the only person they have ever really loved. They say that they’re sorry that they got upset, they just adore being close to you. You smile a weak smile and finally get some sleep. 

More time goes by. You’ve looked after the children, you’ve cleaned and worked 9 hours, bought the narcissist some new clothing, walked the dog, cooked dinner AND initiated sex most nights of this week. Tonight it’s Friday night and you’ve been invited out with your friends. It’s been planned for a while and you are really looking forward to a bit of you time. The narcissist comes home and is visibly annoyed. You ask what’s up. They tell you it’s nothing, but you carry on, go out with your friends, don’t mind them, they will be fine without you. 

You’re a bit miffed. You also have a gnawing feeling at the pit of your stomach that you just can’t place. You feel a bit shakey. You shrug it off and tell them ok, and that you won’t be long anyway and you can talk when you get home. You go out with your friends.  

Within half an hour your phone goes. The narcissist is asking where the dog food is, you know they know the answer, but you tell them anyway. They ask if you’re having fun. You reply that you are and they reply with “well that’s all that matters.”

That gnawing feeling returns. Your friends pull you away and take selfies of you all with a couple of random others of the opposite sex at the bar.

A few drinks and a dance later and you are heading home. You realise you haven’t checked your phone for a couple of hours and as you get in the cab you see 14 missed calls and 8 messages asking “where are you!?” And “call me NOW!” You immediately think there has been an emergency and panic. You call home. 

When they answer it all seems calm, almost too calm. You ask what’s wrong and they say “Oh nothing you need to worry about, you’re clearly having too much fun.” You tell them not to be daft and tell you what happened?! And they tell you to wait until you get home. You are now full of anxiety. The cab ride home feels like an eternity which is a blessing and a curse as you equally want to get home and find out what’s happening and don’t want to go home at all. 

You get home and you are greeted with a stony faced narcissist. You’re questioned; “Where were you? Who were you with?” You answer. You’re told “Don’t lie to me!” Even though you aren’t. You don’t know what answer they are looking for but you’re now afraid because they are getting more angry than you have ever seen before. They are shouting at you for an answer you cannot give. They are screaming about a selfie that your friend posted on social media. Now asking who the other people were. You don’t know. You try to say that you don’t know. Things are thrown. You are pushed.

That’s crossed a line. You tell yourself. 

You’ve really had enough now. You try to go to bed, but they block the door and won’t let you leave the room. They take your phone and demand to read your messages. You refuse. You’re angry and you’ve had a drink, so you feel a bit more like fighting back, you’re not drunk, just feeling braver, so you decide to shout back at them. You tell them they are unreasonable and you’re sick and tired of always answering to them and you’ve done nothing wrong and… bam! Suddenly you’re on the floor, the side of your face screaming in pain. Your head, having been knocked to the side, your eyes, struggling to focus, rest upon the 8 empty cans of beer on the floor and you realise they’re drunk. From the initial haze, your body quickly goes into shock, and panic rises from the base of your spine up your back until a full blown panic attack screeches uncontrollably through your brain. The world starts moving around you. You’re not sure if its panic or concussion or if you’re dying of bleeding to the brain. The panic takes over.

The next thing you know, they are holding you gently, telling you to breathe, stroking your hair, kissing the top of your head. You hold on tight because it’s all you have, your reality has been violently stolen from you. Eventually your breathing slows and you are guided to bed, gently undressed and held onto tightly, lovingly. You’re told you’re so silly, all you had to do was tell the truth, they are sorry that they hurt you, but you have to understand that you hurt them too. But they still love you. More than anyone in the world. More than the others. You’re special, you see? But you need help. Their help. And they will stay with you and help you because they love you like no one else can.

You don’t know where else to turn, you don’t know what is real and what isn’t any more. So you hold on tight and you promise yourself that you will be better, less selfish, less thoughtless, less lazy. For you and for them. 

Game. Set. Match.

These examples of abuse are fictional accounts, based in fact, taken from many different people’s actual experiences. Some or all will likely be triggering and recognisable by people who have survived or are in abusive relationships. 

The point here is that abuse isn’t easy to spot, it isn’t as simple as being a certain type of person or being stupid enough to fall for it. It is cleverly designed to put you off track in a deeply psychological way. This process could take months, it could take years, but what we know to be fact is that abuse only ever escalates over time and abusive people, or previously abusive people, can only reform if they receive extremely intensive psychological help from professionals over a number of years. This is often why narcissists don’t reform, because they really don’t want to, and most don’t. 

I use boundary roulette because of the unpredictable nature of how the narcissist finds and tramples on our boundaries, it is very much a game of trial and error, always having to cover up their tracks each time a boundary is pressed. We tell them personal information and they pick which one they feel could be the one that triggers the first boundary break. And they keep picking until they succeed. 

It is used in conjuction with gaslighting to make a victim question their entire reality so that the narcissist can replace it with their fabricated reality, piece by piece. 

This way, like the tide coming in behind you, all seems well and when you finally realise the danger, it’s all too late.

Thanks for reading. 

xxx

***

Domestic abuse happens in all kinds of relationships and perpetrators are men and women from all backgrounds and walks of life. 

We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature. Many small voices make one LOUD voice. We’d like to hear stories from men and women from heterosexual or gay relationships, transexual relationships and non monogamous relationships. We feel strongly that abuse is abuse regardless of the sex of person inflicting it or the model of relationship.

Domestic abuse damages in whatever form and here at Many Small Voices we hope to gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.

We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.

If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.

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Healthy Relationships vs Emotionally Abusive Relationships.

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Healthy Relationships differ wildly from emotionally abusive relationships, but it’s not always easy to tell the difference when you’re in them. Here are some comparisons.

An Emotionally Abusive Relationship:

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  • Makes you feel anxious.
  • Makes you feel that you’re not good quite enough.
  • You worry that what you say or do is going to upset your partner.
  • They check up on you, reads your post, emails, text messages.
  • Accuse you of cheating or not thinking of their needs enough.
  • Keeps you stuck, not fulfilling your full potential.
  • They don’t support your desire to make yourself a more independent person.
  • Shouts at you, calls you names, insults you.
  • Controls you, where you go, what you wear, who you socialise with.
  • Demands your time and attention away from other people, children and activities.
  • Punishes you when you’re not doing as they want.
  • Gives you the silent treatment or tells you they’re not upset when their actions say they are.
  • Explodes into temper unexpectedly, makes you feel that you need to walk on eggshells to avoid it.
  • Twists what you say, only hears what they want to hear, misses the point because it suits them not hear it it, tells you that you said something entirely different.
  • Laughs at your beliefs, ridicules your religion, discounts your life experiences. Tells you you know nothing.
  • Let’s you down. Doesn’t turn up to watch the kids while you work, is consistently late. Doesn’t call ahead to let you know. Gets angry with you if you call them to hurry them up or find out where they are. Seems to think you have all the time in the world and that time revolves around them and their needs.
  • Controls the finances, spends money but scrutinises your spending. Tells you you’re too stupid or irresponsible to handle finances.

Most of all things ‘feel’ off. You feel tense, you feel worried. You can’t relax fully and on the rare occasions you do, there are repercussions. You’re caught off guard, you double check everything.

Emotionally abusive relationships are a stark contrast to healthy relationships, but the behaviour is so gradually introduced so that over time the abuse becomes normalised.

A Healthy Relationship:

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  • You feel relaxed in each other’s company.
  • You feel not only good enough but fully accepted and loved, for your good points and your flaws.
  • You don’t worry or second guess yourself or your partner, you’re free to speak your mind.
  • Your privacy is respected and never violated.
  • You have time to yourself, with your friends and your family. They are capable of being alone too, they don’t ‘need’ you to lavish all of your attention on them.
  • Supports and encourages you to improve yourself, to study or exercise, etc. Loves you for who you are and for who you might become. They are not afraid of changes in you, they are glad for you to pursue your happiness. A happy you equals a happy them and vice versa.
  • Encourages independence while still retaining a healthy balance of sharing within the relationship. Things are equal, shared and fair. When one needs support the other steps in to help.
  • Doesn’t resort to name calling during conflicts. Sticks to the subject, deals with difficult emotions maturely and responsibly.
  • Let’s you live your life the way you choose to. Doesn’t question your motives, accepts they are not the centre of your life.
  • You are both happy to spend time alone. Happy to be together but with comfortable silences. No need to fill in the gaps.
  • Doesn’t expect you to do only what they want, compromises, isn’t upset if you wish to do something different.
  • Explains how they feel without deliberately trying to hurt you. Doesn’t hide how they feel. Doesn’t give mixed messages.
  • Handles anger responsibly. Feels angry, but doesn’t always react. Doesn’t target their anger at you.
  • Hears you. You feel heard, your opinion counts even if they don’t agree. They take what you said in the manner that you meant it, if they don’t understand they ask you for clarification, not make assumptions.
  • Respects your religion, beliefs and life experiences.
  • Doesn’t let you down, turns up on time, or calls if there’s a problem. Doesn’t leave you worrying or stranded.
  • Shares the financial responsibility.

You feel loved, you feel treasured and important. You feel safe and you can relax and be yourself without worrying about what’s happening next. You can make mistakes and not be penalised for not being perfect. Healthy relationships nourish you, they feel wonderful, and everyone deserves to feel truly loved.

These are just some examples of emotional abuse within relationships. If you can think of any more behaviour to compare healthy/unhealthy relationship patterns please comment below and we will include them in our list.

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Abuse happens in all kinds of relationships, though abusers are often men and victims are often women, we know very well that this is not always the case.

Abuse is often hard to recognise. Here at MSV we hope to help victims realise they are in abusive relationships and empower them to take safe action.

By sharing our stories we hope that others can find the strength to help themselves and get support from relevant agencies.

We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature. Many small voices make one LOUD voice.

Domestic abuse damages in whatever form and here at Many Small Voices we gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.

We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.

If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.

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The Circle Of Violence by @janettaras

I met Marie one day sitting in the communal kitchen as I was unpacking the groceries. Her bottom lip was split right down the middle, blood starting to dry in between the two sides. She was missing her two front teeth. Her left eye was swollen shut and her arm was in a cast. I didn’t say hello to Marie, I don’t introduce myself, or stare. I didn’t try to fill the silence…I just unpacked the groceries.

Her little girl came into the kitchen and broke our silence. She was crying, she didn’t feel very well. She wanted to go home, to her bed, to her daddy. Marie began to cry as well as she softly told her daughter that they could not go and see her daddy. They needed to stay here, where they were safe.

I would like to share Marie’s story with you. It is a story about the vicious circle of conjugal violence, a story that can happen to anyone, or anyone capable of falling in love.

When Marie was 20 she met the man of her dreams. She was in university studying English and philosophy. Gregg was in her class. He was good looking, educated and from a good family. They spent every waking minute together until they finished university and then quickly got married. Those first 3 years together were the best of her life. She remembers all the romantic gestures, thoughtful gifts, tender kisses, meaningful gazes. Gregg made Marie feel like a princess, like she was someone special.

This stage of the ‘circle of violence’ is commonly known as the Honeymoon stage. It is the first curve in the circle of violence and it can last months or years. It is a wonderful, fantasy like time when both parties feel like they are on top of the world, where anything is possible. All New Love is wonderfully addicting, intoxicating…… and ultimately unsustainable.

Things began to change when Marie got pregnant. Somehow an invisible shift happened between her and Gregg. They had recently bought a house together, Marie stopped working and money was tight. Gregg was working in an insurance firm and seemed stressed all the time. He would come home from work extremely tense and irritable. Marie never really knew what to expect each day at 5:00pm. Would he walk in the house and kiss her or ignore her? Surely Gregg was just going through a rough patch, he would pull out of it and get back to himself again, the man she knew and loved.

But when the baby was born, Gregg became even more agitated. He was constantly insulting Marie, telling her that she looked over-weight…..she needed to stop eating so much. He told her she was a crap mother…… the baby was always crying because she didn’t know what she was doing. He told her that her cooking was tasteless…. why couldn’t she follow a simple recipe? At the same time, he became more demanding of her, wanting her to be home every night, dissuading her from seeing her friends and family.

The second stage of the circle of violence is called ‘Tension Building’. This stage can take many forms but it always has similar traits: The abuser becomes finicky and picky about everything; the victim feels like she is walking on egg shells.

Marie started thinking about going back to work, to get her mind off her problems at home. She called her old boss and asked if there were any positions open. As luck would have it, there was a maternity cover coming up and it could be a possibility for her. She was excited and would tell Gregg that night and they could start making plans for their daughters care.

When he came home that evening at 5pm, Marie could see that he was not happy. He ignored her, sneered when she tried to speak. When she finally got the courage to tell him that she planned to go back to work…. This got his attention. Gregg looked her in the eye for the first time that day….and he spit in her face. He grabbed her and threw her against the wall. He asked her what was so hard about staying home and living the life of luxury while he worked so hard to keep food on the table. Why was nothing good enough for her? She was stupid, she was selfish, she was pathetic and ungrateful. And then, for the first time ever, after 5 years together, Gregg hit Marie, and kept on hitting her until she passed out, unconscious.

The third stage of violence is called ‘Explosion’. Unfortunately the tension stage always leads here. The explosion might be physical, verbal, sexual or emotional abuse. Each hurts in different ways, all leaving scars.

When Gregg called the ambulance, he was overtaken by remorse for what he had just done. He went to the hospital with Marie, holding her hand the whole time. When she awoke, his eyes were filled with tears and he pleaded with her to forgive him. He had no idea what came over him. If only she would have spoken to him before calling her boss, this would never have happened. He begged her not to leave him, he could be who he used to be, if only she could be more sympathetic. Marie loves Gregg and believed that he would change… If she just tried a bit harder.

To gain the trust back into the relationship the abuser generally goes back into the honeymoon phase offering gifts, promising to change, blaming the other person and finding ways to coerce the other person to stay in the relationship.

When I met Marie in the kitchen that day, it was not the first time I had seen her in the safe house, but it was the first time we spoke. We spoke about how difficult life can be, about what makes us want to change, and how important change can be…….. Then after a few weeks, when her wounds were healing and her strength returned, Marie and her daughter finally left the safe house….. and went home to Gregg.

I volunteered at a crisis centre in Montreal, Quebec.  This is where I met many women like Marie.   

Please do anything that you can to stop the violence. 

Thank you for reading,

JT (Janet Tarasofsky)

Originally posted by @janettaras on 7th January 2013. Find the original site for this powerful post here.

***

We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature. Many small voices make one LOUD voice. 

Domestic abuse damages in whatever form  and here at Many Small Voices we hope to gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.

We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.

If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.

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Opening Up And Finding My Voice… At Last. By @MutteringMummy

Opening Up

Opening Up And Finding My Voice… At last.

By

@MutteringMummy

What would you do if the person you loved hit you?
What would you do if the person you loved verbally abused you on a daily basis?
What would you do if the person you loved dictated who you could speak to and where you worked?
What would you do if the person you loved made you dinner and then smashed the plate over your head because you didn’t eat it quick enough?
What would you do if the person you loved dragged you through the house by the hair because they didn’t want you sitting on the back doorstep?
What would you do if the person you loved smashed your phone so you couldn’t phone for help when they locked you in the house?
What would you do if the person you loved told you it would be your fault if they had to find another partner and abused them because you had split up with them?
What would you do if the person you loved wouldn’t listen when you told them no when they initiated sex with you?

I always said that I would leave anyone who abused me. I would leave them the very first time that they did it and I would never go back. I was wrong.

It took me 2 years and a lot of heartache to get out of that relationship but I DID IT!! It took a long time for me to trust anyone else not to hurt me. I feel very lucky and honoured that I can now call the one I trusted my husband.

Thanks for reading xx

First publish here on 4th August 2013 by @MutteringMummy

***

We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature. Many small voices make one LOUD voice. 

Domestic abuse damages in whatever form  and here at Many Small Voices we hope to gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.

We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.

If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.

Posted in posts by you

Domestic Abuse Is Not Always Violent – By @Eliza_Do_Lots

Domestic Abuse Is Not Always Violent

Domestic Abuse Is Not Always Violent

by

@Eliza_Do_Lots

This is a post that’s been sitting in my mind for a VERY long time. Since I began the blog. Since I joined twitter. Since I ever heard anyone speaking about domestic abuse and felt I had to join the conversation. Which I always do.

Domestic violence. That’s the term everyone uses. There are campaigns around right now, this minute, aimed at young women, at teenagers, at GIRLS, telling them that domestic violence is wrong, and that they don’t have to put up with it.I have an issue with this.Not the message – don’t be silly – but with the name it’s given.Domestic violence.

You see, the problem is, that it doesn’t start with violence. In many cases it never even escalates to violence. But there are so many kinds of abuse, so many women and girls, and men and boys, being abused day in day out where a hand is never raised. Where nobody gets a black eye or a bust lip. The worst case scenario of domestic abuse is that someone is killed. Is that someone is beaten. Hospitalised. Raped. Maimed. Tortured. Those are the worst cases. But they take time to build. It takes months, years, decades even in some cases to get there.

If a girl goes on a first date and, during the awkward conversation and, while she’s wondering whether to pay cinema prices for a packet of minstrels, he punches her in the face, that’s pretty much a relationship killer. That guy is generally going to get arrested. That girl is not going to stay with him, date him more, let him get under her skin.If, on that first date, he charms her, flirts, compliments her, is a great date, makes her soar, then quietly says maybe she’d look better with less make up, then she takes it as a compliment. A bit of a backhanded one, since she made so much effort, but he meant it nicely. Right? So after a few weeks, when she’s wearing less make up but seeing him more, and he’s saying that he wishes they were never apart it makes sense, is easy, is flattering that he wants her there all the time. That he wants her to spend all her time with him. It’s easy to stay, not go out with her friends, skip that lunch with her Grandma, just this once, because he’ll be so happy, and it’s awful making him sad when he’s so good to her. Right?

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This still isn’t when he punches her, by the way. Hardly ever.So she stays in, with less make up on, wearing clothes he picked out because it makes him smile, and she’s falling in love…look how happy that makes him.One day she wants to do something different, wouldn’t it be fun – and they go, and he sulks, and snaps, and is bitter – and she can’t work out what she did wrong. Every time she tries something different the same thing happens – so gradually she learns that change rocks him, throws him out of that kind, gentle man he is when it’s just the two of them, at home, alone.

When he’s rude to her friends she’s mortified. They don’t like him at all – but they don’t see the REAL him, the guy he is at home, when it’s just them.They don’t see how much he spoils her, cares for her, the nice things he does, the treats he buys, he showers her with gifts and affection – they don’t SEE that. What they see is the sulky, moody, strange man in the corner of the party sucking the happiness out of the room. They see their friend, or daughter, or sister, tense, on edge, looking different to the girl they know, watching him from the corner of her eye. They hear her make an excuse, leave early, with him, apologising.

They miss him apologising to her, explaining how nervous he is, how uncomfortable he was because none of her friends or family like him, and he doesn’t know why because he treats her SO well.

So he slips between her and them, under her skin now.

When he says something that puts her down again, just a little, just a tiny chip in her self worth, and she thinks “this is going too far” and stands up to him he apologises, looks hurt, explains how much he loves her, how special she is, how ungrateful she’s being. She feels bad. She’s sorry. She spends the rest of the day, week, month, making it up to him. She can’t even remember what made her cross – she’s so unreasonable!

It’s always her fault.

When he’s not there, those brief periods of her day where he isn’t either there or calling or texting or watching, she knows there’s something not quite right here. She knows that his behaviour is odd. Off. Bad. That she needs to challenge it.

But when she tries her words get turned upside down, inside out, backwards. She hurts him. He cries. She feels awful, just awful. They argue, and she can’t really remember what she was trying to say because he’s had such a difficult time and she’s making his life so much worse, when all he wants is for the two of them to be together, at home, just the two of them where nobody can hurt her. He’s protecting her, from the outside, from people who just don’t understand what they have.

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It might be weeks, months, or years. He still hasn’t punched her. She doesn’t even worry that he might. She just tries and tries and tries to stop hurting him. To be better. To love him right. To love the hurt out of him. To stop getting things so very wrong and ruining the magical time they could be having, that they used to have, that she knows they could have if she could just. be. better. He still doesn’t punch her though. Sometimes she shouts. Thinks she has something valid to say. That he’s done something wrong for once. He stands over her, intimidating her.

She tries to stand, to meet him face to face and have her say. He won’t let her stand. He pushes her back down, stands over her, shouts more, to make sure she listens to how badly she’s let him down. It’s no wonder her family and friends don’t make much effort now. A voice in the back of her mind is telling her that it isn’t HER they avoid, but him, that HE makes them uncomfortable, and that she avoids seeing them so that he won’t pick a fight or embarrass her. She knows it. She can hear herself saying it to him – but the words won’t come out because actually, what he’s saying seems so reasonable. So right. Maybe she is to blame again? Maybe she’s just misinterpreted it again? Maybe they do laugh behind her back, slag her off, just put up with her. They certainly don’t love her the way he does…after all, if they did, they’d be here…right? But they aren’t. He is. And he still doesn’t punch her.

Now she is a different person. All different colours, all different sounds, all different interests and passions – all his, all picked out by him, and he’s explained to her why these likes and colours and sounds are so much better, why she likes them more, and it’s all so reasonable.

She doesn’t get promoted. She doesn’t pass her exams. She isn’t included in family gatherings. She isn’t a bridesmaid for her cousin. She doesn’t go on her best friend’s hen night. She never goes for a girlie night away, or on a spa weekend. She doesn’t dance in high heels. She doesn’t see a chick flick, or pick her own pizza topping, or listen to her favourite radio station.

She does as he decides, because it makes him happy, and when he’s happy he’s nice, and that’s the real him…right?

She wants something that he liked last week. He doesn’t like it now. She didn’t notice when he changed his mind. God she’s stupid. What an idiot! If she just hadn’t suggested it he’d still be happy. He’s standing over her again. She tries to stand up – to plead this time – but he pushes her back. That was a bit rough – she tells him so – he pushes harder. THAT’S rough. And that’s what happens because she was so stupid. That’s what happens when she just doesn’t LISTEN. Right?

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She wonders if she’s going insane. If she’s mentally ill. Or stupid. Or cruel. He tells her, every day, that she is. He keeps her alone, apart from anyone who might give her a different voice. Away from all the things she cared about. She questions herself, all of her self. She loses her self. She can’t really remember who or how she was, before.

Part of her wants to fight. Part of her is scared that if she does he’ll be angry. Part of her WANTS him to be. Most of her just wants the early days back. The heady, passionate, headrush days where she was his world. When he was hers.When she does try he stands over. Pushes. She pushes back, so he pushes harder. She stands and shouts. He pushes her into a wall. She falls. He stands over pushing and pushing and pushing.He still doesn’t punch her – so it doesn’t count. Right? And it was her own fault…right?

She knows. She knows it’s not her fault. But when she tries to explain that to him his reasonable tone and totally believable explanation make her question herself. Again. Until that night, when they’ve had sex and she’s sore inside and out, and she didn’t want to but couldn’t explain that, when she’s in the bathroom with the door unlocked because he doesn’t like her to be out of his sight, when she’s crying as she washes herself…she wonders. Is this how it is, for everyone? Is this how it will always be?

But he still hasn’t punched her…so it doesn’t count…right? He patronises. He picks. He scorns. He is never the nice guy now. Never charming. There are no magical moments. He scares her, but she can’t explain why, because if she gets it right he’s kind. She’s grateful. Takes those scraps. They’re all she gets, so she fawns on them.

He doesn’t punch her, so she should be grateful – after all, who else would put up with her when she’s so god damned stupid? Her family didn’t stick around, her friends all dumped her – he’s the only person who loves her enough to put up with all her bullshit…right?

After all, he still doesn’t punch her. He makes her question herself. Hate herself. Wonder who the fucking hell she even IS any more.

But he doesn’t punch her…so it doesn’t count…right?

That’s the problem with the term domestic violence. All THAT happens before his hand has been raised, before there’s a bruise or a welt or a mark. On the skin at least.

All THAT happens before she ever really knows for sure that this isn’t ok. That this is abuse. That HE is wrong.

All THAT happens LONG before he punches her. Maybe he never will. Maybe the day he does is a massive relief because that’s REAL, it DOES count, and she can leave. But how many women do you think will leave, after all THAT, because of one punch? He’s sorry anyway – she’d just got things so wrong, so many times, because she’s so fucking stupid, that he finally lost his temper. There’s only so much he can put up with from her, after all! Right?

It doesn’t have to bruise to be abuse. It doesn’t have to be violent to be abuse. She doesn’t have to be battered to be abused. Domestic ABUSE. Not domestic violence. That’s already too late. We need to educate these young people long before a fist is raised what is right, what is wrong, what is crossing those lines, where it could go. What the warning signs are. What you can and can’t do. What you do and don’t have to put up with. Not just domestic violence.

Domestic ABUSE.

Please use it. Please share it. Please, please spread that message. Don’t let it get too late for anyone else.

First published here by @Eliza_Do_Lots on 17/6/2013.

***

Posted in posts by us

But He Has Never Actually Hit Me.

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This is one of the phrases that victims of domestic abuse regularly say. ‘He did this, he did that, he took my children, he told me I was mad, a bitch, stupid, incapable… But he has never actually hit me…’

The complete misconception that physical abuse is the only form of domestic abuse worth talking about is still frighteningly prevalent.

We at MSV feel very strongly that before anyone is ever hit, there are other forms of abuse, and often, never any physical abuse of any kind. Violence can be expressed in many, many different ways.

Victims of abuse are rarely aware that they are being abused. In a normal, healthy, loving relationship, there is a sharing. A sharing that is almost imperceptible. A sharing of ideas, opinions, responsibility and love.

In an abusive relationship, though it would first appear that this is happening, very, very slowly over time the sharing is stopped.

It may be something little, a small disagreement. He is displeased with something she did. A disproportionate reaction. The first one. This leaves the victim feeling confused and worried and probably a little scared. It is often resolved quickly, apologies are dished out, gifts bought or favours promised. A lavish bunch of flowers to say how very ‘sorry’ he was for over reacting. Attention and admiration are adorned upon the victim, making her feel safe again, helping her to forget that first reaction. The victim writes it off. ‘It was a one off’ they tell themselves. ‘He’s had a bad day at work’ they think.

And life, for a while, returns to normal.

Another explosion, the victim is taken by surprise. She thought everything was ok, but it’s not. Clearly not. She’s upset him again, she’s sorry. She didn’t mean to upset him so much. She didn’t realise something so small would hurt him so badly. He forgives her, wipes her tears, tells her it isn’t her fault, she wasn’t to know. But she does now.

Over time these incidents happen with increasing regularity. Perhaps it starts out as the same thing each time. Then perhaps it migrates to other things. First it was the messy house, so she cleans up the mess. Then the TV is too loud, so she makes sure the TV isn’t too loud. The kids are too disruptive at dinner, so she calms them down and then worries all through dinner that she’s not keeping them quiet enough for him.

In tiny, creeping incremental stages, control is established. Little things, unimportant things.

‘Oh, he’s just funny about these things, I don’t mind doing the extra, it keeps the peace. Men, eh?’ she says and she rolls her eyes.

One little give from her. One little step forward for him. Two, three, ten, fifteen, twenty… And before she knows it, a million little things have taken over her life.

‘I must make sure of this, check that, oh no I forgot to do this!’

And still, no matter how many things she does right, there is always something else. He keeps changing the goal posts. She thinks she’s done it all right and, BOOM, something else. He tells her she is stupid, thoughtless, inconsiderate. He says he wonders why he ever puts up with her, no one else would. He oozes discontent. Without saying a word she knows he’s unhappy with something and it’s her job to find out what and rectify it. She knows the price she will pay if she doesn’t. She becomes anxious, nervous and worried. He asks he what her problem is. When she answers he tells her he takes such good care of her, he doesn’t know what her problem is, everyone gets cross occasionally.

He decides today she is on a pedestal, the best thing that has ever happened to him, without her he would be nothing, he praises her and her skills and makes her feel special. Then the next day she is stupid and useless again.

He shouts and screams and then apologises and ‘makes it up’ to her. But after a while even that stops. Now he just refuses to accept that it ever happened. He makes excuse after excuse. He says it was only because of the traffic that day, or he didn’t sleep that well, so he’s tired, or he needs some sex, ‘you know what I’m like when I don’t get enough sex’.

He confuses her. She is struggling to keep track of what is next, her life becomes about avoiding his temper about maintaining the peace. Her anxiety, depression or panic attacks become an almost daily occurrence. He says she should see someone about that, he can’t stand her being so miserable, she used to be so much fun. That’s why he’s so angry, he feels cheated. The woman he adores is not the same woman she used to be. What is her problem?

He tells her she is unstable and needs help. His help. He says there’s something wrong with her head. He takes the reigns of the finances, tells her she’s in no state to deal with such important things. He says he is looking after her, making sure she is safe from herself. Because he loves her.

He tells her she’s too stupid to know what’s going on. He says that she is the one with the mental health issues, not him. He says she ought to look at herself. He says she is pathetic, crying all the time. He says she is weak. This is why he has to do what he does. If she would just pull herself together, then he wouldn’t be so angry all the time. He says everyone knows she’s mad, and she should be grateful that he is still here. He says anyone else would leave her.

He shouts, why can’t she think of him? Why doesn’t she realise how she makes him feel? After everything that he has done for her. She’s told she is ungrateful, her behaviour is disgusting, everyone thinks so, not just him, everyone. Her friends, her family, everyone that she knows thinks she’s pathetic. He tells her they told him. He says that he defended her, and told them they shouldn’t say that. He says that she just needs his help. He says if only she would let him help her she would be ok.

Abuse is insidious. Women from all walks of life fall prey to it. This is just an example of how control is established before anyone’s fist gets planted in anyone else’s face. If, indeed, it ever does.

Abusers are not out of control, mindless thugs, they are doctors, solicitors, unemployed, sportsmen, couch potatoes, comedians, chefs, builders, painters. They drive sports cars, they don’t drive at all. They have degrees, they have no formal education. They’re tall, they’re short. They don’t fit a stereotype anymore than the victims do.

And they are NOT out of control.

Emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, psychological, spiritual, physical… to name just a handful. Abuse has many, many different forms, and within those forms so many different expressions

‘But he never actually hit me…’

He doesn’t need to hit you to be abusive. Fact.

***

Abuse happens in all kinds of relationships, though abusers are often men and victims are often women, we know very well that this is not always the case.

***

We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature. Many small voices make one LOUD voice.

Domestic abuse damages in whatever form and here at Many Small Voices we hope to gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.

We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.

If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.

Posted in posts by you

Bikes Are A Feminist Issue by Andrea Twist

Bikes Are A Feminist Issue

by Andrea Twist

So I finally bought a bike – and I’m so excited!

It’s not a fancy bike – not even close. But it’s mine.

When I looked up the model online, the first hit was a particularly snobby article by the Guardian, labelling it “cheap and nasty”. But this didn’t deter me – in fact I took a kind of twisted pride in my girlish, cheap and nasty bike.

You see, my ex was a bike snob. He knew everything there was to know, stopping me regularly as we walked in the street to drool over ‘quality builds’ and condemn other bikes. I have no doubt that my shiny new bike would be one he condemned. He was a hard man to please.

His hobby was buying bikes and parts and frankensteining them together before selling them on.

Over the course of our relationship he bought me several broken and unsuitable bikes. When he lost interest in fixing the broken bikes, which he always did, he would sell them on.

One time he bought me a beautiful dutch bicycle that turned out to be too big, so he sold it on.

To my delight, several days later I found a near-identical model that was the right size, for a good price. So I bought it. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to show him my find.

Happy and proud, I presented the bike to him.

His face soured.

How much did I pay for it? Where did I get it? Why did I get that model?

I told him.

He told me it was the wrong bike for me, from the wrong place and the wrong price. He told me I had made a terrible mistake, but that there was nothing I could do now.

My heart fell.

My enthusiasm deflated as did my confidence. My pretty bike sat out in the rain, neglected for months until he offered to sell it on again.

I later realised it wasn’t the wrong bike from the wrong place or the wrong price. It was just that I had gotten it, and that made it wrong. Wrong for taking initiative, wrong for making a decision, wrong to participate in his area of expertise. Just a stupid, naive girl that he had to protect from making yet another mistake.

It wasn’t just the bikes. This was a common theme in our relationship. He was always right and I was always wrong. He convinced me of this until I stopped trying to be right, about anything. Stopped trying to have an opinion, make a decision, stopped trying to do anything.

Eventually I became so depressed that I signed off work completely. Getting out of bed became a major achievement.

I became increasingly reclusive, only venturing outside my door for food. Some abusers take their victims phone away, tell them not to talk to anyone in order to isolate them. Mine didn’t have to do any of that – I wasn’t talking to anyone but him anyway. He was my only source of support but also the source of much of my pain.

On one particularly grey day, he offered (after much begging on my part) to take me out on a bike ride. I was so pleased with myself – just getting out the house was quite a feat in itself, let alone getting on a bike when I was severely depressed.

We shot off through the streets – him on his latest flash Frankenstein bike, me uncomfortable on his latest scrapyard find.

I struggled. My lack of confidence on the bike really showed as much as his impatience with me did.He went fast through busy streets, despite my slow and shaky struggles to keep up.

When we got to our destination, I’m shaken but proud of myself.

He stops me. He stared at my bike.

You’ve got a flat tyre!

Do I?

You’ve got a flat tyre? When did you get that?

I don’t know, I didn’t realise.

You – he steps back. He can barely contain his rage and frustration.

You didn’t know you had a flat tyre? He laughs a mean laugh. You didn’t know. Really? Are you stupid? What’s wrong with you?

I’m shocked. I say – I just didn’t realise. I haven’t been on a bike in a long time, and I’m not good with bikes like you are.

It’s nothing to do with being good with bikes – he starts raising his voice – anyone can tell they are cycling on a flat tyre. Unbelievable. What’s wrong with you?

I don’t know! I say, starting to get upset now. What’s the big deal?

I just can’t believe you. I can’t believe you. How could you not know?

I don’t know….why can’t you just let it go? What do you want to me to say? I asked, pained.

And he just kept going on like this for a while, round in circles. I became increasingly distressed and confused, not understanding what he wanted or why he wouldn’t stop.

Then he went for the jugular:

It’s fine. I guess cycling just isn’t for you.

This devastated me. Learning to cycle properly in the city had been a big goal of mine for past year. It was something I was excited and passionate about, something important to me, something to get me out of bed when I was too depressed to move. I also (naively) thought it might bring me closer to him, help fix some of our ‘relationship problems’.

It’s not a problem really, he repeated, now quiet and resigned. Cycling just isn’t for you. It’s not your fault – it’s just not for you. It’s just not something you’re capable of.

This was too much. I couldn’t take it anymore. I started to cry, right in front of the busy supermarket. Normally this would humiliate me, but by this point I was too depressed and distressed and confused to care.

My crying did not stop him. He carried on, saying the same thing. Almost as if he were comforting me. It’s alright sweetie, it’s just not for you. You’re just not capable. Cycling just isn’t for you. It’s ok.

I kept crying. He kept going.

I tried to argue, following him round the supermarket. How can you say that? You know how important this is to me! He keeps going. I cry harder. I give up trying.

Eventually he got sick of me and my crying and wandered off.

I found him again. We are silent for a while.

Let’s just pick up some nice food for dinner, yeah sweetie? He says finally, smiling, rubbing my back. After being so distressed I am overcome with relief that he (someone, anyone) is being nice to me. I plan a nice dinner for us.

We have a lovely evening. ‘The honeymoon’ they call it, after tension builds and there is an explosion of abuse. And then the cycle starts again. The next day it started again. And again. And again.

I never went back on the bike again. Like the others he sold it on.

My excitement and passion for bikes was just one of the many positive qualities he sucked out of me during the course of our relationship.

Until today.

Seven months after I left the relationship, I bought my beautiful, girlish, cheap-and-nasty bicycle. It’s not a fancy bike – not even close. But it’s mine.

And there is no one to tell me that I bought the wrong bike, from the wrong seller, at the wrong price.

There is no one to tell me cycling just isn’t for me.

Cycling is for me.

As I cycle through the park on my brand new bike, I think about all of this, all that which is now behind me as I whizz down the path. I look forward – the sun shines through the leaves of the trees on this summer’s day. The wind plays with my hair.

And I feel so free.

***

We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature. Many small voices make one LOUD voice. 

Domestic abuse damages in whatever form  and here at Many Small Voices we hope to gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.

We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.

If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.