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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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One Day at a Time. 

Today I am having a depressive day.  

Triggered by a stressful week which has affected the whole family way too much. My mood isn’t low, it’s more numb. It means I’ll be low for a few days, I know this because I’ve been here many times before. The reason I’m so low is because of my divorce from my abusive husband 2 years ago, and his relentless attacks on me since, which have destroyed the relationship I have with two of my children. He is currently actively trying to destroy my relationship with my youngest child too. Only this time with the willing, if not utterly misinformed, assistance of my other two kids, particularly my daughter.

The badmouthing of me to M is soul crushingly painful. Watching my confused child try to make sense of senseless, hateful behaviour is agonising. I learned this week that a particularly rude and hurtful message exchange with him was actively encouraged and watched and helped by his father and his sister. Not only encouraging rudeness and dismissiveness of me, but making him believe that his mother and his step father are dangerous to him in some way.

Imagine that. You have a conversation with your son where he is rude to you and then later you learn that the adults around him not only allowing that to happen, but were sat with him reading and encouraging it to happen. Helping him choose words like ‘disgusting’ and ‘you’re so childish’ and ‘you don’t think of anyone but yourself.’

Of course, I knew at the time that they weren’t his words. I’ve heard those words a thousand times said by his father, then my daughter, my oldest son, and now by my youngest son.

Same words. Same tone. Instantly recognisable.

M just wants to live. To love his family and all of this to stop. I agree with him, all I have ever wanted was for it stop.

It took me years to pluck up the courage to leave that man (and I use the term in the loosest possible sense), and when I finally did, I naively believed things would improve. M

He has made damn sure it didn’t.

They stalk my social media, know far more about what I do on a day to day basis than they should. These people claim they want nothing to do with me are then actively and deliberately trying to pry into my life so they can pass judgment and stir up hatred.

This is all nightmare enough for us to live. Along with my daughter and ex husband telling M lies about my partner, who they have never, despite invitation, deemed appropriate to meet. Instead we live with almost constant threats and nastiness, thrown from a distance, in the safety of their own web of hate.

They are cowardly, for sure.

I send a happy, content and secure child to my ex husband’s home, only to have an anxious, scared and angry boy returned. Every. Single. Week.

They try to convince him he doesn’t want to come home. I hear their words, hateful, spiteful, nasty words, come out of his innocent 8 year old mouth. And why?!?

Well, why indeed! My ex is so stupid he cannot see that the only people who truly suffer here are the kids. Too stupid to see that one day they will realise he took their loving mother away from them be poisoning their minds.

My daughter is too damaged to see she is destroying her little brother. To see she is an accomplice in a hate campaign which serves no one but her self righteous father. And even then it serves him nothing because he will have the broken children to deal with too.

They claim to love M and only want the best for him. They proclaim it to the world! Then they do the damage quietly while no one is looking.

Taking a child from his mother is not wanting the best for him.

Making him believe his mother is dangerous to him is not the best for him.

Using him as a pawn in a sick twisted revenge plan is not the best for him.

And so it goes on. This is the pattern I endured too. He would tell everyone how he was the perfect husband until the doors were shut and no one could hear him. Then he changed.

I await the day that social services come knocking on my door, or the court case for custody. I have had the threatening letters.

I look forward to showing them the huge backlog of evidence of abuse, recordings, emails, text messages, police reports.

I want them to talk to M so that he can tell them what he tells me. The covert behaviour they think he’s too young to notice. The conversations he’s heard. The lies he knows they have told him.

Yes, I feel down, because I am tired of the fight. A totally unnecessary fight with a sociopathic narcissist who, while claiming he only wants to love those around him, only serves himself and his own needs, with no regard for who gets damaged in the process.

I am afraid I have lost my daughter because she has absorbed his toxic behaviours as her own. I see no evidence to prove me otherwise. She contacted me recently, but only because she believed I could do something for her. It wasn’t out of any real love or compassion. It was to use me for her own ends.

Yes. It hurts like hell. But I will not stop fighting. If it drags me down to the depths of hell, I will fight for my son. So at least one of my children had a chance to see that hatred only brings misery. It makes me ill, physically, mentally and emotionally. But I was too naive with the other two, I didn’t even consider that he would destroy them to get to me.

I won’t make that mistake again.

So, life goes on. Those that know me, know I am not an angry, hateful person, they know that I despise conflict and I detest people who make others feel bad about themselves. They know that I am kind, supportive and caring. They know I’m a little bonkers around the edges, but I would never, ever, deliberately hurt anyone.

I know, deep down, that I am strong and that wobbling once in a while isn’t a true reflection of my strength.

I know that what I have been through, what he has put me through, has changed me permanently, broken me and at the same time fortified me.

I know that real strength is quiet, kind and loving.

I know that perfection is unattainable and I must not stress myself out trying to achieve it.

I know that being the best me I can be, is all I can do, faults and all.

So, today I’ll wobble and tomorrow is a new day.

Today, I accept that.

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Abuse Escalating After the Breakup

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Leaving an abusive man is not an easy decision.

It is, quite frankly, terrifying. Often, abusers have control of the finances, often the abuse will have been consistent for many years and the victim’s confident will be shot to pieces. It’s never a decision that is taken lightly. Nor is it an accusation that is poorly considered.

Often, women in abusive relationships don’t even realise for a long time that they are being abused. Enlightenment can happen slowly, over a long period of time, or suddenly, perhaps if a friend or a professional points out to them that their partner’s behaviour is abusive. Regularly, in the full knowledge of abuse, women stay, hoping that things will change, that they will be able to talk sense into their abuser. Usually they stay because they are afraid, afraid of being alone, afraid of the consequences if they ever decide to leave, afraid of losing their home, their children, their sanity. It often takes several attempts before a victims plucks up the courage to leave permanently.

You cannot talk sense into an abusive person. They do not and will very rarely admit that they are even abusive. In the end there are two choices, accept it, or leave.

You cannot accept it. There is evidence that abuse only gets worse over time, it is a downward spiral and if you are at a point where you have had enough now, just think how much worse it will be in 6 months, a year, in 5 years?

Leaving, though, is a perilous business. Abuse will almost always escalate at the point of leaving, exposing women and children to frightening levels of vulnerability. An abuser will do everything they can to avoid being ‘outed’ as abusive. They will do increasingly bizarre and often dangerous things to ensure that either she does not leave him, or expose him as the person at fault.

It is, without question, the most dangerous time for victims of abuse. Previously emotional and verbal abusers can suddenly become physical abusers. Women and children are often harmed or even killed because she tried to leave and to stop the abuse.

Abusers bother, harass, intimidate and harangue victims once they have declared the relationship over. They stalk, track and follow their victims. They denigrate the victim’s characters, as outlined here in The Smear Campaign and they use anyone they can… family, friends and even the children to support their version of events.

They use child access arrangements to maintain control, they use the handover time as an excuse to harass the victim. They are difficult about child access arrangements, keeping the victim on their toes, preventing them from making other plans because they are unreliable and unpredictable. They try to turn the children against their mother, they include them in aspects of the separation that are wholly inappropriate for the child’s age or maturity, with the slant on it that they are ‘hard done to’, or that financial agreements or access arrangements are ‘unfair’.

The do not ‘move on’, accept the situation for what it is and focus on what is important, they ‘hold on’. Hold on to their own anger, their bad behaviour patterns and their over important sense of ‘entitlement’. Each time that they surprise you and are unexpectedly half reasonable, it is only to be followed by another episode of abuse. It is only ever just around the corner.

In the year since my own separation from an emotionally and verbally abusive man I have been subjected to:

Verbal abuse on the phone. (Several episodes, too many to count.)

Verbal abuse directed at me in front of the children, when he was picking them up for access (On several occasions).

Repeated awkwardness in making plans for access, from refusing to arrange times in advance and expecting to turn up with an hour’s notice at the beginning, to refusing to hand over our youngest child correctly, adult to adult, leaving our child to walk from the road, up a long driveway alone, carrying all his weekend bags and then not staying around long enough to ensure that an adult has greeted him home more recently.

Abuse by text and email. (Again, too many to count.)

Two particularly terrifying episodes of drunkenness and mood swings, during which he led me to believe that he was seriously contemplating suicide, or self-harm while in the family home, or ‘lose the plot’ and do harm to me.

Repeated threats of contacting social services to ‘let them know what a bad mother’ I am.

One threat to contact social services that was in front of our youngest child who was convinced for several months that ‘Daddy is going to get us taken away from you Mum’.

A patio door closed onto me while I was in the doorway and being told to ‘fuck off’.

Turned our daughter against me, twice. Once when she realised after two weeks what he was doing and, more recently, again where to this day she will not talk to me.

Refuses to help or intervene with our daughter to offer up a reasonable perspective, withholds all information about her life/health/schooling from me, despite me making many requests.

Withholds information about our youngest child’s visits, refuses to engage in even the shortest of conversation face to face, by email or text at the beginning or end of visits.

Slated me to everyone we know, I have heard stories about me, the breakup and the children that have been told completely out of context, and he has told people private and personal details of my life (during the marriage and since the breakup, most of which were none of his business) without my knowledge or consent.

My personal and private belongings rifled through, twice, in my bedroom.

My social media is regularly stalked and repeated back to me in angry texts, emails and episodes of verbal abuse.

My property has been destroyed.

The children have been subjected to hearing him verbally bash me to other people.

This is the short list. As you can see, since our separation the abuse has not stopped, it has, in fact only become worse. The only saving grace I have now is that I can ignore much of it and concentrate on repairing the damage he has done to our family, particularly to our youngest child.

He refuses to accept that his behaviour is or has ever been abusive, despite being told by friends and professionals that it is. He refuses to accept that his behaviour has a devastatingly detrimental effect on our children.

I have reached the point where I know that I cannot reason with him and I have come to terms with the fact that I have no choice but to do only what I feel is correct for me and for our children. I am now more than prepared to do whatever I have to do.

If you are in a relationship with an abusive man, do not be fooled into thinking that when you say it is over, things will get better.

Get support and MOST importantly – of utmost importance – keep you and your children safe.

There is a list of organisations on the MSV resources page that will help you through what will be a very difficult time and help you to stay safe.

It IS worth leaving an abusive relationship. It is important that you reclaim your life. It ISN’T going to be easy… just be sure that you have the appropriate support and safeguard yourself and others involved first

***

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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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.

***

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.

Posted in posts by us

Abusive Behaviours and The Cycle of Abuse.

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Abuse isn’t always easy to recognise. Many victim of abuse are confused and have been conditioned to believe that the abuse is normal behaviour.

Some abuse is subtle (discounting or belittling) and some abuse is overt and quite obviously abuse (hitting, punching or locking you in a room). Abuse does not have to be physical to be recognised as abuse,  all form of abuse are damaging, frightening and confusing for the victim.

Here is a checklist of abusive behaviours.

This list is by no means exhaustive, as each relationship is different, but it gives an idea of the most common behaviours of abusers. If you think you’re in an abusive relationship please get help as soon as possible. There is a list of helpful organisations on the resources page.

Verbal Abuse

  • Ignore your feelings
  • Disrespect you
  • Ridicule or insult you then tell you its a joke, or that you have no sense of humour
  • Ridicule your beliefs, religion, race, heritage or class
  • Withhold approval, appreciation or affection
  • Give you the silent treatment
  • Walk away without answering you
  • Criticise you, call you names, shout or swear at you
  • Humiliate you privately or in public
  • Roll his or her eyes when you talk
  • Give you a hard time about socialising with your friends or family
  • Make you socialise (and keep up appearances) even when you don’t feel up to it
  • Seem to make sure that what you really want is exactly what you won’t get
  • Tells you you are too sensitive
  • Is hurtful, especially when you are down or need support
  • Seem energised by fighting, while fighting exhausts you
  • Have unpredictable mood swings, alternating from good to bad for no apparent reason
  • Present a wonderful face to the world and is well liked by outsiders
  • Twist your words, somehow turning what you said against you
  • Try to control decisions, money, even the way you style your hair or wear your clothes
  • Complain about how badly you treat him
  • Threaten to leave or threaten to throw you out
  • Say things that make you feel good, but do things that make you feel bad
  • Leave you stranded
  • Threaten to hurt you or your family
  • Hit or push you, even “accidentally”
  • Seem to stir up trouble just when you seem to be getting closer to each other
  • Abuse something you love: a pet, a child, an object
  • Compliment you enough to keep you happy, yet criticise you enough to keep you insecure
  • Promise to never do something hurtful again
  • Harass you about imagined affairs
  • Manipulate you with lies and contradictions
  • Destroy furniture, punch holes in walls, break appliances
  • Drive dangerously and not slow down when you ask him to
  • behave immaturely and selfishly, yet accuse you of these behaviours
  • Question your every move and motive, somehow questioning your competence
  • Interrupt you; hear but not really listen
  • Make you feel like you can’t win, whatever you do is never right
  • Use drugs and/or alcohol.
  • provoke you to rage, which is “proof” that you are to blame
  • Try to convince you he or she is “right,” while you are “wrong”
  • Frequently say things that are later denied or accuse you of misunderstanding
  • Treat you like a sex object, or as though sex should be provided on demand regardless of how you feel

Emotional Abuse

  • Frequently blames or criticises you
  • Calls you names
  • Ridicules your beliefs, religion, race or class
  • Blames you for “causing” the abuse
  • Ridicules/makes bad remarks about your gender
  • Criticises or threatens to hurt your family or friends
  • Isolates you from your family and friends
  • Abuses pets
  • Tries to keep you from doing something you wanted to do
  • Is angry if you pay too much attention to someone or something else (children, friends, school, etc.)
  • Withholds approval, appreciation or affection
  • Humiliates you
  • Becomes angry if meals or housework are not done to his liking
  • Makes contradictory demands
  • Does not include you in important decisions
  • Does not allow you to sleep
  • Repeatedly harasses/criticises you about things you did in the past
  • Takes away car keys, money or credit cards
  • Threatens to leave or tells you to leave.
  • Checks up on you (listens to your phone calls, reads your messages or emails, checks the mileage on the car, etc.)
  • Tells people you suffer from a mental illness
  • Threatens to commit suicide
  • Interferes with your work or school (provokes a fight in the morning, calls to harass you at work, etc.)
  • Minimises or denies being abusive
  • Abuses your children
  • Breaks dates and cancels plans without reason
  • Uses drugs or alcohol to excuse their behaviour
  • Uses phrases like “I’ll show you who is boss” or “I’ll put you in line”
  • Uses loud or intimidating tone of voice
  • Comes home late refuse to tell you why

Financial Abuse

  • Makes all the decisions about money
  • Takes care of all financial matters without your input
  • Criticises the way or amounts of money you spend
  • Places you on a budget that is unrealistic
  • Prohibits your access to bank accounts and credit cards
  • Refuses to put your name on joint assets
  • Controls your wages
  • Refuses you access to money
  • Refuses to let you work, or makes it difficult for you to work
  • Refuses to get a job
  • Refuses to pay bills
  • Causes you to lose your job

Sexual Abuse

  • Pressures you to have sex
  • Pressures you to perform sexual acts that make you uncomfortable or hurt you
  • Directs physical injury toward sexual areas of your body
  • Puts you at risk for unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Withholds sex or affection
  • Calls you sexual names (“whore”, “bitch”, etc.)
  • Tells anti-woman jokes or demeans women verbally/attacks your femininity
  • Accuses you of having or wanting sex with others
  • Forces you to have sex with others
  • Forces you to view pornography
  • Pressures you to dress in a certain way
  • Disregards your sexual needs and feelings about sex
  • Accuses you of being gay or frigid if you refused sex
  • Spreads rumours about your sexual behaviours
  • Forces you or refuses to let you use birth control
  • Makes unwanted public sexual advances
  • Makes remarks about your sexual abilities in private or in front of others
  • Rapes and sexually assaults you

Using Children

  • Makes you feel guilty about your children
  • Uses children to relay negative messages
  • Uses children to report on your activities
  • Uses access arrangements to harass you
  • Threatens to take custody of your children
  • Threatens to kidnap your children
  • Tells others you’re a bad mother
  • Threatens to report you to social services
  • Plays the children off against one another
  • Alienates you, or attempts to alienate you from your child

Physical Abuse

  • Pushes, grabs or shoves you
  • Slaps you
  • Spits at you
  • Punches you
  • Kicks you
  • Chokes you
  • Pinches you
  • Pulls your hair
  • Burns you
  • Bites you
  • Ties you up
  • Threatens you with a knife, gun or other weapon
  • Uses a knife, gun or other weapon
  • Prevents you from leaving an area/physically restrains you
  • Throws objects
  • Destroys property or your possessions
  • Drives recklessly to frighten you
  • Disregards your needs when you are ill, injured or pregnant
  • Abuses you while you are pregnant
  • Forces you to abort a pregnancy

Some of these examples are from the point of view of a woman being abused by a man, however, we do know that abuse happens in all types relationships. Abuse is unacceptable regardless of who the perpetrator or the victim is.

Abusive behaviours alone are not enough to help you to recognise domestic abuse. All abuse follows a common pattern, known as “The Cycle of Abuse”.

There are three distinct phases in the cycle of abuse which go round and around.

The Honeymoon Phase:

Things are calm, the abuser is kind, thoughtful, sweet and good to you. He says you’re special, you mean the world to him. He is often apologetic about previous abuse, he is ashamed, he doesn’t want to lose you. You’re the best thing that ever happened to him. He may shower you with gifts or surprises, take care of the jobs he wouldn’t normally do around the home, treats you like a princess. Praises you, supports you, loves you in the way that you have always wanted and needed to be loved. He is focussed only on you. He is gentle with you. He says he doesn’t deserve someone as wonderful and kind and forgiving as you. He says he will never hurt you again.

The Tension Phase:

Things start to irritate him. He snaps at you over little things. He becomes more introvert, less focussed on you and more focussed on what you’re doing wrong. This isn’t right, that isn’t right, but yesterday, you explain, it was fine!

“Well today it isn’t, today you’re wrong, today you’re too stupid to remember what happened yesterday, are you deliberately trying to wind me up?” The tension builds, and you can feel it. You dare not ask if he is ok, he will only tell you he is, but you know full well he isn’t. You backtrack, try to work out what happened between the honeymoon bliss and now, but you can’t, because YOU didn’t do anything, this is going on in his mind, this is of his creation. You don’t know this though, so you try to put it all right again, you tell him you love him, you make meals, suggest good times… he tells you to stop smothering him. he’s fine, at least he would be if you’d just shut up and leave him alone. The tension builds, higher and higher, there is nothing you can do to stop it, it is like an avalanche, you know its coming, you can see it rolling down the mountain, you can’t stop it and you can’t get out of the way.  The tension phase turns into:

The Explosive Phase:

The abuse escalates quickly and uncontrollably, he shouts, screams, swears, criticises, belittles, demeans you with no remorse. Your crying means nothing to him, you need to learn to be told, to be disciplined. He says he warned you, but you don’t listen, you NEVER listen. what is wrong with you? You’re mad, thats what it is. No wonder he is so stressed out with you, you’re mental. He tries to be reasonable with you but, no, you can’t be reasonable, you don’t know HOW to be reasonable. Its a wonder anyone likes you, you should be grateful that he sticks around for you, no one else would bother.

He explodes, the tension, his tension, is released, either by verbally, emotionally or sexually demeaning you or he hits you or, more likely, a combination of some or all. Each method leaves scars that do not fade. Each as bad as the next. Each as abusive as one another. It is a torrent of abuse raining down on you relentlessly, it pushes you down, theres no let up. If you try to fight, he just pushes harder, he will be done when he is done, not before. And he will be done when he feels you have received adequate punishment. All you can do is survive it, get through it as best you can.

His tension is released, he feels better, perhaps invigorated, perhaps regretful now. You are hurt, so very hurt, you feel broken… and he says he’s sorry, he says he didn’t mean to hurt you again, he says he doesn’t now why he does that… he says he will make it up yo you… and so we swing back up to the honeymoon period again, and the cycle begins over.

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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.

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 us

How To Support A Victim Of Domestic Abuse – A Basic Guide For Friends And Family.

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Victims of abuse face a problem once they have finally gathered the courage to leave the relationship.

They have to face the world, open up about the abuse, tell others. This, in itself, is a difficult thing to to. Victims feel ashamed that they allowed themselves to be sucked into such a situation, they feel as though no one will believe them.

There are things you can do as the friends, family and essential support network of a victim of domestic abuse, and here are just a few basic pointers.

Firstly, believe them. The abuse DID happen. Victims don’t make this stuff up. They don’t concoct feelings of shame, uselessness, lack of confidence, nervousness or anxiety. They have been abused. Systematically. Over a long period of time. They’re likely confused themselves and need reassurance that you believe them, that they aren’t going mad. They have been abused. Emotionally. Mentally. Physically. And they will doubt themselves, but…

Abuse is abuse. No matter what form it takes.

And abuse damages the very soul of the victim. Lots of support is needed to undo the psychological and emotional scars abuse leaves in it’s wake. You don’t just ‘get over it’. The abuse has left scars and confusion. It has attempted to change the victim to suit the perpetrators ideal of them. Victims often don’t know if their thoughts are their own, or if they are thoughts that have been left over from the brainwashing.

The abuse doesn’t stop at the end of a relationship. Abusers continue to abuse, in any form they can, after a victim has left an abuser. They don’t suddenly come to their senses and stop. Perpetrators feel mortally wounded by the victims rejection, or their perception of rejection in any case. Abusers are used to getting their own way. And the way they got it was by abusing. So they continue, especially when there is a divorce case, finances to split or children involved. Abusers use all of these thing to continue to try and control the victim. Sometimes using the law to assist them.

Make an effort to learn about domestic abuse.

The patterns are always the same. It is, in fact, the patterns that define abuse from more normal behaviours within relationships. Common behaviours at the end of an abusive relationship can include:

Abusers accusing perfectly good mothers of being neglectful. They tell everyone what a terrible person she is. They character assassinate the victim in order to absolve themselves of their own appalling behaviour. They are afraid that if their victim speaks out, people will know them for who they really are. So they jump in first. Telling all and sundry how awful it was for them. How they was no less than driven to that behaviour. How it was all her fault.

They often suddenly want custody of the children, even if they had little to do with their every day well being within the relationship. They involve the children. They try to alienate the children from the victim. They tell sob stories about how terrible she was to him. How he was driven to this abusive behaviour because the victim was so stupid, lazy, thoughtless, mad, *insert insult here*.

They may money grab, telling everyone how they worked so hard for all they have. How it is theirs. How the victim was a freeloader and should be grateful they’re getting anything at all.

They use the divorce as a victim bashing process, tell lies, exaggerate, concoct stories about the victim to make themselves look *hard done by*. They don’t see it as a necessary legal step to separate, they see it as the law supporting their view of the victim therefore justifying their abusive behaviour. They harass, stalk (in person or on the internet), bother, deliberately create difficulties and put obstacles in the way of the victim being able to move on without them.

They want revenge. Or if not revenge, they want absolution for their behaviour. They tell the world and her mother how terrible the victim is as a person. They tell anyone who will listen. They justify, discount and minimise their own behaviour and want to hear you agree with how unreasonable the victim is. No matter how half heartedly you might agree. You’ve agreed in their mind. That’s enough for them. Another step towards complete absolution. They will use anything and everything you say against the victim. There is no moral compass here, just their thirst for revenge and the desire to be justified. They will use your mother, your siblings, your best friends words against the victim, with no shame. When called out on it, they will outright deny, minimise, say it was all a misunderstanding and tell you the victim is hysterical, mental, bonkers. But the victim isn’t mad.

As the friends and family of an abuse victim and perpetrator, there is a game being played and you’re a pawn in it, whether you want to be or not. It’s all a game. Only one person knows the rules. It is the perpetrator alone that picks them and changes them, as and when it suits. They will say one thing to you and another to the victim and something entirely different to someone else. Abusers don’t *care*, those tears aren’t real. The over concern is false. An abuser saying he’s only trying to be *helpful* to the victim is another form of control and ultimately it will be used against her.

The key thing to remember here is that it is a game. The game of *lets make the victim look bad*, and the first rule is… They make the rules. There are no boundaries, no subject off topic, no privacy rights and absolutely no playing the perpetrator at his own game. The nicer you are as a person the easier it is for you to be manipulated by the abuser. Ideally the abuser would like you to question your allegiances to your friend/daughter/sibling. That would be the best outcome for them. So you too can see what a terrible person the victim is and join the abuser in justifying the abuse, or even just get you to stop talking to them, effectively destroying their support network. They’d like to see a family row. People cutting others off. Telling the victim she’s ‘overreacting’ again. Discord and the destroying of the victim’s support network is the ultimate aim. He wants to leave her stranded, alone, preferably broke and without her children and family.

Are we getting a picture here? There is only one aim. Destroy the victim. Provoke reactions. Exacerbate stress. Watch the victim struggle with depression or other mental health difficulties. That way they can say they were reasonable to abuse. Look what they had to put up with? Those poor darlings having to put up with a stark raving bonkers wife/partner. If only she’d been more perfect, less nagging, tidier. If only she hadn’t wanted to have her own mind and make her own decisions. No wonder they snapped, shouted, insulted, controlled, punched them. Right?

RIGHT??

No. Not right.

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So if you really want to help, stand up, be counted and don’t keep quiet. Tell the perpetrator where he can stick it, then go little or no contact, it is the only way, subtleties are completely lost on them. Don’t allow yourself to be dragged into victim bashing conversations. Even if you’re not being negative, the abuser will use something you’ve said, no matter how well meaning, against the victim. Support and reassure the victim. And please, keep supporting them because, believe me, they have a long road to travel. Tell the perpetrator in no uncertain terms that they are abusive and that you will not tolerate it for one more second.

Stand up and say a very LOUD *NO!* to abuse.

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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.

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.