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Portrait of Abuse

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I was talking to a friend of mine the other day; she was formerly in an abusive relationship. She is out of it now, attending college, and happily pursuing a career in the entertainment business.

Talking to her made me think about abusive relationships in general and so I started looking into the subject on the web. I thought perhaps I could do a story on it. Obviously it is a huge and complex area to even begin to digest in one or two days, but let's just say that the subject resonated with me very deeply and even just a little research on it literally stunned me.    

That was the first really in-depth discussion she and I had ever had on that topic. Always before she would tell me one or two little things that, by themselves, seemed to be simply annoying habits or personality traits of her boyfriend. This time, though, she went into more detail and pieces of what I knew started to fit together better in my mind. The picture of her life that emerged during that discussion was entirely different than the one I had previously held.     

I started my research by looking at some basic facts about abusers and how they operate and why they are so seemingly successful at what they do for so long and so often are never prosecuted for ruining the lives of the person that they supposedly "love" the most.

First off, I found a general profile of an abuser and read over it. The description it gave was one I was familiar with from listening to my friend tell of incidents in her life. She said her boyfriend always tried to control everything she did, that he was jealous, and that he manipulated her entire life.  

The abuse in her case wasn't often physical in the sense of beatings, but she did mention a few specific incidents in which he was violent — one where he found her dancing with someone in a bar one night and he walked onto the dance floor, grabbed her and dragged her out of the place by her hair.    

Another time was when she was pregnant with his child and he was demanding that she abort the baby as a condition of him staying with her. That time her brother was advising her to keep her baby and the boyfriend went to her brother's house and threatened to ram his truck through their home if he (the brother) didn't keep his nose out of "their" business. Another time he was angry and choked her till she nearly passed out while his best friend took their small son outside so he wouldn't see what daddy was doing to mommy.

Alienating the victim from her friends and family is a method that abusers have to manipulate and control the lives of their victims. The example above is obviously one instance of this in her life. Another would be that he said she didn't need any other friends beside himself as he should be her best friend. He also refused to allow her to go out by herself alone or with her friends and so she lived in a small, tightly controlled world.

Her abuser was more of the emotional and financial abuser. Some of the emotional abuse aspects were to put her down in front of his and her friends and to make crude jokes and laugh at her and encourage others to do the same. When he did allow her to get a job he took every paycheck she made and spent the money on himself all the while crying poverty to her. She never really knew the truth for many years because he kept his income and expenses a closely guarded secret. Only later did it come out that he had been lying to her about money the whole time of their relationship.

I asked her why she never left him and she told me that she had tried, many times, but that the abuse had her so down on herself she just didn't think that she had anywhere to go. She had no money as he took it all. Her home, car, and essentially everything she had was always in his name and so for her to even escape in her car would potentially result in her arrest because it was really "his" and he would never marry her so she had no real rights under the law. That is another way that abusers work, they actively use the legal system to control their victims.

One last way he used control mechanisms on her was by kidnapping their son every time she tried to leave him. She told me of at least three times when she tried to leave and he had his family grab the child and take him to their house and refuse to allow her any contact with him until she agreed to return to and stay with her abuser. In one instance his sister literally waited for her in the dark and when she showed up the sister accosted her and dragged the child out of her arms and took him to her house. That time she called the police and, after making sure the boy was in no physical danger, they told her there was nothing they could do.

I was surprised to learn this behavior is common among abusers. I guess that, by now, you are starting to see just how complex these issues are and how twisted the minds of abusers are, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Abusers often have other sorts of psychopathologies, which either create or intensify the potential for abuse in them. While I was doing my research I ran across an area that is so bizarrely intriguing, I had to mention it here. The area is Narcissism (self love).

Within Narcissism there are various "types" of self-love. Many involve the love of objects as well as seeing people other than themselves as objects and themselves as the only "real" person. These people can derive sexual stimulation and even orgasm just from proximity to these objects or from touching them. These disorders are called Paraphilias and take many forms (Abnormal Sexual Behaviors, Deviant Sexual Behaviors, Deviant Sexual Arousal, Perverse Sexual Behaviors). Some examples of better known objects and/or activities that are commonly used as sexual fetishes would be animals, shoes, feet, cross dressing, dead people, sleeping people, children and becoming children themselves.

I found this last one especially creepy since my friend had just told me that her now ex boyfriend has a diaper fetish. This is called Infantilism. This manifested in my friend's ex as the desire to wear diapers and actually use them like a baby would and to be able to achieve an orgasm simply by wearing a diaper and stroking it. She said he also liked to make her wear a strap-on and do him from behind so there is obviously another "different" component to his particular mental makeup and I am not sure how that fits into the whole scenario.

I noticed that quite a few sites on Parafilia are written by sufferers of these disorders and they seem to try to lessen the severity of the disorder. I found a book titled Sex Crimes and Paraphilia (available from this page), which seems to contradict the "harmless" nature of these disorders. If you go to the Table of Contents of that book and scroll down through it, you will see Infantilism listed under the classification of "Harming Children" right along with incest and Pedophilia.

I showed this information to my friend and she was stunned. She has escaped at this point, but predictably her "boyfriend" had their child grabbed before she left and has subsequently demanded that she return, threatening that if she didn't she would never see the child again. She held firm though and he refused her access to the child unless she agreed to come to his house to see the child, alone. Since he was also sexually abusive and used forced sex as a "punishment," she again held out and refused.

He used this to point out to everyone the couple knew, including his and her families that it was evidence that she had "abandoned" their son. Kidnapping of a couple's children and controlling visitation is another common method used by abusers to maintain control of their victim. Another is using the friends and family of their victim against them.

In a recent development my friend finally got up the courage to refuse to speak to her abuser, even over the phone. She instead tried to make him go through a third party. This was on the advice of a domestic abuse website. His reaction was to again withhold her son from her even though doing so was a direct violation of the court approved custody agreement the two had. His response was to have his mother call the state police to try to force her to speak to him. She finally relented after he and his family agreed to treat her decently when they called.

Now he is filing for child support and she has a hearing with him at Domestic Relations. He tried once before, but outside the hearing threatened her middle person not to interfere with him. In the hearing he called her "the world's worst mother" in front of the hearing officer and almost lost control altogether. He dropped the request for support at that time. Since then he has re-filed his request. This has obviously become another mechanism by which he thinks he can control her and force her to come to meet him. He is using the legal system to achieve his goals! This is so textbook abuser it is scary.

She even bought her six-year-old son his own little Migo cell phone so she could call him and he could call her without her having to speak to the abuser. He always answered when she tried to call her son and she didn't want to give him even that power over her. The phone worked for 2 days after she gave it to her son and has since been unreachable.

That is her story until now. She is rebuilding her life and is a totally different person than the one I used to know. She dresses up and takes care of herself, her eyes sparkle when she talks and she actually seems genuinely happy for the first time in as long as I have known her. Her abuser is at least 99% controlled and out of her life. Her scars may never heal, but at least they are just memories now.   

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About Mike Johnston

  • Bliffle

    Abusers are good at deceiving the victim into believing that the abuser holds all the cards, and the victim is tempted to believe because he sees the abuser get away with things all the time. Very fearsome situation.

  • the offended

    I am sorry, but I do not see the correlation between fetishes and abuse?
    I mean, kudos on everything else and all, couldn’t agree w/ you more, but your demonization of fetishes is simply an overgeneralization and fails to consider a very large percentage of men and women who secretly share these often harmless desires.
    They are no longer listed under psychological disorders.
    It is just chance that this madman has this, and if there was any correlation, it would be that the world did not accept him for it, which led to his becoming an abuser.
    Infantilism does not harm or include children in any way, thats pedophilia.
    Its kind of like homosexuality, its not chosen, its random in its choice of people, and is just another expression of the diverse realm of human sexuality.
    Most don’t ‘suffer’ them, and its not self love, or narcisism, thats another desire entirely.
    Don’t become an abuser yourself of those that have no public voice to defend themselves.

  • http://abusesanctuary.blogspot.com Barbara

    I am adding this to my site on abuse. This is wonderful!!

  • http://groups.msn.com/thewebofnarcissism abusedone

    Destructive Narcissists have very wierd ideas about sex. They seem people as OBJECTS only and get off by manipulating them emotionally – getting women to do things sexually they would never do otherwise. Of course, once done the woman isn’t “good enough” for them so they abuse her to both make her leave and make themselves feel better. If she doesn’t leave thinking “if I just love him more…” they abuse and manipulate worse.

    Since people are just objects – then sexually they need more & more to get their rush, like drug addicts. Paraphilias abound in Destructive Narcissism.

    Good article.