The Many Deceptions and Disguises of Relationship Abuse

Abuse presents itself in many forms and disguises, blurring the ability to identify it 

Abuse: The Masked Bandit

“He apologized.” “He is only violent after drinking.” “He’s just passive-aggressive.” “No one understands him as I do.” “He tells our children that my opinions and behaviors are crazy.” “I was antagonizing him.” “He left me without money at Penn Station.” “We are financially strapped, but he will stop when our lives improve.” “She locked me outside of our hotel room while we were on vacation.” “He threatened to kill our dog.” “He’s only degrading and hyper-critical. It’s not abuse because I never had bruises or broken bones…right?”

Abuse is deliberate! Abuse’s intent and purpose is to maim and render powerless. It presents itself in many forms and disguises, sometimes blurring the ability to identify abuse. Abusive behavior does not always leap out and roar. Rather, there are subtler forms of abuse that gently tap you on the shoulder until you believe certain destructive patterns are normal – a “normal” relationship dynamic.

Abuse rarely presents itself in a linear and sequential fashion. It is a gifted dancer and can sway from physical to emotional to verbal and back again – without warning.

More Than Skin Deep

The impact of violent behavior:

|unravels self esteem|

|undermines worthiness and value|

|suppresses growth|

|exacerbates shame|

|exposes vulnerabilities|

|psychological symptoms: depression, heightened anxiety, chronic headaches, and more|

More Than Black & Blue

Physical abuse is more than bruises and broken bones. While the physical signs of abuse are the easiest to recognize, the more subtle signs are equally damaging.

It is undeniable that beating, choking, biting, and kicking causes physical harm. Additionally, pinning you down (i.e., sitting on you and cutting off your airway), abandoning you in unfamiliar and dangerous places, aggressively pulling your hair, driving at high speeds and pulling the key out of the ignition or opening the door, or withholding aid when you are injured or pregnant is also deemed physical abuse.

Not The Price of Love

Forced sexual activity should never be accepted as the price of intimacy. Sexual abuse not only includes forced and unwanted sex. Withholding sex, refusing to practice safe sex, hiding birth control, and stopping you from using birth control is also abusive.

Psychological Warfare

Psychological trauma is the bruise that does not always show, but can last far longer than the scars of physical abuse. Emotional abuse lurks in well-hidden places. It is often a veiled and indirect form of control.

This form of abuse is cumulative – not a single event – but a systematic process of control. Emotional abuse can occur without verbal abuse; however, verbal abuse naturally has emotional abuse attached to it.

When someone _______________________ , this is abuse.

screws with your head by using the tactic of gaslighting – practice of manipulation whereby your partner breaks down your ability to trust your feelings, instincts, and distorts your understanding of reality

shames you into thinking that “you” are bad, less than, or never good enough

compliments you enough to keep you happy, but criticizes you enough to keep you insecure

withholds approval, affection, appreciation, and love

plays the push-n-pull game: chronically pulls away and re-establishes closeness without a reason

threatens to leave or kick you out, especially if you are the financially dependent partner

exhibits an unhealthy and overwhelming level of dependency, often saying he/she can’t live without you or will kill themselves if you exit the relationship

blames and yells at you for everything that goes wrong even if they are at fault

cuts off access from your support network, family/friends

mimics and insults your appearance, competence, characteristics, behaviors, or traits privately or in public

consistently places you on the receiving end of humiliation, disrespect, threats, and manipulation

How To Get OUT

Recognizing and acknowledging the patterns and signs of an abusive relationship is the first step to ending it. If you recognize yourself or know someone who wants OUT, but does not know how to leave – where to go – things to do to remain safe – who to talk to – there is available help.

National Domestic Violence Hotline or call 1−800−799−SAFE(7233) for free, confidential advice.

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