Getting Around Abuse

What proportion of people are abusive?   One percent?  Five percent?  More?

I haven’t been able to confirm this, but I recently heard of a study that concluded abusers like to think — and say — there are many many more abusers out there than there actually are. This makes the abuser feel normal. It can also serve to demoralize their victims to the point where they will not fight back.

Another thing abusers  try to do is isolate their victims.  It’s a classic pattern.  If they are in a relationship with you, they will usually try to alienate you from your friends and family.  They might be hypercritical of anyone you get close to.  Or they might throw roadblocks in your way of seeing that person.  My second wife, who was abusive, used to oppose the efforts I made to keep in touch with my family.  She would do anything from feign illness to start a major fight the day we were to visit them.  The only friends we had as a couple were her friends.

Yet, I’ve been wondering whether the internet is making it more difficult for abusers to isolate their victims. I seem to have noticed that at least several people I’m acquainted with are using the internet as a means of finding the support and affirmation that’s missing from their homes.

It may not be a perfect solution, but it seems to give at least some folks a perspective on themselves that counters the abuser’s take on them.

So, what do you think?  Are people using the net to circumvent their abuser’s efforts to isolate them?  And if so, how effective is it?

___________

Suggested Reading:  “Eight Signs of Partner Abuse”.

12 thoughts on “Getting Around Abuse

  1. Are people using the net to circumvent their abuser’s efforts to isolate them? And if so, how effective is it?

    That’s what I did. I used the net to help me identify that that’s what was happening to me, and then I used the net to reach out for help. Sometimes it was effective and sometimes not. Part of that was my fault because I was steeped in religion. The first place I reached out to was Focus on the Family whose advice is never to leave. I eventually branched out from that, found the statistics on abusers actually changing, read some really good books, connected with others in my position and finally found the strength to tell someone in real life what was happening.

    I can’t speak for others, but the internet saved my life.

    • I’m glad you made it out. Do you recall what the statistics were on abusers actually changing, D’Ma? And do you have any advice for those who might be in a position similar to the one you were in?

  2. There really is no good consensus on the number of abusers who actually change. Anger management courses tend to do nothing but equip an abuser with additional, more subtle weapons for their arsenal. It all depends on the abuser themselves, whether they take responsibility for their actions or not, whether they want to change. It’s just like any other problem one might have. First they must recognize there is a problem and second they must take personal responsibility for their problem. I’m not saying abusers don’t change or that it is impossible, but that really is the exception and it is rare.

    In my particular case the abuser did neither. Recognizing there is a problem is not the honeymoon phase. It is not an apology with a promise to never do it again. It is not buying gifts to make it all better. It’s taking literal, concrete steps to change.

    As for any advice:

    1) No matter how hard it may seem you must take responsibility for changing your situation. Figure out how to break the abusive cycle. The abuser is not going to do that for you.

    2) Reach out, whether it’s the net or IRL. TALK to someone. Get help! I kept this a secret for nearly 20 years. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result.

    3) Grow yourself, begin to take care of yourself, learn who you are.

    4) Don’t fall for your abuser’s promises of change. Seeing is believing.

    • Oh, and familiarize yourself with what the warning signs for abuse are. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

      I’ve posted my story mostly in it’s entirety here. It’s kind of long but broken up into several posts, so don’t feel any obligation to read it, but if I can help one person not to do the same things I did it would be worth it.

    • Thank you for some excellent advice! I hope it benefits many people.

      By the way, I just discovered your link doesn’t work. If you will send the link to me by email, I will fix it for you.

  3. “Abuser” is not limited to the control-freak who closes his victim’s social circles or assaults physically vulnerable members of his family. With some enlightenment about relationships comes painful realization.

    I wish I could say that I had never been abusive, never an abuser. My worst moments have been when I was trying to follow well-accepted published advice on raising children and being a good husband and father. Also I’ve echoed things my father – a wonderful man who wrestled with many demons – did, himself echoing more strongly practices that were accepted in his father’s time. Sins are visited on the children, and the children’s children, through many generations; it does not excuse them but it is true.

    If I could go back; if I could take it back. The pain of realization that you have harmed people you loved, is without escape, and there is no way to bear it. And there is no comfort in knowing that many people, to their dying day, simply hide from that pain by never facing the reality behind it.

    • I know it’s no consolation for the abuse you’ve inflicted, George, but what you’ve done in ending it is simply extraordinary. I have known very few people who can say as much. I hope you will be able to forgive yourself, because I think you have done your best — which is all that can be asked of any of us.

      I believe you’re right that abuse is passed down from one generation to the next, or from one person to the next. My ex-wife was abused as a child. She was just passing on the way she had been taught to treat people. For that and other reasons, I didn’t feel hatred towards her. I had to leave, but I left without animosity.

    • You are absolutely right in saying that “abuser” is not limited to control-freaks who close their victims off.

      I applaud you for being able to admit your own abuse and for ending the cycle. I believe it does take the realization of the pain you’ve inflicted to do so. That’s a hard thing to face in oneself. Many are unable to do so. For them reality is what they say it is and they’re unable to admit there might be another.

  4. There is a dandy little book by one Jay Carter titled Nasty People in which he discusses the core element of abuse, in his term “invalidation.” I think he put his finger on it nicely: all abuse involves making the abused person feel as if he is powerless, doesn’t count, deserves it, doesn’t have the right to fight back, or will inevitably suffer if he fights back. Carter does a good job of describing how invalidation works, from casual passages of everyday life when we are not as noble a person as we would like to think we are, right up through the people who use it with consistency and deliberation as a life strategy.

    I think of this book because in later writings, he took the trouble to ballpark the number of people who are prone to lapse into invalidating behavior but have not adopted it as a way of life — inevitably, as everyone’s noted, they’ve suffered heavy invalidation themselves — and the number of people who are really hardcore, toxic, unlikely-to-change abusers. He put the abuse-prone group at about twenty per cent and the serious abusers at about 1%. He admits that’s a pantseat estimate but it draws of years of observation.

    It’s a book worth reading because it does not pathologize abuse to the extent a lot of writing on the subject does, and offers some good working strategy for dealing with abusive behavior wherever you find it, whether it’s a passing problem that looks correctable or involves the kind of person you simply have to get away from.

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