UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
[July 3, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
A while ago, we wrote a post called How To Spot An Abuser Who Claims To Be The Victim
That post included the statement that —
It really is not that difficult to recognize an abuser. Their mentality of power, control, entitlement and justification always betrays itself in their speech and you can hear it if you know what to listen for.
I have had some second thoughts on this. Having read so many times now (from experts like Robert Hare, George Simon Jnr., Martha Stoddart) that even the experts can be deceived by sociopaths and psychopaths, because these individuals without conscience can play their manipulative tune on anybody’s heart strings, I think maybe we should revise what we’ve said.
Maybe it’s more like this:
When the abuser has his Jekyll face on, he can fool even the experts. He can fool the woman he’s targeting to get her to marry him. And when she realizes she’s been victimized and announces the relationship is over, or declares, “I am going public: I’m telling the pastor and the counselor what you are really like and how you’ve been treating me!” the abuser will initially go to great lengths to show his Jekyll face with just the right amount of believability to influential people, in order to discredit the victim’s disclosures.
But when spurned abusers anonymously rant and rave in emails to Jeff or me, or submit comments on our blog (which they don’t do often, but it happens occasionally and we don’t publish them) then you can see the Hyde face – and the language is pretty easy to pick out, as Jeff described in that previous post.
So I think we need to make this clear. If we say “abusers are easy to pick out when you know how to recognize their language”, we are going to make victims feel like dummies because they didn’t pick out that man as an abuser when he was wooing them. So maybe we should be saying “abusers are NOT easy to pick out when they have their Jekyll face on; but when the victim breaks free from the relationship, the abuser then selectively reveals his Hyde face (his true face) more publicly – especially when he can do so using a false name in emails and nasty rants on the internet.”
And maybe when the spurned abuser feels his Jekyll face is no longer giving much payoff, he lets the Hyde face show more, and then it is pretty easy to pick out the language of the abuser.
I’d love to hear others thoughts on this.
[July 3, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to July 3, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to July 3, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to July 3, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (July 3, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
Marks of a pretend victim versus a true victim
The Language of abusers who portray themselves as victims: Vagueness & Contradictions
59 thoughts on “How easy IS it to spot an abuser, when he is both Jekyll and Hyde?”
Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog [Internet Archive link].
Hi. New here. Just stumbled on to this wonderful website. I too, have wondered how people could possibly believe the craziness that comes out of my ex-abuser’s mouth but I have to remind myself I was fooled by him at one point too! I noticed in this article when there was a paraphrased description of an abuser’s response and I noticed right away that he was condescending by immediately lashing out. I often wonder who all actually believes my ex is a victim of abuse because he is such an excellent performer and I am no longer a victim, as I once was.
So if you were to hear my side and hear his side, I was once a victim, but I no longer am because I escaped him. I was very unsure of myself when I was still a victim but now I am not. So when I say I am 100% sure he is a pathological narcissist, I know it is true, but I didn’t at first. (At first, I ignorantly assumed a narcissist was simply a vain person.) I noticed he kept calling other people (some of my friends, etc.) narcissists constantly. Over time, I noticed he kept accusing me of things I knew I was not doing. I later found out he was doing those things he kept accusing me of doing (projection). I finally Googled that very sentence, “what does it mean when someone keeps accusing me of doing something he himself is doing” and the word narcissist appeared. I was floored. I then learned about projection and discovered I was being emotionally abused. I could not believe I did not recognize I was being abused. I stupidly assumed it would be an obvious blatant thing. But no one intentionally enters into an abusive relationship, it is subtle and clever how they fool you.
Basically, what I am trying to say is that you mentioned how you can spot a victim is because they are unsure of themselves, confused, etc. I was all of those things but I am not now. I am fully in tune to what happened and I thank the Lord I saw the light! So if you were to hear our two sides now, I am afraid he would fool you. Because I am no longer a weak and confused scared victim. I don’t know if any of this even makes sense and I am sorry if I wasted anyone’s time. By the way, I know he will not see this because he would not dare step foot on a website like this as he is a proud and blatant anti-theist.
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Hi Jessica, “projection” is a psychological term that is much misused. Even many mental health professionals misuse it!
I encourage you to read this comment it explains this more.
Thank you, Barbara. I do not see how I misused projection. He did accuse me of the things that HE was guilty of doing. He did this constantly. Is this not projection? While he did (and I am sure he still does) always blame everyone for everything going wrong in his life, that is not projection. Am I wrong? Please let me know. Thanks.
Great question! I know Barb will answer your question when it’s daytime in OZ, but I wanted to give a couple of thoughts as I am also trying to accurately understand the term ‘projection’. If I put my thoughts here then Barb can correct me. 🙂
Popular psychology has terribly misconstrued and twisted the term projection from its original intent. According to Dr. George Simon projection was originally coined as an ego defense mechanism (EDM). All EDMs operate unconsciously — with the primary purpose of preventing an experience of unbearable pain or to lessen anxiety. Basically, the purpose is to prevent something feared from happening and thus comes from a defensive posture. For example, let’s say that Person A feels hatred towards Person B, but this feeling is so contrary to Person A’s moral standard and they cannot see themselves as a person capable of hatred that it causes an unbearable level of anxiety within them. So to quiet this anxiety they unconsciously project the hatred they have of Person B on to Person B and say that Person B instead hates them (Person A). Now Person A no longer has to wrestle with feeling that they hate another person. (This may be a bad example – my apologies if it just caused more confusion.) [Barb here: it is an excellent example.]
In summary, projection is a defense mechanism that is done unconsciously with the purpose of preventing or lessening a painful experience or extreme level of anxiety.
Now let’s consider the abuser. Is he feeling an intense level of anxiety or pain when he is blaming others? No. Is his behavior being done unconsciously? No. Is the abuser on the defensive trying to protect himself against an unbearable situation? No.
Instead Dr. Simon explains that the abuser is operating from a conscious mental state. He knows what he is doing. The abuser’s primary purpose is to ensure that what he wants to happen, happens. He wants to minimize his abusive behavior, get the focus off himself, convince you to concede to his point of view, etc. He has no level of anxiety – actually his behavior is a reflection of the fact that there is not enough anxiety present, and he is not in a defensive posture. He is not defending anything, rather he is being offensive. At the moment he is engaged in his abusive behavior he is on the offense; he is fighting you for what he wants. Dr. Simon calls these behaviors Offensive Power tactics.
The example you gave of your abuser is simply called blaming / blaming shifting or scapegoating. (Some people call is ‘projecting blame’, but I don’t like to use that term as it too closely resembles the misused term ‘projection’.)
I don’t know if this helped or just caused more confusion. We will wait for Barb to chime in with her insights. 🙂
Twbtc — you’ve explained it very very well. 🙂 THANK YOU!
I only tweaked a bit of the punctuation in your comment, to make it easier to understand.
Thanks, Twbtc and Barbara! I am so glad you cleared that up and corrected me. I don’t really know what to call it since the abuser does this intentionally and knowingly when projection is actually done without realizing it. Is there a term to use for when an abusive person does this? Other than saying the abusive person is being a hypocrite. Thanks again and hopefully I am not asking too many questions on here. I appreciate your time.
I’ve had a further thought about this.
Abusers falsely blame — unjustly accuse — their targets. And there is a particular sub-set of this kind of behaviour. The sub-set is this: abusers often unjustly accuse their target of the sins that the abuser is most habitually indulging in.
This form of blaming, this particular kind of false accusation, seems to be very common with abusers. And because it has one element in common with ‘projection,’ they are easily conflated and confused.
The element in common:
In both cases, person A is attributing to person V a characteristic that person A has.
The element that is different:
In projection, person A is doing it as an unconscious defence mechanism.
In abuse, person A is doing it intentionally to hurt person V.
And here is the wise-as-serpents take home message:
In abuse, person V can wisely suspect that the very things person A is falsely accusing them of are things that person A is actually doing.
This is perfect! Many of us were wrongly taught that everyone is the same and thus everyone uses defense mechanisms but we now know that everyone is NOT the same and that those with no or low empathy are ACTIVELY seeking to harm others and have their own selfish agenda. They are NOT trying to cover up their fears but are actually revealing their true nature when they accuse and lie.
I just read your message, I am sorry for such a late response. Thank you for [the] observations, they make complete sense. We hear from a lot of victims who think they are going crazy. Offenders of every sort are good at making their victims think that they are the ones who have all the problems.
I too had no idea about who my abuser was. We had a few children together [details redacted by Eds]. His abuse was so slow and calculated that I was in a constant state of confusion. I stayed this way for several years. I begged to go to counseling with him. He then told me I had a mental illness [label of that illness redacted by Eds] and listed the reasons why. He said he researched my behavior. He made sure I had memorized “my behaviors” then sent me to a therapist where I repeated exactly what he told me. And I actually bought into it and believed at the time I must be.
His confusing behavior began to increase drastically. Nothing made sense and I hated myself. I was unhinged and desperate because I couldn’t understand everything happening around me. I had an older child from a previous marriage. My abuser told me that the older child and I had a bad relationship and that he should be the one to address this child’s adolescent behavior because I was unfit to do so. Unsteadily I agreed with the condition of whatever we agreed to do in addressing this child’s behaviors, it was to be made clear to this child that the parenting strategies were from both of us. I would later find out that he wasn’t addressing this child’s bad behaviors but rather was encouraging them, and blaming the adolescent child’s problems on me. Telling the adolescent that no good mother would ever be upset with the bad behaviors the adolescent was acting out such as total disrespect for me, teachers etc….
Another example. At times he would take one of our children to his workshop which was on our property, which was odd because he never wanted to be disturbed. After time would pass I was worried that I needed to make sure that I should go to the workshop and make sure I didn’t need to get that young one and bring them back to the house. Many times he would say that young child wanted to visit our next door neighbor. I just asked him to please let me know things like that. Later our neighbor would bring the child back saying “look who I found”. After our divorce I found out he just had our child go over there without speaking to our neighbor about it, then telling the neighbour that I never watched the young child and this worried him because I was so unstable. So when the neighbor brought the young one back to me, I didn’t act alarmed because I had been told it was arranged. When I didn’t act concerned, it confirmed what my abuser had been accusing me of.
These are just a couple of examples. Unknown to me he had been “setting “ me up like this for….I’m guessing at least several years. As I said over time I was so confused, things didn’t make sense and I became the exact picture of “crazy” he had been painting of me secretly to many people.
My parents both died, so I was grieving….
I got the courage to leave and I sent him an email suggesting a temporary separation and we could have some space and once we each had a healthy household we could then seek to reconcile. I called one of my living relatives to tell them I left and couldn’t believe their response: “we are prepared to get you the help you need we are very worried about you”. My abuser had been secretly calling what family I had left about my “bizarre behaviors and my mental health diagnosis etc.” I panicked and felt more confused than ever and was just in shock and disbelief. I stayed away one night and felt so bad for my abuser because I put myself in his shoes and knew how much he missed the kids even that one night. I was terrified to go back but my empathy told me it was the right thing to do. He promised we could talk things out.
When I went back, he grabbed the kids and pushed me out. He served divorce papers on me. He is very wealthy and I had less than twenty dollars. [Many details redacted from this paragraph.]
I would spend two years trying to find legal help but to no avail. Many wanted to help pro bono but because of his wealth he could just “money me out every time”. And it would tie up their resources. And it’s important to understand that I believed I was a bad mom and everything he told me I was, or at least considered it could be true.
It is years later now. The end result…. He has custody of our children. My abuser is engaged to someone the same age as my oldest child. My oldest child is now married and abusive. I work but that’s it. I’m afraid to go anywhere. I see my kids when he allows me. He still continues his attempts to keep me confused and well….it’s just too much to write. I haven’t even mentioned the scariest parts. What I have explained seems like a fairy tale compared to what I left out.
What I want to let everyone know is that during our split I DID look like an unhinged lunatic. He was the picture of reason and well put together. I don’t blame people for believing him because I would have too. Some day I want to help women that face the things as I did. I can’t do that until my children are adults because I still have to submit to him or I will pay the price of having the kids completely held from me. And no….the police won’t help.
Everyone always said through the divorce era “he can’t do that, it’s not even legal”. BUT HE DID. He is very wealthy and I was homeless. The horrors I faced and still continue to face are unbelievable. The difference now is that I know what fact vs fiction is. I don’t believe anything he says. His word means nothing and he constantly proves this.
At this point in what I have written I’m not even sure if anything will make much sense because you probably have so many questions about how he got away with so much.
So for now I am trying to figure out the steps I can take in a few years to be able to help the women that are going through something similar to what I did. Because our legal system failed me. I turned to God for help. Even well before I left that day. I checked myself into a faith-based 9 month domestic violence program that cost me nothing which I am forever grateful for. But my children are still being raised by a dangerous person and I worry about the damage he is doing to their moral character. I have no idea what my children believe happened and why they live with him instead of me. I can only imagine what he has told them but I refuse to put my children in the middle of this nightmare. I don’t speak badly about their father and I don’t question them. I wouldn’t change anything.
Lately I have felt that I’m getting stronger to make changes in my life and consider the possibility of having friends again. But God is always with me and I count on Him to keep the hate out of my heart. It does creep in from time to time but I have learned so much and I have experienced things not many people have. It is very hard for people to understand any of this unless you have lived it. That is why those of us that have lived through it and we’re able to overcome it in any degree, we must step up and speak out otherwise it will continue to go unnoticed and unrealized that this is a problem. I get it….you don’t want to suffer the consequences from your abuser if they were to find out you’re speaking out. But we MUST! It is my belief that it is not God’s intention to have lived through all of this just to keep quiet. What a shame that would be. Right?
Dear sister, thank you so much for your comment. Your abuser is a wicked wicked man, and extremely cunning and skilful at his abuse. He gaslighted you massively — making you think you were crazy when you were not crazy at all, you were simply being manipulated by him. He basically invaded your mind and made you believe all sorts of falsehoods about yourself.
I think you will find it very helpful to read our Don Hennessy Digest. It is about how the skilled male abuser invades the mind of the target woman and infects her mind with his virus.
And we always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog. There are tips there about how to disidentify your comments so that your abuser and his allies will not be able to easily recognise that you wrote it.
And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.
I’m so very glad you shared what you did, PositiveACK. I know about the whole “setting up” process, the behind your back, so-called ‘concerned’ calls about your ‘bizarre behaviors and mental illness’, the ‘you’re crazy, you need immediate therapy’ setup, the labeling you as ‘unstable’, the keeping you in the dark, all of it.
I really do wonder if abusers don’t spend most of their time plotting this kind of stuff, networking with other abusers for ideas / setups, because despite my not having kids, there’s very similar undertones to some of what was done to you versus me. I assume you gave the easiest examples, the ‘nicest’ ones, the least harmful ones.
My abuser was also very violent and brutal. Sadistic. Perverted. A rapist. You may or may not have experienced such. He didn’t mark up my face, but rather did a lot of things to inflict head injuries, violently thrash me, and deprive my brain of oxygen. PTSD also shrinks your brain. Extreme stress does too.
And what is left in the end? A made-to-look ‘crazy’ woman who must deal with all such inflicted damages….less able to speak, to come across well….which heavily contrasts with the smooth, polished, slickster attorneys, and the abuser, himself.
You are in my prayers tonight, PositiveACK.
Absolutely spot on, Barbara! Often, the Jekyll face is interpreted as a change of heart by Christians who know about the abuse but want to give him a chance to reform. What they fail to grasp is that the “good” face is part of the dynamic of abuse, and evidence that abuse is present. Of course we know that it is not, in essence, good, but evil that is parading as good. And if the devil himself can dress up as no less than an angel of light, why do we not think it possible that evil can put on a thoroughly convincing good mask?
You are so right, Anonymous. After all, it is the oldest trick in the book to be beguile someone, in fact it literally was the very first trick in the Good Book and they are masters at it. I should not even care who believes me or doesn’t. But when I try to shed light on these matters, it is to help someone who may be in the same situation I was once in and not to parade myself as a victim because for one, I no longer am one. But when I was still in victim mode, I felt so guilty for “breaking my promises” to my ex, promises that I would not desert him like all of his other exes did. I felt like I had to hold my end of the bargain or else I was breaking a promise which is dishonest. What I finally had to get through my head was the fact that I OWE NO LOYALTY TO SOMEONE WHO ABUSED ME. When he abused me, all of that became null and void. After all, I made promises to Dr. Jekyll when I was unaware there even was a Mr. Hyde.
Living this right now. I have asked for the divorce, asked him to move out, but he will not leave, though he claims to accept responsibility and respect my decision. Even claims to love me.
Meanwhile, his ‘repentance’ has led him to do all the things I could never get him to do – eat dinner with us as a family, go to church, cleaning the house, etc. But all these “nice” things are filled with the unrelenting cruelty that shows me that 1) he has known all along HOW to behave, but always chose not to, and 2) he’s doing it all for himself to show everyone what a great guy he can be. He’s basically trying to create the illusion for the children before he is forced to go. He’s frantically trying to make memories of the way things never were.
What am I to do? If I call him on this he’ll just say I’m bitter and unfair. If I let him continue, he’ll have more time and opportunity to deceive the children and plant these ideas in their heads of what kind of family we are. (They are under 10, so it’s not like I can explain any of this to them on ANY level, and we haven’t told them of the split yet because I don’t want to tell them until there’s a definite plan for the new living arrangements to tell them.)
Dear Little Miss Me,
I echo everything Anon said below (and thanks, Anon, for articulating your wisdom so clearly). I would just like to reaffirm the value of getting support from the DV secular support system, and the justice system. Where I live, it is often possible to obtain a protection order that forces the abuser to leave the family home. The police can make him leave, and even provide short term accommodation vouchers for a local motel, so the guy is not immediately homeless. I know it might seem like a radical step, and your abuser would be sure to play the victim violin with it, and use it to try to enlist the children against you, but it may be the best way (or the quickest way) to get him to leave. Your local DV support services can advise you whether this option is available in your area.
Bless you, and I’ll be praying for you.
I was in kind of the same situation. I think the best thing to do, and I am sure you must have heard it a lot, is to do what is in your best interest. He will use whatever you do to discredit you anyway. You will be damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Only in his eyes though. So if you refuse to see things through his perspective, you are not damned!
As the kids grow older they will see through it, but they want to be attached to both parents, so it’s understandable if they react against us now when we are painted in a bad light. Some may even learn to be his mouthpiece. But it is most likely that as you stand your ground with honesty, love, truth, integrity, etc. they will see you for who you are, so if you can ride through this phase, knowing they are fellow-victims, albeit much more powerless and voiceless ones, you know it won’t last for long.
If you have a support system (DV case worker, friends who understand, lawyer, counselor, etc.) you can run through your plans or the next step, as sometimes you can only plan concretely one step at a time because what he does may be unpredictable. And you will need their support for when he increases his abusive tactics and de-rails your plans.
Maybe if the thought is planted in his head that a truly remorseful abuser will yield to the victim’s demands, he may see himself as the good guy for leaving and showing you he means business, in the hope that you will have him back.
I’ll be thinking of you and praying for you!
Thank you for posting this. I did feel “like a dummy”, knowing I missed the signs. 3 different times I experienced the “repentance” and “changed man”. I totally empathize with “Little Miss Me”:
I am continually amazed there are other women who understand what it’s like to live with an abusive man.
Good correction, Barbara, thanks for catching that and clarifying.
Kay, I not only ‘missed the signs’ when I got into my first marriage when I was completely ignorant about domestic abuse, I missed them (or chose to overlook them) when I got into my second marriage after I’d been writing and networking and studying on domestic abuse for years. If it’s true to say that I chose to overlook those signs when getting in to the second marriage, the question I ask myself is Why? And I think I overlooked them because they seemed so minor, and seemed so greatly counteracted by the many ‘great’ things he was projecting, which made him seem like an ideal husband for me. (The second marriage ended on April 1st this year.)
I get so much comfort from knowing that Robert Hare, Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, who developed the standard diagnostic instrument for psychopathology, the Psychopathology Checklist, says this about psychopaths:
If Robert Hare can ‘miss the signs’, those signs were either totally absent at the beginning, or the psychopath spun things so well that the signs were invisible….until later on, when hopefully his victim is able to reflect back and see everything that happened in its true and pick up those minute signs in retrospect.
If you have a copy of my book, or look at the cover on my FB page or Amazon [Affiliate link], you will see that the cover of the book evokes this experience. When we turn the picture round, everything looks different and makes sense in a new way. I’m still having this reconfiguration happening most nights when I wake up about 5 in the morning and ruminate…. “Ooh! That’s what was going on then! That’s what he was doing then!”
We tend to deal with issues as they come up, trying to be a loving, forgiving spouse, who does not hold grudges of past wrongs and who seeks, always, to reconcile. Which is a good thing.
However, in the case of abuse, that open-heartedness is manipulated and taken advantage of.
Over years of repeating scenarios it is easy to look back and see patterns and tell-tale signs. While you’re living it, it is much more difficult to see….
Thanks everyone. So helpful to have the support.
I do not have a DV case worker. There’s only one service organization in my area for abuse survivors and I haven’t contacted them for several reasons. Mainly, all their materials talk only about violence survivors, and I’m not sure they would even deal with me since I’ve “just” suffered emotional abuse. Would they? I even looked at some of the organizations in adjacent areas and they seem the same. Secondly, there are people affiliated with our local agency that have worked with both myself and him, even though not very closely, it’s a bit more of a challenge to go to them and say “this is happening,” and if they’re of the “it’s not abuse until someone gets hit” mentality, well, that obviously makes it a risk to seek help. In addition, my attorney has told me that in my state it’s become rather difficult to make someone leave the marital home.
I could possibly leave the house myself, but would need to take the kids with me and one of them is on the autism spectrum and doesn’t adjust well to change, so my hope has been that the kids and I could stay to reduce that trauma.
I may try to work Anon’s idea of suggesting that he’d win more points by moving out – it’s at least worth a try while I work on other avenues.
They always make it look so simple on TV when the woman changes the locks and tosses his stuff on the street (or sets it on fire). It’s like there’s never any legal or emotional consequences at all!
Dear Little Miss Me, I hope Anon’s great suggestion does work. It’s good for you to be as wise as a serpent, in a case like this!
Regarding the way DV organisations talk about ‘Violence’ – that is a big problem, with a long history. I am sure that although your local service uses the term violence, they would mean ALL kinds of abuse. The secular services usually define Domestic Violence as all the forms and types of abuse. They talk about ’emotional violence’, ‘financial violence’, ‘social violence’, ‘verbal violence’, ‘psychological violence’, ‘spiritual violence’, ‘sexual violence’, ‘physical violence’ and ‘systemic violence’ (using the justice, health and welfare systems to abuse the victim). The may also talk about ‘coercive control‘, which I think is one of the best terms around.
For people like you, because the word ‘violence’ is so prominent in their literature, and YOU don’t know what that word means in their jargon, you get put off – you think “they wouldn’t want to help me!” Many victims don’t identify with the word ‘violence’ so they don’t seek support in the places that could most help them. Even in my own case, where I was occasionally subjected to physical violence in my first marriage – pushed against walls, hit, jabbed, slapped, wrestled when I tried to defend myself or escape his grasp – I didn’t identify as a Victim of Domestic Violence. I thought victims of DV were women who got black eyes and broken bones and had to go to hospital.
I would love to be able to wave a magic wand and fix the terminology issue, but it’s entrenched and there are arguments for and against any changes of terminology. Personally, I prefer the term “domestic abuse” because it is easier for victims to identify with. But I don’t have much influence in the secular system!
Probably if you read your local agency’s definition of Domestic Violence, you will see that they DO include emotional and verbal mistreatment. And they would be willing, more than willing, to help you. I would say that many if not the majority of their clients are women like you.
Regarding the fact that you and your husband have both had prior dealings with some of the workers, that’s okay too. Make a phone call to the service anonymously. Talk about this fear you have about some of their workers already having had contact with you and your husband. They will put your mind at rest. In fact, I bet they tell you “This often happens. A worker sees the couple at one stage and there is no abuse disclosed. Then the wife comes at some later stage and discloses that the real problem is domestic abuse / violence.” If you can feel comfortable by talking about it anonymously (or even hypothetically, like “I know someone who is in this situation….” without saying “It’s me!”) then you will probably find you become comfortable enough to disclose and reveal your identity.
Little Miss Me – my heart goes out to you, because some of this seems so familiar. The first time I contacted the local survivor organisation, in a crisis, I found myself speaking to someone who knew who I was – I would have preferred that person did not know my situation. This stopped me from contacting the organisation again for quite a while. In the end though, people from the organisation were really helpful. In contrast to the impression given by their advertising, they said that most of the women they help are victims of psychological abuse. They took me very seriously. There will be plenty of people who believe you, you just need to find them.
I wish I had felt able to leave when my children were younger than 10, because it would have been easier and they would not be so traumatised now. When relatively recently I wanted to leave the house, my children refused to come. I felt very frightened as their father was becoming increasingly threatening and physically violent. I was afraid to leave the children with him, because when I wasn’t around he would verbally abuse them, and I did not trust him at all. Yet he had persuaded them that somehow this was all my fault. Perhaps the only safe thing they could do was to take his side.
Where I live, unless a victim has documented injuries, it is almost impossible to legally force an abusive person to leave. In the end I was advised that I should consider leaving the house without the children, for my own safety. In this horrible situation all I could do was cry out to God for help. All of a sudden the abuser left, and I can only attribute this to God’s mercy. Without their father around the children are doing much better, and they no longer blame me. But I would rather not be living in a house full of bad memories, and I would feel safer in another house.
The TV is lying, it’s not simple at all. I hope things get better for you.
I completely agree with Barbara that a good liar is impossible to pick when they are getting what they want – acceptance, approval, control etc. Mr. Hyde only appears when the deception is resisted.
Here is a link to Ida Mae’s article But He Never Hit Me, Part One [Internet Archive link], where she talks about the signs that were evident during her ‘courtship’. It is a case study of ‘red flag’ signs and how abusers, with the help of abuse-compliant churches, can entrap victims even whilst the abuser is defiantly showing his evil-Hyde face during the courtship.
Yes, my husband was harder to discern when he left. He claimed I was crazy and abusive (after ~ two decades of his narcissistic abuse) and initially convinced several men at church. When speaking to one man about how he couldn’t take the talk around town that he was seeing someone (his long term mistress), because he had been forced to leave me and didn’t even want another woman (I was that bad of a wife), he cried about his predicament. The next week he helped his mistress move out of her husband’s home. He is an incredible liar and only one very discerning man caught on to it immediately. Some still pity him and follow him like he is a pied piper.
I received an allegation of abuse from a distant acquaintance on my friends [friend’s? friends’?] list from his ex-partner. I didn’t doubt that allegation for a second even though I didn’t know the one making the accusation. Before I was abused, I would have thought the one pointing the finger was the toxic one. Now that I have been abused, I can recognise some signs. I can’t say I put my finger on precisely what it was, only that, since I was abused, I think (I can’t know, but I think) that I’m better at spotting abusers than I was before. I’m sure I’m still able to be fooled. But I don’t think I can be fooled quite as often as I was before.
Hi, I’m really sorry to intrude because I’m not evangelical, but I’m not sure where else to turn. I just got out of a relationship and it went very poorly. Before I left, I had been wondering if I had been abused or even if I was an abuser. I told one friend about how he had been talking to me and she said it sounded like abuse and it kind of did but I’m still not sure. Anyway, after I left, he said that I had abused and manipulated him and I’m shaking so hard because I have no idea if I was the abuser or not. I have no idea if I was the one who was hurting him and it hurts so bad and I just didn’t want to hurt him. I wanted to just get away from a situation that made me feel so sad all the time. I don’t know where else to say this because it’s very late at night to contact anyone and I think he’s watching my social media. Again, I’m very sorry if this is an intrusive comment and I really respect the goal of this blog and I hope everyone here finds peace with God.
Hi GD, your comment is not at all intrusive and there is not need to apologize for it.
Welcome to the blog. 🙂 You are welcome here even if you are not an evangelical. We always encourage new users to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
If you want us to change your screen name from GD to something else, just email The woman behind the curtain: firstname.lastname@example.org — she will be more than happy to assist. 🙂
Now to your question. From what you’ve said and the way you’ve written, it sounds like you have suffered domestic abuse, not inflicted it. Your question is a common one we hear from victims / survivors. You are not alone and you are not to blame — it is not your fault. I would like to point you to these posts as they address your question —
My abuser says I am the abuser!
Am I the one mistreating him?
Right Back At Ya! The Abuser’s Tactic of Reflective Blaming
Am I the abusive one? [Internet Archive link] — By Lundy Bancroft.
Also, I encourage you to read this booklet which comes from a women’s shelter in Canada: Honouring Resistance: How Women Resist Abuse in Intimate Relationships [Internet Archive link]
And we highly recommend Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men [Affiliate link]. You can find it on our Resources (see tab at the top of the blog).
Also, should you happen to want to find out what evangelicals believe, I can point you to the YouTube videos of a friend of mine, Bill Medley. Find them here:
[Links to Bill Medley’s video series were deleted after discussion between ACFJ blog moderators. Editors.]
Blessings to you.
GD, what you’ve written about the things your ex said is very (sadly) typical of what an abuser does and says. The articles Barbara listed are a great place to start and please read the comments that go along with them — it’s amazing how the commenters add so much. Many of us have been in the situation you’re in – -wondering if we were the abuser and if we just weren’t seeing things clearly. Nope. We were just in the fog of abuse that these people dispense like carbon dioxide.
The book by Lundy Bancroft is wonderful too — so much great info!
It sounds like this is your first abusive relationship and that it’s negatively affected you. Believe it or not, this is a good thing because you were rightly hurt by it and you want to learn from it. Start with the resources listed and then in the search bar in the upper right corner you can type in topics that come to your mind to see how others have dealt with abuse.
This website is simply amazing and it is the only place that I have found in the Christian arena where tough questions and truths can not only be talked about, but dealt with honestly and openly. The moderators are constantly working to keep the website safe and they also provide access to recourses from outside the Christian realm. Lundy Bancroft and Dr. Allan Wade are just a few examples of this.
So although I’m sorry that you had to endure an abusive relationship, I pray that you will be blessed by the information here. You are not alone!
It is common for an abusive person to claim themselves as the victim of abuse by the person they are abusing. It is common for them to accuse and condemn others of the very things they are guilty of doing. I think they do this so the people they are trying to “win” will believe they are good and innocent and it takes the “bad thing” off of them so they appear as if they would never do a bad thing. It’s disgusting and probably the most unnerving thing to me but if people pay close enough attention (most don’t though) they will see the abuser contradict themselves.
My ex recently made a post on his social media that stated he would still hit his ex with a baseball bat or car. If people would just pay attention, they would be able to see who the bad person is….but they think he is joking and they all make laughing comments. It is so obvious but they are experts at fooling people. I wish you well and I can tell simply by your comment that you are not the abusive person. This website is very helpful and I hope you find peace.
So true! Others excuse it under the guise of “just joking.” After waking up to the truth, I now pay close attention when a person “jokes” about others, but it’s really a put-down. It’s a red flag for me. Because of this experience these Bible verses have more meaning to me.
Your comment is so familiar to me too. I have learned that abusers instinctually set out to discredit you in any and every way open to them. They will undermine your confidence and make you doubt your own sanity. In my case, mind games were my abusers speciality. On the surface, this sounds wrong, but in order to survive what is probably to follow, victims must try to harden their emotions towards their abusers, or they will end up feeling sorry for him and this can give him a foothold back into their life.
My ex pursued me relentlessly for several months after I fled the house with my children. I covered for my ex by making excuses for him to the authorities and it did me a disservice. All the time that I thought I was showing godly love and forgiveness towards him, he was actually scheming and cooking up false evidence against me to give to the police. Of course, this was false so there was no way the police could validate this “evidence” but it gave him credibility because he would use this to show to our social circle and to tell them and child services that I was “under investigation by the police for” the horrendous crimes he falsely accused me of. It was only by the grace of God, in quite a miraculous way, that I gained credibility with child services which undermined him. (I now doubt now that the police investigators ever took him seriously, but I didn’t know that at the time and I was in constant fear that the police were going to turn up and arrest me at any moment and take me away from my children.)
My old friends are no longer my friends (although they were always primarily his friends anyway as I was not allowed to have friendships that were not preapproved by him) and my testimony has been undermined by falsehood, and it’s mainly because I did not want to go on the offensive when I first left him and tell key people what my children and I had been living through. I also doubted it myself. I questioned if maybe I was being dramatic and making mountains out of molehills. I didn’t want my ability to care for my children to be questioned and so I stayed discreet until his actions cornered me to a situation where I had to explain the truth.
Please don’t doubt yourself. Hold on to the fact that you know you would never have intentionally tried to harm him during your relationship. Don’t let him turn the tables on you. It is what they do. It’s how they maintain control of the situation and of you.
Hi Living Free,
Welcome to the blog and thank you for your comment.
You will see that I changed your screen name to help protect your identity. I don’t know your current situation and if safety may be an issue, so we encourage new commenters to read our New Users’ Information page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog. If you would like me to change your screen name, just contact me at email@example.com and I can do that. 🙂
Thank you for your really informative blogs. Any and all information that I can get, I read. I don’t know where I failed? I’m so lost. 😦 I have been in a horrible battle for over seven years for my children with my ex husband. He said all along that if I left him, he’d take our children. And that’s exactly what he’s done.
I don’t know how he continues to manipulate even child protection workers and school officials. And I’m left constantly trying to defend myself. I feel like ending my life on most days. The thought of our babies being caught in the middle of this nightmare is, on most days, something I can not fathom. 😦
Most recently, I was able to get a therapist for our children. She is absolutely terrific and really supported my children and the relationship they have with me. And then….he just stopped taking them. Saying it was just too far away. Child protection services were my teen son’s first stop. He apparently went in there and told them about all the abuse and neglect he and his siblings are enduring at the hands of his father. Yet, my son told me “they don’t believe me, Mom, they’re dad’s friends”.
How do I help my children? They are being monitored and have become “prisoners”. I don’t have the money for a fancy lawyer like he does.
All I want is for our children to be happy and healthy, yet I am perceived as “the malicious ex-wife”. Child protection services won’t even call me back. I can’t take this anymore. 😦 Please help me. Thank you for hearing me.
Dear sister, here is a list of the hotlines for various countries.
And here is a list of links about Legal Issues.
Also, allow me to offer you a Welcome To The Blog, since this is your first comment. 🙂
I changed your screen name for your safety.
We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
I very much doubt you have failed anywhere. Abusers can be very canny at manipulating professionals. And there are many professionals in child protection, the health system, and the courts, who do not really understand the dynamics of abuse and are not astute at recognising an abuser’s tactics when the abuser is seeking to recruit them as allies.
That is one of the things Lundy Bancroft writes about in his book Why Does He Do That? [Affiliate link] If you can’t afford to buy a copy, check out our Gift Books Offer.
And I strongly urge you to read Honouring Resistance: How Women Resist Abuse in Intimate Relationships [Internet Archive link]. It will help you see how you have been doing the best you could, in the oppressive situation you’ve endured.
My husband and I have had many problems in our marriage, often depressed and at times I thought I was going crazy, I blamed myself for many years and thought if I did things differently our relationship would change, I tried seducing him and giving myself to him as much as he wanted thinking maybe he will change but it didn’t.
I sought counseling and took anti-depressants but nothing changed much, one day reading on the Internet I ran across about “Gaslighting” and I realized what I’ve been through all this time. His abuse tactics didn’t work on me any more, so I would tell him “you are manipulating me”.
He left a mess in [an important and much used part of the house] so I told him to clean it, but he started yelling at me at my face shaking his finger so close to my face that he poked my face where it really hurt, so I slapped his hand away from my face and he grabbed my arm and squeezed it very hard….when I told him to let go he started screaming that I was hurting him.
I was shocked so I called a family member and asked them to call the police. When the police arrived he told them that I was hitting him and he had to grab my arm to stop me from hitting him. The police didn’t make an arrest because it was my word against his, but I made him leave the house for the night.
Dear sister, your husband is definitely an abuser and you are definitely a victim of domestic abuse. I can say this with absolute certainty because your comment is so very typical of what we hear from victims of domestic abuse. Well done for standing up to your husband and for trying to get the police to intervene and protect you!
You will probably be feeling in shock from all this. You’ve come awake to the gaslighting and manipulation tactics he has been doing to you for years. That awakening — in itself — is a massive step forward. So pat yourself on the back for having come this far. 🙂
Now you’re experiencing what often happens when the victim stands up to the abuser and shows she is not going to put up with his abuse anymore. When abusers are told STOP IT by their victims (or words / actions to that effect) the abusers typically escalate their tactics of abuse, and bring in new tactics as well. You’ve seen this in the way your husband behaved when you told him (quite legitimately) to clean up his mess. He became very verbally abusive, he physically threatened you and then actually physically assaulted you by poking your face. That may be the first time he has actually laid a finger on you in anger, but I’m pretty sure he’s been verbally and emotionally and psychologically assaulting you for years….because that’s what abusers DO…. They usually are emotionally and verbally abusive way before they become physically abusive.
It is not your fault. You are not to blame. There is no way you are to blame for the ways he has been treating you. He will have been telling you it is your fault and you are to blame (just like he told that to the police) but he is LYING. He is fully aware that he is abusing you. He just chooses to pretend that he isn’t aware and he isn’t the abuser. This is how all abusers behave.
You are not alone. Welcome to our little blog. You will find many people here who will support you and believe you. I encourage you to look at our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
And by the way, I changed your screen name to XYZ, as a precaution. If you want us to change it to something else, just email The woman behind the curtain: firstname.lastname@example.org — she will be happy to assist. 🙂
It is not safe to give your initials or your real name on this blog in your current situation, because if your abuser finds this blog he might be able to identify you from that. Also, I edited your comment to airbrush details that might identify you to you abuser or his allies.
Once again, welcome! And if you are confident that your abuser is not monitoring your email inbox, you might want to “Follow” the blog. Here is our page which explains how to do so: Follow us by email.
I encourage you to keep quietly saying to yourself “It is not my fault. I am not to blame.” Now that you know your husband has been abusing you, there is a lot more for you to learn and take in. I think you will find that if you keep reading and exploring what we have on this blog, it will enable you to work out what you might want to do to build a safer life for yourself in the future, a life where you will not be walking on eggshells all the time.
(((hugs))) from Barb.
Dear sister, while your husband is out of the house, why not call a domestic violence hotline and ask them to help you get into a women’s shelter (women’s refuge)?
When your husband comes home, it is very likely he will exert all his manipulative and intimidating and lying tactics to try to get you to overlook what happened. If you are safely housed in a secure place where he cannot find or contact you (and I suggest you don’t answer his calls or his texts, just ignore them) then you will have time to think about what you want to do from here.
You are absolutely free to leave your husband, to separate from him, and to divorce him if you so choose. You would not be committing any sin whatsoever if you decided to separate from him or divorce him. We have lots of articles about separation and divorce if you want to read them: What about divorce?
And perhaps most important of all, here is our Safety Planning page.
Thank you for your insight and articles…. I’m currently suffering this type of behavior and it’s been a nightmare…. But reading these pieces makes me feel less alone and know it’s an actual behavior of violent abusers. I already knew that but it’s excruciating to experience.
Hi dear sister, welcome to the blog. 🙂
We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
And after reading the New Users’ Info page, I suggest you look at our FAQ page.
I changed your screen name to LessAlone as a precaution for your safety. If you want us to change it to something else, just email TWBTC (The Woman Behind The Curtain) — email@example.com — she will be happy to assist. 🙂
Agree completely. My father will not even confront his daughter’s abuser because the abuser appears normal and gracious to him so I can only assume he does not want to act on my behalf. Both profess to be Christians. It is unbelievable and I obviously have no respect for either.
The abusers are very good at making everyone think they are normal except for the one they abuse. My abuser has said I’m an abuser too though I am not. And I came from a home where my parents never raised their voice and abuse was never a part of our home. He came from a substance abusing “father” who abused his mother and he thought this was an acceptable way to act.
He is in counseling and will not come back until [his] counselor informs me he no longer has such sick tendencies. He is having to start over as though we have never been married. The day he chose to treat me this way was the day he chose to void his wedding vows. He will have to prove he is a completely changed person. Where is the scarlet letter “A” when women need it the most. Everyone of these hurtful bullying abusers should be made to wear an “A”. They may change their sick ways if they knew they’d be exposed this way.
The jaw dropping question is how can a father not say anything or stand up to the person hurting their daughter? Unconscionable to me.
Hi Lyn, and welcome to the blog. I disidentified your comment a bit by removing a few details.
We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
And after reading the New Users’ Info page, I suggest you look at our FAQ page. Especially the link on the FAQ page which is titled ‘What if the abuser is repentant?’
If you want us to change your screen name to something else, just email TWBTC (The Woman Behind The Curtain) — firstname.lastname@example.org — she will be happy to assist. 🙂
I have been in a relationship about a decade and would leave but I’m in my late middle age and [….] and this man had me so confused for….well first few years seemed to go well except all the signs were there but of course I roped right over them. The next half dozen or so years I tried so hard to not break up thinking this relationship was worth holding on to and it was his drinking that caused the problem, I must have wrote a full note pad of things he told me I had to change, but I’d work on one thing and he would find something else, and he would get so mad, he would yell and scream come at me and put his hand and finger in my face, rant and rave for hours, I would just shut up and sometimes run out the door or just hide.
I tried to make sense of it all but I really had no one that I could talk to as our friends didn’t believe me or just wanted to stay neutral, he was always so sweet in front of others.
Sorry about your situation. Every day that passes makes it that much harder to leave. Some never do. It is up to you. But I filled a room of self-help books in trying to be perfect and improve and conform myself in hoping the abuse, violence, etc. would stop. It only got worse. And I grew more accustomed to it — so much so, I didn’t see just how ghastly extreme it became. If anyone would have known what was really truly going on, they’d have sent somebody to bust down the door and get me out of there — but I was too embarrassed, ashamed, worn down, scared, overwhelmed, and a myriad of other things to be able to say what was my reality. I had also been methodically brainwashed into believing I caused it all. My abuser should be in prison for the rest of his life and yet he is walking free, having never been arrested, and having smeared me as this crazy, lying, scheming, horrible person out for money.
You only get one life. And in Proverbs there are several verses where it talks about living / dining on plain food in peace being better than luxury cuisine eaten with strife. I am badly paraphrasing that, but the gist is there. If nothing else, you now have this blog’s entries to read, Barbara’s YouTube presentation to watch, and other women’s stories and accounts to help you see that you are not alone, it is not your fault, he is not going to change (not for the better, that is) and that you deserve better.
Happy Sunday to you.
Right on target, you’ve described my husband well in the Jekyll and Hyde theory. In fact in my foggy confused statement to police I think I used that phrase. Thank you. I’ve been feeling very foolish and insecure, this article validates me, I’m not stupid….how did I and why did I fall for him!? It keeps going through my mind. I’ve essentially lost every monetary thing I had, along with my self-respect. He is still controlling me [Details of abuser’s actions redacted by Eds to protect commenter being identified.]. ….underhanded sneaky things at first and bolder by the hour….
He is well liked man in church and has a leadership position there [details redacted by Eds]. But used a gun to scare me. I’m so lost can’t sleep much. Worried, although God has it, I keep worrying people will start to believe his accusations….I’m homeless, and penniless and praying for a compassionate judge. Thank you again.
Hi dear sister, and welcome to the blog. I believe you. You are not crazy. You are not stupid. It is not your fault. You have been targeted by a very skilled abuser. A very wicked man who is masquerading as a Christian.
We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
And after reading the New Users’ Info page, I suggest you look at our FAQ page.
I changed your screen name to RunningTheGauntlet as a precaution as I wasn’t sure whether the screen name you had given might identify you to your abuser and his allies. If you want us to change the screen name to something else, just email TWBTC (The Woman Behind The Curtain). Her address is email@example.com.
And I strongly encourage you to read our Don Hennessy series. It will help you understand how your abuser selected, targeted, set you up and groomed you so that he could abuse you long-term. These men are very cunning, very clever. Here is the first post in our Don Hennessy series. And here is our Don Hennessy Digest which lists all the posts in that series.
In the past, my husband was pretty emotionally abusive. Things are much better than before, but I don’t think I love him anymore.
If I divorce him, I am afraid that I won’t be able to take care of our children with what he could / would pay in child support. Honestly, I should have ended things back when he wanted a divorce, instead of trying to please him so he’d stay. Now I realize that my family would have helped me transition. Now, I don’t think they could. I’m afraid to talk to my mom. I feel like I’ve messed up, but that the mistake only gets bigger the longer I stay.
My heart is broken. I’m afraid of being single. I’m afraid of messing up again. I want my kids to have a dad. Right now I feel like hanging in there and waiting for our kids to grow up, but I don’t think I can last that long. I feel like I’m dying inside.
I know my husband could try to change (he claims to be “walking on eggshells”), but he is who he is. He has pulled manipulative [crap] from the very beginning of our relationship to make me date him, stay with him, move where he wanted, etc.
Part of me hates his guts, but then I melt when he turns on the charm. I am frustrated at myself for being so weak. I think he knows that something has changed and that I really want out.
I think I need to prepare to get out, and when I tell him it’s over, I need to follow through. No discussions. He already convinced me not to leave early in our marriage. I should have just left and then let him know after I was gone.
I’m really, really scared of the unknown, but I can’t live the rest of my life acting like I love him when I wish I never met him. How did I get myself into this mess? 😦
I’m also afraid of leaving and then regretting it. I feel so lost.
Dear Anonymous, what a tough situation! But it sounds to me like at least you have the mental clarity to be able to articulate how you feel and the pros and cons of you staying or leaving.
Deciding to Stay or Leave is one of our Resources pages. It may be helpful.
Since this looks like it might be your first comment, welcome to the blog. 🙂 We like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.
Fascinating stuff! I could cry for my own stupidity. I wish that I had read this 12 years ago when it might have helped me more.
For your protection, I changed your screen name to Reading Now, as it appears you may have given your real name. If you prefer a different screen name, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will change it.
As it also appears this may be your first comment on the blog, you might like to read the New User’s page.
My abuser is so smooth, he’s nearly always the sweet misunderstood guy around so many people, even as he is abusive to me at the same time!
He currently has his alcohol rehab place thinking he is fully changed, yet belittles me and blames me at every turn.
I finally got him to admit electronically to his most severe child abuse. I am hopeful that finally we can get legal justice after he blinkered most of our church and his rehab.
Hi, Bug, it sounds like your abuser is very skilled at lying. Most abusers are!
I wish you well in your search for justice. You are behind the eight ball since your abuser seems to have recruited so many allies.
Welcome to the blog. And thanks for sharing. 🙂
Since your abuser is guilty of child abuse, you might find this link helpful: Sexual Abuse.
If you have not already done so, you might like to check out our series on Don Hennessy. I think you might find much to relate to there.