Gifts from pursuing abusers
There have been at least two times in my own experience when I have told someone who was abusive that they were not to contact me again. Each time they would send birthday presents or some other things to my house in my mail. I never replied to the gift in anyway and in fact threw them out. But the next year, here came another one. Every abuse victim who has been the recipient of this “kind” behavior knows full well what it feels like. It feels exactly like what the abuser wants it to feel like — condemning and threatening. . . . It is abusive, wolfish, and pure harassment.
This could have been written by many victims of abuse, but it was written by Ps Jeff Crippen whose relationship with his wife, I can aver, is not abusive in any way. (Here is Jeff’s comment if you wish to track back and see it in its original context.)
We’d like you to share with us your experiences of gifts from pursuing abusers. It doesn’t have to be just spousal abusers; the dynamics of abuse and manipulation are similar across the board.
There’s a wonderful Aussie expression I just learned – ‘dog whistling’ – communication that is inaudible but effective. Many abusers are dog whistling when they give their victim gifts. The gift looks innocent on the surface, the hidden message is inaudible to most witnesses, but it has a big effect on the victim.
I’ll start with my own stories.
1. There was a guy who tried to court me, years ago, after I separated from my first husband for the first time (1994) and had just begun to attend church and walk as a Christian. Because I was a baby Christian, I still had quite a few behaviors and attitudes that came from my time ‘in the world’, and one of them was the belief that it was okay to share a lift in a car with a single man, and that didn’t signify anything about a personal relationship. (Bear in mind I’d been very casual about relationships in my teens and early twenties, and had hitchhiked a lot on my own…) I’d invited this guy to lunch once, and he’d given me a King James Key Word Study Bible – just the thing to please a word-lover like me.
The annual church camp was several hours drive away. I offered a lift to this guy, not knowing this kind of thing was ‘off limits” for good single Christian women, and thinking it would save petrol (I’m a greenie too). He accepted, and came in my car with me and my daughter.
Well, no prizes for guessing that this guy assumed I was God’s answer to his prayer for a wife. As soon as this became apparent to me, I told him No, politely but firmly. He continued to send me letters, quoting scripture and telling me his dreams of having intimacy with me. I wrote a Please Do Not Contact Me Again letter. I left that church – for other reasons primarily, but it was a convenient way to shed him too. He continued to send me the letters, spaced months apart, but unchanged in their sentiments. I learned to recognise his handwriting on the envelope and felt sick each time one arrived.
Now, I’m not saying he as a full-on abuser; he could have been just a very lonely man, though he did have a history of being in jail. But he sure pursued me with unwanted gifts in the form of those begging letters.
2. There was a survivor I supported for a number of years until I realised that no matter what efforts I made to help her, she never improved. My efforts never helped her to recover or get better. I won’t go into the details here but I think hers was a very unusual case, and quite unlike true victim-survivors. One of the things she used to do was send me beautiful cards with neatly written words of encouragement, gratitude or prayer; always they were positive and spiritual and ‘uplifting’. But I learned to recognise these cards as one of her ways of keeping me hooked in as a crutch for her to lean on. When I finally announced I was ending the friendship and would no longer support her (“I don’t have the skills to help you” was what I told her) she did not tip into suicide as I’d feared, but she did keep sending me those pretty cards. Every time my birthday rolls round I get another one. I’ve written telling her: Please don’t send any more cards. She ignores my request. The last card I tore up and threw into the recycle bin without reading it, but that sick feeling in my stomach was the same as it always is: “leave me alone!”