Defining domestic abuse by a list of behaviors is never going to capture it

Quite often authors define domestic abuse by giving a list of behaviors. The list can include things like complaining, accusing, angry looks, name calling, denigrating, yelling, threatening, ordering, demanding, belittling, using sarcasm, showing indifference, lying and deceiving, sulking, withholding sexual intimacy, using physical violence.

Angry African American woman had a fight with her boyfriend at home.
Who is the abuser?

Here is the problem with trying to define domestic abuse as behaviors:

You can’t necessarily identify who is the abuser by looking at discrete events and behaviors.

To see why, let’s take one by one the items in that list I just gave.  I’ll give examples in italics.

Complaining. Abusers often complain to their victims. Can’t you keep the kids quiet!
Victims also complain to their abusers, though it’s risky to do so. You told me you’d given up porn but I just found all this stuff on your computer!

Accusing. Abusers accuse their victims: You’re a hopeless parent! You’re mean! You’re unforgiving! Abusers also accuse their victims to bystanders: My spouse is a bit crazy.
Victims rightly accuse their abusers: That’s not what happened. You’re lying. You’re re-writing history. Victims sometimes disclose their plight to bystanders and disclosing entails making accusations about their spouse: My spouse swears at me and intimidates me.

Angry looks. Abusers give angry looks when their power is threatened, and when they deem their rights to marital services are not being met. They give angry looks randomly too, just to keep the victim walking on eggshells.
Victims may give angry looks when they are at the end of their tether from all the abuse, when they have tried every submissive and courteous attempt at problem solving they can think of. And they give angry looks sometimes when the Pharisaic church mistreats them.

Name calling and denigrating. Abusers call their victims all sorts of derogatory names. (No need to list them here or this post would be mega-long and full of #*# !)
Once victims start to come out of the fog, they may call their abusers names but these names are true labels for what the abuser is like: Liar. Deceiver. Con-artist. Manipulator. Bully. Wicked Hypocrite. Wolf in sheep’s clothing. Adulterer. Porn addict. False christian. Evildoer. Abuser.

Yelling. Some abusers yell to maintain power and control over their victims.
Victims may yell at their abusers when trying to get them to behave responsibly. The victim’s yelling probably doesn’t alter the abuser’s conduct (the abuser typically uses it as more ammunition for pulverizing the victim) but it is an understandable response to injustice and oppression, rather like Jesus excoriating the Pharisees or taking a whip to the money changers in the temple.

Threatening. Abusers sometimes threaten their victims with direct words: If you divorce me, I’ll make sure you don’t get the kids. And they threaten without words: the coercive control which they employ creates a constant background threat that the abuse is likely to escalate if the victim does not comply.
Victims may sometimes issue a threat to their abusers, but a better word would be ultimatum or consequence: If you don’t call me when you’re going to be late, your meal will be in the fridge when you get home. If you keep cursing me out in front of the kids, I will report it to the pastor. Either you quit intimidating me or I divorce you.

Ordering. Abusers issue orders to their victims. Get me a drink! Don’t spend more than twenty minutes at the shops, and make sure you can account for every cent you spend!
Victims may try to order their abusers when the abuser is acting abominably: That hurts! — stop doing it! And they may issue orders to abusers if it has to be done for the wellbeing of the family and especially the children: Give Johnny his antibiotic at 8pm. Make sure the gas bill is paid by tonight or we’ll be cut off!

Demanding. Abusers selfishly demand things of their victims: The Bible says the marital bed is undefiled, so you must give me sex the way I want it — nothing is off limits.
If victims demand things of their abusers, their demands are things like: Please respect me. Tell me the truth. Stop hurting me.

Belittling. Abusers belittle their victims: What are you? Stupid? Or the patronising attitude: You can’t understand this, it’s too complicated for you. And abusers give smirks and eye-rolls to bystanders, to indicate how silly their spouse is.
Victims do not belittle abusers contemptuously, though they may describe them as immature, behaving like a child, etc. And they may tell bystanders that they feel like they have five children to look after: four kids, plus their spouse.

Using sarcasm. Many abusers can be cruelly sarcastic. Sarcasm is a form of line-ball humor and because it is commonly used even by non-abusers to gently mock foolishness, to let off a bit of frustration, and to bond with friends, it’s hard to call out. When the victim calls out the abuser for using sarcasm cruelly, the retort is usually “Can’t you take a joke?”
Victims sometimes use sarcasm to vent about their abusers’ horrible behaviors. But victims do not use sarcasm maliciously like abusers do.

Showing indifference. Abusers show indifference because they are selfish. They are indifferent to the hurt they cause to others. They also intentionally show indifference as a way of hurting their victims and throwing victims and concerned bystanders off balance.
Victims may also show indifference, but their motives for doing so are very different from abusers. Because an abuser can turn every emotion the victim expresses into fuel for the abuse, the victim may choose to show outward indifference in order to survive. (the Gray Rock response)

Lying and deceiving. Abusers are highly skilled liars. They lie to obtain their selfish ends and to maintain power and control over their targets. They deceive in order to charm targets into their web and to recruit bystanders and children as their allies.

wolf in sheep's clothing on Snow

Victims also lie, but for very different reasons. They lie to conceal their pain and their shame. They lie to try to avoid the abuser’s cruelty, like the midwives lied to Pharaoh. They tell untruths to themselves, their children and to folk at church, by pretending that things are okay. Is the pasted smile a lie? In one sense it is; in another sense it is a survival strategy.  (See my 3-part series “Is it always sinful to tell an untruth?” Part 1 here)

Sulking. Abusers use sulking as a weapon of abuse: to make the victim feel guilty and thus coerce the victim to cater to the abuser’s demands.
If a victim appears to be sulking, what is probably happening is that the victim feels so mistreated, disbelieved and misunderstood that speaking out seems pointless and even dangerous.

Withholding sexual intimacy. Some abusers withhold sex from their spouses to ‘punish’ them for the supposed infractions they have committed against the abuser’s power and control. Some abusers withhold sex from their spouses as a form of reproductive control. Some abusers are so heavily addicted to pornography that they prefer porn to real sex. A great many abusers have sex with their spouses but without any intimacy; this has a life-sapping effect on the abused person. This kind of sex can include the abuser insisting on sexual practices that Christians would consider unnatural, such as anal sex.
Victims of abuse sometimes decide to withhold sex from their spouses. This typically happens when the victim has been so hurt for so long that having sex with her abuser is emotionally if not physically excruciating. Sometimes the victim imposes a ‘separate bedrooms’ policy as a way of setting a boundary against the abuse, and perhaps a way of hopefully prompting the abuser to see their dire need for a change of heart and attitude.

If this strikes a bell with you, you might like to read my post Do you tell others about the sexual abuse?

Also, some victims have suffered previous sexual abuse (in childhood for example) and sex is a minefield for them at the best of times. My personal experience is that previous sexual trauma can be worked through and recovered from IF one’s sexual partner is loving and caring and patient. But abusers are often unloving, uncaring and impatient, so there is small hope of the traumatized survivor of sexual abuse being able to heal while she (or could be he) is with a dedicated abuser.

My observation (and personal experience) is that survivors of childhood sexual abuse rarely withhold sex altogether from their spouses, unless that spouse has abused them for so long that sex is excruciating, as described above. Other than that, CSA survivors might sometimes say “I can’t right now” but they do their best to keep their triggered responses from making too negative an impact on the quality of their relationship with their spouse.

Physical violence. Some abusers employ physical violence. By physical violence I mean anything from standover tactics, getting in your space to intimidate and threaten, being violent to property, pushing or shoving the victim, right up to assault, grievous bodily harm and murder. And in that list too are acts which are ‘hands-off’ violence, things like tampering with the brakes on your car so you have an accident. And remember:

  • some abusers never use physical violence
  • many who do use violence only do so a few times a year or less.

Some victims have at times used physical violence. There are probably quite a few of us at this blog who have done so in self-defence, or done so on the odd occasion when we may have been so outraged by the taunts of the abuser that we have unwisely let ourselves be violent. And of course there are some victims who have killed their abusers because they believed they had no other way of escaping the intense and unrelenting abuse.
There are also instances where victims are accused of using physical violence but in fact they were only trying to escape the abuser. I can think of one example from my own life: My ex was forcibly holding my car door open so I could not drive away after having dropped our child off for access. I prised his fingers off the car door and drove away. He later told the magistrates court that in that act I had assaulted him and he therefore needed a protection order against me.

When it comes to behaviors — context, attitudes and motives are everything!

* * * *

Further reading

Honouring Resistance: a wonderful tool for understanding abuse

Respecting & Listening to Victims of Violence

How Miles Davis misrepresented his assault of his wife Frances: a case study in the language of abusers

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 10.47.45 PM
Table based on “Language and Violence: Analysis of Four Discursive Operations” by Linda Coates & Allan Wade. Langauge and Violence: Analysis of Four Discursive Operations

65 thoughts on “Defining domestic abuse by a list of behaviors is never going to capture it”

  1. Thank you for this article. As I struggle through this I often question what I did wrong! The mistakes I have made. Am I just as bad as he is? In reading this it makes so much sense that my reactions are to protect and defend myself. Is it right? When I “fight back” with hurtful words or withdrawing or not allowing sex because it has become so emotionally damaging to me. No, it’s really not ok because I do have the gift of the Holy Spirit and God working in me. I do feel God holds me accountable for my sins in this “marriage”. I do repent many times and ask for forgiveness from God and my spouse. I feel like I am always drawn into “sin” in order to withstand the abuse that he is oblivious to, and never holds himself accountable for. Because I get drawn into “reacting” he always turns the tables that all of this is my fault.
    I am praying and trying not to be pulled into his dysfunction and abuse. Not to react and be like him.
    I am praying to hold my head high and take the high road and walk with the Holy Spirit rather than react.
    Thank you for these articles.

    1. Hi Louise, I would say that when a person is abused, withdrawing from the abuser is not a sinful response at all. In fact it is a wholly Biblical and healthy response. (…. shake the dust off your feet, etc). I would also say that withholding sex from an abuser is not sinful when one has already tried (often in many other ways and multiple times) to get the abuser to stop being abusive but the abuser nevertheless keeps on abusing.

      And what is ‘fighting back’ with ‘hurtful words’? Typically, when the victim admonishes and rebukes the abuser’s wicked controlling behaviour, the abuser will accuse the victim of ‘hurting him’. But in fact, all she is doing is admonishing him and calling on him to change. This is not a sin on the part of the victim. But the abuser tries to claim it is a sin, to intimidate her.

      I encourage you to read this link as it will help you understand this more:
      Honouring Resistance – a wonderful resource for understanding abuse

      And … welcome to the blog! 🙂 We always suggest that new readers check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      1. I’m new here and this article has been a huge help. Is there a forum on this site so we can talk with others or is it just in commenting on the articles posted?

      2. Hi Brooklyn,
        We don’t run a forum; we only run the blog itself and we moderate every comment that is submitted in order to help our blog be a safe place for victims of abuse. We are very mindful of the need for safety for our readers. Please read our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog. And if you want us to change the screen name you have used, just email

        If you scroll down in the sidebar of the blog, you can see a heading ‘Forum’ which lists a few forums that you might want to check out, if you are still keen on being part of a forum.

      3. Barbara, I am devastated. I have been married for over two decades. I come from a background where it is permissible to leave in cases of abuse and cheating, but that reconciliation is always the goal when possible. My husband is on staff at a church, and I have been silent for a long time. I’m exhausted. There is no physical abuse to point to and no affairs, pornography, or anything of that nature, though sometimes I have actually wished there were. Folks understand that. They won’t get it that constant lying to me (almost daily), total lack of trust due to this, and verbal insults are cause for leaving.

        I had it tonight. Told the spouse he needed counseling. He thinks we need marriage counseling. The friend that turned me on to this site says that is the last thing we need. He [my husband] is a professional speaker and debater (even considered law school) and he has a way of turning himself in to the victim every time. I have even told him I don’t trust him. His response? Nothing. Other than he once told me that that was on me and due to my issues.

        I love our church, my kids love our church, but if this came out he would lose his job. In our case I actually think the pastor would believe me because of his vocational job (pastoring is part time). I can’t state what that is here. But I don’t want to tear our lives apart. I just want this fixed. I homeschool my kids and have for over a decade. I have no job, I am in horrible health and couldn’t hold a steady job if I had to. I’ve tried. I don’t know what to do and sometimes I just think death would be easier than all of this, but then I remember that my kids have to have me around.

        My husband [did two ‘nice’ things for me this week … details redacted to protect victim’s identiy]. Others envy our relationship…because they don’t see him at home. I don’t even know where to begin. Until this week I thought I was serving a life sentence and didn’t even really see what he was doing as abuse. I saw it as hurtful and him having major anger issues.

      4. Dear Brooklyn, your husband is definitely an abuser. I understand how devastating it can be to become aware of this. When the fog starts to lift, when we realise that ‘Abuse’ is the name for what we have been suffering, many of us have found that realisation painful and deeply shocking. Here are some ((((hugs))))) if you want them. 🙂

        Welcome to the blog. 🙂 We believe you. We will not judge you.
        You are not to blame for the abuse. It is not your fault. Your husband has probably tried to make you think you are the one at fault for YEARS. This is all part and parcel of the tactics that abusers use: they shift the blame, the falsely accuse their victims of the very things that they themselves do…. and they lie and lie and lie… and they sleep at night without any pangs of conscience. They work hard to keep their abusive tactics hidden from outsiders; they are skilled at impression management; they are double-tongued, double-minded and they conceal their stony hearts under a veneer of ‘godliness’ which convinces most people that they are the bees knees, the most godly believers…

        I encourage you to pay attention to your gut feelings and to be gentle with yourself. This ‘coming out of the fog’ business is an incremental process, an iterative process. If you want to go back into denial or distraction mode for a while, that’s okay! Take your time reading these post that I’m going to link below. Your safety and your wellbeing are the priority. And you know best how to navigate the rocky rapids… Even if you think you don’t know, you probably do know more than you give yourself credit for.

        The posts I’m suggesting here are not necessarily in order of priority. Read them as you wish, and throw out or put aside what doesn’t help you at the moment. 🙂 🙂

        Let’s Put This “But he hasn’t physically abused you” Nonsense to Rest Once and For All

        Biblical Divorce for Abuse explained in a nutshell

        The Bible does allow divorce for domestic abuse [Internet Archive link]

        Why Couple Counseling is not recommended for domestic abuse

        Honouring Resistance – a wonderful resource for understanding abuse

        Marks of a pretend victim versus a true victim

        Are all sins equally bad? Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?

        God hates divorce? Not always.

        The Levite’s Concubine (video presentation by me, on YouTube)

      5. Barbara, thanks for replying to me. It is truly a lot to process and I have no idea how to proceed. What can I do to help him see that he truly IS verbally abusive? Financially abusive, as well…and a chronic liar? Me saying it isn’t enough. Is there anything I can have him read? Or that I can get someone else to get him to read? (Since he isn’t likely to listen to me.)

      6. Brooklyn,

        I can relate to your desire to help him to see it. I tried for decades to get my abuser to see it. I would explain and when he didn’t “get it” I would explain again. Others would explain. He would hear a sermon and I would think, “Maybe now he’ll get it”. My abuser and I met with our pastor and his wife for several months. Afterwards they told me that they would go home after meeting with us and be puzzled that he wasn’t understanding what they believed they had clearly explained to him. They would spend hours trying to figure out how to explain it to him, but no matter what they said, how they explained it, he didn’t get it.

        In hindsight we realize that it wasn’t that my abuser didn’t get it. Rather it was as George Simon says, “It’s not that they don’t see, it’s that they disagree.”

        Dr. George Simon is a Christian psychologist that has spent his career dealing with people who are manipulative, character disordered, and abusers. He has wise insight in how to deal with such people and we highly recommend his material. Some time ago he did an interview in which he was asked how to achieve consensus with character disordered people (you can exchange the phrase ‘character disordered’ for abuser). His answer was a bit lengthy, but I want to quote it for you here:

        You have to understand that CDs (character disordered) don’t play by the regular rules, so trying to reach consensus with them and exhausting yourself trying to get them to “see” the unhealthiness of their ways is pointless. I have a rhyme I like to use: “It’s not that they don’t see, it’s that they disagree.”

        Character disordered people are not stupid people. They’re contrary people. They know what the generally accepted rules are, they know what most people’s expectations are. But they haven’t made the decision in their heart to play by the rules most of us want them to play by. That’s a matter of the heart.

        Trying to reason with them to examine their behavior assumes something that is patently untrue. It assumes that what they need is insight. I make that point in my book. We live under this delusion. Therapists do this all the time! They think they are going to be the person who says just the right thing in just the right way, so that this time a light bulb is going to go off in this person’s mind and all of a sudden they will understand and “see” the error of their ways! The problem is, they already understand!

        It’s not that the disturbed character doesn’t know what they’re doing and what damage comes from it. If the wounded party is crying their heart out and is miserable, it’s not like you don’t know what you’ve done and what an effect it has had — it’s right there. They already see this but disagree with the notion that they should conform their conduct and work to make amends.

        Unfortunately, as much as we would love to fix our abusers, that is out of our control. I know this may be hard to hear. But I agree with Barbara’s suggestion that you focus on your safety and your wellbeing.

        I don’t want to overwhelm you with more reading material, but you may find this post helpful:

        Thursday Thought — He May Never Get It

      7. Trying to reason with them to examine their behavior assumes something that is patently untrue. It assumes that what they need is insight……..The problem is, they already understand!

        Oh yes they do. They understand that certain words mean certain things to those with a conscience and as Dr. Hare notes, those without a conscience learn at a very young age how to manipulate those who have one. Once we know that these people exist and when we no longer assume that each person we meet is endowed with the weight of conscience, we can more quickly discern when we are faced with one.

        One of the definitions in the Bible for the word “insight” (sunesis) means this:

        a putting together in the mind, hence: understanding, practical discernment, intellect…facts joined together for holistic understanding, i.e. synthesized reasoning that joins implicit (indirect) truths for comprehension…..a running together, a flowing together: of two rivers

        The problem is that those who have no conscience are never able to combine the words they speak with TRUE understanding (insight). There is no truth in them at all. Not a drop of truth is found inside them according to John 8:44 and as a result of their heart — it is hardened — they end up as this author pointed out — with no Godly insight but the knowledge that other people who DO have insight are naively unaware of their existence. Character disturbed abusers have ZERO desire for Godly insight for themselves but they love to learn the words that allow them to strum the guilt strings of our hearts in order to steal, kill and destroy our lives and souls. Cartoon caricatures of the devil.

      1. Barb, Twbtc and Brooklyn, I’m again amazed at how much wisdom comes from all the sharing that takes place on this website. I was simply looking at the “Recent Posts” in the right hand column and wasn’t even sure what the original post was about or the date it was written but I’ve learned to check the recent posts because it is often a new response to an old post I have yet to read. Your responses Barb and Twbtc were so helpful and even though I have read some of the articles you suggested, it’s a fresh dose of truth each time I re-read them. Thank you to each person who shares here as we were not meant to walk alone and we need each other and the reality of this truth from God’s word.

      2. Thanks Anonymous. 🙂

        I think you meant the ‘recent comments’ heading in the sidebar. Just to clarify for other readers: The ‘recent posts’ heading lists the posts we have published recently. The ‘recent comments’ heading lists the last 15 comments that have come in to the blog from readers. And fifteen is the maximum number that WordPress’s widget will let us give.

      3. Today we had a huge family event and it couldn’t have been more perfect. Its days like today that make me think I’m crazy and imagining things.

  2. Abusers, as I know, are experts at turning words around on the victim to make her look just as bad, or worse than, him, since he is an expert at it. Lists are definitely not helpful. Painful memories, but thankful for the clarity this blog provides.

  3. Oh my goodness Barbara. Thank you SO MUCH for this!!! I’m here at work, so I can’t cry, but I really could right now!
    I have been struggling with this and praying for answers!!! Father has heard my heart!!
    My counselor is working so hard to convince me I’m not the abuser. I have been told I’m suffering from PTND (Post Traumatic Narcissist Disorder) which makes me highly reactive. After finally coming to terms with what I live and developing a considerable amount of courage, it seems my defense mode can jump into hyper drive. Leaving me, (and anyone witnessing the moment) feeling like I am the abuser. While he sits by quietly with a smirk on his face like “see what I have to live with?”
    The worst part is my children (all 20 something now) are all in his court now. Using generalized lists to point at me instead of him. 😦
    So again I say, thank you for this! Thank you for your discerning spirit!
    I will be sharing this with my counselor and group.

  4. Abusers use the victim’s anger as a tool to further his agenda. No contact is the best response.

    1. Yes, Her journey, I agree. No contact has worked well for me.

      Rather than focusing on him and his actions as he slides down the slippery slope of sin, I focus on my own recovery and my children’s.
      Otherwise, my energy would get zapped as it did when I was with him.

  5. Thank you. This was very helpful for my own validation. Clearly explained. The abuser would often take my reactions to his abuse and slander me in private with others and in public and use my reactions against me by making accusations and playing the victim himself. This info in the post IMO is crucial. Thank you for putting this out there. People must know what’s really happening!

    And they give angry looks sometimes when the Pharisaic church mistreats them.

    And let me just say I’m INFURIATED by the Pharisaic church. I met yet another women who’s being shunned and oppressed. She’s wanted to kill herself and all these disgusting white washed tombs can say (with their faces crinkled in fake pain) is “we are praying so much for her!”

    Meanwhile the woman’s husband is an unrepentant adulterer and is also otherwise cruel to her. The women judge her and exclude her in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways. The pastor told her she must be hiding some sins and that’s why all these bad things keep happening to her, etc etc.

    She feels she is a heavy burden on others YET that same “church” always calls her for various acts of “service” while never helping her.

    I HATE THIS “PASTOR”!!! How dare he!!! She says she hates God now. I told her what they teach IS NOT OF GOD. They are so proud of their love for Jesus but it’s a hippy version of Christ that they’ve made up. Jesus is fierce and coming back with eyes blazing and a sword and wearing a blood dipped robe. NOT some peace fingers posing for a selfie!

    That is not God punishing her! They are lying! They have no hope to give; they only have only ranks beneath them to position her in. They will always need somebody else to point at and say “If she only had the faith like we do THEN she’d be blessed.”

    Are you kidding me?!

    IMO this shunned woman has the heart spoken of in James 1:26-27 MSG —

    Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

    It is insanely clear by how she lives her life and by how she’s being used as a “CHURCH SCAPEGOAT.”

    In this light and IMO I will also note that the Pharisaic church arrogantly believes that they are experts on parenting, marriage, spanking, world issues, and anything else you can think of. THEY DONT KNOW JESUS. Yet they whisper Jesus this and Jesus that.

    I have seen women acting like they know how to parent someone else’s child better them the child’s own mother. It’s intrusive, distracting, stressful, controlling, rude, disrespectful and very wrong. It’s oppressive. It’s literally oppressive. I could feel the weight of the oppression being near them. I noticed after an hour of being with the women that I began to question my parenting, feel ashamed, helpless and dumbed down. They had tried to put me below them in rank. I could see it. I was FURIOUS.

    I’m thinking now – Thank you, God! Thank you for these feelings that are right on!

    Another woman who kept asking me the same question regarding my children after I already once said “no” finally got a very sharp “I said No! Stop asking.” from me.

    Other pharisaical men do this sort of thing too. They give advice / “corrections” / etc and they all (men and women) can’t wait to TEACH somebody (“less” than them).

    They kiss me on the cheek and say “I love you.” But they turn and slander me and they don’t know God! Didn’t that happen to Jesus?!?! Didn’t He get kissed by Judas?! Yes He did.

    I wonder if whether when Jesus said “take the log out of your own eye or the plank out of your own eye” he meant those people with a plank in their eye need to repent of a grievous sin (maybe they weren’t even born again? Idk) and instead of doing that they were focusing on other people who perhaps just weren’t doing things that they wanted or required or “taught”.

    This treatment is INFURIATING. I’ve seen these Pharisees walking around looking closely for something that’s not to their perfect standard and then they move in on their target to interject their “help” whether the target agrees to it or not. In fact if the target doesn’t agree to it they will ask and ask again / guilt trip them / and if the target still doesn’t agree to it then they’ll impose their “helpful” pious and disrespectful and inappropriate statements on you and then PUT you in the position underneath them which would then require their knowledge and help.

    To be certain the target will be gossiped about but it will be under the guise of “prayer requests” and deep concern and pleading for the target to come to their church on Sundays.

    Boom done. Target has now been put in target’s place. The Pharisees go home celebrating.

    It all goes back to this IMO:

    Jesus said you MUST BE BORN AGAIN.

    Any Exceptions? Ummm…NO.

    I love it here ACFJ team and fellow survivors and supporters. What a relief to know the true church does actually exist. Thank you all.

    1. My psychopathic son was a “murderer from the beginning” meaning he was never kind and was always a liar and a bully–from toddlerhood. Going by the advice that most of us receive I gave love, structure, care, nurturing, firm limits blah, blah, blah. To sum it up–I wore myself out trying to be everything to him. I got lots of “suggestions” from these type of people but no one wanted to take care of him so that I could have a break and all the blame and responsibility got dumped on me.

      My daughter on the other hand, was a blessing. God woke us both up to His truth at the same time and we’ve been through HELL together. This child had her own standards and views and through God’s grace, she was able to hold onto them even when many were against her. What were these gossips’ attitude toward her? They tried to have access to her, tried to cause division between us. She was so ANGRY at these people because she was amazed at the abuse they dumped on me when it was so OBVIOUS how much I loved and cared for her and my family. That these people would try to HARM where there was love and where there WAS evil–as in the case of my son–they offered NO help whatsoever. The day she turned 18 years old was the last day anyone tried to pull this crap. She was a BEAR with them after this because now–LEAGALLY–they had NO RIGHT TO her. She’s said many times that it’s amazing the difference this makes. No longer could they say that her mom was making her do this or that but that SHE could make her own decisions (she’d already been doing this but now it had clout)–and she decided to NOT BE ABUSED by these abusers. She kicked these abusers to the curb!

      Thank you for broaching this topic–when each of us share these different aspects of our lives, God has a chance to reveal Himself to others. Not a second of our lives are wasted–He is in every moment with us–and because we don’t always know what part of it was actually meant to be a blessing to someone else–we share in order to reach out and let God use it for his good.

  6. When you define things as a list of behaviors and ignore underlying patterns and attitudes, then you can redefine and explain away individual things.

    Case in point: alcoholics. Generally speaking, they’ll lie about their alcohol consumption, whether to hide it or out of denial.

    How many of us have heard professing Christians boast about how they 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 doesn’t apply to them, even while they effectively idolize various ideas or traditions, engage in passive aggression, and drink and eat to excess (and get angry if something is poorer quality than they wanted)?

    Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

  7. This is a very thought provoking article. To be honest I’m a bit overwhelmed by it, yet maybe it’s because I don’t fully grasp the full message of it.
    I’ll admit I’m overwhelmed right now, as my daughter is seeing an attorney this week to see what help she can offer if she were to separate from her abusive husband.

    She has been told to bring to the meeting all texts, emails and other written threats he has made towards her. They have two small children and he has threatened to take them away from her if she were to try and leave him.

    They have been to counseling all through their over a decade marriage and he has been informally told he has narcisstic behaviors and RAD Reactive Attachment Disorder. He physically abused her up until she became pregnant with their first child….but the verbal, emotional and especially spiritual abuse has continued.

    My daughter works so hard not to react to his accusations, but it is difficult….

    Maybe I am unloading here, but I am frightened fir my daughter and with the upcoming attorney appointment and I would sure appreciate your prayers…..

  8. I once made the mistake of writing a letter to my husband listing the things he was doing that hurt me. After that he started accusing me of exactly the same things I’d written to him about! Never until then had he accused me of those things. Suddenly, I’m doing them all!

    My husband does all of the things on that list. No one would be believe me. They’d think I was exaggerating just to make him look bad.

    1. Annie — I can totally relate to your testimony … I’m living much the same way. So much of the truth I’ve shared has been twisted against me and I’ve often felt that “They’d think I was exaggerating just to make him look bad.
      It’s not a matter of making anyone looking bad … it’s just the truth finally being exposed.
      As I often have to share my circumstances with others I explain how difficult it is for me because I was so faithful in defending my abusers; praying that eventually all would change. I still feel pangs of guilt but also realize that part of my healing in being truthful.

      Thank you ACFJ for posting these definitions. I definitely want to share it with others.

      1. Annie,

        Mine does that too! In fact, I could swear he writes down everything I either accuse him of doing OR, and this is even more diabolical, he remembers word for word everything I say to reveal the tactics he is using on me, for example, if I say “you start criticizing everything about me until I give you the reaction you want so that you can latch onto it, start a fight, storm off, and not attend our son’s event”; He will then store what I have said about his behavior word for word as if in a computer and then it could be weeks or months later spew out exactly what I have said to him back at me to justify his actions…so my explanations of HIS tactics become flipped around as HIS explanation for my supposed “tactics” when I am telling him how much he has hurt me and our son. It is insidious, they do it on purpose to mess with our minds.

        In fact, it increases with time to the point where everything they say to you is stuff you have said to them, so that you can experience the ultimate feeling of distress where you are locked into their sick reality where everything you have ever said in hopes of defending yourself and explaining their tactics is now being mirrored back at you to degrade you. You are being accused of what they actually do with the very words you have said to them. It actually is sadistic and can cause severe emotional distress unless you realize they are doing it. Do not engage with it if you can help it because at that point any reaction you give them they will use against you.

      2. layla1111, What they’re doing is a form of mocking. A pantomime. They don’t feel things the way we do–they feel “proto” emotions as Dr. Hare calls it and because they only care about themselves and don’t have empathy, they have no idea how people who are able to feel love for others actually feel. They get butt hurt when we don’t worship them or when they are bored and they just want to stir up strife or get some action going to keep from being bored, and they do it by using our legitimate arguments as fodder and to throw back in our face.

        Years after discovering what you’re describing, I no longer battle with my husband over legitimate things because this harms me and my heart. I’ve instead come up with things that don’t matter but I pretend that they do so when he does what you’ve described in your post–throwing my words back at me to try to prove his point but really because he thinks it’s his right to fight about this–all the while we’re arguing I’m thinking, “All these years I’ve been married to a cartoon character of the devil. This creature has no truth in him and he has no idea what is important to me and how much I love the Lord.”

        I know the pain and the absolute heartbreak and anger you feel and the frustration. And this is why when we are lied to about evil and we aren’t taught to how to identify those written about in 2 Tim 3 and Romans 1:29-32, we end up destroying ourselves and our relationship with God. Wrong teaching is anti-biblical because it’s anti-Christ like.

    2. Annie, I know exactly what you are saying. When I try to tell my husband the things he does that are hurtful he “all of a sudden” has the same complaints about me. I have very little trust for him because he uses things I have told him against me when he drinks. I have caught him in so many lies and he lies more to cover up the lies. Now, all of a sudden, he can’t trust me. Whenever I try to tell him anything about his words and actions they are suddenly the “same thing I am doing to him.”
      I read once that the abused cannot point out sin and try to convict the abuser. It only damages our soul. Only God can convict them of their sin and wrongdoing and until or unless that happens, they will never acknowledge the harm they cause.

      1. I read once that the abused cannot point out sin and try to convict the abuser. It only damages our soul. Only God can convict them of their sin and wrongdoing and until or unless that happens, they will never acknowledge the harm they cause.

        It is NOT correct to say that “the abused cannot point out sin and try to convict the abuser”. Of course the abused can point out the abuser’s sin to him! It may be risky to do so, because the abuser often retaliates and escalates the abuse. But it is NOT wrong, not a sin, not unbiblical, not ungodly, for the abused to point out the abuser’s sins to him. That is part and parcel of holding him accountable. If abusers are not held accountable, they will never change. And even when they are held accountable, they often refuse to change. . . but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to hold them accountable while at the same time being mindful of our own safety…

        It IS true that only God can convict a person of his sin unto repentance — but that’s a different thing. The Holy Spirit convicts the person’s inmost heart and spirt. But that doesn’t mean we ought not point out the person’s sins to them at all.

        While as Christians we can point out the abuser’s sin to him, we also recognise that unless the Holy Spirit convicts the sinner and the Father draws the person to Himself, revealing Christ and giving him the gift of faith unto salvation, the sinner will not repent.

    3. Annie – thank you for your encouragement. I seem to be going through a slump. I had no idea how difficult the process of moving on would be. All I know is that I sense a great sense of ‘caution’ in order to throw my enemies off guard. I am grieved at how flesh and blood relatives; those you trusted can turn on you so cunningly and insidiously.
      The Scriptures give many examples of sin within families and I am aware that my situation is no different and that there may ‘never’ be healing as every church in town claims will happen “if I just pray more, try harder and have more faith.” The onus has always been on ‘me’ not the ones who also claimed to be “in Christ” and have now decided to follow a different path so they can call me “too religious”, etc.

  9. I used to feel that maybe I did something wrong by pointing out to the abuser that he was hurting me and the children. After all, his only response was to get really angry and say that I was abusing him, and shout things like, “You’re cr-pping all over me”. Then he would go and tell his friends and family how awful I was and receive lots of sympathy.
    These days I’m glad I did say those things, because his response showed without a shadow of a doubt just what sort of a person he truly was. And though he was never ever going to repent, at least I gave him the chance to do that, no-one else did.

    1. These days I’m glad I did say those things, because his response showed without a shadow of a doubt just what sort of a person he truly was.

      Yep! Looking back I’m so proud of myself for standing up the few times that I did at first, then more boldly as time went by. The PDF Honouring Resistance helped me see how brave I was and how I DIDN’T want to be abused and that I did always try to resist. It’s sick how these people can find so many to sympathize with them when we–the true victims who sorely need love and help–get kicked to the curb.

  10. I had a talk with an elder. His claim was that an angry outburst I made was sinful. He said that people didn’t listen to me because I “took the wrong approach” when I spoke.

    I replied, people don’t listen to me because whenever I speak, you or the other leaders ignore or demean whatever I say. So, it’s not that I shot myself in the foot by my demeanor. The problem is that you’ve conditioned everyone not to listen to me.

  11. I’ve been searching around the site trying to find a good place to ask this, but can’t find any place where this fits.

    I’m just wondering if this happens to anyone else. It really bothers and confuses me, but I really can’t say it’s abusive, nor do I want to, if it’s just me being sensitive or touchy.

    When husband is being nice, he offers things to me, but then doesn’t partake or participate himself. It has the result of making me feel awkward / greedy / selfish … whatever. I don’t feel good about the nice thing that’s offered, only negative about myself. So this may just be my problem.

    For example, saw a documentary about ice cream places on tv with him. After it was over, I said … makes me feel like walking up for ice cream at XXXX. Only half serious on my part. About 10 minutes later, he says, I’ll walk up with you to get some if you want. Nice, right? But coded in that sentence is he’ll go, but he won’t have any ice cream himself. If it only happened once in a while, I’d be able to say, oh, he’s not in the mood for ice cream or … he’s full from dinner, but wants me to enjoy ice cream. But it’s like 90% of the time. And sometimes he’ll then come home and eat ice cream we have in the freezer! Then I feel greedy and selfish for having to have “fresh” ice cream when we have perfectly good store bought already at home.

    He’s done that with the kids too. We thought he was in a good mood, we were going to enjoy a family treat together, he buys for all of us and then says he doesn’t want any, leaving himself separate, not a part of the experience.

    Or we go to a restaurant and he says that I can order a glass of wine with dinner, but he won’t, not because he has a problem with having a drink once in a while, but because he doesn’t want any of his Christian friends to see him because some of them are ex alcoholics and it would set a bad example if he tells them not to drink and then has a drink himself. Which is nice, right? He doesn’t want to cause a brother to stumble. But the way he says it, I then feel bad … the implication is somehow that I am a bad example for other Christians if I enjoy a glass of wine in public. And I feel like I have no self control if I do. He’ll say, no, go ahead, you don’t have a problem with alcohol or drink to get drunk. But then I just feel uncomfortable so I don’t get a glass of wine with my fancy dinner.

    Simple things are fraught with thoughts of … if I do this, am I selfish, greedy, setting a bad example, being extravagant?

    Thoughts anyone? Am I just so hypervigilent now that I make problems where there are none? Should I take what he says at face value and not read into it? Does this happen to anyone else?

    1. Hi Anne,
      I don’t think you are being hypervigilant… Since your husband has been demonstrating a pattern of abuse for a long time, and that pattern includes a lot more things than just this stuff you described here, you are wisely trying to figure out what he is doing.

      Emotional abuse and coercive control are so subtle a lot of the time, and things that would seem innocuous or ‘little’ in normal relationships, are not innocuous or little in the context of a pattern of coercive control.

      It sounds to me like your husband has discerned that he can needle your conscience and your self-confidence by doing this to you — offering you special treats, but then not partaking himself. He achieves several goals at once, when he does this to you. (Most tactics of abuse achieve several of the abuser’s goals at once.)

      (1) He portrays himself as generous, kind and thoughtful. = Polishes his outward image.

      (2) He gets you to feel guilty for being selfish / greedy / setting a bad example/ extravagant. = He undermines your happiness and well-being, by leading you to doubt yourself and your good character.

      You are not being paranoid. You are wisely and judiciously smelling a rat and trying to untangle the tactics of the abuser. 🙂

      If you haven’t already done so, you might like to read the PDF Honouring Resistance: How Women Resist Abuse in Intimate Relationships [Internet Archive link].

      1. You are wisely and judiciously smelling a rat and trying to untangle the tactics of the abuser. 🙂

        Barb, I appreciate your blunt and forthright tone. I’ve often wanted to say this but have been accused of “name-calling” and made to feel guilty.

      2. Thank you so much for your post, Barbara! You make things so clear to me! You’re right, I know you are.

        Tonight he brought up going for ice cream again and when neither I or my child showed much interest, he went to bed REALLY early, obviously annoyed we didn’t jump up and down with enthusiasm. At first I felt a bit bad that maybe we hurt his feelings, but then I thought, we didn’t say no and it was his choice to go sulk. I don’t have to feel guilty about that. So I didn’t. 🙂

  12. My husband and siblings do this. It’s a form of control–they are actually doing it AGAINST you because these abusers don’t have TRUE self-control as pointed out in 2 Tim 3:3, but they can APPEAR to have it when they set themselves against something or someone. And all people who belong to their father the devil inherit this trait from him–they are against those who belong to God.

    Notice that they are not sharing in this special time. An ice cream on the spur of the moment, a drink with dinner — these can be sweet memories but instead are turned into a “I’m better than you as I can control myself” and they set you up to feel judged.

    Yep, what you [may be] feeling is just what the abuser wants you to feel: [he wants you to feel] less than him, out of control without his great help and guidance, and that you are greedy and selfish.

    The abusers handbook (their brain) comes with all these special ways to abuse. The book by Judith Herman “Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror” talks about how all these types of abusers seem to have been trained by the same people on ways to destroy others–it comes naturally to them.

    1. Thanks so much for the response, Anonymous.
      Since I confronted him on the abuse almost two years ago, his more overt behaviors have gone away. But despite this and all the nice things he does now to show he’s changed, most of my interactions with him leave me feeling bad about myself, but I often can’t put my finger on just why.

      I am getting better about not blaming myself and feeling ashamed … sometimes I just go ahead and have that glass of wine anyway … lol. But sometimes I have doubts and wonder if it’s really just me now and not him.

      Sound like an interesting book. Thanks for sharing the title and info from it!

  13. I have really struggled with the list of Abuser characteristics because they can so often describe behaviors that outwardly appear to be the same–and the victim can even seem to do it more. Characteristics such as:

    “Abusers use the silent treatment.” Well, I have gone No Contact with abusive / toxic people, I have moved and not given them my contact information, and I have blocked them on FB. Does this make me the abuser? I actually believe the motivation is different: Abusers give the silent treatment to punish, while victims go No Contact to escape. But an abuser can very easily accuse a victim of using the silent treatment.

    “Abusers have no friends.” Actually, the abusive people seem to have MORE friends, allies, supporters, defenders than I do. In fact, once I started understanding abuse more and setting boundaries, I lost a lot of people in my life.

    “Abusers always complain about being a victim.” When I was in the midst of abuse, I tried to find help, which means I complained about being a victim. And now I am trying to tell my story more to teach others about abuse so I’m talking about being a victim.

    And there are many other traits on the list. These lists make me feel as if I might be the monster and I have to struggle with self-doubt, guilt, self-blame, fear. I sometimes think such list is more of a hindrance to my recovery than not.

    1. Un-Tangled — I have struggled with the self-doubt, guilt, etc as you listed. So often the quiet abusers just don’t have to say a word of defense because there are others who defend. Comments like, “Oh, they always seem so nice to me.” Or one unsympathetic relative said, “Well, I didn’t hear it so as far as I’m concerned it didn’t happen.” Confronting them about obviously calling me ‘the liar’ resulted in no response and a change of subject.
      The very few who believe me are precious and all I can do is know that the Lord is a witness to everything. That’s where even though I falter amidst the crazy-making I know that I have my integrity before the Lord to account for.

      1. I have had the same things happen. One friend told me after I finally confided in her, “Oh, it can’t really be that bad. He seems like a nice person.”

        I’ve finally learned to believe myself and my own experiences and inside myself, vehemently disbelieve those who tell me otherwise.

    2. As you stated, it goes to motivation.

      The reason you and many of us go “no contact” is to, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23. We are acting biblically when we do this.

      When abusers give us the silent treatment it is to gain control and power OVER us–to manipulate and soften us up for more abuse. We have been so conditioned to look at ourselves from the abusers perspective, but this is just another way they abuse us. But we who belong to Jesus no longer have to listen to evil ones.

      2 Peter 2:12, “But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed…” 5446. phusikos The word for “unreasoning animals” here means, “…governed by (the instincts of) nature: (R. V. born mere animals).” I know it seems like a bummer to us that these people are merely animalistic in nature but as we come to a deeper understanding of the truth in God’s word, we see that once again, the Bible is true and once again wrong teaching has kept us from seeing and knowing the truth earlier and thus protecting ourselves and our children from reaching out to embrace the viper.

      Something that keeps coming to my mind is this…people with a conscience have the ability to learn and understand how those without a conscience think. But those without a conscience can never truly understand us or even themselves because they are what 2 Peter 2:12 tells us. They can only learn how to manipulate those around them and when we respond to them in certain ways it only reinforces (in their evil minds) that they are god; when the reality is that others were merely conditioned to respond in these ways.

      Social Norms are a way for them to manipulate us and it’s why I don’t follow many of them anymore. Evil ones are expecting us to accommodate them so that
      when they do A,
      we are then supposed to do B,
      and then C
      will give them the big payoff of control which in their estimation, equates to being worshiped and all-powerful. (In their mind it’s their RIGHT that I respond to them the way they EXPECT me to….I disagree with them and when I refuse to respond, I am showing them that I don’t agree. They DO NOT like this but they can only try to come at me a different way, to which I again refuse to respond. If I can make them believe that I am too stupid to know the correct response or that I am too boring and not worth the effort…they are able to convince themselves that once again they are superior to worthless people like me and that I am not worthy of their evil eye on me. Doing whatever it takes to keep them from noticing me or thinking I might be a burr in their side.)

  14. Thanks so much for this. Really needed to hear about the sex thing. Tried to forget how bad that was and only dealing with it now as God heals me. Hopeful that my current partner and I can enjoy intimacy when we marry due to such a large difference in personality to my ex.

    1. And btw Sharon, you wrote what appears to be your full name (first name plus surname) in the “name” field when submitting your comment. Please take care not to write your full real name, unless you are confident that doing so will not increase the risk of your abuser or his allies re-abusing (or escalating) their abuse of you.

  15. I like this. I have always thought about the responses to abuse that the abused have, and often wondered about my own responses. I wondered if it made me just as bad. But after reading this I feel satisfied that I am not as bad. I have lost my patience with him. One time and one time only I threw a vegetable at my husband b/c he was being indifferent to something very important to me. In that same conversation I kicked something over. I was tired of dealing with his lies, deception and most of all his indifference to things important to me. The more I insisted on him listening to me the more he got some sick pleasure out of ignoring me or delaying his response long enough for me to react or ask again. He won’t make eye contact with me when I talk. I can’t wait to say goodbye to him one day.

  16. oh dear Barbara… What a comfort it was to read that it isnt always sinful for a victim who decides to lie or exaggerate in order to survive or to get a point across or even a reaction.
    I confess to having done this to both my abusers, but the guilt I have felt has been excruciating as I could never justify it… God hates liars… I thought….
    Even after reading all this I am still unsure…as if my spirit cannot be self compassionate…. It feels a bit like revenge…hurting back… And I struggle to cope with the fact that I seem to be lowering myself to the standards of my abuser…..just as I did whenever I judged my abuser….as the pastor delighted in telling me!
    Perhaps it will take time… I will listen to Pastor Crippen’s sermons on a regular basis until I find a safe church. Thanx so much.

  17. Here is a link to the trailer for the movie [Trigger Warning!] The Experimenter. The movie is based on a true experiment done many times over the years to see if the subject will obey and continue the experiment even when they know they are hurting another human being. Couldn’t help seeing some parallels –

  18. I have been thinking about these posts for months. After analyzing everything you say, I think I’m not married to an abuser. I’m just married to an extremely selfish person. But now our children are starting to be very angry, and the impact is still really bad on the family. I’m confused. I need to stay in the marriage because it’s not abusive, but I wish I knew how to minimize the damage. But maybe this isn’t even the right forum for such questions.

    1. R – An extremely selfish person (basically then a narcissist) only loves himself. Therefore, he doesn’t love you either. Yet he covenanted to do so in the marriage vows. So he lied. A person who is habitually selfish, so that self-centeredness is what defines him, has shattered the marriage covenant just as much as an abuser. So call it abuse or selfish, I would maintain that the marriage covenant was fraudulent from the start and that he has destroyed the marriage. He has effected divorce and you have the right to file the paperwork. That is my opinion.

      1. R, this list doesn’t even cover all the behaviors. I was repeatedly told I was crazy and “they” were going to take me away. My ex-husband gaslighted me all the way to a court order to mental health and the pastor said let me know how you make out. I was told if I don’t like it walk out the door into the night. No one stopped the times I did this to see how I was and I’d return to the house locked out and he then would say why did you do that. I had severe insomnia and would get up and go to the sofa. He’d get out of bed and growl at me to get into bed. I’d hear him coming and cower.

      2. I don’t think he realizes how selfish he is, so I’m not sure whether he can be held responsible. To some extent, we all have sin patterns. It’s really hard to tell where to draw the line.

      3. Bj,
        The horror you’ve described was more common back in the 1960s and 70s and it’s how many women were controlled and destroyed. The religion I grew up in had MANY families where the wife was supposed to have unlimited amounts of children and stay home to raise them, and the men were alcoholics and controlled the women with loss of money, fear and physical abuse.

        All my life I’d heard, “She’s crazy / he’s crazy, they’re gonna lock them away,” which at the time, they did. Nervous breakdowns were common in my family and religion, and when the (mostly women) came back from being institutionalized they were often unable to function for several months due to electric shock therapy. This was the atmosphere I grew up in with no love, no money, and constant fear.

        When I read what you’ve written I’m thrust right back to that time and I see that these tactics are still being used and I’m so sorry for you! I’ve had no place to go and as a result my husband who knows this, has done similar things to me. The “You’re crazy” saying is used as a reflex for these people. (My husband grew up in the same religion but several states away–but it makes NO difference as these are things taught and played out generation after generation because these people don’t fundamentally change.) Now when he tells me I’m crazy I say that’s impossible as I’m a Christian and therefore have a sound mind and a conscience. I tell him the only truly crazy people are those who don’t have a conscience because they don’t even think other people matter. As a psychopath his brain can’t comprehend the words I say–psychopaths simply don’t think of other people as human because THEY ALONE exist…….it’s so unbelievable the lies we’ve been told in order to keep us controlled and then the excuses for evil people’s behavior (like my husband’s) that we are supposed to forgive. This continues from generation to generation with whatever “new” terms the psychology world and the church decides to pin on them, but ultimately it’s so that people like you with a heart and mind that can love others, are endlessly abused by our families and then the church so that the game can continue to stay in play with less and less of us who are capable of loving others, but we few end up carrying the burden for those who can’t. I’m SO SORRY!

      4. Thank you, Raped by Evil. I’ve been divorced for three years but live in the Bible Belt – My ex husband knew exactly what he was doing and the good ole boys have backed him up. He’s remarried and still in denial —

  19. What if my husband has Asperger’s and probably can’t fully understand what he’s doing to the people around him?

  20. My observation (and personal experience) is that survivors of childhood sexual abuse rarely withhold sex altogether from their spouses, unless that spouse has abused them for so long that sex is excruciating, as described above. Other than that, CSA survivors might sometimes say “I can’t right now” but they do their best to keep their triggered responses from making too negative an impact on the quality of their relationship with their spouse.

    I can vouch for this observation as well. I would even go so far as to say these survivors are frequently desperate for their relationships to work!

    1. Anewanon, I wasn’t abused as a child although my father drank. Thankfully, he was rarely home unless home to pass out. He died when I was in kindergarten. I was not an abuse statistic. Yet, my ex-husband was willing as many were to verbally and psychologically abuse me as an adult. Women were told the bed was green so participated in unloving marriages. “Doing your best” to keep triggered responses down is an inhumane behaviour test / observation. Given the truth these survivors would not be desperate to make these relationships work.

  21. Hello,
    I have a quick question… How do I tell if my dad is emotionally / verbally abusive? Or if he just isn’t the kind of dad he should be.

    I know there are tons of homes across the country that are worse then mine. I just don’t want to make a deal about nothing… I don’t want to tell trusted people if it’s “just me”.

    1. Hi and welcome to the blog. 🙂 I gave you the screen name AnonDaughter, to protect you from being identified.

      We define a domestic abuser as a family member or dating partner (current or ex) who has a profound mentality of entitlement to the possession of power and control over the one they choose to mistreat. This mentality of entitlement defines the very essence of the abuser. The abuser believes he is justified in using evil tactics to obtain and maintain that power and control.

      See our full definition here: What is abuse? How can I identify an abuser? How can I tell if I’m the abuser?

      Emotional and verbal abuse is often very hard to identify, so you are not alone in asking that kind of question. 🙂

      It does not have to be loud or angry to constitute abuse. It may be loud and angry, but it might also sound gentle and soft yet have the most painful stings hidden in the buttery words. It can be name calling, swearing, belittling and put downs. It can be lying, deflecting or blocking what the other person is saying, stonewalling, ignoring what the other person says, the silent treatment, gaslighting, falsely accusing the target — and those are only some of the varieties of verbal abuse.

      There are a few key things that make it abuse. One is that the person does it as a pattern of behavior. Though there may be times when the person appears to show respectful, kind and friendly behavior, that ‘nice’ behavior can be just a way of softening the target(s) up again so that they will be more vulnerable the next time the abuser chooses to be nasty. Another thing is the person does it from a mentality of entitlement. This mentality of entitlement is deeply embedded in that person and so if someone attempts to tell the abuser they are doing the wrong thing and they ought to change, the abuser will covertly and / or overtly fight against taking responsibility for his bad behaviour. He resists changing into a better person. He makes all sorts of excuses for himself, and he shifts the blame to other people, especially the ones he is targeting with his abuse. Though he make fake change for a little while, the nasty side of him always comes back again because he does not truly want to change. He enjoys the perks he gets from exerting power and control over his target(s). So power and control are the other key thing that makes it abuse.

      A non-abusive person may sometimes mistreat other people (we all do that sometimes) but a non-abusive person will feel bad about what they have done and will try to make amends and do better in the future.

      Here is one of our FAQ pages — What if the abusers were one’s parents?

      And here is one of our Resources pages: Children of domestic abuse

      I think you will find some of the links on those two pages very helpful.

  22. (Airbrushing while writing through the fog that descended as I re-read from an earlier date…)

    If I relied on a list of behaviours to define abusive relationships, I would have stayed buried in the fog.

    Both the original post and comments following it already include a wide range of very covert, hard-to-diagnose-as-abusive behaviours. The patterns, the intent, the situation (whether or not there are witnesses present), and the end results on the victim / survivor have been widely – and truthfully – documented.

    I would add two things…

    Keep in mind, I am, by nature, an introvert. I was not “created” or “made into” one by any of the Pharaohs in my life.

    First thing. As an introvert, I need more quiet / down time. Time to process. Time to ensure I have responded, rather than reacted.

    In completely silencing me, in eliminating my voice, the Pharaohs rendered me invisible.

    Second thing. As an introvert, I cannot survive acting the extrovert. Much of the world has come to believe anything other than extroversion is a “mental illness”, rather than the uniqueness of someone’s God-given design.

    Trying to force extroversion on me – whether work, home, or anywhere else – overwhelms me, renders me unable to ever be at peace.

    The covert control obtained through these means can be equally damaging…

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