First Steps For Abuse Victims

These steps will help you clear your thinking after weeks or even years of abuse.

Over time, you’ve likely developed some side-effects of abuse that weaken your ability to exercise personal choice and freedom. The beauty of these first steps is that they create and support confidence and clarity – two characteristics that will help you to say goodbye to abuse and/or your abuser once and for all.

first steps for abuse victims1. Accept that you cannot control your abuser or when he abuses.

This idea creates confusion in the minds of many abuse victims. I mean, don’t we spend every waking moment trying to soothe him or do what he expects to avoid abuse? Don’t we sometimes “hurry things along” so he’ll explode and we can get to the honeymoon period?

Doing those things gives us the idea that we have control over a portion of our abuse. Fighting fire with fire (despite your good intentions) does not solve the problem. It only escalates or increases the frequency of the abusive cycle. We need to think a bit higher. Instead of attempting to control if and when he abuses, we could control how we react when he does abuse.

Another rotten thing about controlling his behavior is that we’re still wasting the majority of our time thinking about him instead of finding our solution to end the abuse.

Additionally, I challenge you to pay attention a little more closely. You’ll soon realize that you can spend eight hours or zero hours on abuse prevention, but the fact remains: if he feels a need to abuse you, he will. No matter what you’ve done to prevent it. You may as well let go of your attempts to control and move on to better activities.

Check out Why do abusers abuse? if you have trouble letting go.

2. Reach out to friends, family outside your home, and resources in the community.

You must do this to break his hold on you! You’re fighting a powerful abusive enemy, and he wants to keep you fighting his game with his rules. You’ll need all the help you can get. Your silence is his most powerful ally – stop giving him the advantage.

  • Call national or state hotlines.
  • Break Your Silence by sharing your story on this site (anonymously is fine).
  • For goodness sakes, call a family member or friend and talk to them!
  • Visit a domestic violence support group (call your local department of social services).
  • Sign up for mentoring from survivors on this site.
  • Join an online message board with other abuse victims and survivors.
  • Connect with others like you on my Facebook page.

3. Educate yourself about all types of abuse and control methods.

Recognizing abusive behavior and putting a name to his control methods will help you to see your situation and your abuser in a new light. Read everything you can on the subjects of abuse and controlling people. Verbal abuse is a great starting point because it underlies every other type of abuse. Read about “logical fallacies” online to see not only how our mind tricks us, but also how abusive people use inaccurate logic to corrupt and control us. Educate yourself on brainwashing and crazymaking to see how your abuser warped your heart and mind to believe they were necessary.

Remember that your current friends and family, due to cultural, religious or personal attitudes, may be horrible helpers! Some people still believe it is okay to “smack a woman every now and then to keep her in line.” If you find this to be your situation, don’t sabotage your recovery or strength by listening to more nonsense. Call hotlines or join online groups instead.

4. Develop self-reliance through detachment and personal boundaries.

Writing my own boundaries gave me a sense of personal strength and responsibility to myself to end the abuse I once so willingly accepted. I stopped seeing myself as a victim and started seeing myself as an agent of change, both for myself and my relationship.

When I began enforcing my boundaries, the abuse increased. My abuser was like a little child being denied his comfort blanket. He didn’t take to my new reactions well. He lashed out physically, and I left him.

As much as I didn’t want to leave, I will not go back to that relationship ever again. The outcome for your relationship may be different. Some women, after changing their reactions to abuse and undergoing counseling with and without their husband, find saving the relationship possible.

5. Design a safety plan.

This is a must whether you think you’ll leave the abuser or plan to stay with him. Your safety plan will give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you can leave when or if you must.

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Comments

  1. Julia Fauci says:

    My husband’s abuse was always very subtle, but over time, it exacted a horrible toll on my inner psyche.

    He’s a sex addict, a public voyeur, but he would always practice his illness with me in tow. He was careful never to do it when we were with anyone he was trying to impress. I always knew if he valued certain friends because he would chose not to stare at very young girls in their presence. I was never given that courtesy.

    When I say stare, it was a hideous, objectifying, and aggressive stare that lasted as long as the poor girl was in our presence. He made sure that she was always about 20 feet away from us. He seemed to be raping her with his eyes. Some girls gave me a look that said, “curb your dog!” That he did this horrible behavior, as well as other sexually objectifying behaviors, in front of me, is critical information.

    Other voyeurs are very careful to keep their activities secret,but he wanted to hurt me.

    I always pretended that I didn’t see it, but I would feel like I had died when it happened. He would also flirt with my very best girlfriends if no young girl was available for him or if he was with people he cared to hide his addiction from. Either way, I was “getting it” from him.

    He would deny me sex, then masturbate in our bed, night after night after night…once again, denying me attention, affection, and pleasure.

    He would criticize me, give me a look of constant irritation, and otherwise remain distant from me and our son most of the time. I took it because it was the way my father treated my mother. She never rebelled but always took it until she filed for divorce.

    My greatest fear now is that he seems to want to change, but there is still that secret behavior, now even more subtle than before, that allows him to get in his digs. I have an inborn fear of him that surfaces with my insomnia and other health problems.

    He was totally addicted to pornography until I put parental controls on the TV, took away the laptop, and installed eblaster on our main computer, which remains in our bedroom. He was particularly addicted to nighttime sex sites that featured college girls (we live in a college town). He also visited many, many raunchy hook up sites.

    I’ve been tested for STDs (I’m clean) and he submitted to a lie detector test that determined he had never had an affair when we were actually married. He’s a voyeur, so he doesn’t want real sex. That I knew.

    My greatest fear is that he is a master at flying under the radar, even the radar of trained therapists. The sneakiness and the subtle nature of his abuse is actually the worst part. His mother used to beat him mercilessly, so he is basically afraid of women. He’s especially afraid of their ability to reject him and to get angry with him, which explains his subtle behavior.

    He wants to hurt, but he’s petrified that we will strike back. Subtle hurts are difficult to prove, but my gut senses immediately when he is trying to hurt me. If I can transform into a person who does not get jealous, does not get angry, but stays firm and protects her boundaries, I’m not sure how he will respond, but that is who I must become. I must become strong and defend myself.

    I know deep, deep inside that he needs a person who will take the abuse and not ask for the things most wives require as basic aspects of marriage, like love and respect. I look back to our first year together. He spent the entire time stringing me along, sneaking out with other women, all the while maintaining a secret sexual relationship with me. Our dates were always during the day and out of town so no one would think that we were a couple. This left his evenings free to prowl.

    Why I didn’t realize that sooner is part of my illness. I had friends who spent over an hour trying to talk me out of any relationship with him, but I insisted that only I could save him. I’m this sounds very familiar to this list. Subtle abuse is difficult to prove but my gut knows it when I see it.

  2. THIS IS TO FINISH FROM LAST REPLY ACCIDENTLY SENT

    Of course, my marriage was still on the rocks. Well to make a very long story short he told me he wants me out of his house and does not want a woman in his life, so I started to make arrangements to move out and now he is mad that I have found a new place to live and have started a new social life. He threatens me, while it is perfectly okay for him to go out to bars every single day and night. He continues to talk very bad about me at his bar to his friends, to the point I feel like a social outcast. I know this awful, I am just waiting for my next check to get out of position. I feel imprisoned with a dictator. He continues to hit me up for sex also.

  3. Katillackathy says:

    I have been married for 23 years. I have an autistic son who is 25 and my current husband is not his biological father. His bio father is deceased. For many years I have felt completely trapped because I knew I could not provide for my son alone and my husband has been a good provider.

    Finally a few months ago I told him he would have to leave. He immediately pointed out that I would not be able to keep the house alone and asked who the new man was going to be. I told him I had the prefect man, God, to meet my needs.

    At first he said he would leave and then he said he would not leave. I told him he could stay until he found a place but I gave him a firm deadline and told him he would have to leave since it is traumatic for my son to move suddenly and he has lots of therapists that come to the house to work with him. There is of course lots more to the story but bottom line is the abuse had to stop. I had taken all that I could and I was committed to making whatever changes were necessary for it to stop.

    After a day or two he asked to talk. I told him that I would no longer tolerate the verbal abuse and that if he felt like he might start to abuse me he needed to go to another room, leave the house for a drive or do whatever it took because if he ever verbally abused me again he would have to leave (I would call police if necessary).

    He actually agreed and said that I had put up with his crap long enough! It has been several months and he has not once verbally abused me. We have talked about it a couple of times and I reinterated that if it ever happened again he would have to leave immediately.

    So far – so good. I should have placed those boundaries a long time ago.

    If he ever does verbally abuse me again I will stick to my boundaries and have him removed even if it means I will lose my house. God will provide my needs.

    Anyway point is I should have taken those steps a long time ago and avoided a lot of years of abuse.

    • I have been in an abusive relationship marriage for 14 to 15 years with 2 add teenage sons, the elder one who treats me just as his father does. It was all wrong from the beginning. Woman should listen to their gut or spirit man as I would call it as I knew from the start that something didn’t fit. I had come out of a heartbreaking relationship into this one and fell pregnant. I was a back sliden Christian and he seemed like the nice boy next door type of thing who could provide me with a nice house and raise our kid and happy along we go…except my character is a bit more complicated than that,

  4. Donia Desautels says:

    After five years of being treated poorly via mental and emotional abuse, I finally could no longer take it yesterday when he threatened to punch my puppy because she was “attacking” him. If he can say something so horrible about an innocent animal, what was next? I’m not about to allow him to put his hands on me. I told him to leave and then I changed the locks. I’m exhausted from trying and listening to him blame me for everything, and saying it’s because of my period and that I don’t have sex with him enough. Honestly, who wants to have sex with someone after being called a bitch and a liar by them? It may have taken me five years, but at least I can start healing now. I once was a vibrant, witty, smart, independent woman, but he slowly and methodically stole myself from me. Time to get her back. Thanks for listening.

    • Marisa Quintero says:

      Powerful. You go girl. It’s so sad because as I read everyone’s situations…I can pick out pieces that are my sane exact situation. Good luck

  5. My husband of 8 months has been going from bad to worse since finding out I had kept in touch online with some males, 6 weeks into the marriage. One was an ex-bf, but my conversations were not flirtatious and all knew I was happy getting married. I suffered from loneliness for a great deal of my life, and me and him, my then bf ,had a very up and down relationship for 2 years where he would go awol on me at points. He was very insecure and upset when he found out about this betrayal as I had promised him I wouldn’t speak to males. He took away my phone and ipad, asked me to leave work. I didn’t do anything without him, unless he was dropping and picking me up. I was told to stop seeing friends, and to concentrate on making it up to him. I gave him access to my email and facebook and skype accounts. He went into my skype and contacted males as me, and tried to dig into the past to see if I had been cheating on him while we had been dating. Since he found out, anytime I try to stand my ground on something he gets angry and tells me I have to listen to him as his wife, and make it upto him. He blows hot and cold on me. He used my facebook account to get numbers of my family so he could involve them too and shame me. When angry he tells me what a low human I am that disgusts him, and has called me a tramp. I have told him to stop calling me names, and I stay to try and make our marriage work but his behaviour makes it hard for me not to run a mile. I cry and ask him to forgive me, and he says he will.. in time as long as I behave like a good wife. We were separated when he took a lot of money from me (I owed to my father) and said he didn’t know what money i was talking about, although he admitted it within the hr, and then took 4 weeks to give it bank. He wanted to go on a trip and assumed I would pay for it all as he couldn’t afford it. Yet he insisted he wanted to go. He would shame me infront of family, shame them about my ‘cheating’ and that they had brought me up wrong. Tell them things I did with men. I wanted a few things to go to a wedding for a weekend with my parents and family, he had requested I dont go so we could talk and do things together. I tried to set a boundary and said no, we can go another time (but his timetable was too busy). I said no I was still going to go and he had to respect my wishes. At this point he told me to pack up all my things as I wasn’t ready to work on our marriage and do whatever it takes. When I told him to let me pack things and to leave the room so I could pack, he wouldn’t leave and would get in my way and try to put things in my bags. His family removed clothing they had bought me from our wardrobes, which I wasn’t going to take anyway – but showed me their petty sides. When he kept annoying by manhandling my things and putting rubbish into the bags I got upset, his mother got involved and I was upset so spoke to her angrily about his behaviour. He got upset I was rude to his mother and then threatened to call the police on me, I called his bluff and told him to go ahead, seeing its my marital home and clearly my stuff around me, he didn’t like me answering him back and started pushing me out of ‘HIS’ room. I have never been manhandled like that before 🙁 and started crying.

    It is sad as I knew he really hurt from my betrayal, and I tried to do everything he said, but I found it claustrophobic, not having access to my phones, seeing family once a week for 4hrs – that was my social life, and not seeing anyone. I felt like I did as much as I could to make it work, but what I thought was normal and decent in terms of making it up wasn’t enough for him, he liked having the upper hand and keeping me in that diminutive state, where I wouldn’t challenge him. I sought counselling which confirmed I was at risk of domestic abuse. When I said it to him, he said that wasn’t the case in our Pakistani culture, these things were normal.

    So back home at parents deciding what to do next with my life.

    Abusive men cannot be reasoned with, they feel entitled to feel the way they are and if it upsets anyone else then too bad who gets in the way.

    • Donia Desautels says:

      Nora, what is your status today? I hope you have found a way to resolve your situation, my thoughts are with you for the new year:)

  6. Anonymous says:

    So my dad will make up stories and talk himself into a rage about things he thinks my mom is doing daily. He’ll say whatever he has to to get her screaming and yelling, and if anyone tries to stick up for her, he’ll accuse everyone in the house of conspiring against him. He’ll get progressively louder and more violent. I keep trying to protect her, but she’s too scared to leave or get help. I tried sticking up for her the other night, and he grabbed a knife and threatened to kill me. Until my little brother came in, then he pretended like my mother and I were the ones doing something wrong. How can I protect my family? Someone’s going to end up hurt, and I really don’t want to send my father to jail, even if it is exactly what he deserves. What should I do?

  7. Christina says:

    Hello. I’ve been married for 5 years to a verbally and emotionally abusive man. It comes in cycles. At times his frustration is the lack of attention I give, but who wants to be affectionate to someone who tears your kids and you down by name calling, power trips, threats, etc.
    I left him once before but let him return because of good behavior and hope. Now, the abuse continues and I can’t get him to leave. He loves that I’m helpless and tells me he’ll leave when he’s ready (meanwhile not helping financially). I need to keep this residence for multiple reasons. I need HIM to leave.
    When researching online, everyone recognizes how bad verbal/emotional abuse is however from my understanding I can’t get a restraining order….or him out unless I feel unsafe as if he’s going to physically assault me or my children. The day that he does I will pursue that. Until then, what can I do to get him out? My children and I cannot take it any longer. Thank you.

    • Christina, is he on the lease? If his name is not on the lease, you have the right to remove him. Change the locks one day when he is out and put his stuff in the hall/porch. Don’t let him back in unless he has a police escort or you have a person to protect you present.

      Try to get a restraining order even if he’s not acting out physically. For example, if he’s verbally threatened you or the children in any way, that is a restraining order worthy event. If the judge grants a RO, it will be good for a week or two until you both go to court. At that point, you may be rid of him and not need the RO.

      If he is on the lease, the only way to get him out without pressing charges and getting a restraining order is to ask the landlord to let you re-sign the lease without him. You may have to wait until it comes due, but it’s worth asking. Tell the landlord he’s not paying his share of the rent (which he isn’t) and you want him out. The landlord may know some legal information you and I don’t.

      As for that matter, contact an attorney that gives free consultations.

      Verbal abuse always leads to physical violence. That alone is enough to scare anyone. But I understand what you’re saying – verbal/emotional abuse alone isn’t punishable by law. But threats are – even unspoken threats like pretending to choke you without touching you.

      The key here is to go an an information gathering search of people who can give you legal advice. I can’t do that.

  8. Some people change

    • Sure they do. And some people pretend to change until their target re-engages with the relationship. “Change” is difficult for the healthiest of people to do; it’s even harder for disordered people who 1) relish manipulating or abusing, or, more commonly, 2) get exactly what they want through abusing others and don’t find it necessary work on themselves because what they do to others works for them.

      Fact of the matter is that people who are in the habit of abusing other people don’t change for the better. They just become sneakier at hiding the ways in which they abuse. Remember, we’re not talking about healthy people who made a mistake. We’re talking about abusive people who don’t consider what they do to be a mistake.

  9. Margie Parker says:

    I just read the verbal abuse article. It was like reading a page from my last three years with this person. I am just now starting to realize the severity of the abuse. How could i be in such denial? How could i love someone so much that only seems to want to hurt me? Crazy! All i wanted was to love him 💔

    • Marisa Quintero says:

      Sad..but true. It hurts. How can you tell your wife or woman you love… I want to kill you. You are a dumb ass. Bitch. Fucking bitch. Etc. Or hit you in front of your kids and cuss you out. And lock you out of his phone because he “wants you to truse him ” fuck all the Bullshit. This isn’t even 10 precent of what he’s put me through. I need Gods help.

  10. I need help getting away from my verbally and physically abusive husband. I stay because he’s threatened to make my life he’ll if I leave

    • *HELL

    • Hi Vix, My name is Janet and I work here at Verbal Abuse Journals. Thank you for reaching out, that takes a lot of strength. I agree that you need to leave your relationship. Have you ever created a Safety Plan? If not let me explain what it is. Like creating a fire escape plan or having a fire drill to escape a potential fire safely, creating a Safety Plan helps you safely plan your escape. The most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is when you are planning to leave or have just left so I strongly encourage you to not let your abuser know. If you can confide in a family member or friend, but only if it is safe to do so. I also encourage you to create a secret email and/or facebook profile to speak to your supports without your abuser knowing. Many Survivors do this, I did, to be safe. I will give you the link to the Safety Plan we use at Verbal Abuse Journals. Once you open the link please scroll to the bottom to download the plan for free. Here is the link; http://verbalabusejournals.com/how-to-stop-abuse/safety-planning/

      Also, the threat that he will make your life hell if you leave does need to be taken seriously, but also know that he is hoping that threat will keep you in the abusive relationship. Create a Safety Plan, build your support system and I believe you will be able to leave. If you would like extra support we do offer a Mentoring Program. It is a free program all done via email (another reason to have a secret email). We have a group of women who have all been there and have been out of their own abusive relationship for many years. They offer support and guidance for as long as you need. If you would like to apply for a Mentor you can go to this link; http://verbalabusejournals.com/mentoring-program-for-domestic-violence-survivors/mentor-request/

      Take care and be safe,

      Janet

  11. Justsitting in the dark says:

    I AM SO , SO VERY WEARY FROM ALL THE B.S………..
    I am caught up in a nightmare that seems to have no real end of the madness, nor and real solutions.
    I moved in with this woman almost six years ago, and, at the time, ohh, how wonderful it was !
    I am disabled from a car wreck due to a brain injury,and my biggest flaw is …I am slow.
    Now get this,
    She dosent get mad at me for being slow, she gets mad at me for……growing up with family members that were slow, yet, I get no slack for their aggravation.
    I cook, clean, feed the animals, take them outside, when they need to go,
    I fix things on HER house, that she is determined to NEVER let me forget.
    I cannot talk, unless she wants to talk,
    I cannot wear my hair the way, I feel comfortable.
    I must never, NEVER use time to comb my hair, OR change my shirt, because I am not allowed to need time.
    ……….even when we go to pay all the bills with
    MY SOCIAL SECURITY MONEY.
    I AM TOLD I AM RETARDED, STUPID, UGLY,
    WHEN I COMPLAIN, I AM CALLED A DRAMA QUEEN.
    IF I GET UPSET AT ALL, and raise my voice, i get told I sound like a f—ing faggot.even though i have a deep baritone voice.
    I am Never Allowed to buy anything for myself.
    But ,she can buy anything and everything.
    Needed or not.
    I have pretty much decided that holidays, or affection is allowed past 40.
    F—K !!!
    HOW DID I EVER GET HERE.!?!?!?!
    ALL MY FAMILY IS DECEASED.
    I USE TO KNOWI was the most handsome, good looking guy in the room, even after my wreck, but have been made to believe i am the grossest,ugliest,dumbest guy alive,………….
    Now the latest part that got me looking for answers on google.
    I catch alot of flack because I always tell the truth,
    It usually isn’t what she wants to hear,and ties back into the “telling me how to talk and phrase things”
    Si, she has gotten into the habbit of telling me I always loe, no matter what ,all the time, to get me to the point of, ok, Lie to me, so I can blame you for something.
    Yet, I still cannot comply.
    So this evening, I got called a f–king bastard, and she threw something at me and stormed out of the room, then a few minutes later came back in the room and while shaking her finger at me informs me that she hates me sooo fucking much that she is ….thisss close to grabbing a butcher knife and stabbing me in my guts and not quit pulling untill im cold and fucking dead.
    Hhmmmmm.
    Not the first time for this.
    Aaand as usual, fifteen minutes later, she is talking to me like nothing happened…..
    Next step is she will start making conversations about us going and doing this or that, or us buying this or that, or some other type of future plans…..
    As if suffering from a TBI from a wreck that has taken everything else from my adolescence, now,
    I am torn, in an already cluttered mind by feeling USED, UNWANTED, UNLOVED,UN CARED FOR AND …..LOST.
    I HAVE CLOTHES, A TRUCK AND A FOUR WHEELER, AND SOME POTS AND PANS.
    BUT DONT SEE HOW TO MAKE AN ESCAPE ON WHAT PITTANCE I GET ON S.S..
    And truth be told, even as a big brawny guy, it still terrifies me to go…….alone.
    Or, maybe, all this ia my fault and i dont do enough, or maybe i shouldnt just talk.
    Maybe she will seem to care a little tomorrow.
    Part of me actually wishes she would have just ended my suffering….
    Im all cried out, and i dont seem to remember anytime my dad ever had to say… i am cried out…
    I just know anymore……..

    • Hi, My name is Janet and I work here at Verbal Abuse Journals. Thank you for sharing some of your story with us. I am so sorry you have had to go through this. You do not deserve this treatment, in fact you deserve a much better life, one free of abuse! I encourage you to take your power back and leave this relationship. Her threats to stab you are very concerning. No one should have to live with that. I know it is hard to think about leaving when finances are an issue. I faced that same stumbling block when I was planning to leave my abusive marriage, but it came down to the fact that I no longer cared about money I just wanted out so bad and in the end it all worked out. Things have a way of coming together. Is there any subsidized housing you could secretly apply for? Creating a Safety Plan would be helpful, I think. The plan we use can be found at http://verbalabusejournals/com/how-to-stop-abuse/safety-planning/ , once you open the link please scroll to the bottom to download it for free. This plan can give you the tools to plan a safe escape. Take care Janet

  12. Octavia C Jackson says:

    Hello all, my name is octavia. To be breif I left a 15yr abusive marriage to find myself in something 7 times worst. My boyfriend was the perfect guy in the begining. One situation was me taking children to drop off to dad for week end. I didnt think it would be a problem considering my ex wasnt getting along with my new guy. From then on I ve had my thumbs twist, punched, spit on, thrown up against walls and windows, crates thrown at my head, been choked numerous times. I left him for qbout a week. He begged pled of change and that he would go to counseling. Hes been home now a week and no meetings only him going through my phones and calling me sneaky also indirect threats of what he or someone he knows can do to me. Ive been trying to give him the benefit of the doubt but I fear that what so many has told me that this man is gonna seriously hurt me. Now hes back home and my fears have come back. I dont know how to get away this time. If anyone could be of help God bless you. He taking me away from everyone now i have no one to talk to or turn to for help…

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