Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

My Abuser Has PTSD. What Do I Do?

A soldier. You can see their helmet and part of the uniform, but not their face. If your abuser has PTSD, and they hurt you, PTSD is no excuse.

When your abuser has PTSD, you do the same thing you would do if they were not diagnosed with it. PTSD does not excuse violence. If your abuser hurts or kills you, they are responsible for your injuries or death. Period.

As of today, April 4, 2023, the VA reports on some PTSD studies that show that people with PTSD often have other things going on with them that increase the chance of a person committing a violent act. One thing that increases the chance of violent behavior is substance use and substance abuse. The other is the presence of a second psychiatric disorder. However, in studies that take substance use and other psychiatric disorders (like depression) into account, PTSD by itself does not show an increase in violent behavior.

PTSD is not the “shell shock” that people were ashamed of years ago. In fact, the military is on the cutting edge of PTSD treatments. A specific therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed for military members suffering from PTSD but it works for anyone who has experienced trauma. In addition, there are talk therapies and psychiatric medications to treat PTSD. I know because my doctors prescribe them for me.

My point is this: If your abuser has PTSD and attacks you verbally or physically because of a symptom of PTSD, then your abuser should be very sorry and seek treatment on their own. And I mean really sorry – not that fake sorry where nothing changes. Their apologies should be followed by actions that stop the violence.

You and the children are not obligated to stay with your partner while they get things figured out.

My Blog Post from December 23, 2008

What happened the other day was horrible. I feel I was partly to blame, and not because he told me so right after. I slapped him. That was the wrong thing to do. I took one of our bills from him and tore it apart. I was also wrong for that.

But Will didn’t have to do what he did. He could have shown restraint – he had an opportunity to show restraint.

I had already gotten into the living room before he reached me, so he had stood there in the office after I took his paper, after I slapped him, after he said I was a cunt, and had time to think about his response.

He thought about it, and then he came after me. He thought about it, then charged me, threw me over the end table, and choked me in front of our children.

A list of facts about strangulation. They stay true even if your abuser has PTSD.

We’ve talked about it a little. I said I was sorry for slapping him. He said there was no excuse for what he did, that he was raised better than that. He never said he was sorry.

My counselor once asked me if I thought he could be suffering from PTSD. I replied, “If that were the case, wouldn’t it show up after he came back from the war?” When he returned from Iraq, he was gentler and more loving. It’s been since he came back from his last “gravy” assignment that he’s acted out so badly.

In fact, his anger was an issue about halfway through the deployment. I emailed him about it because when I mentioned it on the phone he just got mad.

My counselor said that something during the last deployment could have triggered the PTSD. Will could have put the experience deep into his mind trying to forget it, but anything could have been the trigger.

If it is PTSD. He was violent with me at least twice before going to war. What was the excuse for those times?

Sometime after writing the blog entry above.

The fact of the matter is that there is no excuse for shoving me over the table and holding me down by my throat, choking me, even though I slapped him for calling me a cunt and even if I tore up an invoice into teeny tiny pieces in my rage. I am not responsible for his physical assault any more than he was responsible for me slapping him across the face.

If PTSD caused him to snap, then why did he make excuses for his behavior? Why did he blame me? Why did he feel like he had to teach me a dangerous physical lesson after I slapped him? After I slapped Will, I turned to walk away because I knew I’d stepped over a line. I knew I was wrong and needed to remove myself from his presence. I did not blame Will for my wrongdoing.

A different example is if a war veteran jumps under the table because some kid threw a firecracker, then the veteran may be embarrassed by his or her exhibition of fear. The veteran would not chase down the kid and choke him. (Under no circumstances is “jumping under a table” something to feel ashamed about if you have PTSD! I’m simply drawing a comparison.) Will, who is a war veteran, chased me down and choked me.

If Will had PTSD, then he would have apologized. I hope. And then he would admit he had a problem and seek help for it. I hoped. But Will did not seek help from anyone except Jim Beam, and I’m certain good ol’ Jim did not hold Will accountable.

The people who suffered under the weight of posttraumatic stress disorder in my family were me and possibly our boys. I cannot speak for the boys, nor do I necessarily see signs of PTSD in them. I do see the signs of PTSD in myself.

I’ve never been to war. I’ve never been raped at knife-point or fought for my life in war. But I did live with an unpredictable, angry, and abusive man for over 17 years. And that is way more than enough time to develop hyper-anxiety, difficulty concentrating, overwhelming guilt or shame, and any of the other symptoms of PTSD.

A good page to find out more about PTSD is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Facts in the image about strangulation come from the National Domestic Abuse Hotline.