Reblog: When the Abuse Victim Becomes the Abuser’s Ally

John Crippen has just posted on Unholy Charade about abuse victims who help their abuser abuse others:

When the Abuse Victim becomes the Abuser’s Ally

What he writes of is just what I went through with Richard and Tracy.  I could never be entirely sure if Richard was just as abusive of Tracy as he told me she was of him.  There were indications that he could be just as nasty with her, that he himself was a narcissist.  But I can be sure of the abuse I witnessed from Tracy to other people, not just Richard, not just the kids, but other people they knew as well–even friends!

And one of those victims of Tracy’s abuse, “Todd,” experienced the same phenomenon I did: Even though Tracy was the one abusing Todd, Richard stood beside his wife’s abuse and then began abusing Todd as well.  Same thing happened when anyone–me, Todd, some other friend–complained about being abused by Tracy: Richard would stand by Tracy and help her abuse the person.

Pastor Crippen describes this exact same phenomenon, an abuse victim helping the abuser so much that it’s no longer clear who the real abuser is.  He explains that he is NOT talking about abuse victims who keep quiet out of fear of crossing the abuser, or victims who don’t understand what’s going on, but about abuse victims who are themselves mean and nasty to other people.  He describes, for example, a case in which the husband is patriarchal and abusive, but the wife herself targets and reviles the same people her husband does.  If anyone calls out her husband for his abuse, she speaks up and defends him and then holds a grudge against that person.

It was very hurtful to Todd when Richard did this to him; Richard then acted like Todd was the abusive one and that he was overreacting when he cut off relations with Richard over it.  He then went to Todd’s web forum and screwed it up, letting Todd blame it on a resident troll.

It was also very hurtful to me when Richard kept defending his wife’s abuses of me over and over again.  It was hurtful when she burst out at me in narcissistic rage one day, and he–instead of being apologetic and privately letting me know that she was wrong and misunderstood the situation and that he didn’t agree with her–participated actively in her abuse of me.  He also raged at my husband for sticking up for me, because my husband could see that I didn’t deserve what was happening.  When this happened, I felt so betrayed by Richard–yet when we cut off relations with them over it, they acted like we were overreacting.  Just like they did with Todd.

It felt like being on the playground with bullies making fun of me and raging at me, while I’m all alone, because there were two of them and this usually happened when they had me by myself.  With Todd, they made the disagreement public, and pulled in as many people as they could to help them abuse him.  With me, I know of at least one person they pulled in to their side, telling her lies to make her think that *I* was the abuser.  So instead of recognizing that I was legitimately complaining about how I’d been abused, she participated in the abuse, and became part of society’s problem of victim-blaming.

It’s triangulation, a tactic which abusers use on their victims, whether bullying, or domestic abuse, or spousal/romantic partner abuse, or whatever type of abuse.  It’s meant to convince the victim that she deserves what she’s getting, that the abuser is acting normally, that he’s the martyr dealing with her toxicity.

And when an abuse victim helps his or her spouse bully someone else, this is active participation in triangulation.  It’s frightening and confusing for the victim, who oftentimes is not equipped to speak up in his or her own defense.

I couldn’t understand it because Richard knew Tracy was abusive–he told me about it often–and told me even with her standing right there that friends would break off relations with HIM because they couldn’t handle HER.  Yet when she started raging at someone, he would step right in there and help HER.

Pastor Crippen writes:

These kind, sadly, are beyond help. I don’t presume to know completely what makes them tick, but in some way they have made the decision that the benefits of “standing by their man” outweigh the costs of exposing his abuse and leaving him.

This is a helpful post if you’ve been exposed to such behavior.  It helps me because I see that the baffling behavior I witnessed in Richard, does happen now and then.  It’s not unique to that situation, so it may have some psychological explanation (Crippen has a few ideas).  It validates me for statements I’ve made here before, that it’s wrong to stick up for and “support” your spouse when they’re abusing someone else.

Crippen both warns against getting close to an abuse victim who helps their own abuser–they’ll be “one of the angriest and harshest people you ever get sideways of”– and warns against becoming one yourself.

 

 

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One Exvangelical’s perspective: Ditching offensive entertainment

The other day, the shoutbox of my favorite streaming music station, Sanctuary Radio, held a discussion on whether to play music by certain Goth/Industrial bands who have some strike against them: singer who rapes women, Nazi sympathizers, terrible anti-woman lyrics, etc. etc. etc.  Nobody wants to support bad people, but–should we or should we not play their music?

I come at this from the perspective of a childhood in the Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian subculture.  From my earliest days, I heard about backmasking and that rock music was of the Devil (or “jungle music”).  I thought the devilishness was in the secular bands backmasking Satanic messages and singing about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, so I turned to Christian rock.  My parents didn’t restrict us too much with music, but my denomination’s teen magazine posted letters from youth pastors who said ALL rock music is of the Devil.  That even included the saccharine, poppy tunes of Amy Grant.

It was also sinful just to go into a movie theater, no matter what movie was playing.  I never went to prom because I didn’t want to go to Hell for dancing.

Then I started hearing from The 700 Club how the Devil was in everything: Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars (because of the Force), Halloween, stories about witches, etc. etc.  I eventually got away from that, but then Harry Potter came along and Evangelicals went crazy.

Then there were the books your parents didn’t want you to read in high school English because of sexual or other verboten themes.  And you’d read the lists of books which were banned the most often from schools/libraries by conservatives who thought Oh my gosh the kids can’t read that!

And of course, there have always been groups more extreme than mine, saying girls can’t wear pants or cut their hair, you can’t wear shorts, some even taking things so far that you can’t even have music at all, or use electricity.

Nowadays it’s coming from the other direction: liberals saying you can’t watch that, you can’t read that, you can’t listen to that, because now it’s violating other sensibilities: subject matter contains rape, the main character is played by a rapist, it’s cultural appropriation, the movie or its director is racist/sexist/ableist/etc. etc. etc.

I learn a bit about the lives of the classic authors and artists and discover that Picasso was a narcissist who treated his women like crap while also making them addicted to him; that Dostoevsky was a terrible human being; that Charles frickin’ Dickens abandoned his loving wife for a skinny young thing because she got fat after bearing him 10 kids.

I hear countless stories of rock music greats committing sexual assault or statutory rape.

I feel guilty repeating some beloved old line from a Cosby routine, or watching a Woody Allen movie.

Warring shippers for the show Timeless argue that the other side is promoting misogyny: “How can you put Wyatt and Lucy together when he was jealous all season?”  “How dare you put Flynn and Lucy together in this age of metoo?”

I already knew there were guys behaving badly in movies like Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club, but it had been so long since I saw those movies that I forgot the stuff that Molly Ringwald pointed out.  And yeah, now I can see the problems, the echoes of rape culture, the idea that boys do whatever they want while girls have to stop them–But do we ditch the movies now?

I could see the problem with Mister Mom when I saw it about ten or so years ago: Not just assuming that men can’t parent, but the shades of 50s sitcoms when Mom goes to work, and the house is in chaos until she comes back home.  But do we never watch it again?

Or The Little Rascals–Yeah, it can get racist at times, but it was the 1930s and here were kids of various races playing together like equals.  We grew up with Spanky and Porky and Buckwheat etc.; is it wrong for our kids to enjoy it?

Do we reject Kermit falling for Miss Piggy in The Muppet Show incarnations because she’s a domestic abuser?

And now I hear that Rudolph and some Christmas song I never heard of, are in the crosshairs.  I can’t speak on a song I don’t know, but the whole point of Rudolph is that a bullied reindeer gets honored.  Are we not supposed to depict bullying onscreen now?  Do we stop showing anything bad that ever happens to people and pretend everything’s always great?

It just gets to the point–Where does it end?  Am I to toss out all music, all books, all art, all movies, all TV shows?  Because is there anything out there not touched by, or depicting, some horrible person who did some horrible thing?

It starts to remind me way too much of growing up Fundamentalist and being told to separate myself from worldly things.

From the article Old favorites, outdated attitudes: Can entertainment expire? by Ted Anthony of the Associated Press:

They exist throughout society’s pop-culture canon, from movies to TV to music and beyond: pieces of work that have withstood time’s passage but that contain actions, words and depictions about race, gender and sexual orientation that we now find questionable at best.

…What, exactly, do we do with this stuff today? Do we simply discard it? Give it a free pass as the product of a less-enlightened age? Or is there some way to both acknowledge its value yet still view it with a more critical eye?

…The solutions suggest a general direction: Don’t simply ban or eliminate or delete. Talk about stuff — whether formally, when it’s presented to the public, or informally at home. And involving more voices in the production of today’s popular culture — and the selection, curation and characterization of yesterday’s — can make sense of this more than dismissing the issue as overreaction or scrubbing the leavings of less-enlightened eras.

Let Molly Ringwald have the last word: “Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art — change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.”

 

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Reblog: “Dealing with Abuser”–and how it brings up memories

I just read the post Dealing with the Abuser by Pastor Jeff Crippen.  Lots in here reminds me both of my ex Phil, and of the ex-“friends” Richard and Tracy, especially Tracy.  It’s validation yet again, helping to reassure me that I was correct, that it wasn’t my fault, that I didn’t deserve it.  I’ll point out the parts which especially jumped out to me and why:

“This is a vital lesson to learn then in respect to dealing with an abusive person.  Such a person, like Sanballat, has only one pursue – to destroy, to discourage, to instill fear, to mock and rob his victim of any sense of self-worth and confidence.  Sanballat wants to control, to own, to exercise power, to be as God to his victims.  Therefore, it is not wise to enter into mediation with an abuser.  It is not wise to enter into couples’ counseling with an abuser.  Communication problems are NOT the problem.  The abusive person’s mentality is the problem, and it is his problem alone.”

“Like Nehemiah in his dealings with Sanballat, the Christian is NOT bound to meet with an abusive person. We are NOT obligated to maintain an abusive relationship, thereby permitting the abuser to continue in his power and control and abuse. …

“Mediation, communication, reconciliation and peace-making requires goodwill from both parties. But as we have seen, the abuser has no goodwill – he is malevolent toward his victims. He will only use such sessions to exercise more of his abuse, to work more of his deceptions, and to make it appear to the foolish that he is the one who truly wants to set things ‘right.’ Beware of Sanballat!”

…See it? We have already studied and learned about the abusive man’s tactic of making allies. That is, of deceiving people like relatives and friends of his victim into thinking that the VICTIM is really the problem. That the victim is crazy, or that it is the victim who is being unreasonable in not being willing to come to the negotiation table.  That is what had happened in Nehemiah’s people.  The enemy had cultivated allies from among Nehemiah’s own people!

While the paragraph specifically says couples’ counseling, the larger context is not an abusive marriage, but a man reviling Nehemiah (for wanting to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem) and bringing in flying monkeys to help with the abuse.

Both Phil and Richard/Tracy had flying monkeys–the friend they sent to “friend” me on Facebook so they could spy on me, who then posted a scathing “profile” description, which ripped on the false and defamatory image that Richard and Tracy had given her of me.

Then there was Richard’s friend, who heard–from Richard, not me–what had happened, so he came in to try to get me to reconsider ending the friendship–and he had a false view of what was going on, as well.

Then there was Phil, who made his busy-body friend think that I was the abuser and he was the innocent victim.  The busy-body then came to me and gave me a long lecture on how horrible I was and how I needed to change to get Phil back.

This also reinforces that my husband and I were absolutely correct in refusing to have a “conference” with Tracy, that no good whatsoever could possibly have come from it–as evidenced by her further abuse when we refused.  Heck, my priest also said that no good would have come from it.

Instead, as the quoted blog post proves, it would have been about Tracy refusing to listen to anything I had to say, and continuing to abuse and abuse and defame my character until she felt spent, while telling other people how horrible I was as well.  This is how she behaved with me and with others, such as mutual friend Todd.

Then in the post we have the story of a woman who entered a passionate marriage–only to see, over time, his true colors.  I’ve noted that the literature usually says that people end up in relationships like their parents’, but my parents were not abusive.  This woman, too, did not grow up in an abusive relationship, defying the usual portrait of an abused woman.  Rather, this man took advantage of her giving nature, and twisted her brain around so much that she no longer knew what was right.

When she objected to his physical abuse, and said she’d leave if it happened again, he somehow managed to turn *her* into a horrible person, guilting her.

After that evening, he did abstain from hitting me; the physical violence in our relationship was limited to him shoving, grabbing, and pinning me up against the wall with his arm across my throat. He ratcheted up emotional abuse. At that time I didn’t recognize the red flags. I believed abuse only involved hitting and punching: now I know that abuse can be verbal and psychological.

He used constant criticism and name- calling, telling me that I was a stupid, worthless woman who couldn’t do anything right, repeatedly. Over time, the Stockholm Syndrome (ie, Traumatic Bonding – being bound to one’ s abuser when the abuser alternates abuse and ‘kindness’) – set in.

Through humiliation and ridicule my partner taught me that to express my own feelings and needs was selfish. He made it clear that it was not safe for me to disagree with him.

If I said I wanted or needed something, he would withhold it. He was generous with other things, but not with what I wanted most – he deliberately withheld his love and acceptance.

My ex Phil also withheld the things I wanted and needed, making me feel like a shrew and a nag for them.  He made it very clear over time that I was not to object to anything he wanted, no matter how distasteful or painful it was, and that I was not to disagree with him.  Meanwhile, I was not to ask for anything.  He ultimately left me for not following these rules, then brought in his flying monkey, manipulating him into thinking everything I did and everything I said about Phil’s behavior was abusive and wrong.

Those who know my story often ask why I stayed. First, I stayed because I truly loved him. Then, because I had sympathy for him; I knew he had pain in his life, and I wanted to save him. [WRONG motives, as Hunter now realizes].

Then in the blog post, it finally all came to a head with witnesses, at a July 4 party.  The abused wife hesitated when her husband said it was time to leave, so he threw a violent tantrum, which led the witnesses to intervene.  And that’s when she left him.

He called me from the gas station a block away. ‘Are you coming with me?’ he demanded to know.

‘No.’

‘If you don’t come with me now, you can never come back.’

This reminds me of Phil, a time when he was so obnoxious at a party that the other partygoers got upset, but he just didn’t stop.   All evening, people kept saying, “Shut up, Phil.”  I was mortified at his behavior, and how he disregarded everyone else’s feelings.

Finally, he left the suite, and someone closed the door behind him, pretending to have thrown him out.  It was a game, though partly they meant it, being so very annoyed by him.  They thought he’d come back in a few minutes.

Instead, we got a phone call.  Mike answered and tried to talk to Phil, but Phil just kept plaintively wailing, “Nyssa.  Nyssa!”  So I had to come to the phone.

I said hello, but for a moment he said nothing.  I tried to get something out of him, but it was harder than pulling a tooth.  Finally he said, “I’m at the phone outside Krueger.  Are you going to come here, or stay there?”

I didn’t want to leave my friends, but didn’t feel I had much of a choice.  He wasn’t coming back to the party, either.  My friend Cindy had long since left the party with some others, and then returned to Roanoke after bowling; she found him there at Krueger.  He said to her,

“She’ll come here, if she knows what’s good for her.”

Whoa, whoa, I had nothing to do with his obnoxious behavior or the consequences it brought on him.  I had nothing to do with his leaving, and didn’t want to leave my friends over his own bad behavior.  If I’d known Phil said such a thing, I might never have gone back to Krueger for him.  But I didn’t, so I went, and spent long hours comforting him.  I don’t believe I told him that what he did at the party was okay, because I still thought he’d been obnoxious and annoying.  Mike thought he shouldn’t have made me leave the party like that.

Cindy told me his words a few years later (we were co-workers), and that they left not because of Phil being obnoxious, but because they planned to go bowling at a certain time.  It was a birthday party for Ralph, but he left it early, so we all thought Phil was the reason.  Well, okay, maybe he was partly the reason.

Not only is this blog post by Jeff Crippen validating for me (which is helpful ever so often despite the passing of many years), but it’s also a validating and helpful post for people who are caught up in abusive relationships.  Once again, see here.

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