confronting abuser

Different kinds of abuse–same feelings: How Mark Driscoll reminds me of Tracy, Phil, and others

One reason why I read blogs and articles of all different kinds of abuse, is that I find the reactions of the abuse victims are the same everywhere.

Of course you’ll have differences here and there: Being molested by a parent is not the same as being psychologically manipulated by an ex-boyfriend, for example.

But everywhere you find the same common themes: loss of trust, hurt, pain, confusion, longing for the abuser to acknowledge the abuse and make up for it.

The other day, I read this account of narcissistic abuse and a smear campaign at Mars Hill Church:

My Story by Jonna Petry

Her husband was a pastor with the church for a time, until he was abandoned and smeared by Mark Driscoll.

In this and in other stories I’ve read about abuse at Mars Hill Church, I was struck all along by things that sounded very familiar, in my own experiences with narcissistic abuse, from exes (especially Phil) and from Richard and Tracy:

  • A person/place who at first seemed like God’s gift to you.
  • Pressure to conform.
  • Shunning someone you are told is bad.
  • Abuse and getting kicked out for questioning, disagreeing, speaking up about problems.
  • A person who throws tantrums and verbally abuses you for the slightest offenses, even when the offense is only in his own mind.
  • A smear campaign.
  • Others encouraged to shun you.
  • A kangaroo court in which you have no real chance to defend yourself.
  • Others put through the same abuse if they stick up for you.
  • A “conference” which is meant not to hear your side or your grievances, but to coerce you into agreeing that the abuse against you is justified.
  • A refusal of the abusers to admit they’ve done anything wrong.  As Driscoll and his henchman wrote to Jonna and her husband, “We still believe we have done nothing wrong.”
  • Begging others to help, but no one will.
  • Discovering this abuse is a pattern, that it neither began nor ended with you.

The hurt, pain and confusion as you long desperately for reconciliation:

In shock and heartbroken, Paul and I tried desperately that first half-year to bring about some level of reconciliation.

We so longed to be restored to our friends, to have our name and reputation exonerated, and to have peace in our relationships.

This had become our family that we loved and served and ministered to as our own dear children and as brothers and sisters. These were our dear friends.

How could they do this to us? Words do not adequately describe the shock, horror, betrayal, and rejection we felt. The weight of the loss was excruciating.

The PTSD and shaking of faith:

During this whole season since the firing and the months that followed, I was emotionally and spiritually devastated.

I was often tormented by fear. I had nightmares and imaginations of someone trying to physically harm Paul, me, and the children.

If Mark had had ecclesiastical power to burn Paul at the stake I believe he would have.

I literally slept in the fetal position for months. I stayed in bed a lot, bringing the children in bed with me to do their schoolwork.

I became severely depressed and could hardly bring myself to leave the house except when absolutely necessary. I cried nearly every day for well over a year thinking I must soon cry it out, right?

But, the sorrow was bottomless. My faith was gravely shaken. How could a loving God allow this?

Later it became clear that I had typical symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression and that these reactions were common in someone who has experienced spiritual abuse.

Spiritual abuse occurs when someone uses their power within a framework of spiritual belief or practice to satisfy their own needs at the expense of others. It is a breach of sacred trust.

Christians are commanded by Jesus to love one another. When that is projected, articulated, enjoyed and then treacherously betrayed, the wounded person is left with “a sense of having been raped, emotionally and spiritually” not by a stranger, but by someone who was deeply trusted. (See Recovering from Church Abuse by Len Hjalmarson)

At the beginning, Jonna wrote,

This past summer I saw the movie, “The Help,” and a seed of courage was planted in my soul. One of the last lines of the movie:

“God says we need to love our enemies. It hard to do.  But it can start by telling the truth. No one had ever asked me what it feel like to be me. Once I told the truth about that, I felt free.”

This story is an earnest attempt to speak the truth in love that freedom and new life may flourish.

At the end, she wrote things which encourage me to continue telling the story of Richard/Tracy–and express the same hope I hold, that one day my abusers will recognize their abuse and change:

In Acts, Chapter 20, the Apostle Paul pleaded with the Ephesian elders to pay attention and guard the flock.

This admonition, along with the mounting stories of abuse and misconduct coming out of Mars Hill Church, has added to our conviction.

We believe that to remain quiet now would be unloving and disobedient to God. As my husband stated earlier–if we fail to remember our history, we leave it for others to re-write. And, unfortunately, some of that has occurred.

And, in Mark’s own words from his book, Vintage Jesus:

“People are not perfect. As sinners we need to be gracious, patient, and merciful with one another just as God is with us or the church will spend all of its time doing nothing but having church discipline trials.

“It is worth stressing, however, that we cannot simply overlook an offense if doing so is motivated by our cowardice, fear of conflict, and/or lack of concern for someone and their sanctification.

“In the end, it is the glory of God, the reputation of Jesus, the well-being of the church, and the holiness of the individual that must outweigh any personal desires for a life of ease that avoids dealing with sin biblically.

“Sometimes God in his providential love for us allows us to be involved in dealing with another’s sin as part of our sanctification and growth. It is good for us and for the sinner, the church, and the reputation of the gospel if we respond willingly to the task God has set before us.”

What happened to us was very wrong. The way it was publicly described by Mark and the elders at the time was completely exaggerated and deceptive. The way the media and blogs have since reported on it has many holes and errors. Now it is open and plain to everyone.

If Mark and the organizations he leads do not change, I fear many more will be hurt, Mark and his family included.  To not speak is to not love or care and shows no thought or consideration for those who have been wounded and those who will be in the future.

We are witnesses. There is a pattern. There is a history. There is an ethos of authoritarianism and abuse.

Mark is the unquestioned head of Mars Hill Church and the Acts 29 Network. His elders have no way to hold him accountable. Those under him likely fear him and want to garner his favor so they don’t dare say nor do anything that might anger him. This is tragic.

Perhaps at some point, with enough outcry and exposure, Mark will come to his senses, own his harmful behavior, and get the help he needs to change. I hope so. Our common Enemy can make terrible use of our weaknesses and blind spots.

Our Lord’s harshest words were for leaders who used their status, power, the Scriptures, and God’s people for their own self-aggrandizement. Surely this is not what Mark meant to do.

We are all in this together, no matter what kind of abuse we suffered, or from whom.

We did not deserve it, and need to learn and remember this.  We need to put the responsibility for the abuse, and our subsequent hurt and pain, where it belongs–on the abuser–and take none for ourselves.

And we need to NOT look at each other and think, “I got it worse than you, so why should I bother with your story and pain?”

We also need to learn from each other, take courage from each other to speak up and tell our stories, and heal each other.

Phil walks away from me again–because I dare to have my own mind, opinions and needs–and because he’s a sociopath–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–The Long, Dark Painful Tunnel, Part 14

Intro to Psych was fascinating: It taught me a lot about such things as projecting your faults onto others, which I saw Phil doing.

The only problem was, it was an Intro class.  Like Intro to Christianity, I took it just to get credits.  For Christianity, I needed credits of any type so I’d have enough to graduate; for Psych, I needed Social Science credits.

But because it was an Intro, the class was full of immature freshmen.  Only a few people weren’t, like Astrid’s roommate Chloe and me.

Intro to Christianity, which I attended with Mike and Randy, taught how Christian doctrine developed and split over time.  The teacher, a preacher with the United Church of Christ, taught that Christ freed women, and Paul bound them up again.

We were also taught that the writers of the Bible saw a difference between Truth and Fact, which explains why, for example, the gospels have different versions of the same story, yet are still considered True.  The Truth is that Christ arose; the Facts are how many angels were at the tomb.

Unfortunately, we skipped over the section on Eastern Orthodox theology, so I knew very little about it until 2005, though I knew about the Great Schism.

Probably on Thursday, I went to lunch, went through the deli line, and spoke with the cafeteria lady who was at one of the food stalls.  (This may have been where the fries, or some other side dish, were.)

Sandy happened to be nearby as I told this woman I was engaged, and smiled and gushed about it.  Sandy didn’t say a word.

Amazing how, both times I got dumped, I had just been gushing about my engagement to someone the same day, and Dirk or his girlfriend Sandy happened to be standing nearby, silent–as if they knew something I didn’t.

Thursday, September 29, Phil took a nap in my apartment, after agreeing to go to the IV Bible study in the lounge that evening.  When it was almost time for the prayer group, I woke him up so he wouldn’t miss it.

Nothing at all unusual about that.  It’s polite, it’s kind, it’s helpful.

But he said, “I thought you said you wouldn’t tell me when to wake up and when to go to sleep.”

Can you imagine such an irrational comment?  I said this wasn’t the same thing.  I wanted him to join us because it was important to me, and he also said he wanted to come.

But he was so–weird about it, and acted like a jerk, like I had no right to wake him up for anything, no matter how important it was.

You see I couldn’t even be a normal human being around him.  Normal human beings wake up other normal human beings for things they want to go to.  I felt helpless, like the tiniest slipup and I could lose him.  (To me now, that doesn’t make him sound very loving!)

He finally got up, leaving some textbooks and pencils (some of the books were Dave’s) in my room.

(Just to clarify, since I’ve discovered that back in the ’70s, “jerk” often meant “stupid person”: I use the modern meaning of “jerk,” or someone who’s mean and nasty.)

We had a fun meeting with lots of people sitting on chairs arranged in a ring around and inside the TV nook.

After the meeting, Phil talked with someone; I believe it was the guy who came to InterVarsity once junior year, and wondered if Jews and Muslims, as People of the Book, would be saved.  Somehow, they got to the topic of how many kids a woman could potentially have.

Phil came up with a hundred, and I said from the couch on the other end of the room, “I don’t want a hundred kids!”  It was all playful and fun.

Later on, after the meeting ended it was just Charles, Pearl, Phil and me.  Phil and I cuddled together.

Phil and Charles got into a political argument.  I thought Charles was right and Phil was wrong, but said nothing at all about it.

Finally, the argument seemed to have ended.  Phil later complained that I didn’t support him in the argument, but how could I when I didn’t even agree?

Wasn’t I allowed my own political opinions?  And was I expected to back him up no matter what he said or how much I disagreed with it?

Soon, I quietly asked Phil to drive me to the store to buy milk and orange juice, but he said, “I’m not your taxicab.”  So I’m not even allowed to ask for a ride now? 

He then asked Charles and Pearl,

“Do you think a guy has to take his fiancée to the store if she asks?”

Charles and Pearl both said, “Yes, of course!”  Charles said yes if they’re going out and serious, and especially if they’re engaged.

I felt vindicated, and very upset with Phil for trying to humiliate me like that, though I still said nothing.

There may have been a few more words said between them, but I don’t remember.  He complained to me about people who don’t listen–though I thought the stubborn person here was him, not them.

I whispered to him, trying to be very calm and loving in my tone,

“Sometimes–I feel–you do the same.”

He said to me, “Thank you for being so supportive.”

Supportive?  After he’d just slammed and embarrassed me in front of my friends?  He treats me this way and expects me to support him?  My friends have just vindicated me and he says I should support him?

He got up and left the apartment.  I hurried after him, but couldn’t catch up with him, and he wouldn’t stop.  Then I did something that to this day I’m very glad I did: I yelled down the sidewalk to him,

“So you’re just going to run away?”  I used a tone that showed how cowardly I thought he was at that moment.

I went back inside and sat down on the armchair.

Charles had some choice words to say about Phil and his behavior that night.  Pearl was mad at him, too, and she showed it.  

They both thought his question about a fiancée was unfair to me, and that he was trying to embarrass me.  One of them, or I, said he seemed to be taking out his frustrations in the political argument on me.

A few minutes later, he called me up and said, “You’re more than free. Good-bye.”  Then he just hung up.

I tried to find him by calling Dirk’s apartment.  Dirk’s roommate Carl answered the phone, and promised to have Dirk call if Phil came there.  Unlike Dirk, he was very supportive of me.  Later Dirk called or I called him, and when I told him what happened, he said, “It sounds like you two have broken up.”

I think Dirk was very kind to me despite the lateness of the hour (probably after 11), and didn’t want to see us broken up, but felt powerless to stop it–even though he had done severe damage to my attempts to work things out.

Phil’s behavior all week long, especially including this, is well described in the “Disproportional Reactions” section here:

One of the favourite tools of manipulation in the abuser’s arsenal is the disproportionality of his reactions.

He reacts with supreme rage to the slightest slight. Or, he would punish severely for what he perceives to be an offence against him, no matter how minor. Or, he would throw a temper tantrum over any discord or disagreement, however gently and considerately expressed.

Or, he would act inordinately attentive, charming and tempting (even over-sexed, if need be).

This ever-shifting code of conduct and the unusually harsh and arbitrarily applied penalties are premeditated. The victims are kept in the dark.

Neediness and dependence on the source of “justice” meted and judgment passed – on the abuser – are thus guaranteed.

I believe this was indeed premeditated, that he wanted nothing but a subservient puppet with no mind or will of her own, and as soon as I expressed my own desires, my own opinions, that would be “the last straw” and he would leave. 

And somehow, it would be “my fault” even though the unvarnished truth is that he was an A$$HOLE and I did NOTHING wrong.

I talked to Phil on the phone the next day and asked him to come meet me and talk with me.  At least he gave me that much.  However, he insisted it be in the Pub, though it was public and often noisy.  We set the time for 3 p.m., after I left work.

During these weeks, I read books–a book on the Psychology of Love, which I’d bought sophomore year, when it was used by a Winterim class I didn’t take, “Love and Hate.”  I also started reading a book Helene lent me, on how to let go when you get divorced.

Both were very helpful to me.  I read them while there was still hope, and read them after the second breakup.  The first one I read when Phil and I first got back together.  I read it in just a few days to learn how to deal with our arguments.  The second one I read as I needed to.

I tried to set up rules to keep our discussion civil, probably using things I’d learned in these books.  The rules were to keep me in check as well as him:

  1. Issues will be honestly dealt with–not turned into arguments or “clamming up.”
  2. Each will listen to the other–not interrupt or get angry–and really think about what the other is saying.
  3. No getting up in a huff and stalking off–issues will be brought to a resolution.
  4. Each will be calm–no yelling, hitting, raising voices, or the like.
  5. Honesty–but not cruelty (including jokes).
  6. If someone violates the “rules,” the other one will calmly tell them– the talk is not over yet.
  7. Any and all apologies will be accepted.
  8. No accusations–use words like “I feel” or “It seems to me.”

I showed these to Pearl, and she thought they were fair.  I wrote them not only to protect me, but to protect Phil, because I could see myself breaking any of these rules quite easily.

Anna stopped at the library and gave me a pep talk about the meeting.  I prayed hard that it would go all right.  I think I even started to feel a peace about it.

3:00 came, and I headed over to the Pub with my books.  Phil was alone there.  I think I didn’t want to go there because I expected to find too many people, but only one person came in the whole time.

I showed him the House Rules, the pact I wanted to make with him.  But he refused to go by them, so I ended up not going by them, either.  What was the point, after all, if he wouldn’t play by any rules, to stick to any myself?

He was so pig-headed he wouldn’t even entertain the notion that I might have some good ideas about how to keep the talk at a reasonable, productive level.

Instead of sitting down and talking quietly with me, Phil played pool.  It seemed he didn’t want to talk with me, didn’t want to listen to a word I had to say.  He just walked around the pool table, shooting the balls.

It was frustrating.  It was done to show me that what I had to say was unimportant because it disagreed with His Majesty.

I tried to work out some problems, and it didn’t work.  He was so unwilling to listen to anything or even try to talk things over that we got into an argument.  I said he didn’t know the meaning of love; he said, “You’re right.”  Okay, for once we agreed on something!

Phil said cruel things; one thing was, he made me sound undutiful or uncaring because I didn’t confess to Mike that I had a little crush on him (and it was little–it had only just budded a couple of weeks before).

He yelled at me for never talking to Mike like he kept telling me to do, in those two weeks after the first breakup, and yelled that if I’d done so, I’d know it wasn’t returned.  He’d talked to Mike, and learned that “he does not“(that’s how Phil said it) return my feelings.

Not only did he overstep his bounds by scolding me for not broaching a subject with a friend without feeling right about it–

but now he made me feel like crap by not only saying Mike doesn’t return my feelings–

but saying it in such a way that made me feel presumptuous to even think that somebody else would like me. 

So now I was left with nobody at all, as he kicked me in the emotional side and made me feel like there was something wrong with having a tiny crush on somebody who didn’t return it.

But it hadn’t been right for me to talk to Mike, not while I was with Phil, and not so soon after the breakup.

There was also no sense risking Mike’s friendship over something that was so insignificant at the time.

But Phil had gone ahead and done that for me, a shocking betrayal, overstepping his bounds.

It was a blatant disregard and disrespect of me and my feelings on the issue.  It also could have jeopardized my friendship with Mike.

He also said at one point, “I’ll probably do things with other people,” meaning have sex.  I don’t know why he told me this, except to make me feel like crap.

I became furious, lost patience with his disregard for civility, and began saying what I felt.  Phil kept saying, “You’re right.”  This infuriated me even before, because it was an angry tone, and he’d once told me he did this to deliberately upset people during an argument.

All of a sudden, while I still had things left to say, Phil abruptly walked out of the Pub into the Campus Center lounge.  I almost followed, but when I got to the door and looked around he was already out of sight.

Rather than waste my time looking for him, I picked up my bookbag and left.  Sharon later said it was good I didn’t follow him.

I believe I said what I should have said, though it didn’t go very well.  I’m not at all ashamed of the chewing-out I gave him, either then or in later letters–I’m quite proud of standing up for myself, of refusing to sit back and be the victim of his abuse.

Because Phil was a classic abusive monster, even without hitting me, and I was well rid of him.  He was a narcissist, a sociopath. 

He broke things off with me because I dared to have my own mind, my own thoughts, my own opinions, my own needs. 

He was an old-fashioned chauvinist pig.  He broke things off with me because I was not a subservient, submissive slave who never does anything but what the Master wants, even if he doesn’t tell me what he wants.

My anger was fierce because I knew I’d been mistreated and abused.  I hated him.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:


Phil refuses to accept responsibility for the divorce–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–The Long, Dark Painful Tunnel, Part 7

All weekend, though a commuter, Phil hung around campus and had long talks with me.  They seemed productive.  Once, Phil agreed to talk to my parents on the phone; they talked him into going with me to a counselor.

Dad told us to make out lists of each other’s faults, rather than letting it be one-sided, with only Phil telling me my faults.  I started work on mine, and asked Phil to work on his–though, truly, he already gave me a verbal one.

Mom told me what he said to her on the phone.  He told her I was so upset because relationships and break-ups were new to me.  She didn’t like this.  (It also wasn’t true: I was upset over the way he treated me, and it’s only natural to be very upset over a divorce.)

Shortly before we left for school, he seemed to brag to her that he’d had seven girlfriends before, and broke up with all of them himself.  (Of course, one or two of them broke up with him.)  She got a weird feeling from this, that he had something in mind.

She also felt he would throw a girl away when he tired of her–confirmation that he had the abuser trait, “unceremoniously discarding.”  She said, “Oh, so he was going to spend the summer here, eat our food, take our money, then take you back to school and break up with you?”

I don’t want to tell everything Phil and I talked about, just summarize a few important things.  Things he said made no sense, and I didn’t deserve the treatment I got that summer.

I didn’t intend to do the same things again that I had done wrong, but he had to change, too.  He had to recognize his own faults, just as I’d recognized mine.

He even blamed me for him getting a cold, though I didn’t give it to him!

He even said, “I think I’m still in love with Tracy,” even though he never loved Tracy and never even kissed her.  Back in January, if he’d loved Tracy, I would have backed off.  But he made it very clear that he felt no passion for her, was not attracted to her, just thought of her as a friend!

Now he was changing history and telling me he’d been in love with her?  What the HECK?  (See here for what really happened.)

By the way, that school year I heard Tracy got a boyfriend who did want to be with her.  She would have missed out on that if she’d been with Phil.

Phil said his brother Dave and his fiancée Pearl were acting like his parents, and probably headed for a breakup.  (That, though he may not have realized it, sounded like our own marriage prior to the divorce.)

To my shock, Phil had asked this same Pearl to go to dinner with him.  She “got very quiet.”

So a day after our separation, my husband asked out some new girl–who, by the way, was his own brother’s fiancée?

He said, “She’s giving, like me.”

Like him?  Like him, who wouldn’t do anything nice for me when I asked?  Who wouldn’t give me what I wanted or needed, no matter what?  Who’d give anyone a ride but me?

(I later learned that he’d been offering to drive groups to Fond du Lac to dance on the weekends.)

Who wouldn’t do foreplay when I asked, go to Sunday School with me even once, or go to the classes in that one evening service?  Who wouldn’t give me the right to have valid points, valid complaints about him?

And she’s giving, the one who accused me falsely, terrorized me for having no clue anybody still needed the shower, and called me a party pooper for not wanting to dance with a concussion?

In 1995, Sharon, Pearl, Chloe and Astrid held a Christmas party in the apartment, where they all lived at the time, since they hadn’t graduated yet.  I was with Cugan now.

Persephone (Phil’s girlfriend after me) came to the party.  She had broken up with Phil again.  I must have asked if Dave and his Pearl had gotten married yet.

“They broke up a long time ago,” she said.  “You didn’t know that?”

Nope, I was totally out of the loop of the O’Hara life by then.

“Phil tried chasing after [Dave’s] Pearl for a while, but she wanted nothing to do with him.  In fact, all the women have been staying away from him!

Just goes to show you that my complaints of Phil were real, not just me trying to make myself feel better with false memories.  If I were the problem and not him (as he tried so hard for so long to make me believe), then he wouldn’t have such a terrible reputation at Roanoke that nobody wanted to date him, even long after I left.


Back to September 1994.  I’ve heard that women who go through a break-up usually cut their hair, but I didn’t–especially after Phil kept badgering me to cut it.

I tried to talk to Phil over the next few days about setting up a counseling appointment, and gave him my list.  Sometimes he was mean, and sometimes not.  He also complained about my friends giving him nasty looks.

One day, we sat by the lagoon and discussed what would happen if we did get back together: I would have to give up my own ideas of what was right or what was moral, of how a proper wife should act, and take on his ideas, which were now far more morally questionable than before. 

He had no backbone for refusing harmful peer pressure, and wanted me to be fine with that, forcing me to compromise everything I believed in.

But I was desperately stupid enough now to give in.  The things he wanted made me lose even more respect for him.  From the outcome of this interview, it almost seemed he would consider getting back together with me sooner than the month he had mentioned before.

He also wanted me to consider sex with him without commitment.

Clarissa came over to visit.  We went to my tree to tell her about Phil breaking off the “engagement.”  With the new apartments over there and the trimming the builders had done, the tree was now out in the open and stripped of shoots and such.  I tried to sit in the tree, but it just didn’t work.

My tree!  My tree!  I used to wander out there, past the lagoon and the geese, sophomore and junior years, to sit in the tree and read and get away from the difficulties and pains of life.  During sophomore year, it was a release from the situations with Peter and Shawn.  I really needed it then.  But now, there was no tree!

Since I couldn’t sit in my tree anymore, I started wandering in the woods instead, and doing this more times in one year than I had done in the last three years put together.

Sharon pointed to her ring finger once and said, “Next time, get a ring.”

Sometime soon after the divorce, Phil told me he’d been bathing now–soap and everything–and brushing his teeth, so he could attract women.  Sometimes he even shaved.

He must have wanted to insult me, because he refused to do this during our marriage.  (I think my nose got immune.)  He also started watching a network for televised personal ads on S–‘s Marcus Cable.

Please bear with me: We’re now entering the longest, darkest, most painful part of this tunnel.  But at the end we’ll find sunshine.  And hopefully, the darkness will finally be purged from my soul so I can forgive.  [I wrote this paragraph in 2006.]

Tuesday, September 13.  I sat with Phil, Dirk and some other people at lunch, probably so I could tell Phil the time of our counseling appointment.  Dirk said with a sneer, “Here’s your list, Phil,” and handed him a small piece of yellow, lined paper.

I blanched: It was the list I gave Phil of his faults!  What a betrayal!  Not only that, but Phil now refused to see the counselor with me, despite agreeing to it before.

I soon learned that Dirk had been feeding him the line, “You should be able to work things out without a counselor.”  This is not true, and I did not appreciate this interference and sabotage of my attempts to work things out with my own husband.  And this is the guy who later said he rooted for me to get back together with Phil!  Sometimes counseling is the only thing to save a relationship, and it is certainly worth a try.

So Phil now had a minion who not only believed every bit of BS Phil told him about me, but poisoned Phil’s mind against every attempt I made to save our marriage!

Note this from Myndtalk’s “Emotional Abuse”:

However, if the abused person demands that the abuser participate in counseling or else–even if the abuser agrees to the counseling, it is likely to be short lived.

The abuser will be able to benefit from counseling when the abuser believes and acknowledges that counseling is critical to recovery.  Why?  Until the abuser owns the behavior and his/her obligation to end the abuse, the behavior continues.

Sometimes the courts demand counseling. Sometimes the legal weight of mandated counseling does have an effect.  Sometimes the awareness that a loved one will leave the relationship in one way or another will jolt the abuser into an acceptance that the behavior must stop.  And sometimes not.

Over the years, I hoped that Phil’s second wife, “K,” dragged him into counseling and changed him.  She seemed like a nice person; I always felt sorry for her, being trapped into a marriage with him by pregnancy.  (That could’ve been me!)

Cindy heard Phil yell at K the same way he used to yell at me.  From what K said to Cindy, Phil told K I was this wonderful wife who did everything he wanted (the exact opposite of what he told me about myself).  (So why did he divorce me, then?)

She tried to be like this vision of me, and admired me.  Cindy considered this Phil manipulating K.

I kept wondering when I’d hear of their divorce.  I kept wondering when I’d hear that he hit her or the baby, or both.  I kept hoping she’d recognize abuse if he continued to abuse in any way.

I kept hoping his kid wouldn’t grow up just like him and carry on the chain, which I’d always hoped would be stopped by him not having children at all.  (I told Peter I hoped that Phil would become a monk so he wouldn’t have kids or advise married couples.)

In 2007, Phil and K did divorce.  Phil got a disorderly conduct charge in the early 2000’s which involved a “victim impact statement” (I have no details of who or what.)

And of course, on his profile, he posted a whole description of the divorce, where he blames her for it, saying she was “not supportive.”  The same complaint he made of me later in September, as you will see.

Sharon said in 1996 or 1997 that watching him and his new fiancée K, was like watching him and me all over again, only worse because K lied about where she was when she missed Phi-Delt meetings for him.

K, who transferred to Roanoke after I graduated, became my “replacement” in my group of friends.  But when my friends called her this, they had no idea she would be my “replacement” in every way.

I bet Phil hated that each of his Roanoke girlfriends was in this group, with people he hated because they saw right through him.

Pearl wrote a long letter warning K not to marry Phil, but she didn’t listen.  In 1996, Persephone had finally broken up with him for the last time and told me,

“I didn’t realize how dysfunctional we were until all my friends starting throwing guys at me to date.”

But K did not have Persephone’s spunk, so she probably would not slap Phil back if he slapped her.  I always hoped that she got him into counseling.  After reading the above linked article, however, I began to fear for her emotional and physical safety, and for what was being taught to their children.

They had passed out of the lives of my friends and their alumni records were outdated, so I had no idea if she finally tossed him out on his abusive butt–until now.  Well, I don’t know if she tossed him out, but I do know they’ve been divorced since 2007.

But back to September 1994.  Phil rejected everything on my list.  I was expected to take everything he said were my faults, as gospel truth, and change; yet whatever I said, was untrue and he didn’t need to change at all.  

How dare I suggest that he was not perfect, that maybe he contributed quite a bit to our problems.

I heard nothing from him but defenses of even the most blatantly disrespectful things he’d done, such as passively-aggressively staying away from me after I said I needed milk and orange juice.

Instead of telling me outright that he couldn’t (or just plain refused to) make it that day, he left me waiting all day and night, wondering when he’d show up.  Yet even here, it was somehow “wrong” for me to complain about his behavior.

And his offenses, enumerated for you in the past several months of this memoir, were at least as bad as, if not worse than, anything I had ever done to him: He emotionally, verbally, psychologically and sexually abused me constantly, with the threat of future physical abuse and anal rape.

He also said Dirk called the list a stupid idea.

Which it was not!  My dad, my intelligent, my wise dad, suggested it.  He’d been married for over 30 years and had come through the inevitable rough patches with a stronger marriage; Dirk was a kid and had never been married.

I should think Dad would know what he was talking about.  This was an insult not only to me, but also to my dad.  (By the way, a marriage counselor also suggested it to Joe and Rhoda on Rhoda.)

Besides that, what gave Phil the right to call the list a stupid idea?  He gave me a verbal list of my faults, so I had just as much right to give him a list as well.

And I have since read advice similar to Dad’s in advice books and columns.  Phil listened to Dirk way too much, and Dirk was wrong about many things.  He was the classic case of a know-it-all who knows nothing.

I learned in 1998 that it’s common for abusive men to blame everything on the woman and take no blame for themselves.

If I had known this in 1994, perhaps I would have seen Phil for what he truly was, and decided to have nothing more to do with him.

As it was, in Spring Semester I termed him only “borderline abusive.”  I was thinking of physical abuse, and didn’t realize a man can be abusive in other ways as well.

This is a common reason why people don’t recognize non-physical abuse.  I also didn’t know that verbal and emotional abuse often lead into physical abuse.

Anyway, I went alone to what was supposed to be our first joint meeting with the counselor.  She was the same counselor I saw sophomore year.  I told her everything that happened.  When I told her the things Dad said, she said, “He sounds very perceptive.”

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

 October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound

January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD

 February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995:



Article on how to confront an abuser

By Ken Singer, LCSW:

Disclosure is the act of telling someone about a secret or private information. With survivors of sexual abuse, it may occur immediately after the abuse, or years later.

Sometimes it is a planned or purposeful disclosure. Other times it is forced or accidental, or may come out in a therapy session where there was no intention to discuss it or any recollection of the abuse.

This article is written for survivors who want to disclose their abuse. Disclosure may made to a partner or spouse who is unaware of the abuse, a non-offending parent or relative, sibling, friend or other person the survivor believes should know.

This article is also about confrontation which will be covered in Part 2. The two acts, disclosure and confrontation, need to be well thought out to ensure success and reduce the possibility of additional trauma for the survivor.

As a rule, if there is going to be confrontation with a perpetrator, some disclosure will likely have taken place before the confrontation. There are reasons why disclosure should precede confrontation (if confrontation is going to take place at all. In many cases, confrontation is not recommended, but more on that later.) —Confronting Your Abuser

Reblogs: Confronting Friend About Significant Other; About Responsibility for Others’ Emotions

Carolyn Hax just had a column about confronting a friend about her significant other.  I do wonder if the same thing applies if the S.O. is actually abusive.  Also, when the S.O. is abusive, I wonder how effective confronting him directly would really be: That could bring the abuse on you.

As soon as Richard’s wife Tracy discovered that I considered her abusive, she began abusing me as well with various overt and covert abuses, culminating in The Incident and later stalking me.  So I suppose Hax’s column is useful for the majority of issues with a friend’s annoying S.O., but not necessarily abuse.

As for Anonymous in the first link, whose friends didn’t tell her a thing about her ex until afterwards: I was in the same place.  There were little hints which my friends gave here and there about my abusive ex Phil, but I didn’t pick up on them as warnings.  No explanations were given, so I just thought they found his constant, silly jokes annoying.  And, well, I liked his jokes.

But at least they didn’t do as this group of friends did (in the Carolyn Hax letter above), and pretend the guy was great until after the breakup.  That just makes you wonder which is their real feeling, and which is a lie to make their friend feel better.

Hax’s column here addresses the concept that you’re not responsible for another person’s feelings.  A reader confronts this with the objection many of us have: But if you’re a jerk to somebody else, aren’t you responsible for their anger/sadness?  :

You have said a few times something along the lines of “We are not responsible for someone else’s feelings,” and when it comes to the extremes of narcissistic or victim-playing behavior, I get this.

But if I do or say something legitimately hurtful, prejudiced, etc., to someone else, whether through malicious forethought or benign error, it’s hard for me not to feel at least a little responsible for the likely distress that person then feels, and I do my best to make amends.

True, some of us have an especially Zen approach to life, and each of us ultimately chooses how we react to what life throws at us, but I think I’m understanding your comment much more coldly and heartlessly than you intended. Could you please help clarify?

Fortunately, Hax’s reply is that no, she does not mean it to be so heartless.  She basically means that you do what you can to fix things when you cause pain, but some things are beyond your control.

This is good to hear for those of us who have been told, “I’m not responsible for your emotions,” by someone who has just done something that hurts you, but doesn’t seem to care.  As I wrote in Narcissistic Webs,

If I told [Richard] he did something that hurt me, he put the blame on my shoulders, saying he wasn’t responsible for my feelings (which is an a**hole thing to say).

Update 12/6/14: This has also been addressed by Ferrett in The Myth Of “Nobody Can Make You Feel Bad Without Your Permission”:

You might want to start that long discussion of how to get to the point where they can shove off that tidal wave of sadness with a cold freeze of logic… but that’s not how this is used.

Instead, the “Nobody can make you feel bad…” argument is generally wielded as a club to make it the victim’s fault when someone decided to be an asshole at them.

….But when you say, “Well, nobody can make you feel bad without your permission!”, that sets up a world where you have no responsibility for your speech.

Were you digging for weak spots, mocking to make a point? Oh, hey, well, you were trying your damndest to make them feel bad, but if it worked it’s their fault for not having sufficient defenses.

It’s not 100% correlation, but when I see “Nobody can make you feel bad!” I usually find a taunting dillweed nearby, taking potshots from the brush and then claiming no responsibility.


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