libel

On Fearing Lawsuits When Writing Memoirs About Abuse

I suppose the threat of a lawsuit, which I got in Now I’m Being Stalked, had to happen eventually.  I’ve always feared such a thing because not only do I write memoir (see my College Memoirs), including stories of the good and bad times (including abuse), but I also adapt real life into my fiction.

But I read Writer’s Digest for many years (until it seemed everything I’d already read kept being rehashed), and followed its guidelines for avoiding libel suits.

But as writers, we must not let this keep us from telling our truth.  I continued telling my truth, but that lawsuit never materialized.

Now that the materials it was threatened over, have been published for at least a year, it seems the threat is over.

Also, my stalkers never said which “facts” were supposedly “false.”  I have examined the materials many times, and find nothing whatsoever that is false.  All I find is truth and opinion, neither of which are actionable.

I occasionally follow interesting Google searches which led readers to my blog.  (I see them in my stats, and can click on them.)

Today, one such search was “can i write a memoir about abuse defamation,” which had led to my post Articles about abuse memoirs and abuse blogs: why we need to write them.

Clicking on the search link led me to Peering at Privacy in Creative Nonfiction by Kaylene Johnson.  She writes many reassuring words, such as:

The influences of mass media and Freudian psychology have popularized biographies and memoirs and, for better or worse, opened the doors to a cavalcade of talk shows and tell-all celebrity.

Smith explains that “the more private our lives become, the more self-conscious, the more we attempt to define ourselves apart from tradition or communal expectations, the more we turn to memoir, biography, or celebrity tabloid to offer possibility.

When we read biographies, we search for a friend, a mentor, a kindred spirit, and ultimately for ourselves. What can we learn from his experience that will confirm, challenge, or enhance our own?”

One might even argue that the current modus operandi in media and publishing leans toward anything goes; the juicier and more sordid the detail the better. However, the freedom to discuss the most private experiences in a public forum has also given voice to the formerly silent and disenfranchised.

There is power in truth; and the freedom to tell the truth gives rise to transformation and change. It is precisely this power that authors of creative nonfiction tap into when they decide to write their stories. What to reveal and what to leave unspoken becomes, then, a decision of conscience.

…..In the end, Molly Peacock encourages writers to write first, to write honestly, and to worry about the risks later. “It’s best to go forward with your own truths and then go forward with your negotiations,” she advises. “The legal issues and the psychological trespass issues should be left to later when the work is done.”

She claims that authors write memoirs in order to figure things out, and that the writing itself is a genuine process of discovery. To self-censor over worries about privacy issues is to limit the possibilities of discovery. “Say whatever it is in you to say. You can decide later what to publish… you will endlessly be coping with obstacles if you don’t.”

…..Although libel laws are set and enforced by various state laws, authors cannot be sued for statements of opinion. Neither can they be sued for telling the truth.

However, the MLA notes “Belief in the truth of an offending statement is different from the ability to prove the truth of such a statement.” In other words, writers should research and make sure their facts are accurate.

And finally, “actual malice” must be proven for a libel suit to be successful. Publication had to be made “with the knowledge that the material was false or with reckless disregard of the truth.”

The bottom line is that responsible research and honorable intentions are usually enough to keep authors and publishers out of legal hot water. Truth is considered a complete defense and the more tangible the evidence of truth (public records, etc.) the better.

……Fear of legal entanglement and concerns over the trespass on another’s privacy can cripple a writer’s ability to get at the heart of the story she is trying to tell.

That is not to say that these issues are not legitimate concerns. However, if the work is honest and the writer is truthful, she has little to fear.

Perhaps the most important question to ask in the process of writing is whether or not the disclosure of private thoughts, events, conversations, and anecdotes will serve the work at hand.

……Connie May Fowler said she started writing her memoir, When Katie Wakes, as a tribute to her dog, yet the story graphically describes the horrors of domestic violence.

“I went into it innocently, not knowing how hard it would be. I wasn’t ready to write it, but in an odd way that helped contribute to its rawness,” she said. “Writing the book helped me get to a new point in my life. From here on my art and work will be artistically bolder.”

A creative nonfiction writing exercise at a Spalding MFA in Writing residency proved how wrenching the writing of personal narrative can be.

MFA students of all genres were asked to write a personal response to a public event such as the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Voices shook, hands trembled, and tears flowed as seasoned writers shared their writing in small groups. No one anticipated the emotional cost of this exercise or the “down time” some students needed afterward to recover.

The risk of crossing boundaries is not just limited to trespassing on another’s privacy: the ultimate challenge may lie in breaking through our reluctance to move into the tender and vulnerable places of our own lives.

As writers we must be willing to take those risks, not for journalistic reasons of the truth as fact, but for the sake of shaping the work into an art that transcends the circumstances about which we are writing.

Writing hard truths with candor and compassion legitimizes and validates not only one’s personal experience but, when artfully done, offers a passageway to universal truths that can illuminate and liberate.

Seasoned authors such as Terry Tempest Williams, Molly Peacock, Connie May Fowler, Rodger Kamenetz, and Thomas Lynch all had to tackle privacy issues when writing their memoirs and essays.

Theirs were not the questions of “amateurs” but the legitimate concerns of writers everywhere.

It turns out that permission to write about these hard truths is more easily gained than one might imagine-so long as truth, compassion, and empathy are braided throughout the work.

All authors agreed that writing is often a process of painful discovery. However, the movement toward greater honesty-writing about hard truths in the light of compassion-will serve the work by creating a room for the reader that is alive with presences.

In other words, we must tell our truth without fear of reprisal, if we want our work to be honest, if we want it to mean something.

 

Intimidation of Abuse Bloggers

Please note: This is a diary of my struggle dealing with abuse and stalking, NOT legal advice.

My abusers are trying to intimidate me into silence.  I have clear documented evidence of this, and witnesses.  I have pulled this information together for others being intimidated into silence by their abusers, especially for bloggers.  In our voices, we have strength.  Keep blogging!

Threats and intimidation: threatening to harm the victim, family members and pets, using physical size to intimidate, shouting, keeping weapons & threatening to use them —Abusive Relationships

 Whether it’s bullying from peers in school or the workplace, sibling abuse, child abuse or domestic violence, constant intimidation is unhealthy for all involved.

Whether you are the perpetrator, the victim or an innocent bystander, constant intimidation can cause anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and nightmares.

Even if the perpetrator fails to act on his threats, the damage is done. Verbal and mental intimidation can be far more damaging than physical violence as the scars are much less visible and can go undetected. —Long-Term Effects of Constant Intimidation | eHow.com

Only she is far from alone. My own friends list is full of people – mostly women – whose activism has led to them being targeted: whose failure to “get a joke” turns them instantly into the butt of one themselves.

I’ve been on the receiving end, too, very recently. Of online abuse. Of intimidation. Though nowhere on the scale of that endured by better known columnists such as Julie Bindel, who has been threatened yet again this past weekend.

So forgive me if I don’t join with those suggesting Suzanne Moore “man up” in response to the latest batch of online abuse. Or dissing Mary Beard, who has come in for abuse following her appearance on Question Time last week, as an online wimp. It’s an issue – and the simplistic analysis I have seen of it so far doesn’t go a fraction of the way to address it.

First up, there is something disturbingly misogynistic about online bullying. Yes: blokes, male columnists, undoubtedly get it too. But it feels as though there is something far more vicious, gender-related with respect to what women have to endure.  Beard makes the point well, in a blog responding to her own online treatment.

It is clear that she is no stranger to tired old jokes about her appearance – but even she has been shocked about the response she evoked, describing the level of misogyny as “truly gobsmacking”.

The focus of much of the abuse is sexual, sadistic even and, she adds: “it would be quite enough to put many women off appearing in public, contributing to political debate”.

In other words, it is silencing, something I get very well from personal experience. I’ve opted out of contributing online for periods ranging from hours to a couple of weeks after being subjected to this sort of online nastiness.

Not just me. Many far braver women with serious contributions to make to public discourse on violence and abuse have suffered similar: been silenced simply for having an opinion. –Jane Fae, Misogyny, intimidation, silencing – the realities of online bullying

This sounds like the kind of thing I was subjected to in 2009, here, which my narc ex-friend Richard proclaimed I should “get over.”  As does the vile crap which Mary Beard was subjected to because of her name, as she documents in her blog post, Internet fury: or having your anatomy dissected online.  An excerpt:

All the same, you may say … why pay it any attention, still less give it publicity?

Several reasons. First, the misogyny here is truly gobsmacking. The whole site is pretty hateful (and what some of the comments say about Andrew Marr since he’s been ill are almost worse than anything).. but the whole “cunt” talk and the kind of stuff represented by the photo on right is more than a few steps into sadism.

It would be quite enough to put many women off appearing in public, contributing to political debate, especially as all of this comes up on google..

But is it just a kind of rugby club joke misfired? Well that’s what I’d guess they would say. “Where’s your sense of humour?”

But reading through it (and yes you get tipped off about it whether you search or not.. and no you cant resist looking at it), it is absolutely plain as day that this is meant to hurt and wound (“If all else, we got to her” as one commenter says).

It shows the classic signs of vile playground bullying — claiming to know about the victim, sneering at things they could not possibly know but claim they do, destabilising by using names in the thread that are those of you friends or even anagrams of your own, suggesting that they are watching you… that’s all part of the bullying repertoire.

 

Given the kind of graphic threats Kathy received, I can appreciate the need to be cautious, maybe even to take a hiatus for a while. But when a voice is voluntarily silenced forever, the bad guys have won. Fear wins. I cannot accept this. Intimidation only works if you let yourself be intimidated; terrorism only works if you let yourself be terrorized.

So Kathy, if you’re out there, I urge you to come back. We miss you.

Of course, it is Dare’s blog, and he is free to do whatever he likes with it, regardless of what those 70,000 readers might want. He doesn’t specify exactly what the problem is, although I have a hard time imagining that his many posts about XML, web APIs, and Facebook are causing problems for his family in Nigeria.

Still, I hate the idea that Dare is giving up, that he’s conceding to unnamed forces who are intimidating him into silence.

It’d be one thing if Dare said that he didn’t enjoy blogging, or if nobody was listening. But clearly that’s not the case. Dare provided a refreshingly honest and open look at what was going on inside parts of Microsoft, along with some penetrating industry analysis. I’ll miss that greatly.

I’ve never met Kathy Sierra or Dare Obasanjo, although I do feel I know them peripherally through long term readership of their blogs. It’s not my place to tell them– or anyone, really– what to do.

But I’m absolutely certain that when they stop writing, everyone loses. –Jeff Atwood, Death Threats, Intimidation, and Blogging

The district court’s ruling (PDF here) is the fullest treatment I’ve seen of the theory that blogs, as an inherently less factual medium, are less susceptible to defamation suits.

Judge Marco Hernandez turns to the Ninth Circuit’s standard test (first laid out in Unelko Corp. v. Rooney but expanded upon in Partington v. Bugliosi) for deciding whether a written work is “factual” (and thus open to defamation claims) or “opinion” (protected by the First Amendment).

That test, first of all, looks not at the author’s intent to be “factual” or not, but instead turns on how a reasonable reader would interpret the information.

To figure out how readers will take the information, the test looks to the “context” of the work, both in a broad, general-tenor sense (which includes “the subject of the statements, the setting, and the format”) and in a more focused sense (looking at things like the writing style of the disputed content, whether figurative language was used, and so on).

Judge Hernandez ended up ruling that Cox, who runs a website critical of Obsidian Finance’s acts in the bankruptcy realm, was writing opinion and not fact. And that’s fine with me.

The judge’s order runs through plenty of evidence — the website’s URL (ObsidianFinanceSucks.com), the subject matter (bankruptcy disputes), the language and tone (described as “stream of consciousness”) — to suggest that Cox’s posts aren’t “factual” in the defamation-law sense of the word.

Instead, Cox is just someone with (as the judge puts it) a “personal vendetta” against Obsidian Finance. Her writing makes that bias obvious, which undercuts the factual nature of her blog.

Now, that’s fine. I’ve got no problem with looking at the entirety of a website to decide how factual or non- various statements are. (Otherwise, The Onion would have a lot of trouble). That inquiry focuses on the message being conveyed, not on the medium used to convey it. –John Sharkey, Why Blogs Can’t Be Trusted, or: ‘Statements Made Here Are Not Likely Provable Assertions of Fact’

Cox vs. Obsidian Finance Group, Judgment; The Case

Here we go again. Over the past few years there have been a number of cases in which a crank, quack, or charlatan has attempted to silence legitimate criticism of their claims and behavior by threatening legal action, either shutting down their site through the ISP or suing for libel.

I guess they feel that a lone blogger would be easy to intimidate. They are not part of a large media outlet with lawyers on the payroll to defend them. Defending against even a frivolous suit can be ruinous to a lone blogger.

The goal, however, is not to really sue but to threaten the blogger into silence. It is intellectual thuggery, meant to defend a charlatan who cannot defend themselves with science and evidence…..

Recently a person calling himself Marc Stephens wrote a very threatening letter to Andy Lewis who wrote a critical post about the cancer clinic of Stanislaw Burzynski called The False Hope of the Burzynki Clinic. Stephens tried to make the letter sound legal and official, even though he does not appear to be a lawyer. The letter says, in part:

Please be advised that my clients consider the content of your posting to be legally actionable under numerous legal causes of action, including but not limited to: defamation Libel, defamation per se, and tortious interference with business contracts and business relationships.

The information you assert in your article is factually incorrect, and posted with either actual knowledge, or reckless disregard for its falsity.

In other words – the blog post is libel and we will sue if you don’t take it down immediately.

Lewis essentially responded the way General Anthony Clement McAuliff responded when asked to surrender by the Germans in World War II – “Nuts.” The post is still up, and now there are dozens of other blog posts up also criticizing the Burzynski clinic and their attempt at silencing criticism. –Steven Novella, Another Crank Tries to Intimidate a Blogger

There is an extensive blogging community who write about their experiences with abuse, narcissism, borderline and other Cluster B personality disorders.

I have looked over countless such blogs, and it is the normal way of things to describe your experiences, in however much detail you like.  Some people use their real names, but most use pseudonyms and fake names or “titles” for the people in their blogs, such as “NM” for “narcissistic mother.”

Oftentimes the blogs are found by the people described.  Sometimes these people get upset, but don’t do much except be nuisances, leaving nasty comments or sending complaining e-mails denying the truth of the blogs.

But I have come across various cases of bloggers being threatened with legal action.  One narcissism blogger wrote this very helpful post for fellow bloggers, Airing the Family Laundry: Libel, Slander and Defamation of Character.  I’m reblogging this for all such bloggers who might happen upon my blog.  Some quotes:

“…context matters: courts have held that given the nature of online forums, online comments cannot be taken as seriously as those made in real life or in the media. Because of these requirements, bringing a claim for internet libel is a challenge.” —the Legality ….

I read several articles in preparation for this post and most of them suggested it was ill-mannered and probably not-very-wise to write about family and friends.

However, in context of the recovery community, personal narrative and disclosure are de rigueur. Readers expect a certain type of blog when reading about narcissism.

We don’t expect love stories—unless the blog is seriously pathological and merits being flagged as inappropriately ludicrous like Chicken Soup for the Soul-less or something.

We expect bloggers to write from the gut, interspersing emotion-laden anecdotes, not clinical appendages suitable for publication in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

We expect to see a cooperative blog where people share their troubles with one another; i.e.: airing out the family linen together.

On blogs like mine, self-disclosure is i-m-p-e-r-a-t-i-v-e. Bloggers connect the dots between past and present which will, if we are doing our recovery work, focus on family dynamics.

Bloggers write about sensitive topics such as: family patterns and dysfunctional behaviors; internalized beliefs and assumptions; distinctions between normal and pathological behavior; traumatic events; intimate details in relationships; our thoughts, behaviors and reactions to other people’s thoughts, behaviors and reactions; and never forget: the armchair diagnosis based on accessible information about pathology.

We do not expect bloggers to be professional psychologists so whatever diagnosis bloggers have determined best fits, is not libelous. It’s opinion.

Don’t let the fear that you ‘might’ be sued stand in the way of speaking your truth.

I would imagine that more than one blogger writing about narcissism has been warned—finger in the blogger’s nose—that should she write even ONE WORD disparaging the narcissist’s most excellent reputation and untarnished character, that she would be sued into the netherworld of Hell.

And yet, here we are—still blogging, still learning, still fighting for healthier relationships by opening the doors on dysfunction…whether people like being written about or not.

The chances that you will be sued are slim-to-none if you follow Good Faith practices protecting your anonymity.

If you’re the one being unjustly written about, be careful reading websites sponsored by ambulance-chasing attorneys who’ll feed your greed and your desire for revenge. You’re better off toughening your own thin-skin and keeping the narcissist away from your blog, than you are engaging in litigation that could cost thousands of dollars and a decade of your life.

And what for? So you could tell the narcissist she was a scuz? So you could stick it to the person who said you were scuzzy?

I am preaching to myself as much as anyone because it isn’t easy defending people’s right to free speech when you’re seriously butthurt from something they said or wrote about you.

 

….Cyberspace is most definitely a new world from the print-world I grew up in when the printed word (newspapers and magazines) was the only source of information.

Retractions for false information couldn’t be edited at a moment’s notice and people had no voice for opposition if they didn’t own a printing press. Libel suits were integral to a fair and just society because reputations could be ruined and financial losses irreparable by the time a retraction could be published.

This is not our reality today. Our first action ought be contacting the author. Working things out. Resolving our differences. Not hiring an attorney.

 

…I hope my blog inspires an army of ACoNs [Adult Children of Narcissists] to start writing since nearly every person who does, discovers a power within they didn’t realize they had. Writing puts things into perspective and for some of us: restores our SANITY.

I was thinking about the ACoN community and why blogging is so important. If you ever attended 12-step meetings, you’ve likely heard the cliche: “Your head is a bad neighborhood to visit alone.”

Talking with other people interrupts unhealthy rumination and even obsessiveness. That’s been my experience and believe you me, I know a lot about obsessiveness. ha!

… Where do you go to talk about dysfunction and narcissism? If you join your local quilting group and start talking about patriarchal abuse, they’ll stick you with their needles and sew your mouth shut. I mean seriously, who are you going to talk with?

A lot of people have the resources and the time to spend years in therapy. Some of us don’t have extra cash for that and our insurance policies won’t pay for it anyway.

To just sit in our ‘shit’ and let it fester rather than working through our issues with people who don’t shame, blame and “sue” us for defamation, perpetuates dysfunction. We start out with unhealthy behaviors and if left uncorrected, those behaviors turn into traits and pretty soon, you’re the lonely old cat lady shooting passersby and muttering to yourself.

The last two paragraphs were in response to a comment that there are no support groups in real life for victims of narcissists and Cluster Bs, so this is why we turn to blogging.

My comments are turned off because my narcissists found my blog.  But just writing my story, and occasionally commenting on other narcissist/abuse blogs, and reading their similar experiences, has been very helpful.

These are people who understand because they’ve been there, and don’t judge you.  They don’t give you pat answers like, “just let it go,” because they know that the only way to move on is to face the problem head-on and work through the pain and anger.

The biggest words to keep in mind are, of course, “falsely” and “knowingly.”  You have to be deliberately writing things you know to be false, for it to be libel.  I steer clear of such behavior, having always had an innate sense of honesty.  Whatever I write, I have reason to believe to be true.

Using real names is also a big no-no in most cases.

So avoid both and may your blogging lead you to emotional health.  Your blog gives you a voice, something which you may have been denied–as I was–in dealing with your narcs/Cluster Bs/abusers.

I don’t even care anymore when I see my blog stalkers in the stats.  I know it’s them because of telltale signs, such as IP addresses and other things I won’t go into publicly.  I no longer worry about them.  When I see them in my stats, I go, “Oh, there you are.  I missed you!  Where were you?”

Here’s an example of not letting the bullies intimidate you–even at the risk of your own life: Pakistani Girls Walk in Shoes of Young Activist (the one who was shot by the Taliban).

[Update 11/10/12:] Another blogger who’s been threatened with a lawsuit, this time blogging about a narcissistic ex-husband, but it went nowhere:

The bottom line– he saw my blog and wants it removed.  He wants the custody orders changed and is throwing out words like “defamation” and “slander”.

He threw out accusations of Parental Alienation Syndrome which is the furthest thing from the truth.  He is a bully and he is trying to intimidate me. –One Mom’s Battle, Intimidation Tactics

After receiving the paperwork yesterday with his request for an emergency hearing, I spoke to many knowledgeable people.  Professional bloggers and people with a background in law.  I was assured that I was in compliance since I haven’t publicly named him. –One Mom’s Battle, Hearing Request: Denied

Just like me, this writer posted her story of abuse on the web, then her abusers found it.  This is her story of what happened next:

Breaking Through the Fear of Speaking About Child Abuse by Kylie Devi

In February, I got a phone call from my main abuser saying: “I read your little blog post, what are you doing? Trying to get attention? Who abused you, and why am I hearing about it in this way?”

(I would like to say that “your little blog post” was kind of comedic to me, since this is a highly trafficked website that has helped thousands of people.)

And then 3 more phone calls from my other main abuser.

Phone Call 1: “Kylie, we got a phone call today about your blog post. Someone in the family has read it and we really need to know what is happening and what is going on here.

It’s really obvious that you are accusing someone in the family of sexually abusing you and since we know that isn’t true we just want to find out what is going on with you.”

Phone Call 2: “Kylie, one of your aunts has read the blog post and she can’t sleep. She hasn’t been able to sleep in 3 nights. She is so upset.”

Phone Call 3: “Kylie, one of your uncles has read the blog post and now he is wanting to beat up the person you accused in your article.”

Kylie: “I am really sorry for all the drama this is causing for you. I genuinely was trying to help people. I do whatever I can to help people heal from what I have overcome and been through. I had no idea it would cause anyone else any stress or pain. I was very conscientious not to point any specific fingers, so I’m not sure why people are making these assumptions about who abused me.”

Because her abusers still frightened her, she

actually stopped working on a book on overcoming sexual trauma that I have been working on for over 10 years. I stopped commenting on EFB and OSA Facebook pages and sites.

I stopped offering the recovery-based courses that women were participating in with life-changing results.

In short, I stopped speaking my truth.  I silenced myself.

But she goes on to describe how she pulled out of her paralysis and began speaking out again.  I noted that she was helped greatly by this post by Christina Enevoldson.

I’m not sure if Christina wrote that post directly in response to a question I asked her, or if she was already working on the post.  But I had just read Christina’s post about her mother threatening her with legal action and accusing her of lying about her childhood sexual abuse, and asked her,

I noted the similarity between my story and what Christina’s mother wrote to her. I also note that she accused Christina of some kind of “threat.” What happened after this? Did the police get involved? How did you get the courage to keep telling and keep the story online, Christina?

Christina responded,

Wow, Kay!
That’s great that you’re not backing down! Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s not easy to stand up to bullies of any kind. Yours seem to be very persistent, though you seem even more so. Good for you!

My parent’s threat actually emboldened me to speak up more. The reasons for that is a little long to include as a comment, but I’m working on it as a separate blog post. I’ll post the link here as soon as I get it up.

Thanks for your question! It’s really good to consider all the ways their threat helped me.

Now her post has helped not just me, but many others as well.

Here’s how one court dealt with a narcissistic ex-husband suing his ex over her blog and book:

The Commission refused to hear the motion and threw it out while making it very clear that he does not want to hear about the book or blog ever again. He said that I have the right to write about anything that I choose. —One Mom’s Battle

 

“Note to Narcissists~ If you think you recognize yourself in something I write, then YOU owe somebody an apology. I don’t owe YOU one. It’s not MY fault if your own behavior embarrasses you.

I never identify the lowlifes I’m writing about, and if you behave like that, not to mention being arrogant and idiotic enough to actually think YOU are the star of something I write, then you SHOULD be ashamed of yourself .

So quit whining and start apologizing for acting like a jackass and hurting people who love you.” ~Rev. Renee Pitelli, posted here [Update 11/27/14: Muldrfan’s older blog no longer exists, so the link no longer works.]

As Paula wrote on one of her blogs:

I am 100% supportive of outing these fools by name. Unfortunately, there are many who don’t understand that outing them is a direct consequence and they should deal with it. They don’t.

Instead, they seek low-life attorneys willing to send cease and desist letters to scare us into thinking we’re committing a crime.

We’re not!! It’s called freedom of speech. If they think we’re lying and hope to sue us for defamation, libel, or slander, they need to prove that in court. The burden in U.S. courts is on the complainant, not the defender. I believe it is opposite in some countries, including Canada and the UK. :)

…Not that I’ll be doing this.  No, that information is for my friends, not the Net.

Emotional abuse is a form of assault that is deliberate and manipulative and used as a method of control. The abuser uses intimidation, fear, guilt or threats to frighten and belittle the victim.

In intimate relationships, emotional abuse often results in one partner feeling ashamed, afraid and isolated from friends and family.

They may be fearful to talk to anyone about the abuse because their abuser has told them that no one will believe them. Abusers often degrade and humiliate their victims to the point that they are left with little self-esteem.

Parents or caregivers who emotionally abuse their children also use similar controlling tactics to gain power over the child.

Children who experience emotional abuse feel that they are responsible for the behavior of their parents and that if only they were more polite, better students or better children, then their parents would be more loving. —Emotional Abuse

I am beginning to think that this was his plan from the start –Wear me out emotionally, mentally, financially.

I bet he never expected me to fight this hard but either way, I wish I saw an end in sight. I can’t move on living like this. But he may have anticipated that. Turns out its not uncommon for batterers to use the legal system to abuse their ex. –Juniperskye, Power and Control  [link no longer works]

 Abuse is any threat, act or physical force that is used to create fear, control or intimidate. Abuse is about maintained power and control. An abuser may choose to use intimidation, isolation, humiliation, blame or physical violence to make you go along with everything he says and does.

Despite what many people believe, domestic violence and abuse is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over his behaviour. In fact, abusive behaviour and violence is a deliberate choice made by the abuser in order to control you.

Abuse takes many forms. It can be physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, and financial. —Information on Abuse

 How do we deal effectively with intimidation? Well, the first thing is to recognize it for what it is. This is a problem that the narcissist has with himself, not with you.

If you take it personally, you’ll fall into the trap of getting distracted from what’s really going on. You’ll be manipulated into thinking you have something to do with his problem and hence can fix it, and you’ll compromise yourself in trying to do so.

The narcissist has a deep problem with himself. Know that the narcissist’s actions don’t come from a place of strength, but from desperation.

His greatest fear is the truth, and if he’s going into a rage, it’s probably because you’re getting close to it or you’ve already exposed him. He will intimidate if his sense of control, grandiosity, and dominance is threatened.

Remembering this can help you detach, take a step back, and allow him the space to have his fit on his own. Trust in yourself. You’re going to feel frustration, fear, anxiety, but don’t act from it or you’ll get sucked in.

Ask yourself the important questions, “Was this outburst appropriate? What happened before the outburst that brought it on? Why did it bring about such a reaction?” If you’re too enmeshed in the situation to answer objectively, ask other people what they think. –Katie, Surviving After Narcissistic Abuse: Intimidation

 In 2008, when the Daily News started reporting in earnest on the growing evidence that Armstrong had cheated, we found that paranoia struck deep in the cycling world. It’s a small industry, and Armstrong was a transcendent figure, so powerful inside his sport that people feared for their livelihoods and reputations if they crossed him.

Four years later, it’s easier for the wider world to see why. The evidence published this month by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency shows that Armstrong and his cronies possessed a cynical assuredness that their yellow wristbands entitled them to smash anyone who threatened their corrupt regime.

But it’s also already becoming harder for the world to see how lonely and painful it was for people in cycling to stand up and resist Armstrong’s Machiavellian tactics.

Now it’s trendy to be an accuser — it’s the stuff of bestsellers, not defamation complaints. But if you took on that role during the peak of Armstrong’s Tour de France dominance you might be vilified, accused of being jealous, drunk, unpatriotic, mentally disturbed. —Victims of Lance Armstrong’s strong-arm tactics feel relief and vindication in the wake of U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report

A comfort for the intimidated:

What are the negative effects of intimidation?
If you continue to use intimidation to control others, then you will:
* Find people developing emotional barriers in their relationships with you so that they are no longer vulnerable to being hurt by your control.
* Be at risk of being accused as being emotionally, verbally, physically or sexually abusive in your dealings with others.
* Find that the costs of “getting your way” all of the time are greater than you expected when you find yourself lonely and disconnected from others.
* Believe that the only goal in life is succeeding in getting your way at any cost and become totally consumed in the pursuit of acquiring power, control, position and status.
* Run the risk of becoming a pathetic, lonely, isolated person with few close relationships and many enemies out to get their revenge against you.
* Experience a great deal of passive aggressiveness thrown your way by the people you are trying to control.
* Risk becoming more absolute and rigid in your exercise of power and control and become more defensive about any personal criticism of your actions or beliefs.
* Begin to prefer “rejecting” people before they reject you and find yourself becoming increasingly socially isolated and alienated from others.
* Not be accepted, approved of or sought after by others who will never get a chance to see the “real you” whom you’ve locked behind your intimidating mask.
* Feel like you’re really a “teddy bear” underneath it all and bemoan that people never take the time to get to know this side of you. You might even lie and say you don’t care if they never get to know that side of you, even though emotionally you know differently.
* Run the risk of becoming more depressed as you become more isolated and find that your anger and rage flare ups increase.
* Experience even lower self-esteem due to the lack of acceptance by others. —Eliminating Intimidation

Why we should tell everyone we have been abused

[Note: This blog post was written in 2014 but back-dated to 2010 to fit with this series.]

Especially after Tracy told me not to “go crying to Jeff,” it was a relief to finally reveal to all my friends, using Facebook, that I had been abused for being an introvert.

It was a relief to post about the evils of jealousy, the traits of introverts and NVLD, and the abuses Tracy was guilty of. 

No more silence about how I had been abused for the past two and a half years by these narcissists: It was all coming out now.  (I also felt free to post whatever I wanted to politically.)

In e-mails to and chats with family, a Fond du Lac friend I had reconnected with, my college friends and, for the next couple of years, Todd, I named names and got into more detail about what went on.  Todd enlightened me on some things as well, and confirmed my suspicion that Tracy has BPD. 

That’s the advantage of two abuse victims of the same person talking to each other: They can compare notes, fill in missing details, and reassure each other, “No, it’s not you,” and “No, you’re not crazy.”

And having supportive friends and family, in general, has been helpful.  They know I don’t deserve this.  The Fond du Lac friend I gave details and names to, had also just broken up with a best friend who abused his girlfriend.  So we had something in common as well.

I posted a link to my blog post Fighting the Darkness, and got all sorts of positive feedback, as people tried to encourage me not to give up faith.  You can see some of this in the comments to that post.

When I discovered in September 2011 from the local newspaper’s arrest records that Richard choked his stepdaughter until she passed out, I also vented about this on Facebook.  It was just too appalling and shocking to keep quiet. 

I didn’t use his name, but everyone who had been following my updates knew it was about my ex-friend.

My friends were very supportive, saying things like, The breakup may have been painful but God was looking out for you.

We wondered why I saw him with the kids in between the charges and the trial.  One person feared they were the type who could manipulate a judge.

This is when Todd unfriended Richard on Facebook, disgusted at how much he had allowed Richard to influence him.

It was all extremely helpful, to know that I was not the terrible person Tracy tried to gaslight and brainwash me into thinking I was.

These were people I had known long before I even met Richard and Tracy on the Forum.  These included people who spent four years of college with me, day after day in each others’ company, and kept in touch after college.

These included people who grew up with me, and family.  These included people I went to church with.

They knew me and that I did not deserve abuse.

It was also helpful to discuss these things with virtual friends on online forums.

On Orthodox forums I could ask the religious questions this stirred up:

–how could this happen when God sent me this friend as an answer to prayer,

–how to stay in the faith and not become an atheist,

–how to deal with this,

–how to forgive,

–how to deal with seeing them at church.

We could share experiences of spiritual mentors who fell, and how this affected our faith.  I could ask for prayer.

I also consulted with my priest all through this: in July 2010, in August 2010, then again in October 2011 after Richard was convicted of choking his child.

In October 2011, I asked my priest if Richard could be ordained after choking his child, and he said no.  This was a great relief. 

I again went to my priest when Richard and Tracy threatened and began stalking me, even at church.  I also told all my friends and family again.

I found all sorts of blogs about abuse, such as Shrink4Men, Narcissists Suck, and various survivor blogs, which described the behaviors of narcissists, sociopaths, abusers and abusive borderlines.

They provided a chance to discuss what I went through and read about others’ experiences.  They helped me to define and sort out what had happened.

They helped me learn how abusers operate, far beyond what I had already learned from researching abuse between 1997 and 2010 (first because of Phil, then because of Tracy abusing Richard and the kids). 

They helped me learn that this is a psychological disorder, that how Tracy and Richard acted had nothing whatsoever to do with me.

I learned that no matter what the kind of abuser, their behavior is so alike that survivors keep asking, “Do they all have the same playbook?”

I discovered what a narcissist is, what borderline personality disorder (BPD) is.

And confirmed with Todd that BPD is indeed the most likely cause of Tracy’s behavior, because her mother has it and Tracy has the same traits. 

Though narcissism fits her behavior even more.  As I read Sam Vaknin‘s articles on abuse and the narcissist, the lightbulb went off in my head, not just for Tracy but–to my shock–also for Richard!

Somewhere around or before February 2012, I also made a few friends at my current church who were close enough to tell them more details about what happened, the abuse I suffered and witnessed from Richard and Tracy. 

They could support me as well.  This was incredibly helpful for my healing process, though it had not yet finished as of May 2012, and I was still in a risky emotional state.

But just having them nearby was emotionally supportive when Richard and Tracy began stalking me in May 2012, including coming to my church to intimidate and frighten me into silence and submission. 

One of the friends still goes there; we are like two peas in an introvert pod.

In the e-mail in the above link, Richard and Tracy claimed that I somehow threatened them, but this is a narcissistic lie pulled out of their backsides. 

Something about a threat to “go public” to “members of the church and community.”

Say what?  I never made such a threat, and as you can see, I had already told all my friends, family and priest what had happened, and written the blogs.

In the blogs I changed names, because that was public, and because I–having read Writer’s Digest for years–happen to know a little something about libel.  Everything I did was well within my rights of free speech, and I never, ever threatened to go beyond that.

This is yet another example of abusers trying to gaslight and frighten their victims into silence, the actions of thugs. 

We have to fight this, because that makes us into survivors, not victims.  It makes us strong, not weak for bullies to pick on. 

I stood up to my bullies, and they backed down, though they still stalk my blog constantly.

Then they will pull your face close to theirs and through snarling lips and gritted teeth tell you that if you try to expose their bad deed they will destroy you. This person knows what they are doing is wrong. –Anna Valerious, Narcissist or Psychopath, Narcissists Suck

I wrote this webbook and the related blog posts because I could not afford or trust a therapist,

I am a writer and deal with my worst emotional upsets through writing,

and like many abuse victims I needed to tell the story and talk about my pain over and over until it was gone–which I could not expect my friends/family to listen to.

In blog posts, I could perseverate as much as I needed to, without annoying anyone (except Richard and Tracy, who have been stalking my blog).  And fellow abuse victims can read as much or as little of this as they choose.

Meanwhile, I don’t keep my story or the process of my healing journey under lock and key, where it only benefits me.  I know from my own searches all over the Web, that abuse victims want to read stories like theirs.

So while Richard and Tracy tried, yet again, to threaten me into silence in May 2012, it was too late, because my friends and family–including some in town–already knew all about it. 

And it all falls within my First Amendment rights.  Their threats are meaningless and illegal.  You can see in the e-mails I copy here in my webbook, that my story is consistent.

On October 31, 2011, I even sent this letter to the editor of the newspaper:

I commend Jaymee Barton (“Surviving Violence,” Oct. 24) for speaking out on domestic abuse and [two local newspapers] for publishing stories about this issue over the past year.

An earlier article, “Injuries to Child Raise Questions” (Aug. 26), discussed sentencing for child abusers.

Recently, a local man who choked his young daughter was charged with two felonies. But through plea bargaining, his sentence became probation, no jail time.

How can this happen with such a despicable act? Is that child being protected?

Domestic abuse is far too common – husbands abusing wives emotionally, verbally and/or physically, wives abusing husbands in the same way, husbands and wives abusing each other, parents abusing children.

And keep in mind that “domestic abuse” [in Wisconsin] applies to anyone living together, including roommates.

People laugh at women abusing men, but it happens quite a bit, even physically. Even going to counseling can be a way for the abuser to control the abused by manipulating the counselor.

I also commend Social Services and the police in trying to stop abuse.

Anyone who witnesses or suspects abuse should report it to the police or Social Services to help them do their job protecting those who can’t protect themselves.

And I hope the abused, even children, will have the courage to tell someone who can help.

Abuse victims need to quench their fear of the abusers and break the silence.  This also breaks the control of the abuser over the victim. 

Abusers usually threaten their victims into silence, but I am surrounded by people who support me and protect me by their very presence. 

TELL!  TELL HOW YOU’VE BEEN ABUSED!  Gather supporters to yourself!  Your best protection against bullies is friends.

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children

5. My frustrations mount

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

 

Tracy drives away another friend (Todd) with narcissistic rage, manipulation, lies and a smear campaign

I was hardly the first friend of Richard’s to be driven off by Tracy, or even the third, and probably won’t be the last.  I don’t want to enumerate them all–especially since I don’t know how many there are–but there are several I’m aware of.  I take solace in this, because it shows I must not blame myself: It’s not me.

It also wasn’t just about her being jealous of other women.  She had various reasons to drive away these friends.  She also was nasty to and ran off one of Richard’s close male friends, “Todd,” in June 2008, because he did something on an online game which she did not like.

Richard later told Todd that she did this because, back when Todd first came to visit them, he nearly beat Tracy at Risk.  This made him her secret enemy.  So one day, she had her revenge:

I still have the printouts, because most of the argument was posted online, except for some private conversations which weren’t posted, and I wanted a full picture of just what th’ freaking heck was going on.  So I printed up dozens of pages, in order to read them closely without the glare of the computer screen.

I even have the original, private conversation between members of their alliance “government,” because Todd opened it to the rest of the gamers some time later.  So I can go back and read it over closely, without Richard whispering in my ear all the bad things Todd was doing, unlike the first time I read it.

Right here in the printouts is a fully documented case of DARVO, or Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender.  Because I can see it so clearly here, involving a different target than I, I can see how easily Tracy can pull that DARVO trick on any target.

And what I see burns me with the injustice Todd suffered from her.  People in these games argue and war and flame each other all the time, but Todd was supposedly Tracy and Richard’s friend–and one of Richard’s best friends, not just online but off.  This got personal.

Have you ever marveled at how your abusive wife, girlfriend or ex is able to do and say the most hurtful, underhanded and contemptible things and then portray herself as the innocent victim?

Have you ever wondered how she is able to convincingly accuse others, usually her victims, of the abusive behaviors and attitudes of which she is actually guilty? Wonder no more, the answer may be DARVO. –Shrink4Men

This was a browser-based game in which you set up your own moon colony, could form alliances with other colonies, and the alliances could declare wars on each other.  Todd and Tracy were in the same alliance, and in the “government.”

One night, they disagreed on the rules of the alliance’s hierarchy.  Todd had set up the rules for the alliance, a system of government which he worked hard to write, and which was his baby.

Todd was just trying to keep to the rules as he wrote them, while helping her get what she wanted regarding who got what position in the government.  She wanted some things which he said were against the rules.  She disagreed with him over this.

So in an effort of peace and helping a friend, he posted for the alliance to vote on an amendment so she could shuffle around some “ministers” the way she wanted.

But she completely misunderstood what he was doing and suddenly went off on him, posting a profanity-laden message publicly to the alliance’s main forum, also cussing him out in chat, accusing him of acting like a spoiled child and pouting.

Instead of picking up the phone and asking him in a non-blaming fashion what he was doing, she publicly posted this rage episode in the forum, and then, as he put it, he woke up to her screaming at him in chat the next morning.

I read this part of the printouts closely, but could not figure out where the heck she got the idea that Todd was somehow trying to thwart her or do a “power grab,” as Richard claimed.

All I saw was Todd doing his darndest, even staying up late, to bend the rules to help her get what she wanted.

This looked like someone with a Cluster B personality disorder finding insult where none existed, and using it as an excuse for a narcissistic rage episode.

(In fact, this reminds me of someone I encountered on a BBS back in college, a teenager with the handle Avenger who started a huge flame war with my friend Sharon and me.  It was all because Sharon wanted to be considerate of the kids on the BBS when setting up times for an evening BBS bowling party.  The Avenger and Tracy are very much alike–both mean girls who take offense at the weirdest things–and I could not stand the Avenger.)

Jeff and I both wondered where on earth this came from after a 6-year friendship.  Shouldn’t Todd be cut some slack?  Todd was also baffled, just as I was on 7/1/10 when Tracy raged at me about an e-mail I sent to Richard.

In re-reading the printouts, I saw absolutely no evidence that Todd pouted about anything, or acted spoiled or childish.  He just had concerns about what was allowed by the rules.  He did not argue about it, just decided to help her by requesting an amendment to the rules so she could do what she wanted.

Just as it did with me, her raging, cussing, accusations and cuts on Todd’s character, shocked him, dismayed him, and put him on the defensive.  At first, he tried to be more diplomatic, but it was completely understandable when he noted, “And as for that utter tripe you stated about my character?  It’s offensive….”

She continued raging at him and telling everyone he was being awful.  It’s amazing how much stamina this woman has for rages.  I also wonder where she found the time, with four kids.

They went into a chat on IRC, which went on for many hours.  He tried and tried but could not get her to see things from his point of view.  A mediator tried to calm her down and tell her to stop taking things personally, but even he couldn’t do it.  Eventually, both sides turned ridiculous, not just Tracy.

As I read this thread over again, I really feel for Todd, because I see Tracy going on a rage episode for some imagined slight that did not actually occur, all because she thought she wasn’t getting her way–when Todd’s actions were specifically meant to give her what she wanted.

I see her picking a fight and poking and prodding Todd, calling him a baby, not listening to his point of view, accusing him of having a temper tantrum.  (This is called projection.  Abusers will accuse you of doing things they’re actually doing.)

A common tactic of a narcissist is to project their own issues on to their victim. This is an attempt to hide any actions or truths they do not want brought to light about themselves.

It is their hope that by projecting issues of their own onto you it will distract you from their malignant behavior. –Lisa E. Scott, The “Crazy-Making” Behavior of a Narcissist

I see her trying to get her own way and THAT’S IT.  (My abusive ex Phil was like that, as my friends noted.)

So–like anyone else who keeps getting poked and prodded–he got angry.  Abusers will do this to provoke you into doing something mean, so that they can point to you as the abuser.  This is called baiting.

Then Tracy took it from the alliance forum to all the other alliances, making it a gamewide argument, using her more “mature” language (just as she did to Jeff after writing foul obscenities to me) to accuse Todd of starting a coup and being childish.  Then she declared war on him.

Her explanation to the other alliances of what happened, is not what I actually saw happen in the alliance forums.  She changed some important details to make Todd look bad and her look right.  She made it sound like she was being rational and adult while he was flying off the handle.

Basically, she bald-faced lied and kept on lying blatantly about Todd to everyone in the game.  Then she booted him from the alliance.  This was a smear campaign.

She continued twisting facts while arguing with him publicly in the gamewide forums.  Then other people–who were not in their alliance and did not have access to their forum, so did not see what really happened–started backing her up and accusing Todd of going crazy.

This is all part of an abuser’s modus operandi, making the target of abuse appear to be the abuser, appear to be crazy, so no one will believe him.

And things went out of control for days, with both sides doing terrible things, including Todd calling her nasty names.  She baited him, and unfortunately, he took the bait.

This also happens in physically abusive relationships: An abusive woman will slap, smack, etc. until her husband fights back–then he ends up in jail.

Then Tracy posted that as long as she’s going to be called a b**ch, she might as well act like one.  Which is totally not the way to solve problems with a friend, and a horrible attitude.  Nice people would not behave that way.

(It also sounds very familiar, because after she found out I thought she was being possessive and controlling with Richard, over the years she did everything she could to prove me correct.)

It makes me wonder how often she twisted facts when telling Richard things I supposedly had done.  I am aware of several times that she lied.

I see firsthand how she manipulated things with Todd, flying off the handle over a slight which only existed in her mind, and then lied to others with just enough of the facts to make it believable.  I see how she refused to let Todd tell her that things were not the way she thought they were.

So I see that with me, she was able to manipulate things to make me seem like I was trying to move in on her husband, and her seem like the rational principled one, leaving me feeling for quite some time like I didn’t know what was really true.

But now I see far more clearly just how easily she manipulated Richard and me.  I see how she refused to hear that things were any different than what she thought, how she refused to listen to reason, or to let anybody else have an opinion different from hers.

So she got her own way while I felt steamrolled over–and like not even Richard cared.  There was no compromise here: It was all her way or the highway, and she had to be right, because nobody else’s feelings mattered.

I see in the printouts from the Todd situation that she did the same thing to him, making him feel like Richard didn’t care anymore, like he was stabbing Todd in the back.

It is yet more evidence that I need to take everything she ever said about me, all her opinions on my motivations and actions and what was “appropriate” or not, all her cuts on my character, all her quick insults, and throw it all in the trashbin, because this is something she does.  And refuse to let Richard back into my life until he sees just what she did.

I know of two other former friends of Richard whom she used to butt heads with as well (though I don’t know details), so this is a pattern with her.

Nowhere do I see her calming down during the arguments with Todd and saying, You know, a longtime friendship isn’t worth all this; I should step back and cool off.  And I see Richard getting pulled into it and feeling he had to stick up for Tracy, which was unfair to Todd.

I see it becoming, for Todd, not so much about a game but about a long, close, dear friendship which suddenly blew up in his face for no good reason.  I see him trying desperately to keep it from happening, but going totally the wrong way about it.

But I understand how he felt, because being publicly condemned by your friend over a game, is madness and infuriating.  All Todd wanted was for Tracy to stop accusing him of things he didn’t do, and see that he was actually trying to help her out, so he wouldn’t feel like his best friends were backstabbing him over a stupid game.

But Richard and Tracy both began doing things that made it worse:

Richard helped Tracy write a declaration of war, worded in such a way to appear that anyone who agreed with Todd, was one of her alliance’s targets–though later he said it didn’t mean that.

(So he really should understand how easy it was for my own e-mail to him to not mean what Tracy thought it meant.  Unless, of course, he lied about the meaning of that DOW.)

Richard also kept telling me that Todd was doing a “power grab,” and telling me the horrible things Todd was saying to Tracy, while here was Tracy being nasty all along to Todd.

Her lies were obvious, cold and calculated, all because she imagined a slight that did not actually exist.

I saw how other people on the board got her side of the story and assumed she was right, but they didn’t have Todd’s side.

I saw Todd accused of going crazy because of a game, by people who had no access to the logs of what really happened.  Or when they got access, they didn’t care enough to actually read it all.

It all fits the behavior of an abuser or narcissist going on a smear campaign.

Even though she was the first one to make nasty cuts on Todd’s character in public, Richard got angry at Todd for making nasty cuts (“quick insults”) on Tracy’s character, and said Todd couldn’t take it back even if he wanted to.

But what about the nasty things Tracy had said to Todd long before he got fed up?  Did they count for nothing?  Was it okay for her to say things for which Richard yelled at Todd?

The problem lay with both sides, two very volatile and young personalities who had to be right.  But Tracy fired the first shot, took it from an ordinary discussion of game politics and made it personal, made it nasty, all over a frickin’ GAME, and all over a slight which was only in her imagination.  She ruthlessly libeled him and defamed his character.

And Richard kept trying to tell me that it was all Todd’s fault, that it was a “power grab,” when I could see different, from what was posted on the game forums, and when I already knew some of Tracy’s temper.  I can see that same pattern all through my own interactions with her.  By seeing what happened with Todd, it’s obvious that I’m not crazy or imagining it.

Both sides were to blame for what happened: One person said Tracy had a “stubborn as a rock mentality,” and Todd, who has a temper of his own, really shouldn’t have cussed at Tracy and called her names.  But I saw that Todd did try to give her some of the things she wanted.

And to be fair to Todd, as I wrote above, and find in various accounts on the Net (see here, for example), abusers can get after you so much that you finally snap and start behaving badly yourself.  The abuser then uses this as proof that you’re the abuser.  This is “crazy-making,” “projection,” “gaslighting,” “baiting.”

And no, in the beginning Todd was not being nasty at all:  His own nastiness appears to have started after hours in chat of Tracy’s refusing to back down and listen to him, and continuing to accuse him of a power grab.  Then he began lashing out in frustration.

None of his concessions were enough; they went on for hours online, arguing about this, back and forth, posting much of it on the game forum.

He wasn’t “power grabbing”; he just understood the alliance constitution (which he himself constructed) differently than Tracy did.  Richard should have called Tracy on her insults of Todd, but didn’t.

So of course Todd felt ganged up on, like Richard backstabbed him and let Tracy get away with whatever she wanted.  It’s very familiar, in fact….

Todd was like me, wary of Tracy because he knew she was evil, but friends of a sort with her because she was married to Richard.

Yet, after the way she kept treating me, the things I saw her do or say to Richard, the kids, Todd, and others, and the things Richard told me she did to him and the kids–Richard and Tracy kept acting like it was somehow my fault, my problem, something I had to fix, that I couldn’t get close to her, didn’t want to confide my secrets in her, didn’t seek out her company.

[Update 11/16/11: Note also how narcissists and abusers can turn things around so that you appear to be the manipulator, such as with Judge Adams, who has made his daughter Hillary appear to be manipulative and spoiled, after she posted the smoking gun video of him beating her.]

More details of this story are here, including her sociopathic smile over something Todd supposedly did, but I don’t have room to put everything in this post.

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

 

Tracy bullies me and tries to control Richard by weeding out friends she doesn’t like

I felt singled out as a terrible person because I simply could not do the social gymnastics Tracy expected me to do.

I must have missed nearly all her cues to start conversations, because I’d go for months thinking I’d been perfectly fine socially with her, then find out she was still offended and mad at me because I wasn’t “befriending” her or making conversation.

To this day I could not tell you what cues I was missing, or when, or any specific details about times, dates, places, words spoken, or what I did to offend her.

Richard would say he saw me do this this and this, but I’d think, WHEN?  I remember NONE of this! 

If she used hidden meanings or subtexts in her speech, I couldn’t tell you that, either, though I recently read that women often do that.

I was fine socially with Richard, but he was a special case: that rare individual with whom I could relate like a socially normal person.  It helped that as a man, he was more likely to say things directly instead of expecting me to read his mind.

I could even “read” him nonverbally quite well, at least for the first couple of years, before he started getting hard to understand.  He seemed to think I could be that way with everyone, when in fact I was only that way with him, my husband, my child and my cats.  (It probably has to do with familiarity.)

I find making conversation with most people to be an exhausting chore.  Most of what I “read” is from the words spoken and a few standard, obvious body language indications.

More subtle body language trips me up, such as–for example–I recently discovered that breaking into a conversation with a group of people is accomplished through eye contact and other subtle body movements.  I had to read this in an article, because I didn’t know it instinctively.

No wonder I’ve always had so much trouble breaking into conversations with a bunch of chattery people!  Usually somebody talks over me when I barely open my mouth, and then somebody else replies while I wait for that person to complete the thought.

Small talk is trouble because I just don’t know what to say, and saying “how are you” over and over seems too repetitive and dull.  I’d much rather listen and wait for someone to bring up something I can contribute to.

I wasn’t being passive-aggressive, promising one thing and then doing another: No, I kept telling Richard that I couldn’t be close to Tracy because of all the crap she kept pulling, that I couldn’t open up to someone who treated me like an enemy, that I had to choose my own confidantes.

But I was kind to her, for his sake.  I paid her compliments, sent her links to a local women’s forum so she could make friends, gave her a flower, changed diapers for her, asked for recipes….

I just wasn’t going to be “besties” with her.  I had to keep my boundaries up or be subject to all sorts of hurt and pain from a mean girl.  And, though I didn’t voice this, I wanted to be there for him and believe him whenever he told me about her abuses of him and the children.

From the horrible things she said to me when I ended the friendship, Tracy apparently thought I was being childish somehow (comments about me needing to “grow up and TALK”), or that it was deliberate.

In fact, when she behaved like a normal, decent person there was nothing deliberate about it: I’m quiet with most people, especially with more than one person at a time.  I’ve always been quiet even with my longtime friend Catherine, usually letting others carry the conversation until I have something to contribute.

Whenever I saw Tracy behave well, I sighed with relief that this time, I had nothing to object to.

But whenever she started abusing her children, snipping at Richard or making fun of me, that’s when I just plain did not want to speak to her.  I think most people would be the same, unless they’re good at faking pleasantries.

I tried to ignore her bullying because I’d always heard that’s what you should do, that bullies want to get a rise out of you, but she kept doing it anyway.  I couldn’t read her at all except when she showed hostility.  Even then, I didn’t know what the hostility was about.

So she was like a ticking time bomb.  Usually, if she smiled I thought things were okay and maybe she liked me finally.

This blog post on intolerance and its comments resonate with me, because I tried to tell Richard time and time again what was really going on, explaining every reason I could think of for whatever incident he described (though not actually remembering it), and he’d supposedly tell Tracy.

But he would reject it as an excuse, and she would reject it outright because I wasn’t shy with him.

But that’s because I was very comfortable with him in particular!  Being shy or quiet doesn’t mean you are that way with every single person on the planet, including your mother, children, husband, roommate, and best friend!

Also, this page sounds very familiar.

I believe she deliberately set me up to fail, and that the standards she sets for Richard’s friends are ridiculous and meant to weed out anybody she doesn’t like, especially ones who don’t see her as this wonderful person–as a means of controlling him, keeping him under her thumb, cutting him off from his support group who recognizes the abuser.

Our mutual friend Todd did not talk to her, just him, she said (like me).

Richard said Todd was wary of her (like me).

Todd is an introvert (like me).

He has been abused before (like me).  I think people are more likely to recognize toxic people when they’ve been abused.  He saw many of the same things in her that I did.

So in 2008, she made up an imaginary offense by Todd against her, refused to believe it did not exist, and smeared him with lies all over a game forum.  So he broke off relations with her and Richard both, because Richard let her do it and eventually joined in.

This is very familiar….. More on this below.

So it wasn’t just about Tracy being afraid of other women stealing Richard, even though Richard did tell me about her jealousies of other women.

And who knows who Richard betrayed before us, since we weren’t the only friends he lost?

Richard told me one day that people would come up to them, say, “We’re sorry, but we just can’t deal with Tracy anymore,” and break off relations with them both.  I don’t know how many have done this.  He said this with her in the room listening, so I know it was true.

I wonder what she did to tick off those other friends so much.  What kinds of things come up that make her so nasty to so many of her husband’s friends that they dump the friendship with him to get away from her?

They must have broken off relations with both of them because Tracy insisted on being friends with Richard’s friends.

Another friend was “at war” with her, told him (before they married) that Tracy would bring him trouble.  Tracy got furious when she discovered that during the two months he lived with us, Richard had been talking to her.  (How controlling!)

Another friend kept clashing with her, as well, and left.  These are the ones I know about.

Todd hoped that Richard would wake up to how she was “driving all his friends away.”

Most people call me sweet, nice, innocent, kind, caring, loyal–but she eavesdropped and knew I found her possessive, controlling and abusive, so I was on her sh** list.

Meanwhile, if she got along fine with his other friends, she acted perfectly normal with them.  See a pattern here?

If I treated Jeff and his friends that way, he’d complain to high heaven.  Her ways lead to strife and lost friendships; our way leads to peace and contentment in the marriage and with others.

Why should I submit and say she’s right and I’m wrong?  That would be a lie!  Our way is innocent-till-proven guilty; none have been guilty, though many have been flirty and a few have offended me.

Tracy’s way is guilty-till-proven innocent.  Look for guilt and you’ll find it, even where it doesn’t exist.  Going further, treat a man like a cheater and he will cheat.

This video (by Sam Vaknin, himself a malignant narcissist, with insights into how they think) sounds like Tracy.

While Richard told me things Tracy was doing, Tracy–when Jeff drove her places–told him the bad things Richard was doing: lazy, unmotivated, etc.  

She was upset that Richard wasn’t doing chores–

–while Richard was upset that he cleaned all the time but got yelled at for not cleaning, that she never did a thing to help out, that when he told her he needed help with chores she’d fume and pout for days.

Todd stayed with them a couple of times, and could vouch for Richard’s complaints.

It has been suggested that we were used as pawns by these people in their own power struggle.

Jeff also thinks that Tracy saw me as a threat to her marriage, but that it wasn’t about a potential affair, rather about me being Richard’s confidante.  

He thinks she wanted a confidante, but didn’t want Richard to have one.  He thinks she was afraid I’d convince Richard that he and the children were being treated badly, and he would leave.

Now, I never told Richard he should leave her.  I did, however, say what I thought about how she treated him.  Jeff kept his mouth shut, and he thinks that’s why he got along with her better.  But now he wonders if he should have spoken up more.

Tracy yelled and screamed and cussed at any person who upset her, throwing tantrums–over a game–even at Todd, a family friend of six years.  When he did something on an online game which she took as a power grab, instead of

  1. seeing it as just a game after all,
  2. calling Todd on the phone to ask what’s going on while giving him the benefit of the doubt, or
  3. refraining her temper because it was after all a friend–

–she cussed at him and accused him right there on the game forum for all to read.

I saw the whole thing, because my husband was in that game, so I used his account to read the forums.  Todd also opened up the private forums so we could see how the argument originated.  From what I saw, it went from civility and Todd trying to help her, to Tracy all of a sudden freaking out over nothing.

It’s not at all surprising that Todd–who also has a fierce temper–got defensive instead of working with her.  He asked a couple of people to help with talking to her, but they said she had “a stubborn as a rock mentality.”  Richard, too, called her “immovable,” not just then but in general.  (More on this incident is on the next page.)

Sometime during this whole mess, came allegations against Todd in his personal life.  I won’t post them because I have no idea if the allegations were true, or if they were all part of the smear campaign against Todd, since they ended up on the forums.

But the next day, Jeff and I went to visit; Tracy gleefully said Todd needed to “grow up.”

Her smile was vindictive and happy, malicious, the cat who swallowed the canary, smiling lips but dangerous eyes–what I now know as a sociopathic smile or sociopathic smirk.

Which was yet more indication to me, during the 7/1/10 “incident” described later, that further discussions with her would be useless.

Todd couldn’t take it anymore and broke off the friendship with them both.  Even months later, Tracy said she wanted him “at the bottom of the sea.”  More details of this story are here.

She put the responsibility for her anger and abuse on others, but accused others of being “childish” and needing to “grow up.”  She wouldn’t respect others, but demanded respect from them.

Being allowed full friendship benefits, however, was like a carrot constantly dangled above my head.  Just whenever I thought I finally caught it, it was yanked away again: emotional blackmail.

It soon became very clear that my quiet, shy, introverted temperament was somehow a personal offense to her, that she expected me to turn into an outgoing extrovert, which is impossible.

I was supposed to participate in conversations with her just like an extrovert would, or someone who is not shy, but that is neurologically impossible for me, except with a few select people.

I felt like I was being forced to jump through hoops in order to be a normal friend with my best friend, hoops that kept getting placed higher and higher while I was constantly blamed for not making them.

Tracy was very manipulative of me through Richard, very manipulative and controlling of Richard, with all her threats and intimidation.  Whether it was marriage or childrearing, I began thinking, “What would Tracy do?”–and doing the opposite.

They strategically plan how to break people down and hurt them or make them weak. This is done in either a surreptitious manner, an overt manner, or both.

They are a control freak.  If they know something is important to you, they will use it to punish or control you, or try to prevent it from taking place (such as an important goal you are working toward)….

If they know something is important to you, they will in some way try to deprive you of it or make you jump through hoops for it. –Joyful Alive Woman, Behaviors and attitudes of the narcissist

It’s highly unlikely that you can make a bully understand that the way he or she treats you is abusive. These people won’t take ownership for their bad behaviors.

They always have a justification and rationalization. It’s your fault. You “made” them treat you badly.

In order for the emotionally abusive person to see their behavior for what it is, they have to be able to tolerate cognitive dissonance. –Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD, 7 Things you need to know about emotional abuse and bullies

If you know a narcissist’s history, you will usually see a track of mysterious upheavals in his life. He suddenly up and moves to a different school or job in a different town every few years.

That is, every time the good angels in his Pathological Space start comparing notes, get his number, and become enraged.

In one narcissist I know of, these upheavals began with one in the eighth grade. “What Makes Narcissists Tick” pg. 79

…This history of past upheavals can be more subtle than the narcissist having to physically pull up stakes and move to a new place….

As I look back over [my mother’s] life for the last four decades it is very evident that she indeed does defecate all over her Pathological Space requiring her to abandon particular social circles with predictable regularity. This has been repeated over, and over, and over again….

If you are acquainted with someone who keeps telling you about how they had to get rid of this person, that person and the other person where all the blame rests on the other party–you are witnessing a “history of past upheavals” and it is a sign you are looking at a narcissist.

Moving about geographically is only one outward sign of past upheavals. High turnover in social circles and relationships is the subtler sign.

In fact, another red flag is being hated — I mean really hated — for mysterious reasons. And by people that hating is uncharacteristic of….–“What Makes Narcissist Tick”, pg. 79

This red flag is well understood by those of us who have been through hell with a narcissist and found ourselves loathing them and forcing no contact for our protection.

Unfortunately, most people out there in the world…are far too quick to judge what they don’t know. They are quick to condemn our hatred of a malignant narcissist as being wrong.

They are naive to a fault about people who are capable of earning such hatred — so they condemn us. This red flag should be put on billboards and written with sky-writing:

Respect the fact that people do things for reasons therefore don’t be willing to judge what you know nothing of. –Anna Valerious, More Red Flags: History of Past Upheavals & Hated for Mysterious Reasons

 

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children

5. My frustrations mount

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing