Isolation of Abuse Victims

The latest blog by Shrink4Men is on-target as usual: Abuse Tears Families Apart: A Sister Mourns the Loss of Her Brother:

Being in an abusive relationship doesn’t just hurt the target of abuse, it hurts everyone who cares about and loves the target.

In my private practice, I find I am increasingly working with family members of men who are grieving the loss, or potential loss, of a beloved son, brother, grandson, etc.

These men all had the misfortune of getting involved with and committing themselves to “Crazy” (insecure, immature, abusive, high-conflict and/or personality disordered — diagnosed and undiagnosed — women).

The families members with whom I work either have already been estranged from their sons/brothers at the mandate of the abusive, controlling spouse or girlfriend or are in the process of powerlessly watching their loved one slip away as Crazy increasingly isolates and brainwashes him into believing the worst of his family and the best of her. Common lies and distortions include:

She lists such things as, your family is rude to me/hates me/wants to tear us apart.  It would violate copyright for me to quote much more, so please go over and read the rest of that excellent article.

Not only does she say what the abusers do, but why they isolate their victims from those who could help them see the abuse for what it is, and get out.

Removing friends and family from her prey’s life who would speak up and say, ‘The way she treats you is wrong’ and help him reality test is imperative.


If you are watching this happen to a family member or friend, it is incredibly painful. You want to intervene and help, but Crazy probably twists your love and concern into something bad.


From Shrink4Men:

Many of my clients often have difficulty after ending their relationships with an abusive and crazy ex. These men and women torture themselves with self-doubt (Am I doing the right thing?),

self-recrimination (Why am I so stupid? Why did I put up with her/his behavior for so long? Why did I have kids with that sadistic lunatic?)

and second-guessing (If only I’d done this; What if I’d said that?)

These thoughts and feelings are a natural byproduct of being in an abusive relationship. It’s no secret that abusive personalities groom their targets to — you guessed it — take their abuse.

They do this through a variety of methods, however, in order for any of their unconscious and conscious manipulations to work, they first need to envelop you in FOG (fear, obligation, guilt).

I also work with individuals who are distraught over seeing a beloved son, brother, grandson and/or friend willingly remain in an abusive relationship. They just don’t understand why their loved ones tolerate the abuse and stay in the relationship.

FOG is the intangible glue that keeps many men and women stuck in abusive relationships.It is often easier for outsiders to see what’s going on because they’re not caught in the disorienting and invalidating mists of an emotional FOG.

To a mom, dad, sister, brother or best friend, it can be as clear as day, but when you have your mouth wrapped around the exhaust pipe of the Crazy Fogger 3000 night and day, it’s no wonder you can’t see the forest for the trees.

For anyone who’s ever walked or driven in atmospheric fogs, you know that being in a fog can play perceptual tricks on you.

I also talk about this in Stockholm Syndrome.  I’ve seen this stuff firsthand, and how the abusers can screw up not only the lives in their own families, but the people orbiting around them.

We need to be there so that when the abused man or woman or child escapes, they can also escape the destructive message of the abuser: “You deserve this!”

But the pain and abuse affects not just the spouse, but the family and friends as well, who have to watch the abuse and feel helpless to stop it, and/or try to speak up but get rebuffed, and/or become targets of abuse as well–or even used as pawns.

Exposing your abuser is a liberating experience. Abusers use every physical and emotional tactic to isolate, intimidate and terrify you into keeping your mouth shut — it’s about power and control. When you expose your abuse by a woman it’s an empowering experience….

Exposing your abuser empowers others to do the same. Most criminologists and sociologists feel that domestic violence against men may be one of the most underreported and under prosecuted crimes in the United States.

Police ignore the problem, DA’s often refuse to prosecute the crime, then judges throw-out the charges. If a woman ever is found guilty her sentence is minimal if she receives one at all.

The more information that is out there on these women, the more difficult it is for the justice system to ignore the problem….

It helps other abused men know that they are not alone. When this writer watched the YouTube videos on a Marriage in Plano it caused physical illness.

At the same time, however, it was important to know that other women operate off the same identical script. For the first time, this blogger knew that another man shared a similar experience.

There is comfort in knowing you are not alone. —Top Ten Reasons Why Men Should Expose Abuse by a Woman  [link no longer works, so try this one instead, about documenting abuse]


These women lie, connive, and extort. To insult and humiliate their partner, some argue and use offensive language in the presence of others including their children. Many steal or destroy their partner’s possessions.

These women are driven by jealousy and view others as rivals. They treat their partners as possessions and strive to isolate them from friends and family.

These abusive women falsely accuse their partners of infidelity while they have affairs. These women often abuse children or animals. Nearly all exhibit erratic mood changes, feign illnesses or injuries, and most are practiced actresses.

They are not sick; they simply play the multiple roles of the terrorist, the tyrant, the fiend, and the victim….

Once your spouse or companion has chosen abuse, end the relationship promptly and irrevocably before she or he blames or accuses you of their own behavior.

Get a restraining order and change the locks, sue in civil court now and, when the assailant is your spouse, file for divorce….

When faced with the breakup of a relationship, especially a marriage, some women become vindictive, and abusive women become very dangerous.

When others (friends, relatives, police, attorneys, and judges) believe her, they join in, and the frustrated husband or partner finds himself a victim of undeserved hatred, defamation, and abuse. –Edward Steven Nunes, Abusive and Violent Women in Relationships: Recognizing the Signs of a Bully


Jealousy–In the beginning of a relationship, jealousy may seem like an expression of love or concern. As time passes, however, jealousy turns to entitlement and possession.

This can include falsely accusing you of having sex with others. Jealous behavior begins to isolate the victim, who may stop seeing friends, family, and spiritual advisers in order to please the jealous partner. —What are the warning signs (of abuse)?


A common sign of domestic abuse is jealousy. The abuser doesn’t want his partner to speak with or form relationships with other men and women. This jealousy usually leads to the isolation of the victim from her friends.

The victim of abuse frequently defends their partner’s jealousy and confuses it with love. –Hope Wilbanks, 5 Signs of Domestic Abuse

1.Jealousy:  At the beginning of a relationship, an abuser will always say that jealousy is a sign of love: jealousy has nothing to do with love, it is a sign of insecurity and possessiveness.

The abuser will question her about who she talks to, accuse her of flirting, or be jealous of time she spends with family, friends, or children.

As the jealousy progresses, the abuser may call her repeatedly at work (or home) or drop by unexpectedly. The abuser may refuse to let her work for fear she will meet someone else, or exhibit other strange behaviors (like checking her car mileage or asking friends to watch her).

4.Unrealistic Expectations:  The abuser becomes dependent on the woman for all needs. He expects her to be the perfect wife, mother, lover, and friend. The abuser will say things like “If you love me, I am all you need, you are all I need.”  The woman is automatically expected to know each emotional and physical need of the abuser.

5.Isolation: The abuser attempts to isolate the woman from all personal and social resources.  If she has men friends, she is a “whore”; if she has women friends, she is a lesbian; if she is close to family, she is tied to apron strings.

The abuser claims that people who are supportive of her are troublemakers and may want to live in the country without a phone, or may not let her use the car, or try to keep her from working or going to school. —Signs to Look for in an Abusive Personality



The abuser will control whom the victim sees, where she goes, whom she speaks to and what she does.

This can take the form of simply not allowing her to use the phone, have her friends round or visit her family, or ensuring it simply isn’t worth it by being in a bad mood because she left some housework undone, making her feel guilty that she was out enjoying herself while he worked, or even encouraging her – theoretically – to make friends, and then discounting them or complaining that she cares more for her friends/family/hobby than she does him or is neglecting him.

Some abusers may move home frequently to prevent their victim from building a social support network.

Many abusers justify their control over their victim by stating that it is proof of their love, or that they worry about their safety when out, etc.

In reality however, the abuser needs to isolate his victim to feel secure themselves, they feel as though any relationship, be it family, friend or colleague, will undermine their authority over and take their partner away from them, i.e. poses a threat.

The effect of this isolation is that the victim feels very alone in her struggle, doesn’t have anyone with whom to do a ‘reality check’, and is ultimately more dependent on the abuser for all her social needs.

Forms of Isolation include:

* checking up on you

* accusing you of unfaithfulness

* moving to an isolated area

* ensuring you lack transport or a telephone

* making your friends or family feel uncomfortable when visiting so that they cease

* punishing you for being 10 minutes late home from work by complaining, bad moods, criticism or physical abuse

* not allowing you to leave the house on your own or taking away your passport

* demanding a report on your actions and conversations

* preventing you from working

* not allowing any activity which excludes him

* finding fault with your friends/family

* insisting on taking you to and collecting you from work

–Emotional Abuse



Contrary to what you seem to think, your average, sane guy won’t be jealous of his girlfriend’s friends. He may not like all of them, but if he values your relationship, he’ll at least be civil.

Not only that, but men who try to isolate the women in their lives often wind up beating the crap out of them once they’ve successfully driven away friends and family….

Lest you think that could never happen to you, if you look at any study of domestic violence, you’ll see that jealousy is the No. 1 predictor of domestic abuse.

Some other adjectives used to describe a typical abuser include controlling, overly critical, hypersensitive, and isolating. Sound familiar? –Judy McGuire, He’s Such a Jealous Guy!


The new blog The Good Wife describes being kept so isolated by her husband that it was strange for her to reach out to a friend, any friend, new or old.  [Update 6/6/15: The blog has stalled out; this explains why.]

In my Gothic story collection The Lighthouse, the stories “Candida” and “Jarkin” both describe abusive marriages; in “Candida,” the husband threatens the friend who tries to help Candida, while in “Jarkin,” the husband keeps his wife from male friends and tries to keep her from the practicing witch next door–a girl who also tries to help her.

Jarkin rages at and about the girl, while the girl tells the wife that she saw a family member get destroyed by an abusive husband who isolated her from family and friends, and will not sit back and watch it happen again.

In my College Memoirs, junior year, I detail how my ex Phil constantly complained about my friends.  They were mostly girls, and good, decent people, but he kept saying how terrible they were, that they hated him, that they were persecuting him for being Catholic.

But the truth was, they didn’t like him because they saw him treating me badly, felt he treated me like a child, though none of them mentioned this to me.

Once, I began to hang out with my friends after a meal as I usually did, with him right there beside me.  But he became petulant and angry at me for this, wanted me to leave right away.

His next girlfriend told me that he acted the same way with her, only with her job on the newspaper staff.

I also describe that, senior year, he came over to talk with me about something, but my roommates were just sitting down to watch My So-Called Life, and I wanted to join the party.

I didn’t know he was coming at that time, had already planned to do this, and I felt we could put the discussion off for one hour.  I invited him to join us.

With the lack of seating in a dorm room, my friends offered a cushioned milk crate which was used as a chair.  But he found this offensive, and walked off in a huff, later telling me that I should have defended him because they were disrespecting him.  (HUH?)

One of my friends revealed in a letter around this time, that I was not invited on some event over the summer, because nobody wanted him to come with me.

He tried to isolate me from them all the time, giving me the excuses that they were disrespecting him for being Catholic.

He even told his best friend this, and that friend, Dirk, told me–after the breakup–that an enemy of Phil’s was an enemy of his as well.

He gave our group (we were also members of a Christian group on campus) a month to shape up, or else he’d go to the school president and tell him what we were really like, and we’d be banned from the campus.  The president would be surprised because our group was his darling.

But Dirk said I was not to tell Pearl who told me this, or he’d be my enemy as well: He was a powerful foe, as well as a powerful friend.  He said I should distance myself from the group, one reason being that “our friends are reflections of ourselves.”

But how could I do such a thing?  They were my dear friends (and three were my roommies now), with me long before Phil ever was, and IV was my church when I couldn’t get into town.  I’d been called one of the “core” members, and I didn’t think IV or the people in it were bad at all.

My friends supported me now and tried to help me out now that Phil had dissed me; why would I want to be ungrateful and walk away?  And how on earth were these good people a bad reflection on me?

No, they hated Phil because he abused me, was possessive, treated me like a child.  They were witnesses one evening as he began ticking people off at a party (“drunken stork” story), then left in a huff, then called me from my dorm, making me leave the party and go be with him.

One of my friends, who had left early for a bowling party, witnessed him while he made that call, told me in 1996 that he told her, “She’ll come here, if she knows what’s good for her.”

So Phil’s true reason for hating these friends and isolating me from them was to cut me off from my supporters.  But no, he started a smear campaign against them, tried to convince me that they were bad people.

To sum up, we were publicly engaged, while secretly married, not legally but spiritually, with vows made in front of God and no one else.  So he felt entitled to my wifely submission, while I refused to say “obey” in the vows, a constant source of tension.

I felt I was equal to him and could make my own decisions, while he kept trying to force me to do what he wanted in everything, even if I found it distasteful, disgusting or painful.

For practically our entire relationship, he had me believing that he would act out his dreams and talk in his sleep, and during the summer, he even got me believing that his subconscious was “coming out” and telling me his secrets while he slept.

If there’s any doubt that I have either NVLD or Asperger’s, which have marked gullibility, my belief in these lies should quell such doubts.  Finally, he admitted that he was awake the whole time he did all these things, and made me feel like a fool.

He was controlling and emotionally abusive; my friends saw this and hated him, though they said little to me because they thought I knew he treated me like a child, and that I must be okay with it to stay with him.  But no, I didn’t realize it at the time.  I wished they had spoken up about it.

Because my friends hated him, Phil hated them, badmouthed them to me, and kept using various means to get me to spend less time with them.  He blamed me for not defending him against them.

He broke things off–which I’ve come to realize was probably not meant to be permanent, but a power play to get me to give in to all his wants, because two weeks later he was back and I was finally his crushed and subservient woman, afraid to lose him again.

During those two weeks, Dirk came to me, told me how terrible my friends were, said “Friends are a reflection of yourself,” and told me to distance myself from them to get Phil back.  I didn’t do this–heck, I lived with three of them–but I did promise to speak to one of them.  So Phil was using his friend to control me, too.

Shortly after, Phil and I got back together for a week.  But it ended abruptly when he asked my friends a “hypothetical” question which they knew was meant to chide and embarrass me, they stuck up for me, and he became furious with me for not “supporting” him.

When he met the girl he would eventually knock up and marry (then divorce later on), she had joined my old group of friends, who were still at school after I graduated.

They were surprised when she brought him to a restaurant with them one day, and all sat at another table so as not to be with him.  They saw the same patterns repeating themselves, only worse.  They even tried to get her to not marry him.

But it was all for naught, and eventually they divorced.

See the comment section for this Carolyn Hax column:  Wife asks if husband’s friends dislike her, and they do; what now?

There were a few people in the comments section saying that the friends were “disrespecting” the wife and the letter writer needed to get new friends.

But plenty of other commenters turned that around, saying (paraphrasing), “What if it were a woman writing in?  Would you tell her, Ditch your friends for disrespecting your husband by telling you he’s spiteful and controlling?”

They showed how such advice would be unthinkable if the letter writer were a woman, to advise her to give up her support system and isolate herself from the people who did not like her abusive husband.

They showed how it was a sign of good friends–and people who could help the abuse victim get out of his/her situation–for the friends to speak up about what the abuser was doing.

And how on earth is one of the friends supposed to speak directly to the abuser about it?  I’ve seen for myself how the abuser will turn that around on you, start a smear campaign against you, drive a wedge between you and the abused, and proceed to abuse you as well!  How does that help the abused?

If you’re in this situation, or know somebody who is, please see my page on Abuse.  It’s full of helpful links, arranged by category.