Reblog: Photo Essay Shows How Abusers Manipulate Victims

Tonight I have found three blog posts of particular note:

Sara Naomi Lewkowicz, a photographer, put together a photo essay called Photographer as Witness: A Portrait of Domestic Violence.  She didn’t go into this job planning to portray domestic violence; it just happened.

There has been some flak over her not stepping in, but keep in mind that she’s a woman, and that the police told her she could have done nothing to help, that the violence could have gotten worse.

Of course, there were others in the house, so I wonder why they didn’t gang up on the guy after calling the police?  But in any case, her photographs became important evidence against the abuser.

Photo Essay Shows How Abusers Manipulate Victims is Amanda Marcotte’s response to this photo essay.  She shows, step-by-step, how abusers can turn anyone into a victim who does not leave.

Then there is Darth Vader is a tricksy hobbit.  I don’t agree that we should be cutting off abuse victims from venting just because it bugs us, but rather put up boundaries in ourselves to keep from getting overly caught up in another’s pain. But this blog gives an excellent explanation of why abuse victims don’t just leave and get it over with, and why we should support them anyway.

As a witness and confidante to the abuses of Tracy against Richard, I did not follow what this blog recommended; I did not feel it was right to stay silent; I could not force myself to be more than a polite acquaintance to Tracy.

Tracy, like Shane, the abuser in the photo essay (pictures 18 and 19, see captions), twisted my friendship with Richard into something it wasn’t, and my actions into something they weren’t, because I saw her abuses for what they were.

I have always been a fierce defender of my friends; I could not hide my contempt for her verbally abusing, controlling and slapping my best friend Richard while she lived in my house.

So I became her target, as she manipulated Richard into believing the worst about me, until she finally found a reason to blow up at me, turn Richard against me, and force me to submit to her–so I cut her out of my life instead.

My blogs–which Richard and Tracy read a little more than a year ago–went into great detail about how horrible Tracy acted, and vented how I felt about Richard for staying and for helping her abuse me.

But I did not expect them to ever find the blogs; that was accidental.  I never meant to tell Richard all those things I felt about him staying with her and putting up with her bull****.

However, a feeling of guilt over that victim-blaming, is tempered by the discovery that Richard is also very abusive.  You can read it all in my story, here: “The Darkness Engulfs Me.”

I began to realize, after discovering that Richard had choked his 9-year-old daughter to unconsciousness, how he had manipulated me as well.  I still believe his stories of Tracy’s abuse, because I saw it for myself.

But I now see myself as a pawn he used to drive Tracy’s jealousy, to keep her tied to him, and my husband and me as pawns used by both of them against each other, while also manipulating my husband and me into feeling pity for them and giving them all sorts of stuff.

Richard would make a show of not wanting us to help them, yet somehow we kept finding out they were “in trouble”–again–and offering food/money/etc.

So not only were Richard and Tracy manipulating and abusing each other, but they were also manipulating and abusing me.

Over time, Richard was Tracy’s proxy, grooming me by trying to convince me that I was behaving horribly to Tracy, and subtly trying to make me believe that I deserved her ire for how I “behaved.”

Then this happened, when Tracy found a reason to blow up at me verbally:

6) Once the victim is groomed, wait for an opportunity to claim she provoked you, and then beat her. Maggie said jealous stuff to Shane, so he had his pretext to claim she provoked him. –from Photo essay shows how abusers manipulate victims

What Richard did in keeping me tied to him, is pretty much what is described here, but without the sex/romance/marriage parts:

One of the most heartbreaking truths is that feeling love, hearing all the words you’ve ever wanted to hear someone say to you about love, having the most intense sexual chemistry, being able to stay up all night and have long, deep, intense conversations about the things in your heart do not necessarily mean that you can build a happy life with someone.

They do not necessarily guarantee that the person who generates all those feelings will be kind to you and treat you as you deserve.

So when someone describes abusive or unkind behaviors we’re quick to say “That’s not really love” or “You shouldn’t love him” or “he doesn’t really love you” or “DTMFA.”

And we’re not necessarily wrong to think that or to say that. Obviously I personally think it’s important to fight against the way that our culture pressures people, especially women, to stay in romantic relationships even when they aren’t working.

But when we treat someone’s feelings as unreal or unimportant in skipping to the part where they should do what we want them to, we forget that finding out that the person who makes you feel such intense feelings is not really good for you and that it’s not going to end well is fucking shattering.

Breaking off a relationship that has been important to you, even if it was a dysfunctional one, entails feelings of extreme grief on the way to whatever relief and freedom is possible.

Take out the parts about sexual chemistry and make it into a friendship scenario, and you’ll see why it was so hard to break off the friendship with Richard, even with his gaslighting, devaluing/discarding, and Tracy’s abuses.

Also, I am a very shy, quiet person, as well as an introvert, who struggles to make friends, so I was very lonely.  I have had many deep, abiding friendships in my life, but most of those friends live far away now, and I had always wanted a friend who would be my “bosom friend” (as Anne Shirley terms it), who would always be there throughout my life.

Richard seemed to be that friend.

(Don’t say that’s my husband’s job.  He’s my husband; that’s a different role altogether; you don’t sleep with your friends.  Everybody needs friends outside their marriage.)

And yes, breaking off the friendship did cause extreme grief which continues to this day.

Richard also groomed me in this way:

People in abusive relationships are used to being told what to do and how to feel. They are also used to having a lot of drama – extremely high highs and low lows – as normal.

An abuser will try to convince a victim that their feelings aren’t real or don’t matter. And they will try to convince them that really outlandish, not okay behaviors are normal and okay.

And that it’s normal & expected to have screaming fights, or be constantly dealing with cheating & jealousy & control, or to have sex when you don’t really want to.

An abuser’s message is: This is normal and also the best you can ever expect from life. If you told other people, they wouldn’t believe you. –from Darth Vader is a tricksy hobbit

Richard didn’t have screaming fights with me etc., but when I objected to how Tracy treated him, he tried to make me believe these things are normal and not abusive.

Not only that, but when Tracy screamed at me over Facebook and wanted to scream at me in person as well, Richard and Tracy both tried to make me think this was “normal,” that “99 percent” of people would behave the same way she was behaving over my supposedly horrible “behavior.”

If you want to read an in-depth account of the psychological twisting done by abusers, just read my accounts linked above, which were written a short time after the abuse occurred.

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