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Reasons to leave Domestic Violence

Iamwoman's picture

It is common knowledge that many of us have been victims/survivors of domestic violence.

Do you remember what the point was, or what someone else said to you that finally convinced you that your abuser’s actions toward you are not ok, and that you should leave?

For me, it was my abuser showing a lack of disregard for my child that prompted me to leave (I don’t care what you do to me, but don’t mess with my kid). It was only after I left that I gained the self esteem necessary to not tolerate abuse from anyone anymore.

DD15 must write an essay for her English dual enrollment class in the topic of domestic violence (her class is presenting on the topic). It is an argumentative essay, the purpose of which is to convince someone who is currently experiencing domestic violence that it’s not ok.

Because this is such a touchy topic for me, I am having trouble speaking to her about it from a first person perspective. Plus, not all victims have children to protect, so my reason for leaving an abuser is not universally applicable.

While we all KNOW it’s not ok, we also know that when you find yourself in an abusive relationship, it is never sudden, but a careful campaign of slowly increasing denigration and gaslighting. This causes the victim to not realize they are being abused, or even worse to think it’s their own fault.

What was your tipping point that helped you finally wake up and leave your abuser? Was it an action? Something someone said to you? Do you have a magic arguing point that you think can convince nearly anyone to leave an abuser?

Please share. I will tag this blog and never take it down if can help someone.


beebeel's picture

This is an interesting assignment because there is no "magic argument." I am a survivor and I have been volunteering and serving on the board of the county's DV center for 5 years. Our director has been doing this for 25 years and she has yet to find a "magic argument." There are no universal turning points. 

I would encourage your daughter to research domestic violence and the reasons people stay. She can use statistics and critical reasoning and have a great essay...but no one can convince someone to leave their abuser until they are ready to leave. Many, many people never leave...unless it's in a body bag.

Iamwoman's picture

Thank you for your volunteer service to DV.

I was afraid of “no right answer” being the answer. I had to attend several sessions at our local DV center, and was in complete denial (like Adam Sandler in “anger management”) until I began hearing stories that weren’t as bad as mine. This helped me realize how bad I had it.

beebeel's picture

Denial is a powerful thing. We see it all the time. I LIVED it for years. "It only happens once in a while." " He only strangled me until I blacked out that one time." "If only I would just leave him alone when he's that drunk..."

We had one client that denied things were that bad each of the four times her bf was arrested and charged for beating her bloody. She was in and out of our office for more than 7 years, always refusing to cooperate and defending her abuser. Then one day, he ripped out the power cables to their water heater, jabbed them into her chest and electrocuted her until she died.

He will be out in less than 10 years. I wish they would assign essays such as, "Why do murderers receive lighter sentences if they have a sexual relationship with their victims?"

mapitout's picture

My abuser left me and wanted to return once he figured life with mapitout was pretty darn good. I had been through many tirades with him, the gaslighting and shaming was palpable and I got sick and tired of living that way. Because I didn't have anyone but myself to protect, I shut the door and did the hard work of re-building my self esteem and got my feet on the ground. It was extremely challenging, the opinions other people casually tossed my way were ridiculous, I had to dig deep, keep my own counsel and put one foot in front of the other each and every day. I became my project and while we are never finished until we die, I decided I was worth investing in and have continued so to this day. I finally knew my worth and kept that in the forefront even when being told differently. 

BTW, my abuse took the form of emotional abuse. I walked on eggshells and put up a good front or so I thought, I was so ashamed and beat down. As one poster mentioned, emotional abuse is insidous, many people judge based upon their own biases and sometimes their own inability to come to terms with their participation in abuse.


GSF300's picture

Hi IAMWOMAN-- I dont normally share things like this but this is my story....

I was in an abusive relationship for 3 years, my boyfriend struggled from PTSD from all of his deployments. He would drink to the point where is eyes would go black and he wasn't a person I knew anymore. I became isolated (without knowing) from my friends and family. I started to run, every day, sometimes twice a day just to feel like I had control over something. The running turned into eating disorder...again I could control how far I ran and how many calories and carbs I was eating. It all sounds very odd. But its what kept me going.

For some strange reason I thought this was all love and I made excuses for the bruises,and horrible names he would call me. In most abusive situations (he or she) would apologize the next day, usually trying to spoil with nice notes or gifts and promises of never doing it again. He never aknowledged it the next day and neither did I. It was like it never happened. I was almost brainwashed.I just thought that he had been through so much trama that this was normal. 

We ended up breaking up and getting back together, moved into our first apartment - with in the first month he pulled out his gun and made me load it and pointed it at my head. Again I thought this was from his trama. Christmas day eve he came home from his familys and I came home from mine with my brother and a few of his friends. They were sitting in the living room all together having a nice time throwing back drinks with my boyfriend.

Again no one knew the alcohol was his trigger... my brother and his friends left. And my boyfriend flipped a switch. He hit me with his night stick that he carried on all of his deployments and chased me up to our bedroom. He repeatedly hit me in the face and walked away. For some strange reason my brother called me, I answered trying to keep my shit together and he kept asking me whats wrong and if he had hit me. There it was plain as damn day- he knew. It came out of  freaking nowhere, I couldnt even choke out a yes and my brother was knocking on the door with all of his friends in tow.

My dark secret was out, my brother told me he wasn't leaving with out me. My boyfriend pulled a knife on my brother and I realized exactly what you said- you can hurt me all you want but not my family. My brother pushed him out of the way and pulled me out the door. He was still living at my moms house at the time, pulled out a cot and sleeping bag and tucked me in. I went back to my apartment the next day all of his stuff was gone. I was finally free.

It took someone threatening my family to get me to leave.Prior to this I struggled through two abusive relationships that I was able to end easily, we didnt live together and I had the strength. I knew I deserved more.

But this time I had lost all my self worth. My suggestion is to help create an exit strategy, help them plan, let them know they have support and will be safe. Because the hardest part of leaving is the fear that they will find you. The Domestic Violence Hotline is a wonderful resource. There is meetings/therapists that they can meet with to help provide them with support and a plan to leave. The truth is there will never be the right thing to say, but everyone has their trigger...and most of the time its something or someone you love. But it should never get that far, we need to help instill self worth and empowerment- that they can and will get their life back. this is almost 10 years later and I still struggle mentally but I had full support of friends and family along the way and that has help immensely. Give rose

Iamwoman's picture

Thank you so much for sharing. Your story sounds eerily similar to mine in many ways. My DD’s HCBD often veiled his abusive ways as PTSD.

GSF300's picture

I wish he would have gotten help, the things he has seen. I'm glad the military is getting better and better at offering help to soldiers. Its not an easy transistion from deployment to home life. But yes he definitley put a veil on it for sure.

lieutenant_dad's picture

Bless your brother for recognizing something was wrong and stepping in. Sometimes we just need someone else to see it or step into it before we realize just how f**ked it all is.

lieutenant_dad's picture

My abusive relationship was one that I didn't even recognize as abusive. Toxic, yes. But it wasn't until I told DH about what was happening that he really pushed for me to see it for what it was.

My situation wasn't as cut-and-dry as he hit me. He was much more manipulative, and while he didn't hit me, he would hit things or throw them (and I eventually did the same as I broke down).

He would make comments about my weight and what I would eat. I'd ask to get ice cream after dinner and he'd tell me no, I didn't need it. He would tell me to stand up straighter when we were out because my stomach pooch embarrassed him. He'd tell me I didn't try hard enough to be pretty. Really, he broke me down about something I was already insecure about, which just made me fatter and unhappier.

He was also financially abusive to a degree. Not in a way where he would take money or not let me spend it, but he always had something he wanted to spend it on and would "punish" me if it couldn't be spent that way. Mind you, I was the breadwinner at the time as he worked *maybe* full-time making almost half of what I did. He wanted to move away from Anti-Canada to live near his family on the west coast (where I knew no one), and when I failed to even get interviews, he was angry. When I said I was uncomfortable moving to Chicago without a job, he was angry again. He hated Anti-Canada, but was unwilling to do anything to move away any sooner.

I'm glad I didn't move because soon he started isolating me. It was never from my own friends, but from his. Friends who didn't like me but never met me. Friends who either came to my house that I wasn't allowed to be around, or he'd go to their place until 3-4am several nights a week. He also put on this "good husband show" to my family and pick fights before we saw them, which just made my family think I was the crazy one and my actions would end my marriage.

I thought there was an upturn when I got a job making more money in a more "civilized" area of Anti-Canada, and he got hired by a world-renowned research company in his field. That lasted all of 3 months before he started complaining he didn't make enough (side note: he was a brand new graduate working as a contracted lab assistant for $35,000 with 5 years of the recession for a researcher who LOVED him and was already including his name on her research papers and telling him she was going to work to get him hired by the company itself for her next research project). He coped by spending money we didnt have, telling me I needed to lose weight, complaining I didn't do enough chores, and then isolating me from friends - except, this time, these were mutual friends.

I'm not proud of how my relationship with my XH ended and my relationship with my DH began. DH was part of the friend group I was being isolated from, and he noticed my XH getting very mad that I basically told him I was hanging out with my friends whether he liked it or not (my explosion of anger at XH came after he lied to me, repeatedly, that I wasn't invited to things when, really, he just didn't want me there and told people I was busy/couldn't make it). One night, and this was shortly after XH and I had been fighting for about 2 weeks about having kids and not having sex and going to therapy, DH approached me to make sure I was okay.

And I told him no. And for the first time ever, someone acknowledged, to me, that they saw how my XH was treating me and I could do better. And that I wasn't the only person who had been through it.

I had already toyed with the idea of divorce, but the next day, I went to work and told my friends I was thinking about divorcing. And they all said "FINALLY, we thought you were never going to leave him!"

So I went home that night, told him I wanted a divorce, then went out drinking and made out with DH. I slept in my car that night.

I felt unshackled and I didn't care about cheating. I was so broken and so done. My marriage was ending either way, and I just wanted to feel good. Honestly, I think if someone had given me heroin or cocaine, at that point I would have become an addict because I just wanted to feel anything other than bad and sad.

It took me about 6 months to actually cut all ties from XH and tell him no more. I moved about after our lease was up (about 3 months after I told him I wanted a divorce), but he was constantly calling me and crying and screaming, alternating between "f**k you b*tch" and "I love you" in the same call. He asked that we not tell people because he didn't want things to be "weird" until after I moved out. He moved in with a mutual friend, so he still tried isolating me through that. He showed up a few times at my dad's house (where I was living at the time) and tried to win me back with flowers and groveling (and the 2am ranting phone calls). He scared me into thinking if I didn't go back with him, he'd hurt himself or me.

DH and I were "dating" during this time. Nothing serious - he had his own demons from BM being abusive - so he was trying to be supportive of what I wanted. I had one final meeting with XH where he wanted to talk, and right before that, I had thought I was going to go back to him.

But we met, and he said something that triggered anger in me. I proceeded to very emotionally ask him why he felt that way now, after 6 months, and he shushed me. He told me to quiet down.

Somehow, that clicked in me that this would be my life. So long as I was quiet and agreeable, he would treat me well. But the minute I showed personality or disagreement? Nope, then I would be silenced.

I walked out and ignored him after that. I went to therapy and continued dating DH. We had a ton of open communication, and he opened up about BM and recognizing what I was going through. He was a great through it all, though he regrets that he didn't let me be single after leaving XH (it's the only regret he has with dating me). DH wasn't in a great place, either, when we started dating, so we tried really hard to build each other up.

I don't recommend the method I used. I felt, and feel, like I was a damsel in distress. But, at the time, I was. I cried the first time DH said yes to getting ice cream because I had been told for years I was too fat to eat it. I cried in the middle of sex once because my brain was screaming at me that I was too ugly to be naked. I lived with my parents for 2 years trying to rebuild my finances because I was terrified of being financially ruined again.

But, had DH not been blunt with me, and had my friends not agreed, and had I not done something that I felt was a definitive end to my marriage, I likely would have stayed. I had two day's worth of confidence that allowed me to make decisions that got me out. Then it was 3 days. And a week. Then a month. I was vulnerable to him for at least 6 months after I asked for it to end, and felt guilty for another 6 months after.

I wasn't a well person when I left. Leaving didnt magically make me better. I hurt and longed for my XH, even when life was better on the other side. I *needed* DH and my friends to hold me up (my family blamed me for a long time and I couldn't lean on them) and not judge me for the socially bad decisions I was making. I *had* to do something that I knew would end my marriage (cheat) to feel like I could really go.

I regret that I wasn't stronger. I regret that I didn't take the high road. I regret that I fed the toxicity in that marriage in retaliation for how I felt. I regret living like that for 8 years when I knew before I got married, and 6 months in, and even one month after we started dating, that it was going to end in misery (yes, he caused me physical harm once early on by throwing me over a bench in a crowded mall where no one said a thing when we were teens; I slapped him reflexively, through tears, for it and told him he was never to lay a finger on me again). I regret a lot.

But leaving abusive relationships isn't always pretty. It's not always a Lifetime movie where you leave and lead a better life immediately. You don't always make good, moral, wholesome decisions. I *still* can't wear tank tops or shorts comfortably because my brain reminds me that I'm too fat to look good in them. That was NEVER an issue before XH, but it still is now.

I don't know that you want to share this with your daughter, but if you do, her takeaway from me is this:

Leaving doesn't mean the feelings go away. It's okay to still love that person. It's okay to feel broken and hollow when you go. It's okay to feel regret for leaving. But that doesn't mean leaving was wrong. That doesn't mean things were okay. You can love your abuser but still recognize that it's abuse. Be there for the person who leaves. Let them do the crazy things that don't put them in harms way, even if they seem unethical or uncharacteristic. If it empowers them without endangering them, let them do it, offer support, and keep them looking forward. Don't make them heal right away. Let them build back their confidence to be HUMAN and REAL before forcing them to be healthy and okay. They are broken, so let them sort out their broken pieces first before helping them put it back together. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

GSF300's picture

You found the courage to leave and gave your self a second chance. Your stronger than you think! Thank you for sharing your story.*give_rose*

lieutenant_dad's picture

Thank you. He was *such* a good manipulator and knew the line. He may not have thrown punches, but I had a hole in our bedroom wall at each apartment where he threw his cell phone into it. He smashed a PS3 into the ground once. Almost busted open a door trying to get to me. Would "playfully" point knives in my face while putting away dishes because he thought it was funny that it would scare me and I'd end up on the floor crying and cowaring in the corner.

He used my "final sin" as a way to turn people away from me, and it wasn't until he stopped hanging out with his frienda and talking to my family that everyone realized he was only ever interested in them if he got something in return. When he got a new girlfriend (now wife) and disowned our mutual friends, a few apologized to me for not believing that he was that cold. They couldn't see past his charm until he dropped the charm to show who he was.

I'm so much stronger now, but good God, it took so long to get to this point.

GSF300's picture

Its amazing how well these abusers can fake out family and friends. My family had no idea either, I dont know how I hid it so well. It will forever be a lifelong healing process. Yes you are strong Smile :) and when you share your story believe it not it may help empower someone else to make that choice - to break free!

Iamwoman's picture

Thank you for sharing LD. There is definitely take-away in your comment. My abuser is charming as well. To this day, he can still fool people, including me (when he and DD had opposing stories) which is how he got away with abusing DD for so long during her visits.

blayze's picture

I loved him. I knew he got stupid when he was drunk. But we also had the best drunk times together! Staying up all night until the sun came up, we would drink and talk and dance and sing and cry and do stuff on the computer and LAUGH. We dug into each other’s hearts. We told each other things we had never revealed to anyone. We had our own little language. Private jokes. Our own style of dance which was perfectly in sync on the dance floor of the local watering hole. He made me laugh harder than anyone else in life. And the sex was so easy... I wanted him all the time. He reached me at a primal level. I thought he was the hottest man alive, and I felt lucky to be on his arm and have his attention. Everything was SO FUN. He was my best friend! 

Until he wasn’t. 

I couldn’t stand how crazy he would get out of nowhere. The jealousy and accusations. He accused me of liking his own brother! And it got worse when he lost his job... on his day off... like a drunk ass. He went to work to turn in something and started play fighting with an employee. He choked him out. What an idiot. Of course, he had been drinking earlier that day. 

But I continued to go over his house to hang out. I loved being with him, and the sweet side of me wanted to nurture him through all of his mistakes. 

Our fights became more frequent. Honestly, when he first started being frisky with me it was a turn on. No guy could ever overpower me, or maybe they could, but they never tried. He did it during those fights and I got turned on. How sick is that? Not sure what that was about, but again, we were having fun and having good sexual experiences - although his man parts didn’t work 100%...not even 50% because of all the drinking. But he made up for it in other ways. 

Then, the sex slowed down a lot. He was drinking more, and the fights became more frequent. Always accusing me of cheating on him. He wanted to look through my phone all the time. He trolled my social media starting fights with guys who liked any of my pics. It was ridiculous. 

I stopped having fun. 

The last straw was when a lesbian at the local watering hole, who was friendly with all the regulars, came into the bathroom while I was in there. Two stalls, mind you. He bursts into the LADIES ROOM while she and I were talking. She ran into the stall. He flipped out on me saying I was messing around with her! I wasn’t. 

A few days later, we’re at my house. I was making dinner. My phone was in the other room - completely open as I had nothing to hide. The lesbian texted me... later I found out she was afraid for me and wanted to make sure I was okay. 

Boyfriend saw her name on my phone and flipped out. This was the last time and the most violent. He had never hit me before, just light pushing or holding me. This time, he poured a rum and coke over my head. I ran into the living room. He grabbed my phone and smashed it against the floor of my stone fireplace. I tried to run up the stairs, and he grabbed me by my hair and yanked a good chunk out as he dragged me back down the stairs. 

I was shaken up but stood up straight, looked him right in the eyes and said “hit me bitch!”  Not sure why I said that!!! But he cowered. He looked at me again and then left. 

That was it. 

I got in my car and went to a friend’s house for the night. Afraid he would come back. When I looked in the mirror and saw scalp where my hair should be, I  knew it was over.

I realized I was done.

The fallout wasn’t as bad because we didn’t live together. But I got out the relationship with a guy I LOVED because of finally reaching a breaking point. I think we all have different breaking points and you don’t know what will trigger it. It’s like a rubber band that keeps stretching...eventually it will break. I couldn’t have prepared for it. 

When he was gone, I did everything I couldn’t do when we were together.  I reconnected with my guy friends. I also lost about 20 lbs. and looked great. It was hard to stop loving him, but I had to force myself to stay away from him. There was a sad song I played on repeat- something about remembering when my heart broke... and I used my displaced love to start a love, dating, and relationship blog and created a course to teach women about self-respect. It did well for a few years. 

This story probably doesn’t help with how to know when to leave. Hopefully it gives a little insight on why we stayed. Most of the time it’s because the good outweighs the bad...until it doesn’t. 


lieutenant_dad's picture


GSF300's picture

Thank you for sharing your story. <3 It makes my heart hurt that all of us have had to go through this kind of thing.

Iamwoman's picture

“The good outweighs the bad until it doesn’t.”

This is a powerful statement- thank you.

Maybe a good point to make to a victim would be that if you are even in the process of weighing good vs. bad, you should probably get a second opinion from a DV expert, because you are most likely already being abused.

I have been in two abusive relationships, and looking back, I was already being abused before I began the “good vs. bad rationalization” game.

SM12's picture

inknew it was time to get out when his abuse turned to the children.  Also because he was diagnosed BPD and lied about taking his meds.   The second I saw my BS crying because he was afraid to go home and see XH..It opened my eyes and wiped away any fear and I got out.

susanm's picture

I have found that one of the common denominators is financial dependence.  The woman has no access to money or only in such small incriments that it can not be saved to amount to anything.  The idea of breaking free and establishing a life may as well be launching to Mars.  And there is always a reason that they "can't" go to a shelter.  They have chidren or pets and they do not want to bring them there or they are ashamed or they have health problems.  A system of Micro-loans, similar to what is done for business startups targeted for women, that would allow them to get a small apartment and supplies for 2 months while they look for work could make a huge differrence.  There are already posters and flyer in the bathrooms at doctor's offices and hospitals and restaurants.  Posters for this program could be placed there.  It would not take a lot to get it going and various organizations have kicked it around but it has not gotten off the ground yet.

But I think if women could be convinced that they actually can have a real place to go, an apartment, food, toothpaste, a plate and fork, and the ability to look for a job, then leaving could be a possibility instead of a vague fantasy they flirt with between the reality of yelling and punching.  The hell you know is better than an unknown when you have been beaten down.  Leaving needs to become a known entity.

lieutenant_dad's picture

I did a lot of work with a shelter that offered an apartment program. Women had to come to the shelter first and go through something like 60 or 90 days of programming and counseling before they got an apartment, which they could live in for up to 2 years while also attending counselling and workshops.

Part of the reason why women couldn't immediately go into the apartments was because 1) they hadn't been out long of the relationship long enough to break the cycle, so they would either leave or try to invite the partner in and 2) many times there were other issues that needed to be assessed/dealt with first, such as drug use or suicide, that made it dangerous for them to live alone.

Plus, in order to keep funds rolling in, these agencies have to show that their programs are helping both short and long term. That's nearly impossible if you just give out loans, and if the loans have to be paid back and the woman goes back to her financially abusive relationship, the money is gone-gone and no one has been helped.

I think having more boarding house-stylr housing is better than the hostel feel that many shelters have, but it's expensive. It's a fine balance between giving survivors autonomy while helping as many people as possible. The resources just aren't there, outside major cities, to give apartments to everyone, even short-term.

Iamwoman's picture

Wow. These are all great ideas.

I remember having to reach a point where poverty was more appealing than staying in the relationship.

For women whose man makes all of the money, and does well, it can be extra humialiting and demoralizing to jump into the pits of poverty while your abuser is living it up.

beebeel's picture

I can't tell you how many victims we have seen that are the only income earners and would have the funds/ability to leave. 

Our program has temporary and long-term housing options that are rarely at capacity.

In my experience, it boils down to love. I deeply, truly loved my abuser for five years. One day, I decided to love myself more.

Aniki's picture

I was never financially dependent on my psychotic exh. He was actually dependent on ME. I had a full-time job, made good money, and supported both of us while he finished school/training. I had the money to leave. He!!, I had ALL of the money. Money was NOT a factor in my staying with him.

dysfunctionally_blended's picture

Wow what an assignment!

I didn't deal with physical abuse but substance abuse. For me I had always known in my gut that the situation would not end well. So the breaking point was having the ABILITY to leave. I worked to get everything in order. Stability. Financially. Emotionally. Once that was done I just walked out the door and never looked back. 

Iamwoman's picture

I know right? I was shocked a bit uncomfortable when DD told me about this essay. Because she was also abused by her father (now recognized by a GAL as of this past summer, and put in a safer position), I definitely asked her if this essay was going to trigger anything with her. She insisted she would be fine though, but when she read the early warning signs of an abuser, her eyes grew wide. She said, “this looks like a description of my dad.”

beebeel's picture

It makes me sad and a little angry that this is how domestic violence is being taught by this teacher, but it's reflective of our society.

We must convince victims...not abusers.

We expect victims to "find the strength to leave"... Rather than expecting the abuser to find the strength to get therapy and work through their shit.

Until we get to the point where the essay question is, "What should be done to help and stop people who use violence for power and control over intimate relationships" DV will continue to be an epidemic.

lieutenant_dad's picture

I think that could be said for almost all violent acts, though. How do you convince someone who is sick that they are sick and need help? And how does someone recognize they are sick before they do something harmful?

Until the resources exist to provide actual mental health care in this country, and until we develop a zero-tolerance policy for violence against anyone, and until we address the social structure that perpetuates violence (e.g. poverty, lack of consistent, quality education), the focus will always almost have to be on telling people how not to become victims.

It costs way less money to tell someone "leave when you get hit" than it does to teach someone not to hit in the first place. Funerals cost less than rehabilitating someone, or keeping them secured where they can't hurt others. And we care more about money than we do human lives.

beebeel's picture

Actually, it does not cost less to only adress the victim angle. Not long term, anyhow. Not when you consider repeat criminal charges, incarceration costs, medical treatment for injuries...

Our county started a DV court three years ago and several others throughout the state have them. As part of sentencing, abusers go through a 15-month serious program involving therapy,  not just bullshit anger management classes. They are tailed by deputies 24/7. They have to report their whereabouts at all times (we no longer leave it completely up to the victims to report RO violations).

We have had a few dozen "graduates" so far, none of whom have repeat offended so far, knock on wood. The advocates working with the courts are hopeful this will be a game changer.

ETA: but my complaint about the assignment is that these are young, impressionable minds. And already the way this topic is framed, the ***victim*** needs to X, Y, Z. She's ignorant/ needs convincing. It just rubs me the wrong way, tis all. Wink I think we can do a much better job of igniting critical thinking and the abuser is almost never mentioned.

lieutenant_dad's picture

That's true because you have a DV court that is likely grant-funded and volunteer run, yes?

If you expand it to other crimes/"criminals", such as a Drug Court or Senior Court (for patients who commit crimes due to Alzheimer's and dementia) or Veterans Court, the system is unsustainable. Mental health care is expensive, and without income, providers cannot provide those services long-term across multiple courts. Plus, the system you describe still relies on their being a victim before something can be done.

I'm not saying it's a bad plan, or a bad tool. It's great, but eventually other groups will see the success and want a piece of that pie. I've watched it happen with local drug courts where activists, rightfully so, want the same treatment for other mentally unwell "criminals". But the resources just aren't there.

These programs do a great job, I can't disagree there. But structurally, our system in the US is set up to punish, not rehabilitate. And it's set up to not provide resources until there is a victim. I applaud these local efforts to help, I really do. But we need an entire culture shift to make these programs last long-term.

beebeel's picture

It is grant-funded, yes. It is operated by county attorneys, LEO's, judges, and victim advocates, some are paid by our nonprofit, and a few volunteers. Convicted participants pay fees and fines to help offset some costs. I disagree that DV and drug courts are unsustainable. I would rather pay for tax-funded grants that can stop the cycle than all of the collateral costs of allowing it to flourish.

Part of that cultural shift will require flipping the script and focusing on the abuser when teaching DV to young people. Wink

mapitout's picture

"It makes me sad and a little angry that this is how domestic violence is being taught by this teacher, but it's reflective of our society.

We must convince victims...not abusers.

We expect victims to "find the strength to leave"... Rather than expecting the abuser to find the strength to get therapy and work through their shit.

Until we get to the point where the essay question is, "What should be done to help and stop people who use violence for power and control over intimate relationships" DV will continue to be an epidemic."

That may really get the conversation started and have the impact of the victim starting to hold their abuser accountable. I like your idea, beebeel! 

Dontfeedthetrolls's picture

I know it’s not the exactly same but my ex-husband was a master manipulator. He may never have laid a finger on me but he knew what to put me in a down ward spiral that normally ended with me literally in the bathroom slamming my head against the wall while he didn’t care.

My biggest piece of advice for those who see this happen is to PLEASE say something. Don’t be condescending but tell them that you see it and it’s wrong. I seriously felt like I was crazy because no one said anything. I grew up seeing the dysfunctional relationship of my parents so I thought it was “normal”. I was even seeing a therapist at the time who didn’t seem to get it. Here’s the kicker… She was also seeing my husband so half the time MY therapy ended up being about how HE felt and how I could support HIM.

One day ex made the mistake of starting in while I had a friend over. He wanted a fight and I did everything I could to avoid it but five minutes after he gets home he lays in. He had been at worked, a new job he hadn’t been at for maybe 2 months. He had gone to visit family for a few days and instead of coming home the night before like he was supposed to he waited till the day of then called me from work whining about how tired he was and he was coming home. Of course I was upset and worried he’d lose the job because he’d already called in once. He had just got the job after quitting the last one without warning and going unemployed for 3 months. He had made no attempt to help out around the house, get unemployment, or try to find jobs till a friend handed him this one.

He comes home and I told him I didn’t want to fight. That he knew what I thought but there was no reason getting into it. He said he was tired so I asked him to go to bed. That my friend and I would finish our movie and I’d come to bed. He goes to the bedroom to then like I said he came out a few minutes later and laid in about how horrible I was and how I was always off (my hours being cut and in turn me using PTO to make sure my pay was the same). That I wasn’t supporting him enough (He had quit seeing his therapist and expected me to somehow play the role). How horrible I was for being upset and poor him being tired because he drove hours that day.

Again thankfully my friend was there and observed what happen and acknowledged that I hadn’t done anything wrong.

It was amazing to unravel the damage afterwards, not only in our home but in our social circle. Not only had he manipulated me in my home but he had done everything he could to make those around us see me as the crazy one. He had bad mouthed me to the point that people were actually afraid of speaking to me.

A year after I left him a few spoke to me one on one and told me how they had felt and apologized for how wrong they had been. I didn’t take it personally but it goes to show just how much a person like that can impact your life. They thought that I was abusive to him because of the way he talked but my actions showed them different.

The only person I did get mad at was my mother. I remember calling her months before my marriage saying I didn’t think I should go through it and I had a very valid reason. My mother gave me the whole “cold feet” bull crap. After I left my ex she pops out “none of us ever liked him” and I went off. I had repeatedly reached out for support, anything that told me I wasn’t crazy, and she never said a word.

Again he never laid a finger on me but his words cut and he made me feel like the crazy one. He knew the issues I was dealing with.


Iamwoman's picture

Sometimes emotional & mental abuse is worse than physical, because it’s harder to explain when you finally leave. People always take your side when you’re hit, but there are always skeptics when it’s just words.

I also think my parents should have guided me more in relationships. I asked them if they ever saw warning signs and they said they did. I asked them why they didn’t try to stop me from being in that relationship, and they said they did try to stop me. However, their version of “trying” was being sarcastic and making fun of me for my choice in men, which was not helpful at all...

lieutenant_dad's picture

Wow, sounds so very similar.

I had some people who told me something seemed off, but dismissed it because I was "in love" and they were trying to be polite. They didn't want to make a false accusation, so it was very watered down when they did say something, if they said something.

Sometimes you just need blunt. You just need someone to say "it's okay to feel crazy because he's making you crazy and I see it, too". I know friends and family who aren't manipulated want to be nice, and those who are manipulated just don't know better.

We talk about gaslighting from partners, but really, your social circle does it, too. Usually not intentionally - they think they are helping by supporting your decision to stay - but they make you feel crazy, too. It's just constant reinforcement that you're wrong and your abuser is right.

If you see something, say something and MEAN IT. That's a fantastic piece of advice.

Iamwoman's picture

This is great. I’ll definitely make sure this bit of advice gets into DD’s essay.

i have a feeling her college professor is an advocate, and maybuse these essays for good. She is having them make trifold foam displays as well.

ESMOD's picture

As other's said.  No one tipping point.  Abuse is insideous.  It sneaks in as the occasional bad mood.  It tricks you into thinking they really care about you.. that's why they want to know where you were when they called today at lunch.. or why it took you so long to drive home.  So, the slope can be very gradual... until you do get to a point where you are used to the cycle.. or know you want out.. but it's not always that easy... leaving isn't easy.

In my case, I owned my own home.. my BF was driving a car I bought and paid for.. I paid all the bills.. how could I leave.. it was MY home?  He was so volatile that I couldn't figure out how to make him leave.. I mean.. where would he go?  So.. our relationship just became much less "intimate".. over time and he did end up cheating on me.. and when THAT came to light.. I could tell him to leave.. because he had somewhere to go.  Now, I also didn't have kids in the home, so wasn't worried about other's safety.. it was just my own.. and to an extent... I felt that underneath it I could mostly control his moods..except for the times I couldn't.  Ultimately, what got him gone, gone.. was calling the police when he tried to attack me after he "moved out".  The fact that I actually called in the authorities was too big of a risk for him to take with me.

He moved on to abuse other women... and actually did eventually serve time for it.

Cover1W's picture

My ex was a mentally abusive gas-lighter. Never touched me but he came close one time. He had been drinking (more and more often and until right before I left I had no idea how much... I also suspect drugs looking back) one night and just LOST it. Something I said or did set him off. I tried to leave the room and he blocked me. He swung back and punched the solid wood door next to my head. I made sure to not flinch. Then he ran outside, grabbed a long steel rod and started swinging it around. He was out of control. Started yelling at our neighbors (who didn't like him). They told me later they were going to call the cops. I went to bed and heard him banging around in the garage.

I commute to work with the bike and on my way the next morning my bike wasn't shifting correctly. Taking a closer look I found my front chainring bent. The banging around now made sense. The bike shop guy asked me how the heck...?!?!? Told him. "That's soooo messed up" he said. Light goes off.

The next time ex freaked out I called two friends (a couple he also knew well and trusted) to come over. They witnessed his behavior - no one else knew. The shame is important to understand. I was embarrassed. To have him do that, to have married him, to not fix it, etc. 

So those two incidents were pivotal. But not the final. The final was totally emotional and due to his manipulation. We took a trip to HI (I almost cancelled trip due to his behaviors but he convinced me to go... regrettably) and we got back a week before my birthday. On my bday he said, "Happy Birthday, hope you liked the trip!" And that was it. And a week later I found his emails to his girlfriend (long suspected) and was done.

I have to say by then I was so done it was easy. Easy to decide, to leave and to handle his stupidity.

CLove's picture

Its a long story, which I am not wanting to share, as to how we broke it off, but I was still living with my ex-fiance, he couldnt accept it, and a loving sweet man turned into a monster after drinking.

He would drink, and then wake me up shaking me and yelling at me, with spit coming out. I was sleeping on the couch and he would attack me.

One night, after he was drinking, I tried to record him, because previously he would be violent and then the next day not remember and would deny anything had happened, so I wanted proof. He threw me against the wall of the bathroom, punched me in the stomach, and tossed my phone in the toilet.

All through the roughly 1.5 years this was going on, a therapist had told me "one of you is going to end up dead, and the other in jail wondering what happened". 

The next day, I went to my parents house and asked my mother just for a clean and safe place to sleep. She saw my bruises (my forehead and wrists), and said yes, but how could get myself into this mess in the first place.

A month later, I was with now DH. We had been friends for a 1.5 years and he had seen everything. His ex abused him physically, emotionally and verbally. 

Its a long dificult pathway, but now we are both happier and healthier than we have ever been.

Ispofacto's picture

The turning point for me was when someone told me "You don't deserve it."

That really gave me pause.  Was I staying because somewhere inside I thought I did deserve it?  I think so. 

But I didn't deserve it.  No one does.

No one ever said that to me before.  According to my parents, I was a bad kid.  Even though I was an honor student with a 30 hour/week job.  According to my husband I was a bad wife and mother.  He was later diagnosed with HPD, NPD, and OCPD.  We follow the patterns.


Iamwoman's picture

This is golden, ipsofacto!

Maybe if we grew up being chastised and criticized, corporally punished, and shamed - even if we come from an overall loving home (family vacays, perfect holidays, etc), at some point we internalize the negativity. We accept it as truth. After all, our family knows us best, right?

Wrong. I was the black sheep on my family. I was NOT selfish and demanding like my brother and sister, I cared for humanity, I was an incredibly happy-go-lucky girl, with good grades, athletic ability, etc. My siblings were a well of living misery and my parents bought into my sister’s attempts to gaslight me. They allowed my big brother to call me names. My whole family called me “monkey face” until i was 6 and a man have my mother an odd look - then only my siblings called me that name and still do (they said my face looked like a monkey when I was a baby, but I showed them all when I modeled overseas as a teen). All of those things became a part of me though, and I suppose I didn’t notice when the abuse began because I was taught that many of those things are normal.

If someone has told me as a youth that i dont deserve such treatment, I may never have chosen such dysfunctional men.

Aniki's picture

I can honestly say that my BROTHERS forced me to reach a tipping point. My exh mentally abused me for a loooong time before he beat the daylights out of me and put me in the hospital. Here's a list of my injuries:

  • 2 black eyes from him punching me
  • Split lip from him punching me (stitches in my lip where my teeth cut through)
  • Neck laceration where he RIPPED OFF my gold necklace. Any thicker and I would have needed stitches.
  • Back lacerations from him throwing me into the kitchen where I landed on a chair, breaking off the back. The jagged wood cut into my shirt and my skin.
  • Severely bruised larynx (he grabbed me by the throat and lifted me off the floor, choking me until I lost consciousness).

He didn't stop after I lost consciousness. He proceeded to:

  • Drag me across the kitchen floor through broken glass which resulted in multiple lacerations and pieces of glass embedded in both arms
  • Broken ribs from him kicking me
  • Grade 3 concussion from him kicking me

And I would have gone back to him - I was that mentally beaten down. The only thing that stopped me from going back was that my brothers threatened to have me committed to a psych ward. They saved my life.

lieutenant_dad's picture

I could kiss your brothers. Thank heavens for them stepping in and helping you get out.

Aniki's picture

Thank heavens indeed, Lt Dad. The ex would have killed me. He has tried numerous times over the years to do it. Had we remained married, I'm certain he would have succeeded by now.

Siemprematahari's picture

Aniki thank goodness for your brothers helping you leave. You deserve all that's beautiful darlin' don't ever forget that Give rose

fairyo's picture

To be brief- he offered me a fist or a fuck.

I said I wanted neither.

That was my signal to go.

Evil3's picture

My story is going to be a combination of a DV and a paranormal experience story. To make the reason a shorter version, I took the abuse, because I always thought that if I could just be a good enough girlfriend, get it right as a girlfriend so to speak, ex wouldn't treat me the way he does. I was raised by two very personality disordered and violent parents where my mother would try to gouge my face with her long finger nails, so violence was what I knew.

My ex was extremely cheap, never worked and made me pay for everything to "atone for my inferiority as a girlfriend." I was late in life getting my first bf (20) and my ex used that against me every chance he got. I held five jobs, went to university full time, trained in karate to work towards my black belt (which I eventually got when I was with DH) and trained my ass off to try to stay slim, because ex complained about my body all the time. Hell, even my vagina was in the wrong place according to him. I had a pap smear and exam one day and the gyno was talking out loud as she was going along and said that everything was where it should be. I burst into to tears and asked, "you mean my vagina isn't in the wrong place?" She was bewildered as to how on earth I could come up with such a question. When I told her and she shook her head, I just thought she was one of those ra-ra hear me roar type of women and I didn't really "get" her reaction until later.

I could go on and on and on with stories, but I won't. I'll just get to the worst pain my ex ever inflicted on me. I met him at the dojo, so we used to practice sparring. I'm not sure if any of you are into martial arts, but when you reach a certain level, control is everything. By the time one is a black belt, or even much sooner, the karate-ka should be able to pull a blow upon the microsecond of impact. Ex would not pull punches or kicks at all. He would blast me with his roundhouse kicks right across the chest and hurt my boobs every time. I had breast augmentation earlier in the year, so I was pretty tender there as it was. Ex would pretend to slip, but it seemed like every freaken time, he'd slip. One day at karate, he nailed me with a lunge punch straight into my ribs. I went down like a ton of bricks. He started giving me crap for not using "kime" and that's why his punch hurt me so much. So, apparently, it was my fault. I had that involuntary tearing response. All of the other men saw what happened and jumped ex. I couldn't believe it. When I saw what kind of men there were at my dojo that didn't stand for that, it was a huge wake-up call. So, after ex was roughed up and class ended, we went home.

Our house was haunted. Some won't believe me, but trust me, it was very haunted and we constantly had activity in it. So, after karate, we get home and ex was choked that everyone defended me. He acted like we should just practice. I wasn't in the mood, so ex started rough housing with me under the guise of just kibitzing around. I kind of got cheered up and into it, because kumite (fighting) is my forte in karate. So, we got more and more aggressive, because our blows were starting to hurt. For the first time, I let fly and started fighting ex. He hurt me with a few kicks and punches and got me face down on the couch and twisted my arm up behind my back. It was the most horrific pain I had ever felt up to that point. I could feel my arm giving way and I thought it was going to break. I was yelling that it's going to break, but my yells fell on deaf ears. I couldn't budge. If I moved at all, my arm would snap. Also, ex was on me and had me pinned face down. All of a sudden he went flying off of me and landed across the room. He looked like a rag doll being thrown across the room. No one else was in the room. He looked at me and I looked at him. We were both so shocked. Whatever was in the house saved me. Believe me or not, I don't care.

I knew that if that "ghost" or whatever wasn't there, my arm would have been broken and perhaps ex might have caused irrepirable damage. I knew I wanted ex out of the house.

Ex and I actually had an amicable split. He confessed to me that he's known that whoever was in the house did not like him being with me. I had an abusive cousin who stayed in the house with us for a while who later told me that she moved out due to something in the house not wanting her near me. Anyway, ex moved out and I did everything I couldn't do when I was with him. I reconnected with friends, went out and partied, reconnected with two male friends that I knew since childhood, I got to keep the dojo, so I trained extra in karate, and I just felt so liberated. The house still creeped me out though. LOL. I had reached the point that other people's behaviours weren't because I couldn't get it right. Other people's behaviours are on them. For me, that was the key to breaking away from ex (and putting an end to mini-wife syndrome later one when I was with DH). I honestly think a lot of people subjected to abuse think that "if only I..." We have been programmed to think that way by our abusive parents.

NoWireCoatHangarsEVER's picture

She does this vague booking on facebook that she has been married to the love of her life for 15 years and she can't believe it's ending and she's so upset.  So I message her to give her some resources on infidelty that helped me and she tells me that he is an alcholic who has been drinking 3 cases of beer a night and beating the ever loving shit out of her in front of their 5 kids.  I can tell from the comments she is making that she is still in love and doesn't want to leave him but DCF has her watched 24 hours a day and they tell her if she lets him come back home, they are taking all 5 of her kids.

I tell her my very , very personal painful story of what it was like for me as a child to watch my father beat up my mother and how he was an alcholic.  I tell her I have a very vivid memory of her being tied to a chair and of him beating her and that I had to untie her once he was passed out.  That she told us to gather our things and that we were going to our grandparents and I remember thinking, "Nah.  We'll be back.  WE also come back.  Because they would break up and get back together constantly and we would always come back and that I was six and that time we never went back.  I told her how we lived with my grandparents and my mom  worked at Winn Dixie and went to community college and then got accept to pharmacy school and that we grew up and we are all happy and healthy.  My brother is married and very successful.  I'm happy and successful.  I told her my father's sister didn't leave her abusive alcholic husband and my cousin died of a heroin overdose after DCF took her children from her.  I really thought she got it.

So a week or so later, she gets on facebook and announces how happy they are and how they are reconciled and she private messages me asking if I can do anything about DCF.  I tell her, "I work for a utility company.  How the hell do you think I could do anything with DCF?  I warned you.  I warned you that I worked for 16 years at the police department as a dispatcher and they called me everyday for a standby as they took the children for failure to protect from domestic violence.  And she said they told her if he comes back home they are taking the kids but that they really want to go to disney World as a family that weekend.

So I ask her, is he in rehab?  Are you in Al-Anon?  Is in AA?  Are you taking parenting classes?  She says no.  I said, "you are an idiot and don't message me anymore."  

Iamwoman's picture

Thank you all for all of your responses. It really warms my heart to see you all willing to share so much of your pain in the hopes that it might prevent at least one person from having to endure what you did.

DD15 was grateful to receive your advice and anecdotes. I blacked out the site name and our names before printing it for her, so only the advice shows. I hope all of our combined insight and personal experience can not just help her write an essay, but help her avoid the same pain. I hope that  if I have to tell her a future guy is no good, she listens.

Much love STalker sisters! <3 Iamwoman