No One Will Believe You

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Recently, I asked a friend for feedback on these first few articles. With her permission, I’m going to address a couple of concerns.

She said she was uncomfortable with the term, “the beast.” Was he really that bad?

And here we encounter a problem I’ve bumped my head against numerous times. She may have asked if the anti-husband really deserves to be called a beast, but that’s not what I heard. Without realizing it, my friend triggered a case of the Wild-Eyed Crazies.

What I heard: Are you exaggerating?

The scary part? I’m actually minimizing.

Folks want to believe only what they see. In the case of verbal abuse, emotional abuse, bullying and other cases where a dominate party violates the trust of those dependent on them, scars aren’t always visible. You can’t imagine how many times I wished the anti-husband would just hit me already so I could call the police.

It’s hard for those outside  the fractured family circle to understand the kind of torment these men dish out.  If I walked around covered in bruises, black eye, broken bones protruding through the skin, no one would question my angst. But we’re talking injuries you can’t see inflicted by actions no one else witnessed.  You’re just going to have to take my word for it and that’s a huge leap for those who can’t imagine anyone would purposefully hurt their own wife and children.

It also plays smack dab into the hands of the abuser.

Typical Family Time

The beast loved to verbally beat the bloody hell out of me and the kids right before company pulled into the driveway. Then as we stood there bleeding, he morphed into Totally Charming Man– witty, funny, man’s man, envy of wives everywhere.  Throughout the coming evening, he sat  back and watched, taking potshots at each of us in turn, saying things no one else could possibly understand without the subtext.

Challenge anything he said, I wound up looking like a heinous bitch. The kids react, he punished them publicly, making an example of them, showing his audience how fully he controlled his home. Was this abusive? Taken as an isolated incident, maybe not. Day by day, damaging friendships, dividing the individual family members from one another, isolating the family unit which no longer wants outside contact with the world– You bet it was.

Could anyone else tell what was going on?

Only if they’d lived through  something similar. Later, several friends came and apologized. One said, “I lived with an abusive alcoholic father for 18 years and you had red flags waving all over the place. I should’ve known.”

Appearances Are Deceiving

Ours looked like the perfect Christian home. Others wanted to model our success. But please understand—if you only saw us sitting in a pew an hour on Sunday morning, is that really any indication of what goes on behind closed doors?  If you come over once every three months for barbeque and cream soda, can you possibly have any inkling what’s going to happen the minute your car pulls out of the driveway?

Tell Me What Happened

I can’t. If I told you I was sexually abused as a child, would you ask me for details? Would you want me to recount the incidents, one by one so you could judge for yourself how damaging these might  be? Would you decide that fondling really isn’t all that bad and I should be over it by now? Or get into a discourse about how your neighbor’s wife was repeatedly sodomized and that is much, much worse. In comparison, what you describe doesn’t sound  like abuse at all.

And yet, abused women who live with hateful domination, verbal onslaughts lasting hours on end, raging fits designed to punish them for their crimes,  and constant  threats of violence  get this reaction all the time. Tell me a few incidents. Tell me what happened. The implied message? I’ll be the judge of whether this is abusive.

The very worst incidents are the ones I don’t want to remember. The words ‘domination’ and ‘manipulation’ and ‘bullying’ are codewords for memories that lap at the edges of the very stuff it takes to get through another day. I use them to talk about what happened without plunging back into the muck. A triggered memory–one that shows up without invitation– can set back recovery by days, weeks, even months, depending on  how long  it takes to find the shreds of truth that barely hold me up and weave them back together.

It’s taken years to even admit to myself that abuse took place. How can I expect you to understand in the thirty minutes before you head back to your semi-normal family and the husband who may annoy the crap out of you, but never would purposefully set out to destroy your soul?

Google This:

  • Emotional Abuse
  • Verbal Abuse
  • Sexual Domination
  • Manipulation and Control.

If you really want to help,  really want to understand, you’ll have to educate yourself. Material is out there, pages and pages of the stuff. You’ll have to put criticism to one side and realize that women and children coming out of these marriages are showing the *effects* of abuse.

Please try to understand:

That pain you see, making you uncomfortable, isn’t free floating out there in space.

Something caused it.

*Someone* caused it.

The pain itself is a pretty dadgum good indication the story is authentic and, Yes Virginia, it really was that bad.

Don’t  judge  victims based on your own observations. You can’t see the damage done to the human spirit with eyeballs. You can’t examine the broken and bloody soul, x-ray the innards, assess the wreckage. What you *will* see is a fairly put together woman who’s learned to shut up and play nice, peeking out around the very frayed edges who probably overreacts to seemingly minor statements.

You can’t expect a survivor to explain in ten minutes it took her a lifetime to understand.

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8 responses »

  1. You’ve hit it on the head! Exactly my sentiments. We must have the same friends, and the same ex.

    A pastor once confronted me, and after listening to what I had to say (he had already been fed by the other party), “So you’re calling evil, then?” which was putting words in my mouth. My description must have made him sound evil! I had to think on my feet and say, “No, I’m not calling him evil. He’s got a thinking problem…” since I knew this particular pastor loved to preach on thought patterns.

    So if you try not to pull punches and tell it like it is, you’re accused of “not forgiving”, being “really hurt and resentful”, “calling all men evil”, etc. If you try to keep dignified silence, then you are accused of not speaking out. A friend of mine was once defending me to a group of attackers at a church meeting. They had been bought over by his tears. She tried to tell them that I wasn’t the sort of person to just walk out; there must have been bad stuff. The response she got was, “Well, if it was so bad, why isn’t she sending out emails to everyone to explain it?” Gee! Can’t win, can you?

    I moved churches and had to start the process all over again, dipping the toe to see if the waters were safe with pastors. My new pastor seemed very understanding. I wasn’t going to hold my breath since most are, until he gets into their ear. Sure enough, he found out and got into his ear. This pastor then said to me with a wide smile, “We had a great talk. I can see why you married him. I was expecting a monster, but he was really honest.” He then added with a glint in his eye, “I can’t predict what the future might hold for you…”

    • Oh my…. doesn’t that scenario sound familiar~ some of that could by my story, word for word.

      The anti-husband can cry on command. Nobody likes seeing a guy big enough to be an Olympic wrestler sobbing, doubled over from all his emotional pain and heartbreak. What I figured out and apparently no one else notices? Those aren’t actual tears.

      What happens when you cry? There’s an emotional reaction causing a physiological response. The eyes water, the nose runs… Mucus people! Where’s the mucus? He can wail one second, rage the next, laugh hysterically two seconds later (and he does) and there is no physical evidence at all. But boy– hasn’t it been an effective strategy, especially when talking to those I thought were friends.

      And if I heard that phrase once, I heard it a thousand times– he’s being so honest. He’s taking full responsibility. For what? What they don’t hear is the second half of that sentence, the half he’s told me over and over and telling only a select few others. “I take full responsibility for not being the spiritual head of my household. I wasn’t forceful enough. I never should’ve let a bunch of women run my home.”

      You really learn who your true friends are, don’t you? I will always cherish those who stood up for me against the religious crowd. And in every case, they said the same thing, “Did you really know Ida? If you knew her, you’d know his story’s phony. She isn’t the type to leave without cause. She’d never pick up and go like that without a dadgum good reason.”

      When I’m in prayer, I always remember them before the Lord and ask Him to bless them extra special 🙂

  2. Wow the beast has a clone. I love your term anti-husband. Describes mine exactly. He could produce tears too. Made me even feel sorry for him. Then I read that’s the first sign of a sociopath – they want you to feel sorry for them.

  3. wow.. i am so thankful I came across your blog. Good for you to just be straightforward about real issues that affect all of us. My situation had underlying similarities, but never got to the level of abuse you endured. I married a fellow from a 3rd world country. I was in process of trying to get him out.. so, he was still trying to “sell” me on him being a great guy. Your posts on sexual abuse really hit home though.. especially your mention of being unable to sleep because you had been violated in your sleep.. .. Thank God that my parents and a family pastor understood and helped. My own brother in law didn’t.. he actually contacted my ex to hear his side.. At the core, there are truly abusive, manipulative people. Often they seem to live almost entirely without conscience, which is why it probably makes it so hard for us to leave.. .. well, that and the mind abuse. . blaming, shaming.. .. I am grateful that his immigration took so long.. the separation is what finally helped me realize what a dangerous situation my girls and I were in. . I am only sorry that my older daughter had to be hurt by him too. . God bless and keep you my dear. Keep strong in your faith, knowing that our Lord loves you completely and perfectly. Thank you!

  4. I am in the process of leaving my abusive husband (abused physically, emotionally, verbally and sexually) and I deal with this all the time. He comes off very friendly, charming and well put-together to other people. He is doing his best now to make people assume I am leaving him for another man. What you said about him heckling you right before company came over – my heart was racing when I saw this because that is EXACTLY one of the things I went through, private comments and all. My husband would humiliate me in front of guests and still somehow manage to come off looking like the poor saintly husband. I had friends come away thinking I was severely mentally ill after a visit with the both of us because of things he said. He would purposely mess up the house before friends came over and then make subtle comments on my poor homemaking skills. Now he is doing his best to tell me that my leaving shows lack of commitment and will likely turn me into an adulteress. It would be nice if my lovely Christian friends had my back. But they don’t really understand how much their well-meaning advice about sticking it out burns holes through my heart.

    • I hear you. Try explaining that to someone who’s married to a Normal. They cannot even imagine the crazy-making that goes on with these guys.

      One of the last things my Ex called me was a hypocrite. . . says the man that’s lived like the devil while play acting the role of Fine Christian Man.

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