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The word Abuse has so many disgusting, profound, and grey meanings that not everyone truly understands the complexity of what it means to abuse or be abused.
The terminology from Vocabulary.com finds the following meaning of abuse: If you abuse someone, it means you are hurting that person, mentally, emotionally, or physically. If someone else is harming you, you are yourself suffering from abuse. … Abuse also refers to anything that is employed improperly or to excesses, such as the abuse of alcohol or drugs.
When you look at this description, what do you see as “Abuse”? I see the words, Hurt, Harm, and Suffering. As much as these are all very accurate words to explain abuse, I find it difficult to categorize the act of abuse under the “Categories” that have been assigned to ways that others can abuse you.
Most information on abuse lists four types:
That “almost” sums up what the various types of abuse fall under. However, working with survivors of all of the above, I can tell you that it’s not always as simple as a “category”. You can be abused in more than one manner at the same time, much like you could be abused, in a way that would fall under ALL of the categories, Rape, for example, would cover all of them-emotional, sexual, physical, and mental. Your dignity is stripped from you, and you suffer the consequences. Your mental health is destroyed, your body is violated, you have been sexually disrespected, and your emotional state has been altered, often beyond repair.
I, however, believe that abuse has two other distinct categories are rarely spoken about: Violent and Passive. These two types of abuse are based on my own experiences working with clients and to an extent, my own personal experience. In my opinion, I feel that labeling the type of abuse, rather than the execution of abuse minimizes the impact it has on abuse victims. The four categories that experts have placed types of abuse are effective, in that they give an “area” of abuse, yet they do not accurately describe the method of abuse that is inflicted on others. I know that there are descriptions of these types of abuse available, and if you believe you are in an abusive relationship, I would advise that you do your research. Abuse is not always what you think it is. Two Main Types of Abuse
This type of abuse is described, in my own words, as being intentional, aggressive, and with the purpose of control and superiority. This type of abuse is inflicted upon victims in various ways and may fall under the categories of Physical, Emotional, Sexual, or Mental. This method of abuse is obvious, and not subtle, and in most situations, it is clear that the abuse is occurring. Types of violent abuse are weapons, beatings, rape, physical violence such as hitting, kicking, or shoving a victim. Other types of violent abuse include yelling at, verbally insulting, shaming, or aggressively brutalizing another person emotionally. Violent abuse can be domestic, public, or in other situations where someone is victimized in a vicious manner.
This kind of abuse is subtle, and can often be undetected. This manner of abusive tendencies is not always labeled as “Abuse”. In fact, it wasn’t until years later that it became clear that I was being abused, as it was a foreign concept to me. I had only “known” violent abuse before, and this was an eye-opener. Passive abusers use quiet skills like manipulation, bullying, and coercive pressure. They use their dominance to push their victims into submission and to obey their needs and desires, even if their victim doesn’t want to abide by them. They use tricks through words, for the most part, rather than wielding weapons or harming you in an aggressive manner. Typically the abusers are narcissistic and are unable to see anyway but their own in any given situation, thus using their victims as catalysts to their own satisfaction.
Passive abusers will shame, scrutinize, ignore, neglect, and insult their victims. Some of these abusers will act out around others, and some will keep it a “secret” within the household or relationship. They come across as confidant and intelligent to most, but behind closed doors, they use their victims as their emotional slaves. These types of abusers are extremely dangerous to their victims, as they are sneaky and conniving, and will abuse you, potentially without you even knowing that you have fallen, the victim (case in point, my experience). In some cases, the only way to detect when you are being passively abused is by the red flags that you feel in your gut. You FEEL something isn’t right, or you sacrifice your own values to appease them, making you feel inferior, de-valued, and frustrated. Often, this feeling becomes the “norm” for the victim, and you make excuses for yourself and for your abuser. It is quite a difficult situation to detect unless you have outside help or the advice of others who have been in this type of relationship.
Often, the abusers will deny wholeheartedly that what they do is abusive. They see it as the fault of the victim or make excuses for their behavior. This type of abuser is very convincing and can make you sympathize with them, through their manipulation. They might talk about their family history, or share how they were abused, often saying that they “could never become abusive”. They may even cry and explain that they are sorry that you feel that way. They try many variations of ways to express their shock if you dare accuse them of being abusive.
The demeanor of passive abusers is often bitter and angry, and they live to complain about what happens in their life, often blaming their victims for their feelings. They choose to be pessimistic about the ideas of others and will insult another person’s intelligence without mercy. If they are asked to perform a task for another person, they will often delay or mess up the task, intentionally, as a way to manipulate. They will tell you that they are reliable and trustworthy, but when they are needed most, they are unavailable for support or assistance. They live in their own world of double standards, and they rule with a, “don’t do as I do, do as I say” mentality. They become temperamental when something doesn’t go their way and they make it the fault of their victim. Small incidents like spilled coffee or a broken plate can send them over the edge, and they will use their victim as the reason for their accidents and will condemn their prey for making mistakes. Nothing is the fault of the abuser unless they “admit” fault as a way to deploy manipulation.
In my own experiences, I was bullied into situations where I was not comfortable. I was blind to the possibility that what I was enduring was a form of abuse. The abuser would coerce, push, and guilt me into buying into his needs, through manipulation. He would say things like, “Oh, come on…just do it!” If I didn’t abide, he would push with, “If you don’t do it, I will be very upset.” If I still rejected, he would pout, ignore me, neglect me, threaten me, and sometimes even cry to get his way. There were even times when he would use wanting to marry as the dangling carrot, and even after a number of years together, he, not me botched the marriage topic-I knew deep down that I did not want to marry him. I did, however, do what he wanted me to do, and I am not proud of it. I was bullied into going out of my comfort zone, to the point where I am still embarrassed by my actions and my history with him.
I compromised my integrity, something I will always regret, because of his manipulative methods and my own lack of self-esteem. It is an uphill battle, even now, to remember my self-worth. I will take accountability for my actions, as in the end, I could have left, rather than succumb to pressure, but I thought I loved him. I thought he had my best interest at heart, given the way he spoke to me and the way he was able to convince me that he did. He was very skilled at what he did. I never saw my abuser as a friend or as someone I could trust. This should have been a red flag, yet I was convinced that I could maintain his love. He had proven time and time again that he couldn’t be trusted with my heart or my life. He embarrassed me when he had the chance, in front of anyone who would partake. On the occasions I threatened to leave, he would make grandiose pleas for me to stay, to give him a chance because he was a"work in progress" guilt was his secret weapon, guilt was my kryptonite. Simple things became issues between us, like opening doors for me. If he actually DID open a door, he would utter, “Don’t say I never open doors for you”, with a sneer, as I walked through. He threw my own past in my face often; and used my self-perceived flaws against me. He had the ability to manipulate my heart and brain in ways that a rapist can control their prey’s body. And I never saw it….. If you compare Passive Abuse to blatant Violent abuse, I look at it as someone holding a loaded gun and knowing how to operate it. A person with a loaded gun, who knows how to use it, uses it with intent, knowing what the end result will be. This is much like a violent abuser. They abuse with intent, knowing full well what the end result will be, and most likely, so do their victims. It is still far from “okay” to abuse anyone, but Violent Abuse is easier to identify. The danger of a Passive abuser is much like someone who holds a loaded gun with no idea how to use it. They will wave it around carelessly, knowing full well it’s dangerous, but will still be unconcerned of its power and risk. They will taunt and manipulate their victims with it, and instill fear and worry in them, even if the bullet never leaves the barrel. Not only that, but they would make it the fault of their victim that they don’t know how to use it properly, and their fault that they are at risk. The freedom from my past has not come without a price. There are still flashbacks, and I still reel when I spill or drop something, waiting for the shame and insults. I still wake in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat, wondering if he knows how happy I am, and waiting for him to try and destroy my feelings. I often wonder if his next partner knows what she is up against, and what he is capable of. He would never call himself abusive, and would blatantly deny any recounts of my side of our story. In his own twisted mind, he thinks of himself as innocent, and that what I say or feel is not valid or legitimate. This is the most dangerous kind of abuse.
You may not even know, while you are in a passive abusive relationship. It is not always black and white like it is when you are being physically assaulted or outwardly abused. This kind of abuse can soak itself inside your soul, rendering you powerless and believing that you cannot live without your assailant. I lost so many friends due to this relationship because they saw what he did to me, and all I could do was make excuses for him. They couldn’t condone what I was going through and didn’t know how to help me, as I was always “fine”. I never told anyone how silently miserable I was, and I just mistook my feelings for my own fault, for discouragement at life. It couldn’t have been the fault of anyone else, because I was always told that everything I did was meaningless or wrong, and I began to live in that world.
My abuser talked poorly about anyone who came in contact with us, especially if they dared to question the way he treated me. His narcissism was the breeding ground for his arrogance and pseudo-intellect. He would listen in on private phone calls and conversations between my friends and myself to make sure I wasn’t telling them about the way he treated me. I lived under the surveillance of cameras 24/7 in my own home. It all happened gradually and while I was distracted by making excuses for him, and for myself. Most of these types of abusers have a track record of their victims and in some cases, their past prey may not even comprehend that what they endured was abuse. They may be so relieved that they now have the freedom that they never took the time to analyze the “why’s” of the failure of their relationship. They just know that they are no longer feeling pressured or manipulated. Prior to my breaking up with him, I did get the opportunity to speak to my abuser's ex; she not only confirmed the abuse but has validated my feelings toward him. This is a reference I should have checked before I jumped into such a dark relationship ( many of us don't have the opportunity to reach out to an ex? I was fortunate, she reached out to me).
My freedom is knowing what I felt throughout my relationship and being aware that if I ever feel that way again, I KNOW to leave. Passive abuse can become a way of life for some. It may be right on the cusp of the last straw for a victim, or it can be a pathway to a downward spiral of shame and submissiveness for others. Either way, I am glad I escaped it. I lived on the cusp for far too long, with one foot out the door for years, until I found it within myself to be strong enough to leave. My freedom began, when I saw a therapist shortly after I began my new life. I briefly explained why my relationship failed, and her words to me were, “Congratulations. I am so proud of you for leaving an abusive relationship”. My abuser most likely doesn’t know the damage he has done, and I will never expect him to. He will live his life, carefree, and sleep well at night, believing that how he treated me was fair and just. He will believe that everything he put me through was “for my own good” and that his money and his materials were his rewards to me for being his emotional punching bag. And that’s fine. I have my freedom.
If you are anyone that you know is currently being abused in any way shape or form, seek help immediately-that is the first step to reclaiming your freedom.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) www.ndvh.org
National Dating Abuse Helpline 1-866-331-9474 www.loveisrespect.org
National Child Abuse Hotline/Childhelp 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) www.childhelp.org
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE) www.rainn.org
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
National Center for Victims of Crime 1-202-467-8700 www.victimsofcrime.org
National Human Trafficking Resource Center/Polaris Project Call: 1-888-373-7888 | Text: HELP to BeFree (233733) www.polarisproject.org
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights 1-510-465-1984 www.nnirr.org
National Coalition for the Homeless 1-202-737-6444 www.nationalhomeless.org
Futures Without Violence: The National Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence 1-888-792-2873 www.futureswithoutviolence.org
National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health 1-312-726-7020 ext. 2011 www.nationalcenterdvtraumamh.org
National Runaway Safeline 1-800-RUNAWAY or 1-800-786-2929 www.1800runaway.org
Childhelp USA/National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453 www.childhelpusa.org
Children’s Defense Fund 202-628-8787 www.childrensdefense.org
Child Welfare League of America 202-638-2952 www.cwla.org
National Council on Juvenile and Family Court Judges Child Protection and Custody/Resource Center on Domestic Violence 1-800-527-3233 www.ncjfcj.org
Love is respect Hotline: 1-866-331-9474 www.loveisrespect.org
Break the Cycle 202-824-0707 www.breakthecycle.org
Domestic Violence Initiative (303) 839-5510/ (877) 839-5510 www.dviforwomen.org
WOMEN OF COLOR
Women of Color Network 1-800-537-2238 www.wocninc.org
Casa de Esperanza Linea de crisis 24-horas/24-hour crisis line 1-651-772-1611 www.casadeesperanza.org
National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities 1-651-646-5553 www.nationallatinonetwork.org
The National Immigrant Women's Advocacy Project (202) 274-4457 http://www.niwap.org/
National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center 855-649-7299 www.niwrc.org
Asian and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence 1-415-954-9988 www.apiidv.org
Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) 1-212- 473-6485 www.caaav.org
Manavi 1-732-435-1414 www.manavi.org
The Black Church and Domestic Violence Institute 1-770-909-0715 www.bcdvi.org
LESBIAN, BI-SEXUAL, GAY, TRANSGENDER, GENDER NON-CONFORMING
The Audre Lorde Project 1-178-596-0342 www.alp.org
LAMBDA GLBT Community Services 1-206-350-4283 http://www.qrd.org/qrd/www/orgs/avproject/main.htm
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force 1-202-393-5177 www.ngltf.org
Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of abuse
ABUSE IN LATER LIFE
National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life 1-608-255-0539 www.ncall.us
National Center for Elder Abuse 1-855-500-3537 www.aginginplace.org
National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) 1-720-466-3882 www.nomas.org
A Call to Men 1-917-922-6738 www.acalltomen.org
Men Stopping Violence 1-866-717-9317 www.menstoppingviolence.org
Battered Women’s Justice Project 1-800-903-0111 www.bwjp.org
Legal Momentum 1-212-925-6635 www.legalmomentum.org
National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women 1-800-903-0111 x 3 www.ncdbw.org
Legal Network for Gender Equity
Let's keep the dialogue going, join me at the Go Pro Revolutionary Party every Friday 8-10 pm to discuss this and other topics from my blog. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED! Come with an open mind and heart!
Meeting ID: 87580285536