Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Why does she stay with that jerk?"


If there's one thing I've learned from working in an emergency room, it's that people are terrible liars. Maybe I only think that because the good liars don't get caught? But a lot of people are just awful at it. They make their "I'm lying now!" faces and they tell stories that defy physics, biology, and logic, then forget their own stories.

And a lie I hear almost every day in the emergency room is "I fell down the stairs. My partner loves me. They would never hurt me."

(In this post, I will be mixing up genders randomly in the examples, to illustrate that members of every gender abuse members of every gender. This is not the post to talk about "who does it more/who does it worse.")

For a long time, I just couldn't understand this. We'd get the victim in a private room locked away from the abuser, and they'd sit there with bruises or wounds or even broken bones, in a safe place surrounded by people who wanted to help them, and they'd tell us, often through tears... "I fell down the stairs." It drove me nuts. It made me furious at the victims. Why did they do this? Did they like pain? Did they want to get murdered? Were they just unbelievably stupid? Why the HOLY LIVING FUCK would someone choose to protect and return to a partner who just broke their arm?

Well, then I worked in the ER a little longer, talked to a lot more abuse victims and survivors, thought back upon my own reasons for not getting out of certain situations, and it turns out there's a lot of reasons. I'm sure this isn't comprehensive, but I'm going to make a long list here--and often many of these reasons are working together. Some of them are deeply wrapped up in the psychology of abuse; some of them are just depressingly sensible. Each of these is based on a real person, or several of them are based on one real person--most of them are based on many real people.




1. "I don't want to die."
Her husband has told her that if she leaves he will kill her, and she believes this. (She may well be right.) The instant he gets a whiff of where she's staying--and he probably will, at some point, from a well-meaning friend or through the legal system or by persistent stalking or random chance--he's going to come there and he's going to do something very, very bad to her. Staying with him may be horrible, but at least she gets to live. She believes that if she leaves, no one and nothing can protect her from his vengeance.

2. "I'll die without her."
He lives in his girlfriend's apartment. He's unemployed, or minimally employed, and has no education or good experience on his resume. He has no friends besides her. He's gotten to the point where he doesn't know how he'll get food without her help, much less navigate all the challenges of life. And if he leaves her, he'll be leaving everything--she'll destroy any of his stuff that he leaves behind, stalk him so he can't stay at the same job, and even kill his pets. If he leaves her, he's certain that he'll end up living on the streets.

3. "He'll die without me."
Her boyfriend lives in her apartment. He's unemployed, or minimally employed. He probably doesn't know how to get food without her help, much less navigate all the challenges of life. He tells her he'd be homeless without her, maybe even kill himself if she left him. She just couldn't stand to be responsible for something like that; even though he's hurt her, it would cut her to the bone to know that she had ruined or killed him.

4."What about the kids?"
Right now, she protects the kids from her husband. He may rage at her, but she shelters them from the worst of it and she makes sure they have the best home she can give them under the circumstances. If she leaves, she doubts she can get sole custody of the kids without visitation, much less get it immediately. And if the kids are alone with him, something very bad will happen. He'll hurt them, or turn them against her, or take them away and she'll never see them again. Maybe all three. Her kids are her life and she can't bear to let something like that happen.

5. "I tried once, and it made things worse."
This isn't the first time. He did call the cops on his husband before, and he ran away that night. The cops didn't find enough evidence, and when he came back to get his stuff, his husband was... tearfully apologetic, actually. Somehow he talked him into staying and not taking his stuff. The punishment came later--once he'd more or less committed to staying around--and it was horrible. But he's afraid that if he tried to leave again, he'd go through the same cycle again.

6. "I reached out once, and was rebuffed."
In a rare moment of courage, he--with shaking hands, summoning all his strength--told someone he thought he could trust what his wife was doing to him. They told him to think about her point of view for once, to not use big drastic words like "abuse," and to take care of his own damn problems without airing his dirty laundry. He just knows that if he reaches out again, it's going to be the same thing. He's lucky she didn't find out about that time and doubts if it's worth taking the risk again.

7. "If I call the cops, I'll be in trouble."
She's a prostitute. On the side, she sells drugs. She owns guns she shouldn't have and lives in a place she shouldn't be. Hell, she shouldn't even be in this country. Her lifestyle is so far outside the law that any attention from the police is likely to get her thrown in jail--so she can't very well tell the police that her girlfriend beats her.

8. "Run away? Call the cops? I can't even get away with sneezing!"
Her boyfriend controls every second of her time and every inch she moves. Whenever they're apart she has to call him and check in constantly; whenever she leaves the house she has to tell him where she's going and how long and why; he doesn't let her think without telling him about it and getting his approval. And he enforces this--reading her mail, listening to her phone conversations, showing up randomly at her work or when she's with friends (if she's allowed to have any). When she's not allowed so small a rebellion as using the wrong word, really rebelling against him seems impossible. She figures he'd catch her if she even thought about trying.

9. "If it were so bad, someone would have done something."
Everyone knows what's going on in his life. His friends have seen his girlfriend hitting him; his parents have heard him say "I can't do that, she won't let me" about a million things; the neighbors have heard the screams and crashes when she explodes. He knows everyone knows already, and knows that they haven't done anything even though they know. So, he figures, what difference would it make to tell them? Clearly they've already decided that this isn't bad enough to call in the authorities over.

10. "It's a joke to him, so it should be a joke to me."
His boyfriend hits him and treats it like a joke, laughing uproariously and expecting his victim to laugh along. To make a big deal out of this kind of violence would just be humorless, and he's got a sense of humor, doesn't he? Even when the only punchline is "ha ha, you're in pain!" And how do you go to the cops with a story like "he played a joke on me?" Cops don't arrest people for jokes.

11. "I'm just terrified to hurt her feelings."
Abuse has made her telepathic. Years of desperately trying to keep her girlfriend happy so bad things won't happen have made her keenly aware of her girlfriend's every fleeting emotion. Her girlfriend is a tiny bit moody and she rushes to coddle and comfort her; her girlfriend is a tiny bit happy and she just about throws a party for her. She's so used to reading her girlfriend's feelings and translating them into her own that she can't stand to do something that would really hurt her girlfriend's feelings. Just the thought of dealing with that much anger--when even a tiny amount of anger is a big deal in their house--is too terrifying to imagine.

12. "I'm so embarrassed I let him do this to me."
He's been abusing her for years. She doesn't see herself as some cowed little victim; she's a smart woman, an independent woman to all appearances, maybe even a declared feminist. So to come out now and say he's been hurting her all along just feels stupid. Everyone's going to ask "why did you stay with that jerk?" and she's not going to have an answer. She tells everyone her relationship is wonderful and a paragon of communication and respect, and the longer she keeps up the charade, the harder it is to say not only "turns out I'm a cowed little victim" but "turns out I'm a cowed little victim and also a liar."

13. "I've learned to live in her system."
He knows all the rules by now. As long as he always treats his wife with the utmost politeness and gentleness, and always has dinner ready before she comes home, always is up for sex when she wants it, and always lets her make the decisions, things are okay. He actually feels pretty safe when he's being "good." So it doesn't seem like there's anything wrong with the relationship, because it goes great so long as he does as he's supposed to.

14. "We're outsiders; no one cares about our problems."
They're a lesbian couple, one of them is transgendered, and they're kinky to boot. She's had enough problems just explaining to the "authorities" that their relationship exists; how the hell is she supposed to convey that there's something wrong with it? She's internalized enough prejudice that she figures it's sort of her own fault for being in such a strange relationship, and she doesn't figure anyone cares that much about the troubles of a weirdo.

15. "After all he's done for a jerk like me?"
Her husband has put up with so much from her. This isn't #13; these were genuinely bad things. He helped her pay off the nasty credit card debt she was in. He stayed with her even after she got fired from her job and flunked out of school; he even bailed her out of jail when she really fucked up. Who could blame the guy if he loses his patience now and then? She figures she really is a very difficult person to live with, she deserves some punishment for all she's screwed up, and she should be grateful that he's kept her around at all. As he reminds her when she's pushed him too far--who else would love her?

16. "She's really nice... mostly."
Her wife is super sweet and loving. She's a flowers-and-chocolates romantic, a believer in true love and love at first sight, and she treats her just like a princess. Except now and then, things get tense in the relationship, and bad things happen. Really bad things. Her wife just doesn't seem like herself and she explodes. But the apology is even sweeter and lovinger than before and things are good again. Maybe it was a one-off. Or a two-off. A three-off? Maybe this really is the last time and from now on she'll just have the nice wife she fell in love with. She's certainly being nice now, and how could you leave someone like that?

17. "It just isn't done in our community."
In her culture, the husband is the leader of the household and what he says, goes. He has the right to hit his wife if he feels it's necessary. Divorce is a taboo. Good women don't leave their husbands; good women make their husbands happy. She feels like going against her husband would be going against her entire culture, and she can't bear to do that. The community wouldn't support her and she'd feel like a traitor to her own people.

18. "Actually, I'm abusing her."
When she explodes, she doesn't tell her boyfriend "I hate you;" she tells him "you hate me." She tells him that he's hurting her, that she's responding the way she is because she just can't take his abuse any more, and he believes her. He's trying desperately to treat her right, to treat her the way she deserves, and he just keeps fucking up. Often when she's yelling he yells back--sometimes he even hits back--and that makes him more sure than ever that he's the real abuser here.

19. "It's not that bad."
She firmly believes that real abuse is when they punch you--and her husband's only slapped her with an open hand. Real abuse is when they beat you--and he only yells at her until she cries and then yells at her to stop crying. Real abuse is when they rape you--and he always makes her say "yes" before he has sex with her, no matter how little she wants it. She recognizes there's something wrong in their relationship, but could never call it like, abuse abuse, and so she can't react to it like it's real abuse.

20. "This is how relationships work, isn't it?"
Her parents' relationship was a constant cycle of drama and violence. Her relationship with her parents was just as bad. Her high school boyfriend hit her and her college boyfriend made her have sex when she didn't want it. She kinda figures everyone else's relationship is just the same behind the scenes. All she worries about is how to make the best of an abusive relationship; while she knows it intellectually, she doesn't believe deep down that a non-abusive relationship is possible, at least for her.



The one thing that isn't on the list, anywhere, is "the victim is just weak and stupid." Victims of abuse come in all types and lots of them really are flawed in big and small ways--but their reasons for staying with their abusers are not "just stupid." They're complicated, insidious, and saddest of all, sometimes right.



Usually I end these "long-list" posts with a cheery little "add your own!", and while that invitation remains open (sadly, I'm sure there are tons that I missed), I'm going to add something to this one:

If any of these sound like you--even if they sound like you in a "yeah, but" sort of way--even if your partner never laid a finger on you physically, it was just some yelling--even if you're a man and she's a woman and it doesn't work like that--even if you swear your situation isn't abuse because--call this number:

1−800−799−SAFE(7233)
TTY: 1−800−787−3224

It's the National Domestic Violence Hotline and they will talk to you. They are not going to call the cops on your partner (or you). They are not going to tell you that you have to leave your relationship. Calling them is not a commitment of any kind--you can always call them and decide to stay in your relationship after all. All they're going to do is talk to you, give you an outside perspective from people who are trained to recognize and deal with abusive situations, and help you find resources for getting out of your situation if you decide that you want them.

208 comments:

  1. Is it ok with you if I save this list and reproduce it with a few tweaks to make it more school-friendly? I'm working on eventually getting certified to teach sex ed. I know I could've used this when I was in middle and high school to recognize what my mother was doing to me - mostly #2, 12, and 19. I think I could make a good lesson out of it.

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  2. MinervaB - Absolutely.

    (Would you mind sending me the lesson at pervocracy@gmail.com when you're done with it? I'd love to see how this could be adapted into a sex-ed lesson.)

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  3. I nearly fell into #3, and probably would have if we'd been anything like financially independent. We lived in student housing together for a year, and when that let ran out we were supposed to move into a place together, but the 'I need you to take care of me' didn't work when I was shaken to pieces after my exams, and I didn't get a flat sorted in time. So he went back to live with his parents, and I slept on a sofa at one of our friends' house until I could sign on a single room in another student house. So I did get out, but only because I was utterly drained but knew I had to stay in the same city to finish my course, somehow.

    ~Tamar

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  4. does the hotline deal with child abuse too?
    (#19/16 here)

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  5. Poster above - see http://www.childhelp.org/pages/help-for-kids

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  6. I really appreciate this list -- I liked how you included aspects of emotional abuse as well. I know it's silly to say but as someone who identifies as mostly-lesbian it actually impacts me a whole lot more to see inclusive pronouns, even in such a heartbreaking context -- stupid, I know.

    "it's not real abuse" hits hard. A lot of people flat out believe that emotional abuse isn't actual abuse, or can't really leave any real scars. I came to to point where I felt like it was my fault I felt so terrified, had panic attacks, regular crying fits. Sometimes I still do. It's a hard conviction to break.

    Even now that I try to distance myself from this person (in my household) it's still really hard for me to believe that they're actually doing anything wrong, and it's not somehow something to do with me. I'm just waiting until I can leave, basically.


    anyway, thank you for this. Lists like these give me hope. make me feel like maybe I'll be okay. <3

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    1. If it helps, I've fallen into more relationships that seem like "it's not real abuse" that I'd almost given up trying to find one that wasn't even minimally abusive. I'm still terrified by one of my exes, one of her threats was "If you try to date any other girl, I'll make sure they are out of your life permanently." I tried to consider it an empty threat, but it turns out that it wasn't. One night after that threat, when we broke up, I was walking a female friend home from a football game since it was dark and she was younger than I was. She also didn't live all that far away. When I escorted her to her driveway and then left, I had just turned the corner when I heard the screeching of tires. I didn't think anything of it until that same girl called and screeched "Your psychotic ex just hit me with her car!" at me. I immediately ran back to my friend and called an ambulance. She was hospitalized for 6 weeks. Because of that, I can't date any other females and have to hide the fact that I'm attracted to certain ones from anyone whom she might hear it from. I'm still living in that cave, since I don't want to get anyone else hurt.

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  7. Just so you know: I posted an excerpt from this to NSWATM. This is important and needs to be shared.

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  8. Child abuse anon - 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) is a hotline specifically for children.

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  9. I don't really have anything to add but thanks for this; it's great. Here from Feministe.

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  10. Oh god, I have such a bad habit of falling into #15 in relationships.

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  11. I was doing okay, and then I got to this line in nineteen: "Real abuse is when they rape you--and he always makes her say "yes" before he has sex with her, no matter how little she wants it."

    I'm not in that relationship anymore. But it's still really really hard to convince myself that yeah, it was that bad.

    Thank you for making me feel a little more legitimate.

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  12. 19. "It's not that bad."
    She firmly believes that real abuse is when they punch you--and her husband's only slapped her with an open hand. Real abuse is when they beat you--and he only yells at her until she cries and then yells at her to stop crying. Real abuse is when they rape you--and he always makes her say "yes" before he has sex with her, no matter how little she wants it. She recognizes there's something wrong in their relationship, but could never call it like, abuse abuse, and so she can't react to it like it's real abuse.

    - this sounds like my brother in law and his wife. when my fiancé and i lived with them he used to wake us up at 3 am screaming at her until she sobbed, then screaming at her to stop crying. neither of us knew what to do. when i asked her when he was out if she was alright she always said yes or changed the subject. my fiancé was too confused by the fact that he never thought his brother would do something like that. the one time he started losing his shit at her in front of me and i tried to intervene, he started screaming at me too.

    the lease on the apartment the 4 of us had together ended a month after this started happening. we don't live with them anymore. now they live with my brother in law's parents. i hope to fucking god he's stopped treating her like that and i feel so guilty i didn't do more and so afraid he hasn't stopped. she's pregnant and i'm so afraid for what is going to happen once there's a kid around.

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    1. Probably he hasn't. You may want to do something about that, seeing as you've seen and heard firsthand the abuse in their relationship.

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  13. #15/#19

    I got away, but it still affects so much. I'm remarried now to someone who is so very patient, who understands that sometimes he must be very gentle with me. But I can still see the damage behind my eyes sometimes, when I look in the mirror...
    Thank you for this.

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  14. I was a combination of number 1/2/5/9 and eventually I ended up living number 12. Everyone knew what my father was doing but with the grownups in my life turning the other cheek out of fear of him there wasn't much a kid could really do. As I became an adult I desperately wanted to get out and eventually did but coming clean with my boyfriend and small support circle was the hardest thing I ever did. I was so ashamed that I didn't stop it or speak up sooner. I cannot thank my husband and my friends enough for being amazing people who helped me turn my life around.

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  15. I'm starting to think everyone has lived through #19.

    I think the pertinent question here is whether you'd consider it reasonable if you reacted the same way. It's easy (well, not easy) to take screamed insults about everything you are and everything you've done in your life with a "well, I did upset her", but consider--is that how you'd act if someone upset you? Is that even close to how you'd react? Has someone ever upset you in a way that made you think it would be a reasonable response to scream at them for half an hour about mostly unrelated things?

    This is hardly diagnostic of abuse or anything, and of course it depends on your individual responses, but for me it's always been a great source of perspective.

    Easy to think "she slapped me because I annoyed her"; harder to think "if someone annoyed me in that way, I'd slap them and not feel bad."

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  16. I feel like I'm being dismissive and I assure you I'm not, I think this is great work, I hope it educates bystanders and I hope it helps people.

    But I'd like clarification on 9; is it "everyone knows and no one does anyrthing" or "everyone must know and no one does anything"? Is the "everyone knows" intended as somerhing objectively true or the person's perception?

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  17. Anon - Either, really. I think both situations can happen.

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  18. #17, with my dad--a husband/father can do anything he wants with/to his wife/children.

    I sometimes still can't step foot into a church without panic attacks, depending on how I'm doing (he was a pastor at one church, a deacon at the one just previous). And it's been twenty years since he had unsupervised visits with us.

    Right now isn't one of my better times. Thank God for my husband and kids. They keep me as sane as I can be.

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  19. Oh, 3, 12 and 15 in my last relationship, a lot. A little of 16 too, although not explosions, more like he was really nice most of the time until anything was wrong, and if I said anything, then it always ended up that I was sobbing and apologizing frantically yet feeling awful. It is hard to explain, I'd say "I really wish you wouldn't promise to do the dishes and pay bills and then not do it" and the response is "you're wrong, you don't always do things on time, you make me really angry and all of my problems worse when you say mean things like you're upset with me! It's not like I don't have a lot of other things to do!" But not really shouting. And so forth, usually with storming off for some hours. I learned not to say anything a lot of the time. But when everything was fine things were great! It was really such a surprising change next relationship when I said "hey, this upset me" and it wasn't a long drawn out argument but a "oh, sorry, I didn't mean to upset you!"
    15 in the "yeah, but" category because it wasn't so much things like being bailed out of jail as just general 'hard times:' periods of un(der)employment, living in crummy places until better things came along, tough school program, car catastrophes, etc. How could I dare break up when they'd been with me through all of that? And yeah, as illustrated, when they were telling me things wouldn't be any better with anyone else (I remember responding "I don't want to be with anyone else! I just want to be alone!"), that I was impossible and hypocritical and all that. Yeesh.

    But I can't remember, was it here that I mentioned how in that relationship I was looking at a similar list with what constituted emotional abuse, pointed out to him that they either fit or were pretty close, and his response was to declare that they were wrong and I should stop looking at them? People who worry they are unintentionally being abusive (people who wonder if they fit #18), take note.


    So, so, so glad I finally left - it took way too long (see #12, I remember how I felt monumentally stupid for not doing so earlier, for not listening to all my friends who encouraged me over and over again to just leave).
    (sorry to write a book all over here, too many memories)

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    1. It is always hard to admit to what has happened in the past. It took me six years to mention to anyone about being raped. It took about four to mention about the abusive relationship that also involved rape, and it took about as long to mention some of the more mentally/emotionally abusive relationships from the past.

      I was too ashamed to speak out until I found a supportive friend that was so horrified at what had happened to me and how I seem so "normal" after it all, that I realized it's not a shameful thing to speak out about it.

      More people are supportive of you than you realize. I'm beginning to understand that better now. It's still difficult to mention some of the details without reliving them, but once you bring them up, there are so many supportive people that can understand the circumstances even if they haven't been through them before. It may be surprising, but there are good people out there who will stand up for you. Always.

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  20. I wish I had something more coherent to say, but yes. This.

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  21. 2 4 (but with my cats) 6 9 10 12 15 16 18 19 20. :/ I didn't really relate so much until I went through and checked them out in context, and these are the ones that directly relate to me. It's my parents though, and #4 is a really big thing- my mother constantly threatens to break my cats' paws.

    There is help out there though. I hope everyone learns that, and realizes that. No matter how deep you're in, there's someone who wants to help you- you just need to keep looking any way you can.

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  22. True fact: I post anonnie to feminist/SJ-oriented/not-being-a-douche blogs because I am afraid my abusive, manipulative ex will find me.

    Social justice rhetoric was her weapon of choice, for a while.

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  23. "Why did they do this? Did they like pain? Did they want to get murdered? Were they just unbelievably stupid? Why the HOLY LIVING FUCK would someone choose to protect and return to a partner who just broke their arm?"

    It took me nearly 6 years inlaw enforcement to start to figure this out. I wish they would teach stuff like this more in the police academy. I used to get so frustrated with the victims they would tell me the same bad lies, that they didn't want to press charges, etc. Thank you for putting this together. I'll pass it around a little.

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  24. This is... pretty heartbreaking, but very insightful. Also remember that not all of your readers are in the US. Some UK helplines I found:

    National Domestic Violence Helpline: (for women and children): 0808 2000 247

    Men's advice line: 0808 801 0327

    Broken Rainbow UK (for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer people): 0300 999 LGBT (5428)

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  25. I think this is a really great list. I'd love to see a follow-up post about how to respond when you think that someone is being abused - how to be supportive, or effective, or just what the hell you do when someone is experiencing any one of these #s and is in danger and you want to help and don't want to put someone in a situation where they have to tell another lie?

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  26. Anon - Unfortunately, that's something I don't have a great deal of knowledge about.

    A lot of the time there's not much you can do but sort of "be there for them"--make it clear that what's happening is abuse, it's not their fault, and that you will always take their side. Offer them a place to stay if that's possible and safe, and don't say anything to the abuser that could get them in trouble (or tip him off that the victim is thinking of leaving or where they are going, of course).

    But ultimately it's the victim's decision when and if they leave, and it's a shitty and hard decision.

    I'm not sure what I'd say beyond that, although maybe with research I could write that post.

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  27. Oh, and also: the abuse hotlines can also help someone who knows an abuse victim.

    But don't call the police unless the abuser is committing physical abuse at that moment. If the abuse isn't physical, or if it isn't happening right then, the cops can't do much and their presence can get the victim in trouble.

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  28. Thank you Holly, you're awesome.

    I think it's so great that you mixed genders randomly. There's a stigma for abuse towards men and it's so important that it gets recognised for the abuse it is. And I'm so glad your ER has someone who is willing to try to understand abuse sufferers, rather than just putting it down to stupidity.

    It makes me feel so useless that this shit happens all the time and most of it goes unreported or ignored - spreading this list around as much as possible seems all I can do right now, that and resolving not to ignore it so I don't end up as the people that let it happen in #9.

    Sorry to ramble so but the things on this list are so terrible, it's brilliant you've brought them to attention.

    Do you think it's possible for abusive behaviour to grow slowly and insidiously so that the victim feels silly about complaining about it at any one point?

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    1. "Do you think it's possible for abusive behaviour to grow slowly and insidiously so that the victim feels silly about complaining about it at any one point?"

      It happened to me. I was looking back yesterday over the way my first boyfriend treated me (this is going back years, I've just started in therapy). He started out just mocking and belittling things I liked, and I accepted that because my mum did the same. Then he started ordering me about, making me stop what I was doing to listen to some music he wanted me to hear, doing things I'd told him made me feel embarrassed. And then he sexually assaulted me, and it took me years to realise it was assault. It was just more of his usual arsehole behaviour that happened to involve my genitals.

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    2. "Do you think it's possible for abusive behaviour to grow slowly and insidiously so that the victim feels silly about complaining about it at any one point?"

      me too Nick Kiddle.

      When the frog did jump out of the boiling water my abuser was astonished. But by then he'd told me he hated me, the marriage was over, and yet we had to stay together because we couldn't afford to separate. No domestic violence program would take me because he never hit me(this is not true, physical abuse isn't the only kind.) He'd kill my cat if I left. I should get a boyfriend so he'd feel less guilty about cheating on me. If i left i'd be dead on the street within a month.

      So I left and took the cat, found a domestic abuse shelter, found shelter for cat, and am now on my own with my cat. Still don't have a boyfriend, nor want one.

      Months of him telling me and my friends and relations all the bad thing I'd done and how he didn't mean anything the way it sounded.

      I still miss the sweet loving man he used to be in the early years. I still can't say when the change started, or when it got really bad.

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  29. Ben - Do you think it's possible for abusive behaviour to grow slowly and insidiously so that the victim feels silly about complaining about it at any one point?

    Absolutely. I think that's how it usually happens. I don't think most abusers are abusive (at least in the explosive scary way) early in the dating process. I think a lot of them wait to get some commitment, then become manipulative, and only then become explosive scary abusive.

    I need to do a whole nother post on the motivations of abusers. A lot of it comes from a place of pain and fear, which excuses nothing, but nonetheless I think it's important not to see them as "just monsters"; they have motivations, even if they're really fucked ones.

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    1. It comes from entitlement. "Why does he do that?" by Lundy Bancroft is one of the best books about this.

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  30. Excellent list. I'd just like to emphasize that #10 can extend to emotional abuse as well.

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  31. Link posted to our Facebook group at facebook.com/ExporeYourOptionsWithUs
    Thanks for taking the time to so eloquently state this.
    In regards to Ben's question about abuse starting slowly: Absolutely. As Holly said, most abusers take the time to "groom" their victims, preparing them to accept the abuse in some way. The "cycle of abuse" referenced in much of the literature on the subject explains there being a "honeymoon" or "courtship" phase, during which time the abuser returns to his pre-abuse behaviour. The early part of a relationship with a habitual abuser is likely just an extension of this phase rather than a "remission" from abuse with a subsequent relapse.

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  32. That is to say, "his/her pre-abuse behaviour" - Just a lazy language habit, and not an attempt to gender-type either abuser or abused.

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  33. "But don't call the police unless the abuser is committing physical abuse at that moment. If the abuse isn't physical, or if it isn't happening right then, the cops can't do much and their presence can get the victim in trouble."

    I think some clarification on this is needed. If you have reason to believe violence is about to occur, contacting the police is your best bet; waiting until violence erupts may be waiting too long. Keep in mind, injecting yourself into another person's abusive relationship (for instance, by calling the police) can result in you being alienated by both the abuser and the abused, or it may just be the wake-up call needed for someone to seek outside intervention.

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  34. Wow, I just found your blog and this post is amazing. I fell into numbers 3,5,8,10,12, and 19 in my first adult live in relationship. I didn't know that there was a hotline because I had never been involved with domestic violence before. Thanks for posting the number. It's going on my blog now.

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  35. Thank you for the list. Some additional suggestions:

    "But it's silly to think he's abusing me" - People abuse their spouses, their children. Nobody gets abused by her son*, or by his little sister. That just doesn't happen; that doesn't make any sense.

    "But he's really, really not like that" - (Really an extension of something else you wrote.) You've known him for years. Since kindergarden or earlier. You've loved him your entire life. This, the way he is now, isn't his fault - he's depressed, he has PTSD, he's literally undergoing stresses he never had to face before, stresses that could break anyone. He lashes out, sure, but it's not about you. It's just something he's got pent up inside that needs to get out. What are you, some self-centered bitch? Get your head out of your ass, he needs you!

    And I think an important thing to add is this: Abuse is something you do, not something you are. Someone who was abusive before can genuinely change given therapy and honestly wanting to.

    But that doesn't mean you should stay in their line of fire until they do. Run first, pick up the pieces later if at all.

    *I did know that people get abused by their children, but the thought of being abused by a sibling seemed ludicrous to me until I've read this list and thought, huh, sounds like the way my brother was that one time...

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    1. No one believed i was being abused by a younger sibling, but I was. If you take it, you're a wimp. If you defend yourself you're a bully picking on a smaller kid. And if you ask for help, you're ignored.

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  36. I was a number 18 in HS...sort of. I didn't really think I was the abuser, but he did make me feel like I had hurt him by saying things like I didn't love him (when in my high school mind I totally did)

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  37. On the subject of motivation on the abusers half, I think that the language you guys are using is a bit misleading.

    I have no doubt that it's true that the abuse usually starts to grow slowly and get a little bit worse every week until some day, 6 months into the relationship the abuser hits his/her partner for the first time.

    But terms such as "grooming" seems to me to lay a degree of intentionality in it that I doubt is happening. I doubt a lot of people go "hmm, in about two months she/he has reached the point where slapping is feasible, but punching has to wait another 1½ month after that".

    I suspect that it is much more likely that they are saying to themselves "yeah, I fucked up in my last relationship, but this time is different" or "this isn't abuse, it's not like I'm hitting her/him very hard" - and that they can maintain this lie to themselves long after the rest of us consider it utterly absurd. I doubt the "grooming" mentioned is deliberate, but it is easily explained by the resolve to "be better this time" fading.

    People don't like calling themselves nasty things - which is also part of the problem, as it makes it harder to reach them.

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  38. @ Holly,

    I'm sure a great many wouldn't be able to answer that question in the way you think would help. They've gone from parent to partner as abuser. They've been exposed to such treatment for so long or from so many directions that they would define their own reaction as wrong/useless or they've long adopted some milder version of the abusers behavior.

    It took me years of knowing how much better my (2nd) husband was than my dad before I could completely change my behavior. I was never as bad as my father, but I was inclined to react in my own over the top angry and belittling manner in imitation of his. Even when I knew this, and even when I was living with a much finer example, and regularly reading parenting advice advocating other methods, it still most of my children's lives to truly adjust my viewpoint and actions.

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  39. I would like to add another here, I don't know if it somehow fits in with others but here goes:

    The man who is affectionate, caring and shares what he thinks are his greatest secrets with you, makes you feel like you would be worthless without him, who makes you depend on him for everything. He is incredibly financially secure but spends most of his money on cannabis so asks for a loan at the end of every month and makes you feel bad if you can't do it. He is sexually deviant and if you don't want to participate in his fantasies then he makes you feel guilty for days, though it's so rare that he actually wants to have sex you don't dare say no because you don't know when it will happen again. The sex you do have is unfulfilling but it's the best you are going to get. He likes to have power over you but says he is submissive; though there are times when he has hit you, it has been part of the sex games so you don't think it could possibly be abuse.
    He slowly alienates you from all your friends and even your sisters until there is no-one left you can talk to apart from his friends, who inform him of every word you say against him. He is incredibly polite in front of your parents but they seem to know what he is really like. You defend him but aren't sure why, only that you are convinced that you love him.
    He gets coldly angry, hardly every shouts but his every move and gesture makes you aware that if he really wanted to, he would hurt you.
    You find out that he is cheating on you with his previous girlfriend and he makes you feel that you are making everything up, even though you are so insecure as to check his phone and find dozens of messages from her and what he says back. She even contacts you to say he has been back in contact and has been pestering her for sex but when you show him the email he shrugs it off and tells you she is crazy and you shouldn't believe a word she says. He had to get a restraining order against her and she is the one pestering him, she's obsessed and he would never love anyone else but you. You have a big argument and he is saying such nasty things about you that you snap and lash out just to make him stop, then he acts like the wounded party and you are the lowest piece of crap on earth even though he was being abusive in the first place.
    He slowly destroys your self confidence until you are desperate to leave but don't for six months because you think it might get better. You go out for nights out with your sisters just to escape from the monotony of nights sat being ignored while he plays computer games with his friends and if you want to speak you have to repeat yourself three times, but you have to watch what you say because he says you always talk about yourself and he hates it.
    Eventually you meet a lovely man who your sisters believe is perfect for you, but you only realise it when your boyfriend is away on business. You have the most amazing night but it still takes you two weeks to summon the courage to leave. He tries to force you to stay and begs for two hours to marry him and you only say yes to make him quiet, but the next day on a trip to London the amazing guy follows you across half the country and makes you realise how a boyfriend is supposed to be.
    When you leave the house, he makes you feel like you are the worst person in the world and he will die without you but you have finally found the confidence so you can't back out, and you realise just how bad he has made you feel about yourself. He tells you to leave behind the presents he gave you but makes you take the things you bought for him; you take them anyway and he becomes verbally abusive and says he will call the police to report theft.

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  40. You know his threats are empty and you don't care any more, his power is broken but it has taken two years of the three you were together to summon the courage to finally leave. You have to change your phone number but he still sends you emails and messages on Facebook which are at first loving and apologetic, but become increasingly threatening the longer you ignore him. Eventually he stops as he realises you aren't coming back, so he returns to his previous girlfriend which hurts you even though you are so happy with your new life. He continues to haunt your relationship but your new boyfriend is so supportive that he helps you to heal and forget, but there are still times three years later when you think about him and seeing him makes you feel cold inside.

    This has become a bit of a rant but I have held this inside for a long time, I didn't want to share the full extent of how things were with anyone as I felt it was my fault and I should have been a better girlfriend. It has been the relationship with my current boyfriend, without all the drama and with so much more love and affection, and this post which has helped me share what happened. Sorry it's such a long post(s) and thanks for reading :)

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  41. In some ways I wonder if emotional abuse is worse. After all, it's not just the victims who fall prey to #19--it's other people, people who have never been abuser or abused, but when you complain that person X makes you feel worthless, it's laughed off because "abuse is when they hit you."

    Anyway, I guess I can tell my story. I was a #2, I guess, and I was a #19 for YEARS before I learned that there was such a thing as emotional abuse. My dad...gets angry. And when he's angry, he yells. A lot. For hours. Hurtful things. He called me a slut the first time I had sex because I didn't know enough to use protection. (I dodged a real bullet there--not only did I not get any STDs and end up not having a kid, but mom managed to talk him out of kicking me out on the street.)

    Every time I acted on impulse as a child and did something he didn't approve of, whether I'd been told not to do that thing or not, he would scream the same four words at me: "How stupid are you?" And when you're academically gifted and taught your whole life to identify yourself with that gift, there is nothing worse somebody can say to you.

    It's like Jekyll and Hyde. I have memories of piggyback rides and amusement parks and fancy presents and "I love you and you'll always be my little baby girl." And then I have memories of staring desperately at the clock on the wall behind him to avoid having to look him in the eye, watching two whole hours tick by as he screams at me for whatever I did this time, then yells at me again for bursting into tears. To this day, I tear up when people try to have a serious discussion with me--even if it's "I'm going to give you a raise based on your performance." I get defensive over nothing. And every time people enter my personal space, I flinch without even noticing I'm doing it.

    Gods, I'm glad I'm moving out. I want to say I'll never have to speak to him again, but I love my mother and I don't know how to explain to her what happened. She was physically abused before she met my dad, and she doesn't want to believe she could make that sort of mistake again. She would burst into tears when I was little, and my father, the same man who terrified me throughout my childhood, would comfort her and tell her it was going to be ok. "Abused? What are you talking about? He never laid a finger on you!" He didn't have to.

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    1. Wow, that sounds so familiar. My dad was the same way.

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  42. There was an ad for bystander intervention in domestic abuse in India recently. I can't find the link to it at the moment, but basically it showed a man hearing the neighbours fighting (with the husband abusing the wife), and went down, knocked on the door, and asked to borrow some milk (leaving before the neighbour brought it out). I thought it was a brilliant idea, because it is a way to defuse a situation like that without getting yourself involved in the actual fighting.

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  43. Anonymous:
    We care because no-one else does, we intervene because no-one else does and we reach out because no-one else does. When you have been abused, no matter your gender or walk of life, it takes a lot of courage to speak out and we should listen, because sometimes that is all that is needed. Listening can go a long way, and sometimes it is half the solution.

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  44. Wow, this is like a check list from my last relationship...
    3, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 19, All of those applied to me in some way over the course of 2 years with my ex. None of it was every physical, thankfully, but the emotional and mental abuse was there in spades. It got to the point where I couldn't trust my own mind b/c he had me convinced that he was the only person in the world who was my friend and who cared about me. when everyone else had 'abandoned me'. Only because they all despised him.
    I was stupid and fat, and lazy (even though I was the one with 2 steady jobs, my name on the lease, and the only one with a car and license), Sex was only when and how he wanted it (his idea of foreplay was to grab me by the hair and snarl "I'm going to rape you now", but if I wanted kissing or oral, he made me brush my teeth and wash myself first... and only after I begged him for it. Even then, he'd 'forget'), I was expected to cook and clean after working both jobs, while he sat around playing video games.
    Whenever I tried telling him I was sick of it and for him to get off his ass and find a job, he'd yell at me that he was TRYING, but no one called him back, or he was filling things out online, or whatever. If I threatened to kick him out, he'd whine that he'd have to go live under a bridge b/c he had no where else to go.
    Things finally got worse before they got better. I had a co-worker move in with us b/.c she needed a place to stay, he started fucking her, we had a mutual blow-up/break-up, i kicked him out. The final straw involved the police being called and joint restraining orders put in place. I transferred jobs to another town, moved as soon as I could to a MUCH nicer place in another county, and have severed all contacts to him. I've never felt more free in my life.

    Now I've got a new man in my life and while he's the polar opposite of my ex in every way, I'm still terrified I'll end up in that same situation again. I know the signs to look out for now, but I feel so paranoid about history repeating itself, I can't fully enjoy what could be the most amazing relationship of my life. I"m constantly comparing things to my ex in my head, and reminding myself that 'No, G won't suddenly try to anally rape me if i let my guard down. No, G doesn't get off on being a Sadist (gentle teasing yes, but not causing pain). G is the Pet, I'm the Master, not the other way around. I'm not Slave anymore.'

    I have no physical scars, but the mental/ emotional ones are just as hard to work with.

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  45. @Anon from 5:31

    All I can say is that I'm very happy that you got out. That sounds like a really, really shitty emotional place to live.

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  46. Ref Ben's question about how abuse begins: I think it's very common for it to begin gradually. First they belittle you so that you feel worthless and that you deserve whatever they dole out. It's also common for them to be hostile to your friends and family, and drive them away so that you have no support system. My ex never physically struck me at all, because I had told him from the beginning that I would leave him in a heartbeat if he did. That was something that was totally alien to me and I wasn't about to put up with it. But he threw boiling water at me, trashed our kitchen with a cast iron skillet, slammed me against a wall, and ripped my shirt. When I told him I was scared of him, he said with true bewilderment, "But I never HIT you!"

    As Ben said, all this escalated so slowly that at no point did it ever occur to me that any one of these things was actual abuse, because as he said, he never hit me. It was years later when I figured out that it really WAS abuse.

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  47. Holly - gladly! It'll be a while, though. I'm in the middle of moving and I have to get all that figured out before I start working on sex ed stuff again.

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  48. 3, 16, 19, with some 15 and 12 when he gets to me. When he is on his meds he really is great (16), and whe he goes off them he needs me (3). And he has never actually hit me (19). Mental illness (on either part) makes it all so murky. Of course, I'm still with him, so I would say that.

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  49. So many of these happened in my first relationship, even though my abusive boyfriend never physically hurt me (his brother did, but he himself didn't). I still struggle with #13 in both my current relationships--as soon as either of my partners is upset, even when it's something that has nothing to do with me, I run around in circles trying to fix it. It's so hard to get rid of his conditioning. It was 10 years ago and I'm still dealing with it.

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  50. 2, 15, 18 & 19 (cos emotional abuse isn't really abuse, is it?)

    And our former mutual friends say "But he's a nice guy really" and "Well, yeah, but he's good company".

    8 years on and I'm still too scared of it happening again to be able to date.

    Jenny

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  51. To this day I debate whether my Dad was emotionally abusive towards me and my siblings. If he was it was definitely a case of number 19. He rarely insulted us directly, but he would go on rants about our behavior that lasted for hours. Sometimes they'd be angry, sometimes they'd just be long and exhausting, sometimes they would start calm and turn angry. The behaviors that made him rant were typically small things; not choosing careers he thought would be appropriate for us, reading books he didn't approve of or not cleaning dishes promptly enough. One time I got a long, angry rant because I watched a movie with him with a minor sex scene (I was raised to think those were wrong) and it bothered me. I was maybe seven at the time. It was his favorite movie, and he ranted so long I started to cry, and he kept on going until I had to run and hide in my room. When I was older and my Mom went to work, he would complain about having to prepare meals. He often said things that made me feel unwanted, and when I tried to talk to him about it he would start another rant that made me feel worse than before. I ended up really depressed and only felt better once I made a friend who I could talk to about these things, and who called it verbal abuse.

    I still feel uncomfortable actively saying, "my Dad was abusive." The thing is, my Dad can also be a lot of fun, and I do kind of like him, even though I also don't want to be around him. We were a nice Christian middle class family, and a lot of our friends familys seemed less happy. My Mom talked a lot about what a wonderful family she had, and we all kind of got used to that. I worry about other people not believing me when they see how nice we all look and act, and I worry about my family not backing me up if I were to go so far as to call my Dad verbally abusive. I guess it doesn't really matter, since I'm out of the house now. I seem to have gotten out pretty much emotionally stable.

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  52. Anon - The behaviors you're describing, and simply the fact that it's still bothering you as an adult, suggests that it was verbal abuse.

    Sometimes, I think treating the word "abuse" as a big bright line isn't necessarily meaningful. (Other times, it's the realization that spurs people to take action.) What your dad did was hurtful to you and had a long-term impact on you, whatever you call it.

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  53. Sort of #12, but really a combination of a lot of these. Oh, let's see..."There is no way I'll admit what is going on, because I fought so hard against everyone who told me this was a bad idea. It isn't that bad, he hasn't hit me yet, just threatened to. He's only destroyed my stuff, that isn't really me. He only tells me how useless and worthless I am, and why would I believe him? Why did I start to, after a few years? He says how worthless *he* is and wonders why I would be with him, so I have to prove to him that he has worth by staying with him, even if it is a bad situation. I am too stubborn to tell anyone what is happening, because I cannot admit I was WRONG."

    Man. Even 10 years later, this list hit home.

    And as others referenced: The boiling frog situation. If the heat is only increased slowly, it doesn't know it is in real trouble until it might be too late.

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  54. Several of these sound like my relationship to my ex-husband. We were young; he was the only real relationship I had ever been in, my only gage for sex. I tell people well he changed after we got married. Which IS true, but there were signs in high school that I just was too insecure to really recognize. #10 often he would cross the line with a verbal joke, in front of my friends and then tell me to lighten up, and I would be so upset so often, and I didn't understand. I usually just blamed my depression or me.
    Frequently when he would go to these parties and return at 3am, drunk wanting sex. Sometimes I would give in, because then it would be over faster than if I protested, or he would whine or make me feel like a bad wife.
    He often made me feel stupid as best as he could claiming he knew more on something than I did, and I believed him for a while or at least was compliant. There was something that always told me it wasn't quite right. Usually I didn't respond because I would be so spellbound by his narcissistic logic.
    I didn't know whom to turn to, and he kept saying things were all in my head. That nothing was wrong. But then when I wanted to go to counseling, or start taking medication he said I didn't need it. Often our arguments ended with me rocking back and forth on the floor hitting my head yelling, "Stupid, stupid, stupid" or "My fault, my fault, my fault" he would then 'save me' from myself by slapping me and then start crying and telling me that I would be okay. That we would be okay
    Not that I was wrong or he was wrong, but that I would be okay. It was a messy terrible codependent relationship. Yet somehow I still loved him.
    But I also started recognizing that I couldn't live like this. Either I was going to kill myself, or one day he would escalate from a slap in the face. We went to counseling, He put on a face after a short period of refusing to corporate. But then he started twisting the words of the counselor. I told him for two weeks I wanted no contact with him. I was actually going on a trip for school out of country, so it was a perfect time, because he couldn't call. But I told him no email either.
    Strangers, Italian strangers told me that I deserved better, they could see how miserable I was.
    We went out of town, and maybe it was unfair of me to never let up but anything he said I found some way to point out how he never dealt with his issues, his mother abandoning him, his dad's temper, his psycho brother, dropping out of school, smoking like crazy even though he wanted to be a fireman. (He once told me that smoking helped increase his lung capacity.)
    We had a knock down drag out fight, he was yelling I was yelling, and while we were staying at my friend's house, she and every one else seemed to disappear. I told him I wasn't leaving with him that it was over.
    He fell to his knees and begged me through tears to give him another chance. The way his rage so quickly flip flopped back and forth frightened me. He told me he couldn't live with out me. I told him that I would leave with him. To this day I wish I hadn't.
    I felt so trapped like I would never be free.
    Then an opportunity presented itself to make it where he might be willing to leave me. A friend had confessed how he wanted to see me naked, so I sent him pictures.
    He found the pictures. But wasn't disgusted like I had hoped. He was turned on.
    He raped me for three days. Not continuously. But each time I was tied up, except once, and I can't tell you why I didn't leave when I wasn't tied down. I don't even remember those days, just flashes.
    So yea, after that there was no love inside me for him. And some how it was over, he was gone, left. I barely remember.
    One of the things I do remember is that while he was raping me he said, "I'm doing this because I love you."

    That was two years ago, and I still have no fucking clue how to begin barely trusting another male.

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  55. Your list sort of focusses on partners, which is fair enough in many respects, and the comments are largely about partners or parents as the abusers. I suspect that these are indeed the majority of cases.

    But ... several of these things also apply when it's siblings, as I know from my own knowledge, and I think cases also arise alarmingly often where it's friends, particularly housemates etc., but also in non-domestic situations.

    (6, "no one believes me" and 9, "everyone knows there's something wrong and no one's trying to help". The latter didn't mean I didn't know it was wrong, though I didn't as such use the term abuse, but it did mean I thought there was nothing else I could do.)

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  56. I dealt with about half of these for over two years. I think the main one that's missing, if I might suggest a 21, is: "They've been abused themselves, so I just need to be patient with them."

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  57. "Real abuse is when they rape you--and he always ma[de me] say 'yes' before he ha[d] sex with [me], no matter how little [I] want[ed] it."

    It took me two years after ending the relationshp to actually acknowledge that it was abusive, and to stop blaming myself (there were als oshadings of 18 in there - any time I tried to call him on any bullshit he blamed it on my depression and explaiend to me that I needed to change and be better).

    I still struggle sometimes to remember that is was abuse, plain and simple, none of this kinda sorta maybe shit.

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  58. Just. thank you. I'm one month out from an abusive marriage, and this helps.

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  59. Thank you for posting this.

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  60. The slow build-up, or "grooming", is how it happens, though. The abuser may not be doing it consciously but there's a cycle of abuse that starts with being the best person ever. They're nice, they're attentive but then something goes wrong (physical or intangible). The abuse happens, there's an apology or a return back to how it was. Then there's another explosion. If it weren't some sort of cycle like this otherwise it would be easier to leave. There's also the issue that if the abused tries to leave the abuser that's when the most violence happens.

    @Jenny: I was going to say the same thing. I've had experience with that. It's also entirely possible for a child to be abusive towards their parent as well, but it's also far more rare because of the power differential.

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  61. Ah No12 & No19 - Oh he never actually hit me ... I just walked into him / was standing in the wrong place. He never actually said anything horrible, I just interpreted it wrong. I was so terribly embarrassed by how I let him talk to me and what I let him do ... it took me a very long time to realise that it wasn't my problem. And then, because eventually everyone hits a breaking point, it turned into No18. I lost it - no idea what I said but it cleared the restaurant. The kicker, when I finally booted him out of my life he asked "Who's going to love me like you do." and my answer was "I don't love you."

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  62. Thank you for this.

    A couple of people have already mentioned it here, but I'd like to reiterate how important it is to reframe 'domestic abuse' in ways that emphasize that it's not only romantic/marital relationships in which it occurs. I've never been in a romantic relationship, but have lived in three abusive ones -- once with a landlady and twice with roommates. Coming from a loving family, I've been pretty much stunned into inaction in every case, just continually floored at the fact that any human being can actually act that way toward another and therefore sure that I "must be misreading the situation."

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  63. Thank Goddess I am over 50 now and smarter. I had one physically abusive relationship in my 20s, and numerous emotionally abusive relationships until my 40s.

    I took a 10 year break from even DATING until I got my head together, and learned how to be good to me and what it takes to START a HEALTHY relationship.

    When I began dating again, when I found someone I thought would be a good bet I put it on the "line" this way...I told her that before we get serious we needed to start seeing a couple's counselor to set a touch point before things got bad.

    This way when the relationship hit stormy waters we would have a touch point and counseling techniques under our belts to help us navigate the storm. I told her I WOULD NOT AGREE TO DATE HER ANY LONGER if she didn't agree to doing this.

    She agreed it was a good idea, we sought out a counselor began therapy gained skills for working through problems. When we hit (still occasionally do) stormy waters,we work it out.

    And guess what! NOT one HAND has been raised toward one another NOR HAVE we cut each other APART TO SHREDS emotionally!

    Doesn't mean we are "fixed" it means we continue to work at being healthy for one another. We are celebrating 4.5 months now..it isn't perfect but it is as healthy as we can manage it---day-by-day!

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  64. Others drawn from my life, which are probably mostly just extensions of some that you've already written:

    1) She's afraid to deal with the social fallout that will come about if she leaves. She's new in town, and he's been her primary social contact. She's made all her friends through him, and she knows he'll badmouth her just like any other ex if she finally pulls it together enough to leave. And then what will she have? The people she cares about are all his friends first, and hers second, and they'll drop her instantly if he says they should. And then she'll be alone, and the only good thing in her life will be gone.

    (Of course this turned out to be a *complete* illusion. But I did need help to get out of that one.)

    2) The relationship is essentially a folie a deux. They built a little world together, with its own rules and its own signifiers and almost a secret language that only they knew. And at first it seemed perfect, it seemed like a love out of fiction. The only chance at anything meaningful. The only chance at anyone who would ever understand her. And when it starts falling apart, when the cracks and the lies become obvious, she can't let go of the ideal she thought she saw at the beginning. He's trapped her in a delusion, and it hardly matters what he does anymore, it's got to be better than the real world. The real world is harsh and dull and there is no place in it for her, because she's not really functional in 9-5 society. So she has to stay, no matter what, because if she lets the lie crumble, the world she's living in essentially ends. And what is there to go back to? Is it even possible?

    (Yes, it is possible. But I'm still not over the loss of that imaginary beautiful world, and I don't know if I ever will be. I don't miss him-- he was horrible. But I miss the mutual delusion, and I know I was right that I'll never have anything like that, like what that should have been, ever again.)

    These are he/she with the female as victim because I am a straight girl, and they're drawn from my life.

    I like this post (yours, not mine). I like it a great deal.

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    1. I cried so hard while reading 2). I got myself out of an abusive relationship literally this morning, and a lot of crazy shit happened today. Obviously, I can't even BEGIN to think about anything else than him.

      He seemed dreamy before we met. He had some active haters, but his art was so beautiful and I was enchanted. I knew already he's not the sanest guy out there - like I was a perfectly healthy gal myself, lol. I wrote to him and things escalated quickly. It took us month to create a separate universe, where we met and loved each other the way we wanted, not how the "society" would teach. We seemed so far away from reality, and I loved it, because I'm an artist myself, very sensitive, big dreamer, living at least half of her life in her head. My dreams came true and I couldn't be happier. I gave him my virginity - something I cherished and kept sacred all my life; I wanted to save it for someone special. After barely two months of knowing each other, we slept together. It must have been the most beautiful time of my life so far.

      I have no idea when the abuse began. I experienced 11, 12, 15, 16 and 20; 2, 8, 9, 10, 13, 17, 18, 19 also appeared, slightly different. 17 is actually strongly connected to what Anon wrote up there. Basically, in our made up, lovely world, I was supposed to be a loving, devoted wife, who would never even think of leaving. I liked it, actually; as long as it was a part of the game. Soon it turned out he was serious. And today, when he pinned me to the wall and clutched my wrists, whispering things like "you're just a woman, I'm your husband and you must stay with me, stop your silly female jokes and obey me right now" to my ear and neck - that was the moment I realized things went too far. I was so close to breaking down, letting him in and possibly rape me. He used our beautiful world against me. And I almost let him destroy me with it.

      Right now, I am at home, he came to his senses - at least that's what he claims - and I catch myself crying because I miss him. I miss our universe.
      Right now, I would gladly crawl back to him and beg for forgiveness, if only I could see him being as sexy and charming as he can be. I detest myself. I'm scared to death that I can never have what I had with him. I have such a long way ahead of me to recovery, but reading comments here somehow keeps me together. Thank you for this post, for all stories posted here - if it wasn't for it, I wouldn't even know I'm being abused. Really. This was my first true relationship and I had no idea how does it even work...and sorry for any mistakes, English is not my first language. I think I needed to get out a lot of shit.

      Delete
    2. Stay strong. It gets better. Deciding to leave is the hardest part. It's been a year and a half for me and I wouldnt have beleived how good my life could be.

      Delete
  65. I referenced this on my blog, just FYI: http://wellslawoffice.com/2011/07/why-people-stay-in-dangerous-relationships/

    Thanks for everything you do. Long-time reader, first-time commenter.

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  66. I just wish I knew where to go from here. I want to have sex with out having a flash back. I want to one day be able to hear the words I love you with out thinking about his raping me.

    I've gone to therapy, I've even ended up in the hospital due to break from reality. I'm on a good medication now, but I live in a new place and don't really know any one any more... Some days I'm so lonely.

    I've gone on some internet dates, and I don't want to be one of those people that talks about their ex the whole time. A few of them have drawn it out of me... I never know how they will react.
    The one that's infuriated me the most so far is the guy who said he could fix me.
    I don't think I need fixing
    I'm not broken
    I'm a survivor.

    Sure I still feel stupid for ever falling in love with a guy like that, but I'm not to blame.

    I am trying to be healthy and positive and not become bitter, some days I don't see it working out so well though.

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  67. Very well put, I've shared this through LJ, Twitter and Facebook because I think it really deserves to be read far and wide.

    A technical thing I figure you'd like to know: When I share it to facebook, the sample text is that of the first comment ("Is it ok with you if I save this list and…"), rather than something from the article itself. No idea why, or how to fix it, but thought I'd pass the info along.

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  68. #1 was when I left - when he said he'd kill me if I left him, and I believed he meant it. It meant packing what I could fit into my little car and abandoning the rest (20 years worth of stuff, some irreplaceable, but not as irreplaceable as ME) and leaving in the middle of the night when the household was asleep, and driving until I was several states away, with only my last paycheck to live on... but it was worth it.

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  69. It makes me weep to read all these comments..
    Being through some of that myself, I feel for all of you. And for those still living in such relationships: I hope that you will find the strength and a way out of it!
    It is not love if it makes you feel bad!
    No matter what they say!

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  70. I found this through naamah_darling on lj. I've now had to undergo an emotional abusive relationship. I'd always said I would never stay in a physically abusive relationship. I think sometimes the emotional is worse now. After making me feel especially selfish and wrong, we were in bed and I told him I wish he'd just hit me. Because then I would have left. No questions. And that is ridiculous line in the sand when you're that miserable.

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  71. If I love her, she can change. I know this person is a sick monster; she's only like that because of how her family treated her. I can be her family now; I will love her, once she knows she is loved she will behave differently. I'll just hide these bruises until she's better. If I just 'take it' she'll soon be able to straighten out. No one would be like that if they had a choice.

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  72. Oh dear Maude, yes - you Get It. Let's see, for me there was a touch of #1, healthy doses of 3 and 5, a touch of #9, a hint of #11, and oh, #12 - yes, I knew you well! #13, yep, in the last few years I made a conscious decision to "live within the system" because it was safer to stay and manage him, than to leave and not know what he might pull THIS time. Throw in #16, 19, and - oh yes, I see you there #20 - and it's quite a potent mix.

    Thank you for this.

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  73. #17 was actively enforced by a church I'd been attending -- when I did get up the nerve to kick him out, I was told that I could not come back to church unless I took him back and begged his forgiveness publicly in front of the congregation (even though he wouldn't attend church with me). (Southern Baptist if anyone is wondering.)

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  74. Ulc: Words like "abuse" seem to imply intent as well. So do "hitting," "yelling," "pushing," "belittling" and a lot of the other words and methods associated with violence (whether emotional or physical). "Grooming" is no more or less blaming than any of the other words we use, and no less accurate. As Jak said, it may not be conscious, but that is the way it happens. An abuser may believe his or her methods to be corrective or self-defensive, but that doesn't make it any less abusive. Not meaning it doesn't make it less harmful, and unintentional grooming is still grooming. In many ways, it's like aspects of a new and healthy relationship, where as we become more comfortable and secure we reveal more of our true nature.

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  75. From a Christian standpoint, the meaningful word is "manipulation". Which also, interestingly, got translated somehow into "witchcraft".

    When you're using any method to control other people, it's the opposite of love. If it's threats, if it's blackmail, if it's coercion, if it's flattery...it's still an effort to control others. And utterly damaging, in the long run.

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  76. Another one touched on by a previous commenter: I can't leave my dog/cat/ferret/name the incredibly important animal in your life. Unfortunately abuse of a pet often goes hand in hand with abuse of a spouse and/or children. I know I would endure just about anything to keep my dog safe. Unfortunately many shelters will not accept any kind of animals. There is a wonderful resource in Atlanta, GA that helps assist the human and animal victims of domestic violence (www.ahimsahouse.org).

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  77. Anonymous @9:00 PM:

    YES. I love that there are resources available for domestic abuse victims' pets.

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  78. Man, good timing on this. Last week some guy was beating his girlfriend in the alley behind the rowhouse I live in- scariest thing of my life. By the time I called 911 and ran back out some of my neighbors were confronting him and the girl was getting in between them and telling my neighbors to leave the guy alone. I've been thinking about it a lot since then.

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  79. #9, #12. #9, #12. My god, #9, #12.

    Feminists are not immune to domestic violence. I wish I'd known that before. I was too smart to be hurt, too independent, too intellectual, too feminist, too strong. The part that hurts the most so many years later is that so many people around me believed it too, and thought I could handle it.

    Which, you know, I did. I handled it. But I will never be the same as I was before the first time I was touched with harm by a person I thought I loved.

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  80. thebestdefenseprogram -> I wasn't defending abuse in any way.

    All I was saying is that grooming to me implied a level of conscious choice that I think is rarely the case. And misrepresenting the abusers in that way does no one a favour.

    Ultimately if we want to deal with abuse it's the abusers we have to deal with - not the abused. When someone that has been abused manages to break out of the cycle, the abuser is quite likely to go out and find someone new to abuse, and so it continues, except with a new abused. I we want to stop that we need to get the abuser some professional help and make them realise that until they are capable of having a relationship without being abusive, they shouldn't have one.

    But getting them some help is not going to happen if we mis-characterize them and believe they are thinking "heh, in four months I should have her ready to accept *insert type of abuse here* rather than someone that thinks "I'm not a abuser, I just lose my temper once in a while, why does he/she have to say those mean things? Can't he/she realise that's what makes me lose my temper?"

    Yes, the grooming is real no matter if it's conscious or not - but I think it's fairly important to realise that the abuser is rarely someone that considers themself abusive. And that is why I wrote the above, because grooming, as used earlier in the thread, to me had some connotations that I don't agree with, namely the assumption of conscious choice.

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  81. My Mom: 2,6,8,10,11,13,15,16,19,20 (Emotional abuse out of ignorance, not malice. She's from a multigenerational cycle of poverty and abuse.)

    The guy I dated from 15 to 20: 9,11,12,13,15,16,19,20
    I had a total tug-of-war between my Mom and that guy because they both wanted to control me.

    Married 11 years to a wonderful man. :)

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  82. I would just like to say that my dad is probably like that last anon's mom--he grew up with pretty much nothing, and...maybe the old stereotype about Italians is true? I do see a much milder form of the same stuff from my aunts and uncles...but I don't remember getting any of this stuff from my grandparents. If I did anything wrong at their house when I was a kid, Dad always went to take care of it.

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  83. 9, 16, 18, and of course, 19. There were also aspects of 2, 3, and 15, to lesser degrees. He especially liked to use a combination of 18 and 19, so when he grabbed me by the shoulders and slammed me against the wall, and got hold of my hair without noticing in the process, and I later told a friend that he had pulled my hair, he made a huge deal out how I was misrepresenting him, because technically, he didn't go after my hair. And somehow, I ended up apologising and explaining to him.

    Great article, the ignorance of outsiders in regards to abusive relationships bothers me a lot, and when it's combined with “Why don't these women sleep with nice guys like me instead (provided they're young and hot)?” it really makes me angry. I think I'll link to this article the next time it comes up.

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  84. amandajayne98 - yes, me too. I still do wish he'd hit me instead of just shoving me on an escalator (I was holding on, so didn't fall). That way, people might have taken (might take) me seriously instead of believing his claims that I was insane and a lunatic.

    Jenny

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  85. Thank you for your post - It's helpful, but I do have to ask - When you are mixing the genders, I feel that you are putting equal wait to abuse, that abuse happens equally between the sexes. Yes, men can be abused and they are abused, I am not say they are, but to give equal billing to men is simply disingenuous.

    I know you didn't want to turn this into who has it worse, but you have made it seem that men are equal victims of DV, when by every study that is out there says differently.

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  86. This is wonderful. Thank you for including various gender permutations; unfortunately, one could make an even longer list by including all ages: abuse of parents and other elders and abuse of children (including adult children).

    As long as we define "domestic abuse" as something [specific category] does to [specific category], we cannot hope to stop it. Abuse is abuse, no matter the genders, ages, or relationship of the people involved. Only by making it UNIVERSALLY wrong, by anyone to anyone, can we make it so culturally unacceptable that there is some chance of stopping it.

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  87. Most recent anon - 1) I don't want to get into those arguments here, and if I made every example "he" against "she," it would invite them.

    2) Abuse against men and/or by women may be less common, but it is even less talked about, and for that reason it merits inclusion.

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  88. I would like to weigh in on grooming. I watched from within the process as my father completely cowed my mother. Its not a schedule of "oh by week 10 I can open hand slap and by week 30 punching is ok" Its one day the yelling finally ends in a slap and after the fallout things go back to "normal" and the next time the slap comes a little earlier in the yelling and eventually the slaps show up a lot more frequently. One day there's an actual punch in with the slapping. Each time the victim doesn't leave it allows the abuser to be bolder in their actions and ramp things up a little. Kind of like a little kid testing limits slowly over time. Only in more of a "shit ... did that cross the line? nope still here kind of way"

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  89. "I can't afford to leave" or "I have no place else to go" are big ones. There's also the "nobody else will love me" thing thrown in there for extra flavor.

    As a survivor of a physically abusive relationship (as well as having a history of getting involved with several emotionally unstable folks) I can say that the having no place else to go is a big one.

    When you have pets (dogs, cats) you cannot typically bring them with you to a crisis shelter. This means the pets stay behind with the abuser. For some of us, we would just as soon tough it out than risk our pets being hurt as revenge for our leaving.

    Another component is the concept of Codependency (for #3). Codependent folks take on the role of "caretaker" for people who should be able to take care of themselves. I can speak from experience on this one too.

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  90. My "perfect mate" told me it was all my fault. I made him hit me and down deep inside I wanted to be hit. My best friend rescued me after he tried to strangle me. It's been many years and I still suffer from low self esteem

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  91. My sister was killed by her husband after years of abuse. She used the same language for excusing his behavior. So sad.

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  92. "Grooming" = testing limits, that's all. And whoever said that men are more abusive than women is failing to perceive all of the serious emotional abuse that women can and often do engage in. It's like saying, "if it's not molestation, it's not abuse." (And we really have no idea how many women molest their children. It may be that it just *looks* like men do it more commonly.)

    Also, women can and totally do get physical. My lesbian roommate used to beat the shit out of her girlfriend. When they'd get into it, I'd take the kids and hide in my room. What's really sad is that roommate is a respected author of pervy books and no one would ever believe what an abusive fucking hypocrite she is.

    #s 2, 4, 5, 8, 14 with my dad, who raped me for 5 years. He never threatened to kill me, but he did say that our family would be completely destroyed if I told. To a 5-year-old, that's pretty much death.

    #2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, and 19 with my mom. And it's really sad that I got #19 with my mom and not with my dad. Let's just say that I was totally happy to be molested by my dad because it was "love" of *some* kind.

    I don't love either of my parents. You won't believe what a ration of shit that's brought me over the years.

    I did the dating-abusive-boyfriends thing when I was younger - fell into #20. Then I met a really nice guy and started dating him. When he would do something wrong or that hurt my feelings, I would insult and belittle him in public. I would yell at him. I wouldn't be surprised if he could claim #11, 13, 16, and 18 for himself. Then I got therapy and spent five years working on anger management and I am not *nearly* so bad today, thank god, but our relationship is still pretty damaged and we need couples therapy so we can work on addressing the problems in the relationship without me either a) being abusive or b) feeling like I'm being abusive for asserting myself in a non-abusive way. I'm still hazy on the boundary due to some black & white thinking I picked up in childhood. I'm still learning the middle ground between aggression and passivity. There are things he needs, too, but that's his story to tell.

    It's not my fault my parents abused me, and it explains some of the awful things I've done, but my parents' abuse of me is no excuse for the way I've treated him. I don't want to be my parents. I worry that I can't change, though I have changed some, and I think he would be better off without me, which makes me sad and scared. Then I wonder if that's low self esteem or an honest assessment and I can't tell that difference either.

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  93. Thank you so much for #19. I've always felt obliged to qualify that 'it wasn't that bad' although I spent every day of my marriage terrified of him and that I just had to do the wrong thing and that time it would become that bad. I'm crying. This has been cathartic.

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  94. This article is such a wake-up call. I do some of these bad things to people, and I get some of these in return. My relationship is good most of the time, but I do beg and whine and do anything to get her to say yes to sex. She makes me live by her rules and always shifts blame onto me for everything. Our relationship on the whole is healthy and happy, but I realize now that we need to work on these issues instead of avoiding them, lest our wonderful relationship end up somewhere tragic...

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  95. Here's one more for you: "I'm not trailer trash." I think a lot of people buy into the prevailing stereotype of abuse as something that only happens in rural towns or third world countries, and only to uneducated poor people, so if they're not in that group, it's somehow not real abuse. After all, it's not a 3-piece suit that's colloquially termed a "wife-beater" (a horrible expression for SO many reasons).

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  96. The one time the cops were called by a neighbor, I responded to "Are you okay?" by wordlessly showing the bruises on my wrist. Every inch of me was begging him to ask me if I wanted to press charges. I had so much Deer-In-The-Headlights shock going on that I couldn't get the words from my brain to my mouth. So the cops took his bullshit at face value and left without doing anything.

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  97. #2, #14, #16, #19.
    2 - Before I moved in with her, I was homeless. Trying to make ends meet on SSI is difficult at best, but with her and the 2 others here I can eat most of the time -- that's was a pretty big deal for me. Looking for a place to live is a huge effort, and where am I going to find anywhere else in the bay area for under $500 a month? I need her to survive!

    14 - I'm transgender. She's a hermaphrodite. I like pain and she likes giving it, but she doesn't want anything to do with "The Government" because she knows all the "Big Dirty Secrets" that "They" want to hide from us... if I contact anyone in authority, not only do I have to try to explain that I exist, but I risk her wrath because I'm putting her in danger by talking to "Them."

    16 - She's SUPER nice! She's sweet and affectionate and kind, and she'll walk with me out in public holding hands... it's so beautiful to have her show me off, to display to all the world that I'm HER GIRLFRIEND, that we're OUT and PROUD and LESBIAN! Well, sure, she does yell at me a lot when we're alone at home, and she just wanted to talk to me -- she didn't mean to lose control when she pinned me on the couch and punched me half a dozen times in the face! Besides, the make-up sex a month later was the best I'd had in... like, forever!

    19 - We have a lot of common interests in our kink, but there are some things I like that she isn't into; we don't do those. There are some things she's excited about and needs to try, and I'm not thrilled about them -- in fact, before I met her, I'd have said "not on your life" -- but there's no harm in giving it a shot just once, right? It might not be the most amazing thing ever but it certainly didn't kill me. Besides, if I don't like it she won't make me do it again. Well, at least not more than two or three more times. Probably.

    I wish I'd had those phone numbers back when I was with her, because I felt alone, and afraid, and I kept telling everyone how wonderful we were together. Even after she nearly broke my jaw, I wasn't willing to go get it checked out -- because I couldn't tell an EMT or a doctor that "I tripped and fell" when I hadn't, knowing full well how obvious the truth was... but I couldn't tell any of those people that she'd hit me, or that she'd pressured me consistently but gently until I "consented" to all sorts of things I didn't really want, including getting her pregnant (she miscarried at 17 weeks.)

    Thank you, Holly, for posting this. I first found you because of your Cosmocking, but I stayed for posts like this as much as for the "lighter" stuff -- I wish I'd been able to see things from a better angle when I read so many of your posts aloud to my abusive ex.

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  98. I'm still processing the fact that my marriage was 15 and 16--to the extent that I keep having to stop myself from amending this comment to say "a little bit like 15 and 16."

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  99. My ex took all the money I made. He never balanced his checkbook and spent every cent and then some. I would have to deposit my paychecks into his account just to keep things in the positive balance. Then he'd tell me that my job was crap and that I needed to make more money somewhere else. And that my family is horrible and I shouldn't talk to them that much. And then he drove off all my friends and told me I was the one that made them hate me. Then I started putting on weight because I was so depressed. Then he'd tell me how fat I had gotten (even though he was pushing 300 pounds himself) and wouldn't let me buy clothes. Then he'd take my money and buy himself $100 shoes.
    When I finally broke it off with him, he broke down crying, throwing himself on the floor, saying he felt like his mind was splitting apart. I stuck to my decision. A few days later while I was leaving for work, he came running out of the house throwing cans of food at me and my car. I should have stopped and called the cops then, instead I just went to work. That night though, I had a police escort into the house to get my things. I didn't go back again without my dad.

    One thing a lot of people don't know is that if you call the non emergency line, police officers will escort you in and out of your house if you need them. They really will do it, just ask.

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  100. Thank you. You just have to keep at it, telling the truth. It's incredibly frustrating. It was incredibly frustrating to be a peace officer dealing with these situations. It wasn't just the police urge to take action to right wrongs. It goes back to the 80's when we began working for things like mandatory arrest in domestic violence and holding agencies civily liable for failing to act. You felt like you were all more interested than the victims were. You have to trust the local women's center (for men, too). Even if the police aren't so tuned up, the center can make their expectations clear. You don't have to make a decision now. Get with the center, so you can hear from your peers who have been there. For some, the biggest fear is that they will learn that they must act, and you have to see that it's okay to learn that, because there really, really is something so much better out there.

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  101. I work for a domestic violence agency in Chicago. Thank you for this! We have a Spanish/English bilingual/bicultural DV hotine at (312) 738-5358. It's not toll-free obviously, but our fantastic staff and volunteers can connect to great resources just about anywhere and offer advice.

    To the person who was living with their brother in law and his wife - who is now pregnant- you should definitely be concerned about the child, but your immediate concern should be about her welfare. It's during pregnancy that emotional abuse is more likely to escalate into physical abuse and when physical abuse escalates into something even worse. Please keep an eye out for her. Your story really scares me.

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  102. I grew up in a 19 scenario and to this minute I keep waffling on whether it was abuse abuse, even though some part of me recognizes that a scenario where a teenager is having a breakdown in a cramped, crowded bathroom and is told by a father figure to get out of the fucking house and never come back... is not a scenario that depicts a stable father/daughter relationship.

    People never believed me, and it's too late to do anything about it now.

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  103. Is it possible to add the new excuses to the list in the article? I want to link to this list but I don't know how many people would read through all the comments.

    I was told, myself, number 21, as why I should be more patient with an abusive family member and why I should put up with and just get over his continually awful behavior towards me and mine.

    "They've been abused themselves, so I just need to be patient with them."

    Fuck that. I've tried it, it doesn't work.

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  104. I lived #14 - I was the trans woman & the victim - for a year. Thank you for... jeez... thank you just for knowing that once upon a time I was out there. It ended when *she* wanted it to end, six years ago, and I still haven't told most people just how bad it was at times.

    But I don't trust my current girlfriend, who deserves it, because of the ex.

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  105. i haven't cried in a very long time and i did after reading this, but i think it helped me very much. so many of these hit hard. i wish i'd read this when i was younger, but i'm so glad that it's here now.

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  106. Ulc: I certainly didn't mean to imply that you were defending or excusing away the abuse, and I'm sorry if the words I chose led to that thought. It was obvious to me you weren't, though I was concerned about the wording you used (probably in the same way you were concerned about the wording I used). On July 19th at 10:05, an anonymous poster gave an excellent example of how grooming takes place, and another summed it up at 12:44 as "testing limits, that's all," which is what I was referring to in my example of getting comfortable with someone. No, it's not always conscious, and like I said the abuser may feel his/her actions are justified or excusable, or, as you said, he/she may minimize it. Sometimes it is a conscious thing, however, as in the case of many child abusers as well as those who believe their treatment of a domestic partner is reasonable.

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  107. Nice post. I don't get a few things:

    What's the meaning of the image at the beginning, the one with the caption "trigger warning"?

    Why sometimes female characters had "wives" or "girlfriends"? It was damn confusing. I get one example for including lesbians, but why so many? Is it just because lesbian relationship tend to be more violent? It was very confusing frankly

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  108. Anon - That's Roy Rogers and his faithful steed Trigger.

    A "trigger warning" is an indication that you're about to talk about a traumatic subject that may bring up bad memories or strong emotions for people who've had experiences with it, so they should know in advance so they can choose not to read it or prepare themselves.

    Lesbian relationships aren't more violent--I was just trying to include every gender combination to show that any kind of relationship can be violent.

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  109. Holy moley.
    1,4,5,11,16,17,18,19,20.
    I will first say I believe that when one has been raised in abuse, one does not know how to have a relationship without being disfunctional in some way. Abused or abuser hopefully to a milder degree.
    My son is 24 and on full disability for PTSD brought on by his fathers behaviour. We hope that at some point he will be able to have a full life. Luckily he realized when he started to act like his dad and chose to change his ways.
    His dad.. Well when I finally got the courage up to say "enough" we separated. 18 months later when I got the courage up to say I wanted a divorce he killed himself.
    So there you go. Now my logical mind knows he was depressed and sick and it was not about me. My emotional mind knows that he got what he wanted. He will be with me and my son for the rest of our lives.
    I know I was right to end it. I thank God I had the strength to do it when I did. I wish I had done it a long time before- but again, those numbers up above.
    A few years later I moved on to another relationship that was not as bad, though I recognize many of the same behaviours after looking at the above list and hearing the stories. I cut it off when I realized where it was heading though. While we still loved one another, before it got too ugly but after I realized he would not change. And the next one will be better yet. Hope springs eternal.

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  110. Wait, do police and medical staff NOT get this training????

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  111. First - The leading cause of death among pregnant women is violence at the hand of the unborn child's father. Anyone who is pregnant and in a violent relationship needs the help you can provide as described in Holly's posts.

    And - I was abused by my brother, then my first husband. I was fortunate to get out of that relationship alive and with my daughters, and we all bare the scars from that experience.

    My belief and experience tells me that we all live with and act out some levels of abuse from day to day without realizing that it's happening. When we try to control someone's behavior and take away a choice for any reason, including love or benevolence, through any means, including withholding information, lying, manipulating, physical force, etc., we are engaging in an abusive behavior. And when we are subjected to these tactics, whether we know it or not, we are being victimized. I believe these behaviors, both abusive and victim, are learned; and I believe they are a reflection of our societal beliefs about relationships of all kinds: familial, friendship, neighbor, world.

    I am so pleased to see this post and all the discussion. We have a long way to go, but we are at least headed in the direction of understanding on which we can take healing action.

    Love to all - victim and abuser alike.

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  112. Mine was #1 combined with simply being a minor with parents who would've destroyed me for having sex... even though it was rape.

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  113. New EMT. Fortunate enough that none of these do actually resonate with me, on a personal level. But, yeah, I've seen some of them already. Good to read this list.

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  114. I think the 'folie a deux' thing was a good call.

    Two more reasons I think aren't listed up there:

    1. 'I'll never find another one like this one'
    It's pretty easy to reason yourself out of leaving when you start thinking along the lines of 'well, it took me thirty years to find someone who has these awesome characteristics I love... that makes it worth staying, right?' You *know* it's abuse, you *know* you ought to get out, but you're really really picky, and so what are the odds of finding someone else that has just that right thing for you?

    2. "I actually LIKE it... kindof".

    This one was me.

    Thing is, I'm a submissive, and a masochist on both a physical and emotional level. I *like* being hit. I enjoy having my physical limits tested, and being pushed around is kindof part of the deal - to a negotiated extent. There's something a little twisted up about my biochemistry that means when I'm upset, when I'm stressed, when I'm on the verge of tears, I've never been more horny. Having studied a bit of neurochemistry, I think this is more common than most folks are willing to talk about. Not y'know, *everybody*, but more than would be willing to admit it. It's the same mechanism that makes people want to fuck after earthquakes or thunderstorms. At any rate, for me, stress = turned on.

    The trouble with my ex was that he didn't want me to suffer in a way I enjoyed - he wanted to see me suffer in a way that I really *didn't*. It took him months of experimentation to discover what those ways were, and then he twisted the knife continuously. And perversely, I kindof liked that too. I enjoyed the fact that I was suffering. I would cry when I bled after he'd blackmailed me into having anal sex without lube (because after he found out I liked it every other way that was the only kind he wanted)... and then later I would masturbate thinking about the fact that he'd made me cry.
    I loved it, and I hated it, and I was ashamed of the fact that it turned me on. Another partner objected to what was going on (I'm poly) and I strenuously defended my ex, because even though I had consented under duress, I *had* consented. I broke up with my other partner over his not respecting my consent (thank god I kept in touch, though - he was my lifeline when it came to finally getting out).

    I didn't want to leave. Even after he had tried to kill me, even when I *knew* that the relationship was way beyond the line of 'this is abuse', I resisted leaving for a combination of reasons from your list above (he was financially dependent on me & showing clear signs of mental illness, and I couldn't be the person to throw him out on the street, I was emotionally dependent on him, I was embarrassed by the situation, I thought I'd never find another one, he was a pretty cool guy in a bunch of *other* ways, etc. etc.), but also because, even when he refused any kind of physical contact with me for months on end because I 'didn't deserve it', being under that kind of stress turned me on.

    I'm not stupid. I *know* what a healthy relationship looks like. I know what a healthy BDSM relationship looks like, too. And, knowing what I know about my own neurochemistry, I'm really massively wary about getting into the same sort of pattern again. After I got out of that situation it took me months before I could touch anyone at all. Several more before I could date in even a 'vanilla' way, and several years before I could consider being submissive in a relationship again, despite that being something I've always wanted.

    I *think* I have finally found a relationship that is both D/s kinked and healthy, but I'm keeping a close eye on myself (and him) to make sure it stays safe, sane and consensual.

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  115. On July 17 at 10:25 pm Anonymous asked what we can do when we know someone suffering abuse. Here are a few ideas: Support by way of reminding your friend or family member that nobody deserves abuse, and the abuse is never the victim's fault. Do not judge the decision to stay, but support talking about it and seeking support from local agencies. Encourage discussion with an appropriate advocate, such as an attorney, law enforcement, or health-care professional. Help devise a plan of action, whether that be escape or agency intervention; be part of the plan if it's possible and safe to do so.
    I'll say again: do not judge. One of the things that Holly has done here is to point out the myriad emotional reactions to abuse, and those emotional reactions can be overwhelming and confusing. Any judgment may cause the victim to withdraw/close off, and should be avoided at all costs. Any action by a victim may take time to undertake.
    Remember, the victim's safety is your first priority; if he/she is in danger right now, you may have to sacrifice your relationship in order to preserve her/his safety by contacting law enforcement immediately, and doing so "anonymously" is no guarantee the abused or abuser will not connect the dots and hold you responsible. Ensure your own safety at all times; violence can spread very easily.

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  116. How does an abuser get help? Especially if they've been abused in the past and don't know what it's like to experience any kind of normal relationship - friendship, family, romantic.

    Does an abuser have to lose everything in order to get better? Their partner, their children, their home? Friends?

    What if both people in the relationship are abusers but one is worse than the other? What happens then?

    What if the abuser thought they were better than their parents and family and the friends they grew up with and that they weren't nearly as bad as what they experienced?

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  117. I think, like most people in the world, abusers won't change until they're good and ready to. They might figure out that they're doing something wrong. Or they might lose everything and get just a hint that maybe it's their fault even a little. They might end up in mandated counselling and somehow manage to get a useful epiphany that lets them grow.

    But if they don't want to change, if they don't understand why they should change or what would be better, if they're just not ready to do the self-examination, they won't. Doesn't have anything to do with who's worse or what's better or worse -- that's bargaining. Thinking that way is still buying into the abuse narrative.

    It's hard, painful, awful work to change something so intrinsic to a person. People are really good at maintaining their illusions. So I doubt there's many abusers who have stopped without having something major happen to shake them up.

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  118. This was tough to read. I usually associate the way I grew up with neglect (which *is* significantly different than abuse) but no. 15 hit me really hard.

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  119. Wow. Required reading for all my friends.

    And yes - you can get out.

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  120. I want to say, thank you for including all relationship types in this. While I'm not in any relationships, I did watch my best friend suffer from constant abuse from his ex-wife, and it's not pleasant to watch. Especially when you're living in the same household. (Fortunately, one day he woke up and realized he didn't love her any longer... and another friend helped me keep him from going back to her "for the children's sake.")

    It's much more difficult to dismiss this when you realize it's all types. Not just men abusing women, or women abusing women... but all aspects of relationships where abuse can take hold.

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  121. I was number 8. I was number 8 and I can't even talk about it now, except anonymously, because I'm scared he's still checking up on me, and if I say anything bad about our relationship, he'll do something terrible like post the naked pictures of myself he coerced me into posing for somewhere my friends, family and future employers can see them.

    It's so easy to convince yourself that that behaviour is somehow normal, and once you're out of it, you can't imagine how you let someone treat you that way.

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  122. The number one best thing that helped me make sense out of abuse was Lundy Bancroft's book "Why Does He DO That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men". Do not be put off by the gender thing, he worked with abusive men who were getting court mandated treatment but the info applies to everyone of either gender caught in the cycle. After reading it, the treatment my sibs and I got from both my parents finally began to make sense.

    I especially recommend you read it it, Ulc. It was rather enlightening to read about the degree of forethought some of the guys Bancroft worked with put into the crap they put their s.o.s through. Abusers abuse because there are definite rewards they get from being douchebags and those privileges are hard to give up. One particular example that still creeps me out was a guy who intentionally gave his baby spoiled milk so it would get sick...because his wife went out with her friends. It wasn't just punishment, it ensured she would never trust him enough to force him to babysit again. It isn't accidental, they do know what they're doing.

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  123. It isn't just a battle to get free, but a battle to stay free of a relationship and not give in to the fear and insecurity and loneliness and return to them

    I lived #19 for three and a half years before I managed to break free, and it's only after years of therapy that I can acknowledge out loud how twisted it was. I can't even explain what made me suddenly walk away. I wish I could say that I acknowledged how bad it was and made a conscious decision, but I didn't, and that terrifies me. I had a support system and people who would catch me, but I just kept telling myself it wasn't really abuse and dealing instead of reaching out.

    I woke up one morning, and we were just done, and I left. Didn't discuss it with him, just left. Walking away was hard, but the months afterwards were THE HARDEST TIME OF MY LIFE, where I struggled daily to not give in to my need to return to him despite my acknowledgement of what had been happening. I have never faced anything like it, and it was most of two years before I could even consider another relationship.

    Your post is painful for me, but it is also neccessary, and I've sent it to everyone I know. Thank you, so much, for giving words to this.

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  124. Please I need help. I have been married for 6.5 years and have a kid of 2.5 . In the first two years of our marriage, the situation was very rocky to say the least.

    We had a huge argument once and this flared up so badly where he hit me with his elbow. He then pushed me back several times and also dropped an empty suitcase on my head and then slapped me. yes I retaliated and tried to hit him back, but he is way more physically powerful.
    He had threatened to punch me before.
    He was apologetic about it and I have been trying to forgive him for that but I am unable to get over the nager nad resentment even though it has been 4 years since the incident. He has never laid a hand on me again or the baby.

    I am an independent working woman and I have informed of his behavious to all my close relatives and his as well and we have even had a couple of counselling session from friends and family.

    After the baby he occassionally says he wants a divorce from me but after a couple of days comes back and says sorry.

    Very recently he told me that when he gets angry he wants to physically hurt me but has somehow controlled it.

    I dont know what to make out of it.

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  125. Mine was 4 and 18.

    My now-ex partner was a heroin addict. The abuse was primarily financial and emotional, but there are other dimensions to why I didnt seek help (other than from friends, who knew what was going on and were helpful in some ways, but were generally at a loss).

    He developed problems after we had got together, with teh benefit of hindsight, I handled this terribly, but I knew nothing of addiction. By the time we went to get help, I did, unfortunately most of "help" available was deeply unhelpful.

    I was well aware that the relationship was abusive, and so was he, but the drugs complicated absolutely everything. We were angry at the same things: dealers, poor service providers, stupid people who didnt understand what this was like to live with and made stupid and unrealistic suggestions (why dont you just stop? is a classic one) - but took it out on each other. I really tried not to, and so did he but when he relapsed or was close to relapsing that all went by the by.

    The financial abuse I managed, but at the same time, I wanted openness in our relationship and hiding money while he was ill made me feel absolutely terrible...and I felt like it was *me* being abusive - he would go through withdrawals at home after another failed attempt with services, with my support and then fuck it all up and go on a rampage with anything he could use to obstain money from (cards, checkbook, cash, household goods), and I would feel so guilty for having the money there that could make him well again and hiding it. Its fucking horrible to watch someone you love go through all that for nothing.

    He could also be very aggressive, I knew he didnt really mean it to be directed towards me, and I could take it - so I would patiently calm him down which was bloody exhausting.

    I never thought that he would hit me tho until he did. My reaction quite surprised me in that all of the anger of the previous years at all that I had put up with came out in one go. I phoned the police and kicked him out. I also never thought that even if he did hit me I would do such a thing.

    In a way, I feel guilty over it, I could have calmed him down just as I usually did, but I was tired of it all and I really couldnt be bothered either calming him down or leaving for a while for him calm down on his own. I was fed up of having this problem that wasnt actually mine constantly there as a shadow on my thoughts.

    The trouble with going for formal help tho, was that the emphasis was always put on him and his drug use, rather than looking *us* and the structural causes of how we had developed this pattern - all of our coping strategies (and we had lots) were self-found, probably imperfect, but they worked for a decade and how his (quite bloody justifyable) anger at the mess he was in could be better channelled. And of course the standard advice to me was to leave, and I really didnt *want* to do that. I *chose* to stay, I could have left the relationship, but I wasnt prepared to abandon him.

    For all his faults, I loved him and still do - The relationship is now over and I'm gradually tring to harden my heart.

    I strongly suspect he will be dead within the year. He has been far more abused than me albeit not at my hand.

    The drugs war needs ending, we were both collateral damage.

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  126. I know a friend who lived through 19, her wife was like that in some ways. Hell, she's been through more crap than she's willing to talk about really. And even if a part of me, and I know it's an ignorant part, kept wondering why she didn't get out earlier because this is obviously wrong behaviour.... as you say. It isn't as easy as that. And mostly, I'm just glad she got out of it.

    It's an important post. One of the things that get me most is how most charities set up to help those suffering from domestic abuse are focused on women, and usually straight cis women at that.

    In any case, links for UK people:
    http://www.refuge.org.uk/
    http://www.victimsupport.org.uk/
    http://www.samaritans.org/
    http://www.broken-rainbow.org.uk/ (specifically for LGBT people)

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  127. Great blog. You sound very compassionate and we need more people in healthcare like you.

    We also need this important information to be accessible and for people to be educated about the dynamics of an abusive relationship. Maybe then more victims of abuse can recognise it and hopefully do something about it. And we as a society can tackle these abusers and start to stamp it out. I do honestly think there is an epidemic of abuse in our society.

    I recently ended an abusive relationship. Incredibly painful experience.

    I too have now read Lundy Bancroft's book Why Does He Do That. 100% recommend this book. I wish i had read it 20 years ago. I would not have wasted the last 20 years of my life experiencing such pain and depression i'm sure.

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  128. I would also add another to your list as a reason for not leaving the abuser - 'traumatic bonding'. Look it up along with the 'Stockholm Syndrome'. It's a well documented psychological process that happens to abuse victims.

    For me this was the biggest reason i could not leave my abuser. Even now, despite the terrible things he inflicted on me, i miss him everyday. I thought i was going insane until i read about this. It made me realise i wasn't and also helped deal with the terrible shame of the abuse.

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  129. God... I just got a call from a friend, telling me things had hit the proverbial fan in her relationship -- and in the space of 5 minutes I heard her list #1, #4, #5, #6, sorta- #7, #8, #9, #12, #16... and even quoted the cop who'd been called to her place by her abuser, "Why didn't you just leave, if it's that bad? You could have gone, I'm sure you had somewhere to go," he says.

    Why don't law enforcement officers learn the stuff in this list?! The police even seriously ask, "Why does she stay with that jerk?"

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  130. I wasn't going to comment - what more can I add? - and then I saw a comment that brought my marriage right back to me. My (will-not-get-a-divorce-for-reasons-I-don't-understand) husband accused me of being abusive.

    I was sexually assaulted by my first boyfriend; every intimate relationship I've had has been tainted by that. When I was about 21 r so, I got involved with someone who ultimately hit me, raped me and emotionally destroyed as much of me as he could. I eventually got out, and then through some sexual assault survivor work, realised I'm feminist.

    My husband says he's feminist too; that's how we met. In hindsight, I feel that he was manipulative and emotionally abusive. If I didn't email him when I woke up (before we were married, when we lived apart) I would get questioned about it. There were many times when he would reduce me to tears as he forced me to recount things that had happened in the past, things that I hadn't gone near in years. I wasn't living in a place where I felt comfortable talking about these things; other people were about and I really didn't want to be over-heard. And still he pushed and pushed. He loved me, he wanted to help. The time when I was feeling more able to talk to him (when I realised that my horrible ex had actually raped me, when I put that name on to what he had done) he couldn't have been less interested.

    My one crystal clear memory of him, that will never fade or go away, is of him looking at me, frowning, as I begged him to help me (I was having a terrible mental breakdown and was at the crossroads of 'get help' and 'jump off something high'). He replied "I don't see why I should help you, when you don't help me." and turned back to his computer.

    He says I'm abusive and manipulative, that *he* got out of an abusive relationship. He forced me to tell him things I've never told anyone else, and threw them back in my face. Sometimes I think he's worse than the guy who actually hit and raped me, because he's made me doubt myself so much over the last 3 or 4 years.

    I also find it hard to think of being that kind of relationship *twice*.

    Thanks for writing this, and to the other commenters who have shared. I think I'll go have a good cry now.

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  131. I'd like to add another reason:
    "If I break up with him, he'll do this to someone else." I convinced myself that I was strong enough to take his abuse while someone else might not be able to (One of his exes had tried to kill herself. Another still had nightmares about him.) I was sure that I was saving "the next woman." And even years after leaving him I still feel guilty about what he might be doing to someone else.

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  132. "A lot of it comes from a place of pain and fear, which excuses nothing, but nonetheless I think it's important not to see them as "just monsters"; they have motivations, even if they're really fucked ones."

    Thank you for saying that. I'm very much a feminist and very much not into excusing abuse or abusers, but I don't think it's helpful to view abusers as monsters, and I feel like too often when I am seeing or hearing someone take a "no excuses" approach to abuse (as everyone should) it falls into that trap. Clearly abuse is a complicated thing, and clearly victims can and do love the people who abuse them (which is another thing that belongs on your list, though it's implicit in some of the stuff on there), and understanding that is important, I think.

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  133. i was a #9 for most of my teen years. so MUCH a #9, the neighbors kids told the entire school i "seduced" my abusive cruel asshole stepfather. my freshman year, the principle called me to the office to have "A Talk" with me - about "adultry is bad" and "why would you do that to your mother". he utterly ignored my statement of "he has to beat me to make me do it". like he - and everyone else - ignored the bruises and occasional broken bones, and ignored his PUBLIC displays of abuse. [i cannot even count the number of times he backhanded me in public - front line, grocery story, school parking lot, inside the community theater when i was acting in a play...]


    so much so, that i was SHOCKED and completely disbelieving when the NEW principle called me into his office, the end of my sophomore year. i expected another "Adultry is Bad" sort of talk.

    i GOT "What is he doing to you, is it safe for you to call the cops now, or will he hurt your sisters and/or mother? would it be better for the cops and CPS to show up while you're at school, at work, or at home? what's SAFEST FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY?"

    i cried and cried and cried. it wasn't that i thought no one would BELIEVE me if i reported it - it's that all the neighbors, so many of the teachers and admin, so many of peers, SO MANY PEOPLE KNEW - and blamed *ME*. i NEVER would have even hoped that there would be ANYONE, at ALL, who would even CONSIDER that i didn't want, or ask, to be beaten or raped [i mean, FUCK! every time my stepfather raped me, my boyfriend accused me of *cheating*!]


    and this is well after you made this post, and probably no one will see it - but i wanted to thank you for making it. for *getting it*, and trying to get others to get it, too. looking back, i wish i could have SEEN that there WERE options - or rather, i wish i could have believed those options were available to ME. i didn't think they were.

    then my stepfather died, after he'd been forced by CPS to move out but before they were able to put everything together to prosecute - because they didn't want to prosecute just HIM - they wanted the adults who aided and abbetted, those who saw the abuse and made up nasty rumors and said evil things and ... they wanted to make a statement that KNOWING about abuse, but ignoring it, is just as wrong as actually abusing. those who helped cover it up, because they didn't want CPS nosing around the neighborhood. so he died, it all got dropped, the neighbors went back to calling me names, and i eventually left. and i have NEVER let anyone, in ANY way, abuse me again. i'm lucky, on that one - we're trained to BE ABUSED, and it's DAMNED hard to learn how to live otherwise. not because we don't WANT to - but because it's all but impossible to believe.


    thank you.

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  134. Anonymous, August 12th, I've seen your post and I believe you wholeheartedly. The collusion of so many other people is utterly disgusting.

    I hope you're doing well now.

    *hugs, if wanted*

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  135. Thank you for posting this. I was directed here because of the Cosmo posts. I enjoyed them thoroughly and decided to check out the rest of the blog. And then suddenly I was here, in tears.

    I, um. Jesus. I'm trying to leave right now, and it's just not that easy. I've made so many plans. I bought a plane ticket once. But it's months after I missed that flight and I'm still here. With her.

    She'd only ever told one other person she was transgendered before me, and that had gone badly. She's in therapy now, and she sometimes goes out dressed like a girl. She's happier, and sometimes she even tells me that I did that. I helped her.

    Back when things were worse, I did occasionally reach out. And the women's shelter just got really awkward and weird when I said she was transgendered. The queer charity said give her time, she's trying to work herself out. It's so hard when you come out as trans. You have to give her time.

    So I did. She hasn't hit me in almost a year. The rest, in comparison, isn't so bad. It can't really count, not when she used to hit me. It's just yelling, or not letting me sleep, or not letting me talk to certain people. It's just questions, and didn't I give her reason enough to be suspicious early on? Wasn't I the jerk, not her?

    And she is good to me. She takes me out for dinner and buys me dresses. She listens to me complain about work. She encourages me to make friends (certain, pre-approved friends, but still). She says she doesn't like how isolated I am, and she wishes she could change it. She plays video games with me, and reads the books I recommend. She did my laundry when I was finishing my thesis. We're both feminists. I really love her, and I genuinely enjoy being around that person.

    It sounds ridiculous, but I used to think of her as a werewolf. She's so kind and funny and intelligent most of the time. Sometimes she's just not herself. She used to sometimes interrogate me, and when the answers weren't right she'd grab me by the hair or take my keys or slap me. I was the full moon. She's not so dramatic about it now. It was before she came out, before she started going to therapy. She doesn't hit me and rarely locks me inside. She doesn't pull my hair. It's not so bad now. I can tell when the moon is full, and I can change things. It's just a few nights without sleep, and questions, and things that aren't even thrown in my direction. It's not so bad.

    So. I guess that's 3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, and 19. I guess the person you were writing about was me.

    I've never told this to anyone all the way through before (how could I?) and I guess I still haven't. This is just an anonymous comment on a blog, but it's good to have actually acknowledged it all.

    Time to clear my browser history. I will save the number, though.

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  136. It's also worth looking at this and seeing if one can see oneself in the abusive shoes, not just the victim's. Even slightly. The worst abusers are monsters, but most of the world's abusers don't realize that they are; people generally find ways to justify their own actions.

    And even if you only do any of those behaviors slightly, realize you're doing it and take steps to stop. If you do these things to someone with pre-existing trauma, e.g. PTSD, it *will* feel like abuse.

    And if you're worried about it, at all, seek a mental health professional.

    When my depression was untreated, I got a little too close to comfort to a couple of these behaviors. I sought help, and got medicated. It's hard to admit that you have a problem, but it's worse to be abusive because you can't face that problem.

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  137. Thank you so much for this article.
    My relationship with an abusive guy I had is long over now, but when I think back (especially as other relationships fail), I can't help but thinking those things you described: It's my fault for being such a bad and difficult person, it hurts his feelings, he doesn't really hit me, no one else could live with a person like me(he said so himself, and for a while, he made me into that unbearable person), I pushed him too far, I'm the only person who understands him, and so on...
    Always searching for what is wrong with me, until I started to act somewhat like him with my boyfriends, turning them somewhat into him in return...
    So this not only reminded me that I shouldn't search for what I did any more, but also that the cycle just doesn't end with the end of the relationship, that I still have a fight to win. Even though it wasn't my fault, I have to deal with all the bad stuff he left me when I left him, the fear, the anger, the jealousy, the things that didn't feel like a normal part of a relationship before I met him. And if future relationships fail because of that. I don't have anyone to blame. Which was the last reason I gave myself to stay with him: I'm already too fucked up to be in a nice relationship, so it might as well be him.

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  138. Look at the annonymous post from August 15th I feel the same. I was reading other articles and enjoying, laughing, having a good time and then... this. With lots of tears.

    ... There's a good number of these that describe what I'm going through right now but... I can't call that number. I don't live with him. And I keep going back. And there hasn't been much physical stuff. And I keep thinking it's just my own drama and inability to take responsibility for my life's problems... I know I should do something different, I know I should try to help myself but I can't.

    The person I am when I'm with him is a pale shadow of the person I am when I'm with anyone else. It's horrible.

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  139. Reading this list is really good for me. It clears me of some prejudice I had, and I'm sure many people have.

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  140. Wow, this article. My sister is being abused and I have no idea what to do for her. I'm going to call that help line tomorrow after school.

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  141. Thanks for this list.

    I have my little story to add. I once was giving lessons to kids in the council estates. Our role was to expand their vision of the world (making them aware that their was a library in the next block, taking them to museums, helping them with their homework, ...) and we often were in quite poor households (in both the financial and cultural meaning of the word.)

    ----

    She grew up in a household of 17, living in caravans and as soon as she could talk was put into foster care, coming home only on the weekends and some holidays. Her mother knows how to use a belt and has marked her more than once. She grew up, left school at 12, had two kids with two men, who she calls "not more abusive than any other, not less abusive either". She left in the end, for the kids. The second one is a handful and she asked the legal system to take care of her because she don't see how she can manage more than two weekends a month. She doesn't lift her voice against her eldest, she doesn't argue, tries to assert her parental authority but is afraid that if she does she'll end up like her mother, lose her control and beat her kid senseless.

    It takes her six months of your presence as her eldest's tutor, for her to come to you, whispering in ushed tones while you wait for the elevator to come. What her eyes say, what her body language screams is "get me out of here". She tells you in small sentences, broken in case her daughter hears, she tells that when she goes to school she takes all the keys and locks behind her. That she goes thru the mail and throws away what she deems unimportant. That she answers every phone call and unless she is in a good mood tells that her mother's away at the moment. That she can't say a thing because her daughter has the power and if she dares say no, she can end up being locked in her bedroom. And that she's glad the youngest is only here four days a month so she doesn't fall under her sister's power. She tells you she can't tell anyone because kids can't be abusers, can they? And it's all her fault in the end, not having been able to be more assertive, but if she had been, she would have been violent and she refuses, she tells you, she refuses to be like her mother had been.

    ---

    I recall that after this impromptu confessions in front of the elevator door, I felt as if I had been punched. I never saw it. In all my tutoring in this flat, I never saw it. I alerted my supervisor who alerted social services and other social partners our ngo was working with. I had to move abroad shortly after so I wrote a letter recalling everything the mother had said, and left it to my supervisor, just in case it would be needed to add in a file, somewhere. In the end I don't know how it worked out, just that they were moving to add a mediator to the household to see if it could change thing.

    The daughter was 11. Her mother in her mid thirties.
    Before that day, I never thought a child could be the parent's abuser.

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  142. Anon July 27: much sympathy. You don't say what country you're in, but I think your best move would be to find an abuse helpline and talk to them.

    I don't think getting counselled together is going to do you much good. Couples counselling is about compromise and meeting in the middle, and there's no compromise here: no matter what you do, he absolutely shouldn't hit you, or threaten to hit you, or talk about hitting you like it's something he might do. It's not a couples-problem, it's a him-problem. Getting counselled together is only going to reinforce any ideas he has about blaming you.

    I don't think getting counselling from friends and family is going to be much help either. Getting *support* from them is a good idea, but they're involved in the situation and can't be neutral. They need to be on your side and clear that he shouldn't hit or threaten you, period, and if they're not, there's nothing to discuss.

    Lundy Bancroft's 'Why Does He Do That?' has a lot of good advice in it.

    As to not being able to let go of the anger - why the heck should you? He hasn't changed: he's still making threatening remarks to you. He hasn't taken responsibility, he hasn't made any big efforts to work on himself, and he hasn't made it up to you. So as far as using violence and fear to control you goes, you have every right to be angry, because he's still doing it. He's still keeping it on his list of acceptable behaviours should he feel angry enough. You *should* be angry with him. It may or may not be safe to show him that, but the fact that you're angry is a sign that you still have some self-respect, and good on you for that. Your anger and resentment are telling you that he's not to be trusted. They are your friends here.

    Try an abuse helpline, and hold your head high. You don't deserve this, you're right to be angry, and you're under no obligation to forgive him just because he wants you to. The person who needs to change their thinking is him, not you.

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  143. This hits home. My (now ex)-boyfriend broke into my house, stole my valuables and later my car, and raped me hours after an abortion. Why did I stay with him? Because he constantly told me I was ugly and he could do so much better and that he was doing me a favor. Years after leaving him I still believe it fully.

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  144. I've lived 12, 13, 15 and 16, all in one relationship.

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  145. You aren't in an actual relationship-it's just SEX, right? Because that's how YOU want it, it's never gonna be more than just sex. Why do you keep talking about your ex? It's not like he hurt you that badly, you're not the most hurt person ever. He's way out of your league and much older and could get whoever he wanted so it's not like you should be ungrateful-after all the sex is good and for the most part he respects your limits and it was just a joke so you shouldn't be so upset when he does something you ask him not to and keeps doing it, or pushes for anything he wants, right?
    ----I had an older sex partner like that about a year ago. Fortunately, I had a friend with benefits who got me out of that by just in general being a better person and making me feel better in general about myself.

    That said, I'm afraid to say this post made me recognize what was going on with my current boyfriend and I was me abusing him. Which is about so far from okay, I'm surprised he decided to stay when I made the logical points that I was abusing him-we're improving rapidly. I never hit him when we aren't sparring anymore and our conversations are much better and I'm working hard to make sure I never belittle him or hurt his feelings. I don't know why he stayed but I'm amazed he did.

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  146. Thanks for this article. I am dating a woman who was in a very abusive relationship that ended, totally, about a year ago. She is bright, intelligent, smart,warm, strong and has an easy laugh. All around a wonderful person and an incredible woman.

    We talk about her abuse from time to time. The question I have never asked her is "How did this happen?". I don't ask because I am not certain how to ask nor do I think she is likely to know the real answer.

    So thank you again. This is helping me gain a prospective I didn't get elsewhere. One that I think it will help me understand, at least from a distance, of how this happened.

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  147. Ugh. I've seen so many of these, it's depressing. Hard not to get frustrated sometimes when you deal with people in those situations, too, especially when you've grown up with it and seen someone claw their way out and be so much better off as a result.

    Thank you for posting this. I will be sure to read it again.

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  148. 1,4, 5, 6 (it was her mother), 17, a bit of 20. And that's just my parents.

    If I'm counting everyone i've known (including one couple I lived with, which was unutterably awful because I couldn't afford to move out and I couldn't afford to rock the boat either or I'd have lost my home, so had to keep my mouth shut. Just about the worst year of my life. Thankfully when I managed to get it together to leave, she left not long afterwards, and has since left him, taking the kid with her), then yeah, most of those sound awfully familiar.

    It's hard trying to support people in abusive relationships. Getting too involved or doing the wrong thing can just make you part of the cycle, or even make them less willing to leave. Sometimes, having seen it before makes it even harder to stand again in a way, because it reminds you of seeing someone else suffer, and that makes you angry and frustrated, even though that's completely irrational.

    It makes me paranoid about falling into numbers 15 or 18, too. I can easily see a parallel reality where my first girlfriend and I stayed together and ended up there. Not a comfortable thought at all.

    Thanks for posting this. I'll be sure to read it again.

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  149. Thank you for this thoughtful list. So many people need to see it. I'm going to share it. You may have forgotten "I can't afford it. I have kids and no money and nowhere to go." I'm a therapist and I know more than one abuser who threatens to kill himself.

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  150. There is 1 thing I would like to add coming from a past history of abusive relationships the last of which Im still trying to find the courage and strength to extradite myself from is the excuse of "The monster I've known is still better than the fear of starting over on my own" thats been my excuse for too long on top of he makes me feel like he will die if I truly leave him. Finally getting up the courage to start the paperwork in December wish me luck.

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  151. Why did you stay? I've been asked a lot. Emotional abuse--the kind that makes you wish he would hit you so that it didn't make you feel crazy to be so afraid. I lay in bed, praying he'd hit me, so that calling it what it was would be believable. Why did I stay? I loved him. Why did I stay? Because I could see where his insecurity and anger came from, I could see how he was broken inside, and I though I could afford to 'help' him, but nothing I did helped. Over a decade with him, I became so unable to breathe, so much smaller. Out now. Still scared, still trying to let go. Still feel like I'm crazy when he fucks with my head, still need to take it one tiny step at a time. Only been out a year and a half. I wonder if I'll be stuck like this forever?

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  152. Hey Holly,

    Just wanted to let you know I shared this particular post onto my google+ account and onto my facebook account and my friends are spreading it like wildfire. One of my friends even posted regarding some of her own experiences with abuse but not realising it was until she read this.

    Also, my own stories. I've been in two abusive situations. Both of them emotional.

    The first, I was 19 almost 20. He put me through a lot of emotional abuse some of it was a little more subtle and under more controlling than really abusive per se. One of the things he was fond of doing was just always referring to me as his lesbian friend especially around his mother which looking back I should never have tolerated. Long story short he wound up getting his ex fiancee pregnant whilst we were dating and yelling and screaming at my voicemail because I turned off my phone due to the fact I was in class, he knew I was in class and wasn't picking up. On my birthday(which I don't celebrate anyway but the point of the matter)even. I wound up breaking up with him the next day because of that.

    The second guy I'm just starting to get over since he and I barely have any contact anymore. We had an off and on relationship for the past 4 years. Looking back he manipulated me into making him more important than he should have been to me. I gave up a good job because of him and have had shaky employment since, and lost a lot of friends because of him. And strained family relations that were previously really good I was just too stupid at the time to realise that's what I was doing(and yes I do mean that I was stupid). If I didn't do something to his liking then he made me feel like shit for it. Everything was always all MY fault. Never his fault. An even longer story short I'm breaking up our friendship because I can't stay friends with him at all. Especially with the jobs I'm trying to get since he is now considered a convicted felon and for his crime I can't be friends with him and get the jobs I'm trying for. It is also better for my mental health if I have no contact with him than if I do. I'm going later this week or sometime next week to return some of his video games and stuff he's left at my house to his mother so in 2 years when he comes back I have nothing of his. Hopefully I'll also be out of the country and out of his reach.

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  153. 2) Abuse against men and/or by women may be less common, but it is even less talked about, and for that reason it merits inclusion.

    My son's wife abused him for nearly a year. I pretended not to know, because damn.

    Now she's filed a restraining order full of lies. He has scars. She ... doesn't. But the courts will believe her and not him, because damn.

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  154. #12 for me in the abusive relationship I was in for 7 years on and off...and I was uber-embarrassed to the point that I was willing to paint a pretty picture of the relationship to any outsiders to maintain the image of being smart and independent. Ugh.

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  155. Thank you all so much-- the article, the comments, the advice and ideas and stories.

    Thank you particularly to the anonymous posters at Jul 21, 2011 06:33 PM and Aug 15, 2011 07:58 PM.

    A few more reasons to add:

    1) You want the sex. It's different from wanting to be loved, which was already mentioned. Great sex can be downright addicting (and I'm not really speaking metaphorically-- ask any neurologist).

    2) Your abuser is an abuse survivor themselves, and you feel the need to convince them that they aren't what they fear most. And you feel sorry for them. And you know that they just don't understand what healthy interaction is because they never had it growing up... etc.

    3) You've already invested so much emotionally in the relationship. Given them gifts, shared special moments, sat by their bedside when they were sick. Walking away means you have to admit that all that giving was a mistake and that you can never take it back. You've spent so much time and energy and money on them, made so many sacrifices, that you can't bear to think of it all as "wasted". After all, maybe if you give just a little bit more...

    These were all the case with my emotional abuser, along with a solid dose of 2 and 3 from the original article.

    A word of hope for abusers and abused alike: when things started escalating and I was afraid the abuse would become physical, I moved... out of the state. But we stayed in the relationship, long distance. Where I had the power to hang up the phone any time he pushed a limit. He spent some time on the verge of being suicidal, got detained in a psych ward for it briefly, then took a good long look in the mirror and started to turn things around. Went to AA, talked things out with me, took the time to learn the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. We're still separated, but we talk every day and I believe we will someday live together again.

    This will not work for everyone, and not all abusers can-- or want to be -- "fixed". But sometimes, when faced with the true possibility of losing a loved partner (or family member), the abuser may realize how much that relationship means to them and what they have to do in order to keep it, including breaking old habits, kicking addictions, changing oneself, etc.

    If you are someone who hurts the people you love, please seek professional help. There is no shame in needing help or in being wrong-- so long as you are willing to work to make things better. Ask yourself what truly matters to you, and if someone else's happiness (much less their safety) is at risk, swallow your pride and fear and do everything in your power to make yourself a better person. It isn't easy, but it can be done.

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  156. In many states in US America the presumption of joint custody has the function of detaining the wife and children so that they are handy and can be abused and threatened. My self and children were there for 10+ years.

    He had insisted on having children and then as it turned out he didn't like children and resented that they needed attention although I had made it clear beforehand that if I had children I took the role very seriously.

    He had a lot of money. He took me to court for two years when I didn't accept his offer to put me in a mental asylum and take my children and give me nothing after 11 years of marriage and 4 additional years of living with him. The lawyer who was supposed to be working for me was getting paid by him and it became clear that they were working for him. The money awarded by the court he just ignored.

    I was a foreigner in the country with no family and no friends by the time I had children.
    Supportive friends? My few friends were envious of his money and told me that they would never 'allow' this sort of stuff to happen to them.

    Marriage counselors? Psychologists? I'll never forget the ones who sat there agreeing with him as he screamed abuse at me. I'll never forget the one who was kissing him on the couch when I walked into the room.

    Finally he beat up his younger child and was reported by the school psychologist. A lady who worked as a public liason person for the police found the actual police report and realized that there was a coverup in that I had got a sham report of the incident from the police records office. She read the actual report and was shocked. She copied the report and gave it to me.

    My son and I talked to the Child Protective services we talked to counselors, I took him to the doctor, I wrote letters non stop for 3.5 months. I hired a lawyer who refused to do anything for us. We got temporary restraining orders against the father. We went to court.

    The lawyer for him was the same one who had done property deals for us when we were married, also did the divorce for him, attacked me on the stand in court inappropriately with no challenge from my legal representation. The judge finally got discussed with the both of them and admonished them from the bench. She found my child's father to have battered the child.

    He was so surprised that he moved out of the state and then we were free to move.

    I spent 10+ years putting my children back together after they spent 1/2 time with their father. The Family Court people did nothing to help during all this time. I continually protested that he was dangerous and abusive with concrete examples. They gave him everything that he ever asked for.

    I stayed close to my children and had a safety priority from when they were very small. They endured some horrible things. I organized my life around being available for the children and we all lived with threats, abuse, attacks, for 10+ years. No one would help, not friend, not family, not police. It was a nightmare. Having been gone for 6 months now I'm still having panic attacks and I am super cautious about all relationships.

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  157. This breaks my heart to read. It took my mother years to get the courage to leave my father. She was in the #4. It took everything in her to leave, and take us with her.

    I have a friend now that I worry about. I think she is stronger and ready to leave him soon. I don't want to push it too much, because I don't want her to feel judged. I want her happy and safe. Safe.

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  158. I feel like there there should be a 3b: "He/she said they will commit suicide if I leave them." Happened to me and I have talked to several others it has happened to.

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  159. I really wish I had this when I was 13 and trying to figure out who to call/talk to about my mother and stepfather. I hope this helps a lot of people.

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  160. You have information for victims to get help, but what about the abusers? What if they recognize themselves as being abusive and need help? What can they do?

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  161. Good cases for social worker intervention. In the same way social workers help children at risk, everyone in those scenarios is at risk.

    If traffic lights in a street are malfunctioning that puts everyone at risk and if reported to the cops will be reported to a specialist to fix immediately. So why not referr social risk to a specialist. Sometimes abuse isn't physical but there's a risk that violence could develop.

    All of the stories in this article could be referred to a specialist . If funding is a problem try and quantify the money spent on medical treatment and the material cost of destructive behaviour (days off work, or under performing at work, psychological effect on children )

    Also educating kids and adults to know that they can call a specialist who can sensitively help both the abuser and abused.

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  162. A wild mixture of all but 3 and 4, though, in a way 4 too as "What about the pets?". How could I leave the only creatures who seemed to love me with her?

    The trouble, when the abuser is your mother, there's not much of a chance to get away, people just keep dragging you back to the hell called "home".
    An insidious mixture of 6 and 9. I did ask for help, very carefully, but the responses I got weren't "only" belittling my experiences, they called me a liar and that if any of this was true I deserved what I got. I firmly believed everyone knew what was going on and they all thought it was just what I deserved. What sense does it make to ask for help then?

    And another point to the list... "It's still better than the alternative". I basically sold myself as a child prostitute because the perv who used me, as disgusting as it was, still seemed to appreciate me in a way. He never beat me, I was never worried that he'd kill me... better than "home". And when he was done or not around there were still the horses who loved me. That was worth it.

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  163. I went through abuse growing up, so I am particularly sensitive to this subject especially when it comes to how I treat others. I have always struggled with the question, "What is the difference between just being angry or yelling at someone and abuse?" Where is the line?

    For example, if I get mad at my spouse and yell at him for staying out all night drinking with his buddies when he said he would be home early, is it controlling and abusive of me to be mad at him? When is it OK to expect certain behavior from someone and when does it become controlling?

    Another example I can think of... I always ask my husband where he is going before he leaves. I've never said that he can't leave, I feel it's just helpful to know where he is. Are those really bad questions to ask? Just so I have a clue as to what's going on. I get confused if I am being controlling or just a little bitchy or both or neither.

    I have all these questions because of the abuse I experienced as a kid, and don't have a good example of a healthy relationship.

    Anybody care to offer insight? Does anyone have guidelines for this? It scares me so much that I might turn out like my father...

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    1. That you're concerned is a great thing.

      I'm pretty sure most abusers DON'T consider that they might be hurting the other person. If you are worried, though, why not talk to your husband? Express your concerns and state why you're worried- 'I feel like this when things happen- this is why I think it'd be helpful', and listen to what he said when you tell him that.

      One of the main things (for me) that separates what's abuse from what isn't is whether or not the people involved are actually talking and listening to each other (and I wish I could put so much emphasis on 'listening', this is really the most important bit). Tell your husband about what your childhood was like, and your uncertainties, and why you might behave in a certain way. If you're worried you might be hurting him, ask him to tell you if he feels as if you might be, and of any concerns he might have.

      I know what you mean about not having an example of a healthy relationship- I was from a family that was very controlling myself, and when I got into my current relationship, which is also my first, I flat out told my S.O. that if they were feeling as if I was pressuring them into anything, or making them feel in a particular way (this part was easy for me, I KNEW what it felt like to be placed in that sort of position, so I could describe it)- if they ever felt as if I was doing it to them, then I wanted them to TELL me so I could stop, think about what I was doing, and change my behaviour.

      I don't want to hurt my S.O., and I'm not sure of myself, so explaining and then bringing them into this helped a lot. My S.O. also reassured me that if they ever put me in that kind of a spot, I could and should tell them. Having this, knowing if I was afraid or scared that I could speak up and that my S.O. would tell me if they were helped me a lot.

      I wish you the best with your husband, and I hope all goes well with the both of you.

      Delete
  164. These stories are so heartbreaking. I am still healing from an abusive relationship. I've been going to therapy and trying to start new, but the skin hunger is so terrible and I am so lonely. Even though most of my memories of my abuser are bad ones, I think about him almost every day and I miss having someone there. I am so glad it is over.
    I remember used to give him sex so that he smiled at me, otherwise I would go the whole day without any positivity from him. Somehow that smile made it all worth it in the end.
    One thing I always used as an excuse was his bi polar disorder. I thought that if I stayed and was patient it would make me stronger and show him that I cared, somehow healing him in the process. Instead it has broken me down and I am half the person I used to be.
    I truly hope that every victim, survivor, and abuser can find some sort of peace within themselves. I have no faith that he will ever change, and I think that makes me the most sad of all, because I truly loved him.

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  165. I have a friend who is dealing with an abusive relationship. The cops have been called twice and failed to do anything aside from hold the guy for 24 hours once.
    I prayed that night for the first time in my life that they would send him to jail... because I don't think she is ready to help herself.

    Someone referred this blog to me when I reached out for advice and I've forwarded it to her. I really hope that she reads it and it reaches her in ways that I cannot.

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  166. I ould have written #11.

    Women abuse. Women abuse other women. I am just now realizing that her behavior is abusive, and I am not allowed a life without her permission. I need help, and I am going to go get some. Thanks.

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  167. Mixing up the genders every line item makes this really hard to read. I get that you're trying to be PC and all, but it makes it difficult to understand for the casual visitor to your page what's going on.

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    1. If you look at the comments on this post, they're not all women abused by men, or all any other one combination. That's not "PC," that's reflecting reality.

      And reflecting reality is important to do so that all the people who don't fit the "woman abused by man" model can maybe see a little bit of themselves and their relationships here, and not feel like they're failures at masculinity/queerness or they're not really abused because they don't fit that model.

      I think that's more important than clean-reading lines.

      Delete
    2. Cliff, from someone who read this a while back but never commented, I thought I ought to say thanks for actually mixing up the genders. It's THAT move that made me save and bookmark this page, and when I saw you were doing that, I thought, yes, damn it, that's how it should be, that's real- it's not men abusing women or women abusing men, it's people abusing people that's the problem here and that attention needs to be brought to.

      As someone for whom #13, #15 and #18 applied to their situation, your post helped to actually put what happened in words, to have it laid out on a page like that was REALLY useful.

      The way I started coming to terms with what happened to me was when a friend of mine, halfway through when I was telling them about the problems I had at home, paused and looked at me and asked- so, if someone else I didn't know was saying what I was saying now, if someone who was a friend of mine was talking about themselves the way I do, would I blame them the way I was blaming myself?

      'I wouldn't do that-'
      'Why are you different, then?'

      And I know it wouldn't be the same for everyone, but that one statement was what got to me the most. I wasn't somehow different to other people who'd come from that situation, I wasn't somehow more or less deserving of what I'd been through- no one deserves that, be they male, female, neither, both, or however they choose to be. That's where the way you portrayed the various relationships really was handy, they let me take a step back from what you were portraying and see the same situations that I'd been through as if they were being undergone by people who weren't me. I could tell those situations weren't good. I'd been in those situations, you could quote me word for word on some of the justifications used.

      What you did was helpful, so- thanks, I suppose. A bit belated, but thanks.

      Delete
  168. #15&18. Oh GOD 15 and 18. My mother is so nice, just so, so nice you shouldn't ask her for things, that would be a huge burden on her. Financial independance? she'll support you all the way...except she won't teach you how to manage money, won't help you get to interviews or magically concoct crises that blow away as soon as you fall on your face again, and coo to you that you can't leave home, she'll be all alone. She won't tell your psychopath of a brother to stop hitting you, no, he's had a hard life and he's been abused, poor baby, but she won't get him the therapy he so desperately needs, won't pull him off a girl he's got 100 pounds and a whole foot on. You're an awful, ungrateful child because you won't smile and pretend nothing's wrong, and if you try to bring up the A-word she'll laugh it off. Abuse? Don't be silly.

    My brother is too many on this list to count, plus I block stuff out even now. I think you missed out on one, "it's just what brothers/sisters do!" Never mind the fact that he's hit the point where he should've learned to express himself with his words, not his fists, he's just a brother, and brother beating their little sisters is just a family thing. Hardly a surprise that all the women he's gone out with are "crazy" which in this family is code for "has feelings i don't approve of."

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  169. Mine was a mixture of 2, 11, 12, 16, and 19, with a dash of "I think he'll commit suicide if I leave", and #4 toward our cats. Never physical, only emotional, but I won't say that it was better that way; I still remember all too well the way he wielded "I love you" like a weapon.

    After 3 years, I finally got to the point where I was ready to leave; I planned to run away without telling anyone, for fear of my parents' reaction when I told them that I couldn't stay at school. Then one night, Himself says, "I think we should break up." And just like that, it was over. I haven't spoken to him in almost a month, and am now with a wonderful man who treats me like I'm the 9th wonder of the universe.

    I only wish I had seen this list before I started dating him, because then I might have known what to look out for. During the relationship, however, a friend showed me something similar, and I went, "but my situation is not really abuse, because Himself only does a couple things on this list! And only some of the time!"

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  170. Hey, I notice a couple people commented on the list being "hard to read" because of mixing up genders, so I'd like to put in my two cents as being totally in favor of that approach.

    So many books out there about relationships etc only talk about heterosexual couples with conventional gender roles. If you're heterosexual and fairly conventional, you don't notice. But the cost is it's really hard for gay couples and people with non-conventional gender relations to figure out what applies to them and what doesn't (as well as the general awkwardness of having your existence not acknowledged.)

    The arguments to not be inclusive on grounds of clarity sound very similar to the old arguements against using gender-neutral language like "he or she" and "chairperson" because of the supposed awkwardness.

    Really, I hope for a world where this sort of gender-mixing is so common it would stand out to not see it -- because I don't think the "difficult to read" is in the gender-switching itself, I think it's in the unfamiliarity of acknowledging same-gender couples. As we get more used to acknowledging same-sex and unconventional couples, as individuals and as a culture, the gender-mixing will stop being startling.

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  171. My dad and his siblings/half siblings had an extremely abusive stepmother/mother - both physically and emotionally. I'm not particularly close to two of my uncles/aunts' families, but the three I am close to have raised some pretty awesome kids. Once or twice things got touch and go, but there was no abuse - all of them were, thank god, able to see the signs and realize that the choice was between their anger and their kids. (My dad, for instance, just wouldn't come home when he was close to losing his temper).

    I'm pretty sure all of the siblings broke the cycle. And even though my dad may never get completely over what was done to him, he really loves his kids and he's been an awesome parent and a successful person (and derives a lot of joy and satisfaction from his life).

    Anyway, just thought I'd share my family's abuse/abuser story since it's a bit further down the years than most of the stories here.

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  172. Thank you for sharing. This was very well written. Something to forward. I hope this helps people. I actually wrote a blog concerning this topic as well. If you have a chance please read it. Thanks so much for your inspiring post!

    http://tehaskett.blogspot.com/2012/06/abusive-relationships-why-they-stay.html

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  173. Much later than your post, I know. But it got to me that you mentioned 'if this sounds remotely like you, call ...'. What if it does sound like you, but from the other end. What if you recognize the way you treat your significant other in this. How do you move forward from this?
    Great post anyway. Thank you.
    From a child of an alcoholic who fears having been imprinted on abusive relationships and not being able to have 'healthy' (happy?) ones.

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  174. 1, 3, 5, 8, 16, and 19. I got out, but I'm still terrified of him, and I don't know what to do with myself now. Thank you for posting this.

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  175. Hershele OstropolerJuly 19, 2012 at 11:53 PM

    From a recent Captain Awkward post I thought of a variation on #20 (or perhaps a combination of #17 and #20): "People of that gender are like that." Someone who believes it's (for example) a man's nature to be violent/authoritarian/etc. will consider leaving a man for behaving that way both an overreaction and futile.

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  176. this isn't who she is. this is what she does. she doesn't understand what she's doing.

    so you stand up to her, because no one else is willing. you yell right back and then run away. you're not very sure that she listens.

    but you love her. love is a choice, not an emotion. and the most loving thing you can think of to do is to not let her get away with her crap.

    (you can't just stand by and watch as she blames your dad for everything wrong with her life, accuses him of cheating and being a slob. it's not his fault he can't find a job. it's not his fault she has to work night shifts and sleep all day and never sees her family. it's not anyone's fault. but there it is.)

    it's complicated. so you live with it.

    (besides, it's not that bad.)

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  177. I know this post is old, but I just really wanted to tell you that your post saved my ass last year. My father was very abusive, he didn't hit me, he did other stuff. I didn't realize how similar my relationship was to the one with my father, with all the mind games and stuff, but reading this was the first real step.
    It's been over a year now, but i finally fell somewhat myself again, so I thought this was the right time to finally say: Thank you so much!

    Greetings from Germany

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  178. The catalyst for me leaving my emotionally abusive husband was when I found myself saying "Well, at least he doesn't hit me."

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  179. This was disturbing to read.

    I've experienced 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17 almost word for word, from my family. I still find myself stumbling to explain why I cut ties with them, because most of it was emotional, and even the physical violence was rooted in the sense that I truly HAD brought it on myself... If I didn't want my mom to attack me and tear my hair out, I shouldn't have sworn at her. If I didn't want my aunt to drag me out of a restaurant bathroom hard enough to leave bruises, I shouldn't have retreated to the bathroom when she, my mother, and grandmother, were belittling me and mocking my refusal to show anger.

    I moved cross country, hoping distance would help. It didn't. For years, I drifted from abusive relationship to abusive relationship, never realizing that the normality of it in my family was already predisposing me to be a victim. But so long as I allowed my family's behavior, even if it was held at a distance, it was impossible to set strong boundaries in other relationships.

    To begin to grow past it, I had to move to another state from the address they had, change my name, change my phone, abandon ALL of my friendships from the community I grew up, abandon ALL of the relatives who had simply been bystanders, but who might pass information to the abusers, or allow the abusers to manipulate me.

    I'm getting married soon, to a loving man who has NEVER done anything that resembles one of the bullet points on this list. But I've caught a few of these in my own behavior, especially 18. I want to see him as a bad guy, because so many others have been, even when his behavior doesn't warrant it. Over the years we've been together, we've worked on that inclination, and managed to dull it somewhat, but there are many times when I catch myself trying to recreate the same patterns I experienced growing up. There's never really an apology strong enough to make up for it.

    Abuse never really leaves you.

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  180. 2, 3, 6, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20. 21.

    She's my sister. She's my responsibility. How can I expect her not to be violent when I know better than anyone that she was brought up to believe that this is just how families work? How can I expect her to keep her rages under control when I know perfectly well that she is mentally ill and it's not her fault? Therapy didn't work. Meds don't work. How can I leave her, when nobody else will be willing to tolerate her behaviour and give her the care she needs?

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  181. You know the saying "We should teach 'do not rape' instead of 'don't get raped'"?
    My parents are in a mix of #11, #13 and #19 relationship, my dad is completely devoted to my mother and doesn't think he would be able to live without her, despite everything - same for my Brother and me. And while I realize how bad it is for everyone, I also realize I have copied and internalized some abusive behaviours in my own relationships.
    Mainly the exploding, crying and apologizing cycle. I don't get physically abusive but I scream and accuse and make others feel guilty, not realizing my own fault until way after. I'm very insecure and feel I always have to take in and endure, but it builds up and builds up, and then just explodes when I can't take it anymore. And it's usually about minor things like wanting my advise but then doing something completely different, which makes me feel betrayed and useless. When I explode I just want to hurt them like they hurt me, make them feel guilty and acknowledge my worth, but then I realize how I've hurt them and I try to make it up and hope it never happens again.
    I don't know if there are guides about how to not abuse, but there should be.

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    1. You know, for me a therapist helped a lot.
      Also, whenever I got angry or knew I was about to say something stupid, I imagined how I would say it if I'd hug the other person, or just go and do that.
      I also got in the habit of just talking about everything in a really soft way, that might not be the best thing, but it still helps.
      For example I will just tell my boyfriend: "I'm feeling really jealous/betrayed/ignored and don't know why."
      There are self help groups, and admitting to abusive behaviors is a big step.
      People you trust and are on the outside of those cycles can be a big help.
      My mother for example always told me when she thought I was out of line with my boyfriend, she is a very gentle person, so when I got angry I would call her and let her tell me how she would react.
      And if all didn't help I just got away as quickly as possible until I was calm. Of course, some are only temporary solutions.
      And in my experience, relationships that are abusive can change, but usually don't last, and if a person is a danger to others they shouldn't be in one, but some problems can only be worked through with more experience.
      I know this is late, but maybe you will read it(or someone else) and it might be helpful?

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