Too often one adult declares that another adult is being abusive. Before you decide you are in an abusive relationship and call the Abuse Police, get a handle on what is really happening. OK?
Abuse is mistreatment, by any other person or persons, that violates a person’s human and civil rights.
Children and our vulnerable citizens, those with disabilities or aging issues, are dependent on others and need our protection. While they can be neglected or abandoned, the rest of us can exercise choice and free will.
Assuming that the rest of us are relatively healthy functioning adults, we are wise to check if and when we are contributing to our perception of being abused. Those who abuse may be aware of their behaviors, or not. For example, it is common for people to name someone an abuser or bully when actually they struggle to protect themselves, speak up or regulate their emotions.
I was one of those people who was unintentionally abusive to my husband and, occasionally, to our children. In what felt like uncontrollable anger I would scream this threat:”I will go crazy if you do not do what I tell you!”
If there is emotional trust in a relationship, those who are unaware of their negative impact are often open to a heart-to-heart conversation. Thank heavens my hubby loved me and a conversation led me to some solid therapy.
On the other hand, when there is no or little trust, it is still worth confronting the individual to test if a safe relationship can be created. Ultimately, if you have concluded you are being abused and the perpetrating individual is not open to change, you may decide to collapse the relationship or at least create clear parameters or boundaries of contact.
Forms of abuse include:
- Physical abuse such as hitting, pushing, pinching, shaking, scalding, or restraining.
- Sexual abuse such as rape, sexual assault, or sexual acts to which the adult has not or could not have consented, or to which they were pressured into consenting.
- Financial or material abuse such as theft, fraud or exploitation, a pressure in connection with wills, property, or inheritance, misuse of property, possessions or benefits.
- Discriminatory abuse such as that based on race or sexuality or a person’s disability and other forms of harassment or slurs.
- Psychological or emotional abuse is most often used in the form of verbal abuse which is persistently using words and/or ‘mind games’ to instill self-doubt to build the abuser’s sense of dominance and control:
- harassment such as dozens of intimidating emails, phone calls or emails a day.
- threats of harm such as, “I promise you, if you do that, you will regret it!”
- false accusations or slander such as, “Her credentials are fake.”
- humiliation or public undermining such as, “You think she is so smart. Let me tell you . . .”
- wrongly blaming such as “It’s your fault. If you had agreed with me I wouldn’t be so angry.”
- discounting or dismissing such as, “You are not as smart as you think you are.”
- excessive criticizing such as, “You did it wrong again. What’s wrong with you?”
- coercion such as, “I won’t let you. I will go crazy if you leave.”
- unreasonable ordering around such as, “You have to . . . (an act that puts your values at risk).”
- directive and insulting swearing such as, “You F#$@%ing ass$#@%!”
- derogatory name calling such as,”You whimp (jerk, idiot, son-of-a-b@#%, fatty, slob, whore) or “You are useless (stupid, lazy, crazy, worthless, bad, ugly, arrogant, a flake, a loser).”
10 Tips to Protect Yourself
- Double check if what is going on is a miscommunication or whether you are a target of someone who unconsciously or consciously wants to feel better than, smarter than, or more powerful than you.
- Check if you feel triggered from your past. Then remind yourself that you are an adult with choices.
- Read the above list and identify the times and people who have acted abusively. Be on guard for the next time.
- Avoid seeing yourself as a victim. Remember, you have choices.
- Make a boundary statement.
- In a trusting relationship invite the person using abusive behavior to have a hard conversation about what is going on for him or her.
- Use the Stop the Drama Triangle poster.
- Avoid acting abusive yourself by name calling, You are an abuser!
- Call your local distress line any time of the day.
- Arrange for professional help or support.
Note: If you suspect you are experiencing workplace bullying, please look at the resources on Valerie Cade’s website, Bully Free at Work.
If you have concluded you are in a chronically abusive relationship, take steps to get out of it. At minimum, seek professional guidance. If you do not know where to start, contact me privately by emailing patricia@SolutionsForResilience.com I will be sure to respond.