Part of an abusers armoury is their employment of emotional blackmail and constant belittling of the victim. People looking from outside may wonder why one untrue spoken comment causes so much damage. However it is not the sole innocuous word spoken in haste, but a constant barrage of depreciation wears the target down, who then starts to sink into low personal self-esteem and little confidence which then affects every area of their lives.
Abusers also use their environmental perception to further degrade their victim with comments such as “No-one will believe you,” or “No one else would want you.”
My abuser would tell me every day in front of our children that she hated me. This would be without any provocation and not even in the context of those barbed statements that are sometimes thrown in a verbal domestic exchange. I stopped talking about our work (because part of our work load was shared), because she found fault with everything. With hindsight, I probably stopped working to the best of my ability because I was just so tired of having to face a bombardment of insults concerning my labours.
Knowing that the slightest thing could trigger a violent assault from her, I completely withdrew into myself. I put on a charade to hide the truth, but I wasn’t myself.
I’ve already written that when challenged, my abusive ex-wife would respond with “You’re a Man, you can put up with it.” She also resorted to emotional blackmail. On a regular basis I would be told, “If you leave, I will destroy you completely,” and “I’ll take you for every penny” That wasn’t hard since I didn’t have a penny to my name!
Being church ministers, our house was the property of the church (as was the car I drove). She told me often that she could leave whenever she wanted because if she took the children, enough agencies would be willing to rehouse a single mother with three children. She would also tell me that I couldn’t leave because I had nowhere to go and no-one would provide me with housing .
She was right, she knew it and exploited that fact. She knew that, as a man, I was unlikely to tell anyone my fate at her hands. She knew that there was no refuge resources for me. She knew that people would not and could not comprehend the level of abuse that I’d suffered. She knew that people would assume I may be over-reacting to a simple fall-out.
Men also remain silent because they know that it will be difficult to convince others that they are a victim of domestic abuse. Sadly, the perpetrator usually exploits this knowledge to their own advantage increasing the psychological pressure on the victim.
The silence deepened. I felt I had no choice. As fear clouded over me, my mental and psychological well-being evaporated. If you have followed my story, you will know that the point came after 17 long years when I choose not to go back into the abuse. I escaped. What happened?
All the things I feared came true. I did indeed have nowhere to go. I ended up sleeping on my elderly parents’ sofa for 6 weeks. Their bungalow wasn’t big enough to house me indefinitely. Yes, there were many who though I was over-reacting to a simple fall-out. Only it was far from simple and eventually the whole truth emerged.
My fearful silence was over. I won’t pretend it was easy. In fact, life which had been quite secure was now tough. However, I’m a different person now. The journey I’m on as a survivor is hard, but I have regained my life. No longer am I just existing from moment to moment, I’m learning to enjoy the moments living free of all fear.