A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Marks of a pretend victim versus a true victim

Abusers usually portray themselves as victims, as most of our readers as well aware.  Are there any distinguishing marks of a pretend victim as opposed to a true victim of domestic abuse?

I began thinking about this because of a comment that one of our readers, Nyssa, made in another post.  Here’s what she said:

In my own writings about the abuse I’ve experienced from friends and from ex’s, I go into a lot of detail, get angry, and do a lot of research into such things as abuse and personality disorders. … I don’t normally mention Personality Disorders when talking to most people. But when I write about abusive experiences in memoir, I pour everything in, all the details I can think of, along with trying to figure out what drives a person to act like that, quotes from my research which describe common abusive behaviors, to help others recognize for themselves what is abuse and what is normal.

I have a strong will and don’t just figure I deserved what I got; I get very angry when I get abused. I believe that’s why my abusive ex finally left, because I refused to just accept that I deserved it. But when I speak about being abused, I’m not making it up, I’m not the actual abuser slandering the victim, I’m opening up about what really happened and how it makes me feel. I hope that these comments/blogs are not saying that if you’re angry, if you’ve done a lot of research into personality disorders and do know family history and have good reason to think disorders are at play, that it automatically labels you as the abuser playing the victim. In my case, the anger is part of the detachment/healing process and a natural response to being abused, and learning about Personality Disorders has reassured me that I did not deserve what I got.

I found Nysssa’s comments quite thought provoking. Here are my reflections so far.

When a person says “I’ve been abused, and I’m angry about having been abused!” that is not necessarily a sign that they are falsely playing the victim. Like Nyssa, I believe that anger is part of the detachment/healing process. When a victim gets in touch with their anger and channels it to assist their recovery or to raise community awareness about abuse and so help with prevention, that is a good and healthy sign. It shows the victim is making an excellent recovery, in my opinion.

Perhaps we need to further refine our articulation of the marks of abuserese versus the language of genuine victims. I guess that for me, one way I can distinguish between a perpetrator playing the victim, and a genuine victim recounting their story, is as follows.

A genuine victim initially expresses lots of confusion and self-doubt:  “Am I the one at fault?” – “What is going on here?” – “I don’t think my spouse is abusing me.” – “I’ve tried everything I can to improve my marriage, but I must be missing something because nothing I’ve tried seems to work.” – etc.

This bewilderment gradually shifts into “I think that maybe I am being abused.” Sometimes this shift is precipitated by the victim reading a good definition of what constitutes abuse. The information switches on the light-bulb for the victim.

At this stage, many victims do an intensive search to learn more about abuse, trying to understand WHY the abuser behaves the way he/she does. It’s no accident that Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He DO That? asks this very question in its title. Bancroft knew the foremost question in victims’ minds. Sometimes, the research process may lead the survivor to literature about personality disorders, as it did with Nyssa.

As this research quest leads to material that labels the abuse as the problem (rather than blaming the victim), the victim begins to express more anger and outrage. This is a good sign of progress in recovery. Recovery isn’t simply about becoming angry, but when self-blame and shame are dispelled, healthy anger can come to the surface because anger is an appropriate response to injustice. Such healthy anger can then be channeled into social change and advocacy for other victims.

That’s what I’ve observed in the typical language of genuine victims as they move from the fog into recovery and healing.

Now I’ll outline what I see as the typical language of perpetrators who claim to be victims.

They don’t express the initial bewilderment and fog stage while the marriage is intact. They only start to talk about problems in the marriage when their spouse (their victim) institutes separation. Then the wail goes up: “My wife just walked out on me with no notice! I’m devastated!”  The guy from Amazon who Jeff quoted in the post that Nyssa was commenting on seemed to fit that type: “My wife read that book and then called it quits on our marriage!”

I submit that the complainant’s supposed shock at the marriage suddenly ending is a mark that the complainant was an abuser. In abusive marriages the suffering (true victim) spouse will have tried over and over to explain his or her unhappiness to their partner in an attempt to improve the marriage. But abusers brush off all these attempts and/or twist them back so as to blame the victim and exonerate themselves.

So if I’m right, distinguishing mark #1 of a false claim is the suddenness of the complaint that is made when the other spouse takes drastic action to try to put a wall up against the abuse:
“My spouse ended our marriage and I had no idea there was anything wrong with it!”

And conversely, distinguishing mark #1 of a true claim is that the genuine victim takes some drastic action of boundary-setting after having expressed fog-like bewilderment over a period of time, and given hints and waved “help” flags signalling that the marriage was in strife. Along with this, the true victim may read things to try to understand why their abuser acts the way he (or she) acts.  This research process will not have been limited to so-called Fathers’ Rights Groups sites. It will probably range widely across materials that deal with abuse from various perspectives.

So what is distinguishing mark #2 ?

  • It isn’t the sheer fact that the complainant expresses anger. True victims express anger when they are well on the road to recovery.  Both real victims and pretend victims can express anger.
  • Nor is it the fact that the complainant talks about their partner having a mental health problem. Some victims (such as Nyssa) and counselors talk about abusers having personality disorders like narcissism or sociopathy. And readers here know that many abusers claim their spouse is ‘crazy’ or has a personality disorder (borderline personality disorder is the most common label they seem to slap on their victims).

Are there some other marks by which we can tell the claims of a true victim from the claims of a pretend victim?

115 Comments

  1. Oops I accidentally published this post before it was meant to go out. Never mind. I know we’ve been really busy with the Piper post, and dear Meg, our much valued Editor and publishing gate-keeper, just published Jeff S’s new post on Miracles. So we can just sit on this one of mine for a while, and get to it whenever we wish to. Meg was tracking correctly; I was off in la la land.

    • Barnabasintraining

      Well Barbara, do you mind if I comment on this one now? Because, as a helper who is beginning to experience what I think is probably best termed second hand abuse of sorts from various abuser allies (how’s that for complicated?), I find I am quite angry at this point in time. I don’t really have anything to say beyond that, except I’m actually relieved you got to anger just now, however accidentally.

      • Jeff Crippen

        BIT – Anger means clarity. When we are confused and in that fog of deception abusers like to spin, we have too many doubts to be angry and to hunger and thirst for justice and righteousness. But when clarity comes, so does that righteous anger.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Well you know what’s funny, Jeff? As soon as that fog machine starts going I start getting angry. I guess somewhere along the line in my own life I learned to recognize the feeling or mental sense that fogging creates and now it’s like Pavlov’s dogs. Fog makes me angry.

        How’s that?

      • Jeff Crippen

        That is great:)

      • Glad my mis-timing is helping you, BIT!
        Maybe ‘secondary abuse’ is the word for what you are going through.
        The primary abuse is the abusive spouse does to his or her victim(s).
        Secondary abuse is what the abuser’s allies do to the victim and the victim’s supporters.

        When my daughter was abused by her father, I applied on her behalf (because she was underage) for crimes compensation (= money awarded by the government to compensate victims of crime). She was able to apply for compensation because she was the primary victim. I was not allowed to apply because I was only a secondary victim – that’s the terminology they used.

      • “now fog makes me angry”

        Well done, BIT! You cannot be blinded by fog any more. You are alert to it as soon as it starts creeping in, and you refuse to let it be-numb you. That’s terrific!

      • MeganC

        I went through a very angry stage, too, BIT. I wrote a blog on my personal site called “Angry Chick”. I think some people were worried because it took me a while to show my anger . . . or to allow myself to BE angry! I had been taught (for years) that anger was sin and that I wasn’t allowed to be. I got a lot of positive emails from people, telling me it is normal to feel the anger. (I also got a lot of emails chastising me for being angry) After I wrote it and thought on it and FELT the anger . . . after a while, it went away and I felt clarity coming on.

      • joepote01

        Anger is also a natural part of the grieving process…an inherent part of processing the losses (which are many in the case of abuse) and learning to accept reality for what it is rather than what we wish it was.

      • Just Me

        BIT – Thank you for putting that into words. I also find myself angry when the fog comes back. I get overwhelmed with anxiety. Often times, I feel the anxiety before I even realize what I’m anxious about. I’m in it right now, and the last few days have been hard.

      • Barnabasintraining

        (((((((Just Me)))))))

    • Me, too, Barnabas! I went to counseling a year ago, and my counselor talked to me about anger. I assured her that I wasn’t angry. She assured me, “Oh, you will get angry at some point.” It seemed odd to me at that time to experience anger. Hurt, betrayed, profoundly sad, scared, anxiety ridden–yes. Angry? No. However, lately I have found myself cycling between a depressive hopelessness and an intense, energizing anger. I had court today, and I’m just totally ticked off. I mean, I’m ready to write letters, travel to appear before the legislature, the whole nine yards. I have just had it with injustice, and I’m ready to face them head on and really FIGHT. I’m truly fighting mad. It has taken me a long time to get here though, and I still end up feeling so guilty over it that I turn it inward and spiral downward into depression. In contrast, my husband is quick to anger and has never shown remorse or guilt over anything.

      I think guilt and remorse may be another sign, which kind of go along with Barb’s self doubt. I see them differently only in that self doubt is questioning where remorse is certain. My self doubt sounds like, “Was there something more I could have done to protect my kids? Or, save my marriage?” My remorse sounds like, “I feel horrible that I didn’t leave my abuser years ago and that I subjected my children to his abuse by staying. I can’t sleep at night thinking about what my poor kids went through.” When people accuse me or confront me, saying insensitive things, I may get angry and feel attacked and like I want to defend myself, but I also may cower and just accept their ugly words. Conversely, my abuser’s first and forever response is self-justifying. Even with all of the facts presented, he will twist it to protect his perfect reasoning and excuses and do so in an overtly angry way. Every. Single. Time.

      I, too, have been devouring everything I can on narcissism and psychopathy. I want to understand him. He visited the kids yesterday and they said that he and his mother were both strangely nice. I was able to point them to the abuse wheel and show them that is the set up phase. It helps us to ward off future attacks by knowing what might motivate him or what the patterns are for his particular “disorder,” i.e., evil.

      • Ooh, my brain is firing off! Barb, or anyone else, what about difficulty in accepting help? People keep trying to help me, but I feel like a mooch so I refuse a lot of offers or argue, trying to get people to not help me. Conversely, R is running around seeing how much he can get from everyone who feels sorry for him.

        Or, self-exploration? I’ve become almost obsessed with discovering my tastes and my preferences since I’ve been told what I liked for so long. I’m dressing a little different. I wear my hair a little different. He, however, is business as usual because he confidently knows himself and what he likes and has never been one to mince words demanding his preferences. I’ve seen it with the women in my support group, too. Give everyone about two months and the make up changes. It may just be a new lipstick shade, but there is a sense of adventure there in their new found freedom. A year and a half later my abuser’s clothes, car, hair cut, everything is still the same as the day he left.

        How about just the look of weariness due to the insomnia and nightmares? A fake victim isn’t going to have those signs at all.

      • Jeff Crippen

        A family member who suffered at the hands of a narcissist for years has moved from pain, depression, sleeplessness — to anger. Not a vengeance-seeking hatred, but an anger that sees the injustice and evil of what was done to them. And guess what? It is quite obvious that they have moved toward healing in this step.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Oh ANFL! If anyone has a right to be angry right now it’s you. I’ve been to your blog and read there. E gads!! You have been put through it. :(

        In fact, it is not only the abuse victim I know personally but what’s happened to all of you around here that gets me going. I get so angry at the church! Why can’t they see this??

        As far as delayed anger for the victim, I’m thinking of that like frost bite. When the feeling comes back it hurts a lot, I understand. I think the anger is kind of like that, the feelings coming back like they’re supposed to. Just like pain is a good sign in frost bite recovery (I trust someone will correct that if it’s wrong) anger is a good sign in emotional recovery.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Or, self-exploration? I’ve become almost obsessed with discovering my tastes and my preferences since I’ve been told what I liked for so long. I’m dressing a little different. I wear my hair a little different. He, however, is business as usual because he confidently knows himself and what he likes and has never been one to mince words demanding his preferences. I’ve seen it with the women in my support group, too. Give everyone about two months and the make up changes. It may just be a new lipstick shade, but there is a sense of adventure there in their new found freedom.

        That is definitely good! :D

      • Still scared

        I also got told I was angry and I was sure I wasn’t , then I got to the anger. When I got angry I was told and thought I was wrong to be angry. Led me to Scripture and I studied. Anger is not wrong, God gets angry! How can anger be a sin if God gets angry? He burns against injustice and unrighteousness. So when I am angry…( not even going to waste my time still frustrated that the one really bad counselor told me I was wrong to compare my anger with God’s anger because I had a part to play in the injustice of the marriage, still a wee bit upset that she thought I couldn’t study the Bible on my own and hear the truth!) When I am angry , I am not angry just to be angry like the abuser, quick to get angry and rail against everything and point fingers in all directions but at himself. I get angry at injustice, unfairness, I do say who is to blame but I have also self examine and try to not get bitter and vent for a bit then go on. For example, the idiot filed a criminal charge against me because I am supposedly “refusing visitation” with one of my sons who has panic attacks just being near his dad. ( the son in question is an older teen) . I have to defend my self to a judge for following the counselors'( three professionals) recommendations, saying it would be detrimental to my son if I were to force it. Add to the fact no one has come up with a physical way to force someone taller and heavier than me to do something he can’t do. I let the other kids visit him. But no, not listened to and I was scared and angry. The state needed to delay the trial to “get documentation” and draw it out for my poor son. One of my other kids was angry but had been listening to him and said ” Well, part of it is your fault, mom.” “Umm, no, what part? ” , My child said” Well you agreed to go to court” . The child had been told I had a choice!! ANGER!! Injustice, falsehood !
        ANFL– you have it much worse! Praying for you!!!

  2. MeganC

    I’m with BIT. I am so glad you hit that publish button. This is very encouraging to me today for many reasons. And I think you are absolutely right — your observations are spot on. I am ticking the box to see if anyone adds anything to this post and I will be thinking about anything else that would identify a false victim. Really good, Barb.

  3. Healinginprocess

    Barbara your first distinguishing mark is right on point. It took me a long time before I realized the hurt, frustration, anger, bitterness, resentment and depression were coming from abuse…verbal and mental abuse, it wasn’t until it became physical that I began to realize. I then with the help of a dear friend began to research abuse…reading Lundy’s book, and going to a support group. I am now reading Jeff’s book. My husband on the other hand was totally surprised that I was sooo unhappy or that we were experiencing trouble in our marriage. He was surprised when I moved out and eventually divorced him. He has gained allies along the way. I am the abusive one, I left the marriage and do not want to reconcile, I have hurt him tremendously. He also tells people I never communiate with him and that was what really hurt our marriage. That is not entirely accurate I tried for a long time it was never heard. After a while I did stop communicating because it fell on deaf ears so it was not worth wasting my breath. He still tries to reach me and see if I will work on our relationship despite the divorce. When I say no he lashes out at me and attacks me verbally. I know his allies don’t see this side of him…he only lets them see a hurt man who is trying to forgive his exwife and restore the marriage and she is unforgiving. He even went to the pastor of my church and now I am the one on the outside as I was asked to leave the church because I divorced my husband on grounds that were not biblical and I will not try to restore the marriage. He is now going to my church since he is sooo heart broken and wants to restore the marriage but I refuse. My ex, called and told me he spoke to the pastor and told him not to make me leave the church. My ex said he was hurt and angry when he heard the pastor told me to leave. He was so hurt and angry that he now goes there. I told him his words did not line up with his actions. Something I think is quite typical of abusers atleast in my case. Maybe a 2nd distinguishing mark would be they tell everyone how hurt and distrought they are over their spouse leaving them and they have tried everything so salvage things. They are even forgiving their unforgiving spouse who continually hurts them with their unforgiveness. The abusers paint themselves as a noble person trying to work things out with an unforgiving, uncaring, hurtful person. Which is totally the opposite. The abused person is trying to stay way to protect herself and to begin to heal. She does not continually badger her abuser like the abuser does her. Abusers don’t try to stay away from the abused so they can protect themselves or heal…they continue to badger and try
    to be in relationship with their abused spouse.

    • Jeff Crippen

      HIP – You got it! That is a perfect picture of the typical scenario, especially when it works itself out in a church setting. Good job! And don’t fret. You are outside the camp, out of the visible temple, but you are where Jesus is:)

    • Oh, excellent point! They do hound us afterward, whether trying to get back together or using the courts to persecute us and hurt us. They just can’t let go and move on with life. Whereas, we are desperately trying constantly to recoil. We’ll walk away from everything financial and material to just get away.

      • I have read quite a few times in the DV literature that one of the differences between male perpetrators and female perpetrators of domestic abuse is that male perps generally commit lots of post separation abuse, whereas female perps tend not to. I know there are some exceptions (like Martin’s case with his ex-wife deliberately driving her car into him, and causing a great scene at his workplace) but I gather they are relatively rare.

      • MeganC

        YES! That is excellent, Healing! My ex hounded me up until recently (it is trailing off). I suspect that he will quickly move on now . . . maybe even re-marry (poor girl) but spend the rest of his life as a martyr. (“I tried everything to get her back . . . “) STALKING is more like it!

      • Really, Barb? I find that interesting. Is it possible that men just don’t report the post sep abuse the way we do? My mom hounded my poor dad. Took us kids on rides in the middle of the night on school nights and stalked him. Called his girlfriend. Manipulated him. Stole from him. Lied about him and ruined his reputation. I worked with a couple where the woman did the same thing. She had him committed before she left him and thereby ruined his career! She bragged a spouse can have their partner committed against their will. When he finally got his career reestablished and remarried, she stalked his new wife and would do things like leave black roses in the woman’s car. She dropped her kids off at the front door of their house and had them throw the door open, run through the house and out the back door, and back around to her. Just plain weird stuff. My personal experiences may just be highly unusual, but I’ve never seen a difference between male and female perps.

      • That is really interesting to me, ANFL. Thanks for telling us those anecdotes.
        It’s possible that researchers just haven’t heard enough stories from genuine male victims to be getting an accurate picture of how common or uncommon post sep abuse is when the abuser is a woman. I certainly don’t take everything I read as the final word on the subject.

        Stories like those you shared are chilling. And yes, just as weird and bad as the post sep abuse male perpetrators get up to.

      • joepote01

        Barbara, in my case the abuse escalated after the divorce…became more obviously evil in intent…directly involved the children in trying to hurt me…

        The really bizarre part is that she asked for the divorce, then escalated the abuse after the divorce. I had to learn very quickly to draw and defend very well defined boundaries.

        I suspect that, in her mind, I committed the unforgivable act of actually leading a peaceful and happy life without her.

      • an unforgivable sin indeed! It’s funny and sad that she would see it that way.

      • Ya we left everything, homelessness and starvation would of served us better. Unfortunatley in our case, after eight years post seperation, okay? Almost 9 now. He just feels more triumphant with his financial victorys, his court victorys, all that he uses as PROOF to his church allies he has a legal right now to hunt us down……In our case, HE will NEVER stop, he would have nothing else to focus on, even with somebody else in the picture, he is driven by his NEED to prove ten years of ABUSE never happened, while STILL abusing us.

      • Barbara, my mother also perpetuated the abuse and stalking for nearly a decade after my father left her. :(. I don’t think it’s a gendered dynamic as much as it is an abuser/victim dynamic.

    • Still scared

      Yes, they have to sob story, ready to tell everyone! How hard they have worked, how much they have tried…but actions don’t match words.

    • Loren Haas

      HIP- I am rejoicing that you are out of that pastor’s clutches! I have heard your story too many times: Churches that put their interpretation of “biblical divorce” above healing your wounds. I guess Jesus was sinning by trying to teach the woman at the well about the “Water”? He should have just pushed her into the well according to your former pastor’s actions. (Never mind that as a women in that culture, she was probably unjustly divorced)

      • I like your black humour, Loren.
        And yeah, I wanna still spell humour like an Aussie.
        Behaviour Colour Favour Savour…
        (see what you’ve done to me, Loren, you’ve made me mischievous)

    • SJR

      Wow you described the nice guy version perfectly!
      It makes me doubt my sanity at times.

      • Yeah….everything in this post iS my dad. *sigh*

  4. Jeff Crippen

    Barbara – I talked to a true victim yesterday at length. The abuser is her father. The mother had actually called me several months ago. Both of these poor gals – fine Christians as much as I can tell – evidenced not only the fog of what was happening to them, but they both were very concerned that they NOT do anything in rebellion or disobedience against the Lord. They had questions about His will, about what the Bible teaches about authority, and so on. Now, it seems to me that when an abuser is parading as victim, they will claim to want to obey the Lord, but they have absolute confidence that they know what His will is and that they ARE doing it. “I am the husband and father here and God gives me the right to rule my home. But just look at how my wife and kids treat me!”

    A phony victim will very often then be an “expert” on Scripture. They won’t so much ask questions as they will simply make pronouncements and then demand that you agree with them.

    And then a phony victim will not evidence the real pain and effects that we see in genuine victims. A real victim of abuse, EVEN when he or she is at that anger stage you talk about, is obviously suffering from heartfelt pain over it all. They can’t sleep sometimes. They have nightmares and PTSD. You won’t see those kinds of effects in a perpetrator who is masquerading.

    • Spot on, Jeff.
      However, I know that many people think that abusers are in deep pain. Writers and commenters on this blog can tell the difference between the genuine pain and the faked pain, but many bystanders can’t.

      It’s not surprising, really. The experts like Lundy Bancroft and George Simon Jnr tell us that the perpetrator’s main game is to get you to pay attention to his pain. Covertly aggressive people are highly skilled at faking emotional pain and drawing other people’s attention to it, to deflect attention from the wicked deeds the perpetrator is actually doing.

      This is one of the reasons why as victims we find it so hard to disclose. We think “I don’t want to be a whining person who draws attention to my own pain; that’s exactly what my spouse does! I don’t want to look like him. And I certainly don’t want people to suspect that I’m putting it on, like he is. If I tell people my spouse is faking all that pain, maybe they’ll suspect I’m faking mine too! And then they’ll condemn me even more!”

      Damned if you do; damned if you don’t.

      • Still scared

        Spot on Barbara!! Yes, it was hard to “point fingers” so to speak, because he points all the time, it’s always my fault but I did need to say truth!

      • MeganC

        Barb . . . . That counselor of mine would often say, “YOU are in good shape, Megan, because you are trying to follow the Lord. Imagine how ‘Dan’ is feeling . . . he is in sin and so he is miserable. You ought to feel sorry for him.” The confusion was stifling! Not only did it seem “OK” for Dan to abuse me, but I was then to feel sorry for him, as well? The reason he gave was to “keep me from bitterness”.

      • Uugh. I’m sucking air through my teeth, just reading what Meg wrote.

      • Yes! Yes! Thank you for saying that! I felt that way for soooo long.

  5. 1. False victims brush off accusations of having a disordered mind (e.g., marked NPD or BPD behavior traits) with a chuckle and counter the claims with “She must be really crazy to insinuate such a thing.” (Or, like Peter Cook, they embrace the labels such as narcissist and claim it makes them better parents. Talk about delusional!!!)

    Real victims convince themselves they actually ARE afflicted with a personality disorder.

    2. False victims always blame the real victim. False victims don’t oscillate between denial, anger, or pity. False victims go straight to anger and blame.

    Real victims blame themselves FIRST, the abuser second, and then struggle with having pity for their abuser. Real victims often return and struggle with self-blame and shame.

    3. False victims tell half stories. “She yells at me all the time and ignores me when I talk to her.”

    Real victims always have stories that reflect a cause and effect scenario: “He would steal my phone to check my text and call history. I felt like it was an invasion and his accusations were insulting. I would beg and plead with him to stop, and I often lashed out at him when it was clear he refused and disrespected my privacy. Defending myself never ended well or resolved anything. I found myself retreating and shutting down after a while. Talking to him only frustrated me, so I avoided it.”

    • Jeff Crippen

      Nice Paula. Very good insights. Right on.

    • Excellent, Paula. Thank you.

    • MeganC

      Paula — truth.

      • Memphis Rayne

        haha i just thought of something else, im not sure why this makes me laugh…..the MIW gave me this letter some girl had wrote him….she went on and on about how she wished she was the one in his central life….blah blah….very intimate letter….of course at the time I was devastated but in his mental abusive thinking he gave it to me- a)To hurt me b)Because he enjoyed letting me know somebody else wanted him c) So he could continure keeping me off balance in in a state of trauma.
        Obviously he had been having a relationshiip without my knowing with this person. I gave the letter to a pastor, who let him explain the letter to him…..lol it went like this:

        The MIW: ” She is just an old friend who has gotten herself into a bad lifestyle, I felt it was my duty to witness to her, like Christ would do? Ya know she had nobody else?””

        The girl also claimed that “”IF I were not so controlling of him that at least he could have ONE friend in his life””

        The MIW also would tell his family members the same shiz “”All i wanna do is go fishing once in awhile but she never lets me”” they all treated me as if I was keepin HIM under lock and key!!!! Polar opposite!!!!

        Abuser are all such gifted spin doctors, keeping everyone else at war, and as long as there is this state of confusion, their purpose is served. All they have to do is put a shadow of a doubt in an allies mind about you and they feel like they have won, or in their thinking they have “”stuck it to you””

        The pastors just threw the letter away and said “”He is sorry move on!” yet they always seem so suspicious of me, always leaving the question open as to whether or not I was the faithful party!!! Yep its sick.

    • Katy

      Ohh I’m late to this post but want to say this is an excellent catalog of the differences. I was convinced I had a personality disorder – and he never wavered that everything was my fault.
      I want to add: one of the things that struck me was the way the abuser talked to other people about the divorce. They express that they were “blindsided”, had no idea that they had done anything to “Deserve” it etc etc. I caught my ex on facebook reconnecting with an old girlfriend, in which he stated “well I think that I was just working too much, and didn’t focus enough on the marriage” — I seriously fell off my chair, I was so shocked at the audacity and brazen falsehood! lol

      Here is another good example. My husband had a good friend that he played sports with. This man was divorced with 2 children. I asked my husband “Why is Edward divorced?” – he said “Edward said that his wife went on vacation with a friend of hers, and when she came back she told him she wanted a divorce – it was totally out of the blue and he couldn’t understand it”.

      I thought that was a rather suspicious story. It turned out later that Edward got himself a new wife off of EHarmony. Not long into the marriage he choked his new wife and she threw him out. My husband remarked to me that “Edward and I have the same issues. At least he stopped himself and didn’t choke her to death.”

      That’s when I started being suspicious of any divorced man who gave a story like “well my wife just blindsided me, she just decided she was unhappy and left” – I never believe a man who gives very general, foggy descriptions like that.

      • MeganC

        Katy — That is a really great point. I am watching a man do this very thing on FB right now. He left his wife and made her life miserable. Yet, all over his timeline, he is expressing shock that his wife is divorcing him. He is highly mentally abusive to her and yet is gathering a small force who are sympathizing with him because “the divorce just came out of nowhere!”

      • Still Scared( but getting angry)

        What an excellent point! Very true!

      • Katy

        Yep – facebook is a new weapon for abusers. They can network so much faster and easier now, gathering themselves a sympathetic army within days. Add to that the internet dating scene, where they can easily troll for new victims.
        The age of the internet has not been all good, that’s for sure. I have removed myself from facebook and I refuse to join dating websites (although since I’m not looking for a new husband that decision wasn’t hard)
        I see those environments as rife with abuse and people trolling to hurt others. It doesn’t seem all that “friendly” to me. I may be overly pessimistic. but….

      • Memphis Rayne

        My kids made friends with a little girl who we met while with her Dad. He sat me down to tell me how he felt robbed that he had to pay money to his ex through divorce….Im like hmmm?

        Then he proceeded with how this has somehow victomized him due to how unfair it was that he had to pay her the money she deserved. I shut him down very quickly with “Well if its going to your daughter and her mother then why does that rub you the wrong way? You just proffessed you would do anything for your daughter?” He NEVER talked about his ex again around us. He wasnt finding sympathy with me! I have heard the same storys that my MIW told everybody when he would claim I was just some money hungry woman, and the whole routine of “She cheated, or I suspect she cheats because she doesnt care for me or my needs at all”” his biggest whine was “”Im sooooo lonely”” with the added boo boo face.

        With the MIW he had different story lines for different people, if you were inside the church he would cry about his grief over his sin and wrong doings…*for sympathy of course. of course he complained to them that I refuse to bring the children to church!!!! Then outside he would cling to his storys most people hear, like “”she cheated on me, she wont let me see my kids, she spent all my money, she is NEVER around, I try so hard but she is un responsive, she is cold and fridged”

      • Katy

        hahaha I was told that I was cold and frigid as well Memphis. :) Of course, I knew why I had no interest in sex. Terror will do that to a woman.

      • me too. I was told I was frigid — and went to a counselor to ‘fix me up’ — and when the counseling failed to fix me up, guess who got the blame?

      • jodi

        my frigidity was more implied than outright stated, as were most things so he could always claim “I never said that”.

      • Yeah Jodi, your abuser was exceptionally skilled at gaslighting and the kind of ever-so-subtle emotional abuse that is virtually invisible.

      • jodi

        You nailed it Barbara! No one does innocent and guileless like he does which makes his cruelty and coldness even more frightening.

  6. In Townswend and Cloud’s book “Boundaries” they say that anger is a warning sign that tells us our boundaries are being violated.

    Interestingly enough, in my own recollection I have not felt much in the way of anger toward my ex (there ARE a few memorable times). Scared? Yes. Uncomfortable? Yes. Devalued? Yes. But mostly I must admit I feel very, very sorry for her. Because I know that I will live, and she never will. As much as I was hurt, I still care about her enough to want her to be happy. I can and did escape. I cannot wish for anyone to live inside the prison she is in :(

    I know Barbara and Jeff say it’s a mistake to feel sorry, but I believe they mean playing into the crocodile tears (I could be wrong). I set boundaries and I don’t try to fix her, but I can’t help but weep for her.

    And I too have done the PD research.

    • Jeff S, I understand how your pity for your abuser is different from the unhealthy, re-entrapping ‘feeling sorry for the abuser’. (terrible sentence, sorry.)

      I wonder how much you have the ‘luxury’ of feeling pity for your ex because she isn’t engaging in heaps of post-separation abuse?

      Also, I think your ex probably really does have a personality disorder (or three?). And because of that, it is legitimate to feel pity for her inasmuch as she is trapped in her own prison.

      • “I wonder how much you have the ‘luxury’ of feeling pity for your ex because she isn’t engaging in heaps of post-separation abuse?”

        Absolutely true, and good to point out.

        And thanks for acknowledging the legitimacy of feeling pity.

  7. The only caution I will say about is discussion is we have to be careful when we make lists to recognize there are no absolute behaviors here. Abusive people can learn and mimic whatever they need to to get what they want, while victims can take many shapes and sizes too.

    Seeing and relating to these lists that people are making is helpful and healing for me because I relate to much of it- however, sometimes the traits are the opposite (my ex embraced her mental health diagnosis and then used it to justify her actions, for example).

    I was going to say the one absolute trait of a victim would be honesty, but I don’t even think that’s true. I spent so much time entangled in lies I told myself and others just to be able to believe we were normal, and I remember that coming back to haunt me: “You told us everything was fine- we believed you!”

    The real difference between and abuser and victim is always the goal. Is it a goal of getting what the person is entitled to, or is the goal about a desire to live in peace? And I must admit, I’m not really good a figuring out goals based on what people say. I respect Barbara and Jeff so much for their ability to tell what drives people. I just always want to believe the best in everyone :(

    • Aw, Jeff! You’re cute!

      … however, sometimes the traits are the opposite (my ex embraced her mental health diagnosis and then used it to justify her actions, for example)

      I don’t think you are as alone as you might think in respect of that trait in your ex.
      Memphis, Jodi and Megan have been talking at another post about how their ex-es would repeatedly admit and confess their abusiveness, in order to win admiration and respect from bystanders. The convo starts in the last paragraph of this comment by Memphis.

  8. BIT, the frostbite analogy is great. I don’t have much knowledge of frostbite, but I heard a story the other day of a woman who got multiple lacerations on her fingers (down to the bones) because she put her hand into the blades of a running lawnmower. In the hospital, no amount of morphine touched the pain. But they said to her “That’s a good sign: it shows that your nerves weren’t cut by the mower blades.”

    I think that in recovery from domestic abuse, anger can be a sign that the the veils of false guilt and self-blame are lifting and the survivor is seeing what has really been true all along: that her abuser is a wicked calculating person who has deliberately been trying to destroy her life. (reverse the genders for male victims)

    ANFL suggested difficulty in accepting help as another mark of genuine victims. That sounds pretty correct to me. The exception would be if the help was offered with truly no-strings-attached AND if it was exactly the type of help that the victim needed and could accept at the time.
    For instance, if a trusted friend had offered to come and mow my lawn (or just come and done it, without even asking me) I would have accepted the help with gratitude. But if a neighbour said “Can I take your daughter for a day to give you some time out?” I might have said no, because the custody case wasn’t finalised and if my daughter had told her dad that “Mummy’s not spending time with me; she sent me off to the neighbours for a whole day! ” he would have tried to use that against me in court.

  9. “How about just the look of weariness due to the insomnia and nightmares? A fake victim isn’t going to have those signs at all.” (from ANFL)
    I think that could be a pretty good sign, but let’s not forget that abusers can fake or induce that wrung out look in themselves. For example, I know of one abuser who after his wife separated from him, went on such long fasts that his clothes were just about falling off him. I guess he would have looked haggard and worn from lack of food. Like many ploys of abusers, this one got two birds with one stone. He achieved a haggard look that helped him look like a victim, and he made out he was holy by doing such intense fasting!

    I’m also remembering an abusive man I saw at his contested custody case wearing a really old sweatshirt with holes in it. His wife (who I was supporting) told me it was the most ratty old sweater in his entire wardrobe.
    We’ve probably all see criminals dressed up for court; with some of them, it’s the only time they wear a suit. Dressing down for court might be a ploy of some abusers.

    • Yep, you’re right, Barb. I should retract that. I remember him doing that during the marriage. I’d completely forgotten.

      • Mama Martin

        My husband fasted and looked bad – but unlike Jesus’ command in scripture to do it in secret, everyone seemed to know. When a neighbour commented that my husband did not look good, the pastor has the knowledge to tell her “He wants to look that way.” He also has chosen to be ‘homeless’ – living out of his car, bunking in first with friends and then our children – rather than be responsible and rent or buy himself a place. His work has been very irregular as well – all signs of how much he is ‘suffering’ over my decision to set a boundary and the decision that I would not live with him.

      • Yeah, I’ve heard of many abusers living out of their cars to get sympathy mileage. I heard of one who put up a tent on the railway verge near the family home, after his wife got him to leave. Some abusers would rather do that than go to a homeless men’s house, or a rooming house, or couch surf with friends or family, or get themselves a cheap apartment.
        My first husband always got a proper roof over his head when I wasn’t with him, but he seemed to make a point of not getting basic furniture, to make himself look hard done by. No kitchen table or bench or chair, for instance.
        And never a phone. That was a point of honour, not to have a phone when he was single. He said he hated getting the marketing calls, but really I think he just wanted to remain socially inept and proudly isolated.

      • OHMgosh YES!!! When he was out of the house due to his abuse, he would starve himself, to appear as if all the life was leaving him just like WE did!!!! The last time we saw him, EVERYBODY kept saying how BAD he look…….I at that point just thought to myself “YA well this is like the 10000 time he has looked that way”” Even when trying to divorce him, he on purposely “”went out for a smoke”” then had some sort of “”attack”” and paramedics were called……of course everyone was looking for some sort of reaction from me, “”got none”” he was fine, one of the security officers who had dealt with him before, having to escort him from the court house during an outburst after losing a contested restraining order hearing, the officer came up to me and said he saw all, rolled his eyes and told me “”Better luck next time””, he said “” the smoke from the cigarrette must of just been too much for his feable body”” lol he laughed and walk away, of course he was being ironic, my MIW was by nature NOT a small statured person.

  10. Song

    Healinginprocess reply nailed it on the head for me! These statements are exactly accurate for my situation: “The abusers paint themselves as a noble person trying to work things out with an unforgiving, uncaring, hurtful person.” and “He also tells people I never communiate with him and that was what really hurt our marriage. That is not entirely accurate I tried for a long time it was never heard. After a while I did stop communicating because it fell on deaf ears so it was not worth wasting my breath.”
    Paula”s points are also accurate and Jeff S.’s statement “Abusive people can learn and mimic whatever they need to to get what they want…” is accurate as well. My abuser recited to the counselor almost word for word what I told him I was feeling and experiencing, but he was saying that was his experience and feelings. I think the lengths the abusers will go to to manage their images for the people they want as their allies are varied, but Dr. George Simon, author of “In Sheep’s Clothing”and “Character Disturbance”, does a good job of exposing their tactics.

    I’m so thankful for you all and this discussion.

    • Still scared

      Song, yes, when they twist what you have said and it’s now what is true about them! That is the weirdest thing to have your experience robbed form you. You know it happened, yet he is now claiming roles reversed and you have to, especially in the beginning dig through and find the truth, but who will believe you.

      • Mama Martin

        That is one of the hardest things – when you finally have the courage and knowledge to speak up despite the danger – you are not believed.

    • I know this is kind of an old thread, but I am just now reading some of the newer comments. My husband is just like this -but he has done this “look how much I do without” thing when we were still together. His job moved him to Va. and paid for an apartment and would have paid for furniture, but he refused to get any- I mean, none! He slept on an air mattress( and still does)- I had to make sure he had basic kitchen supplies. He would stop eating dinner and lost a lot of weight. He was always trying to get us to visit him, but I refused because he had nowhere for us to sit or sleep. Finally one time when my son had a LaCrosse tournament in the area- we had to stay there for economic reasons. HIs roommate found out we were coming and he went out and got furniture for us. His roommate did something for people he had never even met that my own husband wouldn’t do! He seemed unphased by this.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Exposed for what it really was. An act. Good lessons learned!

  11. Still scared

    I thought of another one: abusers find scripture and quote it to justify their actions. Victims wrestle with scripture, desire to know god and be right in His sight, to follow Him, not just to prove something. Not that we don’t use scripture to show truth, but not just that, we have wrestled and sought the heart of God.

    • Thank you, SS! That’s a great one. We fear God and fear making a wrong move. We question and wrestle while they seem to just presume to know the mind of God.

    • yep him “”ME DOG WHO RETURN TO VOMIT”” in other words he was justified because he cannot help to like vomit “”YOU, DRIPPING CONTENTIOUS WIFE”” in other words I am the cause of him liking so much vomit. = – ) ME smilin now.

      HE verbally abused me with scripture, if God was right about ME then he was not going to go to Hell for anything. Geez if that came of harsh sounding, well then I guess maybe it is, because my experience WAS!!!

    • Healinginprocess

      Really good point Still Scared. Despite our recent divorce my abuser did and still texts or emails me scripture he feels I should read justifying how I am wrong…even one of the elders and the pastor in the church I had been a member of have given me scripture proving I should not divorce my husband. I on the other hand have read and wrestled with scripture seeking God’s direction for myself and my children. What people don’t realize we have not left our abusers hastily and without much thought…most of us have wrestled with this along time. Your right..”Not that we don’t use scripture to show truth, but not just that,we ahve wrestled and sought the heart of God.”

  12. Barnabasintraining

    That is the weirdest thing to have your experience robbed form you.

    That’s a great way of putting it. I have been involved in conversations where essentially that same thing was done to the victim. The valid accusations she had against him were hijacked and used against her. That all by itself gets me seething. It’s like some sort of play ground bullying tactic.

    • Oh, well said! Yes, have definitely felt that weird feeling.

  13. joepote01

    Good post on a pertinent topic, Barbara! …and lots of good comments, thus far!

    Like Jeff S, I am cautious about lists of defining marks of an abuser, because abusers tend to be very good at deceiving and at imitating the role of a victim. I suspect that Jeff and I may be more cautious due to gender stereotypes…or maybe I’m stereotyping.. ;-)

    At any rate, to me (and I’m no expert) the primary defining mark of an abuser is a sense of entitlement. It may not be obvious, initially, and they may conceal it for a while, but it eventually shows itself.

    By entitlement, I mean that fundamental perspective that others owe them something. No matter how badly they’ve violated their marriage vows, no matter how badly they’ve hurt their spouse, child, or other victim, they are still firmly convinved that they are owed unconditional eternal love and respect. They see love not as a gift given as an act of grace, but as something inherently owed to them.

    • Still scared( but getting angry)

      exactly!!

      • Song

        Yes, the entitlement. It’s really unnerving.

        Still Scared(But Getting Angry) – I like your transformation! :)

    • Just Me

      Joe – Agreed. OR entitled to forgiveness since they said “I’m sorry” even though they’re not truly repentant at all.

      • Mama Martin

        Absolutely correct – and it comes out in actions, not words. The words can be oh, so good, but then the actions…….

      • Healinginprocess

        Joe and Just Me I Agree. They expect they should be forgiven without true repentance. They are good at making themselves look repentant to outsiders who do not understand abuse. My abuser just asked me to go to church with him…I said No. He replied this is the season for forgiving and I have forgiven you for the things I feel you did to me. His way of saying I forgive you so you should forgive me especially since it is Christmastime. Forgiveness takes time and is a process God brings us through for our own good…the seeds of bitterness do not take root and grow into ungliness…it is not a blanket quickly given and then your over and past what has happened so relationships can be quickly restored. People forget forgiveness does not equal restoration…can’t have restoration without TRUE repentance.

    • MeganC

      Jeff S and Joe — I see what you are trying to say. It is, I believe, very important that all of us are able to share our experiences and similarities. It builds camaraderie and helps us all to know that we aren’t crazy (as our abusers would like us to think! “He did that to you? Oh my word! I experienced the same thing!”). At the same time, you are right in that we need to keep (as our foundational assumption) the fact that abusers are, in essence, entitled.

      In substance, I used to describe my ex as “jello” (this is before I realized he was abusing me and before I really had any vocabulary to articulate what was happening to me). He could mold himself into whatever he needed to be, momentarily. He watched and mimicked whomever he needed to watch and mimic in order to be convincing to me and others. . . . In keeping with the jello simile, there was nothing substantial to grab onto, if you got close enough to reach out. So, while we all may have some similarities, not everyone’s “jello” always fits itself into the same jello mold, although they all do share one identifying mark — entitlement.

      • I love it, Megan! That is wonderful!

      • I woke up this morning thinking of one more, and you just touched on it here. It is the reaching out and sharing, building camaraderie. You are important to me. I pray for you guys. I worry about some of you. I feel close to you. I feel understood by you. Now, I know there are so called Father’s Rights groups where obvious abusers try to join arm in arm, but those sites look different, feel different, sound different. My abuser seeks out only those he can use. He surrounds himself with enablers where he is the sole victim, the center of attention. While they may create groups where they can bash and share techniques to learn to be better abusers, we seek out relationships with those who have walked our walk. We seek camaraderie, that intimate relationship in friendship of understanding and being understood. That concept seems to escape them.

      • joepote01

        Very well stated, Megan!

      • Song

        ANFL, I think you’ve identified a very good difference – “We seek camaraderie, that intimate relationship in friendship of understanding and being understood. That concept seems to escape them.”

    • Yep!

    • Joe, you said:

      Like Jeff S, I am cautious about lists of defining marks of an abuser, because abusers tend to be very good at deceiving and at imitating the role of a victim. I suspect that Jeff and I may be more cautious due to gender stereotypes.

      That’s a good point, Joe, and one I think is valid. I don’t think you were stereotyping. :) I’ve got another post in the pipeline about this topic, which I think you’ll find interesting. Oh for more time!

      • joepote01

        Looking forward to it, Barbara!

  14. Belle

    So the topic of entitlement brings a question to my mind. What is the difference between entitlement and reasonable expectations? I expect my thoughts, feelings etc. to be listened to and taken into consideration. I don’t like to be ignored, sneered at, spoken to in a condescending manner, or later my thoughts portrayed by him as his own original thoughts.
    Do I have a sense of entitlement on this?

    • MeganC

      Belle — I think you might be referring to a more covenantal sort of expectation. I think you and I and others give freedom and love to those who cross our paths. We don’t expect for the world to be kind (it has proven to us over and over that it is often incapable — and certainly incapable without Christ). When a kid at school is cruel to my child, I am not shocked. Kids can be cruel. However, when you enter into a covenant, that is (in its essence) setting an expectation. Now, after making a covenant, we have an expectation. We say we will honor our spouse — we have pledged and promised to do so. Sure, we will fail now and then, but we have now TOLD a person that we will honor them. An expectation has been put in place — OF OUR OWN CHOOSING. Entitlement means that an abuser believes he or she owns the other person — that that person is devoid of very basic human freedoms. Does this help?

      • Belle

        Thank you. Yes, you are right. There is an expectation put in place at the beginning of the covenant.

        Recently I heard a husband say something like his wife belonged to him and visa versa. It hit me as all wrong. I see in the O.T. that masters owned their slaves (but even they were told how to treat them, and the slave that ran away wasn’t to be returned to his master.) But the covenant between husband and wife contains none of the language of a slave/master relationship. It is one of love and honor.

      • MeganC

        Yes — exactly, Belle! Love and honor . . . and choice. When we make that covenant, we are choosing to make that covenant. A slave has no choice. And we, being born of promise and not under the law (Gal.3), are free to make that choice to honor and respect each other.

    • joepote01

      Belle, the difference, as I see it, is in the fairness or equality of expectations. I expect both myself and my wife to treat each other with love and respect. I also expect each of us to let the other know if we feel we are being treated with less love and respect that we should be.

      An abuser, however, acts as though the marriage vows to love, honor and cherish are optional for them…or like they are doing someone a huge favor if they choose to abide by their vows. At the same time, they expect their covenant partner to fully live out the covenant vows, no matter how badly those vows have been violated, abused, and misused by the abuser.

      God always uses covenant as an opportunity to bless and enrich. He certainly has expectations of His covenant partners, but God always gives more than He expects in return.

      Satan uses covenant as an opportunity to enslave, abuse, and destroy. He gives only superficially for the purpose of manipulating, deceiving and entrapping.

      Abusers behave in a manner similar to their “…father, Satan, who was a murderer from the beginning.”

      • Belle

        I’ll be thinking about this. Thank you so much

  15. Respect is a reasonable expectation. That you are questioning it and concerned shows that you are not feeling a sense of entitlement. : )

    • joepote01

      So true, ANFL!

    • Belle

      (((hugs))) Thank you.

  16. aspen

    This is the type of post that is very useful for someone who is looking to learn about abuse – what it is like, how it works out in the “mess” of real life. Although I understand Jeff S and JoPote01’s concerns about lists and how they can become “the be all and end all”, so if something occurs that isn’t on the list, people disregard it. However, it is a great starting point. So for a pastor (or family member) who is confronted with abuse for the first time, who is trying to make sense out of two totally contradictory stories that both seem “true” because both sides believe they are telling the truth (and the abuser sure looks like he does), something like this post is very, very useful to try and distinguish between the two. Thank you.

  17. Mama Martin

    It is so, so difficult to tell the victim from the abuser because abusers are such good chameleons – adjusting to and meeting the expectations of others. It one of the skills they have as manipulators while the victim is just floundering. Victims make mistakes that they pay for hugely because of lack of knowledge or distrust of themselves. For me, the major sign to look for (to distinguish a victim from an abuser) is – Whose actions line up with their words? Are the actions of the victim the actions of someone trying to discover the truth, speak the truth, do what God wants? Or are the actions seeking pity, help, empathy, social support against someone else? As has been mentioned, victims are often reluctant to receive help or even to tell of needs because of previous damage and hurt. Often victims need to fight for independence and useful help comes only without expectations attached.

    • Spot on, Mama M. – Whose actions line up with their words?
      That is one of the best questions to divide the sheep from the goats.

  18. Healinginprocess

    Barbara I know you thought you posted this post prematurely but is has been incredibly helpful to so many
    of us…God’s timing is always perfect.

    • Thanks, HIP.
      Wouldn’t it be nice if all my/our mistakes worked out so well?

      Hey, maybe I can pass the buck to God whenever I mess up, and just say to anyone who gets ticked off by my messes, “God will work it all together for good!”

  19. This is Nyssa; the system made me use my WordPress account to comment. Wow, I come here after a long absence and find a whole blog post because of a comment I made… ;)

    Some of the comments here are especially familiar. The sense of entitlement from the ex-friends: I kept apologizing for what sparked their rages, while to this day they insist they did nothing wrong and will not apologize. I wrote the various stories which led me to see them as abusers/NPD/BPD, and about all the pain and anger the abuse caused; their response was, “We got a good laugh” at my writings, and accusations that I am “not all there” and wrote “false facts” and that they have a right to sue me if I go to my priest/church/community for help. They talked like I was just a gossip with a vendetta, rather than an abuse victim with a thirst for justice. I saw evidence that they represented me this way to one of their friends.

    I was expected to do everything they wanted. They, on the other hand, just shot down whatever I wanted. I was supposed to just “deal with it” if their actions upset me. And they got very upset that I would tell my husband what was going on. Their words to me on the day of the rage episode were, “Don’t go crying to [my husband], because we don’t need the headache.” Now they’re very upset that I told my story publicly.

    I have anger because I know I don’t deserve all this. I need the knowledge of personality disorders–even if undiagnosed–to help keep me from internalizing their accusations. It is a daily struggle: The thoughts keep coming back, am I imagining all of this, are they good people whom I’ve falsely accused? I wrote my story not just to get it all out, but to remember, keep it all straight, keep false nostalgia from luring me into going to them with apologies yet again.

    I also worry sometimes because, before I had a chance to tell my priest about their threats and accusations, so I could get his help and counsel, they went to him and told him their side. I don’t know what they said, because it is, of course, confidential, and I couldn’t hear it. Though I caught what sounded like “self-righteous.” My husband called it “poisoning the well” because I go to this church, they don’t, but they seem to have wanted to turn even my own priest against me, make him doubt what they knew I was about to tell him. I hope he can tell the difference between the fake and real victims. I have been going to my priest with this problem ever since the abuse first began several years ago, though until now, I kept it very vague and brief.

    My abusers knew that if they started coming to my church regularly, I would go to the priest for help, because in such a tiny church I couldn’t tolerate being so close to my abusers all the time. So they threatened me with a defamation suit and poisoned the well…oh, and said they were going to start coming all the time. They didn’t carry either threat through, but they do read my blog every week. I told my priest everything, just as I said I would, but they can’t sue me for that. Empty threats. There is also a criminal conviction against one of them, for choking his daughter; I see it as proof that I’m *not* the crazy one, that he really is violent and I have reason to feel my safety is threatened.

    • Nice to hear from you again, Nyssa. You’ve got some pretty determined abusers, by the sounds of it. Your husband’s phrase – ‘poisoning the well’ – is very apt; many abusers do this. They try to win over the victim’s friends, family and support network by spreading slander and misinformation about the victim, to diminish the victim’s chance of being believed. So glad to hear your husband is standing with you.

  20. Jenny Jolly

    Wow. I just found your site. I left an abusive marriage 5 years ago. He was on staff as an assistant “pastor” at the time. I am amazed at all the parallels I am reading. There truly is nothing new under the sun, is there?

    • Welcome to our blog, Jenny. Great to have you here. An abusive husband having the title of Assistant Pastor or Senior Pastor is indeed not new to us. We have a number of readers and people in contact with us who are, or have been, married to such men. Hope to hear more of your story, as you hang around here. Sending you a welcoming (((hug))) too. :)

    • Jeff Crippen

      Welcome Jenny! Nope, there’s nothing new when it comes to evil, and the abuser is probably the most perfect example of evil to be found. You aren’t the first to join us here who has been married to one parading as a Christian, or even as a pastor. Read on and be free!

  21. Now Free

    I just came across this post and can relate to it in a huge way. Thank you, Barb. In my experience, after I finally left my abusive husband, he sent out letters, phone calls, etc. telling people I was unwell in mind and body, and apparently even suicidal, etc. I haven’t lied about him, and find it difficult to tell others about his abuse, feeling that shame and blame will be heaped on me.

    I just want to move on with my life but the legal wheels have been grinding very slowly. He’s been so dishonest that it’s resulted in a standstill. One thing I’ve tried to do is be the best person I can, and that means having a close relationship with God, trying to help other abused victims, hopefully staying healthy by eating well, walking ( the weather will get milder soon!), dressing and keeping myself neat and well-groomed and just not looking like a victim. People might say to me “You look good”, but that doesn’t mean I am not suffering. Maybe my abuser is putting on a huge front to try to have others think that he is the victim but that’s his business. I don’t want to stoop to his level.

  22. Anne

    This has really encouraged me tonight. Two years ago, (after 20 years of trying to figure out what was wrong, trying to get help and being told it was me, and finally finding some good books that gave me the answers I’ve been desperately begging God for), I woke up. I’ve spent the last two years beating my head against a wall with church pastors, elders, and professional counselors who keep telling me I’m assuming things and making a mountain out of a molehill. Exactly what my “nice” husband tells me regularly. My husband is a covert, verbal abuser. As in, EXTREMELY covert. Super nice in every way. But never wrong about anything. Never sorry. Everything, and I mean everything, is always my fault. I’ve been told I’m surely exaggerating, etc.. The last counselor we went to (me ‘dragging’ him) told me I was an angry woman and needed to deal with my anger before my husband could deal with his issues. I left the room weeping – and those two men quietly and nicely watched me walk out. I’ve also spent the last two years getting stronger. Leslie Vernick has coached me for 9 months. Because I’m a fighter, I really struggle with self-doubt. Maybe it IS my fault? Maybe I AM making a mountain out of a mole hill. Maybe if I just overlooked and let things go – my husband wouldn’t feel threatened and would love me. When I read the title of this post, I clicked over with FEAR. Fear that I would discover that I am a pretend victim. That I am the real abuser. My husband has told me that I am. I’ve gotten so angry I’ve sworn. I’ve yelled. He would never swear. He’s too nice. (He does yell, but only when I “drive him to it.”) I’ve wanted to kill myself more times than I can count over the years. I’ve also prayed God would take my husband’s life. I know that is a horrible thing to pray, but there have been times I’ve felt so low I couldn’t see any other way out. Now I know I have choices. Hard choices, but choices to either stay or leave. I’m looking into a legal separation. I know I will get more flack from my church (guess what church I go to…!!!), and I still fight the feeling that I am the bad person – destroying my marriage (I was told that by a helpful elder) and “beating” my husband with words. (They are words of truth, but because my husband can’t accept any kind of feedback, they are seen as “beating” words even though they are simply my telling him what hurts and asking him to stop.) It is hard to stop believing the lies, but it is websites like this that I keep reading that remind me of the truth and give me courage to keep moving forward. I have a friend who is abused in much worse ways than I am. Our church is doing next to nothing to help. They refuse to discipline any of these men – but encourage all victims (women) (including ones with broken bones) to forgive and be “like Christ” for the glory of God. It honestly makes me want to vomit. This is the first time I’ve ever left a comment on a blog like this. Honestly, it scares me to do it. But as time goes on, I’m finding myself braver, and I like it.

    • Anne, WELCOME! It must have taken a lot of courage to submit this comment! Brave you! Well done!

      You are not to blame. You are not the abuser. It is not your fault. You are not crazy.

      I’m glad you have found Leslie Vernick’s coaching helpful. :)

      Thank you so much for sharing here.
      This:

      When I read the title of this post, I clicked over with FEAR. Fear that I would discover that I am a pretend victim. That I am the real abuser

      is so exactly the way all us survivors have thought. You put it so well into words. Fear grabs us when we read a title of a post. Fear grabs us when we get a letter in the letter box. Fear grabs us when we go to a DV support service, or phone a hotline. Fear grabs us when _____ [fill the blank] . . . so many things can trigger us into panic! Thank you thank you for saying it how it is! Bless you and hugs abundant and looking forward to more comments from you!

      If you would care to share with me privately what church you go to, email me at barbara@notunderbondage.com. But no pressure. :)

  23. IamMyBeloved's

    Hi Anne – Well let me take a stab in the dark and guess the kind of church you go to is either a Family Integrated or a Reformed of some type.

    BTW, I think that the majority of us have had fear, just as Barb said, wondering “Is it ME?” Most victims of abuse have heard that for so long from their abuser, they just doubt themselves all the way around. Abusers masquerade so very well. It is hard to break through all of that, but with time and God’s abundant grace, you will stabilize in the truth. You are not crazy.

    So glad you came over and joined us here!

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