Sweet Talkers: How Abusers Use Their Charm
Verbal abuse is a form of emotional manipulation wherein the perpetrator uses various methods to make their victims question their once very confident selves. That’s the first thing you need to remember, if you feel like you’re no longer the person you believed yourself to be, or see your friend slipping away from how you once knew him or her, start listening closely. Find out if you are verbally abused:
- Undeniable charm. Perpetrators are often very charming in public and this makes it hard to believe when someone tells you that they’re not being treated properly. They seem to flatter you but criticize you to no end (e.g., “You look so pretty today. You’ll look better if you lost some of that hideous fat!). Their charm therefore comes as ammunition.
- Isolation and fear. Abusers can say things like, “please don’t talk about me with your friends”, “I’d rather not spend time with your family”, and “Why don’t we just spend time together, just you and me”. These are mostly ploys to isolate you. And with isolation comes a verbal declaration that will instill fear. Simply put, abusers bully and make you feel guilty.
- Blames and hurts purposively. An abusive personality finds ways to hurt you purposely. They will look into anything and everything they can find to also put the blame on you (e.g., “Why didn’t you tell me that yesterday? Now our plans are messed up and it’s all your fault!”).
- Feeds on guilt. Be careful when you start to question your motives and feel guilty for doing so, an emotionally abusive personality tends to feed this.
- Gets physical. Sooner or later all these verbal outbursts are bound to get physical. If you find yourself doing a dance with an emotionally abusive person, don’t wait for the scars to manifest themselves on you, call for help now.
The Cycle of Abusive Relationships
by Dr. Boboy Sze Alianan
For many years, Agnes painfully admitted being physically, verbally and emotionally abused by her ex-husband. She managed to separate from him, and is currently living overseas. “Every time he hurt me,” she reported, “he apologized and acted really repentant.” And this often led her to take him back, believing what he told her that only she can make him better. After all, he promised never to hurt her again. And she believed him. Only thing is, he did it again. In fact, he did it again, and again, and again in the 12 years they were together.
Women like Agnes often have a hard time seeing what appears to be obvious for many who see the relationship from outside looking in. Somehow, they find reason to believe that they were helping their partners become better persons. Others see themselves as martyrs who need to suffer in order to fulfil their purpose in life, in being saviors to their men. Yet others believe that they are meant to stay married for life, despite and in spite of their suffering. Still others mistakenly think that having an intact family is ultimately still better for their children, even as the children, whose interests they are so concerned about, often witness the abuse first hand.
Like Agnes, the road to emancipation from the clutches of an abusive relationship is a long and arduous task. There are generally 4 stages that battered women go through before they start taking care of themselves fully. These stages can be loosely summarized as follows: 1) denial; 2) guilt; 3) enlightenment and 4) responsibility. Not all abused women go through all these stages, and some feel extremely powerless to move along and get stuck in one stage or another.
The first is denial. For the longest time, battered women are in denial that they are being abused. They may even erroneously think that this is typical of any relationship. Those in this stage sincerely believe that abusive episodes are isolated and will not happen again. They create excuses why their partners had hurt them in specific instances.
The second stage is guilt. At this stage, battered women realize that abuse situations are not isolated and it can happen again. However, they also think that they were at fault in those situations. They must have provoked their partners, and perceive that they actually deserve being hurt. Thus, these women try very hard to live up to their partners’ expectations, albeit futile in their partners’ eyes.
The next stage is enlightenment. Women become convinced that being abused is not due to their own, but because of their partners’ errors. They realize that it is their partners’ fault and being hurt and put down can no longer be justified. Nevertheless, women in this stage still harbor the hope that their partners will change for the better. As such, they stay in the relationship.
Responsibility is the final stage in this difficult process. Battered women come to realize the fact that nothing they do or say will ever change their partners. Only he can change himself, and this will only happen if he realizes the error of his ways. This is often the stage when women leave their partners to start anew.
It took 12 long years of suffering for Agnes to start admitting that she was powerless in changing her husband. She soon found out that she can live separately from him and recreate her life. She was afraid, but she took a leap of faith. She knows that this decision took some years to make. At that point, she felt that she had nothing to lose. In so doing, she also began to assist her children in rebuilding their lives and their sense of family. In the safety of a different environment and in the company of supportive extended family and friends, they are learning to live as a real family.