This is what my hair looks like right now. Same color and everything. I know I need to get a haircut soon, but I like having long hair. Plus it's cool to put in a side braid. Forget all the trending bobs and lobs! Who's with me? (Check out Taylor Patterson's locks. Rockin' it!)
So what's the mentality of an abuser? Lundy Bancroft is an expert on this topic. He has worked to heal abusive men for 15 years. He knows what makes them tick and wrote about it in his book, Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. Bancroft tells their story from his perspective and also includes quotes from abusers themselves. I totally recommend it for other survivors of domestic abuse, if you're curious. (Bancroft refers to abusers in his book as men, as most abusers are male, but they can be either male or female.)
A few things I learned from the book:
"An abuser's core problem is that he has a distorted sense of right and wrong" (p. 35). "Their value system is unhealthy, not their psychology" (38). Beliefs, values, and habits are the driving forces of abusive or controlling behavior (48).
Is an abuser born or made? Bancroft says it's the latter. "Abuse springs from a man's early cultural training, his key male role models, and his peer influences" (75). So, for instance, if you're a male and your male family members are abusive, there's a good chance you'll be abusive too. Society plays a role as well: "Abusive behavior is reinforced by multiple social messages, some of which are specific to the abuse of women and some of which reflect the overall culture of oppression" (333).
One of the most enlightening things I've learned about abusers, though, is that their abusive behavior extends to everyone. They may not show much of it to a stranger, but are most abusive to those closest to them, particularly their partners who they view as "theirs."
Let's school some verbs. The Grammar and Style course's lectures for week three covered main types of verbs and their subtypes and aspects. Some verb types are pretty confusing to decipher because they are so similar, including the gerund and present participle, and phrasal verbs and verbal phrases. It would be great to go through what these types are, along with some info on the secretive passive voice.
Present participles and gerunds are verbs ending in -ing. However, a gerund always functions as a noun. (I thought all words ending in -ing were gerunds, so it's nice to know the difference.) For example, "swimming" in "Swimming can be good" is a gerund, and "riding" in "I am riding north" is a present participle. As you can see, a present participle contains a helping verb; in the example, the helping verb is "am."
The terms "phrasal verbs" and "verbal phrases" are so similar I thought it important to distinguish the difference. Phrasal verbs consist of a main (finite) verb and a preposition or adverb integral to the meaning of the verb. Phrasal verbs include "climb up," "turn on," "add up," "back up," back down," "call in," among others. A verbal phrase is trickier to distinguish because it contains a non-finite verb and the words modifying it. So you'll need to know what non-finite verbs are (present and past participles, gerund, and infinitive). Here's an example of a verbal phrase: "When examinedcarefully, the substance did not seem harmful." "Examined" is the past participle, and "carefully" is the adverb modifying the verb.
Whew, that was tricky. Now onto the passive voice, which is when a subject is acted upon in a sentence. Teachers taught me to avoid the passive voice when writing, which in general is correct, as it's better to stick to the active voice. Yet, there is a type of passive voice, called the impersonal passive, that is acceptable when used intentionally in certain circumstances, particularly in business/work settings. Examples include, "It was decided...," and "It was agreed...," which soften the tone of the message.
Harvard Square Eye Care in Boston is a small hip shop with a diverse selection of frames. After perusing the city for eyeglasses with no luck, I decided to try this place. I turned off of the busy square onto a quaint side street, and a ways down, there it was. A female clerk was super helpful and friendly, and I managed to find the perfect professional-looking metal pair.
Two years later, I am kinda feeling all the cool larger frames out there (à la Frannerd :). What do you think, dear reader? Do you own two pairs, one formal, the other more casual?
This recent PSA from NoMore.org got me thinking about my own experience in an abusive relationship, and how difficult it can be to get help. A simple phone call can become so troublesome with a demanding partner controlling your every move.
Every abusive relationship is different from the next. Levels of abuse vary and it's quite complicated to wrap your head around. If you'd like to learn more about domestic violence, there are so many great resources (see my recommendations here). Domestic violence can lead to physical and mental harm, so it's important to be able to recognize not only physical but emotional and verbal abuse as well.
I was naive when I fell prey to my abuser. It was my first relationship I'd ever been in; I thought domestic abuse was only physical; and I had no idea what emotional abuse was. Hence, I believe knowing what is unhealthy and taking healthy steps to avoid an unhealthy relationship are key.
This is by no means an extensive preventative list, but rather my own personal tips that I think are worth sharing.
1. Be friends first. Take things slow. I think this goes for any relationship, really. Take time to really get to know someone. Do a variety of activities together so you can get a feel for how they act in different environments. Are you comfortable with them, or do you feel uncomfortable at times? I have the three-strike rule: If I feel uncomfortable with someone on three separate occasions, for any reason, I end the relationship. If I'm uncomfortable with someone that much, then it's likely a bad match. It can get ridiculous with giving people second, third, fourth chances (guilty!) so at some point you have to draw the line.
2. Talk often about the relationship with someone you trust. They say love is blind, and in a relationship you can sometimes get caught up in the whirlwind of the romance. Talking to someone you trust can enlighten you about what's going on in your relationship. They may confirm that something is off, so talking regularly with them is a deterrent for abusers. It's ideal to analyze and reflect on a relationship at all stages, but it's especially important during the beginning stage. The abuser may be extra-nice as they reel you in, but eventually they can't help but trip up and show their controlling side.
3. Don't ditch your friends/family. Another deterrent for abusers is actually spending time with others. Chances are people who know and love you will recognize changes in your behavior characteristic of abuse victims, such as low self-esteem, sadness, or fear. In addition, your schedule shouldn't change dramatically to your partner's benefit and your loss; keep socializing, taking "me time," and being active outside of your relationship.
4. Take note of red flags. It's imperative to recognize the red flags—signs of abuse—right away. The power and control wheel is a good source to study. When I was in love with my abuser, I was driven more so by my emotions than objective reason. Be sure to take red flags very seriously.
I woke up at 4am just as I did every day for my job. I got myself ready for my two-hour commute to work. I checked Facebook and my boyfriend's profile. He listed himself suddenly as Single.
I managed to get myself to work, despite devastation in my chest, in my heart. I felt sick. Sick with sadness. How could he do this and not tell me? Why didn't he call me? I don't exactly remember that day, but it involved crying after work. I remember I was "really sad" because I wrote that to him in a Facebook message a week or so later. Still no word from him, still silent.
Then a few weeks after this one-sided break-up, he sent me a Facebook message in letter form. "Elizabeth," it started. He knew I hated when people addressed me like that in a message. He put quotation marks around a ton of words about me, to convey that I was fake. He basically said I was a bad person and, of course, he put a ridiculous religious spin on it. I read the letter and was utterly confused. None of it made sense. I had my dad read it. He agreed. Ok, so I'm not crazy.
After receiving the meanest message in my life, I cut off all contact with my ex. Depression ensued. Physical pain pursued. Life was over, I thought. What happened? What did I do wrong?
It took a while, but I managed to have a better outlook on life. I realized he was all wrong. He was my abuser. I didn't do anything wrong. I like to know and understand things. Not understanding things in the relationship has been a struggle for me to accept. My health is worse off than it was pre-break-up. Life isn't easy; the world is unfair. But I have to intend to matter. We all do.