Some people want to be seen as victims so they claim they are abused. Others refuse to see the abuse because they don’t want to be a victim or they think the behavior is normal.  So what is abuse? We will discuss it in detail in this episode.

Show Notes:

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References for this episode:
TheHotline.org
Spiritual Abuse

Show Summary:

I hear a lot from clients that they are being abused.  I also hear a lot of behaviors from clients when they don’t realize they are being abused.

So today I wanted to address this topic.

It’s a hot button topic. A buzzword. Some people want to be seen as victims so they claim they are abused. Others refuse to see the abuse because they don’t want to be a victim or they think it is normal. 

So what is abuse? According to thehotline.org, abuse is a pattern of behavior used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in a relationship.

It can happen to anyone.  It doesn’t matter if you are married, living together, or even dating.  It affects people of all races, sexes, religion, gender, socioeconomic backgrounds, and education.

Abuse doesn’t look the same in every relationship because every relationship is different.  But one thing most abusive relationships have in common is that the abusive partner does MANY things to have more power and control over their partner.

Abuse can include behaviors that:

  • physically harm 
  • arouse fear
  • prevent a partner from doing what they wish or 
  • force them to behave in ways they do not want.  

It includes the use of physical or sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivations.  Many of these different forms of abuse can be occurring at any one time within the same relationship.

Tactics

Economic Abuse:

  • Preventing her from getting or keeping a job
  • Making her ask for money
  • Giving her an allowance
  • Taking her money from her
  • Not letting her know about or have access to family income.

Using Male Privilege:

  • Treating her like a servant
  • Making all the big decisions
  • Acting like the master of the castle
  • Being the one to define mens and women roles

Using Children

  • Make her feel guilty about the children
  • Using the children to relay messages
  • Using the visitation to harass her
  • Threatening to take away or harm the children

Coercion and threats:

  • making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt you/someone you love
  • Threatening to leave
  • Threatening to commit suicide
  • To report her to child welfare
  • Making her drop charges
  • Making her do illegal things

Intimidation:

  • Making her afraid by using looks, actions or gestures
  • Smashing things
  • Destroying her property
  • Abusing pets
  • Displaying weapons

Emotional Abuse

  • Putting her down
  • Making her feel bad about herself
  • Calling her names
  • Making her think she’s crazy (gaslighting)
  • Playing mind games
  • Humiliating her
  • Making her feel guilty

Isolation

  • Controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, what she reads, where she goes
  • Limiting her outside involvement
  • Using jealousy to justify actions

Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming

  • Making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns seriously
  • Saying the abuse didn’t happen
  • Shifting responsibility for abusive behavior
  • Saying she caused it

Warning signs

Again, this is from thehotline.org.  They say it’s not always easy to tell at the beginning of the relationship if it will become abusive.  A lot of partners seem absolutely perfect at the early stages of the relationship, and possessive and controlling behaviors emerge as the relationship grows and intensifies.

Some of the signs of an abusive relationship include a partner who:

  • Tells you that you can never do anything right
  • Shows extreme jealousy of your friends and time spent away
  • Keeps you or discourages you from seeing friends or family members
  • Insults, demeans or shames you with put-downs
  • Controls every penny spent in the household
  • Takes your money or refuses to give you money for necessary expenses
  • Looks at you or acts in ways that scare you
  • Controls who you see, where you go, or what you do
  • Prevents you from making your own decisions
  • Tells you that you are a bad parent or threatens to harm or take away your children
  • Prevents you from working or attending school
  • Destroys your property or threatens to hurt or kill your pets
  • Intimidates you with guns, knives or other weapons
  • Pressures you to have sex when you don’t want to or do things sexually you’re not comfortable with
  • Pressures you to use drugs or alcohol

“Spiritual abuse includes exercising unrighteous control, dominion, or compulsion.” 

“Each husband, each father, should ask some questions of himself to see if he may be on the borderline of unrighteous dominion:

  1. Do I criticize family members more than I compliment them?
  2. Do I insist that family members obey me because I am the father or husband and hold the priesthood?
  3. Do I seek happiness more at work or somewhere other than in my home?
  4. Do my children seem reluctant to talk to me about some of their feelings and concerns?
  5. Do I attempt to guarantee my place of authority by physical discipline or punishment?
  6. Do I find myself setting and enforcing numerous rules to control family members?
  7. Do family members appear to be fearful of me?
  8. Do I feel threatened by the notion of sharing with other family members the power and responsibility for decision making in the family?
  9. Is my wife highly dependent on me and unable to make decisions for herself?
  10. Does my wife complain that she has insufficient funds to manage the household because I control all the money?
  11. Do I insist on being the main source of inspiration for each individual family member rather than teaching each child to listen to the Spirit?
  12. Do I often feel angry and critical toward family members?

“If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then we may need to evaluate our relationship with our family members. For one who holds the priesthood, the best test as to whether he is trying to control the lives of family members can be found by examining his relationship with the Lord. If a man feels a reduction or withdrawal of the Holy Ghost (manifested by contention, disunity, or rebellion), he may know that he is exercising unrighteous dominion” (“Unrighteous Dominion,” Ensign, July 1989, 10–11). Elder H Burke Peterson)

I talk a lot on this podcast about dropping expectations and just loving your spouse and the people in your life.  But in no way am I ever saying that you should put up with someone mistreating you.  If someone is mistreating you then you should absolutely remove yourself from the situation, or at the very least set some boundaries for yourself and have a safety plan.

The Hotline Suggests the Following if you are living with a physically abusive partner:

  • Identify your partner’s use and level of force so that you can assess the risk of physical danger to you and your children before it occurs.
  • Identify safe areas of the house where there are no weapons and there are ways to escape. If arguments occur, try to move to those areas.
  • Don’t run to where the children are, as your partner may hurt them as well.
  • If violence is unavoidable, make yourself a small target. Dive into a corner and curl up into a ball with your face protected and arms around each side of your head, fingers entwined.
  • If possible, have a phone accessible at all times and know what numbers to call for help. Know where the nearest public phone is located. Know the phone number to your local shelter. If your life is in danger, call the police.
  • Let trusted friends and neighbors know of your situation and develop a plan and visual signal for when you need help.
  • Teach your children how to get help. Instruct them not to get involved in the violence between you and your partner. Plan a code word to signal to them that they should get help or leave the house.
  • Tell your children that violence is never right, even when someone they love is being violent. Tell them that neither you, nor they, are at fault or are the cause of the violence, and that when anyone is being violent, it is important to stay safe.
  • Practice how to get out safely. Practice with your children.
  • Plan for what you will do if your children tells your partner of your plan or if your partner otherwise finds out about your plan.
  • Keep weapons like guns and knives locked away and as inaccessible as possible.
  • Make a habit of backing the car into the driveway and keeping it fueled. Keep the driver’s door unlocked and others locked — for a quick escape.
  • Try not to wear scarves or long jewelry that could be used to strangle you.
  • Create several plausible reasons for leaving the house at different times of the day or night.

If you have a partner who is emotionally abusive, it is also important to have a safety plan.  The hotline suggests

Seek Out Supportive People: A caring presence such as a trusted friend or family member can help create a calm atmosphere to think through difficult situations and allow for you to discuss potential options.

Identify and Work Towards Achievable Goals: An achievable goal might be calling a local resource and seeing what services are available in your area, or talking to one of our advocates at The Hotline. Remember that you don’t have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with right now, but taking small steps can help options feel more possible when you are ready.

Create a Peaceful Space for Yourself: Designating a physical place where your mind can relax and feel safe can be good option when working through difficult emotions that can arise when dealing with abuse. This can be a room in your house, a spot under your favorite tree, a comfy chair by a window or in a room with low lights.

Remind Yourself of Your Great Value: You are important and special, and recognizing and reminding yourself of this reality is so beneficial for your emotional health. It is never your fault when someone chooses to be abusive to you, and it has no reflection on the great value you have as person.

Remember That You Deserve to Be Kind to Yourself: Taking time to practice self-care every day, even if it is only for a few minutes, really creates space for peace and emotional safety. It’s healthy to give yourself emotional breaks and step back from your situation sometimes. In the end, this can help you make the decisions that are best for you.

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