I was inspired/prompted to write this post because of my previous post, 24 Ways To Manage Anger. Anger is something we all have to learn to control appropriately, but there are those among us who choose to control it by selectively targeting people to take it out on: domestic abusers. Although most domestic abuse has little to do with anger.
We’re all pretty well informed on female targets of domestic violence, but have less understanding of what exactly is domestic abuse. It’s also not just women who are targeted, men and people of other gender identities can be the target of domestic abuse as well.
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (ONS), in the year ending in March 2019, an estimated 3.8% of men (786,000) and 7.5% of women (1.6 million) experienced domestic abuse. Put another way, that equates to approximately 4 in 100 men and 7 in 100 women.
Furthermore, the ManKind Initiative states that in 2017/18, nearly half of men who have been abused are too ashamed to tell anyone they’ve been a target of domestic abuse: only 51% tell anyone.
Thus, I thought I’d share my own story of finding myself the target of domestic abuse in order to help spread awareness. I’ve had two experiences of domestic abuse, both conducted by female perpetrators, and only one of them involved violence.
Domestic Abuse: My First Experience
My first was from my partner at the time who didn’t know how to deal with a family situation (parents divorce). Thus, looking for an outlet for the emotions they didn’t know how to deal with, I became the target to let it out. My partner would constantly try to start fighting with me. They would scream at me in the hopes I would engage in the same way they were, but I wouldn’t. I wasn’t interested in starting a shouting match because that wouldn’t make the situation any better.
Instead, I’d either stay silent and wait for them to settle down once they realised I wouldn’t engage, or I’d tell them calmly that I wouldn’t talk to them about whatever it was they were screaming about until they’d calmed down so we could talk about it properly and figure it out.
They would carry on for a while screaming at me, trying to goad me into screaming back, but I never did. That’s when they would start to hit me instead, and I would just take it until they calmed down. 99.99% of the time the reason for them trying to drag me into a shouting match had nothing to do with me, but I was the only available target to vent the emotions they were unable to deal with.
One time they even beat me in my sleep, because I feel asleep. I only fell asleep because I had taken my sleeping tablets, but for some reason, even knowing this, this was the time they wanted my attention. But when the pills kicked in, I could no longer give them that attention anymore due to falling asleep.
Furthermore, when I started to want to do some stuff just for myself for a change, to engage in some self-care, they ended the relationship. I’d only taken a few hours to play a video game, which I hadn’t done in months.
Domestic Abuse: My Second Experience
A friend I used to live with before I moved to go to university, out of nowhere, reached out to me after some 10 years of never seeing or talking to each other. So we arrange to meet and catch up.
We started meeting over a series of weekends covering a few months, and it was then that I started to find out about the abusive relationship they had been in for the last few years. They also told me how they’d been getting treatment for heroin use.
15% of men and 26% of women aged 16 to 59 have experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16, equivalent to an estimated 2.4 million male victims and 4.3 million female victims - Mankind.org.uk Click To Tweet
Not only did they have an abusive ex-partner, but they also had an abusive childhood, at the hands of a violently drunk abusive father. They also blamed themselves for their father’s death, even though it wasn’t their fault in any shape or form. I tried long and hard to convince them of this but to no avail.
This meant that they had a long history of being abused.
After hearing all this, I offered to help. I said they could move across the country and stay with me, and I’d help them get back on their feet.
At first, everything seemed fine when they were coming over to visit. I even noticed positive behavioural changes to the behaviours that had been warped as a result of the abuse they’d suffered. They used to shake in absolute terror when they thought they’d done something wrong.
One time they broke the showerhead and came into my room shaking in fear, crying, and apologising. I told them it was no big deal and I’d get a new one the following day. Then I did my best to comfort them, telling them over and over again that this wasn’t something worth getting angry or upset about, and that it was all ok.
There were a lot of instances like this, but after a few months, they adjusted to this being how people should behave when such things happened. It was actually nice to see these changes happen before my eyes when they stopped shaking and crying when something went wrong. When making a simple and trivial mistake, remained something trivial and insignificant.
It wasn’t until after they came to stay with me that I realised there was a lot more going on. Within a couple of weeks of staying with me, I became aware that they had a drinking problem.
They weren’t addicted, per se, they just needed to be wasted to cope, switching from heroin to alcohol. The reason why I say that they weren’t addicted, per se, was because they were self-medicating, seeking intoxication of any substance to avoid dealing with their trauma. But it didn’t matter what the substance was, just its availability. Basically, they were addicted to being intoxicated, rather than to a specific substance.
When they were with their abusive ex, it was heroin. But when they were visiting and staying with me, it was alcohol. Due to there being no availability of heroin. Because of this, they came off heroin and methadone within a few months of us first catching up, and within two weeks of staying with me.
Once I realised they had a self-medicating drinking problem, it didn’t take me long to realise they were using me in order to avoid dealing with their issues. They had no interest in getting professional support, to move out (even though I’d been looking for a place for them to live), or to find work.
I say this because when they were living at home with their family they couldn’t leave the house for fear of bumping into their abusive ex. Which meant no heroin, and no access to alcohol. But when they reached out to me and I offered to try and help, they now had access to alcohol to self-medicate.
Once they moved in, this was when the problems between us started to develop. Not long before they reached out to me and we met up for the first time, problems with my heart had started to manifest (My Experience Of Being In One-To-One Schema Therapy). This would make this situation that I was about to find myself in extra difficult for me to handle.
This was long before I was put on medication that would stop my chest pains. At the time it felt like someone was repeatedly kicking the inside of my rib cage, which only got worse with stress. Being in this situation where I was trying to help my friend was so bad, I’d be unable to sleep and became bedridden due to the stress-induced chest pains.
As you can imagine, living with someone who has a drinking problem, who’s using you and manipulating you, whilst you’re in near-constant pain, wasn’t a good mix. I was constantly burnt out, and emotionally and psychologically messed up.
They said they would like to get help with their drinking, so we tried doing some controlled drinking. The aim wasn’t to become abstinent but to be able to drink responsibly instead. They also agreed to go to a substance abuse service, and I looked into activities they said they enjoyed doing. I managed to find a few of these activities in the area, to help give them something to do and to look forward to.
25.7%, or about 1 in 4 men, have also experienced physical assault by a partner sometime in their life Click To Tweet
However, instead of going to the substance abuse service or going to the activities, they would just go drinking instead. Basically, any time they weren’t around me they were drinking to get drunk. If they took their bag to the bathroom, that meant they had booze in their bag. If they took their bag to the kitchen to cook, then that meant they had booze in their bag. You get the picture. They had painfully obvious indicators that they were drinking, and I told them each painfully obvious indicator they had. But it didn’t stop them, and instead, they’d lie about it
One thing I believe is that you don’t want to give up something if you can’t stop lying about it, especially when you’ve clearly been caught. You’re more likely to recover from addiction if you can be honest about your real intake. When you can be honest about this, then you know they’re actually wanting to change, and it doesn’t matter so much if they lapse, what matters is that they are genuinely trying.
This constant lying and the distrust that grew because of this wasn’t healthy at all. Especially seeing as their personality would become abusive when they drank. You could smell it on their breath, and given that we both knew that they had booze in their bag to sneak off to drink, it wasn’t difficult to prove it.
This situation was bringing out things in me I didn’t like. The stress of it all was also making my life miserable, due to my heart problems. I was really struggling to cope.
If they’d at least wanted to work on their issues I would have put up with the problems it was causing me so I could be there for them. But they had no interest in changing. I gave them chance after chance to at least show me they wanted to change, but they didn’t show me anything.
I was only willing to put myself through the constant physical and psychological pain and discomfort in order to support them, if they at least wanted to change.
But instead, all I got was lies and manipulation. This played on me and on my mental health insecurities. I didn’t like what being around them was making me, nor how bad it was for my physical health. My borderline personality disorder and attachment problems already make it difficult for me to connect with people at the best of times, but this was next level trust issues.
I didn’t want to have to keep confronting them about their drinking, because I was scared of returning home to more drunken abuse. I didn’t want to have to expose their lies by showing them the bottles of booze they hid in the hopes that might make them change. All this because I didn’t want to have to deal with them being abusive and drunk in my own home: I had lost my only safe space. But I did those things, and it felt like I was becoming an abusive and controlling person.
So even though the original plan was to first help them get off heroin, then help them find a place to live and a job. Whilst at the same time introducing them to new people so they could make new friends. I had to walk away. Being around them was creating a toxic environment that I hated.
Unfortunately, plans fail. I’d never been in a situation like this before, where I distrusted someone so completely, whilst simultaneously knowing and being able to prove that they’re lying to me. Fortunately, the toxic situation hasn’t repeated itself. I rarely, if ever, doubt my current partner. It’s an equal, healthy partnership.
But I tried my best because I wanted to help them live a better life, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was so miserable, which wasn’t helped by my counsellor at the time. The counsellor I was seeing turned their back on me when I needed help with managing this situation (My Experience Of Being In One-To-One Schema Therapy). I just couldn’t be in that situation any longer because it was making me act in ways I really didn’t like.
When I couldn’t take the drunken abuse, the lies, and the manipulation anymore, I asked them to move back in with their family. I had hoped this might at least galvanise them to work on the issues they were trying to hide through self-medication. But instead, they found themselves a live-in nanny job with a single father, within a few weeks of leaving mine.
When they called to tell me this news from this new home, they were clearly drunk. I could always tell when they were drunk just by the way they talked. I could tell when they’d been drinking by subtle changes even during their initial tipsy stage.
This made me extremely worried about the children they were meant to be looking after. The quick change of address, if you ask me, was so they could continue self-medicating with alcohol, which they couldn’t do as easily when staying with their family again, due to their abusive ex.
But not only that, I was worried about what might happen to them as they’d been sexually abused by people they called friends when intoxicated before. So I was really hoping that getting drunk in a stranger’s home when they can get abusive when drunk, wouldn’t lead to them getting hurt and adding more trauma to the list.
I just want to state that alcohol wasn’t the cause of them being abusive, that would be giving them an excuse for their actions. The abuse was just more obvious when they were drunk, but the manipulation was constant. They used me in order to self-medicate, and when that was stopped, they found the first opportunity to do the same thing somewhere else.
In the first situation I found myself in, in regards to domestic abuse, it was easy to understand. They were looking for a fight, either shouting or hitting me to try and get a rise out of me. So it’s really easy to talk about and for people to understand. But for my second personal experience, it’s really hard to try and explain how the abuse took place because I don’t fully understand it myself.
I was just constantly afraid to go home after work because I knew they’d be drunk when I got back. It was essentially an environment of gaslighting (emotional and psychological abuse) being around them. I honestly don’t know how to explain it properly, because the abuse was emotional and psychological, and not like your typical kind of guilt-tripping manipulation. Thus, my next post will aim to explain what domestic abuse actually is.
Even before my two personal run-ins with domestic abuse as an adult, I also suffered abuse from my teacher, who was also female. If you’d like to read more about that situation, you can do so here where I talk about how I became suicidal during my childhood at primary school.
If you’re interested in finding out about what exactly constitutes domestic abuse, then my next post will break that down for you. So they tuned.
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