In a previous post, The Cycle of Abuse, we discussed how the abuser traps the victim in an unhealthy cycle. Although it may take months or even years, eventually the victim will lose their self-esteem and self-identity. Usually by this time the victim has become so socially isolated and withdrawn that they only have the abuser to rely on. By this time the victim accepts the abuse as “normal”. He and she will stay in the relationship because they feel they can’t do any better than the abuser. That’s what the abuser wants. Complete control and domination.
In addition to keeping the victim aimlessly spinning in the cycle of abuse, there are specific tactics an abuser will use to gain and maintain control of the victim.
Dominance: The abuser will exert control over the victim whenever possible. He or she will make decisions for the victim whenever they can. For example, the abuser may tell the victim what he or she can wear or where he or she can go. The abuser will tell the victim what to do and expect them to comply without question. The abuser will treat the victim like a slave, a servant, a piece of property.
Humiliation: One of the most effective ways to break a person’s spirit is to humiliate them. The abuser will use name calling, put downs, public scoldings and shaming to get the victim to feel bad about themselves. He or she will say whatever they can think of to chip away at the victim’s self-esteem. If the abuser constantly makes the victim feel worthless and the defective, they can take control more easily. It also decreases the chance of the victim leaving the relationship.
Isolation: Once the abuser has the victim feeling worthless, he or she will work to make the victim depend on them. The abuser does this by isolating the victim from their friends and family.Many abuse victims have to ask permission to go places and see their loved ones. Some abusers may even prevent the victim from going to work or school.
Threats and Intimidation: If the victim becomes resistant to the abuser’s attempt to take control, they will often threaten or intimidate him or her. Both are used to scare the victim into submission and stay in the relationship. The abuser may put weapons on display or damage property. He or she may also threaten to hurt or kill the victim, their family and friends or pets. Some abusers may even threaten to harm or kill themselves if the victim doesn’t stay with him or her.
Excuses: Abusers will hardly ever take responsibility for their own actions. He or she will often deny the abuse ever took place or that the victim is over exaggerating. When the abuser does admit fault, the abuser is full of excuses. He or she had a bad day. He or she had a bad a childhood. He or she was in a bad relationship. He or she is just afraid to lose the victim. At the end of the day, the abuser is never to blame for his or her bad behavior. Instead, he or she shifts blame to the victim. Somehow the victim is always responsible for the abuser’s actions.
Contrary to popular belief, the abuser has absolute control over his or her actions. The abuser chooses who to abuse and when and where to abuse them. Everything he or she does is done to dominate the victim. It is done so carefully that no one but the abuser and victim really know what’s going on.
If you or someone you know is being abused, it is important to get help. Tell someone you trust about the abuse. If you feel they cannot help you or you need assistance call 1800-799-SAFE.