Learn to understand "abuser-speak"
What abusers say and what they really mean are very different. Pointing out these differences does not always create a solution to the twisted thinking abusers have, but it may aid in deciphering bad intentions. Of course, not all of these statements on their own are harmful or out of the ordinary for non-abusers. However, when you are aware that something is not quite right with the way someone is treating another, it may be a good idea to pay extra attention to these statements.
- "I am their father/mother. The kids need me."
Translation: The children are hostages of my abuse and I am willing to damage and harm them in order to maintain my control over you.
- "I’ve had a rough day, I was just blowing off steam."
Translation: I am not responsible for my behavior. Current circumstances, tension, your conduct, and the environment are responsible for how I feel.
- "Your family will be so disappointed if we break up."
Translation: It is okay for you to suffer abuse. What matters is how we appear to others.
- "I was drunk/high. It will never happen again."
Translation: Chemicals that I chose to ingest are responsible for my behavior; I am not accountable for what I do if/when I chose to be under the influence.
- "You are not being a good husband/wife."
Translation: I decide what is good and bad, and of course this means I control you.
- "You have nowhere else to go."
Translation: My supporting you is contingent on you becoming my property. I want you to believe you cannot survive without me, therefore I am in control. I want to eliminate any thoughts that you are independent. I want you to feel desperate. Submit to me.
- "You cannot support yourself without me."
- "You will never make it alone."
Translation: I want you to believe you cannot survive without me, therefore I am in control. I want to discourage any thoughts you may have that you are independent or capable.
- "No one else will want you."
Translation: I want to degrade your self-esteem and sense of value. I will accept you even though you are not worthy.
- "Go ahead and leave. You will come back to me one day."
Translation: I offer you freedom to make you believe I am indispensable. My false arrogance and self-confidence will make you think that you might fail. If you decide to come back, that means you submit yourself to me and that you are my property.
- "You deserve what I did to you."
- "I did not want to hurt you but you gave me no choice."
Translation: Any actions I take are your fault. It is your responsibility to make me happy. Anytime I am unhappy with you I have an obligation to punish you.
- "I can't live without you."
Translation: You are responsible for my happiness. I might treat you poorly, but I expect you to try to make to me happy. You are mine.
- "I can make your life a living hell."
- "I will make your life miserable if you leave."
- "If you leave you’ll never get another penny out of me."
Translation: If I cannot control you and unless you submit to me, I will punish you. I decide what is right and wrong.
- "You are like a dream come true."
Translation: Before I really get to know you, you have the appearance of someone that fits my idealized state. Of course, once I get to know you better, you disappoint me and never meet my expectations, so I must punish, control, and torment you to force you to become the "perfect partner" that I had in mind when we first met. You can never meet my expectations, therefore your shortcomings are to be blamed for my unhappiness and you deserve the abuse I am forced to dispense.
- “I am mesmerized by your beauty. I am captivated by your smile/eyes/grace. I am under your spell.”
Translation: You are responsible for how I feel. I have no control over my behavior - you do. Everything I do that is improper is your fault. You are responsible for making me happy. My misconduct is attributed to your smile/beauty/eyes/grace, etc.; I am not accountable for my behavior.
Learn to understand "abuser-ally speak"
Sometimes those who are not abusers themselves will facilitate abuser behavior in others, often due to misguided views or their own subconscious need to have someone else suffer as they do. These people are labelled here as “abuser allies”. When looking for support, be careful when you hear someone saying the following phrases to you. Instead, look for someone that can truly support you in a healthy way.
- "You need to obey your husband/wife. You should be obedient."
Translation: The rules of obedience and society apply to you (and probably not to the abuser). Society/culture/faith has decided that you belong to your abuser - you cannot fight this since it is their right to rule over you.
- "God commanded the wife to obey her husband. That's what God wants you to do."
Translation: Men hold ultimate moral and divine authority over their partners. This cannot be challenged since God said it. Women are property. Men are Godlike.
- "They probably beat you for a reason. What did you do to make them do that?"
Translation: You are responsible for anything they do. They are forgiven but you are not.
- "Since both of you have marks and bruises you are equally at fault."
Translation: You both share in creating a situation equally, regardless of who is abused.
- "You're the one that decided to marry them. You now have to live with it."
Translation: You are responsible for anything they do.
- "Marriage is forever. You cannot leave."
Translation: A contract, regardless of what later occurs, holds ultimate legal authority over their partners. Marriage is divine, so only divine intervention can allow you to leave them and live a happy life.
- "I've taken police reports from you two times already. You haven't left by now, so what do you want me to do?"
Translation: You decided to stay with them after the first and second incidents, you are responsible for anything they do.
- "They are the father/mother of your children. You cannot break up."
Translation: Once you had children with them you are responsible for anything your partner does. The children need a true parent despite abuse, negative role modeling, and the trauma you and the children will endure. Staying together for appearances is more important than the harm that abuse will create by staying together.
- "You get what you deserve."
- "Think about what you did to make them react that way."
Translation: You are responsible for their behavior. I blame the victim for any negative actions.
- "You have to stay together no matter what."
Translation: Staying together for appearances is more important than the harm that abuse staying together will create.
- "Give them another chance. You can work it out."
Translation: Their abusive nature is acceptable. Show them mercy, although they will show you none. Abuse is an isolated event and not a pattern.
- "I can't believe they are like that. Your description must be wrong."
Translation: My perception of them is unchanging regardless of the truth and any claims or evidence to the contrary.
- "Things between you used to be so good. What did you do to change the way it used to be?"
Translation: It’s your fault things are going poorly. You are responsible for their behavior.
Attempt to exercise your understanding of the true messages of what abuser and abuser-allies are saying. These tools often help to better navigate around and past abusive personalities. Keep your eyes and ears open; recognize that abusers will often try to use manipulation to control the situation and you. Abuser-allies can make you second guess yourself and prolong the abusive situation instead of offering real help. Find someone who will support you the way you need to be supported and ignore those who cannot.
When in the midst of an abusive situation, it may be difficult to think clearly and come up with a solution to remedy the abuse, while trying to implement it may feel almost impossible. However, given the right tools and the will power to create change, it most certainly is possible, even more so– it is probable. Many may feel overwhelmed and may not know where to start, but it is important to start somewhere.
Please continue to check in with us each week for a new post about abusive behavior and how it can affect your life and the lives of those around you. There is always that first action to helping someone you care about. Let this be it!