Part Three- The Outsider: a blog from a domestic abuse survivor
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This evening we’re publishing the last in a three-part series of blogs written by a Derbyshire woman on her experience of domestic abuse.
She’s allowed us to share her story in the hope that it will encourage others to speak out and get the help and support they need.
This time of year, as well as most of 2020, can or has been particularly challenging for victims of domestic abuse who face an anxious time at home when it is not safe.
You are not alone. You can find contact details at the end of this blog.
“I could see the games being played, however, you soon come to realise that this perspective doesn’t exist when you’re the unwitting player in the game.”
Something my friend once said, and it’s true. The only people allowed in the cycle, or game, is the victim and the abuser. Anyone else who tries to get involved is simply an unwitting player, someone that needs to be removed, and that’s when the manipulation and control have such a powerful effect as you start to lose touch with your support network.
The more people that get involved in the game, the more you get punished. Especially with narcissistic abuse, when the worst thing possible to happen to a narcissist is that their mask is uncovered.
They want everyone to see them in a good light. That’s why a lot of the time the victim will take the blame themselves, they will minimise and play it down.
The abuser will more than likely come across as nice, very apologetic, and will make out how it was just 'a silly argument’. I appreciate it’s hard for others to work out who the ‘real’ victim is in these sorts of scenarios but there can be subtle signs.
One thing to look out for is who takes control of the conversation or situation. Is there a lot of minimising? A lot of victims will make excuses like:
“They are just struggling at the moment with their mental health, they don’t mean it.”
“It’s my fault really, I’m too sensitive and I just over-reacted.”
“I know I’m struggling with my own mental health, I shouldn’t take it out on them.”
“I’m not a victim as he hasn’t hit me or been violent towards me.”
This last one is a common one I have come across through the work I do a lot and I explain that abuse is not always physical - some of the worst forms can be psychological.
Victims in psychologically abusive relationships are at a double risk - a risk of harm from the abuser but also from themselves. When you are in that situation, you are mentally beaten down, and at times it can feel like the only way out is to end your life.
Look out for these signs. If you know someone who has self-harmed recently or tried to take their own life and they say it’s because of their mental health, it could be a warning that they are a victim of domestic abuse.
If you know them well, think about what’s causing their mental health to decline- has it been since the start of their relationship? Was there a trigger? If you can, ask them why they are struggling.
Whatever your relationship with them, or your role, it’s important to ask these questions so that we can look out for people, keep them safe and provide the understanding that a lot of victims are so desperate for.
It’s difficult. If you do find yourself talking to friends or family members they may be angry, upset, worried – all completely understandable emotions.
Should someone confide in you about what is happening to them, here are some things I think would be really helpful to do:
- Don’t pass judgment. Your loved one knows that something is wrong else they won’t be talking about it. Support them whilst they figure out how to get out/how to survive.
- Believe them. No matter how well you think you might know the abuser, their behaviour can be very different to someone they are in a relationship. Trust that your friend knows better than you what the abuser is really like.
- Be careful what you say about the abuser. Your friend could go through many cycles of pulling away and then giving them one more chance. If all you have said is something negative about their partner, they might not find you approachable when they are in the forgiveness phase.
- If they do stay, continue to be supportive. Leaving a partner is a big decision to make and can be even harder depending on the type of abuse you are subject to. You getting angry/frustrated about them going back is passing judgement. They might feel like they have lost your support if they do decide to leave them later on.
- Help them to hold on to the ties outside of the relationship. Their partner will try to reduce their ties. The more you encourage them to socialise and spend time away the better. It allows them to think you are still there for them when they need it.
- Research- look for advice. Helplines. Arm yourself with as much information as possible so that you can understand them and why they may stay.
Sadly, if family or friends do end up cutting ties or ostracising you then you become ever more dependent on the abuser.
Listen, believe, empathise and understand. I just wanted to be believed.
I remember telling some of our mutual friends about what he was like at home, and I honestly felt like I was talking to a brick wall and made to feel like I was creating something out of nothing. Or I would hear the common reply of “aww its only because he loves you”. I wanted to scream.
His mask was so convincing that no one believed how horrible he could be at home. Not being believed is so humiliating, downgrading, and deflating. I felt that if my friends didn’t believe me then why would anyone else.
I was scared of not being believed. I knew how good and convincing he was at making others think he is a good person, and how convincing he was at making it look like I was the crazy one who suffered with mental health.
His mask was so powerful that to me, he had the power to convince others I was crazy and, in all honesty, it was bad enough him manipulating me and making me question my own sanity, that I couldn’t bear the thought of others doing the same.
Luckily, I had close friends that I had grown up with and knew me as a person who believed me and they were my rock and now I am able to provide a voice, empathise and understand with other victims and survivors.
So please, if you think a family member, a friend, a colleague or someone you meet in a professional capacity, please think about how you speak to someone who is potentially suffering domestic abuse – it is no exaggeration to say you could save their life.”
If you missed parts one and two, you can still read them on our website: https://www.derbyshire.police.uk/news/derbyshire/news/
If you are a victim of abuse or if you have concerns about someone you can report it online here, www.derbyshire.police.uk/reportdomesticabuse or by calling 101. If you're deaf or hard of hearing, use our textphone service on 18001 101.