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Author Topic: Fighting back to emotional abuse
Saffron Raymie
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From about seventeen years old onwards, my life was spent fighting with my mother. She was extremely emotionally abusive, and when I disagreed about something would shove her face into my face and grit her teeth and snarl words to intimidate me. This could be about politics, my friendships, my relationships, which town I wanted to live in, anything.

The most painful thing about it was, up until I was seventeen, she wasn't like this. She did not have the boundaries a parent should have, and always encouraged me to talk to her about my life, wanting to be my best friend rather than my parent. She'd become best friends with my friends, and then when they didn't like her so much she would hate them and ban me from seeing them. She would would also make friends with their ex-friends and calm to like the ex-friend better that my friends. She was the same with partners.

I used to get so angry with this drastic change in her behaviour; from loving me and being my best friend all my life, to hating everything I stood for.

She would grit her teeth and snarl that I was lossing my hair from stress, that my friends were plotting to murder me, that I was horrible to people and that I drove my ex-boyfriend away with my paranoia. She said that if she was my boyfriend / friend, she would have left me too, because I was so confusing and an 'emotional wreck'.

I dealt with the anger at first by running out the door, in my socks, until I felt calm. The I got tired of this, because my feet would bleed and I'd be cold. So next I used to break things. Finally one day, I was eating salad and she didn't want to hear me go on and on about my ex boyfriend anymore and I just threw the bowl at her and started screaming that I hated her. I re-acted in this way to her pressing her head aginst mine a few more times. She threw me out and threw away all my clothes, mirror, everything I owned; re-painted my room and called it the study.

However, this last Christmas, she pinned me up against the wall and strangled me calling me a 'little git' by hissing in my ear, pushing her face against my head.

I'm crying and I feel like I shouldn't have fought back because now I'm abusive and just as bad. It's come back to me. My auntie said it doesn't matter what someone says; you never never hit them.

What do you do if you've fought back, and were the first one to use violence?

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'Obtain the virgin's consent before you marry her' - Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)

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breath
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[ 08-12-2011, 12:00 PM: Message edited by: breath ]

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Heather
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Do you feel like you have a sense of the difference between a person attacking someone and a person defending themselves against an attack?

In other words, it sounds to me like you aren't differentiating between abuse/violence and self-defense. Do I have that right?

And when your aunt said what she did, was she talking about situations in which someone was being assaulted? If a person can't get away otherwise, how do you think she'd propose they avoid injury or worse if not by trying to defend themselves? Has she ever been in that situation, do you think?

Now, when we are talking about things like throwing bowls when there isn't a physical attack, that's something different, and we can talk about that, too. However, I think you also need to be able to recognize that reacting to ongoing abuse in ways like that is not at all uncommon for a host of reasons, and that when children are in homes where parents are abusing -- even if they were not always that way, or didn't always seem that way -- we have to be very mindful of how much responsibility we are putting on the child.

(Hugs to you, by the way. Big time.)

[ 08-12-2011, 11:46 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Heather
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I just want to make VERY clear in a thread like this, to anyone participating, that someone defending themselves against an attack initiated by someone else, acting in their defense, is rarely classified as abuse by ANY sound source or set of laws I know of. I want to make sure we avoid any victim-blaming in a thread like this.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Saffron Raymie
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Was her pushing her face into mine and gritting her teeth an attack? I guess I just saw it as intimidation...

I was 19, and my auntie (I picked the wrong person to talk to) said I wasn't a child anymore and I hadn't grown up mentally.

I was 19 when I threw the bowl, she wasn't close to my face then, but I really needed to talk and me and my ex (we only knew each other 5 months) had just split and I said I was feeling sad about it and she got really angry, saying she was sick of hearing about him, (usually it was happy stuff about him, because I was still in love) but just a few days before she was saying it was all my fault he was gone and she's not suprised, and she didn't love me anymore. She would have never said any of that when I was younger, and I'd sobbed over romantic relationships when I was a lot younger, at thirteen, she'd completely listened about a break up, and told me about her best friend's lovelife to help me.

My mother talks all the time, and I was a child who loved to listen and she'd told all about how awful my dad was and all about his family all my life. I couldn't understand why she wouldn't listen to me talk instead. She said I was just like my dad, who she's always hated, and told me she hated.

One of the best things ever was when me and my brother were having a blazing row, (he's broken my phone) which is extremely rare as he's my best friend, it was fizzling out, we weren't yelling but I was still crying and she pushed me up against the wall and grit her teeth and said I can have a new phone when I SHUT UP... and I said 'okay, okay, don't hurt me!' I wasn't even being sacrastic, but my brother started to laugh and then I did and I felt so amazing because I hadn't tried to hurt her. My brother bought me a new phone. [Smile]

[ 08-12-2011, 12:31 PM: Message edited by: RaeRay2112 ]

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'Obtain the virgin's consent before you marry her' - Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)

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Heather
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I think it might help to try and look at separate situations separately, rather than luping things together.

When I was talking about clear self-defense, it was in response to this:

quote:
However, this last Christmas, she pinned me up against the wall and strangled me calling me a 'little git' by hissing in my ear, pushing her face against my head.
By all means, strangling or trying to strangle someone is an assault/attack. If she was also pushing her head against yours in anger -- and it sounds that way -- not with any kind of affection, that also describes what sounds like a violence.

Can we start by just talking about that, then moving into other situations where things aren't so clear or were not about trying to physically defend yourself?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Saffron Raymie
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Okay - at Christmas when she strangled me - I'd been living alone for many months and I forgot what home was really like, I didn't do anything I don't think. I think I told my brother to find dad and bring him back so I felt safer.

She does push her face up to mine in anger, when she does that gritting teeth and hissing things thing. Usually it's to make me back away, but recently to trap me.

I seem to deal with it nowadays by begging to be let go. I remember now, I was going 'not my throat, please not my throat'.

But before that time at Christmas, when she got into my face in anger I would lash out.

[ 08-12-2011, 12:40 PM: Message edited by: RaeRay2112 ]

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'Obtain the virgin's consent before you marry her' - Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)

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Heather
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I hear you, in all these posts, documenting a pretty long history -- one that sounds like it began way before the abuse became physical -- of emotional abuse and family dysfunction. It sounds like that began with poor boundaries, escalated into emotional abuse, then verbal, and then some form of physical (pushing you, pushing her body or face into yours, etc.).

Does this sound right to you, as an evolving pattern?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Saffron Raymie
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Absolutely.

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'Obtain the virgin's consent before you marry her' - Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)

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Heather
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Okay.

So, here's what I'd say to you.

For one, I think you know that what we do is mostly sex education, and relationships education about elective relationships, not parent/child relationships. I need to make sure we stay both within our scope and with what we're really set up here to address well and serve users well addressing.

Now, we can talk about the dynamics of how people react to long-term abuse and dysfunction, but even that gets complicated when we're talking not about an elective relationship, but one of the most foundational ones a person can have, and one that began before you even had consciousness. This is also about a relationship where one person chose to take full responsibility for the other and for the care of that person without reciprocity (assuming that person truly understood what parenting was when they chose it).

Ultimately, setting clear self-defense aside, what I see here is you describing various ways you reacted to a very unhealthy relationship, one you did not choose and also were legally compelled to be part of, in addition to being dependent on, the way children are dependent on parents. I do NOT think it is sound to try and judge what you may or may not have done that was potentially abusive yourself, because I do not think that is possible or sound in this context at all.

That's something that any good counselor/therapist educated in helping people who grew up in dysfunction and/or abuse would likely say, and that's the kind of person I think you really need here. I hear that you are feeling very scared and guilty and ashamed and also unsure about what is and isn't healthy. None of that is surprising, given how you have described growing up. I also hear you doing what I think is misunderstanding some of the core basics of what abuse is (and this is the part we probably can talk a bit more about), because ultimately, these things are about your reactions to abuse from someone else, someone you did not have the agency to get away from for most of your life, which obviously very much limits HOW a person can react and what a person can do to protect themselves, on top of probably learning unhealthy ways to interact in conflict, period, since you grew up being taught unhealthy ways.

My very best advice for the things we really can't help you with around this, or could try, but would probably serve you poorly in, is to seek out some counseling from someone who does exactly this, who works in exactly this area. I am certain that how you are feeling about the things you posted today are not the only areas you don't feel at peace with or need to process. So, while we can't do that kind of therapy, I can certainly help you look for someone who does, if you'd like.

And, like I said, we can also talk about this in more general terms if you want, around the things that are more applicable to what we do and what we have the ability to do/address well here.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Saffron Raymie
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You are always lovely. I was really scared posting this.

I do think I would like a counsellor who specialises in people who grew up in dysfunctional or abusive ways; I've had two counsellors through university but they were more general and had no focus really.

You said (sorry can't use the quote fucntion too well): "I also hear you doing what I think is misunderstanding some of the core basics of what abuse is (and this is the part we probably can talk a bit more about)".

I would like to know more about what abuse is. I always thought she was just terrified of losing me and me growing up, because she didn't want me to have friends.

[ 08-12-2011, 02:24 PM: Message edited by: RaeRay2112 ]

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'Obtain the virgin's consent before you marry her' - Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)

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Heather
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I'm happy to talk this through with you. Why don't we have that conversation first, and then as I wait for your feedback between responses, I can poke my nose around for in-person resources for you. (Can you fill me in on what area you're in again so I can do that? As you know, I already assumed once you were further from resources than I thought! [Smile] )

So, the biggest thing, I think, so know about ongoing abuse is that it is systematic: it is not an isolated behavior, but an ongoing pattern of behaviors, behaviors which include more than just what are sometimes called "explosions," the times when someone who is abusive erupts into things like yelling or hitting or raping. More on that here: Blinders Off:Getting a Good Look at Abuse and Assault

I think something else that might help is to recognize that when someone is defending themselves, they are reacting, with the sole or primary aim of self-protection, to a very real attack or threat.

People who are abusive usually aim to control or do harm to others, and in some way may think they are reacting self-protectively to a real threat, but they are a) not only acting to protect themselves, and b) the threat they percieve is not really real, even though it might feel real to them.

To give an example, someone trying to sexually assault you IS a real threat about a real attack. Someone who triggers feelings of insecurity or fear in you because you cannot control them when you want to in order to feel in charge? That's not a real threat/attack. In fact, it's probably not about the person being abusive at all, save in the ways they are making it about them.

Now, I can't speak for this ex of yours. Again, often the thing with abuse and dysfunction when we are not talking about assault -- sexual, verbal, physical -- is that we really need a big picture to be able to evaluate things.

By all means, if that person intended to hurt you, and/or you made clear that was hurtful, asked them not to do it, and they still did it? Then for sure, that may have been emotionally abusive, though whether the whole relationship was is a question we'd need more information about.

Again, though, elective relationships are also a different critter than those between child and parent. We can talk about abuse and dysfunction broadly in many ways, but there are going to be areas where it's not sound to talk about parent/child relationships or others like them the way we talk about elective relationships, where everyone in them has agency to stay or go, and where the given deal isn't that the relationship is about -- especially when someone doesn't have legal rights -- one party agreeing that the relationship is about them taking care of and full responsibility for the other, even if there is no reciprocation. IOW, when you're a parent, even if your five-year-old says they hate you, you still are going to feed them dinner, not say you hate them back, and give them shelter and care.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Saffron Raymie
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Ah, I think I understood about my ex's emotional abuse when I got a good look at his other abuses too. When all his ex-girlfriends sought each other out to talk about him, we found an awful pattern of physical and sexual abuse, one or both of which had happen to all five of us at one point. So that was when I started to wonder about the emotional abuse.

Like once he and I were joking around and he said that he loved another girl; Rose, and I ignored him and continued joking and he got really upset, really emphasising that he loved Rose, until I showed a sign of being annoyed.

However, this may not have been abusive, it may have been his sexual abuse that I had never really acknowledged - it may have been that which I was reacting to more than anything, but I couldn't see that at the time.

It was pretty cool talking to his other ex-girlfriends them actually, we all didn't know each other but met at parties and through other people and all ended up talking about what had happened. I felt stupid because I still loved him even though he had raped me, but meeting the other girls really helped me heal. I was even warned beforehand by several men who had known him a long time, and his ex girlfriend Beth who knew my brother, but I didn't listen.

However, I do see the difference between elective and non-elective relationships.

My mother grew up in an abusive place herself and did not want children, or ever imagined those children as adults, so obviously it was more compex than what my ex-boyfriend did.

Thanks for the article, I hadn't seen that one.

Is the post code enough? PO12 4QT.

[ 08-12-2011, 03:43 PM: Message edited by: RaeRay2112 ]

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'Obtain the virgin's consent before you marry her' - Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)

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Heather
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I think you know about me that I certainly understand having a mother who grew up in abuse and also...well, in my case, didn't choose to have me at all. She didn't have a choice. I also know, sadly, how that can play out sometimes so far as dysfunction just winding up repeated. My mother, in the years since, did a lot of work on that. I hope your mother someday does, too.

That, of course, won't magic away what's happened to you and what you've lived through, nor make it all better. It also won't do your own healing for you, not from this abuse or any other (and one of the toughest truths to hold is when we start to realize that learning love = abuse makes it more likely to keep winding up in it).

A post code is great. I'll start hunting!

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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One place to start might be Women's Aid: http://www.womensaid.org.uk/

You could just call their hotline, let them know you're looking for counseling both for growing up with family abuse and also for sexual abuse (make clear it happened in your teens, btw, which makes it child sexual abuse, so you're likely to get counseling most applicable to you).

Refuge -- http://refuge.org.uk/ -- is another org that can likely direct you to the right resources.

This page not only has some EXCELLENT words on all of this (love what I saw there), but they have a big list of resources at the bottom of the page for adult survivors of family abuses: http://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/child_abuse_survivors.php#adult

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Saffron Raymie
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Thank you so much Heather, for everything. [Smile] I'll check them out!

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'Obtain the virgin's consent before you marry her' - Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)

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Heather
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Of course! Just give a shout of those don't wind up working for you. I'm happy to keep looking around, send some emails, whatever.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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Hey, Rae: just wanted to check in with you, see how you're doing, and see if you were able to connect with any of those resources and find what you needed.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Saffron Raymie
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Oops, sorry I missed your post.

I've been giving them all a ring on and off, but always chickened out and hung up. One of them was not in office hours a few times and another busy so I lost my bottle. I couldn't get that voice in my head to shhh about emotional abuse not being as 'real' as physical, and also that my mind keeps telling me it wasn't abusive - although you've already completely shown me it was - and I've always known.

I ended all contact with her the other day, feeling like my dad would be there for me. He was really nice on the phone, but then he spoke to my mum - who cried - and became furious with me because I'd ended up yelling at her on the phone. He said I should be looking after her and respecting her and that he 'thought I'd matured'.

So, I'm definately looking into just getting better now and feel positive about the ending of the relationship despite my dad - who I feel is abusive himself - albeit with my brother rather than me (he really physically hurt him as a child) and took us out for dinner the other day to tell us we were both lazy about our careers and should be aspiring a lot more to be successful. Then he told me how angry he was with me for not sticking by mum. So he might not the best person to count on for support anyway.

So, I'm not going to chicken out anymore and have written down their office hours so I can time my call better. Also, I have an appointment with my doctor to see if I can be referred to a counsellor through there (after a pharmasist told me to stop chickening out and call the resources you got for me - she was really big on Scarleteen! [Smile] )

But; the professional helping with my healing starts soon! I'm going to try again tomorrow with phoning - staying on the line this time!

[ 10-16-2011, 05:07 PM: Message edited by: RaeRay2112 ]

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'Obtain the virgin's consent before you marry her' - Prophet Mohammad (pbuh)

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