Domestic Violence: How to stop someone controlling you
I am one of many women that has found themselves stuck in a domestic violence situation where I was controlled like a puppet by someone that was always playing the victim. My friends and colleagues could see the situation for what it was, but there was nothing anyone could say or do to save me and because I was pushed, pulled and yelled at rather than bashed, it was harder for me to accept that I was in an abusive relationship. It was only when I was trying to get out of it that I realised how bad things were. Looking back and having done further research into what I endured, I now realise and accept it was not my fault.
Unfortunately I didn’t know much about narcissism at the time which made it more difficult to comprehend what was happening to me, however, the more I look into it the more common my story appears. Riddled with lies and manipulation that kept me silenced under his controlled, it’s the same story many women share and there is an underworld of online support if you’re experiencing it. If you need help and don’t know where to start, please contact me or an organisation such as White Ribbon who may be able to help you. Having suffered at the hands of narcissistic abuse I can see how he wooed me, trapped me and gained control over me. I have found many women who relate to my story, and the more common the story appears, the less special his actions and memories become. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, the man I thought I was with never existed, so neither did the relationship.
Fortunately I’m grounded enough that his attempt at a smear campaign (common in narcissistic behaviour – stay tuned I will be releasing a blog series on narcissism to align with Mental Health Awareness week later this year) didn’t phase me. I’m good at letting go of what other people think, but it was because I didn’t care that he became more calculated and violent with me. A smear campaign is a pathetic attempt at defamation which generally only work in the narcissist’s small circle – let me promise you, if you’re suffering at the hands of abuse and silenced further by threats to your reputation, I promise you, there is life beyond. While I escaped, some people like Lisa Harnum (pictured), aren’t so lucky. This week Happiness Weekly gives you the tell-tale signs that someone is controlling you and some tips on how you can escape safely.
Are you being controlled?
This may sound strange if you haven’t experienced it, but it can be difficult to know if you are being controlled by someone – it’s important that you see the signs as early as possible. Some people who we trust can be extremely manipulative and although we love them and would never hurt them, they don’t have that same care and empathy for us. In fact, if we try to stop them from controlling us, they would almost do the opposite and deliberately affect our lives in a negative way – and that’s where domestic violence situations get out of hand and even become fatal.
Here’s a story of how it may come about, an account shared by Beth Cofone:
“At first, he gives in to what you want from time to time. When a conflict erupts because he refuses to do something you ask him to do, and he becomes angry because you complain about it, his anger passes quickly. He may even apologize to you for being “selfish”. This is just a ploy to get you hooked into the relationship and to slowly make you give in to him. As time goes on, there is less give and more take, until his control over you increases to the point of it being unbearable.”
General characteristics you’ll feel include:
- You need to “report in” to the person – they have the final say on what you do
- They rarely do anything you want to do i.e. if there’s nothing in it for them, they won’t do it
- It’s all about the other person – they don’t share your interests or acknowledge them
- If it’s a controlling man, they generally have a huge sense of entitlement for how women should treat them
- A controlling person is more likely to come across as the victim so you’ll do everything for them, rather than demanding you around. Playing the victim relieves them of any responsibility from the relationship.
- Over time you will be unable to live your life the way you want, because when you do, they make you feel guilt or misery. This means you’ll start excluding friends, cease using social media as you used to, stop enjoying the things you used to etc.
According to Beth, controlling people tend to live by these core beliefs:
1) You are to do as I say, not as I do.
2) You must be subservient to me physically, mentally, and emotionally.
3) All you do must benefit me or else you are a selfish person.
4) Whatever you want or desire is to be denied, ignored, disagreed with or disliked by me.
5) You deserve no personal space or personal time.
6) Whatever you possess must be of use to me or I won’t buy it for you or like it if you buy it for yourself.
7) My ideas and opinions are right, your ideas and opinions are wrong and I will never accept them or agree with them.
8) You must always ask my permission to do anything that is your idea.
9) You are here in my life to do everything I ask you to do for me. But I never have to do anything you ask me to do for you.
10) I must approve how all the money is to be spent in the relationship and you are to obey my decision.
11) Your body is my possession.
12) I am superior to you and you better never talk to me or act in any way that makes me feel I’m not. You can never criticize me about anything.
But be careful of the consequences. According to Beth:
“Be forewarned: If you do not accept the lie/pretense/excuse he is giving you to accept how he wants things to be, you will pay the price. What is the price? He will withdraw his love, attack your character, and throw in some hostile anger or a day of silence just to finish you off. In other words: play by his rules and you won’t be subjected to his abusive anger.”
The control cycle
Every victim of domestic violence should be aware of this chart (below) – known as the “control cycle”. I only found this the other day and in my experience every single fragment on this chart was ticked.
What you can do if you’re being controlled
Anyone can find themselves in a domestic violence situation – it doesn’t matter how attractive you are, how intelligent you are, how happy you are, how friendly you are, what gender you are or what sexuality you are – it can happen to anyone! And it’s humiliating. Absolutely humiliating. Part of the control in a domestic violence situation includes continued lies and manipulation. And people go back for more, even when they know it isn’t right – look at supermodel Tyra Banks who has spoken publicly about her battle to get out of her hellish experience! She feels your pain if you’ve made this mistake! So here’s what you can do to stop being controlled and get out of your situation:
1. Don’t make them angry
As much as you’re angry from all the abuse and you’re ready to let go, DO NOT go out of your way to upset them more in any way. This includes jealousy tactics, irritating them, poking fun at them etc. You need to remember, as much as you want it to be different – and you’ll still be in a lot of denial – this person isn’t wired the same way you are and they know it better than you do. They’re the person in control and they want to control you – you need to accept that and prepare yourself to move on.
2. Seek advice quietly
If you seek advice from authorities, go quietly. DO NOT ask them to contact the person who has been abusing you because it will fuel the controlling person to use it against you. It doesn’t matter what you have in written threats, notes, conversations, photos of stuff they’re doing to you etc, if they end up seeking action against you none of this stands up if they can spin a more believable story – even if yours is the truth. I was given various options in my situation but decided against taking action against the controlling person because the situation would certainly have escalated regardless of what I did. And it did! But at the end of the day, what’s more important: your pride and a piece of paper? Or your life?
3. Plan what you’ll say and do
It’s ok to let them know that you’ve changed your mind about the relationship, but plan how you’ll approach it and be prepared not to go back on it. “This isn’t working for me,” and explain briefly why – but make it about you. They will use every method of control that they possibly can against you to try to get you back in. Without having you to control, they feel worthless and will go in search of someone else – or go back to a previous partner they know they can control. Be tough – remember if you’re openly emotional they will see this as vulnerability and they will manipulate you. Also plan your next steps to get as far away from that person as you can for as long as you can.
4. DO NOT believe a word they say
If they suspect they’re losing control over you, this person will be going out of their way to run you into the ground at any cost. They know how to control and manipulate you and believe me they will use that. They will have you crying, begging, pleading – the amount of guilt they will have you feel will be overwhelming. Don’t play into it. Walk away. Don’t listen to lies, don’t try to rationalise with them – there’s no need for you to respond. Do not try to contact them.
5. Block the person
This is hard, but you need to block this person from your life completely before things get worse. If you have an iPhone you have the ability to block their number and stop them from contacting you. Cut out your mutual friends. Delete people off Facebook if you need to. Even if they approach you – do not acknowledge them. Avoid all contact with this person. Filter your email messages so they go straight to the trash. Don’t leave yourself open to let them back in. Have faith that when you get rid of a bad person from your life – the universe will reward you with a good person.
6. Be prepared to lose your pride
Get set to lose some friends and cut your losses. You can’t control what people think, hear, say or do. The people you lose from your life are ignorant, you never needed them. Save yourself the emotional drain. Hold your head high and get set to welcome the new and far more awesome people into your world. You’ll also have more time to see and speak to the people you have been previously forced to cut out of your life. Enjoy that time and look at it as your only consequence to freedom. Worth it, huh?
7. Leave your life behind
Once you’ve told them it’s over avoid any pathetic attempts they make to try to get control of you again and … VANISH! I mean move out, change your number, change your email, change jobs if you have to. The aim is to make sure this person never finds you again. Gain your control back in any way you can. If you have free time, look into ways you can gain more freedom and more control as you continue to step away from your experience.
8. If they seek action against you
You’ve moved on, they’ve seen it – any narcissist will not have this in their world, which means they will now say or do whatever it takes to destroy you, your future and your reputation. This was exactly the threat that was made to me, before it was carried out. Remember how great they are at playing the victim? Some narcissists will drag wives with children through the court system – but don’t think for a second if your single with no attachment to them that you’re safe. According to legal advice it is common for the abuser in domestic violence situations to seek a restraining order against you as a last ditch bid in controlling you. It’s also widely acknowledged websites that detail narcissistic abuse as “harassment through the court system“. Ah the irony! So what do you do? Consider the control cycle above – if they manipulated you into staying despite the abuse, and authorities into taking action, it’s likely they’ll be able to manipulate others. In court it comes down to your word against theirs and they are protected … plus, don’t forget they’re great at playing the victim and have no conscience. A narcissist is also known as “a soul without footprints” – a very apt description. If you’re single without their children, this is your lucky escape because it’s not a criminal charge and the control ends once the time limit is up. Before defending yourself, which is a costly exercise, consider if you want to see them again when you don’t need to. If the consequences won’t affect your life, then you can settle it by consenting without admissions, it saves time, money and further distress, plus you get to take your power back, then it’s up to you how you use that power. The downside of consenting without admissions: like even a minor traffic offense, it will remain on record within the court system and at the police station forever. Provided you don’t break the terms of the order and choose the right people to have in your life going forward, it won’t be used against you. The upside of consenting without admissions: the abuse is over and what can this person who’s been abusing you do now? Continue the harassment? And yeah, I can almost guarantee they will – in my situation that happened. But you have the power to make this court hearing the last time they will ever see you again, and better still, if you hire a lawyer to talk on your behalf, they won’t even get the satisfaction of hearing your voice. It’s important to note for anyone who finds themselves in this situation that consenting without admissions is not an admission of guilt, it is about protecting yourself with minimal expense. Try to find out your rights and how it could affect you before consenting, this will be important. If you’re in Australia, you can find more information about defending yourself against a false restraining order published by Sydney Criminal Lawyers here alternatively you can make a free consultation to discuss your case with a lawyer near you.
9. Distance yourself
If you have been in a domestic violence situation with a controlling person, you will be extremely scared even once it all appears “over”. You will know that any silence is just the calm before the next storm and it’s only a matter of time before they contact you again, or worse, come looking for you. Take control where ever you can. If they persist, seek your own action by going to the police for protection, you have the same rights as them regardless if they have taken action against you or not. Go fourth with extreme caution about who you meet and where you go until years have passed. I recommend putting yourself in your own little witness protection program. Erase all mutual friends, change phone numbers and move away from where you are. Seek counselling for the abuse if you can – more details for where you can get help will be published in my blog series on narcissism released during Mental Health Awareness Week where I will expose more detailed information about my experience with domestic violence at the hands of a narcissist in the hope of helping others in my situation. Another alternative instead of sticking around to continue the fight, if you’re single without ties, consider moving overseas while it blows over. Before taking a step in any direction, you’ll be feeling exhausted by the time you leave your abusive relationship, you may find you have little appetite and you will endure flashbacks and nightmares that will leave you shaking. If your daily living following your escape is affected, seek professional help from a qualified psychologist, and be sure to consider your health and wellbeing to make the best possible decision for you.
Finally, leaving a controlling relationship is hard, but I can promise you – it is worth it. Rachael Taylor acknowledged this in a series of questions answered on White Ribbon’s Facebook Page which was shared on Tuesday, 18 March. From my experience I can promise you this, once you have left this person and they’re out of your life, you will be happier and feel far more empowered, it doesn’t matter how bad the initial consequences feel.
To stay with the person or to go back to them, is to risk your health and possibly even your life.
My advice: muster up all your courage and get out, whatever it takes.