I was involved in a situation recently where I observed a woman being verbally abused by another woman in a professional setting. I know these women well enough, especially the abusive one, long enough to know this is not the first time this happened, and it’s probably not the last. They are stuck in a pattern where the abusive woman is completely blind to the effects of her behavior, while the other woman is blind to the fact that by not putting a stop to it right away, she has effectively given permission to the abuser to do it time and again. The daughter of the abused woman was kind enough to speak with me about the situation when I flagged what was happening as inappropriate and as verbal abuse. We discussed ideas on how to help situation. Her daughter was willing to confront the abuser on her mother’s behalf, which made me realize something… it’s not about someone confronting the abuser, or even the abuser leaving or changing. It is about the victim becoming empowered and changing their pattern, because if they don’t change it, then they are just leaving space and giving permission for the next abuser to come into their life and just hurt them all over again.
Over the years of dealing with verbal abuse I found that a feeling of empowerment can make a huge difference in my situation. Although moving away from my dad has been an important step in my healing (a VERY important step!!!), that in and of itself did not stop his abuse. It was my standing up to him that helped ME feel empowered.. it helped ME change, and not only did it stop him from abusing me so much, but it also keeps me safe from others who are stuck in those same sick patterns. It just helped me no longer be a puzzle piece that fits the abusive piece of those with those tendencies.
It does take two to tango, doesn’t it? So although the abuser has their issues, I realized that I as a victim also have mine, and it is important to address them because the world won’t stop hurting me unless I stop giving it permission to.
One place where I am learning about this is with a recovery group called Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA). Although the group has the word Alcoholics in it, it’s not limited to people who grew up in households where alcohol was present. It applies to all families who had any sort of dysfunction like verbal abuse, narcissism, perfectionism, overly critical parents, other substance abuse issues, under-earning, and so on.
i need an exit strategy. And a support team.
I just listened to a very inspiring piece on NPR about a rehabilitation program for women who have suffered the trauma of human sexual trafficking, prostitution and associated drug addictions. Wow, this made my heart soar. Thank you Kathryn Griffin-Townsend. Visit: http://wevebeentheredonethat.org.
From their website:
We’ve Been There Done That is a non-profit organization started by Kathryn Griffin-Townsend with a goal to rehabilitate women who have lived through sex trafficking, prostitution, and associated drug addiction. A former cocaine addict and prostitute, Kathryn Griffin-Townsend credits rehabilitation programs with changing her life. Kathryn has been featured in The Houston Chronicle, ABC News and most recently, The Steve Wilkos Show for her unabashed, toughlove, tell-it-like-it-is style that strikes a chord with the women she helps. We’ve Been There Done That has been serving the Houston community for almost a decade, having helped over 1,000 women. The program not only helps to rehabilitate, but also to reintegrate them into society and has the highest success rate of former prostitues not going back to the life. The outreach program has garnered so much praise, both locally and nationally, that their resources lag behind the number of women who need help. To that end, We’ve Been There Done That is always accepting donations to assist.
As a survivor of a spectrum of personal boundary trespasses, I’ve had a challenging time with developing a healthy sense of self. Part of the way this has manifested for me is an unhealthy body image, and a preoccupation with beauty (and my perceived lack of it). It was a truly challenging mindset to grow up with. As a young woman I have not been able to feel safe in a relationship or trust men to find me beautiful because I did not think I was.
But something remarkable happened over the last few weeks. First of all a recent hypnotherapy session allowed me to tune into my inner child and find out that all I ever needed was to feel safe. Since it was not a feeling I was accustomed to at home with my own father, it was hard to allow myself to trust complete strangers to accept me for who I was. So I realized that the thought that I was not beautiful was actually just a self-defense mechanism my mind created at a young age to keep the bad away. Continue reading
Recently I had a breakthrough moment in my relationship with my dad. He had another one of his yelling outbursts which finally pushed me to see the truth about verbal abuse. Since then, I’ve been doing a lot of research about this topic and how to deal. I found a great series of books by Patricia Evans on the topic, and have opened up about this to close friends, my therapist and called 2 hotlines to gain as much perspective as possible. I found a lot of information about what verbal abuse is, but surprisingly very little on how to actually deal with the close person in your life who is doing it. I want to share my story in the hopes that it might be helpful for someone to read. And if you have dealt with this issue in your life, please share your experience here too. I know someone out there is looking for guidance, just as I am.
First Thing’s First:Prepare
Since I’ve been exposed to abuse throughout my life, I’ve had a very hard time developing a healthy sense of self, and the self-confidence to speak my truth, and trust that it is worth being heard. I’ve been convinced all my life that the things I have said were not true, did not matter and were invalid. So as you can imagine, it is very hard to go from this state to one where you can say “STOP” when someone is hurting you again. Any such protests are simply met with more invalidation and even intensified abuse. So I have to say that the foundation of the confrontation that finally took place with my dad was a preparation process that took many years. I have been working on healing my sense of self, trusting my inner voice, and finally allowing that voice to be expressed for at least 3 years since I began working with my amazing art therapist. I have also been journaling, creating art work, practicing yoga and meditating on a daily basis. Each of these things has helped me discover who I am and realize that my voice is valid. I would also add that a particularly helpful therapy for me was hypnosis, as it allowed my therapist and I to work on the subconscious level of my mind where many of the negative things my father has told me over the years have been stored, influencing my daily decisions without me even knowing it. Continue reading
I relate to these excerpts from the article entitled “Escape From an Emotionally and Verbally Abusive Father” on the Psychology Today website. They continue to help me understand verbal abuse and why it is so hard to know it’s happening when you simply grew up with it and trusted your parent.
“Many victims of emotional abuse don’t even know they are being abused. Before Dianna read Patricia Evans’s books, she could never put her finger on what was wrong, but now she had words for it. Finally she could make sense of what her father was doing, as well as explain her unhappiness and her suicidal thoughts.” Continue reading