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Lesser Known Abuse Tactics Silencing Victims

Communication and the Life-Saving Impact of Social Supports

By Veronica WrenPublished 21 days ago 10 min read
Vocal top story shirt pop! Photo by author: Veronica Wren

For half a decade, my every thought and action were heavily monitored and dissected by my abusive partner.

Every step, every decision about my body, who I was allowed to contact, even the things I thought were mercilessly scrutinized and controlled.

Since my escape in late 2020, I’ve been breaking down the ways he exerted control over me in the hopes of alerting others to the warning signs of abuse. Doing this work has helped me begin to shed the layers of urgency and anxiety I still feel when it comes to overthinking and overexplaining every single decision I make.

Controlling behaviors in a partner, such as the ones in this article, are not the norm in a healthy relationship. If you’re in a situation where you’re being made to feel like they are, please reach out to someone you trust for help.

Tight Schedule, Tight Grip: Monitoring Calendars and Contacts

Outside of work, I typically wasn’t allowed to go anywhere without my abuser at all. This included rooms in the home we shared. If I did go into a different room, I was expected to leave my phone behind so I didn’t have the opportunity to cheat on him while I was peeing or getting him another beer.

If I left the house for any reason, even to go to work, I was expected to report when and where I’d be and for how long. That may not sound that abnormal of a partner, and he certainly tried to convince me it was for my own safety, but his demands went far beyond the normal amount of touching base.

For example, I had to text him exactly the time I arrived, exactly the time I planned on leaving, who I was with, and why. Deviations from those plans, even those that were out of my control, were not tolerated. I also had to describe every single interaction in detail the moment I arrived home.

I wasn’t allowed to be around certain friends my abuser considered threats to his power. This included anyone I’d ever had previous history with, friends he didn’t like, and pretty much any male.

It was required that I send him a picture of everyone I was with the moment I arrived. So help me if I forgot.

It was humiliating to be caught surreptitiously taking pictures, so I’d often play it off like I was initiating a fun selfie instead of defending what was left of my social support.

As a result of this strict monitoring, I still make a habit of taking at least one picture everywhere I go, in case I need to prove my whereabouts to someone. I also take great pains to have evidence of damned near anything I say, because I’m so used to my word never being enough.

“I Trust You, It’s Them I Don’t Trust”

It wouldn’t likely surprise you to know that my abuser was especially suspicious when it came to other men.

If I happened to be around one when he wasn’t there, he wanted details as specific as how far away I sat from them, whether they’d spoken to me, and if I was at any point alone in a room with one.

Since I was the only female working for my department at the time, this rule extended to every single one of my coworkers and led to many fights about what kind of woman would want to work around all men. It also resulted in me being even more nervous to trust any of my male coworkers in a field where women are already regularly harassed and mistreated.

My abuser would grill me endlessly on every male relationship in my life and force me to cut out anyone he deemed threatening to him (which sure was a lot of people, considering he thought himself to be such a badass)

As you could probably guess, no matter what I replied in defense of a relationship with a male friend, however platonic, it was automatically wrong.

That’s because my mistake was being around another man without my abuser in the first place, having been with other men before meeting him, having ever interacted with another man in my worthless, promiscuous life.

Never Enough: Losing Loved Ones to Control and Fear

This constant criticism and suspicion left me tripping over my own feet trying to convince him I was being honest. I became hyper-aware of triggering his next explosive accusation.

Of course, no amount of honesty was enough to satisfy his jealousy.

Every attempt at making plans was a new reason to be ashamed, a new disrespect for which I’d spend my life pleading to be forgiven.

After a while, I was so frazzled and paranoid that it became easier to just stay home. It often still feels that way.

“It’s For Your Own Good”

One of the most maddening things to reflect on now is how these regulations were always framed for my safety. That claim made them impossible to question.

If I dared ask why he needed to know something, I was being suspicious and shady. After all, if I truly had nothing to hide, why wouldn’t I want my partner to know where to find me at every single moment of my life?

He was only worried… About my safety.

If he later discovered I’d missed a single detail about a trip or interaction, it was automatically because the entire outing was a lie and I was a cheating liar.

If at any point I made a misstep in this confusing dance of restrictions, it only further proved to him that I couldn’t be trusted to be responsible for my own decisions. He’d add this offense to the growing pile of sins I’d committed against him. These he loved to randomly pull from and throw back in my face anytime he was angry, relishing in the fuel it added to his own blazing anger.

Where Is My Mind?: The Disorienting and Lonely Fog of Abuse

These and the many other controlling tactics imposed by my abuser left me feeling as though I didn’t have permission to think negatively toward him at all, much less express concern about the relationship with another person. Doing so would only get me, and possibly the person in whom I confided, hurt.

This was an incredibly dangerous mindset to be in, and exactly where he wanted me.

I was stuck there for so long it began to feel like I didn’t have control over my own thoughts or opinions anymore. Everything had to be filtered through whether or not he’d approve, whether or not it was going to set him off, whether his rage would be aimed at the walls or my body. He’d strung our relationship in tripwire and delighted in my stumbling.

This is why victims struggle to report. It’s why they struggle to leave. It’s why they become defensive or overly positive when you bring it up. It’s why they struggle with feelings of being complicit in their abuse.

They’ve been taught that anything else will not be tolerated.

Light in the Dark

In public, I was forced to behave like I was in a happy, normal relationship. When I wasn’t quietly sobbing in bathrooms I was dissociating my way through the the day. My anxiety was through the roof, and I’d withdrawn from most of my loved ones due to how stressful it became to contact them.

I finally became so depressed and isolated that I convinced my abuser to allow me to see a therapist. As burnt out and exhausted as I was from his mind games and dangerous moods, I managed to turn his own manipulation against him by telling him I was struggling to get over the affair I’d recently caught him in.

He agreed, but not because he was looking out for my mental health. To my narcissistic abuser, it meant someone else could figure out what was wrong with me, teach me to swallow my own feelings and move on, absolving him of the responsibility to put in any repair efforts or have vulnerable conversations (of which he wasn’t truly capable).

Even after starting counseling, it took several months of sessions before I’d admit to a single thing wrong with my abuser. I spent that time in denial mode: lying through my teeth about how he was trying, how he was a changed man, how he was working on his drinking, etc.

One thing I couldn’t hide so well was my mental pain. My counselor and I were regularly doing screenings for anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Turns out it was easier for me to rate the trauma I was experiencing on a Likert scale than it was to describe it.

These inventories were what tipped her off that I was keeping something from her, and she was able to use those threads to slowly tease apart the bundle of shame and terror I’d wound up tightly around the secret of the danger I was in.

Reality Check

In untangling the complex web of abuse, it’s essential to recognize the often subtle signs of control that can masquerade as normal behavior. Victims may find themselves isolated and closely monitored, their every move scrutinized, but taught to believe that this behavior is normal or deserved. This can make it difficult for them to see the dangerous cycle they’re trapped in.

It’s important for those experiencing such control tactics to understand that these behaviors are neither normal nor healthy in a relationship and that they may escalate into more severe and dangerous behaviors.

Seeking help is a vital aspect of breaking free from the grip of abuse. Whether it’s a trusted loved one or a professional counselor, having a support system to validate experiences and provide resources can make all the difference in escaping and recovering from intimate partner violence.

Domestic violence hotlines or local support groups can also serve as a lifeline, offering guidance and assistance to both victims and loved ones looking for ways to help.

These supports can also play a key role in the healing process, as survivors seek a safe space to explore and understand their experiences.

By fostering awareness and providing avenues for support, we contribute to a collective effort to break the silence and empower survivors.

I’m Glad You’re Here

After years spent advocating for domestic violence victims while hiding my own suffering, I refuse to let anyone feel abandoned in their abuse or its aftermath.

Trauma sucks. Recovery shouldn’t. That’s why I’m making communicating about my own experiences as normal as possible while actively calling out abuse and inequity when I see it.

My aim is to give others a safe environment in which to develop these tools so we can start making some much-needed changes together.

Please support my continued writing (and help me inch my way toward my first book) by following and engaging with me on trauma and advocacy. I’d love to hear from you!

Subscribe in one click to receive your FREE digital copy of my new guided journal, “Empower and Heal: 90 Days of Transformational Prompts for Trauma Recovery, Self-Discovery, and Growth”, delivered straight to your inbox!

Veronica Wren Trauma Recovery Book Club

Oak Flat: A Fight for Sacred Land in the American West — Lauren Redniss

This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you click a link and decide to make a purchase, I’ll earn a few extra pennies to support my book-buying habit (and do an elaborate, celebratory dance around my apartment just for you). My promise is that I’ll only ever recommend resources I truly believe in and have found beneficial in my healing journey. Happy reading!

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About the Creator

Veronica Wren

Trauma sucks. Recovery shouldn't. Subscribe here for your FREE exclusive guided journal

❤️‍🩹 ❤️‍🩹

Domestic Abuse & CPTSD Recovery Coach

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