Abuse and Staying in Control

By Robin Mullins Senger

Nothing stays the same in life. There is constant change, for either the better or the worse. Unfortunately, toxic men are generally changing for the worse. The reason I was able to stay with Brian so long (7 years) was that for the first four years, his change happened so gradually and non-violently that I adjusted and coped. There was nothing dramatic in the progression of abuse to set my personal alarm system off.

However, in his growing confidence that I would not go anywhere and would tolerate anything, Brian eventually started upping the abuse dramatically. He became careless and much more aggressive. This is a normal part of the progression of abuse.

From where I am sitting today, I consider it a blessing in disguise. The children and I were miserable under his dominion, but we didn’t really know why, because the progression occurred so gradually. Kind of like boiling a frog. As long as the water heats gradually, the frog will adjust and be oblivious to what is happening until it is too late. However, if the heat is turned all the way up immediately, the frog jumps out.

I would not have left had Brian not become very dangerous in the end. It was the heat and pressure I needed to have my eyes opened to the truth, so that the girls and I could experience life the way we were meant to.

Psychologist Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. says,

“Domestic abuse spirals in one direction. It progresses forward in intensity and severity over time, if not effectively treated. This is primarily because of the fact that an abuser will reach to the next club once the one he/she is using no longer has the same effect. So you might see this progress from tongue to fist…to police…to court and child estrangement. You see if those harsh words and character assaults don’t get the same reaction, then he/she may reach for a plate and throw it at you or bash it against something you care about. Now, once this doesn’t net the desired reaction, then a fist may land between your eyes or serve to break your jaw. Or, maybe the 911-Call will be used to bring the authorities in to put you in your place. Do you see the progression and how this works?”

Research shows that without intervention, abuse increases in intensity and frequency over time. The abuse rarely drops to lower levels. Has he used coercion, intimidation, emotional abuse, threats, isolation, economic abuse, or the children to control you? Does he minimize, deny and blame you for his behavior? Once you adjust to these control tactics and they are no longer as effective as they were at the beginning, he will progress to physical, and possibly, sexual violence. The core issue for the abuser is to be in control of the relationship in order to have his needs met.

I felt afraid of his increased carelessness and indifference, and helpless under the circumstances. However, down inside me was a God-given inner strength and fortitude that could not be destroyed. As Brian regretfully said, “I can’t ever get you to stay under my thumb.” Even though I didn’t see it at the time, God had given me an inner strength to resist his control. My spirit could not be broken. I thought I was weak, but in reality, I was very strong. You can’t live with abuse like this, and not be strong. You are strong too!

See yourself as the strong woman you are. You have made it this far, and you can make it the rest of the way! The more you learn about abuse and control tactics, and that there is no love in it, the stronger and smarter you become. God has not called you to be the property of anyone – you have a right to make choices for yourself and do things that put your children and your well-being ahead of selfish toxic people who only want you to serve their sick desires.

Even though you may feel weak, afraid and confused, God has made you strong. God delights in strengthening weak hands and heavy hearts. He does not want you to die, emotionally, spiritually or physically. He wants you to live, and live abundantly. He will help you with solutions to the problems you are facing, and bring people into your life who will help you.

Please reach out to someone and just talk. A good place to start is (if it safe to do so, or do it on a public computer) the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence www.ncadv.org or for anonymous, confidential help 24/7 call them at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).

Psalm 31:24 “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for and hope for and expect the Lord!”

Nehemiah 8:10b “And be not grieved and depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold.”

Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice.”