This is not usually a forum for serious topics, but I want to highlight Vicki’s story. She is a friend of a friend, who is in the process of escaping from her husband and emotional abuser. They have three small children, twins aged four and a toddler boy, all born in Dubai. The children are wards of court while their future is decided. Vicki will have to return from the UK to Dubai for a hearing. She may well lose custody of them.
What follows are Vicki’s words. She describes what effect emotional abuse had on her. As a child I lived through physical abuse, and always thought that was the worst thing that could ever happen to you or someone you love. It seems that emotional abuse can be just as damaging, and even worse in some ways. Although of course the two are very often used in tandem to devastating effect.
Emotional Abusers are clever. No doubt about it. They prey on someone’s weakness until a small crack becomes a large crevasse. Imagine someone using the one or two or more things you have an insecurity about and building on it daily. Building is the wrong term, chipping away at you is what they do, they build nothing.
I’ll admit mine, mine was definitely confidence. Whilst I come across as a funny and bubbly person, I am actually incredibly shy and have had to learn confidence over the years. When my EA (Emotional Abuser) met me I was a sitting duck. Instead of being happy with my chirpy personality, he saw it as a threat. His insecurities rose up and in an effort to feel like the ‘big man’, he decided to make me smaller instead of grow himself. Its not done over night, its done chip by chip, day by day. A thought, a comment, a mood, a reaction, even just a facial expression, usually of disgust. The moods are bad, where you just so want them to snap out of it you almost apologise for something you haven’t done, especially when there are kids involved. You so want the norm to resume, whatever a norm is, that you are willing to turn into that door mat just to appease a situation. You start to become someone you don’t even like, but you can’t take the reactions anymore. So bit by bit you start to conform to what is expected of you and try ANYTHING not to ‘rock the boat’. It doesn’t matter if you know you are in the right and they are in the wrong, in my case with children, I was so trying to create a happy home environment like I had had that I was willing to do anything to keep the peace. They make you feel like you are going crazy with this up and down personality. One minute loving, next psychotic, next flowers as if nothing had happened that you do actual begin to think did you made it up, made something out of nothing? That’s when I decided to keep a diary. To log these episodes and see the pattern, and make sure I wasn’t going mad?!
It’s so easy when you are living in it to feel like the issue must be with you, that you must be doing something wrong. When, if you are lucky enough to escape, you look back you are embarrassed at the treatment you put up with for so long, but at the time you know you had to do it.
My EA was/is very clever. He would write the most amazing messages during the day, so that anyone who read them would think wow, what a husband, but the man who wrote those messages in the day, was not the man who walked through the door at night. I wish it had been! The man who walked in at night would have the ability to make me walk on eggshells until I went to sleep. Scared to get onto the wrong conversation or say something that he would misconstrue. I felt emotionally exhausted every night at having to think before I spoke about anything. I can’t begin to explain what that feels like.
I’ve had a few moments in my life that could be termed the straw that broke the camels back, but somehow he always managed to talk his way out of it and make me believe that there was hope and we could be a happy family unit. Alas, it’s never the truth. The last night that I was laying in my daughters bed after he had accused me of something utterly ridiculous, I had texted a dear friend asking her to keep her phone on because I was scared. I didn’t really know what she could do at the time, but it was just nice to know that someone was there. I was lying in my daughter’s bed, willing him to come upstairs and hit me. Just hit me so I would have a physical bruise instead of all these internal ones. Just hit me so I can prove to others what you do to me mentally every day of our lives. Just hit me so I don’t have to hide it anymore. But that’s when it really hit me, that our marriage really was over if I was laying there hoping that a 6ft 5” rugby player would hit me. I thought then that I didn’t have to wait for someone to hit me to be believed. I had to leave.
When I spoke to my supportive Doctor, she also took it to another level. When it was just about me I could cope but when she said, Do you really want Izzy growing up believing it is acceptable to be treated like this? And I thought, do I really want my adorable boys growing up thinking its ‘cool to treat a woman like this. The minute its about loved ones and not you, that’s when the moment comes.
So this is a very brief synopsis of Emotional Abuse. Unfortunately very difficult to prove but I wont give up and I’m glad to be free of the marriage, even if at the moment I can’t be free of the EA himself.”