Tag Archives: #misogyny

Dissecting emotional abuse and why it’s so easy to let it happen

Some things sound like a cop-out or an excuse. Emotional abuse is one of those. Physical abuse we can see. Psychological abuse we can understand. But emotional abuse seems a bit wish-washy. Doesn’t everyone say mean things from time to time? Does that make everyone an abuser? It feels like a blanket “men are mean” accusation, a large net that scoops up everyone and devalues real abuse,

This is why I feel moved to dissect this. Because it is real abuse. And there are people around us suffering from this right now, or suffering with post-trauma. If we can understand it, we can help them. So let’s get into it.

It’s hard for people to understand emotional abuse. First, much of the abuse is unseen so when abuse is declared, people can only judge by the behaviours they have seen and what they are hearing doesn’t seem to match what they’ve witnessed.

Second, people judge the behaviour by how they would feel, and if they wouldn’t feel abused by it, the behaviour is not judged to be inappropriate. The feelings of the victim are judged in comparison to the feelings of someone who is not in that situation.

Third, it’s hard to explain. A popular perception is that emotional abuse is just saying mean things or calling names. It can be those things, but it is so much more. It is the gradual compression of the spirit (more on this below).

Fourth, the victim is subject to the behaviour for years and so it is their “normal”. I’ve written before about the surprising number of women who don’t realise they are in an abusive situation (you can read it here). Think the mythical frog in a pot of boiling water. If you drop a frog into boiling water, it will jump straight out. If you put the frog in cold water, it will keep swimming while it gradually heats up. It grows accustomed to the increasing temperature – until it’s too late.

It is a subtle but tectonic shift over many years. But there is a process. Which means there are red flags you can look out for – flags by which you can protect yourself, or, flags to help you can recognise if someone you know is in a situation like this. I’ve summarised it in the diagram below and then talked through what those steps mean.

“Abuse” is a strong word. Not many people think they are “an abuser”. That’s because people tend to judge themselves by their intentions and other people by their actual behaviour. The majority of abusers intentions are not to abuse. But their behaviour is abusive. Let’s look at the process.

At the beginning of an abusive relationship, there may be some bullish behaviour and subtle control and manipulation. But two things blind the victim to their presence:

  1. The victim’s own confidence, self-esteem, coping mechanisms and support network are sufficient to override any disquiet or cope confidently with any shortcomings in the spirit of compromise within a new relationship; and
  2. Lovebombing” is a real technical team that describes an abusers modus operandi. Here are the main red flags – they will hook up quickly after the last relationship; they will isolate their new partner, shut out friends and so on and place all attention and affection on the partner (and themselves) so they are deeply and exclusively connected. Even if the victim has a large social network, there is an emotional interdependence created, an exclusive bubble; they will likely engage in repeated romantic gestures, extravagant attention and usually will co-habit and/or propose quickly. The reason this is so effective is that the victim is the subject of a Hollywood style level of affection. This behaviour covers over a multitude of subtle manipulation, coercion and power playing.

The next step occurs after some time of diminishing. The victim’s confidence gradually diminishes, their support networks might diminish as they are isolated, or their feeling of being able to talk to those networks diminishes. At the same time, the grand romance diminishes.

Over time, the victim has become more and more vulnerable to bullying, manipulation, control and coercion. But, in the style of the frog in the water, the victim might not know they are in boiling water. They might not know that their partner’s behaviour is not acceptable. It has become their normal.

The victim at this point may be soldiering on in their public life but inside feeling gradually crushed. At some point, as the capacity to cope dips below the level of adverse behaviour experienced, the wheels will fall off. If you’re interested, I’ve written before about the relationship between coping and trauma here.

This can be where the point of recognition occurs – the recognition of being in boiling water.

When the point of recognition occurs, the victim’s responses to the abuser will change as they realise what is happening to them. This is a critical juncture. Because as the victim’s behaviour changes, so does the abuser’s. The bullying and control and manipulation will begin to escalate. Volatility will become greater and more frequent, as will mood swings and the unpredictability as the abuser senses loss of control. Usually this is where gaslighting also escalates – an abusers process of making the victim believe it is their fault, or not happening, or even that they themselves are the abuser (read more here).

Then comes another downward spiral. Self-doubt in the victim leads to hopelessness and despair. This is on top of the emotionally abusive tactics (which are varied, diverse and insidious) which can generate real and deep fear and high levels of anxiety. The volatility of the abuser means that anger explosions don’t even need to happen for the abuse to occur – the fear is enough. Think of it this way: I have a new dog. At first when I was training her, I’d use words and tone of voice and even actions. Now, a mere 3 months later, my dog only has to see the look on my face to feel sure she is about to be shut outside and she’ll dart under the couch to hide from me. Victims have been trained and conditioned to know when to feel fear.

At this point, several possible outcomes are possible. The victim may reach breaking point and leave. Or, the abuse may escalate to physical violence as well.

This is not an outcome that can be tolerated by our community. But it need not reach this point for it to become not tolerable. Emotional abuse ought not to be tolerated by our community either. It is emotional violence. It is damaging and scarring.

When we understand emotional abuse (and this short blog by no means explains all the nuances!) we can become more aware to behaviour that is not ok. It may not be behaviour that is abusive yet – but yet is the key word. If we can see where behaviour is heading in that direction, if we can see some red flags, we can help and support the people around us who may be experiencing this emotional violence and damage.

We need you, Christian men!

OK, normally I don’t like to shout but this made me bloody angry. A game called “Rape Day” (I kid you not) was set to be released on video game platform Steam run by Valve. In the last couple of days, a change.org petition got up and in the last 12 hours, Valve decided not to sell the game on Steam.

Here’s the facts you need to know: The game is set during the zombie apocolypse and “described by developer Desk Lamp as a visual novel, players can verbally harass, kill and rape women as they progress through the story.“*

This is not made up. Someone actually thought up and developed this game and one of the largest gaming platforms nearly distributed it.

Valve said that “After significant fact-finding and discussion, we think Rape Day poses unknown costs and risks and therefore won’t be on Steam. We respect developers’ desire to express themselves, and the purpose of Steam is to help developers find an audience, but this developer has chosen content matter and a way of representing it that makes it very difficult for us to help them do that.

You know what they should have said? “We, as humans, are OUTRAGED that someone could even THINK that something like this is OK, and we are not going to have anything to do with it. Further, we’ve referred the developers to the authorities as we think this game publicizes, celebrates, endorses and condones violent behavior towards other humans which could be ILLEGAL.”

THAT’S what they should have said.

Desk Lamp (the developer) wrote “The game is marked as adult. It’s for a niche audience; If it’s not your type of game you definitely don’t need to play it but as other’s have said I tried to make a game that I would enjoy playing, and there are other people like me. 4% of the general population are sociopaths and the type of people that would be entertained by a story like this is not even limited to pure sociopaths.

You know what this means? That there are people who are so entirely lacking in humanity that they think its alright to feed the dangerous fetishes of sociopaths and mainstream them for entertainment. And we are allowing it, because we aren’t fighting this tsunami of rubbish.

So let’s break down all the element’s of the developer’s rationale above.

  • “It’s a game for adults.” Oh. That’s OK then. Because if it’s for grown ups, acting out rape is totally alright.
  • “It’s for a niche audience. If you don’t want to play it, then don’t.” Of course, you’re right! I don’t know about you girls (and guys!) but the next time someone is trying to rape us, we should acknowledge that this is just their particular fetish and that’s OK.
  • “It’s not just for sociopaths.” Great! What used to be the just for insane people can now be done by any anyone and everyone!
  • “They will be entertained by it.” That’s RIGHT! Because rape is ENTERTAINING. Frankly, WHAT THE EFF.

This is why domestic violence is one of the biggest problems of our era. This is why there are over 20 million sex slaves in the world today – a quarter of which are children.

Why are people not outraged by this? Have we become so culturally numb that we have allowed this to just become part of the backdrop of our world?

Well, here’s what we need. We need our Christian guys to get outraged. Women have been saying for millennia that guys should stop raping people and nobody has listened. And now its a game.

So now we need our men to get so thoroughly heart sick of this that you become mobilised to speak and to act, to protect and to fight for us. Christian men – real men – exemplify this:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23

Please, let’s start a conversation about what Christian men can do and how we can fight this fight together because if we don’t, we are looking at so many more millennia of this inhumanity – and who knows where it will end up if we don’t?

 

* https://au.ign.com/articles/2019/03/06/controversial-game-rape-day-wont-be-allowed-on-steam