Domestic Violence: How to stop someone controlling you
I am one of many women that has found themselves stuck in a domestic violence situation where I was controlled like a puppet by someone that was always playing the victim. My friends and colleagues could see the situation for what it was, but there was nothing anyone could say or do to save me. I escaped with a few scars but some people, like Lisa Harnum (pictured), aren’t so lucky.
This week, Happiness Weekly gives you the tell-tale signs that someone is controlling you and some tips on how you can escape safely.
Are you being controlled?
This may sound strange if you haven’t experienced it, but it can be difficult to know if you are being controlled by someone – it’s important that you see the signs as early as possible. Some people who we trust can be extremely manipulative and although we love them and would never hurt them, they don’t have that same care and empathy for us. In fact, if we try to stop them from controlling us, they would almost do the opposite and deliberately affect our lives in a negative way – and that’s where domestic violence situations get out of hand and even become fatal.
Here’s a story of how it may come about, an account shared by Beth Cofone:
“At first, he gives in to what you want from time to time. When a conflict erupts because he refuses to do something you ask him to do, and he becomes angry because you complain about it, his anger passes quickly. He may even apologize to you for being “selfish”. This is just a ploy to get you hooked into the relationship and to slowly make you give in to him. As time goes on, there is less give and more take, until his control over you increases to the point of it being unbearable.”
General characteristics you’ll feel include:
- You need to “report in” to the person – they have the final say on what you do
- They rarely do anything you want to do i.e. if there’s nothing in it for them, they won’t do it
- It’s all about the other person – they don’t share your interests or acknowledge them
- If it’s a controlling man, they generally have a huge sense of entitlement for how women should treat them
- A controlling person is more likely to come across as the victim so you’ll do everything for them, rather than demanding you around. Playing the victim relieves them of any responsibility from the relationship.
- Over time you will be unable to live your life the way you want, because when you do, they make you feel guilt or misery. This means you’ll start excluding friends, cease using social media as you used to, stop enjoying the things you used to etc.
According to Beth, controlling people tend to live by these core beliefs:
1) You are to do as I say, not as I do.
2) You must be subservient to me physically, mentally, and emotionally.
3) All you do must benefit me or else you are a selfish person.
4) Whatever you want or desire is to be denied, ignored, disagreed with or disliked by me.
5) You deserve no personal space or personal time.
6) Whatever you possess must be of use to me or I won’t buy it for you or like it if you buy it for yourself.
7) My ideas and opinions are right, your ideas and opinions are wrong and I will never accept them or agree with them.
8) You must always ask my permission to do anything that is your idea.
9) You are here in my life to do everything I ask you to do for me. But I never have to do anything you ask me to do for you.
10) I must approve how all the money is to be spent in the relationship and you are to obey my decision.
11) Your body is my possession.
12) I am superior to you and you better never talk to me or act in any way that makes me feel I’m not. You can never criticize me about anything.
But be careful of the consequences. According to Beth:
“Be forewarned: If you do not accept the lie/pretense/excuse he is giving you to accept how he wants things to be, you will pay the price. What is the price? He will withdraw his love, attack your character, and throw in some hostile anger or a day of silence just to finish you off. In other words: play by his rules and you won’t be subjected to his abusive anger.”
The control cycle
Every victim of domestic violence should be aware of this chart (below) – known as the “control cycle”. I only found this the other day and in my experience every single fragment on this chart was ticked.
What you can do if you’re being controlled
Anyone can find themselves in a domestic violence situation – it doesn’t matter how attractive you are, how intelligent you are, how happy you are, how friendly you are, what gender you are or what sexuality you are – it can happen to anyone! And it’s humiliating. Absolutely humiliating. Part of the control in a domestic violence situation includes continued lies and manipulation. And people go back for more, even when they know it isn’t right – look at supermodel Tyra Banks who has spoken publicly about her battle to get out of her hellish experience! She feels your pain if you’ve made this mistake! So here’s what you can do to stop being controlled and get out of your situation:
1. Don’t make them angry
As much as you’re angry from all the abuse and you’re ready to let go, DO NOT go out of your way to upset them more in any way. This includes jealousy tactics, irritating them, poking fun at them etc. You need to remember, as much as you want it to be different – and you’ll still be in a lot of denial – this person isn’t wired the same way you are and they know it better than you do. They’re the person in control and they want to control you – you need to accept that and prepare yourself to move on.
2. Seek advice quietly
If you seek advice from authorities, go quietly. DO NOT ask them to contact the person who has been abusing you because it will fuel the controlling person to use it against you. It doesn’t matter what you have in written threats, notes, conversations, photos of stuff they’re doing to you etc, if they end up seeking action against you none of this stands up if they can spin a more believable story – even if yours is the truth. I was given various options in my situation but decided against taking action against the controlling person because the situation would certainly have escalated regardless of what I did. And it did! But at the end of the day, what’s more important: your pride and a piece of paper? Or your life?
3. Plan what you’ll say and do
It’s ok to let them know that you’ve changed your mind about the relationship, but plan how you’ll approach it and be prepared not to go back on it. “This isn’t working for me,” and explain briefly why – but make it about you. They will use every method of control that they possibly can against you to try to get you back in. Without having you to control, they feel worthless and will go in search of someone else – or go back to a previous partner they know they can control. Be tough – remember if you’re openly emotional they will see this as vulnerability and they will manipulate you. Also plan your next steps to get as far away from that person as you can for as long as you can.
4. DO NOT believe a word they say
If they suspect they’re losing control over you, this person will be going out of their way to run you into the ground at any cost. They know how to control and manipulate you and believe me they will use that. They will have you crying, begging, pleading – the amount of guilt they will have you feel will be overwhelming. Don’t play into it. Walk away. Don’t listen to lies, don’t try to rationalise with them – there’s no need for you to respond. Do not try to contact them.
5. Block the person
This is hard, but you need to block this person from your life completely before things get worse. If you have an iPhone you have the ability to block their number and stop them from contacting you. Cut out your mutual friends. Delete people off Facebook if you need to. Even if they approach you – do not acknowledge them. Avoid all contact with this person. Filter your email messages so they go straight to the trash. Don’t leave yourself open to let them back in. Have faith that when you get rid of a bad person from your life – the universe will reward you with a good person.
6. Be prepared to lose your pride
Get set to lose some friends and cut your losses. You can’t control what people think, hear, say or do. The people you lose from your life are ignorant, you never needed them. Save yourself the emotional drain. Hold your head high and get set to welcome the new and far more awesome people into your world. You’ll also have more time to see and speak to the people you have been previously forced to cut out of your life. Enjoy that time and look at it as your only consequence to freedom. Worth it, huh?
7. Leave your life behind
Once you’ve told them it’s over avoid any pathetic attempts they make to try to get control of you again and … VANISH! I mean move out, change your number, change your email, change jobs if you have to. The aim is to make sure this person never finds you again. Gain your control back in any way you can. If you have free time, look into ways you can gain more freedom and more control as you continue to step away from your experience.
8. If they seek action against you
You’ve moved on, they’ve seen it and now they’re really out for blood – they will now say or do whatever it takes to destroy you, your future and your reputation. Don’t forget how great they are at playing the victim. So let’s say they have you served with a restraining order (don’t be surprised, according to legal advice, this is actually common in domestic violence situations as a last ditch bid in controlling you) – what do you do? Consider the control cycle and if it’s worth more humiliation and manipulation. If they manipulated you and authorities into taking action, it’s likely they’ll be able to manipulate others… Consider if you want to see them again when you don’t necessarily need to. If the consequences won’t affect your life, it’s not a criminal charge, then you can settle it by consenting without admissions. What can they do now? That’s the last time they will see you – and for whatever period it is agreed to, that is the only period they will have left to control you. It’s important to note: this is not an admission of guilt, it is about protecting yourself with minimal expense. Try to find out your rights and how it could affect you before consenting, this will be important. Also, brace yourself that this may not be the last you hear from this person. You can find more information about defending yourself against a false AVO published by Sydney Criminal Lawyers here.
9. Distance yourself
If you have been in a domestic violence situation with a controlling person who plays the victim, you will be shit scared. You will know within yourself that this is far from the end of it and only a matter of time before they contact you again, or worse, come looking for you. Take control where ever you can. If they persist, seek your own action, you have the same rights as them – but go fourth with caution. It may be better to consider a move overseas for a while than stick around and continue the fight. Consider your health and wellbeing before stepping in any direction.
Finally, leaving a controlling relationship is hard, but I can promise you – with Tyra Banks as my witness – it is worth it! You’ll be happier without them in your life, no matter what the initial consequences feel like. And remember, to stay with the person or to go back to them, is to risk your health and your life.
My advice: get out, whatever it takes.