Dear Leather and Lace: I hope you can help me get through this terrible time in my life. I’m just 22 and I don’t know what to do. A year ago I met a man, online, and we fell in love. We hadn’t known each other that long when “Ned” insisted that I should move to his town and live with him. I told him I wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment. I thought we were moving too fast. But Ned absolutely insisted that we had to be together and pressured me into moving. I left a job, friends and family I loved, and went to be with Ned, even over the objections of my family and friends. Things were ok at first, but in the past six months, Ned’s behavior has really changed. He started coming home late, or became drunk and angry. He’d criticize my hair, my clothes, my cooking and even called me “”fat” (I wear a size 4 dress and work out). He started humiliating me in front of his friends, calling me names and grabbing me in front of everyone. He wouldn’t let me have my friends to the house. When he started pressuring me to have rough sex and do things that disgusted me (to spice things up), I got really scared and refused. He hit me so hard I fell and broke my wrist. Despite all this, Ned still insists that he really loves me. He can be a great guy when he wants to be. Last night we went out to dinner, and Ned was being so sweet and romantic, I suggested that maybe we could benefit from some couples counseling. Ned got furious, and stomped out to the car. I probably shouldn’t have, but I followed. He started driving and we started arguing. At one point, he slammed on the brakes, and ordered me to get out of the car, although I had no way to get home. It was terrifying! Someone finally stopped and gave me a ride, but when I got home, Ned didn’t even seem concerned about what he’d done, or about the danger he’d put me in. In fact, he told me that it was my fault and that I got what I deserved and all of our troubles were my fault because I forced him into letting me live with him. Nothing could be further from the truth! I am so shaken. I just don’t know what to do.
Signed, Sue, Shaken, not Stirred
“Lace’s take on this: Sue, repeat after me: “Ned’s behavior is abusive, frightening, upsetting, and totally unacceptable and I am not going to tolerate it a moment longer!” If you say it enough, you will allow yourself to believe it. On some level you already know this is true, because you wrote to A and T at leatherandlaceadvice.com and laid it all out quite well, in writing. You’re getting the double whammy of both physical and mental abuse. If you want us to validate your instincts, I will be the first: this man is both mentally and physically abusive. The best thing you can do is leave him faster than he can throw another punch or sling another verbal assault at you. No one can or should put up with Ned!
You wrote that Ned says he loves you, but he certainly isn’t showing you love. Interestingly, you didn’t mention whether or not you still love him. Perhaps you are staying with him because you don’t think you’re worth someone better. But consider: if this man can, without remorse, abandon you at the side of the road, what else is he capable of? Do you really want to find out for yourself how badly hurt you can get?
Ned either has a serious problem that he’s not sharing with you, or, as I suspect, he just has an abusive and controlling personality that you didn’t recognize at first. His insistence that you move to be with him, when you weren’t sure you were ready, should have been your first warning that this man had plans to control you and didn’t respect you. If you need any more proof that it’s time to leave, re-read your letter to us. What advice would you give to a good friend who sent you a letter like yours? That should give you in black and white all the proof you need.
Physical abuse can leave bruises everyone can see, but mental abuse, invisible to the eye, can hurt more than a fist, and leave scars that last even longer. Both are acts of violence that should not be tolerated, ever. Abusers can sense when someone is weak or vulnerable and race in for the “kill” before you even know what they’re doing. Online abusers often troll chat rooms and social media, just looking for someone who seems easy to pick on. Could you have given that impression when you first met, online? In person, an abuser might not look any different from your next door neighbor, a teacher, or even a trusted religious or political leader. Albert DeSalvo aka. “the Boston Strangler” for example, was a good looking, educated man with good manners who killed at least 11 women, right in their homes, because he had gained their trust. Once that was accomplished, he sexually assaulted these women, strangling them to death. Mental abusers may similarly look and act “normal” until they are ready to play games with you. Some abusers just get a perverse pleasure out of being able to control someone to prove their power. For them, it’s the ultimate rush.
Please think about your situation and have the courage to do what’s right for you again, even if it means picking up and leaving. You are fortunate that you are still young, and have the entire world in front of you. If Ned has isolated you from your former support systems and you can go home, do it now. If not, start to build a new support system so you won’t be without resources when you do leave. Join a supportive group and start making new friends who will still be there for you when you’re “single” again. If you must stay while you set up an escape plan, spend as much time away from Ned as you can. Volunteer, and attend functions that Ned can’t object to, just to get out of the house and make more new connections.
You can’t ignore or make excuses for anyone who flies off the handle and becomes angry and violent. It is their problem and you can’t cure it, although if they are willing to undergo counseling, a trained professional might be able to help over time. My advice? “See it, and flee it!” Ned has a serious problem, but that problem is yours, if you stay. You may feel sad and disappointed that things didn’t work out, but you will be safe, and alive, and you will have the chance to be happy again. We are sure of it!
Leather’s Take on This: Abuse is another form of rape (and I do not say this lightly).
Rape is an expression of power over another person, the violation of the victims body and spirit, sex is just a means of accomplishing it. Abuse is also an expression of power over the victim, the verbal abuse and abusive sex are designed to humiliate and degrade the victim (rough sex can be mutually pleasurable but if your partner objectifies you through it the act becomes abusive. Even normal sex can be abusive if it involves humiliation or degradation). The abusive acts, like those of a serial killer, are an expression of rage against a target the abuser can not reach therefore they use the victim as a substitute.
What you must always understand and take heed of is these men (or women for that matter) are sociopaths and as such extremely dangerous. Because I was shy as a child I am very good at reading people. As a young man I found I could spot insecure and easily manipulated women with ease and for a brief period I exploited this (you can not be with someone long term who you do not respect at some level so I stopped this). A sociopath also exists outside the social structure looking in (See the Showtime series Dexter) and thus is good or better at spotting individuals who can be manipulated and then using their insecurities and fears to manipulate them. Isolation is a key part of their game, they create a false reality (which is used to enhance the victims insecurities and fears) that they force you into and do not want an outsider to break their hold on you. They make you think you are worthless and you are lucky to have them and no one else would ever want someone as worthless and ugly as you. Every bad thing that happens in an abusers life they will blame you for and then punish you for it (through humiliation, verbal or physical abuse).
There is only one option here GET AWAY FROM THIS PERSON and DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THEM. Many abusers get very violent if rejected and many will try turning to stalking you if you run away. DO NOT let this person back in your life in any way (far too many women have returned to their abuser or even agreed to see them and ended up dead). Start living with your parents, find an abused women’s residence or move in with a friend. Ih the abuser has threatened you in any way or even says you will be sorry if you leave them GET A RESTRAINING ORDER and make sure the community affairs officer in any precinct you live, play or work in has a copy (as well as Human Resources at your office).
The ultimate physical abuse is a guy hitting or slapping your face. There is no hope for this person, get out of the relationship.
Could You Be In An Abusive Relationship? To Our Readers: If you think the person you are with might be an abuser, don’t wait to get hurt mentally and/or physically. Believe your instiincts. Make no apologies. This isn’t someone you can or want to be close to.
It is mental abuse if someone:
Verbally insults you, ignores or disrespects your views, or gets annoyed when you make a suggestion.
Verbally degrades you by saying all sorts of things you know for a fact, are untrue (e.g. calls you “grossly Fat” when you’re a size 4) or are said intentionally to hurt you or make you insecure.
Tries to control all decisions such as who you can be friends with, what you can eat, and what you will wear.
Refuses to be around any of your family members or friends, and makes a fuss when you try to see them.
Gets jealous for no reason and interrogates you intensely about where you’ve been.
Expects you to follow their rigid rules of behavior even if the demands are unusual or downright crazy.
Insists that you ask permission to go anywhere or do anything, or takes away your keys and credit cards.
Talks down to people and you, as if they were inferior, or does the same to you.
Humiliates you in front of other people by saying inappropriate things about or to, you.
Gets drunk or takes drugs, and insists that you to do the same.
Intimidates or threatens you with violence (E.g. I’m going to kill you” even it is followed by: “I don’t mean it, I was just joking.”
Has sudden mood swings or get easily frustrated and angry and never takes responsibility for it.
It is physical abuse if someone:
Hits you, slaps you in the face or punches you.
Isolates you from your family or friends.
Pressures you to have sex (especially rough or extreme sex) or insists on doing other things that you find degrading.
Gets physically rough with you (eg. grabbing, yanking, poking, shoving, pushing)
Sits too close, blocks your path, or touches you even when you have said no
Humiliates you in front of other people by physically grabbing you inappropriately.
Admints to being mentally and/or physically abusive in the past, but insists the other person was at fault.
Shows cruelty to animals, children, the elderly or others that seem vulnerable.
Insists you move somewhere away from family and friends to isolate you.
As anyone who has read “50 Shades of Gray” or “The story of ‘O'” can tell you, within the context of some relationships certain things are not only tolerable they are relished. In reference to your boyfriend’s demand for out-of-the-box-sex, consider that what is degrading to one person may not be so for someone else. But any activity that the purposely meant to be violent and to degrade you (or that you don’t want to participate in), is unacceptable.
Lace’s Comments on Leather’s Answer: While we don’t normally, emphatically, tell people what to do, we both agree on this one — don’t linger and figure a way out as quickly as you can. Both Leather and I have provided important insights and good advice on what to do next and how not to fall into another situation like this one. Follow it!