We are deeply saddened to report that women and men in emotionally abusive
relationships sometimes find that people do not really understand or
appreciate what they are living with. It happens even that abused people have
impressions that they therapists do not believe them.
Because we have seen too often the confusion and fear of victims who have difficulty reporting clearly what has been done to them, Anna is going to start a program titled, 'I believe you!' She is writing an e-book to accompany this program.
Often the husbands or wives who are abusers are highly skilled in looking good. An
abuser can even be a professional in HR, business, law, medicine, clergy or mental
health. Friends of an abused spouse in this situation are slow to doubt the
professional who outwardly looks so good and commands respect in his or her
Can we give you a heads up on this? Just because a person commands respect as a professional does not mean he or she is easy to live with. You might think that your minister of physician is the height of empathy and source of godly wisdom and envy his wife who has married such a man. Do not assume anything when talking to her. Ask questions.
A friend can signal openness by suggesting some doubt in your enquiry. You can say, 'Rev. Tom looks like such a warm and understanding person in public, does this carry over to his private life?' You can add, 'Sometimes a person looks great in their professional role but being married to them is a different story.'
To be honest being married to a wonderful professional is not only a different story it is often drastically different even abusive story And wife is isolated because no one will believe her. Be prepared for some surprises if you really care.
A minister can be there for everyone else and out at all time for church duties and leave his wife deeply neglected.
A pastoral counsellor can look like the ideal mate from a distance only to find the real person has drastic flaws.
A husband skilled in Human Relations can have gained skills for looking good in any conversation with a couple therapist and, therefore, able to stifle any protests in his partner who is feeling like she is losing her identity.
An Avoidant spouse creates the perfect looking marriage, top notch hospitality and spotless home but leave his or her spouse gasping for any hint of intimacy, honest sharing or connection.
The Psychopathic or narcissistic spouse is not only abusive to his (or her) partner, but is also effective in conning people into thinking he is the greatest, but also will intentionally be undermining the self-worth of his (or her) partner both in private and public. But no one realises that. This is very painful for the spouse.
We can add the trauma and confusion caused by trying to establish a love relationship with a Narcissist or Borderline Personality, but you get the idea.
It is not easy to listen to victims of abuse. We do not like to look evil in the eye. But therapists and other professionals need to have the empathy and clinical skills to listen and understand. Therapists and other professionals need to have the wisdom and courage to support the reports of the victim of abuse.
The victim of abuse believes she (or he) is crazy. They lose confidence in their own understanding of reality. If you, the professional, do not listen and do not believe, then you are undermining their confidence in themselves. Care and sensitivity is needed.
A victim of years of abuse is vulnerable when they attempt to reach out. They may not believe in their own grasp on reality. They may have lost confidence in themselves. Their identity may have almost been crushed. You, the listener must build cords of hope, faith and love to them by believing them.
We hope to be counsellors who will list, empathize, understand and believe you. We choose to be a safe place where you can restore confidence in yourself, eliminate the feeling that you are crazy and rebuild and clarify your identity.
George Hartwell M.Sc.
Anna Wolanczyk Ph.D