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Vort

Abuse

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I have noticed several threads of late where charges of "abuse" and "abusive husbands" are bandied about rather matter-of-factly, even casually.

If we accept "abuse" to mean simply wrongful use, I can believe that such widespread abuse is as common as it seems. In that case, however, we must be honest and admit that every one of is is guilty of being abusive, on a daily basis. I doubt that any of us treats those we interact with in a manner perfectly consistent with Christ's example.

But if we use the term "abusive" that widely, it becomes meaningless, a synonym for "alive in this world".

When I hear "abuse", I think of more than a sharp word or even being mean. I think of a man who beats his wife, or physically intimidates her, shouting her down, calling her awful names and telling her how worthless she is. A guy who says to his wife, "That's a pretty stupid idea," qualifies as a cad, but that alone does not make him "abusive".

I do not know the situation of those who post here. Perhaps they truly are being abused, in which case they should leave immediately and call the cops. But my sense is that, in general, we use the term "abusive" far too frequently to describe almost any suboptimal situation. It is unfair -- even, dare I say it, abusive -- to the falsely accused. And, like the all-too-common false allegations of "rape", crying "abuse" at every turn trivializes the experience of those who really are victimized by such unspeakable crimes.

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You are very right Vort. I remember when I first left my own situation, I was doing a lot of reading in order to cope and better understand what I'd gone through. I read every book I could get my hands on that covered the topic of abuse and some of them used the term far too freely in my opinion. From the way it was described, I was started to doubt my upbringing and was thinking that my own parents had been abusive to me, and I was getting very confused. My parents? Abusive? The thought had never before crossed my mind, even though my father had once slapped me across the face when I was four. But now I was starting to wonder....

I talked quite a bit with my best friend about what I was reading and how I was feeling about everything. She had been brought up in a home where there was quite a bit of real abuse. Her father was almost always drunk. Her mother would constantly put her down, hit her, throw things at her, and even tied her up and locked her in a closet. It was a terrible living situation, and she's done a lot to overcome it. So when I addressed my concerns with her, she was able to put my mind at ease- she said that we all will exhibit from time to time "abusive tendencies". This is when our behavior is "borderline abusive" or we are acting in a way that could be construed as abuse BUT it is only TRUE abuse if the one doing it has the intent to control or harm the individual they are doing it to, with tactics of fear, manipulation, intimidation, and physical control.

It has also come to my understanding that a truly abusive person will never make any effort to change the behavior. Everyone else is always at fault, there is always someone else or something else to blame. But even so, some people can go through what I would call "mistreatment" that would still qualify legally as abuse, and if they are not mentally capable of dealing with it it can be just as damaging as going through a truly abusive situation. In these cases, I think it is a good idea to give the same or similar advice as would be given for an abusive situation, but leave the possibility of restitution more open- because the one doing the mistreatment will be open to change.

This is what I would say my father went through. When my father slapped me and left a mark, child protective services got involved. In order to avoid losing us to foster care, my mother had my father move out. He had to go through anger management, parenting classes, and domestic violence awareness classes before he could come back. He did all of that. He still has issues with his temper on occassion, but I would never ever think of him as an abusive person. Had he not been open to improvement and change though, the story would have been very different, and my mother probably would have ended up divorcing him.

It is hard to draw the line on what constitutes abuse and what doesn't, also because it is so very subjective to the individual, their ability to cope, and their perception of the situation. I do agree though, that we use the word far too much, and that it is used as a label for situations that do not at all reflect the extreme situations that can become life-threatening.

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I agree.

I totally freak out when I hear the word, abuse, since I have been abused, really, in the way Vort sees it. I assume, and perhaps wrongfully assume, that this is what everyone means when they use the word. I picture the threats and physical abuse that happened to me.

I am one of the ones that has slight flashbacks when I see someone on this site say "abuse" so my reaction is to run. Perhaps some more information would help in these situations so we all know what is going on. Perhaps I also should not make assuptions and just say to run!

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Guest gopecon

I would guess that the majority of people have gone through some type of "abuse" or "bullying" (a similar word that can be similarly overused) in their lives, but not in the degree that normal people think of when they think of a problem being so bad that intervention or escape is needed. Not that it can't be real, but I'm especially leery of making too much of the term "emotional abuse" without hearing some background and specifics. Hopefully in the context of the Church, a bishop would take the time to learn the specifics before jumping to too many conclusions when a spouse requests help with an abusive partner.

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I agree. My husband suffers post traumatic stress from his abusive upbringing by a paranoid schizophrenic father and a mother in denial. There's a very big difference between being a cad and inflicting such mental damage that the brain can never fully recover. He's been away from it for over 30 years, but he still has nightmares, there are still triggers that result in flashbacks. He went through his own war called childhood, and he often tells me I'm the best thing to ever happen to him.

PS is something not to be messed with, the only true option for the safety of the spouse and children is to get out while they can, and before permanent damage is inflicted.

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I was talking to a friend who was never physically punished as a child. She was shocked at parents who 'spank' there kids. And, then I was in my BOM class and someone in devotional announced how his mom gave him the belt after making a bad choice. I was a bit shocked by his admittance to this since usually this seems as something kids try to cover up. At least amongst my group of friends we all pretended we had perfect families until one night at a sleepover we talked about how our parents raised us. Several people ended up saying they'd been 'belted' as a child. One of my friends was shocked at all the 'abuse" and the fact none of us seemed to care much/weren't outraged.

And then I announced how I was all for corporal punishment ect in schools. That stirred things up.

Once when I was younger the neighbors called the cops after hearing yelling and my dad was taken into custody. It was the night of my grandparents annual family Christmas party. I remember being really embarresed that 'daddy was in jail." He ended up not being charged and nothing went on his record after the judge determined the cops acted rashly however he had to take anger managment classes every monday night for a what was probably a year or so. I remember because we had FHE on Sundays from then on.

Most when hearing that would jump to the whole 'abuse' thing. And, like Judo's father I know my dad has anger issues. But, he isn't truly abusive.

Anyways, The word abusive is totally subjective.

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I agree.

I totally freak out when I hear the word, abuse, since I have been abused, really, in the way Vort sees it. I assume, and perhaps wrongfully assume, that this is what everyone means when they use the word. I picture the threats and physical abuse that happened to me.

I am one of the ones that has slight flashbacks when I see someone on this site say "abuse" so my reaction is to run. Perhaps some more information would help in these situations so we all know what is going on. Perhaps I also should not make assuptions and just say to run!

I do this too. I try to be careful, and remember to ask for specifics or something that will give me a better feel for what is actually going on, but I often forget, because my mind automatically brings up memory images that put me in react mode. In my situation, I was constantly in a state of fear, very confused about what to do, very manipulated, and the memories still sometimes bring me back to that emotional state. It doesn't help that when I try to offer people advice, I try to imagine what they are feeling or thinking in order to give them "better" advice than I otherwise would, so I tend to purposely put myself back in that mindset. It is very hard to keep a clear head and offer clear advice that isn't biased toward "run" when I see the word abuse thrown out there.

But I also tend to err on the side of believing it is really abusive, even if it doesn't sound as bad as what I went through, because I don't want to catch myself trivializing anyone's pain. I don't want to see someone on here distraught about their situation and say something like, "Oh, it's not that bad, you'll be fine"... when it may actually be bad. Though we see a lot of it on this site, I tend to think it is because people are more likely going to be coming to this site if they are in a situation where they need help than if everything is fine.

I have a friend though, who I don't really keep in touch with anymore, because she was getting divorced about the same time I left my ex. Hers was a temple marriage, and she claimed the divorce was grounded on "emotional abuse", but when I tried to talk with her about it- hoping to share and find some comraderie since I'd been abused too- she was always aversive of the topic, and she didn't appear to be "hurting" at all. In fact, she was doing everything she could to screw the poor guy over... She would frequently tell people what a "jerk" he was in order to "warn" them to steer away, and she seemed very confident and strong concerning her legal proceedings, and even got involved with setting things straight with his boss and coworkers. She didn't seem like she'd been abused. And then she was out searching for another man right away, and she is already re-married.

I fear that a lot of situations where people claim there's been abuse may be like hers, and even still the only reason I feel like she wasn't really abused is based on suspicions. Because she didn't really seem like she'd been hurt or victimized, and she didn't seem willing to reach out and share with me what she'd been through when I tried to share my story with her. It was like she was avoiding me because what I'd been through was far worse and she didn't want to have to face that she hadn't really been abused.

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Guest mirancs8

Unfortunately many in abusive relationships will often soften the description of the act itself. They may very well be in an abusive situation but being on a forum with limited details I cannot (nor to I wish) to decipher which pot it falls in. I would rather support that person and give them advice that might help. There is a real sense of guilt and shame that causes the abused to hold in rather then open up. This forum in ways allows people to open up without being exposed.

As someone who was in an abusive marriage for years it is very difficult to talk about your own situation without having feelings of guilt and even embarrassment. It's like when a person says, "well shame on you that you stayed and put your children in that danger... I would have NEVER put up with that..." This alone will make many never speak openly about it again. They suddenly realize that others view them as weak. The more you keep someone speaking about it the more greater the chance they will begin to see the reality of their situation.

So when someone uses the word abusive here I remember my own situation and consider the fact that they too may not have truly seen their relationship for what it is. We don't know the entire story to say that they are using the word incorrectly in describing their own situation.

Abuse is very complicated. It encompasses control, intimidation, embarrassment, manipulation, bullying, and many other things. Years and years of this can breakdown the core of someone who was once a strong and vibrant person.

I do agree however that when someone say "he was abusive to me" and I come to find out that they had a verbal argument or he grabbed her arm when she tried to walk away etc. Reality is when we are in relationships we are going to have arguments and at times we might even grab an arm of someone walking away from us when we are trying to explain. Abuse to me goes far beyond what I would think is normal relationship arguments.

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Guest gopecon

"They may very well be in an abusive situation but being on a forum with limited details I cannot (nor to I wish) to decipher which pot it falls in. I would rather support that person and give them advice that might help." - mirancs8

I think this is the type of situation that Vort was talking about. Once abuse in mentioned the worst is assumed and advice/support is given with that assumption. I've seen quotes on these boards advising abuse victims to leave ASAP, without knowing what type of physical abuse was going on (it could have just been the arm grabbing, along with some other forms of abuse). Support is generally good, but when it comes with calls to action based on limited, one sided information we can go places that we might not if we knew the whole picture.

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Guest mirancs8

I think this is the type of situation that Vort was talking about. Once abuse in mentioned the worst is assumed and advice/support is given with that assumption. I've seen quotes on these boards advising abuse victims to leave ASAP, without knowing what type of physical abuse was going on (it could have just been the arm grabbing, along with some other forms of abuse). Support is generally good, but when it comes with calls to action based on limited, one sided information we can go places that we might not if we knew the whole picture.

Completely agree with the over the top advice of leaving ASAP when very little is know.

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All that said. Each person will interpret "abuse" differently. What I may feel is abusive to one's self-esteem and well-being, may not be what you feel is abusive to one's self-esteem and well-being. I believe the same thing applies to bullying. What one may consider bullying, I may see as obnxious playfulness but to that individual, he or she feels victimised and therefore it is bullying. I do agree that certain words and terms are thrown around loosely. But the line is a thin one. I certainly don't want to down-play a situation where someone feels abused just because I may have thicker skin.

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I definitely agree with above. Growing up, I was grounded, sent to my room, and sometimes mildly spanked (just a smack on the butt if I back-talked my mother).

I was probably in 5th or 6th grade when a friend of mine had been visiting at my house. I had been mouthing off to my mom over something (I had quite the attitude at that age), and my dad had sent me to my room. Walking down the hall to my room, I stopped again to make another comment to my mom, and my dad "booted" me to keep me going. He did this by lightly tapping my bottom with the tip of his shoe and telling me to keep moving forward. This friend of mine, who has never been disciplined in her life, was appalled, and the next day at school, I had teachers, counselors and classmates coming to me to talk to me about the "daily abuse and beating" my dad had given me and how they could help get me out of there. They even wanted to see if I had the bruising I apparently had because my friend had been a "witness". At this point, CPS had been called and my parents had to be investigated. It was a nightmare. Of course at that point, I learned to keep my mouth shut when guests were over and not get myself grounded. The situation could have been a lot worse- thank goodness it wasn't.

However, abuse doesn't necessarily need to be defined based on the worst possible scenario. To abuse is to misuse/mistreat for personal gain. This can be verbal, mental, emotional (which usually go hand in hand) and physical. Abuse can be small or major- which is why it's important to know the difference. But, I guess that's where it gets difficult for many. Just because your husband hasn't physically hit you, doesn't mean that his demeaning comments and compulsive lying is off the hook. It's a difficult situation because many IN the situation may be blinded about what's really going on. I truly hope that made sense.

Bini said it better than me.

Edited by Emmaline
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I don't one bit disagree with Vort and other sentiments that the term "abuse" can be overused, and often is overused. I've observed it's overuse, and loss of meaning within my family growing up.

However, it is clear that we live in a world where much true abuse occurs. Hence the need to try to not become desensitized to the term, and remain open when someone says they are abused.

The New York Times - December 14, 2011

An exhaustive government survey of rape and domestic violence released on Wednesday affirmed that sexual violence against women remains endemic in the United States and in some instances may be far more common than previously thought.

Nearly one in five women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point, and one in four reported having been beaten by an intimate partner. One in six women have been stalked, according to the report.

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This forum is a good platform for people to talk openly about abuse they have suffered. I know that it has been cathartic for me to talk about my mother, something I have only done in the privacy of my home or in doctor's offices. I imagine it is the same for others. I think we need to be sensitive to the needs of the victims. They are allowed to classify abuse as abuse if they think it needs to be. The problem comes in when the reader decides that rather than trying to UNDERSTAND what the poster is trying to say, and taking into account that different people say things in different ways, tries to make everyone else fit into the perfect little definitions they use. For instance, posting that they think a word should be defined in a specific way, and everyone else should conform to it.

As people using an interactive forum, we should all be aware that we are all going to do our best to communicate with each other, but we will not do it in the same way.

If someone feels that they are being abused, and they want to share that, but the abuse they have suffered doesn't quite fit what the reader thinks qualifies as abuse, the problem is not with the poster, but with the reader, who should be flexible enough to understand what is being said, rather than judging it.

We also have to keep in mind that abuse can range from mild to severe, and even though someone may experience what would be classified as 'mild' it can still have a dramatic impact on the victim. We have no place to judge what others feel, or how they feel about any of their life experiences. I don't have a problem with people coming on here and sharing that they have been abused. I don't feel comfortable saying, you can only share that you have been abused if you fit what I classify as abuse. Because we truly don't know what they have been through.

On the flip side. I do not approve of people saying they have been abused, when they have not, to gain leverage (for example in a divorce or child custody situation) and if they do, they will have to answer to God for that sin.

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I was never out and out abused as a child, except the molesting by an employee of my dads. My parents did use a belt on us, in a minimal way, if we did something dangerous. I do not consider that abuse although I am not fond of the method.

Still I have severe trust issues stemming from betrayal. People did not stand up for me with I needed it. The man who molested me 'groomed' me for 6 years to get me where he wanted me then he betrayed that 'friendship'.

Betrayal to me is abuse but does it fit anyone else definition of abuse? Probably not. For me, I think its abuse, for sure, if it leaves lasting damage.

It might be good if we kept our own definitions, of abuse, for ourselves and not for others who feel they have been abused.

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If someone feels that they are being abused, and they want to share that, but the abuse they have suffered doesn't quite fit what the reader thinks qualifies as abuse, the problem is not with the poster, but with the reader, who should be flexible enough to understand what is being said, rather than judging it.

Several problems with this, the most obvious of which is: How can we not judge what is said? That's what we do when we read about situations; we judge them. That is the whole intent of sharing stories, so that others can make value judgments.

But there is a deeper problem (at least one). You think no one should complain when someone cries "abuse!" Do you feel the same way about rape? If someone claims to have been raped, then later discloses that she did consent to sex, only she felt like her husband/boyfriend wanted it so she sort of felt like she had to put out -- is that rape? No, of course not. Should she call it rape? No, of course not. She does violence to the meaning of the word. She viciously abuses the man she accuses. She also betrays every person who is the victim of actual rape.

When making claims of grave and momentous crimes, people should be careful never to exaggerate. And abuse is a grave and momentous crime.

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Several problems with this, the most obvious of which is: How can we not judge what is said? That's what we do when we read about situations; we judge them. That is the whole intent of sharing stories, so that others can make value judgments.

Agreed.

For me, rape is not always black and white. I consider manipulating and or threatening someone to engage in sexual intercourse as rape. A woman (or man) doesn't have to be screaming and or physically fighting back in order for the situation to be rape. I think date rape fits into that category. One person is intoxicated (whether voluntarily or involuntarily) and he or she is taken advantage of. Btw, I'm not arguing Vort's point of an individual falsely accusing another of rape. It does happen.

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Several problems with this, the most obvious of which is: How can we not judge what is said? That's what we do when we read about situations; we judge them. That is the whole intent of sharing stories, so that others can make value judgments.

Perhaps that is how you see it. I do not always post things so that others can 'judge' them. Some times I am just venting. Some times I am looking for compassion. Some times I am looking for advice, or help. I do not 'judge' every post I read.

But there is a deeper problem (at least one). You think no one should complain when someone cries "abuse!" Do you feel the same way about rape? If someone claims to have been raped, then later discloses that she did consent to sex, only she felt like her husband/boyfriend wanted it so she sort of felt like she had to put out -- is that rape? No, of course not. Should she call it rape? No, of course not. She does violence to the meaning of the word. She viciously abuses the man she accuses. She also betrays every person who is the victim of actual rape.

As I already said, those who lie about being abused (or in your example, raped) will face the judgement of Heavenly Father for their sin.

When making claims of grave and momentous crimes, people should be careful never to exaggerate. And abuse is a grave and momentous crime.

I agree that people should be careful about being honest when posting. I also think that as the readers we should be careful about misreading what is posted.

I just think it is dangerous to start accusing people of falsely claiming that they were abused, or even suggesting it, when there is a large possibility that they were in fact abused. I don't want to further victimize anyone!

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I never post to be judged. Its not a contest. If you are judging me then just dont read because I find that offensive.

I am offended at your offense. How dare you!

Of course you post to be judged. Judgment does not imply condemnation. The alternative is that you post to be ignored, which is abusrd.

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I never post to be judged. Its not a contest. If you are judging me then just dont read because I find that offensive.

I was going to try to say that, but didn't know how to without being to forward. Thank you Anne!!!

And not only that, but there are a lot of things I post that I'm not sure how one would even go about 'judging', like asking people what their favorite Wii games are. How do you judge that, other than thinking I am buying Christmas presents... I donno.

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Vort, how do you propose we interact with posters who claim abuse? Do we assume they are correct? Do we assume they are wrong?

It seems there are several regular posters who have direct experience with abuse such as what you define. And they view all posts through the abuse glasses (which can be difficult to remove).

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Vort, how do you propose we interact with posters who claim abuse? Do we assume they are correct? Do we assume they are wrong?

I have no proposal. My purpose in starting this thread was not to dictate suggested actions. Rather, I wanted to point out that many people are bandying about the term "abuse" in what often seem less that truly abusive situations. From the experiences of some people close to me, I know that some charges of "abuse" are overblown or even wholly invented.

It seems there are several regular posters who have direct experience with abuse such as what you define. And they view all posts through the abuse glasses (which can be difficult to remove).

Doubtless you are right. But that does not mean the rest of us should view claims of abuse through those same glasses.

Especially in a situation like an anonymous public discussion board, I think we do best to take people's claims at face value but maintain a healthy skepticism. Numerous times on this list alone, I have taken people's claims and statements at face value, only to have them change their story or claim later on with some sort of "well, that isn't really what I meant" hedge. And when the popular lexicon labels yelling at your kids "verbal abuse", the term simply does not have much useful meaning. In fact, it becomes a dangerous term when "abuse" is thought of as a harmful and even criminal activity.

If everyone agreed that "abuse" meant certain despicable and harmful things, and if everyone would always use the term only in that way, that would be fine. But since some people use "abuse" for everything from forcible rape to making a sarcastic comment, and since some people are prone to cry "abuse!" for relatively trivial offenses that no reasonable person would agree rises to the level of criminal abuse, I think we are better off not accepting just anyone's claim of abuse as gospel truth.

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Even if we were to get everyone who currently uses this forum to come to an agreement as to the definition of the term 'abuse' (which I highly doubt will ever happen, but for the sake of argument, let's say we can), there is a high likelyhood that someone new will join in the future, and will use the term in a fasion differently than the way we all think it should be used. Which would blow the entire system. So this whole discussion is a moot point.

I think this thread was started, more likely, directed at one or another specific references to abuse that the author finds unreliable, and wanted to point that out publicly. Just my guess, but I could be 'judging' incorrectly! :P

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