“Do people really believe abused women?”

by Annie Kaszina on January 18, 2012

Wendy wrote to voice a question that many of us ask ourselves at some point. Here’s her question and my reply. * 

“I sometimes feel other people I’ve told about my “abusive situation” don’t believe me. Or perhaps they don’t understand, so they say glib things like “Oh well, just forgive him” or “you need to stay in the marriage for the sake of the children” etc.

Dear Wendy, I feel for you.   When I was there, and had that T-shirt, I laundered it and ironed it as beautifully as I possibly could, wore the damned thing day in and day out  – and nobody bothered to take the time to read what was written on it.  In the end, I threw it away… and my emotional wardrobe is much enriched by its absence.

One unspoken Law of the Universe is this: the more you want to persuade someone – anyone – to see things your way the less it’s ever going to happen.  That’s human nature.  When someone comes along and says: “You’ve got to see this my way”, natural contrariness kicks in, and the knee-jerk reply is: “No, thank you. I’ll see it however I please.  In fact, I’ll see it anyway except your way.”

But why do you need ‘other people’ to see things your way?   Are you trying to enlist their sympathy?  Might you just need them to validate you?

(Notice that little ‘need’ word in there.  It does strange things to people’s heads.)

That spiral of need makes you lose sight of where other people are coming from.

People don’t want to be forced to face up to things that destabilize their own little world.  We tend to underestimate how defensive people feel about their way of life.

How many people do you know who act as if marital breakdown is a virus that could be catching?

You rocked their boat, Wendy.  You forced them to look at their own world.  You asked them to take sides, when they prefer to turn a blind eye to their own world.  So, they tell you to sacrifice yourself and your right to happiness and a Life, to make their discomfort go away.

How could you upset them like that? 

See, for them, even your marital breakdown is all about them – which tells you these are not true friends who care more for your wellbeing than their precious little rut. 

The real problem that needs addressing is not them, but you.  Whatever decision, and/or judgement you make about your relationship, you have earned your right to it.  Based on your long, painful experience it is absolutely right for you.


Everyone always has a right to judge.  Which means ‘everyone’ has a right to judge you – if that’s what they want to do.  But here’s the thing:

They only have a right to visit that judgement on you, if you let them.

And you do, don’t you?  You try to persuade them, which means you’re saying: “Please, please, please, could you be sympathetic towards me?”

And they say: “’Fraid not old chum.  It feels much more powerful to sit in judgement.  And I don’t always get to feel too powerful, myself.”

So, what do you think is the solution?

You might want to divide your social circle into true, loving friends, and The Rest, so you know what to expect from whom.  And you might start to really validate yourself.  Which means you’d stop depending on them for approval, before you can start to feel good about yourself.

Do that, and they will get the message.  They will respond quite differently.  Strange as it may seem, once you convey – wordlessly – to them that their opinion is unimportant, all of a sudden, they’ll start to see things your way.

How do you validate yourself?

You need to learn how to listen to and respect your own voice.  You need to learn how to love and honor yourself.  They’ll never be able to resolve your problems for you, so what does it matter if they think nobody should treat a hamster the way you treat your abusive partner?!!!!

It’s all about you, Wendy.  You are still suffering with the old toxic wounds and beliefs that tell you ‘you don’t matter’, ‘you don’t deserve to have a voice’, ‘you’re worth-less’, and much, much more of the same ilk.  Heal that old toxic baggage – and it will respond very well to the right treatment– and their threadbare, self-serving opinions won’t have any hold on you.

* There is a short answer, of course, and it goes like this: “No, people, in general, really aren’t interested in what abused women have to say.  So, the  more you start remembering and treating yourself as being so much more than ‘an abused woman’ – and you are so much more than ‘an abused woman’, the sooner these ‘people’ will set up and take notice.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Carol January 18, 2012 at 8:31 am

What about marriage counselors who pooh-pooh the incidents? We are separated but in couples counselling. I have told the counselor that I feel I was emotionally abused and that I am struggling to overcome co-dependency. He focuses on the minor interactions my DH and I have, challenging me with statements such as “well, what’s so bad about that?”. I do not think he gets that it is subtle mind control which has boxed me into this terrible place. I feel so good now that I am living apart, and the relief was immediate and true. I will continue to trust my gut. Now I think maybe it might be time to dump the therapist, though I am not hopeful of finding one who understands the subtleties of emotional abuse in couples counselling. Suggestions or thoughts?


Annie January 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Dear Carol, one of the lessons we have to learn is to take charge of our own life. That means that we take charge of our healing. So, we don’t trust a counsellor, or therapist, until they prove themselves worthy of trust. Sadly, there are a number of counsellors and therapists who don’t understand the dynamic of abuse, and pass ill informed and damaging judgements. They surely don’t mean to do that. They simply don’t know what they don’t know. Therefore, we have to take charge of our healing, and we have to choose to work with someone who has proven expertise in the field, and a proven track record in helping clients to heal. Those are the only important criteria.

Settle for someone who is mediocre, and you will get mediocre results. Besides, you’ve already wasted too much precious time compromising on what you deserve. It’s time for you to take charge of your experience, so you can create the result you want.


S. COhen January 18, 2012 at 9:55 am

In my experience I did get people that knew him that did not believe me and fussed me out about my actions. The most hurtful was the people that told me “a man is going to be a man,” as if I should just deal with it. Also, of course nobody believes in emotional and mental abuse. I have had to just find it in myself and find sites like this one to fully understand and begin to heal. Don’t listen to people unless they had similar experience or are a specialist in the subject and if those women who turned their back and snooted their nose at you call asking for help you will know how to respond of who to refer.


Heather January 18, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Hi Carol. You said you were going to trust your gut. It sounds like your gut is saying that you are much happier living away from your partner and that the marriage counsellor you are seeing is not really able to connect with you well enough to see the issues. I would wonder then, if the counsellor can’t recognise the issues, how you think they might be going to be able to help your husband/partner to see them and their effect on you as part of the process of change that would be needed to improve your relationship (if it’s possible: I qualify my comment with this as if your partner is narcissistic, then it will not be possible to improve the relationship I don’t think)? Good luck with learning to validate your self and your own reality by having the courage to follow your ‘gut’ – I ignored mine for years at my own expense and am slowly learning that it is a REALLY good thing to listen to – it usually has your best interests at heart!


Anna Synick January 18, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Hi Carol,

Keep looking until you find someone who is sympathetic and will help you. You may have to end up trying a few people before you get the right one. Our first counsellor didn’t mention emotional abuse. I went back to him for 5 more miserable years. The last counsellor however (whom I went to see on my own when my husband became increasingly violent and threatening) told me to get out quick smart, and referred me to domestic violence, where I met incredibly helpful people who understood my situation, and more importantly, helped me understand how bad it really was and why I needed to get out. That was about 8/9 months ago now, and I haven’t looked back, even if the road has been difficult.

As for this post…. how poignant and timely. I’ve had to do a stocktake of my friends after splitting from my husband. I went through the stage of wanting people to understand, and indeed, the more I tried to explain, the more I got comments like ‘he didn’t mean it like that’ and ‘he is not that bad’ and ‘aren’t you overreacting a bit’. When I had to take out a violence order against him for stalking me (and having ‘friends’ check on my every move!!) I decided that enough was enough, and I cut contact with those who wanted to stay friends with both parties, or showed such blatant disregard for my feelings. The most surprising friends I had to cut contact with was a couple of lesbian ladies. Sorry if this sounds presumptuous. This couple is quite anti-man generally speaking, but somehow my husband managed to pull the wool over their eyes. And they were both psychiatrists too – for me it shows how devious my husband really is, and how good he is at manipulating. But in the end, people have their opinions and I can’t really change them if that’s how they feel – but at least I could manage my own actions and reactions. Telling people I didn’t want them in my life anymore and the reason why, actually felt very empowering for me, and even felt as a bit of a relief.

And of course, I have made fantastic new friends since. And sometimes help and real friendship come from very unexpected directions.



Becky January 21, 2012 at 1:03 pm

But what do you do when it’s your family telling you all of those things? My friends have been SO supportive but the people who I’m supposed to be able to depend on believe everything he’s said & never once asked me…even tho his GF & her son moved in with him 3 months after he moved out. I thought I found a new guy but he said everything I NEEDED to hear and now I’m in a worse situation than before. I’ve alienated my kids as a result. People tell me that I’m too kind hearted but I can’t be a b!tch, it’s just not in me. Am I destined to spend my life as a good natured door mat?


Annie January 22, 2012 at 1:40 am

First, Becky, you need to make some clear distinctions here: taking care of your own feelings and well-being doesn’t make you a bitch, it simply means you are starting to take responsibility for your own happiness. Second, as many of us find to our cost, family are blood relatives, but that doesn’t mean they are close to us emotionally, and sensitive to our needs. When it’s family telling you those things, you still take the lesson that there’s no point sharing your innermost feelings with them. Time to get over the wound of telling yourself how your family “should” be towards you.:-)


Becky January 18, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Way to go with the heading on this one, Annie. My husband saw it in my email box, went into a silent rage, accused me and walked out. You should be more careful of the heading you put on your emails!


Annie January 19, 2012 at 1:12 am

No, Becky. Think what you’re saying: you’re now suggesting that I should have to behave in such a way as to think about managing your emotionally abusive husband’s moods. Your husband is emotionally abusive, we both know that, and it’s his issue to deal with. What’s he doing looking in your Inbox, anyway? How much longer do you intend to live your life in fear of his moods?


Julie January 20, 2012 at 1:45 pm

I found this post interesting. I have a link on my computer to this page and thought about deleting it because I didn’t want my mate to run across it. Then I realized what I was saying to myself. Goodness sakes, I wouldn’t want him to be confronted by his behavior!


Cez January 19, 2012 at 1:15 am

Thank you for this particular thread. I am taking charge of my own healing and it is just an amazing path. There are moments when I do find myself seeking other people’s approval but I am just seeing it as a habit now that I can shake off. Since I have taken charge of my healing, daily miracles have made themselves more pronounced. As I take a step towards what I want or know is part of my commitment to a higher and better self (usually with just faith for a companion), everything else falls into place. I am defining who I am and it is the most liberating experience in the world. I am also looking into the childhood I have chosen, the parents I have chosen, the culture I have chosen to grow up in and this path of “investigation” is serving as a springboard for me to take my life into my capable hands and to find that it isn’t as scary as I thought it would be.


Nancy Abela January 19, 2012 at 3:35 am

“But why do you need ‘other people’ to see things your way? Are you trying to enlist their sympathy? Might you just need them to validate you?”

Wanting validation is, in my opinion, a legitimate wish. I lost all my friends and some members of my family after I separated from my husband. The isolation and the rejection hurts like hell at the point in your life where you most need a support network. Yes I used the word need. No man is an island and we do need support from others. After three years I still have a very restricted social circle and it makes me sad. It is yet another aspect of my life that has been raped by my NPD husband. I have learnt to be more discerning in choosing friends nowadays but the atrociously unjust, traumatic experience of being the victim and being treated by family, friends and professionals like I was the perpetrator, has scarred me for life.


Annie January 19, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Dear Nancy,

I hear what you say, and I understand what you feel. However, some of your thinking is not serving your best interests.

Yes, validation is nice, but there are times when you aren’t going to get it, and people who just won’t give it to you. So, an attachment to validation which people should give you, but don’t, becomes a sort of festering wound for you.

Your husband may well have ‘raped aspects of your life’. But it is a hideously emotive phrase. Each time you say it, I’m betting it makes you feel worse – or, at least, more victimized by him. It brings your past torments right into the present.

If you need healing from these scars – and it certainly sounds like you do, then my 7 Wounds program http://recoverfromemotionalabuse.com/7-w-recording-2/ may well be exactly what you need.

Warm wishes for your happiness,



alice January 20, 2012 at 4:03 am

thank you this timely message
i had deleted everything recently i had received from you because i stopped believing me too
it is bad enough that you believe your emotionally abuse partner when you are in the relationship but to still carry it after is the worst the self doubt can be so crippling and looking for validation from others and you get the comments from others that made you think you failed and didnt do enough or forgot to do something thanks again hope got back on track again


florence January 20, 2012 at 7:01 pm

thank you ive been so lost and looking down on myself, it helped me take a look at me but its only the first day im alone and im so sad. i feel sick and miss him and never once did this man stand up for me or validate one word i said after thirty year of being his slob he walk out. and i sad what the hell is wrong with me, and what do i do first since im truely left with nothing but worry


Julie January 21, 2012 at 6:33 am

I wish I could give you a big hug Florence! But know this…………you are going to learn to delight in being your own person again. You are going to rediscover yourself! Take good care of you, pamper yourself, be nice to yourself, maybe all those things you wanted from him but never got. Put on some music and DANCE! Life is good!


Wendy Morling January 21, 2012 at 6:35 am

Thank you for bringing this topic up Annie, it seems to have generated a lot of discussion.
I think what Alice said about “not believing in herself ” is far more crippling than other people not believing us. It is hurtful and you tend to feel invisible again, but IF WE BELIEVE IN OURSELVES, WE CAN MORE EASILY WEATHER THE DISBELIEF OF OTHERS.


Laura February 1, 2012 at 8:38 am

Thank you Annie! I cannot say in words how much your site and advice has meant to me and helped me healing from abusive relationships…I have been in many and, after the last one, realized to comon denominator was me so I made a committment to myself to find out why and how I allowed this to happen to me over and over. And to forget the guilt ! I can say it is a long continuous journey and self improvement never stops. Knowing there are other women out there on the same road makes it so much easier. Most of my friends and family did not believe me or did not want to hear my story – it was too closee to home..A relative of mine got furious that I actually went through asecond divroce ! But a couple of friends asked me how I knew it was abuse and I told them if you feel bad or sad most of the time something is wrong and get out ! It does not get better …I dont care what anyone says…Sadly those friends did not and continue onthese relationships because of the cost of divorce or having to deal with finding a new life so late or the emotions that need to be worked through to recover is too much for them to bear andnow their spouses do not let them contact me because it might be contagious!…Although I was one of them, I am saddened by people afraid to move forward becasue I now know what can be possible…I look at my childhood through now to find the painful paththat took me thru many abusive relationships and am happy to say that at first it was a VERY Painful journey, its a great journey now…you just have to have courage and conviction of doing whats right for you. The question you really need to ask yourself is “am I going to let someone else run my life , make mydecisions or am I?” Although I have been on this journey a couple of years, I constantly have to ask myself what do I WANT? And is it because it is MY DREAM or soemone elses? I take the time to figure it out before i make decisions…it is so much fun! Thanks Again!


Bette February 6, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Even though I had become aware of the co-dependency and emotional abuse I had suffered from my ex-boyfriend and had ended it; in his extremely skillful, manipulative and narcissistic manner, he managed to coerce me [again] into phone conversations. After an hour, he was decending on the same diatribe of how he thought of me all the time, how he would soon be at my door, blah, blah, blah, then subtlely and cleverly mentioned how he would be training a new recruit in his traveling business and how she would be sharing a hotel room with him. This time, I recognized the set up. I felt a fury rise in me and I gathered up all the nasty, filthy, dirty, manipulative garbage he had heaped upon me over the past 3 years and stuffed it down his lying throat…..and I didn’t let up. This was a week ago. Of course he hasn’t contacted me and I doubt he will again. I felt so ….. good. Then today I began to feel “kinda bad” about being so “mean” and wondered if I had been abusive….but instead of letting that idea fester, I decided to search for a sight on emotional abuse to get the facts. So glad I did.
So here we all are. Together. I don’t know you but I know you. And I recognize your heart because it’s mine. And I recognize your thoughts because they are mine. And I recognize your struggles because they are mine. And I want to love myself. So I found a photo of me when I was about 3 years old, enlarged it on a copier, cut it out and taped it to my bathroom mirror. Every morning I smile at that darling little girl and tell her I love her SO much. We didn’t deserve what happened to us. We do deserve to be loved and to start with ourselves. Thank you for sharing your hearts. It’s so refreshing to read truth and authenticity, isn’t it?


Carrie February 8, 2012 at 1:08 am

Annie…..your words are so amazing!!!!! I am going to re read this post to Wendy…..cause when I was reading it I have discovered that I am Wendy and that this is what I have been searching for here on earth from so called professional that I paid bucks to and still didn’t have any results. Go figure….I read this and now I am realizing what is going on…….May Allah bless you in your work in helping others in abusive situations…ameen……keep up the good work


Elaine May 5, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Thank you for this, like others this is also my family. They insist that their still seeing and inviting my abusive ex around is ‘for the kids’ I have asked them to respect that I am who they should reference through for the children but it falls on deaf ears. I know they think it’s all me. It was really hurtful and still is. They know everything he has done but still feel sorry for him as I have tried to channel the negative feelings into doing voluntary work to help me cope, – it takes the time on the days the children are with their father and is sociable as I don’t have much money. Everyone sees this as me getting out there having a life while poor him is abandoned even though he has a good income and travels loads and barely supports the children, is trying to financially ruin me. When I explain everyone says I have to get over it. When I try to disengage I am told I shouldn’t disconnect as it isn’t fair on the children. A lovely friend has recently become close, he is kind and gentle and really encourages me. He was there when one of my sisters was going on at me about ‘getting over it’ eventually he said (after a long time) ‘I am an outsider but I don’t understand, if she had bruises to show would it still be the same?’ My sister was really rude to him, won’t speak to me now and the next day said that he crossed boundaries and was always there. We had actually changed our plans because she was making a last minute visit, she had had a few drinks at this point, he hadn’t and were including her in our plans. She liked one of our friends and so kept coming to our events (we are musicians) and then accused him of always being around too much as if he is a controlling mentor when in fact it is all the other way around. He is an encouraging empowering person and my family are telling me to toe the line. I try to remove myself from it but it is over and over again that they go on about him. My brother was/is going to help me buy him out but I have to keep it secret as he doesn’t want it to interfere with his holiday plans with him in the Summer, then everytime I get a solution he puts a barrier in the way – it delays the property discussions, my ex gets even angrier and more bitter at me and accuses me of lying about buying him out because I am not allowed to say. I realise I have rambled. Sorry.


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