Comparing the Experiences of a Female With a Male DV Victim
Last week I shared an article about a man being abused by his wife. This week, I share another blog from Crying Out for Justice. In this blog, a female abuse survivor compares her abuse to that of a male abuse survivor. I found this very interesting. Before you begin, please hear me say this:
Female and male survivors of abuse are not in competition. Abuse is WRONG, no matter who does it or who receives the abuse.
Saturday, I sat down with a friend to talk about our different experiences in our former abusive marriages. “Chris” was married to an abusive woman for 25 years while I was married to an abusive man for 12 years. We both wanted to discover what similarities and/or differences there were between our respective marriages. This is just OUR story and we, over here at A Cry For Justice, are interested in your opinions and experiences, as well, regarding the variations between male and female abusers.
As a preface, it is important to explain that Chris and I had very different upbringings. I grew up to be a very insecure young girl by the time I married while Chris grew into a very secure man by the time he married. Thus, much of the contrast in how we reacted to abuse. Every marriage is distinctive; there is no way to categorize behavior by gender, most of the time, due to differing backgrounds and personalities. Here we go . . .
I am sure I responded exactly the way my abuser wanted me to respond when it came to emotional abuse. I cowered under criticism for my mothering and cooking skills. I got to where I hid anything new I tried for fear of him picking at me. There was a relentless lack of love as my ex-husband bred insecurity in all of us. I absorbed every bit of this. As a woman, I found myself in my home . . . easily isolated .. . trying to pour myself into my husband and children. Indeed, my entire purpose for living revolved around the home. I lost my voice. Anything I said would be hit hard with a “Who told you that?!” or a “Where did you hear that?!” Nothing I said held any validity and my esteem plummeted.
Chris’ wife was very emotionally abusive, as well. Chris was a pastor and his wife criticized him non-stop. Every ride home from church, Chris braced himself for her verbal assaults as she ripped his sermons to shreds. She tore him down daily: “You don’t know how to lead! You don’t know the first THING about leadership! You don’t make me happy!” Chris said that he was always wrong and never said the right thing. He said that his wife believed that he was responsible for her happiness . . . and that she could never be made happy.
Chris said that, because he worked outside of the home, he was able to gain esteem from the serving he did as a pastor. While he dreaded going home, he said that he, at least, could leave every day and be around very loving people who appreciated him. His esteem struggled, but he was not at the bottom of the pit because of his ministry and because of his fantastic upbringing. His parents had instilled love and esteem into his being.
Both of our former spouses were physically violent. My husband hurt me physically a handful of times. There was no way to get away and no way to hold him back if he was angry. Chris’ ex-wife threw fits of rage. She would pounce on him and hit him. Chris happens to be a larger man and he COULD hold her back at times. He did not live with a fear that she could beat him to death. HOWEVER, in the last year of his marriage, he did have to have the locks changed on his bedroom door for fear she would kill him in his sleep. Up until then, though, he did not live in daily fear.
Although Chris could defend himself sufficiently, the feelings associated with being attacked physically were very similar for both Chris and me. It is a terrible thing to have your spouse come at you, anger pumping through his or her veins. There is just no way to describe the alarm, isolation and betrayal. My spouse is supposed to stand by me, not turn against me.
Psychological and Social Abuse
My ex-husband would state that something did not happen that did happen. He would also tell me that he said something that he did not say; or that he did not say something that he did say. He was a master gas-lighter. I felt crazy. And there was no one to bounce things thing off of. I was too isolated to share this part of my life with anyone. Part of me really believed that maybe I was crazy. And if I shared this with anyone, they might think so, too.
Chris told me that he, too, was isolated. He would question himself, saying, “Am I really a terrible person?” Because of Chris’ vocational ministry position, he shared the abuse with no one. Telling anyone that his marriage was a mess would result in the loss of a career and a great deal of shame. His ex-wife regularly threatened him, telling him that if he left her or made her life less than happy, she would very tactically “ruin him”. Chris was set free when he did divorce her, did lose his career, and yet survived it all and is now thriving. Chris has victory.
My understanding in my first marriage was that sex was only for men and that women were made to be used. It was painful most of the time. In my own little prison, I would literally cry out in my closet, “God? Is this all you made me for? To be used in bed?” I cried after sex 90% of the time, weeping alone in the bathroom. I dreaded it. It was demanded and Scripture was used against me “Your body is mine . . . ”
For Chris, it was an absolute denial of sex. His ex-wife would not have sex with him but now and then and when he DID want to have sex . . . she made him feel guilty just for a normal desire. It was a terrible and lonely life for Chris. Chris’ ex-wife knew he would be faithful to her. And she used and twisted this beautiful trait to her own advantage.
For both of us, there was no true intimacy in sex. It was only a tool. For my ex, it was a release (he would use that word) and a way to use me. For Chris’ ex, it was a tool of manipulation.
My ex-husband used Scriptures such as 1 Peter and 1 Corinthians 7:4 to control me. He used the ideas of submission and authority, as well. Chris’ wife used Scripture such as Ephesians 5:25 . . . “Husbands, love your wives and sacrifice for them . . . ” She insisted he sacrifice everything. She was a taker and devoured all resources they had between them. Using this Scripture, she demanded he give up all he was in “sacrifice”. I was amazed that a woman could be just as crafty when it comes to twisting Scripture as my ex-husband could be.
It seems as though our spouses used our greatest desires to control us. Abusers have a keen radar when it comes to utilizing what their victims need most.
My deepest need was for security. My abuser daily pulled the rug out from underneath me. DAILY. Chris’ greatest need was respect. His abuser zeroed in on this and berated and minimized him every chance she got. Are there different desires for men and for women? And does this change the behavior of an abuser? Can we AT ALL categorize some of these qualities and say, “This is typical for an abusive man” or “This is typical for an abusive woman?”
It is definitely an area worth exploring.
Yes, I agree that this area needs more exploring. Next week, I will present one more perspective on the differences between male and female abuse.
Question: What do you think about this comparison? What does this bring up for you?
Psalm 11:5 says:
The Lord examines the righteous,
but the wicked, those who love violence,
he hates with a passion.
Whether you are male or female, if these stories of abuse sound like your relationship, please check out my Get Help page.
Bless you all,