The Threatening Behavior Behind Verbal Abuse Is Terrorism

July 21, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

To defeat terrorism in an abusive relationship you must realize your abuser is a little kid in grown up clothes; wanting to wound you, but conquerable.

I remember crawling into my soft bed, fan blowing softly but enough that I tucked my hair behind my ear to keep it from tickling my nose. The covers were heavy, cool with a hint of Downy April Fresh; my pillow cradled my head in a mother's embrace. I fell asleep happy with the day, quietly looking forward to his return late in the night.

The house was spotless and smelled fresh. The children were quiet in their own beds for a change. Not one sound in the whole house that shouldn't be there. I drifted to sleep so slowly I consciously noticed the change in my breath as I fell deeper and deeper into dreams. I let myself go.

BANG! I moved so fast my brain didn't know I was sitting.

BANG! "What?! What is it?" I said, my heart pounding in the darkness.

A shadow crossed in front of the window headed toward the other dresser. It was him. I read his body language in the split second it took for him to pass through the moonlight. He was pissed.

BANG! BANG! BANG! Three more drawers opened and slammed. "Where are my f@c&i*g socks, KELLIE?" he yelled.Instinctively I knew the man in my bedroom was my husband, but his actions seemed so foreign to the setting that he seemed more like a demon hiding in the shadows only to appear suddenly right in front of me, forearms straddling my hips.

A demon looking for socks?

Terrorism in Abuse

Terrorism is the systematic use of a person's state of intense fear especially as a means of coercion (combined definitions of terrorism and terror from Merriam-Webster online). Abusers fabricate states of intense fear in their victims in order to more easily control the victim in the absence of fear.

My demon wasn't looking for socks. He knew they were in the top right drawer of the low dresser. He was looking to intensify his control over me.

Slamming drawers in the middle of the night is not the same as a punch in the eye, but it serves the same purpose. When our bodies or minds feel terrified, adrenaline kicks in and we do whatever we need to do to rid ourselves of the fear.

That night I could have ran. I could have cowered, frozen in the bed. I could have instinctively punched him in his eye. But my motions fit the situation: I squeezed from beneath his forearms, jumped out of bed and handed him a pair of f@c&i*g socks.

The next morning, you better believe I remembered his unpredictable rage! I woke when he did, fixed him breakfast, and sent him off to work with a kiss. The whole time my heart was pounding and I was hoping he was unable to find another reason to rage. I smiled and waved from the window until he drove out of sight, then spun around, sat on the floor, and sobbed.

The Devil You Know

That wasn't the first instance of terrorism in my marriage and it was far from the last. He banged coffee cups on the table, fists on the counter top, and used his voice as a long wail to break the stillness. He had a big voice all of the time, but even when he was happy and loud, my insides cringed in fear.

He used threatening behavior (in private) often enough for it to always be fresh on my mind. The physical violence I pushed into the deep recesses of my memory, far enough to pretend it didn't exist. But his violently loud and unpredictable sounds hit on those memories, reminding me of how bad it could be, forcing thoughts of gratefulness for the sounds not being my head hitting the wall.

I was grateful when I handed him his socks because it calmed the demon.

The Devil You Don't

So many of us who live with a verbally abusive and threatening person give more power to the demon we know (the spouse) than to the demon we don't know (what may be outside the relationship). We forget that "the rest of the world" is not as scary as the one with whom we live.

We forget because in between his small acts of terrorism, he tells us (in word and action) we are incapable of thinking for ourselves. Our ideas don't work. Our plans will fail. Our behavior is bi-polar, erratic, or worse and "How could you possibly do this without me?!" becomes the underlying theme.

We wouldn't be so willing to accept the nonsense as truth if he did not use terrorism as a way to keep us weakened and afraid.

I want you to know one thing: The "rest of the world", the one you could choose to live in, is a kind and peaceful place. When left to your own devices to find solutions to financial troubles or difficulties with your children, you will feel stronger without the devil you know.

And guess what? Your solutions will work, one step at a time.

The Threatening Behavior Behind Verbal AbuseOur devils aren't as huge as we imagine. Most demons are nothing more than hot air balloons, ready to pop with a single pin-prick. Begin imagining your abuser as this:

He's nothing more than a little kid trying to scare you. You will laugh instead of fear, you will run instead of cower, and you will find out how good the rest of the world can be.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, July 21). The Threatening Behavior Behind Verbal Abuse Is Terrorism, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

sabine braun
December, 3 2013 at 3:26 pm

I got the same . living currently as a german immigrant in the usa. when i read that all , i just think OMG. If i read your all situations and you are americans , how shall my kids and i get out of it?

May, 18 2013 at 7:02 pm

Its night. I'm lying here reading these posts crying silently. So as not to waken the beast. Please Lord don't let him find this post. I see my self in these posts. The screaming and yelling at home. He belittles me in front of others. He likes nothing more than to place me in uncomfortable situations. He knows I won't defend myself I won't even say anything. And he smiles as he watches me withdraw. But to cover it up he bad mouths me and spreads false rumers about me to everyone in our town. The people at t the gas station , the hardware store, the bank. So much SK that one occasion I have gone into one of these places and the people will say your husband was just here. You should know what he said about you. Its usually how I'm spending all the money (which I don't have access to.) When I was pregnant with our a second son he told people he didn't thinking was his. I have even had complete strangers ask me if I am his wife. I can only guess which story they have heard. I know this is his way to cover his actions. He fears I will leave not because he wants me but he doesn't want anyone to see it as being his fault. Some people have seen enough that they understand what is happening. Those people now avoid the situation. I don't blame them. I wish I could. Other has been occasions that people have spoken up for me. This makes him very angry. He always wants to know what I do around them that would make one one like me. Because he doesn't see it. Why does he stay if he hates me so much? I know that answer he won't leave because it would make him look bad.

July, 6 2012 at 6:05 pm

Please pray for me. I need to leave. Need to plan... need strength. All of the above is the same for me. Wish I was smarter 15 yrs. ago.

Cedric Wood
August, 16 2011 at 5:33 am

Wow, this is all incredible. These are all examples of what I call "egopathy." These behavior are "egopathic." Your husbands are "egopath." Not psychopaths, that's more serious, at least not yet. [...]

July, 30 2011 at 4:24 am

It sad to see so many of us women in the same verbal abusive relationships. I keep wondering to my self how did I get into this mess, wasn't I paying attention to the signs in my 20's (it will be 25 years next april) i don't want to be in this neagative unhealthy relationship next April! I'm raising three sons...what have they learned about relationships that one person has control over another??? we were seperated for 14 months than the Economy fell... he had to move back in... hell I had peace and quiet for 14 months now it's back to mr jekle and hyde. yes, i call him that He got into my emails and read personal emails to my family...I choose not to stay quiet but tell my family what was happening in my realtionship. There have been rise in domesic voilence in my state and women have gone missing. I have made a plan to leave...wish me luck :)

July, 29 2011 at 6:57 am

This story sounded familiar too. My demon is very unpredictable. Usually it happens on a Friday and ruins the whole weekend. I come home after a long work week looking forward to really doing nothing at home...just not driving to work...and he'll be in a mood..Sometimes it is a cleaning mood and we have to clean house most of the weekend or move things from one place to another around the yard. Plus, he was so hard on my son that I've moved him to his own place temporarily until I can move. I was sitting at home, doing some extra work..cause he never contributes to finances..working in a dead silence when he screams out because someone has changed the channel in the living room...I screamed out loud for the shock it put me into. I just can't take the...oh your son will end up hurting you and he is this that or the other...and you'll be throwing your money away if you leave and rent a place..etc...I was yelled at last weekend for being gone from the house for 5 hours last weekend...I am tired of asking permission to do things and listening to comments of ..oh we have so much to do around the can to your stuff just decided to stay out and enjoy a few things...but with the sick feeling of knowing I'd be confronted once "home" if that is what you can call it...a "home" should feel safe and loved in your home...not be walking on egg shells...I am finally seeing through the smoke and mirrors of this relationship and seeing that I could have it better....mom40...start making a it ever so small you can plan and just planning how you are going to get out of your situation is better than doing nothing....remember that you don't have to react to his fact not reacting seems to diffuse the terror of the demons......God does have a plan for your life...start praying for an and you shall find....

July, 29 2011 at 5:48 am

@ MOM40
I just stumbled across this site...and YOU ARE exactley where I was for 15 years up until 6 months ago.
The lack of what you have said speaks volumes to me. I couldnt speak either...and everything[including his OCD was because of ME]. And I believed this for so long...why would he lie? He wasnt 'lying'....he believed all his own thoughts...and I was a 'believer' of him right along with him.
Our finances were so bad, I thought there is no way I am going to get out of here...and, did I really want to be the one to destroy the family, and be really alone???
Ahh...I was wrong. He had destroyed it singlehandly long ago, bit by bit with his anger, secrets and withdrawl from myself and our kids....but it somehow was always MY fault. While I was in it[marriage] I just could not get a grip that this was HIS problem....and I was the scapegoat[or the kids].
In 15 years he had not taken us anywhere, nor me out...maybe for a nice dinner on our anniversary?? But I had gotten so 'used to it', I thought it ws all 'normal'.
Mom40....I always believed tht if I just stay put and do what is right, then things would eventually work out. NO--this is not true[and by the way I am overall anti-divorce]....but abusers dont is WHO they are[for whatever reason and it is not our fault].
I stayed so long becasue I thought I couldnt handle things on my own...I am already a nervous person...and I wondered if I could be a good leader for the children.
Turns out.....I Can do it!!! I do it with emotional connections, conversation that goes both ways, lots of listening, lots of hugs, lots of respect, and now able to step up to the plate with 'boundries' for them! WOW....from a mom who could barely speak because I knew no one saw what I a mom that can lead without is pure joy for me.
And financially, calling the Womens Help Line jsut to talk and share what I was going through[they are very non intrusive] will[at your own speed] get everything you need to get started and succeed...even if you are not capable of work from being a stay home mom for so long.....they will gentley help you with everything.
I wish I could tell you more...there is so very much to say...but just know[from a person who thought they could never be alone]....dont waste another minute of your life being abused. But you really dont believe you are....find out. Start talking!!!!!

July, 29 2011 at 4:54 am

So much of what I read's like I'm reading my own life history. I can hardly wait to get out of the house in the mornings, going to work to get away from him. I shake from the inside out, almost to the point where I could puke. I've silently nicknamed him Jekyl & Hyde, never ever saying it aloud. I became stronger having given my life over to Jesus, which now causes him to mock me and other Christian believers. Just the other day he went through a fit of rage and told me to pack my s$#t, all of it, and get out because 'he ain't moving', and if I don't, he will help me to do it "tomorrow (while I'm at work) by throwing it all out the door to rot in the sun and rain. Without a word I thought "fine", so I calmly walked through the house and made inventory of about every room, deciding most of it was replaceable, inconspicuously packing important papers in my briefcase preparing for the fight or flight as I kept asking myself, "do I stay, or do I go?". Funny thing is, once he found out that I had been recording the verbal abuse, I figured it was time to fly. Making a dart for the car with my purse over my shoulder, breifcase in one hand and keys in the other, the physical fight for my keys was on. I won. But then I was blocked from the garage door. I was not allowed to leave! What's up with that?! So I walked and paced around the house for nearly an hour. Of course there was a physical altercation involving the pocket recorder, causing me to lose my balance and fall to the ground. Being outside, I screamed at him to leave me alone! He did allow me to get my footing and move away from him. Why would he want to draw more attention from the neighbors? But then he started calling ME the psycho one. Looney in the head, he says. I was able to keep ahold of everything I had intended, however, he took the computer chip from the car which is required to even start it. So there I was, still at home walking around with my purse and keys for 6 hours. I was able to catch about 3 1/2 hours of sleep that night, with my clothes and shoes on and purse and keys clutched to my belly. You're problably thinking, 'why didn't I just walk?' It's 4 miles from town. I wasn't about to take off on foot nearing dusk and putting myself at risk to some other danger lurking around the corner. I dread the end of the workdays and especially the end of the workweek. I really hate the shaky, pukey feeling I get at the thought of going back to the house. I never know what kind of mood he's going to be in!

July, 26 2011 at 7:46 pm

finally i have found someone else thats in my position. No one understands what we put up with, people say, oh your so quiiet and calm all the time, any wonder i am, i can`t say a word otherwise the demon will come out. How do you help someone who doesnt want to help themselves. He is bipolar, i know it, the doctor told him, prescribed medication, but he insists im the one with the issue. I make him like this. My children are suffering, finances are suffering, if i try to leave, he will make my life a living hell. They are dangerous demon as well you know. I am lost and don`t know where to go from here.

July, 23 2011 at 3:24 am

Isn't it sad that we all seem to have this in common. My heart was pounding just reading this as it all seemed to real. Wednesday, I was told I was a "Nobody" along with the usual, your an idiot, a c&*t, lazy, useless, ahh, the list goes on. Well he also told me Wednesday evening that he was "done". I asked what does "done" mean and he said that after work on Thursday, he would be moving out. As usual he came home from work like nothing happened. So, I brought it up because that morning I had finally phoned the women's shelter asking for help. Well, now "I" was asking him to leave and I will regret this, I will lose everything and I better lawyer up. He left, for 15 minutes only to come back and say, "I'm paid up until the end of the month, so I'm staying". That night was horrible, no words were said but the slamming of things we heard.
So, Friday morning comes, he goes to work, only to appear home about a half hour later. How could he work, he was so upset. Now I think of how many times I had to go to work, face swollen and eyes red from crying because I was yelled at. "Put your big girl panties on and go to work." Anyways, the drama continued as he had to come home and take care of comes first?
He then went to the doctor to get adivan...omg. He's having panic attacks...why, he's got what he wanted. A good job, with good money and nobody to support. All his money can go for toys, etc. We won't suck the life out of him.
Well here it is Saturday morning...have no idea what to expect.
Feeling rather lost and alone as my closest family member is 2700 miles away.

July, 22 2011 at 6:03 pm

My goodness Kellie, this story about the socks could have been right out of my journal!! I'm out almost 2 months ago......
the peace is overwhelming. I can't believe how long I tolerated abuse exactly like you describe.

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