Abuse From the Inside Out

September 26, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

What is the process by which someone becomes an abuse victim? What part do abuse victims play in the abusive cycle?

Those questions leave me wanting an easy answer so I can wrap up my abusive experience in a neat little package and set it away in an attic where it would slowly disintegrate in the musty air. Unfortunately, the easy answers elude me. Easy or not, here is a part of my theory about how people become abuse victims in the first place:

Defend the Abuser

The future abuse victim (FAV) often hears a friend say, "I don't know...something about your new boyfriend bothers me." And the FAV, instead of asking, "What makes you say that?" chooses to reply, "Oh, he's just a little rough around the edges. He's a great guy at heart!"

Er hem...if the FAV defends the new boyfriend with an explanation without knowing the friend's concern, then s/he already knows there is a problem.

Why did I do that? you may ask. I think the answer involves the way in which the abuser presents themselves in the beginning of a relationship. In the beginning, abusers are charming and/or wounded. They put on a big ol' act to gain trust or sex, to name two motivators.

The FAV can still recognize a problem though because the abuser cannot put on that act 24/7. There are chinks in his facade. Maybe he talks poorly about his mother, or maybe his favorite form of entertainment induces sexual or violent behaviors directed toward other people. Whatever the cause, the FAV is slightly uncomfortable, yet because the hints of bad behavior are not directed toward her, the FAV chooses to overlook them.

Invest in the Abuser

Over time and multiple excuses, the FAV tends to invest in the abuser whole-heartedly. She's already given a million excuses as to why he's a good guy, and in so doing, she's convinced herself of the lie. The relationship takes on an "us against the world" feeling. She's his savior as much as he is hers. She does not question her belief about him because doing so would shatter her romantic vision.

Isolate from Family and Friends

Initial isolation from family and friends is a two-way street. The FAV begins to get upset with those in her social circle who won't stop pestering her about the love of her life's idiosyncrasies. Of course she tells her man all about what her friends and family say because she's supposed to be able to trust her soul-mate. She looks to him to refute the outsider's claims (and he will!) to validate her feelings of love for him.

The abuser uses the information she gives and encourages her to get away from those who want to hurt her and them. She listens - the abuser is her world.

Later on, the FAV discovers that her only friends are his friends or that her friends have the same complaints about their men as she does. In the latter example, the group of same-suffering friends feed one another stories that end with, "Well, he's a good man at heart."

Shrink Inwardisolation

After isolation takes hold, there is no outside resource to influence the FAV, who is quickly to become a full fledged abuse victim. Once she has no support network, the abuser begins to tell her all her greatest fears about herself are true. Her "faults" make him angry and he wishes she would "fix" them before something bad happens.

She embarks on a great adventure of self-discovery. Unfortunately, her adventure is guided by an abuser. She only looks where he points. She has no one of importance to her to tell her otherwise.

The harder she works to improve herself, the more resistance and abuse she receives. This is the point in which she cannot recognize the abuse as abuse. She may even see it as caring on the part of her abuser. She doesn't know she's looking for a needle in a haystack because her abuser helps her to believe that her faults are so huge that it is going to take years to overcome them.

She keeps looking, deeper and deeper within herself, for nothing and this causes her to shrink as a human being. Her savior, her abuser, finds her very easy to control.

Deny and Blame

One morning, the abuse victim wakes up and believes she is crazy. Crazy as in nuts, out of her mind, beyond repair and hope. Her eyes open and she finds herself in a world she does not recognize. It is so far from her dreams that she realizes, deep down, that something is wrong.

The difference is that the "something" isn't within her. There is a monster of some sort ruling her life after sapping her power.

She realizes the monster is either herself or her soul-mate (who else is there?!), and it just couldn't be him! Maybe it's Depression or Anxiety or stress or maybe she has some other disorder. The amount of time she's looked inward habitually forces her to blame herself for the mess and deny her lover had any part in it.

Disappear or Thrive

After the medication and the therapy, she's still unhappy. She still doesn't see the truth of her abusive situation, and she stays.

She allows her deep-seated anger to eat her from the inside out.

It's here that I get confused. What makes one person form a stronger attachment to the abuser while another begins to distance from him? Why do some abuse victims see the truth and others continue on in the relationship, blinders strapped firmly to their faces?

Why do some abuse victims disappear into their abuser while others force their way to freedom?

Answers, please...

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, September 26). Abuse From the Inside Out, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 19 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

January, 29 2019 at 2:48 pm

I've just found these articles as I couldn't believe what was happening was a form of abuse until I heard him talking to my 15 yo yesterday! He speaks to me that way, but to my 15 yo no way! He has spoken to all my boys this way, why did it affect me with this one so badly? I'm stuck! I'm an at home mom, I have brain cancer - he knows I'm stuck. What can I do? We've been married 25 years. Our oldest graduates college this year, middle son transfers to a four-year college and then 15yo sophomore in high school. I think I better get in therapy!

October, 8 2011 at 8:51 pm

I think the main factors are the level of investment/depth of denial, and the pain tolerance of the individual. Some people can hang in there through a horrendous level of pain. And of course some abusers are more skilled than others.

cherie c
September, 28 2011 at 2:47 am

Some of us hang on to our bad relationships far too long because we are romantics. We have hope. We believe that love conquers all. Some of us think that if we just keep praying, it will all work out. Some of us just don't know what else to do, or where else to go. Hurting people will just keep on hurting us, is what I've learned; so you must either learn to develope a thick skin, or find an escape route. I felt as though my life had turned into a nightmare, and just couldn't believe it was happening. Literally felt in shock. When the ex brought home a huge case of ammo for his assault rifle and told me "there will be bloodshed if you don't leave", I finally got it.

September, 27 2011 at 11:28 am

Yes Answers. What am I doing? I can not leave. My therapist, friends, family tell me how bad she is to me. I keep those blinders snugged down tight. My spirirt says, LEAVE!! Fight while you still can. Then some sick part of my low self esteemed weak mind stops those feelings and lowers my head to assume my position in the relationship. Kellie, you have talked about this voice before in other articles. She knows what I think. We fight about her abuse and treatment of me. Still I back down. Am I weak? Am I afraid? Do I fool myslef into thinking she loves me and wants me to be happy? answers please??

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