Isolation and Domestic Abuse: How Abusers Isolate Victims

Sunday, November 6 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

Isolation and domestic abuse exist together because isolation is required for your abuser to gain control of your thoughts, feelings and actions.

Isolation and domestic abuse cannot be separated. Whether physical or emotional or both, isolation is the first step to convincing a victim that their controller is the most important person in the world. How do abusers isolate victims? Why are isolation and domestic abuse inextricably intertwined?

Isolation in Domestic Abuse Has to Start Somewhere

Usually, the isolation in domestic abuse begins with the controller inserting emotional wedges between the victim and his or her family and friends. At some point, the victim finds it too difficult to connect with friends and family due to

  1. the controller's embarrassing or abusive behavior, or
  2. the victim's belief that the controller is telling the truth.

Either way, physical withdrawal from close relationships and isolation follows. Oftentimes, the victim of isolation and domestic abuse believes they chose to stay away from those people and do not see the controller's manipulations at all.

Isolation and Domestic Abuse Trapped Me: Here's How

Isolation and domestic abuse exist together because isolation is required for your abuser to gain control of your thoughts, feelings and actions. In the beginning of my abusive marriage, I became isolated quickly partly because it was what I thought I wanted. No, I did not tell myself, "Kellie Jo, it would be great and completely logical to withdraw from the people I love and rely only on my husband!"

The isolation and domestic abuse crept up on me silently. I did not make choices knowing my husband abused me. I thought I was making up my own mind. I see my controller's manipulations only in hindsight.

1.) Abuser Saw My Weakness

In the two years before I met Will, my husband-to-be, my parents divorced, my grandfather passed away and my plans to attend UC Berkeley fell through. I joined the Army, and a soldier raped me. Those traumatic experiences left me reeling emotionally and mentally. I was weakened but didn't understand it completely.

I felt that I needed someone to protect me because I obviously couldn't protect myself (that was the lie I believed). Will, with his assertive swagger and deep loud voice, seemed to fit the bill. I didn't expect to marry Will, but I think he saw a willing victim in me, so he wanted to get married soon after we met.

2.) Abuser Acted Jealously

At first, I found Will's jealousy sweet. The idea that he loved me so much that it hurt him to see me speak to another man left me in awe. I didn't think I was that special. I willingly agreed to stop touching people on their shoulder or hand when I spoke with them, something I did unconsciously to connect with people. Following through with the agreement made me feel disconnected from other people.

A short time later, his jealousy took on a more ominous tone. During a visit to Oktoberfest, a young German man was walking around handing out roses to women. He handed me a rose and Will stood up, grabbed him by the throat, and pushed him onto a neighboring table. Everyone was shocked.

Will sat down after the commotion and told me that I shouldn't accept roses from another man. The statement was a threat. I suddenly realized that any kind of attention from the opposite sex was dangerous. Jealousy is not cute.

3.) Abuser Dictated Who I Could Trust

Will constantly told me who I could trust and who I could not. If he saw me speaking with someone he'd warned me about, there was hell to pay. The first instance of physical violence in our marriage came after I'd changed out of my diesel-soaked uniform into sweat pants and a shirt in Will's best friend's bathroom. Will said I could trust his best friend, so I thought nothing of it.

After Will picked me up and took me home, he grabbed my throat and held my face very near to the hot stove, yelling "See what I do for you? I make you dinner and you fVvk another man!" That taught me that even if he said I could trust someone, I'd better not.

Isolating me from other men was the first step. Then, using the idea that he knew who I could trust and who I couldn't, he isolated me from my co-workers who could have helped me, including the other females in my company and battalion.

After my sister came to visit us in Germany, Will told me I couldn't trust her either. He said that she hooked up with one of his friends, and because she was a slut, I had no business being near her. I never once paid attention to what he said about my sister, and that is probably why he attempted to verbally and emotionally abuse her, too. He wouldn't do that in front of anyone but my sister. He punished her hoping I would give up the relationship to save her from him.

4.) Abuser Physically Intimidated Others

My sister became the only person in my family who Will would physically intimidate and allow to hear him abuse me. I knew he could hurt her. She knew he had hurt me. He used his strength and size to intimidate both of us as a reminder that he could do worse. Will's behavior toward my sister made me wary of bringing around other family members, but he never acted out in front of them.

The incident with the boy and the rose falls into this category as does Will's aggressive behavior at bars. Some people may say he was showing off his strength to impress me, but after holding my face to a stove, the only thing his bar fights did was remind me I had to go home with him.

Twice in the last year and a half we were together, Will physically abused me in front of our children. In addition to controlling me, I believe those displays of power were meant to show our growing boys what could happen to them, too.

5.) Abuser Achieved a Type of Physical Isolation

When it was time to leave the Army, Will wanted to live near his family in Texas. He found a house for us out in the country about an hour from everyone else. I was a stay at home mama, and my duties revolved around our boys and home.

  • He required my shopping excursions to be short, and I do not remember being away from the house for more than six hours alone.
  • He did not support my efforts to run my own business because it brought strangers onto his property.
  • He didn't support my desire to go to school until most of my courses could be completed online.

All of those actions and demands isolated me from most human contact.

6.) Abuser Feigned Dislike

My sister also moved to Texas, but Will said he didn't like her husband. He made it clear that my sister was a leech and a mooch. Her husband didn't have a brain, couldn't be trusted with the most simple man's work.

Along those same lines, Will didn't trust my mother. He said that she left my dad for her (current) husband who was also a leech and a mooch. He said she couldn't be relied on for marital advice because she was a failure. He ominously told me, "You're going to be just like her!" and I set out to prove to him that no, I would never leave him for any reason. I was not like my mom.

Needless to say, Will's dislike for my family affected how I viewed them too.

What Can You Do About Isolation and Domestic Abuse?

You could refuse to be isolated, period. You could reach out to people you've banished from your life and reconnect. Your controller will have something to say about this, of course.

If you feel family and friends aren't the way to go (sometimes we feel guilty for being mean and nasty to them in defense of your abuser), then reach out to a local domestic violence group or an online group if necessary. The National Domestic Violence Hotline will tell you where to find the groups and emotionally support you, too.

Additionally, reconnecting with your intuition and doing what it tells you to do will go a long way toward breaking your isolation. And, if you reconnect with your intuition, your abuser cannot see the threat until it's too late.

Isolation is key if your abuser is going to be successful in their attempts to control you. Isolation and domestic abuse make you feel as if what goes on in your home is normal and that what you believed about the world is an illusion. The real illusion is the warped way your abuser wants you to live. Your abuser doesn't care about you, only about his or her ability to control you.

If you've left your abuser but continue isolating yourself, read Isolation After Domestic Abuse: How To Overcome the Habit.

You can also find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so please do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

View all posts by Kellie Jo Holly.

Isolation and Domestic Abuse: How Abusers Isolate Victims

Fred
says:
November, 14 2011 at 7:31 pm

I am somewhat isolated. My wife tries this on me. she can't physically intimidate me like Will could you, but she does it by saying my family is lame and my Mom is a fruit cake so maybe I won't see them much. She talks bad about them frequently. It has somewhat worked but not completely. Funny thing is I am accepting of her family even though they are all verbal abusers. Except for her Mother. Her father is dead but from the stories they tell it's obvious. Leaches and moochers is one of her favorite cut downs too. She uses it on me too. I am a leach or so she says. But, that's not name calling LOL. Looking back now I see a lot of red flags too but just didn't see them or want to see them at the time.

Anon
says:
June, 10 2012 at 3:02 pm

the x wanted to choose which of my married friends I should go to discuss our marital issues with, he felt I was talking to the "bad wife" who supported my "disrespectful" behaviour towards my husband and not the other friend who he felt is a "good wife" who will teach me how to submit to my husband.

John Brookes
says:
July, 22 2013 at 12:25 am

Isolation is the KEY to Manipulation.

Isolation. The act of isolating, or the state of being isolated, insulation,
separation; loneliness.

Key. A word used as a reference point for finding other words
or information

Manipulation. A method of changing an individual’s attitudes or allegiances through the use of drugs, torture or psychological techniques, any form of indoctrination. Alluding to the literal erasing of what is in or on one’s mind, brain washing used to be associated exclusively with the act or practice of manipulating. The state of being manipulated. Shrewd or devious management, especially for one’s own advantage. Indirect control, as of an advisor; power to affect the opinions.

If you isolate the target
You can say what you want about them
If you isolate the victim and only allow
Contact with allies
You have complete control
An Alienation Tactic

Caroline Abbott
says:
May, 19 2015 at 5:28 am

Great post Kellie! You've outlined one of the serious ways an abuser controls his victim, and you've given great examples from your own life. I applaud you for being vulnerable and sharing times in your life that must have been painful to relive. I will be sharing this with my readers. Thanks so much!

michelle
says:
August, 8 2015 at 11:17 am

me and my children have been abused by a creeked county who wanted to steal checks from us and get double foster care grants and they have been brutalizing us ever since I volunteered for parent classes and there keeping us all isolated from each other so they can keep robbing my kids disability checks they injured both kids and now the twins are separated its a crooked county called santa clara Deseray and Diamond are just in a living nightmare I have too I haven't seen my kids in almost 4 years im an x day care worker from Las vegas

Welch
says:
December, 14 2015 at 10:33 am

My wife is so controling that I can't even go to town alone or just the kids...she has to be there. She tells me she felt forced into marrying me by my parents. We keep moving further and further away from my home state. I changed my religious tradition to hers. I have put up with a near sexless marraige for 11 yrs and any intimacy is initiated by me...I'm mostly shutout. I can do nothing right, I'm not allowed to finish a project before she wants me to start another and another all the while mocking me for not finishing anything I start, and she has the kids sleeping on either side of her every night since they've been born! I have recieved regional and state awards for musical talent but she mocks it anytime someone brings it up. She says that I stink and nobody wants to hear me sing. Its one of my favorite things to do. She lets me know that I'm ugly, unwanted, lazy, unrefined, and generaly unwanted by anyone...not even my own family...which, of course, I have been totally alienated from. Would you believe that I have developed a sharp anxiety problem?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
says:
December, 15 2015 at 5:43 am

Yes, I would believe you've developed anxiety. Probably depression, too (they work together to help keep you miserable). You're in a secondary stage of abuse in which your own mind is going to hold you back from seeking the help you need. Mental health problems want you to believe they aren't a big deal, but they are; they slowly eat at your ability to choose, decide, and simply think.

Please see a counselor/therapist on your own - no marriage counseling because she won't participate "correctly" if she even agrees to go.

I'm sorry you're going through this. The NDVH is for men, too. Visit their site to chat or for their number: http://thehotline.org

Kari
says:
June, 15 2016 at 3:18 pm

This article is a huge eye opener. I have been isolated in my marriage for 14 years. I finally had enough and we have both been to individual counseling and marriage counseling. We have seen small steps forward and huge steps back. My question is how long do you give someone to change? We have been working on our problems for 10 months. I am at a loss... Do I leave him or give him more time?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
says:
June, 16 2016 at 7:27 am

What if you left, or had him leave, and you watched from a distance to see proof of change. If he sees the value in changing in his heart, he'll do it with or without you in the house every day.

Kari
says:
June, 16 2016 at 2:11 pm

That is good advice. I will try that. Thanks!

Lem
says:
June, 29 2016 at 5:23 am

What do you do when you're family members witnessing a husband that has isolated his wife from her family. She is too afraid to talk to any of us, works from home and never leaves the house without him. We can't find ANYONE that will help us help her. Any ideas?

mel
says:
July, 31 2016 at 5:27 am

Please help me
I all alone and my ex stalks me abuses me and make threts towards my family
I call police but he always walks free

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kellie Jo Holly
says:
August, 3 2016 at 2:32 pm

Do you have a restraining order (RO)? If not, try to get one. A RO give you a leg to stand on if you call the police. When you request the RO, cite the multiple threats (his exact words if you can) and the multiple calls to the police (dates of calls if possible). If you don't remember those things, begin writing them down so you have a precise record. Save any texts or emails if he is stupid enough to send them. The judge needs to see the pattern of abuse to lawfully give a RO.

If you have a RO, he won't always walk free (although the possibility that he will for awhile still exists - cops must practically catch him in the act). 70% of the RO's issued do their job and the abuser stops stalking. It's worth the effort.

sam
says:
August, 28 2016 at 3:37 pm

I find it amazing my X (wife) made a plan of hate, behind my back. I did nothing we went through a divorce, started by my wife.. I had no plan of deceit or hatred , she started writing letters to friends and family behind my. (Like I said I had no plan). The marriage was ended because of ...... End of story, the story's she told about me were horrific an unknown to me.. She lied to woman's help groups about me (again unknown to me behind my back).
I found myself being pushed in the grocery store by woman, I caught these woman removing grocery from basket when i was not looking. Very strange . My wife left for six months and left me with 2 of my young adult children. I was served with a re-frame from order of protection. (no yelling, no ,bad language, stc.) I went to family court hearing , AND WHO DO RUN INTO THESE SAME WOMAN THAT WERE BUMPING ME IN THE GROCERY STORE, AND TAKING GROCERY. They were with women's group, I think they were trying to incite me, get me angry etc..I am divorced know, but just a word all men are not bad.. Its over know , my kids are grown and gone, I live alone , with my daughter who I love dearly, and she has made great strides in her own life... You cant put this back in a bottle, still isolated, I have handled it well always concentrating on my daily responsibility's... what a waste of time and energy.. I am retired and have a nice pension and taking one day at a time..the sadness and loneliness can be over whelming but I catch it quickly..good men rule...

V
says:
May, 19 2017 at 9:33 am

I have 4 kids now all adults and late teens from a previous marriage. My new husband of almost 3 years was at first very loving and accepting of me having them over any time. I share arrangements with my ex with my older teens sons. At 1st , My ex alienated me from our sons lives causing extreme despair for me, my new husband was playing very supportive at that time. By the 2nd year of our marriage i had come to accept that I could never convince my ex what he is doing hurt our sons more than he could know so I kept whatever moments I could have with them treasured. My new husbdand began to slide down a very dark place in his once hidden mental illnesses. He could no longer hide it. He began to miss time at work, And hidding borrowing money from loan places and from his mother. (Husbdand is in late 40'). This caused a lot of marital issues. My husband diagnosed with ADHD, OCD, ANXIETY, and recently fibromyalgia. As his wife I tried desperately to support as best I could. But it created a huge block in our marriage. In 4 years of us being together he has either let go or lost his jobs because he couldn't show up on time or perform tasks. All of this compounded and cause great distress for him and myself flooding over into my life and time with my kids. Arguements are constant and I often am left feeling they are all my fault. I'm told I "don't register what issues are" or that I am unreasonable to respect his demands and rules he wants in our small place. When my kids wish to come over, I feel I have to ask permission to make sure it's ok and not invading his space. I rarely get to have them with me now. I ask permission for my grand-daughter to spend a night (toddler) And even then he comes up with every excise imaginable to thwart my relationships with them all. My eldest daughter and her partner had planned a trip to come visit (they live in another province) and was supposed to be staying with us for a few days. I was so excited as I hadn't seen my daughter in 1.5 years. The very night before they were to fly out for visit. My husbdand and I broke out into arguement. Words were not nice. As a result he demanded that my daughter or none of my kids are no longer welcomed in our marital home. And that his needs must be put 1st over everyone. He threatens that if I have them here he will force them out. None of my kids know what is going on behind the scenes between he and I. They believe their step father (my husdband) is a nice guy. With his new demand I felt I had no choice but to tell my 22 year old daughter his demands as they were catching their flight in only 6 hours. I had suggested marital counselling and he agreed. But now. I don't want to go. I know when we get there I will not speak up or i won't feel free to be unafraid to do so because we tried before, and after the sessions he said I was creating fabrications. I need help. And I don't know what to do. I'm isolated. I don't go out. I don't meet with friends. I do not drink or party. I am quiet. I go to work and come home. I am a nurse so I know what it's like to give but I can't give anymore. He makes my financial situation difficult. He has his own money and does what he wants even if cupboards are bare.
Anyone out there that can help me ???

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

sweetdee
says:
July, 31 2017 at 12:09 pm

I think you should leave him your kids are always first mans come and go and remember a man that does not loved your kids does not loves you it's that simple

Lisa drayton
says:
August, 15 2017 at 7:04 am

I would like more information on how to live a healthy life surviving emotional abuse

JaySu
says:
March, 14 2018 at 2:44 am

I have been with C for 5 years. A lot of bery controlling behavour. He left me revently and move into a house with co workers drinking really heavily. Recently he went way of of hos way to make me jealous of his roommate. Lying about several things to me to make it seem they had a close bond. Taking her places when he knew it would really bother me. Crazy making stuff. He just crossed a line that I am finding unforgivable. Lying to make me hurt more about him leaving me. Cruel. Disgusting. Gross. Thank God finding this all out stopped my heart from feeling broken in half. What a relief to be utterly disgusted.

Robin
says:
May, 12 2018 at 8:39 pm

I was dragged away from my family brainwashed taught I was being raped or abused and isolated from everybody I've ever known by men who wanted to see me controlled. Domestic violence is nothing compared to an emotional abuser. Rape is nothing compared to a power struggler who can't stand to see you happy. I haven't had a day of happiness in 15 years due to my "kidnapping" from normal religion, activity, personal space, ethic, morale and each day is worse. That's how I can explain it: You drown in your own body and don't even know who you are anymore people want you to be someone you're definitely not. You're living in your own worst nightmare and it's worse than being kidnapped by Ariel Castro. I want to go home and never will again due to someone lying to me telling me "you're raping me" taking me away for a downhill spiral of abuse. i have no idea who I am anymore thanks to it.

Kiran
says:
May, 28 2018 at 6:14 am

I reading stories all of you , I can feel it's horrible pain when you haven't done anything wrong with your partner and they still isolated , abusers, put you down infornt of others , then pretending he's done nothing , I provke him to do !! drank side is when you not capable to control abuser !!

Seth
says:
July, 9 2018 at 8:44 am

My husband call 911 on me saying I was acting weird. Somehow the police decided they could enter my home without a search warrant knocking or announcing themselves. When the started coming into the kitchen area , I saw them and they saw me sitting at my desk working quietly. They stayed for 45 minutes even though I was constantly telling them they needed to leave. After the fact they called it a welfare check, however from the legal definition I found found in Blacks legal definitions, what went on here had nothing in common with the definition of a welfare check.
He then wrote his sister an email before she came into town and told her I was crazy and she shouldn't listen to anything I say. He told his family that live locally that they shouldn't have anything to do with me. Even a text message to one of his brothers asking for a telephone number of the brother who is a handyman because I had a water leak went unanswered. I found emails written between him and my mother where they were discussing putting me into a psychiatric establishment. My mom is and has been abusive to me and my sister for all of our lives and had my sister committed when she was 12 years old. She shipped me off to my grandfather when I was 12 even though she had accused him of abusing her when she was young. Every family member he ever met of mine has told him that she is abusive. She had disowned me the day I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. He tells and teases me that I am mentally I'll. I am physically I'll not mentally I'll. I am besides myself because of being disabled and needing help with some things because I had a long episode with vertigo which lasted over 1.5 years They think the radiation to my throat might have damaged my inner ear, causing the vertigo. I have cooked gourmet meals for his family and negotiated with Walmart so they would take a foreign countries prescription for his mom in Venezuela with Alzheimers. I have also outpaced all market indices by a wide margin and producing a 150% increase over just less than 6 years. He has never shed a tear, for me nor his mother and he lacks any sort of empathy I have prevented calling family services because I need help with things and have become so isolated that it's difficult to find any help. I'm miserable. Yesterday he starts yelling and screaming at me because he didnt like the speed I was driving. He saw a woman on the street motion to me to slow down. I wasnt even going that fast and have been driving him around for almost 10 years. I just recently bought myself a new Mercedes and told him how much I enjoy driving the car. Anything that gives me joy or pleasure he trys to destroy. Because I had gotten stage 4 cancer ,birthdays mean more to.me now than ever before. When he asked me what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday, I chose what my grandmother would always get me from the bakery she worked at. It was bananas and strawberries in a chocolate cake. Because he never heard of it and though it was a bad combination, I got no cake at all. I need some legal help and have the money to pay for them During this whole time when I started looking very I'll I was being treated very poorly for the first time in my life. I had been discriminated against and had been denied service several times even in establishments where I have used their services for a long time. This includes a doctor who refused my two different insurances , one of them being Medicare, and the other a company he had listed on an advertisement for his services.

Leave a reply

Follow Us

Most Popular

Comments

Mental Health Newsletter