Isolation and Domestic Abuse: How Abusers Isolate Victims
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
- the controller's embarrassing or abusive behavior, or
- 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
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.
*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.
Holly, K. (2011, November 6). Isolation and Domestic Abuse: How Abusers Isolate Victims, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2011/11/isolation-is-key-for-the-ability-to-abuse
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
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.
Anyone out there that can help me ???
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...
I all alone and my ex stalks me abuses me and make threts towards my family
I call police but he always walks free
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.
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
Isolation. The act of isolating, or the state of being isolated, insulation,
Key. A word used as a reference point for finding other words
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