Old Welcome

Written by on January 6, 2012 in KTD: The Healing Journey with 27 Comments

This originally was a welcome post when I had intended to make a covert abuse blog a place for me to publish pieces of my manuscript as I wrote it. Things changed and I am no longer doing that… at least not in the way I originally conceived it. I can’t delete this post though because of the sharing that occurred in the comments. When a person shares their story, I respect that and honor the trust it takes to open up like that.

So, because of the comments, this post will stay up, even if it no longer contains the information it originally did!  ~ Demian

 

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About the Author

About the Author:

Greetings, fellow dreamer, and welcome! I’m Demian Yumei, author, singer/songwriter and artist activist.

Some of my creative projects are a CD of healing music, “For the Sake of Love” and a children’s book on the interconnectedness of life, “Little Yellow Pear Tomatoes” published by Illumination Arts. Currently, I’m in the process of creating podcasts for my book series on covert abuse.

My commitment is to the creative process especially as it relates to the healing journey. Whether I’m singing at a vigil for asylum seekers, memorial for political activists or sitting around a table sharing tea and conversation with friends who just want to talk heart to heart, I am always deeply moved by the human spirit to love and live with authentic beauty.

Thank you for being here, for reading my posts and/or listening to my podcast. There’s much to share, much to create and the journey has just begun! Meet you on the path.

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  1. fiona says:

    Demian…this is one of the best descriptions of covert abuse I have read. I was involved with a covert abuser for 14 years..I have spent a lot of introspective time trying to understsnd what happened to ME. Reading this..it was as if you were right there..thanks…it is very well written and right on…

  2. DemianYumei says:

     @fiona , I was getting ready to go to bed with a very heavy heart. The Sandusky verdict is more of a trigger than I would have expected, and so I was thinking about my sister, now deceased, and what she would have thought, and I was thinking about the abusive dynamics of our family of origin of which covert abuse was a major one on top of the incest.
     
    The sexual assaults by Sandusky were bad enough, but thinking about the manipulation, the covert assaults, the psychological and emotional abuse, the grooming that went on for years for these children —  just opened up a wound so wide. Easy to feel helpless…useless when such feelings overcome you.
     
    And then as I was getting ready to sign out and get ready for bed, I received notice of your comment. And my heart feels lighter.
     
    So thank you. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and for your very kind words. I am encouraged. Just your one comment is enough to take the edge off of the depression that was threatening to slip into bed with me. I think I will sleep alone tonight. 🙂

  3. alicejr says:

    this is just what I need ed to read with a fine toothed comb.   I am still chewing on 2 years of covert abuse which has affected my and my children’s life in countless ways.
    thank you so much for your courage and commitment.

  4. alicejr says:

    this is just what I need ed to read with a fine toothed comb.   I am still chewing on 23 years of covert abuse which has affected my and my children’s life in countless ways.
    thank you so much for your courage and commitment.

  5. DemianYumei says:

    @alicejr Hi, Alice, welcome and thank you for your kind words. Covert abuse is insidious and its effects can be devastating and long lasting. I wish you and your children the best and much success on your journey to healing. It can be done.

  6. DemianYumei says:

    @alicejr Hi, Alice! Welcome and thank you for your kind words. Covert abuse is insidious and its effects can be devastating. I wish you and your children the best and much success on your journey to healing. It  can be done.

  7. Sarah72 says:

    Hello Demian,
    The universe (and the internet) always has interesting ways of bringing people together when individuals share a
    profound interest in the same topics.  I have been working toward a PhD in psychology for a couple of years now and the issue(s) that I want to specialize in have to do with covert abuse, incest, and toxic family dynamics.  For quite some time, I have been scouring the internet for a blog like yours that discusses these topics.  I thank you for your tremendous courage in discussing these topics in a forum that allows all of us to learn from your experience and to gain insight.  The thing that most alarms me about covert abuse (as well as incest) is that these two forms of abuse are hidden, yet they sometimes make the most profoundly negative impacts on people’s lives and create a form of invisible walking wounded.  (But, to clarify that, once people begin the healing process, they are no longer walking wounded but are transformed into the highly empowered and creative individuals they were meant to be.  I see this strength in your blogs).  The area that I want to specialize in is how to assist others in ridding themselves of the trauma of the past and then giving themselves permission to step into wholeness: a wholeness that is both physical and spiritual.  Thank you for putting your experience in a blog so that many people can benefit from it.  You never know whose life you will touch in positive ways! -Sarah

  8. DemianYumei says:

    @Sarah72 Dear Sarah, *thank you* so much for your gracious and kind words! I can’t begin to tell you how much they mean to me. Truly! In one sense this blog about covert abuse is easy for me to write, because I have a passion for it, for the subject and for attempting to understand and share with others.
     
    In another sense, it can be excruciatingly difficult for me to write, because the main source of my information comes not from what I’ve read (though I do read, and Patricia Evans’ books have been invaluable to me) but what I’ve experienced. In a way I guess I’m trying to make sense of what I’ve gone through, perhaps in some way redeem the experiences by looking at them carefully and then exposing them. There’s some sense of satisfaction in blowing the cover off, as it were, of covert abuse and its many forms. And I know I have some skill in articulating that which can be difficult to see.
     
    But it’s painful. It’s hard to maintain a balance and hold on to the healing I have experienced, when “diving deep” brings up so much pain, either in the form of sorrow or anger. There are times when I wish I could just walk away and pretend it never happened or just take what I gleaned from the experiences and run – fast!
     
    But I know that not only does my writing about this help others, if the truth be known, it also helps me. It’s part of my own healing journey.
     
    I think it’s beautiful, your goal and desire to be part of other people’s healing. For me, the whole concept of “wholeness” is a curious one. I’m not even sure I believe in it any more…speaking for myself now. Some things run too deep and began too early – incest, psychological and emotional abuse, just some really twisted dynamics from my family of origin, and then replaying those dynamics in other relationships over and over again…
     
    I used to believe there came a time in your healing where you could heal so much you could just take this quantum leap into a whole other reality, and essentially live as if you had never been abused. It’s not that I don’t believe it can’t happen. It’s just that I haven’t been able to achieve that. And so, as I get older, I think I become more and more, perhaps, an example to those who are broken and can’t be “fixed”, who shine anyway. And since that’s where I am, I suppose that’s good enough for me. 🙂
     
    Thank you for making it a little easier to share my light, to give me the encouragement I need. My writing is sporadic, because of this constant tug and pull to engage and walk away. Your words are the nudge I need to continue, and for that I am very grateful. <3

  9. Sarah72 says:

    Hello Demian,
    You are a VERY courageous woman indeed and I admire you very much.  So, as for this whole concept of wholeness… I did not think it was possible either until I changed my entire way of thinking about abuse.  My definition of what it means to be whole has changed as a result of a shifting viewpoint.
     
    Here’s the thing: whatever parents, siblings, friends, and any one else did to us was a choice on their part.  Whether it was good or bad, their actions were a choice on their part.  When someone is abused,the victim did not cause the abuse, the victim did not create the abuse, and the victim can make the choice NOT TO BE DEFINED by the abuse.  
     
    Now, that third part is the tricky part because anyone who has experienced any form of abuse knows that the abuse tends to define them– and this is because after we have been abused, we have a visceral reaction in our bodies– we release stress hormones– and cortisol creates fearful and negative emotions in us whether or not we want to experience those negative emotions or not.  Scientists have found that trauma effects the very cells of our bodies and trauma also leaves deep grooves in our brains that could be compared to the grooves one finds on a vinyl record.  So, when people get stuck in negative thinking and the people around them say “just get over it”, this is not possible on a biological level– and therefore cannot be possible on a psychological level.  
     
    But, what I have found in my own study of psychology and neuroscience is that there are things that can rewire our brains and re-write those grooves.  They have found that receiving cognative behavioral therapy from trained professionals along with EMDR can be quite helpful.  Add into this meditation, exercise, creativity, and individually derived spiritual beliefs, then I believe many can recover.
     
    This is what I believe as a future clinician.
     
    Then there is my personal opinion on recovery that I would not share with some because spirituality is such a loaded topic. I saw your post about why you believe in God and I have to say that I could not agree more.  In fact, my own experience of God has been exactly what you describe– that when you get still and reach out to God, you feel filled with a profound sense of Love, and that Love is so great that nothing in the human realm quite compares to that feeling.  Therefore, it is my personal belief that reaching out to that God (who is all-encompassing Love) can eventually heal us.  But, I am not spouting anything I learned in church or in books, but rather just talking about my own experience with God and with having many sorrows healed throughout the years.  Sometimes I say to myself that I don’t know where I would be without God and without the Love that I feel when in deep moments of prayer.  This is truly my anchor in life.
     
    I like that you say that you are letting your light shine despite not feeling whole.  I believe that is 95% of winning the battle.  Already, you are NOT letting abuse define you and this is evidenced by the fact that you are letting your light shine regardless.
     
    Now, I will go out on a limb here… think of the time when God created you in the world of spirit– the time before you were born into the material world.  Didn’t  God create you as absolutely perfect, innocent, flawless, shining, and lovable?  Well, that person is your true self and your true nature.  The way I think about it is whatever horrible acts our human bodies endure during this time on earth, those acts, just like the human body, are not permanent.  One day, all this stuff that occurs in the mortal world goes away and our mortal bodies go away too.  But, that person who God created as pure and perfect is our real identity and that identity never goes away.  And truly, that identity that we have in spirit can never be touched by what happens to the mortal body.  
     
    Having the mortal world touch the spiritual world and harming our spiritual identities is just as impossible as darkness overcoming light.  If we light a candle in the middle of a dark room, it is the light that always destroys the darkness.  If the darkness tries to touch the light, the darkness is destroyed.  To me, this metaphor perfectly describes the relationship mortality has toward our spiritual selfhood.  Whatever occurs in this mortal world can never truly touch or alter
    our spiritual identity.  When I pray this way, I feel very free.  It allows me to think of myself as being untouched by the traumas of life and allows me to get closer to really feeling like trauma does not define me.
     
    I did not learn this viewpoint at any specific church or in any specific religion.  I am the type who loves to read about different religions and consider their ideas.  There is much that I love in Buddhism. Judaism also has some very beautiful concepts– especilly when you read Kabalah.
     
    I am not a member of any particular religious organization because I find that once humans group together and try to make rules and strictly define something that is so much bigger than anything they could imagine, problems occur from this process of trying to define.  Just as we cannot put the whole of the ocean into a swimming pool and claim that it is the ocean in its entirety, we cannot define God within human parameters or constructs.  
     
    Anyhow… that is the whole of my philosophizing for this evening.  I can write pages of material in one sitting if I don’t stop myself.  (I got a Master’s degree in English prior to entering the field of psychology.  Did my Master’s in the United Kingdom because traveling and learning about different cultures is one of my passions. Have also lived in France and traveled the world).  
     
    Demian, again, I admire you very much for the journey that you have undertaken.  It can only have a positive outcome for you and others.  And I owe you a debt of gratitude for literally “blowing the lid” off abuse.  So many people, my husband included, have been brainwashed by their own parents that the abuse did not occur– and they have spent their whole lives pretending it didn’t exist and re-writing the past– all the while they themselves become emotionally more troubled, as if they were ingesting a slow poison.  
     
    I am hoping that if more people come forward and blow the lid off the deepest and most guarded family secrets and hold the perpetrators accountable, that this will give others courage to come forward.  And hopefully talking about these things will become less taboo– and when that happens abusers will have nowhere to hide and seociety will force accountability.  
     
    Thank you for listening and being courageous, 
    Sarah

  10. DemianYumei says:

    @Sarah72 Sarah, thank you *so much* for your sharing and thoughtful reply.  I love this exchange of ideas and I have some more of mine I’d like to share with you as well. I’ve been a bit under the weather these past few days, but I didn’t want to let another day go by without letting you know I’ve been carrying your words with me and intend to respond soon. I’m hoping to have some time over the weekend to sit down with a cup of tea and continue in this conversation with you. *Thank you* for your participation and support. It means so very much to me, and I look forward to talking to you again soon!
     
    Warmly,
    Demian
     
    P.S. I see that your reply didn’t format correctly, so I will edit just the formatting as soon as I can. 🙂

  11. Sarah72 says:

    Hello Demian,

    I came across a website this evening called bullyville.com.  It was interesting because it is a place where teenagers can post their emotional pain due to being bullied in high school or by friends etc. I went looking for anti-bullying sites today since my 8-year-old son was telling me a story about how one of his best friends at school gets picked on by the school bully. 
     
    I have met my son’s friend and my heart goes out to him.  The child is much smaller in stature than others in his grade and comes from a home where the father is physically abusive. I have taught my son to stand up for his friend and how to comfort him in times if crisis. 
     
    As I was reading through the posts on the bullyville site, I found one written by a 43-year-old woman where she discusses in detail the abuse that she suffered at the hands of her father.  She especially discusses the sexual abuse she suffered at his hands. The thing that I had not thought of before but what her post made me realize is that  sexual abuse is a type of bullying.  If we look into the motives of the perpetrators, they are usually rooted in the desire for absolute power over and control of the victim.  There is also the deep humiliation that comes with being abused– and this is the same type of humiliation that the typical playground bully would also like to instill in his victim.  

    So, there certainly seems to be an aspect to sexual abuse that is inherently an act of bullying.  But, that is only one aspect of it.  To write SA off as bullying would be a grave mistake– it goes so far beyond that.
     
    My most recent reading project is going through a book by an author named Naomi Wolfe.  Some people refer to her as a feminist, but she refers to herself
    as an “equal-ist”.  The thing I love about her is that she is whip-smart and was a Roades Scholar at Oxford.  But, she is also beautiful and makes social observations and commentaries that are so razor sharp they cut to the truth of the matter immediately.  
     
    So, her most recent book takes on a topic that I think most authors would really cringe over.  The topic of her book is the female genitalia.  (I hate using the “V” word or anything else!)  No, this is not a book about pornography or cosmo-magazine type tips on sexuality– it is a book that discusses how historically and even today the way society subverts women and takes away a woman’s power is my harming her womanhood.  Sometimes this takes the form of plain old misogyny or sexual harrassment and other times it takes the most brutal forms as in the cases of SA, rape, and genital mutilation. 
     
    But, here is the interesting part.  Toward the middle of the book she discusses an exhuastive research process that she went through prior to writing this book that involved proving a hypothesis that she had in terms of how sexual abuse harms the body and actually creates disease. 
     
    She interviewed physicians, neuroscientists, psychologists, women living in war zones in Africa, and many other women who experienced some form of sexual abuse. What she was able to prove was that when a woman is raped or when she experiences SA during childhood, her nervous system becomes altered, and these in turn create alterations in the brain, and this causes a kind of snowball effect in the body since the nervous system has been badly damamged by the abuse. 
     
    This leads to chronic high blood pressure, diabetes, migraines, depression, and a host of other problems.  She was able to prove that SA causes health problems that would otherwise seem unrelated.  While this is truly difficult information to stomach (I feel queasy just writing about it) I am hoping that these findings will give psychologists and doctors better clues into how to help clients heal, but, I am also hoping that there will be more awareness in society and that this topic enters the social dialogue as a type of public health crisis. 
     
    In turn, I hope this leads to much stricter laws and penalties for perpetrators and also forces the government to pay for healthcare (including mental healthcare) for all SA survivors.  I hope that this will force society to take this more seriously and that it wil also force the wives of perpetrators to come forward and hold their own husbands accountable.  And I hope society stands by these women when they do so.   I see so many issues surrounding abuse and the dynamics that abuse creates in families.
     
     I live in Washington State and today I was looking for a large piece of acreage to purchase with the intent of setting up a healing center and charitable foundation there. I have a draft a business plan for the foundation that I would like to start and have been learning about grant writing.  The foundation’s purpose would be to advocate for victims, to change laws to be in favor of victims, and to educate law makers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, social workers, etc. about the harms of sexual abuse, the red flags that it could be occurring, and then provide them with tools about what they can do about it.  
     
    The second part would be a large center that I would like to found so that I could hold healing retreats there.  I picture purchasing 5 acres in the forest and having an enormous yurt in which to hold seminars, many different small log cabins for participants to stay in during work-shops, and grounds that are landscaped with water falls, koi ponds, wind chimes, and traditional Japanese Gardens. 
     
    I picture building a serene paradise in the natural environment within an old growth forest since nature is so important to healing from trauma.  I also picture traditional Japanese ofuros on the property and saunas and spaces to do yoga. I picture a place where women can come and take empowering work shops and feel completely safe (both physically and spiritually) and feel at peace.  
     
    I plan to fund this with grants as well as some of my own private investment funds that I built up while I had a corporate job.  This may sound strange, but I truly feel this is the path that God is putting me on and that this is my life’s profession as well as soul-work.  I consider myself a “strange” person in that ever since I have been a very small child, I have had big dreams about helping both people and animals heal and also helping restore the souls of those who seem to have broken by life.
     
    I have not as much grown into this viewpoint as much as it is who I have always been and now I am finding ways to channel that energy into something concrete such as the healing center that I discussed above.  My soul and intuition tells me that this is such an urgent matter in society today. When I am out grocery shopping or  running errands, I see this kind of deep disconnectedness in many people’s eyes– I see a lot hopelessness in people.  I feel like this planet is at some kind of spiritual turning point, but I don’t know quite what it is or how to put it into words.  
     
    Sarah

  12. DemianYumei says:

    @Sarah72 I am in awe of the depth to which you choose to share yourself so courageously, so beautifully. Thank you for reaching out to me in this way, and in so doing, touching the lives of others. It makes me happy to think that someone such as yourself is so engaged in the healing process, not only for yourself, but for the benefit of others. It is an admirable thing.
     
    Thank you for sharing your ideas about spirituality. For me it is very experiential. When I try to explain it it seems to fall hollow compared to what I want to express. And if the truth be known, I vacillate between what I believe and what I doubt.
     
    Still, I seem to come back to a certain place, and for the lack of a better term, perhaps it’s a place of acceptance, that place where I can rest from my questions, where I don’t have to know.
     
    I’ve become more comfortable with my woeful lack of knowledge, with all that I don’t know — an insurmountable mountain of truth that for all my climbing gear and Sherpas and their knowledge of the terrain, I will never reach midway never mind crest! Sometimes it feels as if for all my climbing I’m only a few yards away from base camp!
     
    Still, that is okay. What you share about your beliefs is beautiful and perhaps an idea I need to revisit, and meditate on how I was created as opposed to what happened here on this earth. I’m not so sure about that though. Because I’ve also been blessed, and I like to think that my spirit, if there is one that exists before me and continues afterwards, has been made a little better by them, perhaps the light that I am a little brighter. I don’t know that you can have one without the other.
     
    But I think that I am trying to venture into a reality that my meager brain cannot fathom right now, so it is enough for me for my sacred place to be in the present moment, where my worship takes the form of releasing all that bothers or worries me, past or future, and even today’s challenges fall away from the present moment — a present moment that somehow lifts up off the pages of the calendar, and slides off the face of the clock — timeless.
     
    I just want to thank you for the blessings of your writing, the time you spend, that you gift to me and others when you share your thoughts here. I want to discuss with you some more about the effects on our brains, when we are traumatized, but I will save that for your most recent comment. I’ll meet you there. 🙂

  13. DemianYumei says:

    @Sarah72Thank you for sharing the link about bullyville. I’ll have to check it out. And your son’s friend is very fortunate to have a friend such as your son, and how wonderful that your son can talk to you, and you can encourage him to not only be a good friend, but to speak out against injustice and take a stand against it. Does the school have any kind of bully policy, and does this bullying fall into their parameters of what they define as bullying? It’s such a shame when these things go on and it makes me mad.
     
    Absolutely, sexual abuse is a kind of bullying. It’s a kind of physical bullying, just like the emotional manipulation and the pressure for cover up and denial of what happened, the gaslighting, etc, is all very much a form of covert abuse.
     
    The physical abuse, there’s no words for it, but the covert abuse that continues — even if there was “only” one incident, the dynamics that follow afterwards is abuse continued indefinitely, repeatedly, and instead of fading with time, it grows as habits, perception, and negative lessons learned.
     
    [ “My most recent reading project is going through a book by an author named Naomi Wolfe.  Some people refer to her as a feminist, but she refers to herself as an “equal-ist”.” ]
     
    Nothing wrong with being a feminist 🙂 I like reclaiming words, especially words of power for women that have been hijacked and turned into something negative, something to avoid.
     
    [ “The topic of her book is the female genitalia.  (I hate using the “V” word or anything else!)  No, this is not a book about pornography or cosmo-magazine type tips on sexuality– it is a book that discusses how historically and even today the way society subverts women and takes away a woman’s power is my harming her womanhood.” ]
     
    LOL, I don’t mind the “v” word or anything else — respectful, except I never thought the scientific terms ever sounded as pretty as they should. And the slang is hardly celebratory.
     
    [[ “Toward the middle of the book she discusses an exhuastive research process that she went through prior to writing this book that involved proving a hypothesis that she had in terms of how sexual abuse harms the body and actually creates disease. 
     
    She interviewed physicians, neuroscientists, psychologists, women living in war zones in Africa, and many other women who experienced some form of sexual abuse. What she was able to prove was that when a woman is raped or when she experiences SA during childhood, her nervous system becomes altered, and these in turn create alterations in the brain,” ]]
     
    Yes, I’ve heard this too, but never read anything that really focused on this. I’ll have to look at this book. Actually, these studies have always kind of deflated me, you know? It’s like…grrrrreat…I get to try to make good choices and empowering decisions, and feel healthy emotions with a brain and nervous system that’s become altered by the very thing I’m trying to overcome….CAN WE MAKE THIS ANY MORE DIFFICULT, PLEASE???
     
    But I was in Barnes and Nobles yesterday, rather serendipitously, and I was just kind of wandering around the store, when I looked up on a shelf and found “Buddha’s Brain”. I took it off the shelf and thumbed through it. This book, also, addresses the altered brain through trauma, but then offers specific ideas how to rewire your brain through practices, that are actually found in Buddhism.
     
    I know there’s something to that, because I have found that when I started reading and putting into practice — even not so well, but giving myself opportunity to meditate and to become mindful in the way Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, my life…my inner life really began to change and as a result that affected my outer life.
     
    I’m excited to read a book that uses these meditative practices, and possibly more, that comes from a scientific perspective as well as spiritual. I will purchase that book as soon as I am able.
     
    As far as your vision…Sarah, that is beautiful! And as you describe it, I too can see it. I love everything you described, the old trees, the koi ponds, the Japanese gardens, the ofuro — it’s been years since I heard that word! Everything.
     
    I will hold this vision with you, all the way over here in the East. It’s a beautiful vision, and I am so honored you would share it with me.
     
    Dream on, Sarah. I mean that in the most empowered way and not dismissively. Dream on and move on that dream.
     
    How can I sit still, how can I sink into any sense of helplessness when all around me, reaching out from across this country energy of hope and beautiful aspirations touch my awareness and my heart?
     
    Tonight I am smiling. I have many reasons, and tonight, you are one of them.

  14. Where There's Smoke: Covert Bullying and Abuse says:

    And just so you know, if you want to follow the conversation, then click on the link “oldest” so the comments will be in chronological order. Right now the default is “newest”.

  15. Sarah72 says:

    Hello Demian,
     
    I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving 🙂  
     
    As for these studies that show the damage that can occur to the nervous system, I realize that those studies can be deflating, but they don’t have to be and there are several reasons for that.  The first one is, our nervous systems and brains are programmable and reprogrammable until the day we take our last breath.  The nervous system that has been programmed to suffer PTSD (soldiers, for instance) can be reprogrammed to experience peace and serenity.  Also, that doesn’t take forever– not at all– and two of the most powerful and quick ways to heal are through writing and talking about one’s pain as well as practicing many of the mindfulness exercises as prescribed in Buddhism.  Also, as bad as it seems from a victim’s perpective to have to reap the negative damage to one’s nervous system, paradoxically,it is a GOOD thing.  How could that ever be, you say?  Well, now that there is thousands of pages of clinical evidence that abuse does harm, that is going to allow for many positive things to happen in society.  The first thing is, stricter laws can now be enacted that will keep sex offenders behind bars, there will be more funding for programs that allow victims to heal, there will be more education is schools about good touch and bad touch, and there will be less tolerance in society for those who abuse others.  In other words, victims now have a voice, and it is backe dup by science.  Prior to scientific findings there were a lot of incorrect attitudes out there regarding victims of abuse.  Many people, who had not been through it themselves, would say things like “just get over it, it is behind you” or “just think about something positive” or “why do you let it effect you so much ?” (implying the victim is of weak character).
     
    That brings us to my area of interest.  It is going to be my life-long path to advocate for victims of abuse–
    to force courts to recognize them– to force the health care system to pay for their healing and mental well-being– to educate the general public about abuse– and finally to attempt to create a social climate that is so against abuse and knowledgable about its effects that abuse it driven out of society for good.  I know that is a lofty goal and it probably won’t be accomplished, but I see that there is progress just in trying and just in swinging the pendulum even more toward victim’s and their individual rights.
     
    Speaking of individual rights, Thanksgiving Day I was thinking about how the United States was born out of the dream for people to escape tyranny once and for all.  Our forefathers wrote a Bill of Rights for all citizens.  I was thinking that each os us should author our own personal bill of rights in terms of what it is we expect of others and how we expect to be treated.  I guess what I am stating is kind of like a statement of ‘personal boundaries’ but written in the form of a Billof Rights (just for fun and to shake it up a bit).
     
    And along that line, I came up with the Bill of Right’s for Children:
    1) It is each child’s right to grow up in a home free of physical, emotional, or sexual violence.
     
    2) It is each child’s right to be appreciated for his individuality and his own academic and spiritual interests in life, even if they are contradictory to those of the parents.
     
    3) It is each child’s right to be free from bullying and shame.
     
    4) It is each child’s right to receive unconditional love from those around him.
     
    5) It is each child’s right to be a child during childhood– and it is in violation of a child’s rights when he is made into a surrogate spouse or surrogate parent to any adult– no matter what the rtelationship.
     
    6) It is every child’s right to pursue his own truth and to form his own opinions (as long as those opinions don’t include extreme ideas such as genocide, racism, etc).
     
    And that is my semi-finished list.
     
    My exercise for myself today is to come up with a Bill of Rights for myself as a child and then to write one for myself as an adult.  I am also thinking of writing one for my husband and to address it to his parents.  (I will not send it or show it to them– nothing like that– just an exercise so that I can get my thoughts clear on the abuse that he suffered and that pains him to this day, so that I can empathize with his position more fully).
     
    Okay, need to go chase after the kids…will write a part 2 soon…

  16. Sarah72 says:

    Before I forget, there is another form of covert abuse that I wanted to discuss before I forget.
    It is the combination of invalidation and false labeling.  
     
    I am going to use a real life example to explain what i mean by these two words.  Prior to marrying my husband, I had never (in my whole life) witnessed the kind of emotional abuse that is capable of literally destroying a person and/or driving them to suicide.  I did not witness this until I spent a few vacations at my in-laws house with my husband.  Once they let their guard down and no longer put on the facade, they became abusive (in full force to him) even when I was around. His mother is the ring-leader of the abuse and is usually the one that begins the gas-lighting.  But, when I would see her in action and listen to her, I would recognize it as abusive but I did not quite have a label for what it was she was doing. After years of observing it and after having become one of her victims myself, I now know what it is– and it can start as something very, very subtle and because of that sometimes people can abuse you in this way while it slips under your radar and others radar’s.  It is a combination of invalidation and false labeling.  
     
    For example: My mother-in-law will sit all of us down to a formal dinner and she will put a stack of photographs of my husband on the dinner table taken when he was 19 and 20 years old. (He is now 40).  She will pass them around and say “look, wasn’t he so handsome?”  Then, after a while, she will point out to everyone at the dinner table that he now has gray hairs, looks old, and has “a fat face”.  (Now, I can tell you objectively that none of this is true– he still looks the same as always– but, even if it were true, it is abusive to do this thing that she does).  So, then after she tells him about how old and ugly he looks, he inevitably says, “Mom, that hurts my feelings, can we change the subject?”  Then, she will clench the table, look very accused, raise her voice and say, “What? What? Did you say that it hurts your feelings? That;’s nonsense. That doesn’t hurt your feelings.  You are crazy.”
    Then, my mother-in-law will look at me and say, “What do you think, Sarah? Am I right? He looks old, right?” And I will calmly say in a very neutral way, “I see through the eyes of love and to me he grows more and more handsome each day. I think he looks wonderful.” Then she will wave her hands in a dismissive manner and say, “You two don’t know what you are talking about.  I am right.  I know these things.”  Then, my husband and I and everyone else at the table will attempt to ignore her comments and we will change the subject.  But, sometimes she does not want to change the subject and she will escalate.  She will attempt to draw me in again by saying something like, “You know, Sarah, I am a mother and I want what is best for my son.  He is looking old and I tell him this so that he can be the best person he can be.  Am I right? Don’t you think I am right?”  At that point I won’t answer and my husband will jump back in and say, “Mom, you are hurting my feelings, can we talk about something else?”  Then she will look at me again, wave her hands in a dismissive manner and say, “He is crazy, he doesn’t even want to hear what is best for him.  Just like when he was a child– always disagreeing with me.  Luckily his brother is an angel.  His brother never gave me trouble– always listened to me…”  At that point, my father-in-law will ask her to stop talking about it and that’s when the yelling begins.  And that’s when I get up from the table with my own two small sons and leave to go to an upstairs bedroom while they all yell it out.  This happens every time we visit them ort whenever they visit us. It happens every time without fail– only I have WORSE examples of the above.  There have been times when my mother-in-law has become physically violent and that is always scary.  It has only happened on a a couple of occasions, and we always leave when it happens.
     
    So, lets go backwards and take a look at how my mother-in-law starts the “covert abuse”. First she gathers her captive audience by cooking a large sit-down meal and puytting out her fine China plates and crystal glassware.
    She begins with false labeling: calling someone who is thin and attractive “old and ugly”.  When my husband finally tells her it hurts his feelings and asks him to stop, she “invalidates” him by saying that she IS NOT hurting his feelings and that he is misinterpreting everything he sees and hears.  She invalidates what he knows to be correct.  Then, if he re-iterates these feelings and tries to take a stand, she writes him off as crazy.  This is the ultimate form of invalidation.  A person is “crazy” for feeling the abuse that another doles out.  
     
    I have been married for 10 years, and recently, it occurred to me that just about everything that comes out of my MIL’s mouth follows this pattern of false labeling and invalidation.  She does it to my husband, to her husband, to me, and to my kids.  The only one she doesn’t do it to is her youngest son who has learned to never stand up to her and allow her to run his life.  It’s kind of absurd because her “younger son” is actually a 27-year-old man and he graduated from a top medical school.  He is now married and is in the middle of finishing a cardiology residency.  Even though he lives in Philadelphia and she lives in Los Angeles, he is expected to talk to his mom on the phone throughout the day.  She still plans everything in his life including what apartment he loves in, what car he leases, what clothing he wears, and she even buys his men’s cologne.  Pretty sick.  But, that is the younger brother’s problem, not mine.  
     
    So, that is an example of a form of manipulative covert abuse that can sometimes fly under people’s radar.  Anytime my husband has confronted his mom and told her how she hurts him, she somehow ends the conversation by crying and saying that he is abusing her.  She also treats me much of the same way and has said some very vicious things over the years. I never confronted her and always turned the other cheek.
     
    But, for the first time in my marriage, I made a milestone since I confronted her the last time we saw them.  (This was two months ago).  My husband told me he would support my effort and I did confront her when she started calling me a fat cow during this last visit.  (I am 5’6′, work out 5 times a week, and wear a size 6-8 dress size).
    Even though she tried to tell me what I was mis-understanding her, I held my ground.  First she cried and said she was a victim, but when that didn’t work, she immediately turned on the anger and tried to intimidate me.  That didn’t work because I just stayed calm and stayed on the topic at hand, which was that I just wanted her to stop saying mean things to my face.  It was interesting because when it came down to it, she said that she would never stop speaking the truth, even if it offended me.  Once again, she said that she was pointing out I was a fat cow because it was “good for me”.

  17. Sarah72 says:

    One more post 🙂
     
    Once again, I would like to give gratitude to you Demian for creating this safe place that is a sanctuary for those of us who need to work through emotional abuse by writing about it.  (Notice that writing about it and having others acknowledge your feelings is empowering?)  
     
    Thank you for bringing the topic of covert abuse to light.  It is one of those things that many times goes un-noticed but has the power to destroy lives.
     
    Many people under-estimate the damage that emotional abuse does, but you are educating people about it.
    Thank you and thank you again.
     
    I am hoping that this space you have created becomes a safe space for others to come, to read, and to
    write out their feelings, if the spirit moves them to do so.
     
    But, the biggest thank you to you comes because this is a space that has allowed me to write out my own
    dream/vision of creating a Japanese-style healing sanctuary for those who have suffered abuse.  You
    listened to it and welcomed it.  I have always been the one who ‘thinks outside the box’ and I seem
    to dwell in another realm entirely than most people.  So, thank you for understanding that, for 
    listening to my ideas and for actually understanding them.  When one is a creative type (versus
    a math or “numbers type”) so much of the world has a difficult time understanding the way the
    artist thinks or the things that the artist thinks about. ( I don’t know if I mentioned it, but my first
    major in college was fine arts and I did tons of painting, photography, and drawing). I still
    use photography, painting, designing, and drawing as ways to heal and to get rid of stress.
    Internally I consider myself to be an artist, but it is not my “profession” or on my business card.
    It really comes down to a way of living in the day to day by seeing beauty, creating beauty,
    thinking in “pictures” and seeing a different side of life that is anchored in a kind of
    spiritual realm.
     
    🙂

  18. DemianYumei says:

    @Sarah72 Hey, dear one! This week has been mad crazy for me. Hopefully, I’ll have some quiet time over the weekend to respond. Just wanted you to know I know you’ve shared some more wonderful thoughts. I look forward to sharing mine. Be well and blessed. 🙂

  19. DemianYumei says:

    @Sarah72 Hey, dear one! This week has been mad crazy for me. Hopefully, I’ll have some quiet time over the weekend to respond. Just wanted you to know I know you’ve shared some more wonderful thoughts. I look forward to sharing mine. Be well and blessed. 🙂

  20. DemianYumei says:

    @Sarah72 Sarah, I have to say that reading this post about your MIL made me sick. I could feel the toxicity all the way over here. What your MIL is doing is gaslighting at its worst. I am SO glad your husband and you are calling her on this behavior, and not responding to what she’s saying, because the entire interaction has NOTHING to do with what’s being said. It’s her intent, her agenda to assault you and your husband personally and where she thinks it would hurt the worst.
     
    That you are now addressing what she’s doing rather than speaking to her as if you’re giving her the benefit of the doubt that she’s having a real conversation even if it’s mean conversation, is the best you can do in that situation.
     
    I have to say though that as I read your comment, my thoughts went to your two young boys, because they are witnessing everything. This interaction not only hurts your husband, it hurts your children. I don’t know how far you want to draw the line, but it seems to me being with your MIL has got to be very stressful to the boys in anticipation AND in actually being there.
     
    My heart goes out to you, and I support you on demanding more authentic interactions if there are to be any, and to calling her out on her game playing. I, also, wish for the boys that they not have to be witness to such abusive behavior at all though. The abuse may not be directed toward them, but no doubt they are receiving it, just the same.
     
    I feel sorry for her other more compliant son, but that is his choice and the path he has to walk until he decides there’s no longer any room for him on it.
     
    I hope you have more peaceful days ahead, for you, for your husband and for those precious boys as I wish for continued greater empowerment for you and your family!
    My latest conversation: http://covertabuse.com/2012/11/22/what-im-thankful-for/

  21. DemianYumei says:

    @Sarah72 Thank you for your beautiful and supporting words, Sarah. It is gratifying to me that you find my writings so helpful and that you feel safe enough and welcomed enough to share your thoughts and experiences here. I love your vision of a Japanese-style healing sanctuary! It’s definitely something I can see myself attending, that’s for sure! Just sitting in such beauty is healing enough. To have such intent and opportunities for discourse, for art and creative venues is even more incredible. It’s important to keep hold of our vision, especially when they are as lovely as yours.  Thank you! 🙂

  22. Sarah72 says:

    @DemianYumei 
    Yah, it is a sad situation. My husband has been trying to distance himself from her since the last time we visited them in person 2 months ago. Since then, she has upped the ante and has been using emails, texts, phone calls, and other family members to lay on the guilt and make him feel worthless. I have not been as compassionate and ‘gentle’ on this topic as I have been in the past and I have been telling him very directly and in no uncertain terms that what his mom is doing is ABUSIVE and that he needs to end contact for a while until things settle down. I never thought the day would come when I would advise someone to cut off a family member– especially not their own mom. But, that day has come because her behavior has become so abusive and so toxic and unyielding that this is the only way for my husband to save his sanity.
     
    By the way, thank you for acknowledging that my own children are paying the price for the interactions that they witness with his family. I have told him this for many years but he has not wanted to believe me. Recently, he had to confront it when my older son brought it up. My son was crying and asking why grandma (my husband’s mom) is so mean. Then my son told us that she (MIL)  took him (my son) aside and told him that I am worthless and that his dad should divorce me. Then she went on and on about my husband’s first wife and started comparing both of us and saying she wished me dead. 
     
    So, I have recently told my husband his mom no longer comes to our house– ever– and has no access to my children– until something radical changes. I cannot tolerate this anymore and it is really taking a toll on my husband’s happiness. It’s not fair that one person should set out to destroy our family just because she cannot let her son go.

  23. J says:

    Hi Sarah, As I’m reading more posts you wrote I see more similarities between our situations. I also recently have become less tolerant or better said behaving less tolerant and have told my husband he needs to set boundaries. He did (after a lot of discussion etc..), and she became more and more hostile to me. So he called her and told her she couldn’t ignore me or not greet me, that this was unacceptable. She had all kinds of excuses and when that didn’t work, she said, you just have to take me as I am. He repeated what he said before and she hung up. Now she hasn’t contacted him since. I know she wants him to contact her, but we have discussed this and decided that the ball is in her court now and she has to own up to her behaviour. I didn’t say it to my husband but I’m done with her. I am at the point that I do not want her in my house again. I do not want to see her ever again and that means she will not have access to my children either (her ultimate dream would be to see her son and grandchildren without me there).  I will let her dig her own grave by letting her be in the position where she is the one who has to make amends and when she doesn’t the consequences are all hers. It should have been that way before but she always got my husband in a position where he felt he had to give in because otherwise she would kick him out of the family. How cruel can you be… I’m the same age as you are and we are together for about 15 years now and have two children. I am at the point that I have to let it all out. Share it with others and find some we to deal with it that is healthy for me. I’m not playing a part in any of her games anymore that’s for sure. ATB, J.

  24. Sarah72 says:

    Wow, our situations sound so very, very similar. 
     
    During the New Year’s Holiday my husband’s mom was doing some pretty petty stuff and fortunately that was the last straw for my husband.  He announced that it was going to be up to his mom to make amends with our family now. 
     
    Here is a question– does your MIL have any violent tendencies? Mine has a lot of physically and verbally violent tendencies and it frightens me. When she gets angry, she reacts physically. About a year ago, my husband confided that when he was around 10 years old, she would fly into these blind rages if he did not get all A’s in school or if he disobeyed her or pissed her off in any way. He said that a couple of times, she literally grabbed butcher knives and chased him around the house yelling that she was going to kill him.  Of course, after she would calm down, my husband would tell her how frightened he was. That would piss her off even more and she would go into these fits of crying and say that he didn’t love her and was a bad son. 
     
    A long time ago, I asked my husband why he married me. The reason I ask that is because just from the exterior, my husband looks like someone who could command his whole world if he wanted to. He is smart, charming, able to laugh at himself, and makes people feel very comfortable. I would always joke that he could have had any woman he wanted and deep down I did not understand why he chose me. So, I asked him one time, and he looked at me quite seriously and said, “You are the most kind and loving person I have ever met.”  At the time, I laughed at that and did not believe it. While my friends tell me I am a good friend to them, I have met much kinder people. I figured he must be ‘smoking something’ to think that.  But, this was before my husband confided all the abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother. This was before she really stepped up her manipulation and temper tantrums when I was present. Prior to getting married, he had told me none of this stuff about his family. When pressed, he would say things like his mom could be ‘eccentric’ but that she was a really good mom. Recently I asked him why he wouldn’t tell me the whole truth about his family of origin before we got married. Well, his answer was simple– he knew that I wouldn’t stick around if I knew too much or that I would inevitably leave him 6-months into the marriage like his first wife did. That is pretty selfish on his part, well, VERY selfish. But, he has also said that he had been looking for a wife who was the exact opposite of his mom and that he wanted someone who could provide solace and help him heal. I understand why he would feel that way and I want something better for himself. Also, even though I am a very nurturing person at heart, I also have an inner strength and a spirit that is hard to break. I think that he sensed I could handle it and also rescue him. I guess we could be the poster children for a co-dependent relationship in that respect. But, on the other hand, we are very well-matched personality wise and have the type of relationship where he has strengths that I don’t have and I have strengths that he doesn’t have. We are able to blend our strengths and team up to make both of our lives better. The truth is, I have loved him since the moment we met– one of those things where you literally meet someone for the first time, look in his eyes, and know body and soul he is ‘the one’. Both he and I knew that from the instant we met and so in the grand scheme of things, I think that we would have gotten married regardless. It feels like a soulmate thing. 
     
    I guess the bottom line is, yes, I have my “prince charming” but have to deal with the fact that he has a crazy mother that he never would have chosen for himself. All I can do is make sure that we avoid her at all costs.
     
    By the way, I just read a book that gave me tremendous insight on my husband’s situation with his mom. The book is called “Silently Seduced” 
    by Kenneth Adams.
    http://www.amazon.com/Silently-Seduced-Children-Partners-Understanding/dp/1558741313
     
    One of the reasons my husband has had such problems with his mom is that she has spent her life attempting to get my husband to fill her emotional needs. She has attempted to make both of her sons into surrogate spouses of sorts even though she is still married to their father.

  25. DemianYumei says:

    @Sarah72  @DemianYumei Whoa! I just read this. All I can say is Sarah, you did the RIGHT thing by your children by drawing the line to your husband. I wish I could say I can’t believe she’d do such a thing to your son…but unfortunately I can. I’ve seen it.
     
    So sad, but I am so glad for your children that they have you there for them. It’s good your husband is trying too, as hard as it is. I remember you saying his brother never escaped from being under her thumb.
     
    Keep standing your ground. If something gives, it can’t be your kids. You are a real blessing to them!

  26. DemianYumei says:

    I am inspired by such strong women. Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts here on this blog. I want to welcome you, J., and just let you know how much I appreciate your words. I speak not only for myself but those who come to just read. There’s a growing traffic to this blog. Know that you are making a difference. A heartfelt thank you. <3

  27. karanbisht88 says:

    Try this site, it may help you. Goodluck! http://registeredoffenderslist.org/

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