Lyme patients, especially the chronically ill, may be forced into situations they would otherwise not tolerate and should not have to tolerate. To protect yourselves from abuse please read the following.
If at any time you do not feel safe call 911 in an emergency, your doctor or your Lyme buddy for assistance.
Everyone deserves a relationship that is healthy, safe and supportive. If you are in a relationship that is hurting you, it is important for you to know that the abuse is not your fault.
It is also important for you to start thinking of ways to keep yourself safe from the abuse, whether you decide to end the relationship or not. While you can’t control abusive behavior, you can take action to keep yourself as safe as possible.
To have the healthiest relationship, people should know each other’s wants, goals, fears and limits. You should feel comfortable communicating your honest needs to others without being afraid of what they might do in response.
If someone tells you that your needs are stupid, gets angry with you or goes against what you’re comfortable with, then they are not showing you the respect you deserve.
Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring or “checking in,” excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking.
Examples of Anger/Emotional Abuse
- Putting you down
- Making you feel bad about yourself
- Name calling
- Making you think you’re crazy
- Playing mind games
- Humiliating you
- Making you feel guilty
There are many behaviors that qualify as emotional or verbal abuse, including:
- Calling you names and putting you down.
- Yelling and screaming at you.
- Intentionally embarrassing you in public.
- Preventing you from seeing or talking with friends and family.
- Telling you what to do or wear.
- Damaging your property when they’re angry (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)
- Using online communities or cell phones to control, intimidate or humiliate you.
- Blaming your actions for their abusive or unhealthy behavior.
- Accusing you of cheating and often being jealous of your outside relationships.
- Stalking you.
- Threatening to commit suicide to keep you from breaking up with them.
- Threatening to harm you, your pet or people you care about.
- Making you feel guilty or immature when you don’t consent to sexual activity.
- Threatening to expose your secrets such as your sexual orientation or immigration status.
- Starting rumors about you.
- Threatening to have your children taken away.
In a healthy relationship, all communication is respectful whether in person, online or by phone. It is never okay for someone to do or say anything that makes you feel bad, lowers your self-esteem or manipulates you. You may be experiencing digital abuse if someone:
- Tells you who you can or can’t be friends with on Facebook and other sites.
- Sends you negative, insulting or even threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets, DMs or other messages online.
- Uses sites like Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and others to keep constant tabs on you.
- Puts you down in their status updates.
- Sends you unwanted, explicit pictures and/or demands you send some in return.
- Pressures you to send explicit video or sexts.
- Steals or insists on being given your passwords.
- Constantly texts you and makes you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone for fear that you will be punished.
- Looks through your phone frequently, checks up on your pictures, texts and outgoing calls.
- Tags you unkindly in pictures on Instagram, Tumblr, etc.
You never deserve to be mistreated, online or off. If you’re experiencing digital abuse, we encourage you to chat with a peer advocate.
Emotional abuse happens when a person uses words or actions to control, frighten or isolate someone or take away their self-respect. Emotional abuse is sometimes called psychological abuse. It can include:
threats, put downs, name calling or insults
constant yelling or criticism
controlling or keeping someone from seeing friends or family
making fun of preventing someone from practicing their faith or religion
destroying belongings, hurting pets or threatening to do so
bullying: intimidation or humiliation (including on the Internet)
People with mental illness frequently become vulnerable and easy targets of physical and mental abuses. A common barrier for victimized individuals when reporting offences is the fear of retaliation. Offenders may deliberately target people with mental illness because they see them as vulnerable and less likely to go to the police.
“You’re crazy – that never happened.”
“Are you sure? You tend to have a bad memory.”
“It’s all in your head.”
Does someone say things like this to you a lot? Do you often start questioning what’s really true – or even your own sanity – within your relationship? If so, they may be using what mental health professionals call “gaslighting.”
This term comes from the 1938 stage play Gas Light, in which a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights (which were powered by gas) in their home, and then he denies that the light changed when his wife points it out.
It is a very effective form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power (and we know that abuse is about power and control). Once an abusive partner has broken down the victim’s ability to trust their own perceptions, the victim is more likely to stay in the abusive relationship.
There are several different gaslighting techniques that an abusive person might use:
Withholding: the abusive person pretends not to understand or refuses to listen. Ex. “I don’t want to hear this again,” or “You’re trying to confuse me.”
Countering: the abusive person questions the victim’s memory of events, even when the victim remembers them accurately. Ex. “You’re wrong, you never remember things correctly.”
Blocking/Diverting: the abusive person changes the subject and/or questions the victim’s thoughts. Ex. “Is that another crazy idea you got from [friend/family member]?” or “You’re imagining things.”
Trivializing: the abusive person makes the victim’s needs or feelings seem unimportant. Ex. “You’re going to get angry over a little thing like that?” or “You’re too sensitive.”
Forgetting/Denial: the abusive person pretends to have forgotten what actually occurred or denies things like promises made to the victim. Ex. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” or “You’re just making stuff up.” (Source)
Gaslighting typically happens very gradually in a relationship; in fact, the abusive person’s actions may seem harmless at first.
Over time, however, these abusive patterns continue and a victim can become confused, anxious, isolated, and depressed, and they can lose all sense of what is actually happening.
Then they start relying on the abusive person more and more to define reality, which creates a very difficult situation to escape.
In order to overcome this type of abuse, it’s important to start recognizing the signs and eventually learn to trust yourself again. According to author and psychoanalyst Robin Stern, Ph.D., the signs of being a victim of gaslighting include:
- You constantly second-guess yourself.
- You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” multiple times a day.
- You often feel confused and even crazy.
- You’re always apologizing to your partner.
- You can’t understand why, with so many apparently good things in your life, you aren’t happier.
- You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior to friends and family.
- You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses.
- You know something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
- You start lying to avoid the put downs and reality twists.
- You have trouble making simple decisions.
- You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
- You feel hopeless and joyless.
- You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
- You wonder if you are a “good enough” person.
Financial abuse can be very subtle. It can include telling you what you can and cannot buy or requiring you to share control of your bank accounts.
At no point does someone have the right to use money or how you spend it to control you.
Here are some examples of financially abusive behaviors:
- Giving you an allowance and closely watching what you buy.
- Placing your paycheck in their account and denying you access to it.
- Keeping you from seeing shared bank accounts or records.
- Forbidding you to work or limiting the hours you do.
- Preventing you from going to work by taking your car or keys.
- Getting you fired by harassing you, your employer or coworkers on the job.
- Hiding or stealing your student financial aid check or outside financial support.
- Using your social security number to obtain credit without your permission.
- Using your child’s social security number to claim an income tax refund without your permission.
- Maxing out your credit cards without your permission.
- Refusing to give you money, food, rent, medicine or clothing.
- Using funds from your children’s tuition or a joint savings account without your knowledge.
- Spending money on themselves but not allowing you to do the same.
- Giving you presents and/or paying for things like dinner and expecting you to somehow return the favor.
- Using their money to hold power over you because they know you are not in the same financial situation as they are.
Financial abuse happens when someone uses money or property to control or exploit someone else.
It can involve:
- taking someone's money or property without permission
- withholding or limiting money to control someone
- pressuring someone to sign documents
- forcing someone to sell things or change a will
Most forms of financial abuse are crimes, including theft and fraud.
Economic abuse can manifest itself in many different ways, and abusers can victimize their partners even after they have left the abusive relationship. Some abusive behaviors include:
• Interfering with the victim’s work performance through harassing activities, such as frequent phone calls or unannounced visits.
• Denying the victim access to money or the means of obtaining it, to the point that he/she is entirely dependent on the abuser for food, clothing and shelter.
• Refusing to allow the victim to work or attend school, or engaging in activities that make it impossible for the victim to do so.
• Intentionally withholding necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene products, or medication.
• Stealing from the victim, defrauding their money or assets, and/or exploiting the victim’s financial resources or property for personal gain.
• Requiring justification for any money spent and punishing the victim with physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
• Stealing or destroying the victim’s personal belongings.
• Forbidding a victim from maintaining a personal bank account.
• Threatening to out an LGBTQ victim in their workplace.
Physical abuse is any intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to your body. Sometimes abusive behavior does not cause pain or even leave a bruise, but it’s still unhealthy. Examples of physical abuse include:
- Scratching, punching, biting, strangling or kicking.
- Throwing something at you such as a phone, book, shoe or plate.
- Pulling your hair.
- Pushing or pulling you.
- Grabbing your clothing.
- Using a gun, knife, box cutter, bat, mace or other weapon.
- Smacking your bottom without your permission or consent.
- Forcing you to have sex or perform a sexual act.
- Grabbing your face to make you look at them.
- Grabbing you to prevent you from leaving or to force you to go somewhere.
Escaping Physical Abuse
Start by learning that you are not alone. If you are in a similar situation:
- Realize this behavior is wrong.
- Talk to an adult, friend or family member that you trust.
- Create a safety plan.
- Consider getting a restraining order.
- Do not accept or make excuses for your partner’s abusive behavior.
- Remember that physical abuse is never your fault.
Protecting Yourself from Physical Abuse
Unhealthy or abusive relationships usually get worse. It is important to know the warning signs to prevent more serious harm. If you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, consider making a safety plan. Chat with a peer advocate for more information.
Most people assume that stalkers are strangers, but actually, three in four victims are harassed by someone they know. You are being stalked when a person repeatedly watches, follows or harasses you, making you feel afraid or unsafe. A stalker can be someone you know, a past partner or a stranger. While the actual legal definition varies from one state to another, here are some examples of what stalkers may do:
- Show up at your home or place of work unannounced or uninvited.
- Send you unwanted text messages, letters, emails and voicemails.
- Leave unwanted items, gifts or flowers.
- Constantly call you and hang up.
- Use social networking sites and technology to track you.
- Spread rumors about you via the internet or word of mouth.
- Make unwanted phone calls to you.
- Call your employer or professor.
- Wait at places you hang out.
- Use other people as resources to investigate your life. For example, looking at your facebook page through someone else’s page or befriending your friends in order to get more information about you.
- Damage your home, car or other property.
Family violence is when someone uses abusive behavior to control and/or harm a member of their family, or someone with whom they have an intimate relationship.
Family violence includes many different forms of physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect carried out by family members or intimate partners. It may include a single act of violence, or a number of acts that form a pattern of abuse. Family violence can have serious-and sometimes fatal-consequences for victims and for those who see or hear the violence.
To find help with abusive situations you can call 211 on your phone. They will provide you with resources in your area.
Last Updated- April 2019