Why Do We Deny Abuse When It Happens?

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Denial works at the time of the abuse

Denial in abusive relationships is a coping skill. At first, denial for me was a mishearing, “did she really say that?”. But this turned into an ease as if I pretended to mishear it there would be no consequence to challenging it. Denial, therefore, became a major characteristic of the relationship.

Denial generates an addiction

My step mother was an alcoholic. And it killed her. The denial for her addiction stopped her from getting any form of treatment and it became destructive. I once suggested that she had a problem and I got the sharp side of her tongue. Her denial was pathetic as the physical signs (both to her body and the empty bottles all over the place) gave it away. But in a none-physically abusive relationship it is much easy to hide and deny.

Merry go round

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Why Do We Deny Abuse When It Happens?

During the relationship, I found that I was on a continual cycle of denial. One minute my ex was loving and reasonable, then the next she started to break the trust and promises again. As always, apologies and promises are made and I found that I accepted and  believed her because I loved her and made excuses for her – it was also the easier option to take.

In my case I fed the need for affection by feeding it denial. If I allowed it to happen I would get the acceptance I desperately needed. As the affection reduced I fed it more denial and so the circle continued to a point of destruction. The irony is that as I had perfected the art of denial it had become a part of my character.

Denial is the most basic defence

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Why Do We Deny Abuse When It Happens?

Denial is the first defence that we learn as a child. I recall my son (when he was about 4 yours old) having eaten a whole packet of jaffa cakes one morning. It was a whole lot of nothing, but he vehemently denied having eaten them, even though the opened packet was still on the floor and chocolate was smeared around the edges of his mouth. It was cute and that’s why I remember it so well because it was funny. But for him it was his first line of defence – it didn’t happen so there can be no justification for a consequence.

In my case the abuse didn’t happen so still love me – it was ok to say or do that. That was wrong.

We may use denial in varying degrees:

First degree: Denial that the problem exists.

I refused to accept that there was a problem within the relationship. Like so many other men I stuck my head in the sand in the firm belief that the problems would just simply go away (see being a bloke...)

Second degree: Minimization or rationalization.

I could justify why she did what she did. She had come from a disruptive family and so she was a product of that (see abusers born to abuse). Furthermore, I’m a bloke and I can take what she was dishing out. In effect, I made excuses for her faults and rationalised the behaviours.

Third degree: Admitting it, but denying the consequences.

I came to accept that it was my duty to report in to her three times a day, or to have sex against my will and better judgement. I came to accept that if I took the easy option of doing what was required, I would not face the nasty consequences of what would happen otherwise.

Fourth degree: Unwilling to seek help for it.

This was a difficult option to justify but the easiest to carry out. Initially, I just simply refused to accept that I was being victimised by the woman I loved and who I thought loved me back. She had manipulated me so badly that I found the edges blurred and I couldn’t see the levels of abuse I had been suffering. She had taught me to accept that it was either my fault (of which I found myself apologising for) or it was a normal part of the relationship. Therefore, why would I need help when I was adamant that I was the problem? When I finally realised that things were not right (see how to recognise a toxic relationship) it came as a shock. How could I have been so stupid to have allowed this to have happened and for so long?

Box and shelve

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Why Do We Deny Abuse When It Happens?
Box and shelve

This denial shaped so much of my characteristic. I had perfected the art of locking things away. Or as I often called it ‘boxed and shelved’ it. I dealt with things at home and left them at home. Likewise, I dealt with things at work and left them at work. I think this is what men do to cope with things in different ways. I have discussed this with other men since and it seems to be a common factor, although some never realised it.

The consequences of this was that my closest friends at work just had no idea of what was going on. Therefore, were unable to help. Under no circumstance should any shame or blame be left at anyone’s door for not seeing it. The fault was mine (although she was ultimately to blame) for being a ‘blokey bloke’ and not being prepared to admit there was a problem that I could not handle.

My denial at work, therefore, created a persona of being a reliable, hardworking (because I never wanted to go home) paramedic. I was known to have a good sense of humour because the art of denial was to either change the subject, become dismissive or to turn it into a joke and therefore, minimise the true horrors within.

Denial became an inability to trust

Denial within the relationship worked. Making excuses for what was going on became second nature and I often did it without a second thought. The problem, therefore, is further compounded with a trust of myself.

During the relationship, I made some decisions that were (and I can only see it now) wrong. I justified her behaviour and made excuses for them. So how can I be sure that the decisions I make now are right. How can I be sure that these are my true feelings if they had been caged and restricted for so long. This new freedom had a bitter taste at times because and so if I am unsure of trusting myself, how can I trust others.

Men are the worst.

Keith's Story - Male Victim of Domestic Abuse & Depression Why Do We Deny Abuse When It Happens?

Men refuse to admit that there is a problem (either as the victim or perpetrator). I can honestly admit that I have a history of refusing to accept any problems or warning signs. This is both within an emotional sense (abuse) but with physical ailments too (see why men can’t take medication). But by applying varying degrees of denial, we apply a rationale.  We might deny that we have a lump; and so make ourselves believe that it’s probably a cyst; but it may have been cancer so it could be treated. Sticking our heads in the sand and denying a problem could lead to death – either physically or emotionally. Yes, this is directly aimed at physical and emotional abuse in all of its forms.









8 Replies to “Why Do We Deny Abuse When It Happens?”

  1. Have you thought about how you are going to trust your own judgement again. Do you question things that once upon a time you took for granted ? Being in an abusive relationship is all consuming but trying to leave it behind and having confidence in yourself again is tough too. What if I trust again? what if ……what if ……… when all you want to be is “Normal Joe Bloggs” and most of all you don’t want to carry the memories and learnt behaviour with you into your future. Learning self confidence and trust can be a challenge.

  2. Hello

    The points that you are making is all about recovery. This takes time and depends on the length and depth of the abuse. It is also compounded with the individual also.

    What I had discovered for myself was to do things that I would never have considered before (have a read of http://www.keithsstory.co.uk/freedom-choose-clothes/). yes buying a bright pair of trousers was not about a fashion statement but was about having the faith to make decisions without an outside endorsement. The trust came when I realised that other people don’t judge me by the choice I had made alone.

    Having ended the denial it is about building the confidence to make mistakes and be ok with it – as long as it is within a set perimeter. It is only natural to make mistakes and we all will throughout our lives but it is wrong to deny it, whether you are the victim or the perpetrator.

    I don’t actually think I want to be the old me before I had started the relationship with my ex. That old me had not had the experiences that I have now gained. That old person was about to make the mistakes yet to come. By refusing to deny what happened it has made me into a new person. The denial was a merry go round of repeat and deny and so on… but having broken it I have now found the ability to shape a newer brighter future that won’t involve what happened before – because I won’t allow it. I don’t take these experiences for granted and value them deeply. This is why I am happy to share them on here. It would be wrong for any reader to dismiss their feeling after reading what I say and just take a step back for a moment and think what if…

    Denial is nothing to be ashamed of when you are experiencing the abuse at the time. It becomes a problem if you refuse help or it continues after the end of the relationship.

    Again thank you for your comment. It is appreciated

    1. Self belief is easily said and so hard to achieve . Reading your blog, I can see how far you have come and how honest and open you have been. I really hope others will find empathy in your words as I have . I hope the future offers you much happiness.

  3. After reading your blog (the first page, and I bookmarked it to return to later), I can see better, now, how I was also in denial, and why I was in denial. You’ve pointed out another piece of a puzzle for me to understand my part in her sociopath malignant narcissistic abuse, how I responded to it, why I chose denial, and how it didn’t work so well for me in the long run.
    -Thanks for your blog.

    I also have a blog about my ex narc, but it’s more of a “tell tale” blog with clinical narcissistic descriptions that parallels the timeline of her abuse. -Your blog is much more self-reflecting.

    Yours and mine are both personally honest. I suppose this is what “we do” when we’ve suffered some serious malignant narcissistic abuse. We do our best to untangle the confusion mixed with wandering pain from all the “crazy making” the abusive narcissist perpetrated.

    -Good job! …I’ll read more later.

    1. Firstly, I want to take the opportunity to thank you for taking the time to not only read my blog but to also comment on it.
      I’m so glad to hear that it has helped you clarify things with regards to your experiences. That was my goal when I set up this blog. During both my period of abuse and leaving the home I found there was very little, if anything, for men in my position. Therefore, I wanted to help other people not make the same mistakes I did. I must stress that my aim is to both men and women but I would like more recognition of the lack of support for males in comparison to female victims.
      I don’t think anyone should be hard on themselves when it comes to having lived in an abusive relationship. I think it is good to reflect and realise that you were not the cause of the problems. It’s just that we didn’t see it at the time and that is not a crime. I think it is right to reflect on the events and it is equally right to say, “it will never happen again”. As a male I just want to get our story out there and tell men that we need to stop living in denial.
      Please feel free to attach a link to your blog on here. I fully support other writers and I will try to spread it far and wide.
      I must stress though that I think my earlier stuff is not as good as my present-day contributions. I decided not to re-write them as I wrote them whilst in great pain and hope to revisit them at a later date to see how things have improved. I must stress, I’ve never been angry. I just feel disappointment in the failure of a relationship and the lack of support from the police. Of course, this is written from an English perspective but I can only assume (based on the feedback I’ve had) that things are pretty similar all over the world.
      Hal, I personally wish you all the best in the endeavours you choose to help with your recovery. I also hope that you keep in contact and share you experiences with me.

    2. Hal
      I’ve just read your blog (http://halhelmboldt.weebly.com/blog) and you are right. We have a lot of simularities.
      Your blog is very well written and I am able to identify with so much that you’ve said.
      Keep it up Hal. Writing for me has been such a great help and opened my world to so many fantastic people – I’m including you in that.
      Thanks again Hal – keep in touch

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