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Ask Surly Amy: Daisy and Dick and Abusive Relationships

Dear Surly Amy,

One of my female friends (let’s call her Daisy) says she still has “that special something” with one of my former friends (let’s call him Dick).

I severed my friendship with Dick because he blackmailed her, caused a humiliating scene outside her house, habitually lied to her, and physically assaulted her.

And recently I’ve heard news that Dick has been spreading the false news that they’re still together. That’s when Daisy replied that it wasn’t a lie because of “that special something.”

Right now, I can’t fathom how my friend could feel like this after she’s suffered so much because of him. And I don’t know what I should do if they somehow become a couple again. I need your advice.

~Finn

Dear Finn,

First of all, if your ex-friend actually blackmailed or abused someone and you have evidence of it, you should report it to the authorities if at all possible. The only way domestic abuse situations ever get handled officially is if there is a documented history of abuse. Of course, the woman we are referring to as Daisy would have to corroborate your testimony which most likely will be very unlikely to happen.

The sad fact of the matter is that often-times victims get caught in a cycle of abuse that for many different reasons is difficult to break free from. I have actually addressed a very similar situation here on Skepchick in a post called, Ask Surly Amy: FRUSTRATED ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP. Please read that post if you have a moment. It has a lot of valuable information on abusive relationships.

The main advice I can give, is for you to leave the door open to your friend, Daisy. Tell her that if she wants to get away from Dick you will be there to help her but you can’t condone a violent and abusive relationship. Separate yourself from the situation while leaving a helping hand stretched out should she need it. You have no idea how important that may be. You can also offer her some information so she can seek professional help in your absence. Let her know there are options. She may not realize that help is out there. Let her know that she is never alone or helpless should she decide to finally leave him.

These are the links I provided in my previous post:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: Website link or 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)
Help Guide.org
Links to Crisis Hotlines here.

I’m sorry you have found yourself in this situation and I hope your friend finds the strength to leave her abuser.

Got a question you would like some Surly-Skepchick advice on? Send it in! We won’t publish your real name, unless you want us to and creative pseudonyms get bonus points! Just use the contact link on the top left of the page.

Featured images are details from one of my paintings.

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Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics. She is the fearless leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+. Tip Jar is here.

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11 Comments

  1. This is such a hard, painful situation. I had to watch my younger sister go back to a very, very abusive man (who put her in the hospital more than once, and who ended up in *prison* for rape and assault at one point). All I could do was be there for her when she needed someone. Eventually she left him, but it took time. A lot of time.

    Amy’s advice is good. Be there for her. Reach out often, so that she doesn’t think you’ve given up. But in the end, there isn’t much you can do except be there for her. You can’t force her out of the situation. It’s up to her.

    Good luck.

  2. I’ve always been curious what drives these guys who do this. Is it psycopathy done with complete conscious awareness or are the perps themselves victims of abuse who are unconsciously acting out the cycle of violence? Also, this problem seems to be disturbingly commonplace (seems like everyone has a friend or family member who has had a boyfriend or spouse like this).

    \BCT

  3. About half a year ago, I was Daisy.

    My own Dick was very rarely physically abusive but I was a victim just the same. She would not allow me to pursue my own interests, have my own friends, pick up extra shifts at work, that kind of thing. In a lot of ways, I still am.

    I’m still my Dick’s victim 6 months after I left her, and to this day, even though she is 5000Km away, I still nearly jump out of my skin when I see a car of the same make/model/color as hers. I’m still my parents’ victim, they were both addicts, and well, that just goes with the territory, I guess. I’m still my Grandmother’s victim, even 15 years after her death; she was strict catholic, guilt was her primary weapon, and she used it very well. I’m beginning to realize (after months of therapy and research into the subject) that this is just the way I am. I am an easy target.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, it’s a self-esteem thing. There are many days that I have trouble rationalizing the need to breathe air, or eat, or drink water. The oxygen and consumables that I use could be much better served if they were given to someone else. It is for this reason that I stayed with my Dick for as long as I did.

    You see, my sense of self-worth is so poor that if I do manage to latch on to someone and start a relationship with her, I believe in my heart of hearts that it will be the last one that I will ever have. It’s not necessarily true, of course, but that’s what I believe.

    I think that it’s the same for many of us Daisys, and our poor self-esteem plays an important role in who we choose as a mate. That mate is usually very charming and loving at the start, providing the emotional security that we so desperately need. When the partner becomes abusive early on, it is followed by apologies, I’ll-never-do-it-again, I-didn’t-mean-to-hurt-you, etc. At that point it becomes an emotional up and down thing. And when you’re a Daisy, you try your very best each and every day to keep your Dick up, because when your Dick is up, it’s the best feeling in the world. You feel loved, you feel needed, you feel like you belong.

    A study from the University of British Columbia concluded:

    Significant correlations were found between all pairs of the three dependent measure scales [Attachment, Self-Esteem and Trauma Symptoms] at Time 1. Women who had lower self-esteem at Time 1 tended to have significantly more trauma symptoms, and to still feel significantly more attached to their ex-mate.

    The three main dependent measures again correlated significantly at Time 2, with trauma symptoms and self-esteem even more highly correlated. Again, women who had low self-esteem at Time 2 tended to have significantly more trauma symptoms and to feel significantly more attached to their former partners.

    Despite the [six month] interval between Time 1 and Time 2, each dependent measure taken at Time 1 correlated significantly with its counterpart measure taken at Time 2. Note that although attachment shows the largest drop in score size from Time 1 to Time 2, the Time 2 scores are still highly correlated with the Time 1 scores. In this sense, Time 2 attachment is predictably about 73% of the Time 1 attachment score.

    Source: Violence and Victims, Volume 8, Number 2, 1993 , pp. 105-120(16)

    As for any advice I might give you from Daisy’s perspective, I would say that if it weren’t for my sister, I would still be there. She acknowledged to me (in private) that she knew what was going on between me and my Dick, that she was there to talk to if I needed her, and that when I was ready, she would help me. I ended up staying with her and her husband for a couple of months while I got enough of my shit together to get away permanently.

    It has now been 6 months since I left home (8 months since I left her) and I can’t say that it’s been easy. It hasn’t, but I’m soldiering on. I can do theater again, I can speak to a woman without fearing that I will catch hell for it when I get home, I can even go to a bar and have a few drinks without having to look at the door every 5 minutes to see if she’s coming to drag me out of there.

    But at the same time, I looked at a recent picture of her on Facebook, and I saw her beautiful smile…

    1. Thank you for sharing this. It’s easy to forget that men go through abusive relationships, too. It’s either ignored or people take it far too lightly.

      I wish I had something more supportive to say, but I don’t. Just thank you for sharing.

    2. Thank you for sharing, I am proud of you for getting out and gaining more self-awareness. I would recommend to you that you clear out everything you can of her in your life. Many times we don’t acknowledge how much a person can mess with our own heads, program and brainwash us to their own desires. Having something as simple as a photograph or an item that reminds you of that person can be enough to trigger those brainwashed responses again. Clean house and learn to love yourself, it sounds impossible sometimes but I believe it can be done.

    3. Wow Anthony, I could almost ditto your post (after changing a few details and switching pronouns).

      One thing that I have found to be significant for me is that my childhood (strict catholic, controlling abusive parent, and addict parent) made me able to adapt very easily to situations that other people (with different families) would find to be intolerable.

      When I was trying to leave my alcoholic abusive controlling spouse (we’ve been divorced for 6 years now), I found it helpful to know that Cindy (a friend from college who I admired greatly) would NEVER take the kind of abuse that I did. From that thought came the thought that if Cindy would never take that crap, why do I have to. What’s the difference?

      So now I am aware that I can EASILY fall into the “trap” of adapting to abusive conditions. I hope the awareness will help me avoid them – and everyone else too!

  4. I was trapped in a abusive relationship a few years back, and here’s what kept me from getting out sooner:

    I was in huge denial about what was going on. I couldn’t see myself as the kind of person who would be in an abusive relationship. It’s embarrassing and I didn’t want to admit it.

    I felt very trapped–he had gone to great lengths to almost totally socially isolate me. It’s very easy to start believing the things your abuser tells you about yourself when you don’t have a lot of outside context.

    When you want the situation to go away and just be happy again, it becomes very easy to write off all the horrible things with one small sweet thing that the abuser does every once in a while.

    It’s a terrible situation, but like other people have said, just being there for Daisy is probably the best thing you can do. Build up her self-esteem. Let her know she is a wonderful person and listen to her without making her feel judged. If they’re living together, let her know she has a place to stay and help moving if she needs it. That one would have helped me a lot.

  5. Please please please get your friend to call the National Domestic Violence hotline and just talk to someone. They’re professional and impartial, and they will be supportive and offer good advice. It can be incredibly difficult to even recognize abuse when you’re in it, and the people at the domestic violence hotline can really offer perspective.

  6. Hello, Amy, and hi to the Skepchick community too,

    I’m Finn and I’d just like to thank everybody for all your support. I was really surprised when I saw Amy respond to my letter, and really glad too, of course. And I’m also grateful for the responses by the commenters who shared their own views and experiences.

    I have an update for everybody: Daisy has now chosen to reject Dick’s advances.

    The final nail in the coffin for her, she says, was when I told her how it was suspicious for Dick to tell her that he’s changed, but not make up for the harm and deceit that he’s done to me and to our friends. (They had to restrain him during that scene I mentioned in the letter.)

    I guess that would mean thebiwlderness’s comment rings true: that he might have been trying to isolate her from us, given that she told me once not to tell any of our friends.

    Still, she says that she’s “not there yet,” which might mean that the cycle might continue, should he choose to make another move. Still, her decision is a good sign that it might not.

    As a close to my follow-up, I’d just like to respond to Billy Clyde Tuggle’s question, on whether it’s possible that abusers were also victims themselves. I think in Dick’s case, it’s likely. I’ve been friends with Dick since we were little, and I remember him crying in grade school and high school because he was bullied. His parents are also away a lot because their jobs necessitate traveling. He’s also in a vicious cycle with his other relationships, as he pushes away the people he befriends through his chronic lying. Whether he would get better and how are other topics altogether, which are important to discuss as well.

    But for now, I’d just like to express my gratitude again. On behalf of Daisy, thank you, Skepchick community!

    1. Thank you for the update. It’s a good sign that Daisy has decided to distance herself from Dick. Even if this isn’t the final straw, it could be a sign that she’s getting there. Sometimes these things take time.

      Anyway.

      It’s important to remember that yes, while many abusers were previously abused, not all were. And, we also need to remember that not everyone who is abused will because an abuser. The cycle of abuse is sometimes, I think, exaggerated a bit, and I think we need to be careful with saying that everyone who has been abused may at one point become an abuser, because I think we all know that’s not true.

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