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7 Ways to Tell If Your Partner Might Be Manipulative

Everyday Feminism/November 23, 2015
By Suzannah Weiss

“I think I do it to distract myself.”

I was telling a friend about my newly acquired habit of picking the split ends from my waist-length hair.

“From what?”

“Anger.” I thought about it. “I’m angry all the time.”

“With who?”

My eyes darted around the room. I was scared to admit it. “My boyfriend.”

I was so petty. The words came flooding back from my subconscious. How could I be so petty as to resent someone who never yelled at me or physically hurt me, who I loved and wanted more than anything to get along with?

But all the fights that seemed resolved every time he dropped me off at my apartment kept creeping back. Once I’d realize they weren’t resolved, I’d put on Friends reruns and pick at my hair to forget them, the red tips gathering on my white sheets.

It didn’t matter anyway. I was just overreacting. He was so loving and kind in so many ways. I couldn’t just let things go, could I?

I couldn’t. The memories would resurface days and weeks later.

There was the time I refused to lend him money because he hadn’t paid me back last time, and he sarcastically responded that if I want to treat our relationship like a set of transactions, then we’d might as well put everything on a spreadsheet and never get each other gifts.

Selfish. Greedy. Viewing relationships like transactions. That was me. So petty. Such an underserving girlfriend.

The truncated hairs fell one by one, severing the half of me still angry he never paid me back.

“Name one other time I’ve been unreliable,” he asked in order to make me justify my decision.

“You never read my thesis.” He’d said he would “later tonight” one day in January; it was March.

“Of course I’m going to read it. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. It hurts that you don’t believe in me.”

I was hurting him. I didn’t believe in my own boyfriend.

Never mind the money. Never mind the thesis. What was wrong with me?

This was the guy who had surprised me by arriving at my apartment with newly bought ingredients and cooking me dinner. Who had patiently reassured me about all my body image concerns even though I must have sounded ridiculous.

But I was so mad.

Mad he wouldn’t pay me back the money he owed. Mad he didn’t keep his promises. Mad he turned this all around on me. Mad at him for making me mad at myself, and mad at myself for being mad at him.

I picked one hair after another, lost in the hypnotizing strands.

My brain was as split as the tips of my hair. I couldn’t tell which half of me was right.

While caught in this cacophony of conflicting thoughts, I went to a book fair with my boyfriend and a title caught my eye: The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans. This should be interesting, I thought. I’m interested in psychology. I stuffed it into my paper bag, all-you-can-fit for five dollars.

It was only during that fleeting moment between our kiss goodbye and my Friends reruns that I admitted to myself why I had really bought that book.

The next day, I opened it instead of my computer. As I half expected, I saw myself – both selves – scattered across the pages.

And in the midst of those pages, I learned that gaslighting – my partner’s technique of making me doubt my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions – was an abusive manipulation tactic. For the first time, I saw why his behavior stressed me out. And it wasn’t because I was a bad partner.

If you can identify any of these six patterns in your own relationship, you may not be a bad partner either. You may simply have been manipulated into believing you are one. If you find yourself in that position, I hope this list helps you the way The Verbally Abusive Relationship helped me: by providing an explanation for your distress other than your own inadequacy.

1. Conflicts Never Feel Resolved

If conflicts from days, weeks, or months ago still bother you even though you’ve discussed them with your partner, it’s possible they manipulated you into believing the discussion was over before it was.

My partner accomplished this manipulation by deflecting blame onto me.

Even if the action under discussion was his, I was just looking at it from the wrong angle. He’d tell me what the right angle was, and I’d feel guilty for not seeing things that way in the first place.

When our arguments were “resolved,” the resolution was usually that I had to work on myself because I was overreacting or my expectations were unreasonable.

Making someone feel oversensitive and unreasonable is gaslighting.

For example, one night, I was painting an instrument he’d built. After he told me what to paint and hovered over me complaining that I was doing it all wrong, I got mad and left the room. When he asked what was wrong, I yelled out of frustration, “You’re so clueless!” (Admittedly, I could have handled this better as well.)

He then gave me a talk about how I needed to stop calling him names like “clueless” to back him into a corner with no choice but apologizing. I panicked. Could I be the manipulative one? Would he break up with me?

I went to the bathroom, and when I got out, I was relieved to find him standing there holding his cat. We stood together and pet her like nothing had ever happened. Forget about my anger toward him. I was just relieved he wasn’t mad at me – so I dropped it.

Our fights went on like this for months, with me getting hurt and then repressing that hurt so he didn’t get mad at me.

As they started getting worse, a friend encouraged me to end the relationship. “But you fight with your boyfriend,” I pointed out.

“Our arguments end, though,” she said.

Finally, I saw why I could never get our arguments out of my mind: None of my concerns were ever addressed. They were simply deflected onto me.

I had stopped taking issue with his actions because I wasn’t allowed to, not because I felt better.

In a healthy relationship, your partner hears you out if you’re upset, and their goal is to avoid upsetting you in the future, not to debate whether you should have been upset in the first place.

2. When Your Partner Hurts You, You End Up Apologizing

Repeatedly gaslighted into believing my feelings were wrong, I grew remorseful for feeling them. Conversations would start with me believing he’d hurt me and end with me apologizing for getting hurt.

He’d convince me I was not only too hard on him, but also myopic. “Life is too short to get mad,” he’d say. “Can’t we just enjoy this nice day together?”

I’d tear up and think about how much I loved him and hated to taint our precious time together and thank him for reminding me what’s important in life and hug him and apologize for being so petty.

I’d go home on a high, feeling like I’d had a revelation about picking my battles, though the high would fade once I realized the conflict wasn’t resolved.

My concerns became results of my own pettiness. They didn’t matter – I was oversensitive, after all. I couldn’t be trusted.

Feeling like your feelings can’t be trusted to the point that you apologize for them is also a sign you’re being gaslighted.

3. You Don’t Feel You Deserve Your Partner

If someone makes you feel like the source of every conflict and convinces you that you’re shortsighted for getting upset, as my partner did by telling me it was unproductive to get angry and that it was my choice to be hurt by him, you may begin to feel like you don’t deserve them.

In fact, I wondered if I would drive all my future partners away for being so over-critical.

I grew to believe he was noble for resisting the urge to argue and I was small-minded in comparison. Thank God he was there to steer me back on track, I’d think. He understood what life was about.

Terrified I didn’t deserve him, I squashed my negative feelings to try to make myself more deserving.

This is what manipulative people want.

“It’s important to remember that you are not the problem; you’re simply being manipulated to feel bad about yourself, so that you’re more likely to surrender your power and rights,” psychologist Preston Ni writes in Psychology Today.

Since I was constantly trying to prove I was deserving, my partner always got what he wanted from me.

4. You’ve Done Things That Make You Uncomfortable to Avoid Conflict

Manipulation occurs when someone tries to force you out of your comfort zone. And I’m not talking about going on a spontaneous trip or trying a new food – I’m talking about disregarding your physical, emotional, or financial boundaries.

Manipulative people have sneaky ways of making their partners think their comfort zones don’t matter.

My partner’s chosen method was convincing me my comfort zone was unreasonable and that respecting it would mean disrespecting his.

The first boundary he coaxed me to cross was my standard for safer sex.

Since he’d had unprotected sex since he’d last gotten tested, I wanted him to get tested or use a condom before sleeping with me. He told me condoms hurt, so I asked him to get tested – for months.

He kept saying he would make appointments but never did. Eventually, he confessed that doctors’ offices made him anxious. He told me he’d only had unprotected sex one time since he was last tested and she said she was STI-negative, so it shouldn’t be an issue. I got sick of having the same discussion over and over, so I gave in and had unprotected sex.

My decision was not safe either, but it was understandable given the alternative. I didn’t want to dishonor his own feelings about condoms or doctors’ offices and put him out of his comfort zone.

The next boundary he wore away at was financial. Since I made more money than him, he argued, I should cover our dates when he was short on cash.

I had enough money to pay for his meals, so I again felt petty that it made me uncomfortable. Why was I putting my own ability to save money over his ability to enjoy our time together?

He also got me to cough up cash by telling me I was privileged and couldn’t understand what he was going through. I didn’t want to be unsympathetic, so I helped him out. I was afraid I’d be an inconsiderate, spoiled girlfriend if I didn’t.

As these stories show, his weapon of choice was not overt aggression, but intellectual, seemingly rational arguments. If I couldn’t justify my boundaries intellectually, I couldn’t have them.

That’s the ultimate manipulation – not violating the boundaries you’re defending, but convincing you to take them down on your own.

5. They Don’t Answer Your Questions Directly

My partner once taught me a trick for job interviews.

If someone stumps you with a question, he said, change the subject. Talk about how passionate you are about your work, how you always give it 100%, how you don’t like to say 110% because that’s an imaginary standard that doesn’t hold us accountable. By the time you’re done, the interviewer won’t remember what they asked you.

I soon realized he took this same approach to our conversations, which explained why so many of them left me wondering “Where did this all start?” only to realize they started with me unhappy.

When I’d try to tell him something was wrong in our relationship or even discuss a problem in my life that wasn’t about him, he’d bring up a tangentially related experience of his own or an abstract philosophical concept that had nothing to do with us. It was maddening.

Manipulative people do this so you can’t expose them.

Instead of confronting their mistakes, they divert your attention to something else, often with an emotional story that you’d feel bad interrupting. So, you comply with their subject change and try to forget how the conversation started in the first place.

Unfortunately, if it started with something important to you, it comes back to haunt you later.

6. You Feel Like Two Different People

One minute, I’d be complaining about my partner to my friends and family. The next, I’d be defending him against their claims that he wasn’t good for me. One minute, I’d vow to change my ways and hold him to lower expectations. The next, I’d be angry with him for not meeting the expectations I held.

I felt like I had split personalities, my allegiances constantly shifting. My thoughts were muddled and confused.

But after gaining an understanding of manipulation, I realized the version of me that was aligned with him was not based on my own original thoughts. He had manipulated me into advocating for him.

In fact, when I defended him, I sounded just like him. I ranted about how misunderstood he was. “Gas prices are ridiculous these days,” I’d point out when my friends found his habit of backing out of plans due to insufficient funds inconsiderate. “There was only one time he could have gotten anything,” I’d say to downplay the whole STI debacle. “I’m not perfect either,” I’d remind my friends, repeating something he liked to remind me.

I was in the middle of defending my boyfriend’s decision not to share any of the food in his house with me when my dad yelled, “Snap out of it!” Something clicked, and I realized I had been upset about all these things, too, before my partner convinced me they were no big deal.

Thankfully, I had family and friends who stood up for me – and stood up to me when I was gaslighting myself. Eventually, it became impossible to play the roles of both the loyal girlfriend and the friend and daughter of people who wanted the best for me. I had to pick one version of myself.

So I decided to speak up.

7. They Manipulate Your Beliefs About the Manipulation Itself

If you want to confront a manipulative person, Ni writes that they behave like bullies, so as you would stand up to a bully, “be sure to place yourself in a position where you can safely protect yourself, whether it’s standing tall on your own, having other people present to witness and support, or keeping a paper trail of the bully’s inappropriate behavior.”

But sometimes that doesn’t work. In my case, my partner used my “paper trail” as further evidence of my own pettiness.

That September, I pointed out that he still hadn’t read the thesis he promised to read in January. I didn’t even care about the thesis anymore, but I wanted him to understand why I had trouble putting faith in him rather than portraying my lack of trust as an attack.

“You didn’t have the right to yell at me for calling you out on not reading my thesis,” I said.

“Yes, I did.”

And that was about when I knew our relationship was headed downhill for good.

I was starting to see I didn’t deserve to feel like an ice queen for asking to split expenses or like I had to compromise my sexual boundaries to make him comfortable. And I knew that as long as I stayed with him, I would feel those pressures.

I dragged myself out of that relationship kicking and screaming, but I haven’t looked back since.

In her follow-up book The Verbally Abusive Man: Can He Change?, Evans writes that some verbally abusive people can change if they truly understand what they’re doing, which usually requires therapy, while others don’t recognize themselves as abusive.

When you confront a manipulative person, they will either take a good, hard look at themselves, or they will manipulate you into unseeing the manipulation.

That’s the final sign that you’re in a relationship with a manipulative person – and a loud and clear signal that they won’t change.

By the time of that conversation, I had already seen my partner’s manipulation too clearly for him to deny it, no matter how convincing his arguments were.

I hope that if you are being manipulated, what was previously fuzzy and confusing and so maddening you wanted to tear your hair out has come into focus for you as well.

Over two years since I ended that relationship, I’m still learning to view myself in a more positive light. I still gaslight myself all the time, but when I catch myself doing this, I try to remember my negative feelings are a sign something’s wrong, not a character flaw.

And I no longer pick my split ends.

Seeing the warning signs of a toxic relationships

In the flush of a budding romance, a person may dismiss or minimize the telltale signs that warn of future relationship problems.

That person may minimize or dismiss bad behavior because “he’s so good-looking” or “she doesn’t act like that all the time.” Or, worse, they blame themselves for their partner’s destructive actions.

Don’t ignore these signs if you’re serious about finding that special someone, experts say. In the end, when you’re asking why it all went wrong, it’s usually those “red flags” that were your first indication to move on.

Some signs of domestic problems are obvious — blatant infidelity or physical violence — but others are more subtle, said Maren Richards, crisis intervention coordinator for the Community Violence Intervention Center in Grand Forks.

“Name-calling, verbal put-downs, humiliation or making a person feel like they’re worthless or crazy” are common tactics of an abuser, she said.

Another prevalent attitude that the man should be in control weaves through the cases of many victims of domestic abuse.

“We see a lot of abusers using their ‘male privilege,’ that belief system that says males are dominant and should take charge,” Richards said. “They treat their partner like a servant — to care for the children, do the housework — and say, ‘I’ll make all the big decisions.’ ”

Some people are content “to go with the flow,” she said. But sometimes, if their opinions are never heard, they just give up.

Warning signs

Here are some signs that can help you determine if you are, or someone you know is, in a toxic relationship:

1. You’re always walking on eggshells.

One of the first signs of a toxic relationship is when one partner is always controlling, but that doesn’t always mean physically threatening or violent. It can simply be that you feel frightened to share your opinions — you’re constantly walking on eggshells because you’re afraid of your partner’s emotional reactions, experts say.

It’s also about emotional safety. Partners should be able to express themselves without fear of what’s going to happen when they do.

2. Your partner tries to control you.

Control and emotional manipulation are hallmarks of domestic abuse.

The abuser uses guilt to shift blame for poor behavior, Richards said. “They’ll say, for example, ‘If you wouldn’t have made me mad, I wouldn’t have done it.’ And the person will believe it and think, ‘Yes, I really did make him mad. I guess it was my fault.’

“It’s an ugly cycle, and the further you get into it, the harder it is to see what’s happening,” she said. “I hate to use the word ‘brainwashing,’ but it changes the way they view themselves and the way they think.”

3. Your partner punches a wall or throws objects during a fight.

Not only are these unhealthy ways of regulating emotions, but they could escalate to actions that really do cause harm. This kind of behavior is meant to intimidate another person.

“Even a look — like the one moms give their kids in a grocery store — that says, ‘Get in line’ ” can be an attempt to intimidate, Richards said.

Physical actions — such as grabbing someone’s arm and saying, “Get back here, I’m not done talking to you” — can be early indications of abuse. But that may not happen early in a dating relationship.

“If someone hit you in the face the second time you go out with them, it’s easy to walk away,” Richards said. And the abuser knows it.

“Generally, there’s kind of that buildup. It may start with a push. It rarely immediately escalates to a higher level.”

4. You’re being isolated from family and friends.

The abuser may take steps to control who you spend time with, as part of a subtle effort to manipulate you, Richards said. “They control who you see so they become the sole influence (in your life), and it’s harder for you to leave.”

They also use finances as a way to control their partner, she said. “(For example) they may keep you from working.

“One of the largest barriers to leaving is being financially dependent. It may feel overwhelming — the person may not see how they can make it on their own, especially if children are involved.”

5. You’ve been lied to.

“Honesty is an important facet of healthy relationships,” Richards said. “If someone has lied to you, you’ll want to figure out what this person’s intentions are.”

Was it to engage in some behavior they knew you wouldn’t be on board with or supportive of? If so, that might be a strategy they’ll continue to use.

“Little white lies,” especially when used to protect someone or spare their feelings, are probably not a sign of abuse, Richards said. “But if they’re lying about what they’re doing, who they were with, or where they were, that’s an indicator that something unhealthy is happening.”

6. Your family and friends tell you something’s wrong.

You may not realize you’re in a toxic relationship until things get really bad, especially if things have slowly gotten worse, or it’s gone on for so long it seems normal, experts say.

It’s important for family members to identify a domestic abuse issue, Richards said. “You could say something like, ‘I’m concerned about you; I think (the relationship) may be unsafe.’ But you have to be careful not to be too pushy because you may push them to further isolation. It’s about finding that fine line.

“You can make the offer, show concern, and let them make the decision about what to do,” she said. “It’s a tough thing to support someone who’s in this situation. It’s kind of like addiction in that the person has to be ready to make that big step.”

Help is available “if you’re not sure about your relationship,” Richards said. “You can come in (to CVIC) to talk.

“We see a lot of people come in and say, ‘I’m not sure I should be here,’ but they usually are in the right place. They don’t recognize how bad it might be, but we do, because we work with this every day.

“It’s hard to come to terms with (the fact that) someone you love would do that to you.”

Viral domestic violence video: Ex-partner admits violently shoving Emma Murphy

Irish Eaminer/July 12, 2015

The man whose ex-partner accused him of punching her in the face in a viral video this week, has admitted that he did use violence against her.

In an interview published today, Francis Usanga said: “I lost the head and basically pushed her straight in the face. I shoved her in the face. It was a real forceful shove in the face. I connected with her face.

“I didn’t use a fist. I didn’t use a fist to punch her you know, because if I think I used a fist to punch her, even though she was severely damaged, I think her face would have been…”
He then cuts off, before adding: “It was uncalled for, I don’t condone it.

“It was very hard. I pushed her really hard in the face. It was so quick that it would have been the strongest part of my hand, it was with an open hand.

“It was more of a push, a real hard push. It was pretty violent and there’s no excuse at all and I’m extremely sorry for that.”

Usanga added in the interview with the Sunday World newspaper: “No man should hit a woman. It was a situation where I was in the wrong”.

In the video uploaded this week to facebook and YouTube, Emma Murphy had a visible black eye, which she claimed was caused when her now-ex partner Usanga hit her. She describes finding out he had been cheating on her with a woman who is now pregnant.

When she went to confront him, she says he hit her in the face.

The powerful video has been viewed almost six million times, has attracted international attention and has generated thousands of likes and comments, with many praising Ms Murphy’s courage in coming forward.

Speaking to 98FM this week, Ms Murphy said that she has filed a report against Usanga to the Gardaí.

In the emotional interview, she also said she still has feelings for him but that she will never go back to him as filming the video gave her closure.

“At the moment I still have feelings for him and I still love him… when somebody hits you, you just don’t stop loving them,” she said.

She said she had posted the Facebook video to raise awareness of physical and mental abuse because she strongly believed no man should hit a woman. She said the other reason was to make certain that she would never go back to Usanga.

She said posting the video had nothing to do with revenge on her Usanga. “(I did this) for me…Enough was enough. Hitting a woman is wrong. Full stop,” she said.

“The main reason to post the video was I would always have chased him (previously). I knew by posting that video that that was that. That was the nail in the coffin. By posting that video I knew there was no going back…That was it for us.”

She said she had given him a number of chances in the past. Explaining why she took him back on those occasions, she said:”I felt weak…I loved him.”

She has two young children with Usanga.

She said domestic abuse can be very complicated, and explained: “He was the love of my life (and) I still love him. When someone hits you, you don’t just stop loving them…You don’t just wake up one morning and have no feelings for him.”

She said the worst aspect of the three-year relationship was that she lost confidence, friends and some family who did not want her to be with him after he told her her insecurities would eat her up. She described this as “mental torture”

In the Name of Love: Abusive Controlling Relationships (DVD)

How do individuals get involved with cults in the first place, and what steps can be taken to “deprogram” and heal those who have been drawn into these damaging groups? These questions and more are addressed in Cults Inside Out, written by a leading cult expert Rick Alan Ross. Over the course of three decades, Ross has participated in around five hundred cult interventions, provided expert court testimony, and performed cult-related work all around the world. With the help of current and former cult members, Ross demonstrates many of the tactics the groups use for control and manipulation-and, more importantly, some of the most effective methods he and other experts have used to reverse that programming. As a result, readers will find themselves armed with a greater understanding of the nature of destructive cults and an improved ability to assess and deal with similar situations-either in their own lives or the lives of friends and family members.Cults Inside Out: How People Get In and Can Get Out
In the Name of Love: Abusive and Controlling Relationships 

One third of American women report that at some time in their lives they were involved in abusive controlling and often violent relationships. Entertainer Tina Turner and Nicole Brown Simpson were just two well-known examples. Why don’t the victims of abusive partners leave? What draws them into and holds them much like prisoners within destructive and potentially unsafe relationships?

In the Name of Love: Abusive and Controlling Relationships

Cults: An Educational Volume 

A review of the cult problem and its history; a detailed explanation of cult “brainwashing” techniques; the warning signs of cult involvement; most frequently asked questions about cults and cult involvement; coping strategies when dealing with cult members; and bringing people out of cults through planned interventions

Cults: An Educational Volume

NYC Child Killer Must Pay $15M to Mother

New York Times/January 17, 2007

New York — Joel Steinberg, the disbarred lawyer who served 17 years in prison for killing his illegally adopted daughter, must pay $15 million to the girl’s birth mother, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The appeals court affirmed a lower court decision to award Michele Launders $5 million for 6-year-old Lisa Steinberg’s pain and suffering, $5 million for pain and suffering ”as a battered child” and $5 million in punitive damages.

Joel Steinberg argued the award was excessive and should be reduced because Lisa died relatively quickly, after ”at most eight hours of pain and suffering.”

”We disagree, and in simply so stating acknowledge that sometimes words fail even those who use the language to render judgments on a daily basis,” the court wrote.

Steinberg got Lisa as a days-old infant from Launders, at the time an unwed teen, who paid him $500 in legal fees to arrange an adoption. Instead, Steinberg took the baby home to Hedda Nussbaum, his live-in companion.

After Lisa’s death at Steinberg’s hands on November 1987, Launders filed wrongful-death lawsuits against Steinberg, Nussbaum and New York City the following year. The action against Nussbaum was settled. The city settled with Launders in 1999 for $985,000 while admitting no wrongdoing.

Steinberg, 65, was released from prison in June 2004 and is on parole until 2012. Launders’ lawyer, Wayne J. Schaefer, said he does not believe Steinberg has any significant assets.

Survivors’ stories: Three abused women find way out, discover their worth

Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)/November 14, 2004
By Matt Cooper

Three women from different places, different jobs, different backgrounds.

They have two things in common: They were beaten, and despite the danger of leaving a violent partner, they got out.

The women don’t know each other, but when they talk about domestic violence, they speak with the same voice.

All three said they were “brainwashed,” that the physical and emotional abuse left them believing that they deserved it, that they were the ones at fault, not the abuser.

All three lost their identity and their independence – so completely, in some instances, that they couldn’t order for themselves in a restaurant or figure out how to spend a Saturday.

All three came to accept that they can’t change someone else, that they can only change themselves.

The women also echoed one another in recalling what it took to get out.

First you have to find yourself, they said. Then you have to back your words up with action. You have to believe that you deserve better.

The women share one more thing: Today, all three are happy and healthy.

JeriAnn learned to endure the hitting, the kicking, the choking, the verbal and emotional abuse.

But the reddish-blue bruises across her little girl’s thigh – the size and shape of a man’s handprint – pushed her over the top.

I have to get myself out of this, she said to herself. I have to get my children out of this.

It was 1987, in a small town near Portland.

JeriAnn had been married for seven years. She was the mother of two curly-haired girls, 5 and 3 years old; a boy would come later.

Her husband wasn’t abusive at first, just controlling. But over the years, the control turned into black eyes and split lips – weekly attacks that she accepted, because she thought she had done something wrong to provoke them.

A vicious fight one night ended with JeriAnn at a friend’s. When she returned home in the morning, she checked on her 5-year-old, who had stayed in the house with her husband.

The girl pulled back her plaid skirt and showed the bruises; she had been struck for asking her father why he couldn’t stop drinking.

“I just started crying,” JeriAnn said. “I realized this wasn’t just affecting me. This was affecting my kids. I decided at that time, I’m out.”

Through a Christian support group, JeriAnn devoured material on codependency, coming to realize that the abuse had replaced her identity – her sense of self – with blind obedience to her husband.

She confronted her pain in excruciating counseling sessions – “like peeling your skin off from the inside out,” she said – and a new woman eventually emerged.

“I decided I didn’t have to have a man in my life,” JeriAnn said. “Being a single mom felt pretty darn good.”

For the first time, she started backing up her words with action.

She called her county’s victims’ assistance program and learned what the law could do to protect her. She received a restraining order and began the divorce process; when he violated the order she called the police. She got a guard dog and a handgun.

She wanted answers to her questions about divorce, domestic violence, personal safety. The more she shared, the more people offered to help.

He fought her for two years, stalking her while he also delayed or missed court dates; he sent her notes that read, “I love you.” But as the divorce played out in 1990, he started another relationship and moved on.

JeriAnn, of west Eugene, is 45 now. She’s an elementary school secretary who relishes working with kids and parents, especially the troubled ones. She is strong but affectionate, with a calm, confident gaze to match her propensity for giving hugs.

In December, she’ll celebrate 13 years of marriage to a man who treats her like a queen. He’s her best friend; he writes poems and hides them for her to find later.

Her younger daughter is a college student studying to become a nurse. The son is a student and athlete at Willamette High School.

And the 5-year-old? She’s 22 now, recently married to a good man, JeriAnn said.

Sometimes she has to pinch herself.

“My normal life to me is a pretty good dream,” she said. “It was gut-scratching hell to climb out of the hole. I’m lucky I made it out. It’s so good now, sometimes I forget the past.”

Desiree found salvation at a New Age bookstore in a small California town.

At 17, she had been an independent thinker, a strong student who challenged the deferential roles relegated to women in her branch of the Baptist faith. She peppered her Sunday school teachers with questions that made them squirm.

Marriage changed her. She married at 23, to a man she’d dated in high school – the first man she’d ever dated, the first she’d ever kissed.

There were ominous signs, but she missed them: He burned with anger if she so much as talked to another man, but she mistook it for love.

“When he got really jealous and upset, I thought to myself that he must really love me if he can’t stand for another man to look at me or talk to me,” Desiree said.

During 10 years of marriage, the abuse escalated. He was careful not to blacken her eyes or knock out her teeth – unmistakable clues for the world to see – instead throwing her against a wall or smothering her with a pillow until she started to black out.

He was a real estate broker, a wealthy man respected in their community. She was just his appendage. The independent thinker had been systematically beaten down, replaced by a woman who thought that if she just remained quiet, everything would be OK.

But the bookstore shouted at Desiree to speak up.

She walked in one day in the early 1990s, and quickly found that she was in her element among the incense and crystals.

Desiree eventually left her cashier’s job to work at the bookstore. She read feminist writers Gloria Steinem and Mary Anne Williamson, Ginny Nicarthy’s “Getting Free,” and books on Wicca, a religion that promotes, in part, male-female balance.

She realized that she had done nothing to provoke the abuse, but it was up to her to stop it.

She stopped hovering over her husband, stopped asking permission. She took to a quiet corner of the house and read to herself. She developed her own friends, ones who valued her for who she was.

“It reaffirmed that I actually had a self to share with people – that I was a living, thinking person with something to offer,” Desiree said.

He stranded her at a friend’s one night in 1993 and that was it: She moved out the next day and divorced him within nine months.

Today Desiree, 42, wears a pentacle – a five-pointed star – around her neck. It’s a Wiccan symbol, one that represents natural and spiritual harmony, and her second husband respects it just as he respects her.

They have a 6-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, and they live in a cozy, forested McKenzie Bridge home with more dogs, cats and chickens than can be easily counted.

When not running her child care business, Desiree draws, paints and reads.

The bitter memories, a decade old now, still make her eyes well up. But nothing more.

“My life is infinitely better,” Desiree said. “Everybody has challenges and struggles, but there’s no comparison between now and then. I only wish that I had known what the future held for me – how much better it would get.”

When he tucked the rifle under her chin and told her that she was going to die, calmness washed over Debbie.

“I had accepted it,” she said. “The fear actually dissipates.”

Instead, her husband jerked the barrel up, throwing her head back as he discharged a round over her face.

She had married him at 19, and they lived in Nevada around 1985. He was a mountain man, strong and deep, and she had loved his passion. He said he needed her for his very existence.

But it wasn’t healthy, Debbie said. His drinking was an embarrassment for her, and when the physical abuse started, she thought she was the only woman in the world experiencing it.

She used to watch cars motor down the road – she saw the happy couples inside, and she thought to herself how lucky the women were not to have to worry about being beaten tonight.

She had left before, but his threats to harm her mother and sister always brought her back.

Either I’m going to die or he’s going to die, Debbie thought to herself, and she contemplated killing him.

The rifle blast ended it. Debbie was gone in two days, her resolve galvanized by a rediscovered spirituality.

She planned it all out. She needed a 30-minute head start before he would realize she was gone, lest he tear up and down the highways in search of her.

She warned her friends and family to say nothing, then took off, ultimately arriving at an old friend’s in Junction City, a friend that he didn’t know. She left no note, no phone number, no way whatsoever to find her.

Debbie was 25, and she owned the world. She started doing the things she wanted to do: She made her own friends, she chatted up her neighbors, and she bought a house, fixing it up and renting out a room, all on a waitress’ salary.

And she learned a lesson.

“If I dated a guy who seemed in any way controlling – in any way – I would just get rid of him so fast it would make your head spin,” said Debbie, who did just that on one occasion.

Today, at 44 and living in Eugene, Debbie works for the Eugene School District. She’s an active parent and an engaged political volunteer. She feels a deep responsibility to help others.

Debbie has been married for 16 years, and she has a 15-year-old son by her second husband. Both, she believes, are rewards for the change she made.

Her husband respects their political differences and her occasional long hours as a volunteer and a helper in their son’s school. He honored her need to design – and redesign – the two-story farmhouse that they built together.

Most important, perhaps, he respects her need to be alone. Debbie likes to go to the coast, where she sits on the beach with her dog, Jack, and writes about her feelings.

“You have to have some self-worth in order to be able to leave,” Debbie said. “You need to say, `Hey, I’m worth something, I deserve better.’ When I think about my life before, it seems like a different lifetime. It really makes me appreciate what I have.

“Now I feel like I’m one of those people that I looked at in the car and wished I was.”

Suffering Abuse

The state can’t say exactly how many women in Oregon have been abused by a partner, because not all women report it.

But in a telephone survey taken in 2001-02, one in 10 women between the ages of 20 and 55 said they’d been physically or sexually assaulted in the preceding five years – 85,000 women, according to the Department of Human Services.

Thirteen percent of those women were knocked unconscious or suffered broken bones, chipped teeth or other serious injuries.

Steinberg Calls Himself ‘A Good Father’

New York Times/August 7, 2004

New York — Joel Steinberg, free after serving nearly 17 years in the beating death of his 6-year-old adopted daughter, still describes himself as “a good father” and said he pushed the girl but did not hit her.

Steinberg served two-thirds of the maximum 25-year sentence after he was convicted of killing Lisa Steinberg. The girl died in November 1987, three days after she was brutally beaten in the apartment Steinberg shared with his lover, Hedda Nussbaum, who also had been beaten.

In an interview with New York magazine, the disbarred lawyer continued to deny responsibility for the child’s death. “As soon as we saw that she wasn’t breathing right, we called the ambulance,” he said. “What would anyone else have done?”

“I was a good father,” he said in the interview in the edition that hits newsstands on Monday. “Of course, I’m sorry my daughter’s dead. But the medical reports showed no ‘present’ or ‘historical’ fractures or wounds. That means no history of abuse. Got it?”

The magazine quoted an expert as saying Steinberg was selectively quoting from a medical report that showed the girl had injuries including brain swelling.

“If a man my size, with a fist as big as mine, hit you in the forehead, you’d hit the floor and have a mark you’d remember. If I hit a little girl that way, the bruise would have been bigger than her head!” he said.

Steinberg told the magazine he pushed his daughter, “with the soft pad, you know, on your palm?”

He has been living in a halfway house since he was released June 30.

“I went from middle-aged millionaire to penniless bum!” he told the magazine.

NYC Child Killer Released After 15 Years

New York Times/June 30, 2004

Pine City, N.Y. — Infamous child killer Joel Steinberg was released from prison Wednesday after 15 years behind bars for the 1987 beating death of his 6-year-old adopted daughter.

The former lawyer, now 63, served two-thirds of the maximum 25-year manslaughter sentence. He has continued to deny responsibility for the girl’s death.

Steinberg left the upstate prison with $104 in earnings from his inmate account and was picked up in a limousine by defense attorney Darnay Hoffmann.

Lisa Steinberg died in November 1987, three days after a vicious beating in the Greenwich Village apartment where she lived with Steinberg and his former lover, Hedda Nussbaum.

Nussbaum called police after finding the 6-year-old naked, bruised and not breathing. Nussbaum, initially a co-defendant, herself had a split lip, broken ribs, a broken nose and a fractured jaw she said were inflicted by Steinberg.

According to Nussbaum’s testimony, Steinberg struck Lisa for staring at him, then ignored her injuries and smoked cocaine.

Nussbaum, now 59, who said she would flee New York rather than face Steinberg again, has quit her job at a domestic violence center, the Journal News reported Wednesday. Her small white house in Carmel was empty Tuesday.

Hoffmann has said he offered Steinberg a free apartment and a $250-a-week job with a local cable television show. Steinberg will have to make regular visits to a parole officer through October 2012. Now disbarred, he worked in prison as a paralegal.

‘I thought everything was my fault’

The Star Press/June 18, 2004
By Ric Routledge

That first-grader staring out the window at school might not be daydreaming. Instead, he might be thinking about what he saw at home last night – Daddy beating the hell out of Mommy.

Maybe he saw Mommy being taken away in an ambulance and Daddy in a squad car, which means he’s without both parents.

“This happens more often than people will ever, ever know,” said Alice, a former abuse victim in her 40s who lives in Blackford County and asked that her real name not be used. “They [victims] keep their mouths shut because they are scared, absolutely terrified. Or they have nowhere to go, or they think that no one will ever believe them.”

Just why some men, and even a few women, physically and verbally abuse their mates, supposedly their loved ones, is still being debated. But there is no argument that domestic violence is prevalent in our society.[h4]Low self-esteem

More than 3 million children are at risk of exposure to parental violence each year, according statistics provided by womensissues.com, and the violence knows no boundaries.

“We as a society think people with more education and wealth would be immune from this,” said Bud Edwards, a counselor at Ball State University. “But there is no respect to class or race. We find the phenomenon across most demographics in this country.”

Why men beat up their wives, and why a woman would stay in such a situation is subject to speculation more than science.

“As best we understand it, some factors are similar,” Edwards said. “Men with a low self-esteem, and ill equipped to maintain an equal relationship, may have a need to have power in order to make themselves feel good.” They are often jealous and control freaks, he added.

“The need for control usually comes from how they get their self-esteem,” Edwards said, “They assure themselves they can maintain a relationship and have an air of superiority that they know what is best for their partner. And if her self-esteem is low enough, she may believe him.”

Women stay in abusive relationships, according to Edwards, also because of low self-esteem.

“She believes that she couldn’t make it on her own when, in reality, she probably could.”

Finances are another big reason why women stay, especially if children are involved. He might be the sole provider and she can’t see how she could possibly make it financially without him.

“They brainwash you,” said Alice, who still fears the man she divorced years ago. “They literally control you, they make constant threats. I ended up having a nervous breakdown and looking like the crazy person. I wasn’t but he had taken me to where I couldn’t go any further.

“It got so I’d rather he hit me than take the verbal abuse,” she said. “You can recover from the bruises but you don’t recover from the verbal abuse. God, I hate to think about what it’s done to the kids.”

Taking the blame

Alice said that for years she thought she was to blame for all of their problems.

“I thought everything was my fault,” she said. “If he had run over somebody while drunk I would’ve thought it was my fault because I should have tried harder. He always said everything was my fault, and I believed him.

“You think maybe it’s not real, or that he’s going to change, or that it’s going to get better the next day. I kept thinking that if I was a good wife he would be different.

“But it didn’t matter what I did, I know now, because it made him feel superior.”

For former victim Betty, domestic abuse is something she’s known since childhood.

“I heard my parents fight when I was a kid,” said Betty, who also asked that her real name not be used. “I thought she [Mom] had it coming because she was pretty hard to take. When I encountered it years later, I assumed that I had it coming. If I thought she deserved it, then I did, too.”

This happened to Betty during her four-year marriage to a Ph.D. while she was working on a master’s degree. That was 30 years ago and the Delaware County resident still hasn’t remarried.

“I don’t fit any of the stereotypes. That’s why I wanted to tell my story,” Betty said. “He was a heavy hitter in terms of intellect, very successful. I was 35 when I married him, not exactly a baby.”

Warning signs

Both women said they were fooled by their men when they were dating.

“In the beginning he was so nice,” Alice said. “He had me meet his mom and dad. I thought he was great. He was sweet and loving – and a monster.”

“He was the perfect gentleman when we were dating,” Betty said about her former husband. “Sophisticated, had a Shakespearean aura about him.”

Signals that someone might be an abuser often aren’t apparent at first, Ball State counselor Edwards agreed.

“It’s hard to see these things coming,” Edwards said. “It may be that some of these things aren’t in place yet, especially if you marry young, or if life circumstances change inside the abuser.”

But there are warning signs.

“Look for people who struggle with controlling their emotions, especially anger, and have a history of violence,” Edwards said.

“How does this person treat other women in his life? Sometimes it’s gender-specific, which is why other guys wouldn’t see it.”

Domestic violence has remained hidden for a long time, according to Edwards. “We still have a ways to go to academically address this less desirable piece of our culture.”

“It’s time people wake up,” Alice said. “Your daughter could be in a bad situation or your son could be doing it to someone.”

Hedda: I’ll Flee Once Evil Joel Gets Sprung

NY Post/May 23, 2004
By Marianne Garvey

Hedda Nussbaum – the ex-lover of infamous child killer and abuser Joel Steinberg – will go into hiding when he’s released from prison within weeks.

After serving 16 years at an upstate prison, Steinberg, now 62, will walk free – but Nussbaum told The Post she can never forget her past life or the brutal slaying of their illegally adopted 6-year-old daughter, Lisa Steinberg.

Nussbaum, now 61, who was in a relationship with Steinberg for 12 years, said she will move in two weeks to “someplace warm in America” because she feels there’s a “very good chance” he will attempt to contact her.

“I’m not his puppet any longer and I’m taking precautions against him finding me,” Nussbaum said.

For the past six years, she’s worked as a paralegal at My Sister’s Place in White Plains, and wrote letters and petitions opposing his release.

Steinberg’s brutal abuse shocked the nation in November of 1987.

The former lawyer, who lived with Nussbaum and little Lisa in Greenwich Village, regularly beat the two and knocked Lisa unconscious, killing her after one beating because he claimed she was “staring” at him.

Nussbaum also suffered from Joel’s abuse regularly and has had plastic surgery to mend her nose, which he broke five times during severe beatings.

During the height of the scandal, Nussbaum was accused of being a co-conspirator in Lisa’s death, but was granted immunity in return for her testimony against Steinberg.

“Ten months prior to the trial in 1988, I was an inpatient at Four Winds hospital in Westchester, getting ready to testify,” Nussbaum said. “I was to have no contact with Joel whatsoever – and haven’t ever since.”

In December 1988, Nussbaum took the stand to testify against Steinberg.

Steinberg was convicted of first-degree manslaughter and sentenced to eight to 25 years. He will be sprung June 30 from the Southport Correctional Facility in Chemung County, due to a good behavior record.

Prison officials said Steinberg was rejecting requests to be interviewed before his release.

Nussbaum says she still refers to herself as Lisa’s mother and remembers her every day.

Once in a while, she visits Lisa’s grave at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Westchester. A painting by Lisa hangs in her office.

“It leaves a hole in my heart, missing Lisa,” Nussbaum said. “She’d be 23 years old today, but she’ll always be a little girl to me.”

In addition to Lisa, Steinberg and Nussbaum also had an adopted son, Mitchell, who was taken away and reunited with his birth mother after Steinberg’s arrest.

“I miss Mitchell very much but his birth mother is against me having a relationship with him,” Nussbaum said. “I think about him every day.”

As for her past life with Steinberg, Nussbaum said she has no contact whatsoever with anyone who ever knew him and that she never plans to.

“One condition of his parole is that he never try to contact me,” she said.

“I want nothing to do with him. He might try to get in touch with me, but I’m not listed [in the phone book] and no one knows where I’m going except my family.”