Threats can be the most powerful tool used in an abusive relationship. Those who use threats rely on the notion that how you imagine something happening is a hundred times worse in your own head than it may actually be in reality. Think about anytime you’ve done something scary – you build it up in your head, and then when you do it you realise that it wasn’t half as bad as you thought it would be. It is a tool of control. The actual consequence that is being threatened is less effective once it has been used. This is why some abusers may rely on threats without actually following through (although not always). They know you better than anyone else, they know your vulnerabilities and insecurities (everyone has them), and they will use these in the design of their threats. Just because someone has never followed through on their threats doesn’t mean that they never would out of respect for you, it just means that they know that the threat is a more powerful tool. It isn’t in their interests to realise the threat, because when they do this they lose some of their power over you.
Threats can take many forms, and will be personal to the victim. They may include:
• Threats of physical violence
• Threats of withholding child contact
• Threats to report you as an abuser, saying no one would believe you were the victim
• Threats to ‘out’ you (Gay, Bisexual and Trans men)
• Threats to have you ‘deported’ (men with insecure immigration status)
• Unspoken threats
• Threats to share intimate pictures of you
• Threats to reveal personal information you don’t want to be made public
• Feel that there will be negative consequences if you do certain things?
• Make decisions based on a fear of certain consequences?
• Feel trapped and betrayed?
• Feel that you have no control over what you do?
• Feel that your personal circumstances are being exploited?
Age: 37 Location: Edinburgh Relationship: Heterosexual
My kids are my life, and I’d do anything for them. No one knows this more than my ex-wife, Sheena. Sheena would be, for the most part, emotionally abusive. Now and then she’d physically lash out at me. My family have always been aware of her abusive nature, and tried to intervene and support me. They eventually became frustrated and gave up home, baffled as to why I’d stay with her. Sheena knew why I was staying, and she used this to maximum effect. She knew that I’d never leave my children, and she played up to the idea that the mother would always get custody in a divorce. Apart from that, I didn’t earn enough money to rent a new house as well as keeping up mortgage payments for the family home and provide for my children. I didn’t see how I had any other options.
One night she was shouting in my face, trying to provoke me, and I wasn’t responding. I’d never lay a finger on her. She pulled a knife from the drawer and came at me with it. I grabbed her wrist and wrestled the knife out of her hand. The next day she had a clear bruise on her wrist. The first thing she said to me was that she’d taken a picture of it and sent it to her friend, saying that we’d had a fight and that I was being abusive towards her.
That’s when I knew that I was trapped. Who would believe me? I knew that if I was to walk out the door she’d report me for domestic abuse, and she had a bruise to support this. I’d lose my kids – as she took great delight in reminding me. She’d say that the police would never believe a man as a victim of domestic abuse. I knew that I had to start protecting myself. The next time she had a violent episode I just sat there while she showered me in slaps and scratches. I opened an online account for storing files. I took photos of the injuries. I kept a diary of events. I recorded her verbal abuse on my phone. I hoped I’d never have to use any of this. The last thing I wanted was to involve the police and have the mother of my children arrested. Unfortunately, the police did get involved after a neighbour made a report one night she was screaming at me. They spoke to us both separately and I explained everything that was going on. It was sheer relief that the police did believe me. The police response was superb. Sheena was arrested and taken to the cells, and charged with threatening and abusive behaviour. Things are definitely getting better now. I have my own flat and we share custody of the children.