How a smart person can get sucked into abuse

A common question asked of abuse survivors by people who have not been abused is this: “Why did you let it happen?” or  “Why didn’t you leave sooner?” or they will make statements like, “I thought you were smarter than that!” or “I would never stand for that kind of treatment!” all while looking at you like you’ve just sprouted another head.

Our stories are different, but they have some common themes, one of which I would like to address with my posts here, and that is how an otherwise strong, intelligent person can get sucked into a pattern of abuse and why we stay so much longer than we should.

My story starts with molestation at the hands of my Passive/Aggressive (PA) father. Ironically, my Mom instilled in me the belief that I could do anything I wanted to do if I just put my mind to it and worked hard. She gave me a strong work ethic and the desire to go one step farther with any project than anyone else did. I got good grades in school because it was my “job” to do as well as I could. I behaved in a socially acceptable manner because it was my “duty” to do so. I helped others because it was the right thing to do. To all outward appearances, I was a model teen.

By the time I reached High School I was so desperate to escape my home that I chose to date a boy who I thought would enable me to sever all ties with my father. Mark had issues with authority and I knew he smoked pot. He was smart and funny and obviously in control of his own destiny, or so I thought. I knew my parents would hate him, but he was the irresistible Bad Boy and I was in lust.

Up to that point I was naive about love and relationships but I read a lot of books and thought I had it all figured out – I would love with all my being and whoever the object of my affections was would be so amazed by my dedication that he would worship me like the Goddess the (romantic fiction) books all said I could be.

Yeah. The sad truth is that those romance novels are a bunch of crap, but I was young and thought I was in love and that my love could warm even the coldest heart and turn my lump of coal into a diamond. It didn’t help that he presented himself as a wounded soul, a boy who had never had the love of a good woman, one that could make him feel treasured and safe at last.

I took him on as a project. I would show him what Real Love was and his issues would magically dissolve into the ether and he would be a whole, productive genius at something that paid well and we would live Happily Ever After.

Looking back now I see that he is a Psychopath (Psycho) who only ever cared about his own want of the moment. He had no concept of Right and Wrong except that he understood what actions would be likely to land him in jail. He knew that I would make a good cover for his illegal activities and so the lying began.

He lied about everything. Constantly. Even things that didn’t matter he lied about. He wove a web of lies around everyone he came into contact with. When confronted with his lies, he lied some more until the Truth was impossible to determine. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. I just couldn’t believe that anyone could be so deceitful because I was honest to a fault. I ignored my gut instinct to run and clung to the belief that if I just loved him enough we would be fine. He would become a Knight in Shining Armor.

In the beginning, he hid his drug use very well. He always seemed a bit high, but he was able to function well enough that I didn’t become suspicious until my money and checks started to disappear. If I couldn’t pay the rent, we would just move in with his mother for awhile was his reasoning – why get all hung up on money? He was a free spirit who couldn’t be bound by something so trivial as cash. The truth was that my money was going into his arm at every opportunity. I worked my ass off at two jobs to keep him in drugs while he couldn’t hold a job for more than a month and didn’t even try to find employment – a job had to land in his lap before he would take it. Took me two years to figure all that out. Yes, he was that good.

He used physical intimidation to keep me in line, but it never seemed over the top – leaning in to me, jabbing me with a finger, a hard squeeze, threatening looks – none of it rang any alarm bells because it was subtle and he would change back into a smiling, harmless guy in an instant, leaving me wondering if what I saw was even real.

He convinced me that if we were married he would learn to be a loving husband. This living together stuff just wasn’t “real” enough for him. He begged and pleaded and made promises and I still considered marriage to be a sacred institution to be respected and so I found myself puking into the bushes outside our crappy apartment the night before my wedding, knowing in my gut that this was a Very Bad Idea but not knowing how to get out of it.

Soon after our courthouse wedding, he informed me that his life would be complete if only he had a son. My protests went unheeded, he flushed my birth control pills and set to work getting me pregnant. The Grandmas-to-be were thrilled! I was sick with regret – I hadn’t wanted to have children. I wanted a career and independence, not a child and husband who needed constant care and attention. I had a very different picture of where I wanted my life to go, but here was harsh Reality staring me in the face, telling me to give up my dreams forever. I felt like my life was out of control, that I’d been tricked into someone else’s story, but I didn’t know how to change where it was going.

I demanded that Mark’s drinking and drug use stop immediately – I was pregnant, after all, and the baby and I needed him to be sober. He promised he would stop. He never did, but his tear-filled confessions and renewed promises gave me that one thing that keeps the abused from leaving – hope.

Things get fuzzy at this point. He started to wake me up multiple times during the night, asking questions, demanding things, whatever. I became a walking corpse, unable to eat, barely able to stand upright because I was so sleep deprived. I soon forgot what it was like to be rested and upon returning home from work each evening all I wanted to do was crawl into bed. I had no energy to think, let alone resist whatever he wanted if he would just let me sleep. I had no idea that sleep deprivation is a time-tested torture method and is often used by abusers to keep their victims compliant. He would stay up all night, high on crank, wake me frequently, and then sleep all day while I was at work.

And then one night he came home very late and very angry. I have no idea what set him off or what combination of drugs and alcohol turned him into a monster, but he arrived (by this time we were living with his mom as we could no longer afford rent on my reduced wages) ready for a war. He was shouting accusations about bizarre things, punching the walls, kicking over the lamps and stomping from room to room with his big hiking boots. It went on for hours as I wilted with fatigue. I finally got up to go to bed and he grabbed me by the throat and started yelling that I was a bad person and didn’t deserve to have a child. He ranted about how his son would be better off if he died right now as his hands began to squeeze. I would have died that night if his mom hadn’t been there to distract him and pull him off me. Soon he passed out in a puddle of vomit and piss on the floor where we left him until morning. I was eight months pregnant.

When questioned the next day, he denied all knowledge of coming home in a rage and of trying to kill me. He swore that it had never happened and so it was never mentioned again, but I was scared now and knew that one day he would murder me.

After our son was born and as my awareness of what he was began to grow, he took a new tack with his deceptions. He started attending AA meetings, got a wonderful sponsor and started to talk the talk. He drank and smoked pot pretty much every day and if anyone noticed they didn’t say a word. He continued to make sure I was sleep deprived.

I was allowed to socialize with other AA members – he had long ago cut me off from anyone I knew before him – and I listened to their stories about how alcohol had ruined their lives. I found strength in their stories but I never shared any of mine and I never told anyone that he was still drinking and using drugs.

When my son was 2 (Mark and I had been together for 4 years at this point) a woman at work took me into her confidence and told me about her abusive ex. I broke down and told her what was going on at home and she put me in touch with a local domestic violence advocate. It was in conversations with her that I learned that sleep deprivation is abuse and just as damaging to the body as a man’s fists, that it weakens the victim’s defenses against any and all other attacks and that I was not in my right mind for most of our relationship because of it.

We made a plan with my friend from work and my Mom to take my son, my dog and myself out of Mark’s reach. We got out before it was too late, but the damage to my psyche was already done.

To this day I believe that I married Mark to “fix” him and save myself from the abuse at home. I believed that love could conquer all and that if I just tried hard enough he would see the light and understand his place in the Universe. I believed in Happy Endings. I know now that it’s all a lie we tell ourselves to deny the messes we get ourselves into and to soothe our shattered hearts when things go wrong. At the time I did not understand evil people and the things they will do to get what they want.

Mark taught me several valuable lessons:

  • Always keep some cash hidden somewhere and your checks and/or credit cards in a secure location. My desk at work was perfect for both purposes and enabled me to get enough cash together to get away. Since he never had any money we did not have any joint bank accounts, making it easier for me to control my funds.
  • Never believe a drug addict or alcoholic – they will “forget” promises and do anything they have to do in order to get their next fix. Anything. And they don’t care who they hurt.
  • Always trust your gut – if it feels wrong, it probably is. I ignored this one several more times over the next 20 years and it ALWAYS turned out badly.
  • Get enough sleep, no matter what. If a partner often robs you of your sleep for what seems like a trivial reason, take a long look at what’s going on – s/he may have a specific motive for making sure you can’t function the next day, week, year.
  • Any physical touch is threatening. It would be years before I could stand next to a stranger and not lean away, before I could shake hands without trembling or hug a person close to me.

I was young and ignorant when I met Mark and I have not been too hard on myself about the mistakes I made in that relationship. Our son has turned into a wonderful man who cares about himself and those around him, proving that Nurture can win out over Nature sometimes. Harley does not know his father and I hope he never will. Mark made no child support payments nor did he ever try to contact me or see his son. He is still alive as far as I know, his 2012 mug shot on the internet for all to see. I had nightmares for many years after leaving him, but now I can say that he means nothing to me.

After some time had gone by, I felt that I was ready to love again, but this time I had a list of requirements for a potential mate and I was determined to stick to them. THAT didn’t work out so well, either.

About the Author

Sofia LeoIt’s a textbook case, with him as the abuser and me as the victim. I am angry. I refuse to be a victim any longer. I will take back control of my life. For the moment I am writing anonymously, just for myself, to help clear out the cobwebs and document events as they occur. Also to give myself some backbone to deny him the satisfaction of breaking me.


  1. Thank you for writing this and addressing the common question if how a strong smart woman can get sucked into an abusive relationship. I experienced a similar situation but was older and wiser and picked up on some red flags and got out after just a year. It’s scary how easy it is to get sucked in, and heartbreaking how many women are in an abusive relationship and don’t realize it. They keep trying to fix it. And it can’t be fixed.

    1. Thank you for reading. There’s so much more to the story, but I wasn’t asked to write a whole book 🙂 I was raised to be kind, helpful and compliant. It did not serve me well and I’m mad as hell that we raise our daughters to defer to men and not stand up for themselves. It perpetuates a rape culture – we are reaping the rewards right now. I raised my son to respect ALL people and hope that he won’t follow in his father’s footsteps. If I hear that he has disrespected the woman in his life I will kick his ass!

  2. I’ve always wonder about her son’s father and that relationship. Thanks for sharing Sofia Leo! So many of us can relate, unfortunately. I hope those who have never experienced and can’t quite relate never have to live it. It’s their blessing.

    1. I tried very hard not to tell my son bad things about his father, afraid that he would then think that he was bad, too, but I did tell him from a very early age about Mark’s drug and alcohol addictions and made it very clear to him that he would never be able to casually use drugs or alcohol, that he had a genetic predisposition to addiction. He’s 23 now and I know he drinks beer with his work buddies, but I don’t know how much. I plan to visit unexpectedly this Summer and see what’s what.

  3. Sophia, sounds like you have the same luck with the opposite sex as I do. I’m sorry to hear of your troubles, but glad that you were able to get away from that toxicity and raise a healthy and wonderful son.

    Thank you for sharing your story. The more we talk about these things the more awareness will be raised.

    1. Ain’t it a bitch? How many of these toxic people are out there? How many of us “normal” people have they destroyed? Makes me wish we could just shoot them. The saddest thing is that the children suffer the most, shuttled between homes, growing up with toxic air all around them. It’s no wonder our jails are full to capacity and that so many of us have just given up relationships altogether, happier to live alone than take another chance at “love.”

      1. I’m about to that point. I’m not sure it’s worth it any more.

        1. Exactly! You go in, determined to be honest, share your baggage, accept the other person with all their faults and later find out that they were only listening to gather ammunition for future exploitation. What’s the point of trying to develop intimacy if you’re only going to be beaten down for years to come? I despise liars and am convinced that liars are the only people that are attracted to me. As a divorced friend of mine points out when asked when she will be ready to start dating again, “Why would I want to go back to a life where someone else tells me what to do?” I live for ME now and don’t see that changing any time soon!

          1. I really would like someone to share my life with, but I just don’t think it’s meant to be. Maybe as I’m single longer I’ll get used to being alone and won’t mind it so much.

            1. Guess I’m just too cynical to believe that it will ever work for me to share my life with someone else. My track record sucks so hard…I’ve always liked being alone, though, no one else to please 🙂 Guess I’m selfish that way.

              1. My track record blows, too, and I do value my solitude, but I don’t want to be alone ALL the time.

                1. That’s what good friends are for – there when you need them, gone when you want to be alone. Friends with benefits will take care of any other needs you have…Just sayin’ 🙂

                  1. I’ve never been a friends with benefits kinda guy….

                    1. LOL! Me, neither, but it seems to work for some…

                    2. I suppose so…

  4. Thank you for sharing your story; it is amazing how many of us are sitting on this side of the screen, nodding because we lived with the same guy…Sheesh!

  5. The question always irritates me because people don’t get it. They think “I’m too smart for that.” Here’s the thing – the abuser is smarter because he’s lived a lie his whole life. He’d good at it. He knows how to manipulate, just like a Vegas casino. Give a little, take a lot, but that little bit keeps you coming back for more. At the same time people are saying “why didn’t you leave?” they are saying “You must keep your marriage together for the kids, etc.” So many mixed messages. These people play on sympathy, on the good nature of other people. Thinking you are too smart for that? That’s perfect for them, because of pride you won’t see it coming. When you do, you’re too embarrassed to admit it.

    I’m a smart woman, but I’ve been manipulated lots of times. Not by men as much, but by friends, relatives, etc. There are predators out there who take advantage of people – and they can do it to anybody. Your advice is so good – keep some money of your own. If possible, get some sort of education and job skills. Have a plan, a way out, no matter how perfect your husband seems. Even if he’s a good guy, he could die. You HAVE to be able to take care of yourself and your kids. It’s not romantic, but it’s reality. Thank you so much for this post.

    1. I know, right? No one who meets me would call me stupid, but there ya go – Psychos, Socios and Narcs are very clever people and any small chink in a potential victim’s armor is noted for later use. They can wait a long time before bringing the hammer down and when they do you’re blindsided and left unbelieving – that didn’t really just happen, did it? They deny, you question your sanity, and we’re off down the path of abuse.

      As women (especially those who believe their life’s mission is to raise children and stay home for them until they are grown) we are taught that the man provides and we do all the rest. Men are taught to take whatever they can, wherever they can and damn the consequences. Women are left trapped “for the sake of the kids,” while men do whatever the hell they want. Our (American) society is totally okay with that message. Now we’re several generations in and our children have grown up with so little notion of what a healthy, loving relationship is that they have no clue how to treat others and it’s just getting worse, judging by what’s on the Idiot Box every day. Makes me want to scream.

      Awana says, “A woman needs her money!” and I believe that is the most important thing to teach our daughters – don’t rely on anyone to pay your way. Ever. That source of income could disappear in an instant due to so many factors, and you will end up with nothing. Strong, independent woman are what this country needs, IMHO. Let the men work to earn our respect.

      Apologies to the men who read this – I’m sorry to paint you all with the same brush, but writing s/he all the time is stupid and redundant. Get over it – we’ve had to deal with that crap for generations.

      1. “Men are taught to take whatever they can, wherever they can and damn the consequences.”

        Do NOT generalize please. I have never, ever been taught to behave in that fashion and I damn sure am not teach my three sons to behave this way. Sadly, there are a lot of “men” out there that make us all look like assholes to women (such as yourself), but I can assure you that not even half of us are like that.

        Furthermore, I would point out that I married two very selfish women. They were selfish in different ways, but selfish all the same. And liars. Oh my God did they lie. One was abusive. The other one was only happy if everything went her way and was never happy with compromise. Based on those two experiences I don’t assume ALL women are selfish liars. I know that is not the case.

        I understand that you’ve had some bad experiences with men and I’m sorry, but don’t lump us all into one category just because you dated/married some assholes. I certainly don’t assume you, or any other women I’ve just met for that matter, is selfish and untrustworthy.

        1. I’m sorry I offended you, twindaddy, but you have to admit that as a CULTURE, we do indeed teach our sons to take what they want. Just watch the evening news on any given day. Take a look around the world, even – who is it that’s waging wars, killing women and children, laying waste to square mile after square mile of land? You can deny the Patriarchy, but I’m here to tell you that it’s there, strong and thriving. Always has been. Always will be.

          I regret lumping all men into the same group, but if I were to write in a Politically Correct manner my posts would be boring and so long as to be incomprehensible.

          If more men like you got pissed off about women like me generalizing about “male behavior,” do you think Good Men would start policing the bad ones? What does it take to get a Good Man mad enough to march in a women’s rights parade?

          The fact that you are speaking out about the abusive women in your life is a wonderful thing – if more men spoke out, more men would get involved and maybe something would be accomplished with regard to domestic violence for all of us. The monsters must be unmasked, regardless of gender.

          I don’t hate men. I’m not a lesbian. I’m not a card-carrying feminist. I do shave my legs and armpits 🙂 I don’t assume the worst about every man I meet, really, I don’t! I’m just pissed off and ranting. Please don’t take it personally. I admire your writing and all of the things you say about your boys make me believe that they will grow up to be wonderful men. I wish you well on your journey and am very sorry that you have been hurt by women that you love.

          1. I would gladly march for women’s rights were there any marches around here, but sadly there are none that I know of.

            Yes, men wage war. But not all men are violent. I’m not violent. Most of the men I know are not violent. In fact, most men are not violent, even though they may enjoy watching it. But how would you feel if I made some stereotypical comment about women here? What if I came on here and told you to shut up and make me a sammich? Is being entertaining really worth pissing off any good guys that might be reading? Shouldn’t someone who is rallying for a cause, such as you are, do their best not to alienate those who would help them?

            I sympathize with you for what you endured. I don’t condone it and I’m sorry a member of my gender treated you thusly, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be categorized in the same class as the type of assholes who abused you. I’m not perfect by any means but I’m sure as shit not abusive.

            1. I’m not saying that all men are violent. I did not say that YOU are abusive or violent in any way. In fact, Mark was the only physically violent man I spent any time with – that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s an attitude that I’m not communicating very well.

              If I were in the same room and you told me to shut up and make you a sammich, you know what I would do? I would drop the subject and make you the best fucking sandwich I know how to make. I would use all the ingredients that you like best, cut the crust off if that’s what you like. I would not bring up the subject again. I would spend the rest of the day trying to make you forget that I spoke out of turn. My stomach would be in knots because you disapproved of something I said. I would defer to you because that’s what I’ve been conditioned to do. Even now I feel very uneasy with this conversation and I have never been in the same room with you, never heard your voice, and you have no real hold on me.

              You see, you have the right to object to something a woman has to say, to get angry and protest your innocence, be outraged to be lumped in with men you don’t approve of. If I speak up, I’m labeled a Man Hater, a Boner Killer, a Feminist, lesbian, dyke, cunt, slut, whore, bitch who doesn’t know her place. And you know what? I have to take it.

              THAT’S what I object to.

              1. No, you DON’T have to take it. You SHOULD stand up for yourself. You have the right to stand up for yourself. And if I tell you to shut up and make me a sammich you should tell me to fuck off.

                I didn’t label you a man-hater, but you certainly came across as one. I will stand by you proudly and demand equality for women. I will put badges on my blog, I’ll post about it, I’ll promote your posts…whatever. In fact, I’m offering you a guest spot on my blog right now to talk about feminism or equality for women.

                I WANT equality for women. I don’t want women I love (such as my mother, stepdaughter, aunts, or my dear sweet niece) to be treated differently or harshly just because they’re female.

                If you object to the way a man is treating you and you’re labeled as any of the things above you can be rest assured that the person saying those things is an ignorant ass who just doesn’t want to give up his control over you. And you know what? I’ve got your fucking back. Fuck that. You aren’t any of those things for standing up for yourself.

                All I wanted to do was point out that it’s not fair to me, nor any of the other men like me, to have the accusatory finger pointed at me just because I’m male.

                And, yes, I’m serious about guest posting. I will give you carte blanche to talk about feminsm until your fingers are numb and bloody all over your keyboard. You can make multiple posts. I’m not educated enough to speak about it and I definitely don’t have a female perspective.

                1. “And you know what? I’ve got your fucking back.”

                  You know what? You’re the first man who has ever said that to me. Thank you. I’m crying as I type this and I thank you for that, too. You restore my hope that I will be okay.

                  1. I mean it. No one should EVER be mistreated because of their gender, race, or sexual orientation. I am ALL ABOUT equality.

                    And I’m serious about posting on my blog. Anytime you want, you have a spot. Multiple spots. I’ll raise awareness. I’ll do anything to help YOU out. I mean that from the very bottom of my heart.

                    1. I’m all about equality, too, but so many are not and it makes my blood boil. Thank you for getting it. I’ll be in touch when my schedule allows about a guest blog. Thank you, again.

                    2. You’re very welcome.

  6. Thank you so much for writing this. I’m so very sorry for what you’ve been through both with your father and ex. I’m glad you got out! My father is narcissistic/sociopath and you taught me a couple things I had never connected before through this post.
    The sleep deprivation…my father did that to us all the time, and the pokes, looks, nudges…i’d never thought of those as abuse.
    Here’s hoping this finds you doing better today and not feeling alone xo

    1. There are so many things we don’t label “abuse” that need to be brought to everyone’s attention. I mean, we’ve all heard women say, “Well, at least he doesn’t beat me…” as if hitting is the only qualifier for abuse. Public awareness is the only thing that will eventually stop these monsters. There was a time when Society could stop abuse just by the weight of its disapproval. Now that we all live so much more isolated from community and people who would speak out against someone, I believe that abuse has become much more prevalent, and (dare I say it?) acceptable. It has to stop!

      As for my feelings, I don’t feel “alone” at all. My life is full of work, hobbies, the dog of course, and people who check on me, people who really care about what’s going on in my life and who have no ulterior motive for asking. No, there is no sex, no “partner” to “share” my life with, but you know what? I want to keep it all to myself right now, thankyouverymuch 🙂

      1. Oh my gosh I just realized who you are…lol I know I knew you but couldn’t put my finger on it!!

        So true about the abuse, there are so many forms of it that are subtle so the victims won’t recognize it. Ugh,I’m so glad you told this story!
        I’m glad you are doing well! I wouldn’t want to share my life with anyone either, you just got free!
        lots of love!

        1. LOL! Ah, good, my mask is still in place 🙂

          1. Ha, maybe, i think i just wasn’t cluing in, and i hadn’t heard your story too this degree. 🙂

            1. Oh, my story is wide and deep 🙂

              1. yes sounds like it! you’ve come through a lot!

  7. Reblogged this on Motivating For Positive Change and commented:
    I reblog this for many reasons:
    #1 – this is a very very serious problem in many many relationships. Not only that, mental abuse is extremely insidious and creeps up on you like termites in a wooden how that looks fine.
    #2Domesti Violence in all its forms needs to be eradicated…period!!! We must all stand up and speak out against domestic abuse – verbal abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, and financial abuse…it must and has to end! I don’t care the gender – abuse of any kind is wrong!
    #3 – We must end the socialization that teaches men that these types of behaviors are ok. Remember – these behaviors are passed on by parents, family, and culture…causing people to believe that this is all ok.
    #4 – Nobody…ever has to live this way and it is up to every one of us to make sure it doesn’t happen!

    1. Wow! My first Re-Blog! Thank you, Chad, you made my day 🙂

  8. This is a great post. I am glad you touched on the sleep deprivation. Something I have been going through recently–did not realize how much it affects the will to live and move on with life when you don’t get enough sleep. Sadly, these people are not just in intimate relationships with you but in all aspects of life and once they start the assault on you it is so debelitating.


  9. This is so important. I hate when people dismiss the mental hold that abuse victims are held under. Unless you have been in their shoes, you cannot judge.

    1. Exactly! I was never beaten, therefore I wasn’t Really Abused, right? That’s what I hear sometimes and it makes me see red. There is so much more than physical pain that makes up the cycle of abuse, and those who have not lived a life filled with abuse need to hear it. They need to take a good hard look at what their friends, neighbors, relatives might be going through so that they know when to reach out a hand to help before something tragic happens.

  10. Thank you for this, Sofia. So many people just don’t get how intelligent women can end up in an abusive relationship. I am ashamed to admit that I was one of those people before it happened to me. It is not a matter of “just leaving.” It is always more involved than that. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you for reading. Anyone can fall victim to these liars, that’s the message I want to get across, and there is no shame in being taken advantage of by someone who is a pro at manipulating others. The key is to learn to recognize the Red Flags and get out before it’s too late and that can only come with education.

  11. Reblogged this on behindthemaskofabuse and commented:

    I couldn’t help but reblog this. It’s so important and I learned a couple new areas of abuse I didn’t even realize were abuse. Sleep deprivation being one.

    1. Thank you for the Re-Blog. Two in one day! Be still my heart 🙂

      1. your courage and message are amazing. you’re very welcome. 🙂

  12. this was very scary and sad to read. It must have been hell for you, and I can only admire how you came through it all and now even come out and inspire others by telling people your story. It was also very well written, shocking in its honesty.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. It was scary. Very sad, too. I had such plans for my future! This is only the first installment of four – there were two other men who would take over my life in similar abusive ways. I’m a slow learner, it seems 🙂

      It’s been almost five months since I escaped the last man I will ever live with. I’m living the life I wanted to live at 19 (minus the sexy Alley McBeal suits and designer heels 🙂 ) and I plan on living MY way for the rest of it. 25 years is too much to waste – I have a lot of making up to do!

  13. Reblogged this on Mirrorgirl: My life as a psychologist and commented:
    this is a tough, but important and inspiring read. Keep being strong, and spreading information like you do. That is the way abuse can be prevented, by increasing knowledge and awareness.

    1. Three Re-Blogs in one day? Thank you so much!

  14. Thanks for writing this.. Most of this seems to be so similar to my story as well… So many of us make mistakes trying to get out of our parent’s house or town that we grew up in…only to find our situations worse as we marry abisive people that we want to fix….

    1. We need to let all little girls know that there is no Prince Charming, no Knight in Shining Armor – those are myths that bring down so many of us! We need to be strong for ourselves, not try to shore up disordered people out of a sense of obligation (or whatever.) The victim shaming that goes on has to stop in order to make it possible for more victims to speak up and be heard without being victimized all over again. Education is the key. Raise a generation of Amazons! Stomp this shit out for good!

  15. The same reason I am writing. To help with getting a voice out there and help just one victim. check out my blog I have written a few piece about my story. I am the same as everyone with their story so wide and deep you can only put so much up. One thing you touched on sleep deprivation I was robbed of so much sleep during the years and never new that it was a form of abuse

    1. The biggest surprise for me when I started blogging about domestic violence is that I’m not special. My story is not unusual, I didn’t even lose a limb or get a scar. Not one person who reads my blog has been surprised at my revelations, or shocked that someone would do THAT to me. Nope. The overwhelming response has been, “Wow! Mine did that to me, too!” or “I had a hard time reading that post because it was so triggering for me.” How sad is that? It infuriates me! We all must speak up and put an end to this!

  16. Thank you for writing this post. You are so strong and I’m so glad you managed to get away, that is amazing. I’m sorry you went through all of this and hopefully by telling your story it might help others who are in a similar situation realise that they need to get away too. Hugs xxx

    1. If I influence just one person, my life will be a success 🙂 If I could put one asshole in jail for life for beating his kids and wife, well, I could die happy in that very moment 🙂 I think my fight is just beginning.

  17. I also forgot to write well done with your writing, there is a lot to be done.

    1. Thank you 🙂

  18. southerndreamer · · Reply

    Intelligence can be as good as hindsight (useless) when you’re young, desperate, and optimistic. I know. I’ve been there.

    1. Oh, well said! Can I quote you?

  19. I meant to ask you, where was his mother through all this? I know that she stopped him from killing you but did she not do anything or see anything else?

    1. His mother is disordered, too. I don’t know the whole story, but she was adopted after her birth mother, high on cocaine, threw her twin sister out a window and killed her. Mae saw the whole thing. Her adoptive family has some issues with mental illness. Mark’s father was a cousin who died setting green chain in a logging operation. He was a drug addict who took crazy risks every day. Mark has said that she molested him, and I believe there m ay be some truth to that – Mae certainly had a lot of guilt about something.

      Mark learned early on that his mom could not really control him if he didn’t let her. He started running with the wrong crowd at a very young age and was using drugs regularly before he was 12. Mae wanted to help, but Mark refused anything she offered except money, which he took at every opportunity, lying and stealing to get it, no apologies.

      He once said to me, “society made me this way and now they owe me!” He believed every word, too.

      She saw a lot of things, but she never offered to get me out. She watched my belly grow and bought a shit ton of baby stuff and couldn’t stop talking about my son-to-be. She loves babies – kittens, puppies, whatever. When they start to grow up and aren’t cute and cuddly any more and need some training and discipline, well, they start to disappear.

      After Harley was born she got even more strange, taking him from me, holding him every minute, walking away from me, turning her back, acting like he belonged to her. As Mark became more whacked out, she threatened to take Harley far, far away because we were “not fit parents.” Mark landed himself in jail not long after Harley was born (I called the police when he took my car and was driving too drunk to walk a straight line) and I had to keep that kid glued to my side – she had a bag packed in her car at all times and I just knew that if she got him alone that would be the end of that.

      Wow. I’d forgotten some of this stuff. It was a crazy time, that’s a fact!

      1. That’s horrible, generations of abuse ugh. I’m so glad you knew not to let her out of your site with Harley! I hope I haven’t surfaced too much. How are you doing after blogging this?

        My Sister-in-law is in an abusive relationship and Hubby and I are watching her sink. Her mother-in-law is a psycho bitch (sorry but it’s that bad) We’re always on edge about whether the mother-in-law will still her granddaughter.

      2. Oh yeah my sister in law won’t leave as she’s got it in her head that marriage is for life. She’s living under brutal circumstances and now drinks to cope. 😦

        1. There’s only so much you can do to help if the victim refuses to believe they are a victim. All you can do is wait and be there when they finally call for help.

          1. Yes sadly, I hope she survives it.

  20. Thank you for this post! So many people love to say that the woman is stupid in these situations. I get angry every time they say something to that effect. The other one is “you should have just left.” I wanted to yell back, “Don’t you think I would have if I could have?” Domestic violence is such a misunderstood problem. I am thankful for people like you who have the courage to talk about it openly. Thank you…

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Maybe some day there will be no reason for posts like this one because everyone is aware of what DV is and no one will stand by and let it happen. A gal can dream, right? 🙂

      1. Vanilla · · Reply

        I am dreaming right along with you 🙂

  21. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s good to inform people of the warning signs and stuff.

    The military and law personnel (police, FBI etc) use sleep deprivation to force confessions so it’s a tactic used on detainees and prisoners to illicit information even if false 😦 Being sleep deprived robs the brain of its full capacity for functioning. It can even make some people go insane in some circumstances.

    I’m glad you managed to escape and your son turned out well.

    1. There is a false sense of what constitutes Domestic Violence in this country and the only way to change the views of the majority is to tell our stories. Over and over. Only education will make a difference.

      1. I agree. People can’t change what they don’t acknowledge. Sometimes it can be as simple as giving people the right information. Of course hearing from survivours also helps quite a bit I think.

        1. Victims are shielded from the information they need by their abusers – isolating the victim is one of the first things an abuser does – so I believe that early education is crucial! Children need to grow up knowing what abuse is and how to avoid disordered people.

  22. paininhidingabuse · · Reply

    i will second all of that …yes & yes knew it to well myself!

  23. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, smart people included. I don’t know if it’s always a matter of being smart or otherwise but it seems more emotional. When emotions are involved, and we formulate that early on in our lives, it’s difficult to let go. Accepting abuse is reactive to something deeper, which has little to do with intelligence.

  24. Smart and informed are not always the same thing.
    Glad you got out.

  25. An amazing story – thanks for sharing it. I’ve had my own share of abuse in different variations – my case was similar to yours, but it was my father who was my role model and my mother was batshit crazy…I like the comment above from Totsymae1011 🙂

  26. […] Abuse pattern- […]

  27. It’s not like potential abusers come with a warning label either. It’s so easy to be sucked in when someone presents an appealing persona. And warning signs can also be easily over-looked, because unless a person has already had experience of abuse, they don’t know that they are warning signs. And it’s not fair on the genuine people out there for everyone to go into every relationship expecting the worst. I think that’s the hardest part for everyone who gets out, is the learning how to trust that the genuinely kind person is that person, and isn’t putting on a mask.

  28. “The one thing that keeps the abused from leaving-hope.”

    By the time I was 15, I didn’t believe in hope anymore. To some degree, at 29, I still don’t. I’m a firm believer in just going out and getting what you need/want, to give up any and all excuses and just DOING. I left my mom/stepfather’s house when I turned 18. I was taking 15 credits a semester at my community college and had a full time job at the local pharmacy. I got my Associate in 1.5 years, and my Bachelors in 2 years.

    I found a better paying job, and have been the Manager of a chain of gaming/comic stores for 8 years now. I volunteer at my local food pantry and ASPCA on my day off, just did the last payment on my car, and will be debt free in about 2 years.

    You’ll notice I said nothing about dating though…I have a wonderful FwB, but that’s the most “relationship” I’ve ever been able to handle. From the outside, it looks like I’ve got all my shit together, but I still recoil from being touched except by a select few and have periods of needing to stay away from people. Waking up with flashbacks doesn’t help either.

    You and I sound like twins up until the dating part. I’m genuinely curious, because it never occurred to me to date anyone…why DID you start dating in order to leave? It sounds like you had plans of freedom, independence and self sufficiency…what changed?

    1. I started dating because of the myth in this country that we are all meant to go through life two-by-two. A single woman is seen as a threat, especially one who wanted to work in a traditionally male field. I thought it would be easier to be paired up, but I did not expect that any man would rule over my life – I had the illusion that I was the stronger person and would be in control. I did not factor in the drive of the men that I chose to dominate – they all had to be Number One, there was no chance for “equality” in any of my long-term relationships.

      I really thought that I had it all figured out, I was going to stay single, childless and work on my career. And then some shit happened and before I knew it I was trapped. I was a chump, I fully own that – I thought I was in control, I believed the lies, tried to keep up appearances, did my best to “make it work” and in the end I failed.

      I am perfectly content to live the rest of my life alone. I have friends who truly care about me, a good job, many activities that I love to do – there’s just no room in my life for another dictator and I plan to keep it that way. I come first now, no matter what.

      1. Ok, I understand now. I was raised that way too, but it never fit me. Maybe because I have gender dysmorphia…maybe because I saw that there were many strong women out there…maybe because I became Wiccan at age 13. Whatever the real reason, getting married was never on my “List”. Still isn’t to be honest.

        I’m so happy that you are ready to take the reins of your life now. Congratulations! You deserve it. There ARE good men out there…but it sounds like you need your independence for now. And hey, if you decide to stay single from now on…that’s cool too. Live for you!

  29. […] Yesterday I was over at Melanie’s blog called Deliberate Donkey and I read part 1 of a 3 part post by Sofia Leo,  How a smart person can get sucked into abuse. […]

  30. Dear Melanie,

    You are a wonderful person to just have lived through all this. There are many stupid men out there, and I admit this as a man myself. But strangely women seem to be attracted to these types of men than the normal ones. Like you rightly said, the ‘bad boy’ image seems to be an attraction. Peer pressure to look cool often baits young girls to make wrong choices. I know in your case it was the exact opposite – trying to find hope against a bad family situation. In any case you are strong enough to walk through all this and you inspire me.

    Live long and prosper my friend.


    1. Thank you for your kind words, BP. The support of the WP community has been unwavering and legion. I wish there weren’t so many survivors of horrible relationships out in the world today. It’s depressing to think about, but if my words can inspire just one person to leave a toxic relationship, the pain of writing about it will have been worth it!

      1. I am sure there are people taking solace and inspiration from your writing. I certainly do.


  31. […] met Sofia when she guest posted on Deliberate Donkey with an excellent four part series entitled How a Smart Person Can Get Sucked Into Abuse. Her story absolutely shattered my heart. We had a good discussion in the comments I’ve been […]

speak loudly, donkeys are sleeping

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