Abuse Victims and Responsibility

June 13, 2011 Kellie Jo Holly

The only wrinkle on my forehead is a vertical line a little higher than the bridge of my nose, right of center. When I was younger, it would show when I was displeased, angry, or pouting. Now the wrinkle shows always. I consider it a battle scar.

One night right before we separated, Will drank some Jim Beam and then came to my perch at the computer to stare at me. I tried to ignore him - I knew where the staring would lead. After a few uncomfortable minutes, he reached his finger toward my face and traced the wrinkle on my forehead. "Why don't you yell at me anymore? Why don't you get mad anymore? Why don't you love me no more?" he sadly asked.

In an instant, I understood that he needed my anger to feel loved. I understood that he wanted me to react to him angrily so he could feel some sort of passion in return, even if it was the destructive emotion of anger.

It's Not My Job to Fix My Abuser

I felt sympathy for him, and for a second, I wanted to hold him in my arms and tell him that everything would be okay because I could teach him to feel other passions, if he would let me. But I bit my tongue.

I knew, in that instant, that whether I said what was on my mind, or told him to move his finger, or answered with silence, the end result would be the same. He would become angered, explosive. It doesn't matter what I did or said in that instant - Will was going to react with the anger he desired to see on my face.

The scene described happened repeatedly in different ways, each time poignantly illustrating the torn and twisted spirit Will held inside. I used to ache for him and his inability to give or accept love. I thought, with time and by my example, he could learn a new way of seeing the world and dealing with its disappointments. I thought I was his savior, placed here on this earth to tend to his soul.

Every time Will hurt me, deep inside I thought, "I didn't do my job. This is my fault. I haven't reached him yet."

Only the Abuser Can "Fix" Abusive Behaviors

I was never able to influence Will's behavior for any length of time. After our separation, he claims that he tried to see the world through my eyes but it just didn't work. My way of seeing reality is too gray, too idealistic, too nonchalant to be reality, he said.

When he said that sort of thing to me when we were together, I would defend my position. We would argue and fight. The angry emotions would escalate. In the end, someone was hurt.

But when he said that to me after some time apart, I said, "Okay. "letting-go

He thought I would argue and jumped ahead in the conversation to defend his position. I said, "You're entitled to your thoughts."

I didn't argue because I know that I cannot heal his tortured soul. If I couldn't do it in the 18 years I've known him, it isn't going to happen because of me.

If Will does ever change his behavior, it will be because he wants to change it. Right now, according to him, he is happy being who he is and he doesn't want to change.

To that, all I can do is let loose my misplaced feelings of responsibility for him and say, "Okay."

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2011, June 13). Abuse Victims and Responsibility, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

June, 13 2011 at 7:26 pm

I would be interested in speaking with you. My husband and I just experienced/are experiencing a similar destructive relationship - but it is with our daughter. She is 20 with a baby, has lived with us since last September while attending school (sort of) and she recently got back together with her husband.
Now while they were apart (the baby is theirs) she had two other boyfriends and an abortion. Her husband was running around with another girl, stealing checks, doing drugs, and finally got himself arrested and charged.
Throughout this we have tried to be supportive and help our daughter - probably too much. Her husband got out of jail on an ankle bracelet and expected to move into our house. We said no and the **it hit the fan. We called local law enforcement to pick him up and he was allowed 48 hours to find an alternative place to stay. Of course his wife, our daughter, immediately turned on us for not being "supportive" and grabbed the baby and left. She has been bouncing from house to house because no one will let her stay for any length of time. he found one friend today that will let them stay for a few weeks. We love our granddaughter, she is only 13 months old, and we are now told that we will never see her again. I know that we have no choice but to stand our ground and not let her back into our house when she comes crawling back but the baby's safety and welfare is our biggest concern. I know that this is emotional blackmail on our daughter's and her husband's part. It is breaking our hearts to go through this. It would be interesting to speak or email with you on this issue. And yes, I do feel responsible for my daughter and my grandbaby...but God I wish that I could save the baby. She is just so precious and helpless.

Amy Alford
August, 13 2015 at 11:39 am

I am experiencingthe same thing with my daughter, I did not realize how abusive her dad was to me until a couple of years ago. I think I had a breakdown when I saw what I had allowed.
She now has a four month old son, my grandbaby, and she is taking this baby to her dads after she witnessed for herself the abuse and violence when she was 17 years old. She tells me to mind my own business, and her babydaddy takes her and my grandson over there to 'get stuff', since I dont feel i should have to take up the black for her babys father. I already took up the slack for my exhusbnd and went and welded and left my home and then had to fight my exhusband for her when she was 17 and lost it all again.
Now shes had this baby, 4 months old, and I am just watching this viscious cycle repeat itself again.

January, 9 2021 at 4:57 pm

Talk to a lawyer . You will not find the help you need here . There is a law against parents allowing children to be with grandparents when they are being given presents or money , and then take them away and use them for bargaining chips when they are not getting anything from the grandparents. Plus , why have you not involved the law already when you admit they are immersed in crime and drugs and they still have the child? You know that this is a bad path in the best of conditions . What are you waiting for?

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