“Don’t ignore the red flags.”
That’s the main piece of advice that Ayla, from the BTR.ORG community, would give to her younger self.
But what are the red flags that would later reveal that the man she married was a violent, controlling abuser?
Read on to learn the 5 Red Flags You Need To Know to protect yourself from abusive men – and listen to the BTR.ORG podcast (full transcript included below) for more.
🚩 Coming On Strong Early On
Like most red flags, abusers will often come on very strong early on. In Ayla’s case, her abuser immediately began to love-bomb her with attention, a job offer, flattery, and affection.
- Tell you they love you
- Ask you to be in a committed relationship
- Initiate sex
- Ask you to meet their family
- Give you money or ask you for money
- Divulge “secrets”
Early on in order to “bond” with you.
🚩 Isolating You (It’ll Seem Romantic At First)
The red flag of isolation may be hard to spot because it can be camouflaged romantically.
Abusers may isolate victims by usurping their time. They may want to spend every waking moment with the victim, which can feel romantic. They may condition the victim to feel dependent on them OR tell the victim that they (the abuser) are emotionally dependent on the victim.
Abusers often take up so much emotional and physical space in the victim’s life that the isolation feels impossible to avoid. Victims may not see their friends or family as often as before and may feel guilty when they aren’t with the abuser.
Isolation often extends to a physical move to a rural area or a state or country where the abuser doesn’t have any friends or family.
🚩 Pushing You To Have a Child With Them
Interestingly, abusers often request and then push for the victim to bear their child.
I think a lot of abusers want their victims to get pregnant because it’s a way for them to be able to basically control you the rest of your life.Anne Blythe, Founder of BTR.ORG
If he is talking about having a child with you early on, or after you have expressed hesitation, consider that this is a red flag.
Having a child with someone ties you to them, legally, until the child is eighteen. This is a sure-fire way for the abuser to have contact with you and a degree of control in your life and the child’s life.
🚩 “You’re Saving Me” (Also Romantic At First)
The abuser may use phrases like:
- I didn’t know what I needed until you came along.
- I felt this void until you were here, now I feel whole.
- When I’m not with you I feel empty.
- I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life until I met you.
- I need you. I’m not okay without you.
- Now that I have you, I’ll be able to be a better man.
Ayla’s abuser coupled this “You are my savior” red flag with isolation when he moved their small family to the mountains:
I was exactly what he was needing in his life to become a better person. Of course I believed it. I believed all of that, but then I understood that I kept having to call the police to help me out.Ayla, Member of the BTR.ORG Community
🚩 Spending Time Studying Resources About How To Abuse Women (Calling You Out, Robert Greene)
One red flag that is rarely discussed is the insidious and calculated effort that abusers take to learn how to abuse women.
Books like The 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Seduction by the psychopathic author Robert Greene literally teach men who to sexually coerce and abuse women.
In Ayla’s situation, her abuser studied these books and used the tactics in them to brainwash and manipulate her. Fortunately, Ayla was smarter and emotionally stronger than her abuser and was able to see reality.
She used her grit and resourcefulness to get to safety – you can too.
BTR.ORG is Here For You
At BTR.ORG, we understand how subtle and manipulative abusers can be. We understand how difficult it is to identify abuse and seek safety.
The BTR.ORG Group Sessions are the best place to process your trauma and find a community of women who understand. Join today and find the community that you deserve as you make your journey to safety.
Welcome to BTR.ORG. This is Anne. I have a member of our community on today’s episode, we’re gonna call her Ayla and she is going to share her story. Welcome, Ayla.
Thank you so much. It’s an honor to be here and I look forward to talking with you today and the rest of the community.
So let’s start with your story. Did you recognize your husband’s abusive behaviors at first?
The “Fairytale” Phase Was Part of the Abuse
No. It was definitely one of those, what seemed like a destined-type of meeting – happenstance. It was definitely more of like a fairytale at first. And it wasn’t until probably about few months in that I noticed some behaviors that were a little bit unexpected, which I just played off as, oh, he just drank too much, you know, I just brushed it off as not a big deal.
When you say it was a fairytale, you probably know now that that was a grooming phase. So that actually was abusive. That’s the hard part is women don’t recognize that. So they don’t know that the great part was a grooming phase. They don’t know that was part of the abuse. So a lot of the times they’ll say it was good and then it went bad. They don’t realize it was bad the whole time.
It was even beyond that because I was working at a ski resort at that time. And he was a tourist with his very extravagantly rich friend who had talked me into joining in a supposed quote unquote business opportunity with a nonprofit. They totally stole my heart with that to convince me to quit my job there in the ski resort. And then start this nonprofit, which after a month or two I realized was a complete scam and set up.
Moving Quickly Isn’t Romantic – It’s Stalking
Is this a couple months into the relationship or into the marriage that you start noticing really overt abuse, even though you did not recognize the covert abuse before of the grooming, is this into marriage or is this into your relationship?
Everything was hyper speed. And that was another thing. Now, in retrospect, that was a red flag warning that I didn’t understand at the time, technically he stalked me. I didn’t really put two and two together. I just thought he really enjoyed my company. He really wanted to help get me into a better financial opportunity with this nonprofit that they were promising me, et cetera. So, yeah, it was just a couple months into just knowing him.
So into the relationship you become boyfriend and girlfriend, you ended up moving in together and having a child when you didn’t recognize it was abuse. What types of things did you try to do to make your situation better?
Trying To “Fix” The Abuse
I did attempt to create more communication. However, he was so good with word manipulation and gaslighting that always kept ending up that it was my fault for anything and everything that happened. He gave me a head concussion. He bashed my head into a door, so I had a severe concussion. So he kept blaming it on the fact that I wasn’t understanding things because of that. And then when I was pregnant, oh, he was blaming it on the hormones and everything. So I didn’t have safety and peace in that regard, cause it was all my fault all the time.
When did you start to recognize that common relationship advice like love, serve, forgive, you know, communicate, stuff like that, was not working in your situation?
I think when I continuously kept catching him in blatant lies with the gaslighting, that’s when I realized that he might be mentally ill. I understood that I needed to be more particular and deliberate in how I was creating my existence alongside him. Especially since we were having a child together.
Trying To Identify The Issue Before Understanding That It Was Abuse
So at that point you start recognizing, Hey, this isn’t working, but your go-to isn’t necessarily abuse. At that time you’re thinking was maybe he’s mentally ill or maybe he’s not very smart or something like that. Is that kind of where you went first?
Yes. Cause he had a really bad addiction to weed. I thought that was the main culprit. I thought that was creating mental illness as well because I read a book called “Tell Your Children the Truth About Marijuana”, which focuses on violence, being a huge result of somebody that does use substances such as marijuana often.
Drugs & Alcohol Don’t Make Him Abusive
Okay. So you’re thinking this is just his marijuana and I’m not saying that marijuana or alcohol or drugs or whatever is not a factor in someone not thinking straight and being abusive, but it doesn’t mean they’re not abusive. Right? It doesn’t mean that. Okay. Like if we solve the marijuana problem, then he is not gonna be abusive. That’s not the case. Right? They are abusive. That is the core. And sometimes a drug or whatever would also increase their abusiveness. So you start recognizing, Hey, something’s really wrong here. Talk a little bit more about how you were groomed and manipulated in this business and how you ended up being really exploited through all this.
I have a big heart. I used to do energy work and counseling and becoming a part of a nonprofit was something that was really intriguing to me because I just wanna be involved in something that’s amazing to help the community. I just really felt that well, maybe it was just that one opportunity because he always had an excuse for something that was going on. So when we had left together to go to the mountains and start a new life, he was saying that, oh, it was his friend’s fault that he was behaving the way that he was. He said he needed to get away from the bad influence. And that coming to a new life is gonna change him. He’s gonna be a changed man. And that was exactly what he needed.
TW: Domestic Violence
I was exactly what he was needing in his life to become a better person. And so, you know, of course I believed it. I believed all of that, but then I understood that I kept having to call the police to help me out because there were times that he wouldn’t even allow me to close myself off into a bedroom, to prevent him from yelling, you know, yelling in my face, shoving me, pushing me, grabbing the baby from my arms, like horrible back and forth fighting that I just, I was fighting for my safety to get away. He wouldn’t even let me leave the house too. He would take away the car keys. He also didn’t allow me to, um, drive the car at times and he had control over that and didn’t register the other car. So if I tried to leave, he said he would call the police and report the car stolen and that I was kidnapping my own child.
So there were threats now that kept an invisible prison around me in my life, up to a certain point that I realized, I’m trapped. Now he put up surveillance cameras and he then spliced up video footage of me defending myself. And he said, I have footage that I can show the police to say that you were abusive towards me. When in truth, I was protecting myself, protecting my son; survival tactics to attempt to get out of the abuse that I was in. So he had blackmailed me for about the two last two and a half years of our relationship, quote, unquote, if wanna call it that. And I was trapped and my son was unfortunately the middle pawn to keep that control over me because the threats were so real.
When Ayla Recognizes the Abuse & Begins Making Her Way to Safety
So when do you start to recognize this is abuse, this is a serious abuse situation – I’m being exploited, I’m being abused? He’s sexually coercing me; he’s cheating on me; you know, all the things he was doing. When do you start recognizing the severity of it and start realizing, okay, I need to start making my way to safety? How does that come to pass?
Well, there was the one night that he had pushed me very hard to try and get me to have a drink of a champagne mimosa. That was the thing that we often did, but I knew that he was doing the coercive control with the surveillance camera, called the domestic violence setup. So I knew that he already had that in his back pocket. So the one night I kept refusing, cause my intuition just said no, not tonight, stay away. So he handed me a drink, even despite me saying I don’t wanna drink. He’s like, “Just take one sip.” So I took one sip and I gave it back to him. I said, see, I just don’t want it. I’m not in the mood. And then he dumped that drink out, which I thought was really peculiar cuz he loves his alcohol.
TW: Marital Rape
And normally if I don’t wanna drink a drink, he puts it in the fridge for himself later. And so I asked, why’d you jump it out? Oh, well I just, I don’t wanna drink either. Twenty minutes later, I felt really odd sick. And I tried taking myself upstairs to the bedroom and I just, I had to sit and I collapsed on the stairs. Now my consciousness was still there because when somebody is given the roofie date rape drug, they, if they have enough alcohol in the system, their consciousness is not there. But because I didn’t have alcohol in my system, I was still coherent – very much so. And I remember feeling him standing over my body and he – I see flashes. He was taking pictures of me “unconscious,” which was really scary. I couldn’t do anything.
I couldn’t move. And then he finally picked me up and put me on the bed and shut me in there until my baby was ready to be going to bed a couple hours later. And he put the baby in bed with me. So I asked him about it the next night he said, oh, it was in my imagination. And so then I called the domestic violence center and I had them try and get me, help get me a counselor to see what can, what they can do to help me out. Because I was so scared cause I didn’t know what to do at that point, if he was doing stuff like that to me.
When DV Resources Fail Victims
Did you find the domestic violence shelter to be helpful in your area?
Absolutely not. I was so surprised about how unhelpful they were in a lot of things. It was like chasing a mouse, like trying to get them to help me. It was very like the woman wouldn’t return my calls in an appropriate time. I tried to get restraining orders. It just, nothing happened. It took a year and a half for something to happen where he almost killed my son for them to finally step in and say, oh, okay. Yeah, I guess we’ll help. And even at that, they believed my abuser over me and they gave up on trying to help me because of the domestic violence setup camera footage that he introduced in courts for trying to gain, or leverage, custody over my son.
I have found everyone is like, call the domestic violence shelter hotline as if it’s gonna be easy for you if you just reach out for help. I have found is not the case. Also they do not understand the sexual coercion piece of this – the lying, the emotional abuse, the psychological abuse that you’re under. And so they’ll just think, “What’s wrong with her?” instead of realizing that you are suffering from severe trauma and gaslighting and you cannot see straight and it’s not your fault. So instead of actually helping you, they kind of blame you a little bit, some of them. And so at BTR, we really recommend that women who have a reportable crime, that you don’t process that in our BTR Group Sessions, but that you schedule an individual appointment with Coach Renee to help you navigate your local resources safely, because that is really tough. And it’s a lot harder than people think. And I found the same thing. Even though their purpose is to be helpful, stuff like that is not exactly what happens in real life.
Manipulation, Gaslighting, Brainwashing
Talk about his type of manipulation. You mentioned that he had actually studied manipulative books in order to learn how to like brainwash and stuff. Can you talk about that?
I never knew he had these books because he was so secretive about a lot of stuff. So he actually had these books sequestered away somewhere, but because he was moving his stuff around he was a hoarder. He had left them out and forgot to put them back when he went to work. So I looked and I found Robert Green, The 48 Laws of Power, which in theory is a brainwashing manipulation book that is very detailed. He has a lot of examples from history. This author is very well praised for putting this book together and then The Art of Seduction – at the time I overlooked it. I thought it was just kind of like a couple’s book. And I just thought, oh no, I don’t even wanna deal with this. But when I researched it, after I left, I realized it was a how-to manual of how to catch, turn your prey, catch them as a victim.
Ultimately give them PTSD to make them controllable and/or discard them and get a new victim and do the same thing over and over again. It’s just absolutely atrocious because the term victim is used 277 times in the book and prey was only used 13 times, but still it’s there. It was so shocking and it is banned from a lot of prisons, state prisons, across the United States because they understand how damaging these books are and how bad it would be if these inmates started studying these books because that’s all they have is time, right when they’re sitting there. So studying this material would make them become more of a, have a criminal mindset. And when I found these books, especially The 48 Laws of Power, it was like that movie moment where the shift in view of the focused camera just completely zoomed in.
Abusers Know Exactly What They’re Doing
And I realized, oh my gosh, it has been a lie this entire time. And then a conversation afterwards, when I attempted to leave for probably the umpteenth time to break up with him, he finally confessed to me that he had premeditated our entire relationship and that when he sat in jail for the three nights, when a few months after we met, after he put me in the hospital, he sat in jail for only three nights. He was never tried, never went and saw a judge to get a sentence. It was thrown out because his story was different from mine, but he did sit in jail for three nights and he created this whole elaborate plan to get back at me and to make sure that I suffered financially, emotionally, and that he was gonna try to put me in jail. So that way I never knew my son and my son never knew me. His words. I wish I had recorded it at all, but it was a bold confession of truth because he thought I was breaking up. I left finally a month later when I finally mustered up the courage to leave.
Trauma Mama Husband Drama
I’m gonna take a break here for just a second to talk about my book Trauma Mama Husband Drama. You can find it on our books page also has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book is a picture book for adults. So it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it. It’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations, as well as infographics at the back. And even if women don’t purchase the book, it helps them find this podcast, which is free to everyone.
All right. So you find this book and you’re like, whoa, I’m being manipulated. And you’re thinking I gotta get out of this, but you’re trying to figure out, how am I gonna get myself to safety? A few months later you’re in a fight and he throws your son against the couch. Tell me what happened after that.
When Ayla Was Granted a 4-Year Restraining Order
He went to work and then I called the domestic violence hotline to see what could be done for a restraining order. I got that process started with them. Finally, I called the police, filed a report. And because I had unplugged the surveillance camera that he was spying on me with when he was gone at work, it triggered that he knew something was wrong. So he came home as I was leaving with the police. And it wasn’t easy because I was trying to do it very quietly and not have to see him one more time. But yeah, I was granted a four-year restraining order by the courts, even with very little evidence. I was very grateful for that. And the domestic violence people finally said, oh, you know, they were surprised like, how did you do that? It was a pure miracle because they had never heard of a, a restraining order being given at length as such as mine in their courthouse.
So they worked with me for a short bit, but that’s how I got out. And I have been legally abused for the past year and a half. I’m homeless, living with family. I’ve lost everything. My car has been taken from me. The courts have forced me to continue to have my son keep a relationship with his father. So I am forced to travel once a month to have my son do two four-hour visits in two days. I’ve spent over $10,000 in the past 10 months, even without a job I’m barely gunning unemployment. I haven’t been able to get a job because of these trips because I have to travel around five days in total for these trips, the plane tickets are too costly. So I have to drive – it’s a 10 hour drive. So even after this fact, the courts are allowing the abuse to happen because they’re part of the abuse that is now happening in these aftermath.
Enduring Post-Separation Abuse
Finally, this last hearing a couple of days ago, the commissioner finally heard me after I spelled it out with the details and facts of I’ve spent over $10,000. I’ve traveled over 50 days for them to do 60 hours of visitation alone. We’ve been in the car in the past few months or in the past, however, past five trips at a hundred, was it 110 hours alone? Just driving, traveling for these trips, like just outrageous putting us in icy driving conditions, desolate areas that are unsafe, staying in hotels, where there’s drug addicts outside. It’s just, it’s absolutely appalling how much as a victim I was trying to get help. And my life has completely been ruined, blown to smithereens. And you know, I’m doing my best to stay grounded and positive that this is just only a time period that I’m gonna be dealing with this, but I didn’t think it was gonna be this way. I was really anticipating and hoping that my son was gonna be happy and healthy and that I was gonna be happy and in a successful place of life right now with my own home and a place to share love with my son.
It’s a lot harder than people think. Have you seen the Netflix show, Maid?
You know, I’ve been told about it by many people. I cannot because I am still so deep in my trauma right now. I’m very empathic. And so it would be very challenging.
Hard. Yeah. The hard thing about that is in the end, she actually gets free and he gives up custody. And I’m sorry if I’m ruining it for everyone. Sorry, but I, the rest of it is absolutely super realistic, but the end, I think they wanna give hope to people, but I’m like, that’s just not our experience. Like we continue to have to put up with this abuse post-divorce and our children are continually abused. And the court systems don’t recognize that they are protecting perpetrators and they are not protecting victims because if it’s not physical , they don’t recognize it at all. The emotional abuse, the psychological abuse, and all the hardship and burden that the victims have to put up with, even if he wasn’t abusive at all after this, which they always are. But even if they weren’t, I think requiring a victim to interact with someone who has harmed them so grievously is morally and ethically wrong. And so I think that part of it is really tough too.
When The Courts Harm Victims
And another thing too, to add on top of that, for me personally, the hardest part of all of this is the guilt that I wish I had just disappeared a long time ago when I was pregnant. But the fact now that I have to hand my innocent child over to our abuser and be okay with it when the last, the one last image that I don’t think I can ever have burned out away from my head is him throwing my son on the couch and nearly breaking his neck. It’s just, the courts will never understand what he’s capable of in the energy of “it was an accident.” Oh, him bashing my head against the wall was an “accident.” Him nearly crashing the car, screaming in a rage was an “accident.” And there were so many “accidents” that turned into that one fatality. And that’s the hardest part. So I’ve been following your organization on Facebook and I really always appreciate the work that you guys have done.
Okay. So you found us on Facebook.
I did. Yes.
BTR.ORG Resources Are Here For You
Has it been helpful to you has the information that we’ve given you been helpful? And can you talk about that?
What you guys put out has been so helpful because I understand that I’m holding hands with so many other strong people that have gone through similar things and it makes me feel so honored to know that the strength is being shared from all of you, to us who are deep in the trenches, dealing with these things. So you guys, in your strength and the opportunities that you provide for learning to progress within ourselves has been so wonderful and so helpful. I don’t think I would be nearly put together right now if I hadn’t found you all and the amazing things that you have put out.
Thank you. That’s nice of you to say, if you could go back and talk to your younger self and just talk to her, what would you tell her?
“Don’t Ignore the Red Flags”
Don’t ignore the red flags because there were so many, I mean, my whole field was red. I would tell my younger self, you know, start learning about yourself now more because, I mean, I started my spiritual journey of trying to find myself when I was about 25, but I wish it was sooner and in a different way, because I would’ve understood and uncovered a lot more about how to overcome the hidden traumas that I had. If anybody has, uh, Robert Green books in their library or their significant other take heed – my domestic violence team, when I brought this to their attention, I’m not even kidding you, they scoffed. They said, oh yeah, that culture, they were completely aware of it. There is nothing being done to attempt to alleviate the damage that Robert Green’s books are doing – I’ll just say dark psychology books in general, because they are there.
And the authors attempt to say, well, the victims, the people need to educate themselves of how not to be manipulated. If somebody’s completely unaware that they’re being manipulated, how can they even come close to thinking that they need to prepare themselves for that kind of situation and scenario when they’re completely innocent? So I’m really hoping that the awareness about dark psychology as an abusive tool, it needs to be discussed more because children are suffering. I’m responsible for myself and what I’ve done when it comes to the fact that my son was caught in the middle of this, because my abuser learned how to be an abusive manipulator because of that psychology books. That really hit home, that really hurt, you know, because my son especially is the most innocent angel, like all children, and they don’t deserve to be put in that position because of somebody else’s decision to be abusive.
I had another friend, my late friend, her daughter, same exact situation where her daughter was caught into a relationship. And her abuser used these Robert Green books as well to keep her in control. Cause all he wanted from her was just a child. My abuser just wanted a child from me. So that’s something that I really hope becomes more of a talked about topic, is the dark psychology that is hidden in our society.
Why Do Abusers Want Children With Their Victims?
I think a lot of abusers want their victims to get pregnant because it’s a way for them to be able to basically control you the rest of your life.
Yeah. I’m grateful for my son every day. I do struggle with the, the fact that I’m stuck to this abuser forever. I’m having probably the hardest time wrapping my head around how I’m gonna make that happen. My focus is so challenged because I am still in shock in a lot of ways about how everything transpired, how everything is still transpiring. I am just blown away. And then also too on the fact that the court system is fostering this abuse in such a weird way that I was not expecting. So that’s another thing too that I really want people to understand – that the courts and the law are not always on your side. So we as a society have to become a little bit more aware of preparing ourselves and not be reliant or expect that the people that say they’re there to help us, they may not actually really be there or on our side.
It seems like they’re more worried about the perpetrator’s rights than the victim’s safety.
When The Perpetrator’s “Rights” Are Valued Above the Victim’s Safety
Definitely, especially even, you know, I’m thinking that the entire time that I’m driving at midnight and I still have like five hours to go to, try to get to this court ordered visit for my abuser and my son, I’m like driving in snow. And I’m like, where are my rights to say that this is a scary situation that I’m putting myself in and my child too, like my child’s life is being put at risk. I, I don’t know how many times I escaped getting hit by a semi truck that was, you know, going over the two lane highway. Abuser’s rights are more important than mama’s rights. My rights, my son’s rights, you know, it’s just, it’s surprising.
I’m thankful that my situation is not that bad compared to a lot of other women’s stories that I’ve heard that are absolutely – my heart just started sobbing with some of these other women that I heard in their children’s situations. So I know I’m lucky in a lot of ways – in a lot of other women and children are not, they end up losing their lives because of the fact that they’re trying to forewarn that their abuser is stalking them and that they fear for their life. And then they don’t have their life the next day because the police didn’t listen. So I’ve been in that situation too, where I’ve tried to give a forewarning and the police are like, well, we can’t do anything until something actually happens. Well, great. Appreciate that.
Support the BTR.ORG Podcast
Yeah. It’s, it’s really, really rough right now. And the more we can share our stories, the more we can find community like we do at BTR and other places, the more women will understand it. And if women understand it, then other people will understand it eventually. So I appreciate you taking the time to come share your story today. Thank you so much.
Yeah. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you and all the amazing work you’re doing for all of us.
Thank you. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week stay safe out there.