Women come to BTR.ORG feeling confused, crazy, alone, and disoriented as a result of their partner’s abuse and betrayal.
This glossary is intended to help women identify abusive behaviors. It offers helpful terms and practices that will aid women in their journey to safety and healing.
A way of thinking that deems exploitation of another person totally acceptable. The aim of abuse is control and exploitation.
Abuse is not just physical assault. Abusers use tactics that impact emotional, psychological, spiritual, sexual, and financial well being. The results are devastating and severe to his wife, as well as any children in the home.
Emotional and psychological abuse are devastating with severe consequences to women and children. Women in non-physical abusive relationships often minimize their situations by saying, “He doesn’t hit me, so it isn’t abuse.”
Abusive people don’t lose control. They (are trying to) assert control through lies, manipulation, anger, sexual coercion, marital rape, physical intimidation or violence.
Pornography use is emotional and sexual abuse, even if the pornography user identifies himself as an “addict”.
Abuse-by-Proxy (See “Parental Alienation”)
When abusive men continue to terrorize and attempt to control victims using the family court system, by harming the children, and utilizing other unsafe people, this is abuse-by-proxy.
It’s good for victims to notify authorities about emotional, psychological, physical, or sexual abuse. Depending on the state and local system, the way you report may be more effective if you report through the Domestic Violence Shelter in your area or if a doctor or teacher reports in. In some states, reporting may increase the danger for you because they don’t take reports of emotional or psychological (or even physical or sexual abuse) seriously. We recommend taking The BTR.ORG Living Free & Message Workshops before reporting, so you can understand the safe strategies to use when beginning your journey to emotional safety.
Abusers may manipulate others into extending their abuse (abuse-by-proxy) by:
- Claiming “parental alienation”
- Sabotaging shared children’s relationships with therapists, teachers, doctors, etc.
- Refusing to co-parent in a healthy, constructive way
- Inserting themselves into the victim’s personal life
- Continuously bringing the victim to court
- Threatening or actually involving CPS or law enforcement simply to terrorize the victim
- Attempting to convince (gaslighting) the child(ren) that the victimized parent is unhealthy, abusive, and/or in any way a less desirable parent than the abuser
- Neglecting the basic emotional and physical needs of the children
Abusers skillfully keep their victims in (a cycle) patterns of emotional, social, and psychological entrapments that makes escape seem impossible and the abuse difficult to detect. These patterns can includes the following phases:
- Manipulation (psychological and emotional abuse) – attentive, kind, helpful, apologetic, promises to seek help, admits there is a problem in the relationship
- Tension (psychological and emotional abuse) – any behavior from the victim that the abuser sees as offensive (including the partner asking for the abuser to seek treatment for the abuse he admitted to during when he was using manipulative kindness) creates resentment which builds up
- Overt abuse – physical (punching walls, screaming in your face), sexual (pornography use, soliciting prostitutes, sexting), verbal (name calling, avoiding questions), emotional (manipulating emotions), psychological (gaslighting, lying), financial, spiritual
- Denial (psychological abuse)– gaslighting; minimizing; victim-blaming; bold-faced lying; turning friends and family against victim
Not all abusive episodes go through these phases. For example, lies to deceive are ongoing, and a form of coercive control a wife.
Recognizing and accepting full responsibility for thoughts, feelings, perceptions, choices, etc., and the outcomes of those actions and choices.
Taking responsibility for actions by acknowledging the abuse, working diligently to change behavior , and doing the incredibly hard work that Lundy Bancroft describes as “living amends”.
An abuser’s wife and/or children are never responsible for any aspect of the abuser’s decisions or behaviors. She cannot cause, cure, or control it.
Long-term accountability (current research indicates 3-5 years) can be a sign of change for the abuser. However, short-term bursts of accountability are manipulation used to trap the victim.
Abusers who identify themselves as “sex addicts” “act out” when they commit infidelity against their wife whether with another living person, themselves (through masturbation), virtually, or through fantasy. At BTR.ORG, we see any acting out as abuse.
Addict Brain or Addict Fog
In the CSAT community, Addict Brain/Fog refers to a period of emotional withdrawal or overt emotional or psychological abuse by the abuser, directed toward his partner and/or children.
At BTR.ORG, we view withholding truth, affection, attention, and focus from his wife and/or children to use pornography or have an affair as extremely destructive emotional and psychological abuse.
This form of therapy causes secondary trauma to victims of abuse because it places blame upon the victim. The theory submits that his abuse is a result of attachment issues, and so a healthy attachment could cure him.
Marriage counseling and/or therapy are detrimental when abuse is present because abuse renders someone to dangerous to attempt to attach to. A victim who attempts to attach to an abuser will only end up being harmed.
Betrayal Trauma is the devastating result of a woman being abused by her husband’s infidelity (including pornography use) and the related lies, manipulation, gaslighting, emotional and psychological abuse, and sexual coercion. Sufferers of Betrayal Trauma experience emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual symptoms that disrupt daily life. Healing from Betrayal Trauma is possible only if she separates herself from the abuse, and is surrounded by a strong, nurturing support system.
Transferring fault to another person in order to avoid accountability. Blaming another person for the abuse or compulsive sexual behaviors. For example, saying, “If you wouldn’t do ____, then I wouldn’t look at pornography/hire prostitutes/yell at you/fill-in-the-blank.”
Boundaries are the pathway to safety and the most powerful form of self-care. It is the most proactive action a victim can take.
Boundaries are essential to healing; they enable women to safely care for themselves because she is safely removed from the abuse.
A Certified Sex Addiction Therapist. While CSATs seemed to be the only group available to help victims of sexual coercion (in the form of their husband’s pornography use or infidelity), CSATs are not trained adequately to clearly see the abuse patterns deployed by abusers.
We do not recommend that emotional & psychological abuse victims go to a CSAT or get their husband to go. Instead, attend a BTR.ORG Group Session.
A practice recommended by CSATS, other pornography addiction professionals, and clergy. At BTR.ORG we don’t recommend checking in with a psychological abuser about his abuse, whether in person, over the phone, or in writing, since it only serves as an opportunity for the abuser to manipulate his victim.
BTR’s coaches provide professional support and offer insight, validation, and direction for wives of porn users and sex addicts. All BTR coaches have been through it, are trained by BTR, and are certified by an ICF-accredited organization.
A label sometimes put on victims of abuse to encourage taking some level of responsibility for the situation. This model is false and negates the reality of abuse.
Detachment occurs when the wife of an abuser removes herself emotionally from the devastating of the abuser’s choices. Often, this takes place once she has separated from him and the manufactured relational tethers have begun to disintegrate.
When a husband’s previously undisclosed sexually perverse behavior is discovered. This is most often a traumatic, shocking, and/or sometimes dangerous event for the woman. It can be discovered without any warning, or it may be suspected and D-Day (Discovery Day) confirms it.
D-day is traumatic. The woman’s sense of reality is shattered, and she often finds herself experiencing distorted feelings of guilt or blame, confusion, intense fear, nightmares, despair, insomnia and so on. This is usually the point at which she discovers some of the abuse, and she is usually shocked to discover that she’s been a victim of abuse for years without knowing it. See Trauma for more details.
The Drama Triangle is a psychological theory that is often presented to couples in troubled relationships.The application of this theory places blame on both parties. However, in the abusive marriage, there is no Drama Triangle: there is simply an abuser and his victim.
The abuser will use all three roles in the Drama Triangle (victim, rescuer, and persecutor) to control and harm his wife, and when she reacts to his abuse she will often be labeled by him and/or poorly trained “professionals” as any of those three roles (victim, rescuer, or persecutor) when in reality, she’s simply an abuse victim trying to survive.
Using the Drama Triangle to try to describe the relational dynamics of an abusive marriage is like trying to diagnose cancer using a cheese grater. It simply makes no sense.
Any behavior that harms the emotional well being of another.
A state in which a person can be open and vulnerable with another person. Several factors play into being emotionally safe. When a victim is being manipulated with kindness, she often feels emotionally safe even though she isn’t.
Emotional safety happens when you feel loved, adequate, and safe to share your feelings, and your husband sees you as an equal, who is worthy of his love and respect.
When your husband spends his emotional energy, time and attention on someone other than you, gaslighting you to protect his behavior.
A powerful tool to connect with others, respecting an individual’s situation and sitting with them in their pain, rather than trying to fix or lecture.
When we feel empathy for another, we acknowledge and/or validate their pain as we place ourselves in their situation. Empathy is the ability to recognize and respond to another’s pain, taking responsibility for your part in causing that pain (only if appropriate).
Empathy can also be a torturous tool in the arsenal of an abusive man, used to tell his wife that she is not empathetic if she does not condone his behavior or if she is hurt by the things he did in “the past” (even if the past wasn’t very long ago at all or he’s still doing it).
To enable is to give someone permission to keep doing something.
Those who do not immediately support and believe the victim are (accidentally or intentionally) enabling the abuser.
The practice of using stored images of sexually perverse activities in his mind involving other people, pornography, movies, or made up scenarios including his own wife or children resulting in sexual pleasure or arousal with or without masturbation.
Faulty Core Beliefs
Deeply held beliefs that are not true.
For example, we may have come to believe early in our life that we need to earn love, or that we are unlovable, or that we somehow caused this trauma and pain ourselves. BTR coaches are trained to help you rediscover your self-worth.
Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Fawn
Common ways victims respond to abuse in an effort to survive. A natural, totally normal way to respond when our physical, mental, or emotional safety is threatened—or when we perceive that our safety is threatened.
Physically, we might experience rapid heart beating, rapid breathing, trembling, becoming paralyzed with fear, etc. Our body is literally reacting to a threat and goes into a type of survival mode.
A tool used by abusers to harm their victims. They psychologically manipulate in order to distort reality, causing a feeling of craziness, also referred to as crazy-making.
A feeling of profound sadness and loss. After discovery, the woman experiences stages of grief due to the fact that the world she lived in is essentially gone and replace with something irrecognizable. To fully heal, a traumatized woman must allow herself to grieve. Through her grief, a victim of abuse can find ways to grow.
Abusers seek to silence the inner voice of their victims, also called the gut, or intuition. The inner voice that warns victims when something isn’t quite right. Listen to that voice: it will tell you when you are in physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual danger. Research has shown that the intuition of women in abusive relationships is almost always correct.
Women honor their emotions when they are able to recognize, name and respond to those emotions as they occur. Women in abusive relationships may have a difficult time naming or even expressing emotions due to the type of coercive control they experience.
Self-validation is key to successful emotional honoring and to mitigating emotional denial that may lead to a lack of safety. (Occurs by recognizing that what we feel in the moment is real and to be willing to learn from the emotion, rather than pushing it down to avoid the pain). We can honor other’s emotions by respecting the fact that, at the end of the day, our life and our emotional and psychological safety is our responsibility and we need to take action to protect ourselves.
Behavior or circumstance when a husband is unfaithful, undisclosed sexual behaviors, including pornography use, masturbation, fantasizing, sex with others, and emotional affairs constitute infidelity and are therefore abuse.
An intense desire to satisfy physical appetite. A form of infidelity, if directed towards a person outside of an exclusive relationship such as marriage. Sexual abuse occurs in marriage and committed relationships when the abuser treats his wife like an object to satisfy his sexual desires.
Manufactured Emotional Tether
As part of the abuse pattern cycle, the abuser comforts his wife after a period of excruciating emotional/psychological/sexual/physical abuse and the ensuing comforting and promises made (often including intense sexual “intimacy”) culminates in an emotional tether, trapping the victim. Every time the cycle re-occurs, the manufactured tether gets stronger.
While an abuser may claim he feels “close” to his partner, he is deceptively using/misrepresenting the idea of “closeness”. One/one cannot be “close”: or “intimate” with someone they are abusing. The manufactured tether creates a false/deceptive relational experience for the victim, entrapping her in the coercive tactics of the abuser.
Generally, the manufactured tether cannot be broken without a period of separation. Check out our Youtube Channel for a great video about the Manufactured Relational Tether.
Abusers who use pornography, emotional affairs, sexting, etc, minimize their behaviors by:
- Lying: denying porn use when you know he’s using.
- Justifying: “guys do porn all the time, what’s your problem” or “it was just pornography, not an actual affair.”
- Rationalizing: “It just popped up on my screen.”
- Blame-shifting: “I turned to pornography/affair because you don’t meet my sexual needs.”
Multi-Dimensional Partner Trauma Model
The framework used by so-called betrayal trauma specialists, namely therapists and coaches. At BTR.ORG, we have observed that this model does not address pornography, lies about pornography use, etc as abuse.
Patterns of behavior that may include at some level self-centeredness, an apparent, desperate need for attention, refusal to offer empathy, or grandiose ideas of self.
At BTR, we don’t diagnose because we are not therapists. Even if we were, abuse is not in the DSM. However, we help women recognize the patterns of behavior commonly deployed by abusive men, most exhibit narcissistic traits.
A boundary that eliminates contact between the abuser and the victim. It can include blocking phone calls, texts and emails. To learn more about strategies for eliminating contact with abusers, enroll in the BTR.ORG Living Free Workshop.
Any activity that degrades other human beings to the status of an object. This includes activities of pornography, strip clubs attendance, sex behaviors with prostitution, sex with self, affairs, fantasizing, identifying people by body parts and appearance, rather than personality traits and strengths.
The basis of the Parental Alienation theory is that children of abusive men should be forced to spend time with their abusive fathers, especially if the children are afraid of their father or prefer their mother.
Abusers claim that victims “alienate” the children from them, but the reality is that children of abusers simply prefer the non-abusive parent.
When abusers claim “parental alienation” and courts generally side with the abusers and victims and their children are re-traumatized via the secondary-abuse from the courts. This is known as abuse-by-proxy.
Attachment to a person in your life who is a significant source of comfort and assistance (ie parent, caregiver or spouse).
When victims display behaviors that are not consistent with their character as a result of the abuse, they may be taking protective action. BTR uses this term instead of “reactive” or “mutual” abuse. We also call this Resistance to Abuse.
The spectrum of post-separation abuse is wide, but can include:
- Continued gaslighting, manipulation, lies, and coercion
- Refusal to meet the children’s physical and emotional needs during their parenting time
- Financial abuse through continuous litigation
- Physical violence
Any material, written or visual, used to arouse sexual feelings in a person. It is also used to satisfy sexual desires and is a tool used to degrade humans into sexual objects. Further, pornographic material is often created using underage girls and women who have been sold into sex slavery. To support the pornography industry is to support child sex slavery/sex trafficking.
At BTR we firmly stand behind the truth that all human beings who view pornography are choosing to support an industry that fuels modern day child slavery. We find this despicable. Likewise, we do not parse out pornography to levels such as soft or hard. Any image, digital, print or visualized used in secret for personal satisfaction is abusive to the marriage relationship.
Attempting to justify or explain a behavior to make it appear logical. For example, “I didn’t do anything wrong; it just popped up on my screen.” Or “I wouldn’t yell at you if you didn’t get so crazy.” Any attempt to justify his behaviors based on circumstance or on the behaviors/feelings of the abuser’s partner and/or children is rationalizing and is abusive.
Recovery (For Victims)
Healthy, recovered women have chosen to seek safety from an abusive relationship. They know that they are not the problem.
Recovery (For Abusers)
At BTR.ORG we don’t believe a man needs a program to stop being abusive. He just needs to start being honest, treating his wife as an equal, taking her concerns seriously, stop trying to control outcomes, etc. etc. Actually, he needs to change his very character through consistent, healthy behaviors over time. Any one can do this if they choose to.
Healthy, recovered men have not been abusive for at least 3-5 years (which includes being completely faithful to their wife if married), have dedicated their lives to living amends, and contribute in a healthy way to a peaceful society. If their wife pursued divorce, then the man in recovery from abuse happily pays child support and alimony, is supportive in whatever ways his ex-wife has requested, is supportive of her boundaries, and when/if she decides to engage in a new marriage, he continues these supportive behaviors without relapsing into abusive behaviors toward his ex-wife and/or children.
A term used in the so called “sex addiction” community to describe abuse.
Safety & Truth-Seeking Behaviors
Abusers often throw their victims under the bus by mislabeling their safety seeking and truth seeking behaviors to as “policing”, “controlling”, or “wearing the pants”. Safety seeking and truth seeking behavior by a victim is a natural, normal healthy response to abuse. Examples of safety and truth-seeking behaviors include: putting filters on devices, checking phone, tablet, and computer histories, using GPS tracking to monitor where he is going, etc. When a victim of abuse knows something is wrong, she’s going to naturally try to figure it out – this is healthy.
Tools to help in the healing process. In betrayal trauma, self-care refers to more than just getting a pedicure and crying on the shoulder of a trusted friend. Self-care is a choice a woman makes to learn to love herself. A woman using self-care understands that no one can take better care of herself than she can. It is one of the most loving things she can do for herself.
Examples may include but are not limited to:
- Giving herself permission to sleep when tired
- Using paper plates
- Attending a BTR.ORG Group Session
- Physically taking care of herself
- Spending time in nature
- Practicing living in the moment (mindfulness and/or meditation)
- Expressing gratitude
Everyone feels shame from time to time, especially when they violate widely regarded social norms. Contrary to popular belief, shame does not cause addiction or abuse. All people feel shame, but not everyone chooses to be unfaithful or to abuse someone as a result. For example, some people choose to call a friend, eat ice cream, or go for a jog.
The preferred term at Betrayal Trauma Recovery for a woman who has chosen to seek safety from an abusive relationship.
Like the term “relapse,” a slip is a reference used in the so-called “sex addiction” community to describe abuse without saying the word abuse.
A term used in the “sex addiction” community for the period of time where compulsive sexual behavior has stopped. Because they don’t call it abuse, they don’t factor in healthy non-abusive behavior when they talk about sobriety from “pornography addiction”.
Abuse creates deep wounds. Trauma is the resulting emotional state created by the wounds. Betrayal trauma has a multi-dimensional impact with emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial effects. When a woman discovers the reality of her situation, that her husband is abusive, she needs to get to emotional and psychological safety before she can begin healing. Traumatized women often experience a wide range of thoughts and emotions, and respond to abuse in different ways. It is crucial to find help and support as soon as possible. At BTR, our coaches personally experienced abuse and trauma in their relationships. With specialized abuse training, our team of coaches help women navigate their situation and begin to make their way to safety.
A trigger is an experience which causes a person to recall a traumatic memory. It will throw the person experiencing it back into the emotions of the initial traumatic event, often producing additional trauma responses. After betrayal, symptoms such as confusion, sadness, grief, anger, despair, and resentment may manifest. Sometimes the trigger can be noticed (being yelled at by someone) and sometimes it sneaks up and sabotages (walking down an aisle at the grocery store).
It is important to be aware that what others may call a trigger is actually just a normal response to experiencing abuse in real time. If you are triggered, rather than assume the danger has passed, assess the situation to see if you’re currently being harmed by emotional and psychological abuse.
Not something to share with an abuser. Sharing emotions and experiences with safe people is key to beginning the journey to safety. Learn more about this by enrolling in the BTR.ORG Living Free Workshop.
A term used in the “sex addiction” community to identify a “struggle” with behavior or emotional management that’s really just abuse. Most often used in the past-tense to describe his state of being before he re-engaged in abusive behaviors – which we know at BTR.ORG to simply be a manipulation stage of managing his image and role playing healthy behaviors to groom his victim.
A term for self-improvement programs based off of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Trauma research indicates that self-improvement programs are destructive to traumatized women. A woman must be completely safe from abuse before entering into any type of self-improvement program. Often, once she is safe from abuse, she finds that the “defects” of character are simply just the left over voice of the abuser in her own head.