The topic of porn use and abuse is currently shrouded in controversy. Some say that betrayed partners are not victims of abuse. But we ask, How can that position be ethically be applied to every situation across the board? How can you be sure that abuse is not a part of the relationship in which one partner uses porn?

Many professionals who specialize in the topic of problematic sexual behaviors have already identified that abuse is more likely to occur within relationships that have dealt with betrayal. We see these professionals digging deep into the question of why porn users are abusive.

Porn Users Who Also Abuse

Dan Drake, a licensed clinician, CSAT Supervisor, and a Certified Clinical Partner Specialist Supervisor through APSATS, states, “I counsel many men who are porn users. They’ll frequently say, “Well, I never laid a hand on her.” But the impact can still be the same, including intimidation. As a therapist, I’ve seen this play out. I’ve seen this be so detrimental. At least in my experience, I’ve seen the abuse part be one of the most damaging pieces of sex addiction for betrayed partners.”

Anne, Founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, states, “We need to talk about what domestic abuse is, because so many people do not define pornography use, or lies, or infidelity or a secret sexual life. Those types of things are not typically seen as domestic abuse. But then how do you define domestic abuse? Behaviors that a sexual addict exhibits in a relationship certainly fall well within the scope of sexual manipulation and abuse, domestically speaking.”

So Is Porn Use Abuse?

The working definition of abuse on DomesticViolence.Org states, “any behaviors that one person uses in a relationship to control another person in the relationship”.

Dan states he often sees domestic abuse involve the more covert mechanisms with porn users, “That could involve name-calling, put-downs, keeping a partner from contacting family or friends. That social isolation is a big piece. Withholding money. Actual or threatened physical harm. That could include sexual assault, stalking or intimidation and also sexual manipulation. It’s all about power, control and diversion. We can see this play out emotionally, psychologically or financially. As well as, isolation of the partner or spiritually, sometimes too.”

Does Porn Use Cause Aggression And Abuse?

Dan shares his experience working with other sexual behavior experts, “At APSATS, I was part of the founding board. When we were putting the curriculum together, one thing we needed to address is domestic abuse, because we’d seen this pattern so much. We built a curriculum that specifically incorporated the aspect of interpersonal abuse that comes with porn use.”

The Association of Partners of Sex Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS) provides several peer-reviewed research articles on the abuse and aggression that exists with porn users towards their partners in relationships. One recent study concluded that “Men that use pornography are less likely to be committed to their relationship, diminishing a sense of security for their partner, and decreasing attachment behaviors”(Brown, 2015).

There Is A Link Between Abuse And Pornography

Dan adds to this, “I started looking at the domestic abuse literature and tried to compile all the different ways that this happens. The biggest way that someone can control another person, is controlling the narrative.  That’s not just through hostility. That can be through lies of omission or commission. A porn user might be saying one thing, but be doing another. This is interpersonal abuse because it involves gaslighting and manipulation their partner’s reality. It involves elements of narcissistic tendencies to create an image for the outside world, but in private they behave very differently.”

Anne shares her opinion about why abuse is a scary word to use, “Talking about abuse doesn’t necessarily have to equate with divorce. It doesn’t have to mean that someone is abusive forever, but it can be a step toward change.”

Abuse Is Never The Victims Fault, Especially When Porn Is Involved

It can be a common tactic among abusive partners to deflect from their abusive and problematic behaviors. This becomes damaging to the betrayed partner for many reasons, one being that they lose touch with their own reality and their instincts can suffer as a result.

Dan shares his insight on abuse, “DARVO stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse, Victim, Offender.  If your intuition is saying something, you’re not wrong. Domestic abuse is the abusers problem. It’s not in any way your problem. You didn’t cause it. You didn’t do anything to deserve it. You can’t fix it. It’s his problem, not yours.”

Not Sure How to Get Started?

This video will help you get started with your Betrayal Trauma Recovery.

Full Transcription:

Anne: I have Dan Drake with me today. He is a licensed clinician, and a CSAT Supervisor. He’s also a Certified Clinical Partner Specialist Supervisor through APSATS. He’s the co-author of Letters From a Sex Addict. He’s also EMDR trained. He’s the founder and Clinical Director of Banyan Therapy Group in Studio City, California.

In addition to his clinical background, he’s taught and spoken domestically and internationally. His passion is to help sex addicts, their partners and families restore relational, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wholeness to their lives. Dan strives to provide a safe environment where his clients can grow and heal. He uniquely blends his experience with addicts and partners to provide relational healing and integration through all phases of the treatment process. His website is listed here

I asked Dan to come on the podcast today to continue talking about abuse within the context of sex addiction. Dan, this topic is very relevant and we are seeing it play out in our world today.  What makes you so interested in the topic of domestic abuse?

Porn Use Often Involves Interpersonal Abuse 

Dan: Coincidentally, this was a topic that we at our group wanted to put out some articles about. We’ve seen this play out so long, especially with sex addicted individuals. You’ve already had Dr. Minwalla on, and I’ll say, my background is that I worked with Omar for nearly five years.

I got to see firsthand the impact this was having on couples. Unfortunately, so many people are not addressing this. I think it’s important for me to say at the outset, I’m a male therapist and I’m also in recovery from sex addiction.

I think that’s important for me to point out, because in no way, especially talking about a topic like this, I don’t want to come across as mansplaining anything. I’ve seen this play out. I’ve seen this be so detrimental. At least in my experience, I’ve seen it be one of the most damaging pieces of sex addiction for betrayed partners.

Anne: Let’s talk about what is domestic abuse, because so many people do not define pornography use, or lies, or infidelity or a secret sexual life, those types of things aren’t seen as domestic abuse. How do you define domestic abuse? Especially within the context of sex addiction?

Abuse Involves More Than Just Hitting

Dan: I talk to a lot of guys and they’ll say, “Well, I never laid a hand on her.” The impact can still be the same, including intimidation. At domesticviolence.org, there’s a definition that they have which says, “any behaviors that one person uses in a relationship to control another person in the relationship”.

That could involve name-calling, put-downs, keeping a partner from contacting family or friends. That social isolation is a big piece. Withholding money. How many times finances get involved where the partner feels trapped because they don’t have resources to assist them to escape or get some independence.

Stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job. Actual or threatened physical harm. That could include sexual assault, stalking or  intimidation. It’s all about power, control and diversion. We can see this play out emotionally, psychologically or financially. As well as, isolation of the partner or spiritually, sometimes too.

Anne: Specifically, when we’re talking about a secret sexual life. When they are trying to control the narrative of who they are through lies? When they are hiding their sexual behaviors from their spouse, that can be a form of control. They are trying to control how other people perceive them. From your perspective Dan, how does domestic abuse play out in couples healing from abuse and betrayal trauma?

Dan: I see it a lot of different ways.  APSATS, I was part of the founding board. I was fortunate to be a part of that. When we were putting the curriculum together, one thing we needed to address is domestic abuse, because we’d seen this pattern so much.

Abuse Needs To Be Addressed

I was able to be part of that curriculum to help resolve it. I started looking at the domestic abuse literature and tried to compile all the different ways that this happens. The biggest way that someone can control another person, is controlling the narrative.  That’s not just through hostility. That can be through lies of omission or commission. I might be saying one thing, but I might be doing another. I could just be withholding pieces. That’s actually a huge part of the way this plays out.

I’ve heard over and over and over again, variations of this from betrayed partners. They’ll say “I can handle the truth, I just can’t handle the continued lies and deception.” Some variation of that happens, over and over again. I think that becomes a manipulation and control strategy that addicts use.

It could go from subtly as disparagement to abusive jokes, like putting your partner down.  Addicts might use that strategy. Then when they are called on it, they are just like “oh, you can’t take a joke”. It’s these “jokes”, but, they are not funny. They’re put-downs, they’re ridiculing.

I see a lot of narcissistic clients use disqualification or discounting. They’ll feel threatened if you start to shine. Whether that’s in career, or socially, or in any capacity. Sometimes they operate from a sense of, if you have something, that means I have something less. They might say something like “Well, you just got lucky.” or “It’s not that big of a deal.” They will put you down to not let you shine. In a lot of ways so that they can preserve their own image of being big. This can get even more aggressive with hostility. I see hostility as more verbal aggression. It’s a way you can subjugate someone verbally.

Porn Users Try To Hide Their Habits

That just doesn’t happen verbally, I’ve seen a lot of intimidation. They’ll induce fear in the other person. That could be through threatening gestures. Towering over somebody. Whether there’s actual physical violence or not, they still might feel threatened. That’s certainly part of domestic abuse.

Another way I see this is through imposition of behavior patterns, which is a category I define. Which can be social isolation and can also include, what I call, abusive insistence. This is where spiritual abuse can come in sometimes. Where someone says “Well, you’re supposed to submit to me, that means it’s your duty to have sex with me” whether you want it or not. That’s abuse. If you can’t consent, and they are using religion as a way of saying, you have to do something, that’s abuse. It can be undermining or sabotaging success, or someone’s sense of their own self-worth. Those are more direct.

There’s some other more passive or indirect types of abuse strategies that I see as indifference or diversion. They could be withholding sex, withholding emotion. Withholding love and praise and touch and validation. So many betrayed partners, they might have had decades they are just so touch deprived, so starved for love from their partner. That’s a form of abuse too.

Blaming The Betrayed Is Abusive

Then you’ve got ones that more subversive. That’s when you get into things like gaslighting and these other kind of covert manipulations. I call it apparent kindness. That could be “You seem really tired right now, why don’t I go run the errands”? In actuality, he’s using this to go act out.  The intent is not kindness, it’s actually to get an alibi.

Anne: I think it’s really interesting because if abusers could listen to this podcast, which thank goodness, most people who listen to the podcast are victims. But, abusers could listen to the podcast and these same things, could be used against me to abuse me. For example, when I would want to set a boundary because I didn’t feel safe, and I didn’t want to have sex. I would then be accused of withholding love. We only had one car, so I was accused of controlling his transportation.

I thought that it was interesting that he went down the abuse checklist and manipulated it and found ways to say that I was abusive in those ways. Then it was like, okay, are we both abusive? It got really, really confusing. I think that’s part of where the gaslighting comes in. It’s  the refusal to take accountability while turning the tables on somebody. Reality gets so confusing. I just remember thinking, what is real? What isn’t real? Am I going crazy?

Let’s talk about that for a minute. Let’s talk more about gaslighting as a strategy for domestic abuse. What can women do when their abusive partners are accusing them of abuse.

Gaslighting Is Abuse

Dan: Thanks for sharing that Anne. Unfortunately, that happens so much, what do we do for safety? What are we doing during the grieving process? Understandably, you are going to be angry after this betrayal comes out.

A lot of times, addicts can use that, unfortunately,  as a strategy to turn it right back on you, “Well, you are the one doing, this, this and this”. “You’re acting this way”. They’ll call you crazy. They hurl chaos tornados. Where they stand back and spin it to such a way that you feel crazy. Then you start acting ways that  justify what he’s actually doing.

That’s part of what gaslighting is. It’s a way of manipulating reality so that you take on these characteristics that’s he’s putting on you. This DARVO strategy, which comes from Jennifer Fried’s work. DARVO is how this plays out. Where the perpetrator goes from being the perpetrator to being the victim.

DARVO stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse, Victim, Offender.  If your intuition is saying something, you’re not wrong. Domestic abuse is the abusers problem. It’s not in any way your problem. You didn’t cause it. You didn’t do anything to deserve it. You can’t fix it. It’s his problem, not yours.

Interpersonal Abuse Is Harmful

So much of how society has run for so many years has been, turn around and blaming the victim. That’s why I wanted to be one man on this show to say, that’s not okay. I’m so grateful for this time in our society and how important it is to be talking about domestic abuse. There’s way too many victims, and we have to change this dynamic for women continuing to suffer.

Anne: You mentioned that you are a recovering addict. In your recovery, have you realized some of your behaviors when you were active in your addiction were abusive? How have you come to terms with that?

Dan: I am fortunate, where I did get into recovery before I met my wife. I was able to disclose to her and give her the truth. I did act in those ways, but not in my current relationship. I wasn’t aware of these patterns. I don’t think I would have ever intended to gaslight someone or harm someone. There’s a part of my life that I wanted to keep secret. I wanted nobody to find this out because I hated myself. I hated that part of me. I would lie. I would withhold. I would divert the truth.

Anytime we bring up the word abuse, everybody gets very nervous. Women think if I do admit that his behaviors are abusive, then do I have to get divorced? If a man says, okay, if I do admit that my behaviors is abusive, does that mean that I will be forever seen as this awful person?

Betrayal Is Abuse In A Relationship

Anne: Can we talk about that for a minute? Talking about abuse doesn’t necessarily have to equate with divorce. It doesn’t have to mean that someone is abusive forever, but it can be a step toward change.

Dan: Sure, absolutely. Just as I would expect anyone coming to me if it were about  me. Let me show myself trustworthy through consistent trustworthy actions over time. Let me show that to you. It’s the same thing with anyone. See his actions, What do his actions show you? Not just his words.

His words might say one thing, but what are his actions backing that up? Are they? Do they go together? For anyone listening, I think you can see over time, his he consistently working on these things.

Best case scenario, he may not have known that he was abusive. Now that he’s aware, is he working on that? What’s his plan to address those things? You had Omar Minwalla on. That’s something that is a big part of his program. It’s a great contribution. Looking at domestic abuse as patterns, and addressing them. One huge fundamental flaw I see in addiction recovery right now is there is a focus on sobriety. There’s very little focus on relational healing, which involves all of these attributes of abuse. I have a relational circle plan to try to bring in those patterns.

Porn Use Is Linked To Abuse In Relationships

To answer your question. If the addict starts to see these patterns and then they work on them. I think there’s hope. A lot of that is going to depend on what the actions are of the addict over time, and if he’s consistent with those.

Anne: It gives me hope for myself. There are moments where I want to control my children, for example, because they’re not doing what they are supposed to do. I yell, and I should not be yelling. I realize, okay, that was scary. That was scary to my kids. That was scary to me. That’s not okay. Can I change? Can I do better? All of us need to have that hope that we can do better. That we can improve. We can learn better ways of dealing with our fear. I have been thinking lately though, that a lot of women who are continually in the abuse cycle.

They say things like “He’s working so hard”. Instead of setting boundaries, they are trying to be supportive of their husband who is “working so hard” on his recovery, while still experiencing these abusive behaviors.  Do you see that in your practice ever with women who don’t want to set boundaries.

Abuse Can Look Like Isolation

Dan: Yes I do. What is heartbreaking is, unfortunately, what does it mean that he’s “working so hard”? What does that look like? What are the behaviors you are seeing? Again, going back to the behaviors. Is he working the steps? Is he doing something actively to heal and restore the relationship? Is he really getting the impact of these behaviors on you?

Those are the things you really want to be looking at. Is he really consistent? Is he minimizing? Is he getting defensive, right off the bat?  Is he saying it’s your fault? Is he putting you down? Does he not follow through with things? Even the small things.

Boundaries are for safety, not for punishment. I always have to  emphasize that. Boundaries are for you. They are for you. There are not for him. Not to take control. Addicts will try and say that, “oh you are controlling me”.  No, all you have to know is it’s really about you, and taking care of you.

Safety Is Key When There Is Abuse

This is for safety. He broke this. Now it’s his job to initiate the repair. If we are calling somebody an addict or an abuser or not. We get hung up on the label. Instead, if we talk about what the behaviors are and how damaging they are, that’s what I really want to see. For a lot of therapists, or coaches or counselors, sometimes we get uncomfortable.  It’s uncomfortable to talk about domestic abuse. Who wants to address this with clients sometimes?  It’s really uncomfortable.

If you do it in a way that’s saying, we aren’t trying to shame anybody. We still have to say that this is damaging, I can’t sign up for you damaging your partner or for the partner being in a relationship that’s not safe.

Anne: I’ve been thinking about teaching my sons, who are nine and six about boundaries and consent.  These issues related to domestic abuse. My son said to me the other day, “Mom, I made (my daughter, I won’t say her name), I made her some cereal, but I forgot to get her consent and  got her the wrong kind of cereal.”

I thought that was so cute, that he was thinking about consent. He said, I forgot to ask her what she wanted. He related that to consent. We can start talking to our children about this. We can start talking to each other about this. The more we can get educated about what consent really is. What domestic abuse is in terms of how do we treat other people really, truly with respect.

In terms of getting their consent, showing them respect. Giving them all the information they need to make good decisions. Not trying to control them through intimidation, through anger. We can have truly peaceful relationships. Which is the goal. That’s what we are all working towards, happy, peaceful and safe relationships.

Porn Is Abuse Because It Is Betrayal

What advice would you give our listeners who are impacted by domestic abuse right now in relation to their husbands sexual acting out?

Dan: First of all, for any betrayed partners listening, I have the utmost empathy and compassion for what you must be going through. I can’t even imagine how painful this must be. How confusing it must be. Your story needs to be heard. You have a right to be heard. The are great coaches that you can find or therapists. If you are the victim, you can get help and support. I want you to find safety and find that healing. I do think there’s hope.

This is to any of the men that are listening or should be listening, as a perpetrator. It’s not okay.  This is not her problem. You need to know that. It’s not enough to get sobriety. That won’t heal your relationship. It’s necessary, but not sufficient. You also have to do those things that are going to heal your relationship. Which means, stopping those abusive patterns and doing things that are healing. Providing empathy. Giving support. Being consistent. Consistent, trustworthy actions over time.

Showing love. Really showing her an amends. A lived amends. That means taking responsibility instead of playing the victim card or being a martyr, or making her the bad guy.

Abuse Can Be Addressed In Safe Ways

Anne: At Betrayal Trauma Recovery we truly believe that people can change. If they can recognize their behaviors. Be accountable, honest, humble, and are willing to submit to the process of recovery. Our goal as victims is to find safety while we wait to see if they will change. If they haven’t changed yet, then we are still not safe in the moment. If we can create safety in our lives, then we can make decisions coming from a peaceful place of safety rather than reacting to the abuse.

So many women are talking about this and they are trying to share their stories. It’s wonderful to have men join the conversation, as well to listen and to hear what we are saying. Abuse is a victim issue and a perpetrator issue.

Having men be open to recognizing which behaviors are abusive, and women too. All of us need to be aware of behaviors that we might be doing that are abusive to our families and our children. What I don’t want victims to think is “Oh, I don’t want to abuse my abuser by holding my abuser accountable”.

Porn Users Are More Often Abusive To Their Partners

Dan: There’s a place for anger. A lot of men will see understandable anger that the partner’s will have and they’ll label it as she’s being abusive. It becomes another gaslighting strategy. It gets really complicated. It gets really tricky. The general therapist, who doesn’t understand abuse is where it gets very confused. They start seeing it as it’s both people, rather than seeing it that she is a victim. His attempts to label her as an abuser, are just a continuation of the abuse.

The things he is saying about her. Over -exaggerating her faults. Over-exaggerating her weaknesses. Accusing her of hurting him are just abusive.

Anne: Tell me about your upcoming, in-person event in Southern California.

Dan: In a few weeks, on November 3rd, we’ve got an event that were doing called Surviving the Holidays. It’s a free event that we are doing for the community. We are just trying to have anyone come that’s in the L.A. area to come and basically talk about how do we handle this holiday season?

We are going to try and give some resources including some guides for traveling and how do we keep safety around travel programs and things like that. That’s something we’ve got coming up.

Porn Involves Lying And Objectification 

Anne: Thank you Dan for discussing these important issues with us today.

Thank you to those of you who support the podcast through your recurring, monthly donation. We would love to have your help to continue taking this free podcast to the world. Please offer a recurring, monthly donation. Your donation enables women to move toward safety.

We are looking forward to “Giving Tuesday”, which is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. As people are going about their shopping with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is a time where you can give back to non-profit organizations who have helped you.

This year for Giving Tuesday, we are preparing by letting everyone know that we would like you to donate on Giving Tuesday and also to contact your friends and family members and ask them to make a donation to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, which has helped so many women. So that we can continue to bring quality educational podcasts and information who desperately need our support.

We are adding two new Betrayal Trauma Recovery group sessions in November. Keep your eye out for those. As always, there is our individual sessions page. That will help you know the topics we recommend women know about as they start their recovery journey.

Until next week stay safe out there.

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