It leaves scars but there’s no trip to the emergency room.

It bleeds but there’s no blood.

It induces the most agonizing pain with every movement but an x-ray, CT scan, or MRI will never find anything out of place, broken, or enlarged.

There’s never a visible bruise.

Or physical evidence of any kind.

There’s no way he could be abusive.

Could he?

Many people believe that if there’s no bruise, there’s no abuse.

What they don’t understand is that THERE ARE BRUISES.

Others just can’t see them because they’re the hidden bruises of emotional and psychological abuse.

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery, discusses the difference between psychological and emotional abuse with Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse and Exposing Financial Abuse: When Money is a Weapon.

Shannon is owner and lead therapist of an award-winning counseling practice and co-founder of the non-profit Keep Dreaming Big Project. She has been featured on top media outlets.

The Hidden Abuses That Cause Emotional And Psychological Bruises

Like the elephant in the room, the hidden abuses are finally emerging from the background.

Popular media outlets and television shows are featuring guests and segments on some of the mechanisms used by these types of abusers.

But victims still aren’t receiving the recognition and support they need.

Shannon Thomas explains what those abuses are.

“Hidden abuses are those other types of abuses that you don’t see, that we don’t necessarily have obvious bruises and injuries from. They are the types of abuses that are more covert, and they are hidden. They include financial, emotional, psychological, sexual, and spiritual abuse.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse

Often, when victims of these types of abuse come forward, they’re met with disbelief and accusations.

“He’s not like that. He’s such a nice guy.”

“Well, if you’d lose weight/wear makeup/give him more sex/etc. then he wouldn’t treat you like that.”

“You shouldn’t lie about him like that.”

If people can’t see it, they don’t believe it.

What these people don’t understand is that the marks left from the abuse aren’t visible but they’re there.

Emotional and psychological abuse, specifically, tend to leave the deepest wounds and the ugliest scars that no one will ever see.

A smart, independent, confident woman has slowly been beaten down until there’s really nothing left of her except an empty shell.

And she doesn’t even feel like she’s one of those shells that’s hiding a beautiful pearl in the ocean.

No, she’s been so emotionally and psychologically battered that she feels like one of those ugly blah-brown shells left from a snail in the garden.

Why does she feel this way?

Why are these types of abuse so damaging?

Why do they wait until it’s that bad to try to get help?

The question she’s also asking herself is why didn’t she know it was happening?

Victims Of Hidden Abuse Can’t See The Bruises

How could she not have known what was happening?

Well, she did.

Sort of.

She knew something wasn’t right but she didn’t know what it was.

Emotional and psychological abusers aren’t as obvious as physical abusers in their behaviors.

On the contrary, physical abusers will raise a hand or fist, swing a leg, throw something, or use excessive force to move their victim.

Emotional and psychological abusers don’t have to raise a pinky or bat an eye to cause harm.

They simply use their words and the damage is done.

Some of the most common techniques they use are gaslighting, lying, and manipulation.

So how could she not have known what was happening?

Simple. He groomed her.

Basically, he set her up to believe he was going to be everything she wanted and needed.

Then, as she began to see that he wasn’t what he seemed, he used his techniques to make her believe something was wrong with her.

That feeling she had that something wasn’t right, it has to be her because there’s no way it’s him. He said so.

By the time, she realizes there were so many holes in his story, she starts to wonder if she even understood what he’d said, or if she even remembered what he said.

If she feels this about that, she’s wrong.

If she that about this, she’s wrong.

She just shouldn’t have feelings.

She shuts down.

Until she implodes.

That’s usually when she reaches out for help.

When she’s met with disbelief and accusation, what is she supposed to do next?

When no one recognizes what’s going on because even she can’t figure it out, she just knows that she needs help, what does she do?

Exposing Hidden Bruises: Emotional Abuse

The lack of recognition and proper support are a couple of the reasons why Shannon Thomas has become a strong advocate for educating the world on hidden abuses.

While there are several similarities between emotional and psychological abuse, Shannon believes there are also enough differences to distinguish between the two types of abusers.

Shannon says they both stem from entitlement and selfishness, but there is one thing that she believes sets them apart.

“I think the key difference is that emotional abusers can get better. They can come to an awakening that their behavior is toxic, that they may be perpetuating what they grew up in and can get help. They do get sustainable changes going on in their life. Psychological abusers don’t do that.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse

Because emotional abusers are usually practicing what they grew up with, Shannon believes they can replace their abusive behaviors with healthy ones.

She has also noticed that these types of abusers tend to feel bad for their abusive behavior once they learn to recognize what they’re doing.

“[Emotional abusers] abuse out of their own dysfunction. They’ll give authentic apologies but then fall right back into behaviors that they don’t want to be doing. They can feel shame. They can feel remorse. I don’t believe emotional abusers [find entertainment in abusing others].”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse

Emotional abusers don’t know how to cope with their own emotions so they really don’t know what to do when someone else expresses them.

Exposing Hidden Bruises: Psychological Abuse

While some similarities exist between emotional and psychological abuse, Shannon believes psychological abuse is starting to get a little more notice, but not enough.

“When it comes to psychological abuse, we’re starting to get more understanding on a general range as we’re talking about gaslighting, I still think that it’s not as understood as well as it needs to be and often it’s clumped in with emotional abuse, and those are very different.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse

Gaslighting, which comes from the 1938 play Gaslight, is a way of manipulating someone into doubting themselves.

While this is a very common technique, it isn’t the only one that psychological abusers use.

Shannon believes psychological abusers are more harmful than emotional abusers for one big reason: they enjoy watching the results of their work.

“Psychological abuse is wanting to deconstruct a person’s identity of themselves through things like gaslighting. Psychological abusers get entertainment out of the harm and chaos that they can cause. You can see the smirk. You can see the game playing and you can see that they’re gaining some energy from all of this dysfunction that they leave in their wake. Psychological abusers get entertainment out of the trauma they cause people.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse

For this reason, she believes psychological abusers are less likely to stop their abusive behaviors for more than a short period of time.

If they do stop their behavior, Shannon believes it’s most likely so they can get something out of it, then they’ll go right back to abusing.

Exposing Hidden Bruises: Financial, Spiritual, And Sexual

While emotional and psychological abuse are the most significant topic of discussion here, Shannon and Anne did briefly discuss the other types of abuses.

Regarding financial abuse, Shannon explained that it isn’t just withholding grocery money.

“There is a wide spectrum to financial abuse. It ranges from being exploited financially, used for what we can give, all the way to being controlled by finances, being controlled by an abuser with finances and everything in between.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse

Sexual abuse and coercion have often been discussed here, at BTR, as well as spiritual abuse.

Healing From Hidden Abuse: Six Stages

For victims of hidden abuse, it may seem hopeless, but Shannon says healing is possible.

She has created The 6 Stages Of Healing From Hidden Abuse.

6 Stages Of Healing From Hidden Abuse

  • Stage 1: Despair- Not knowing about hidden abuse

“This is when they really feel like they can’t come up for air. Their life is like a snow globe being shaken up and they don’t have the education or the terminology to be able to describe what’s happening in their life. They just know that things are not okay.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse
  • Stage 2: Education- Learning about hidden abuse

“In the context of psychological abuse, we give them some key terms that are foundational to psychological abuse, like gaslighting, intermittent reinforcement, and narcissistic injury. There is a distinct pattern with a psychologically abusive relationship, so we talk about the stages in these types of relationships, which are idealize, devalue, and discarding.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse
  • Stage 3: Awakening- Recognizing the hidden abuse

“The moment or moments where they come to an awareness of exactly what they’ve been living with and dealing with, that thing that they couldn’t put their finger on, but they knew was not right. It can be very bittersweet because it’s ‘I know I’m not crazy. He may have told me I was crazy and has spun me in all these different directions. I know now what I’m dealing with,’ but that’s a really hard reality to face, and it can be very painful, but also very freeing.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse
  • Stage 4: Boundaries- Taking action against the hidden abuse

“‘What am I going to do now, now that I know what I’m dealing with?’ Some people choose to stay in the relationship and set what I call ‘Detached Contact Boundaries.’ Other people get to a point where they can’t do this relationship and they try to go no contact, to whatever version they can.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse
  • Stage 5: Restoration- Damage control from hidden abuse

“Stage five is taking control and restoring what can be restored. This comes down the road where we start looking at those things that were lost during this relationship. It could be the way they view themselves. It could be relationships with family and friends. It could be a wide range. It could even be their health.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse
  • Stage 6: Maintenance- Healing from hidden abuse

“This takes time. This is not a quick fix at all, and we may loop to different stages throughout this process. Even on a given day we may be in boundaries and go back to despair and go back to blaming ourselves, and then having to go back to education to get grounded again.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse

These 6 Stages of Healing From Hidden Abuse have helped many, many women heal.

Anne points out that the purpose of BTR is to help with Stage 2: Education, even though she’s still being met with lots of pushback.

“I’ve been surprised at how people think they already know everything about abuse, or the walls go up and they push back and they don’t want to learn about it. They do not want to be educated.”

-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Shannon says it’s because of Stage 3: Awakening that people are so afraid of the education.

“Awakening is very hard and it’s painful. It is going to take quite a bit of what I call mental gymnastics to go back to not knowing what you know now. That is intensely frightening.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse

Shannon and Anne have a similar passion in educating others about these hidden abuses and helping victims heal.

Teaching Others About Hidden Bruises

Anne isn’t the only one who has received a lot of pushback about educating others about hidden abuses, Shannon has seen it a lot.

“I have really seen that with the financial abuse. People even in the abuse recovery community have this lackadaisical attitude when we know that up to 95-99% of abusive relationships, domestic abuse involve a financial abuse component. That’s a huge number. Yet, even in the recovery community itself, it has not been a topic that’s really been addressed.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse

Shannon expresses a desire for the large news outlets to cover more than just gaslighting, so victims can learn to recognize the abuse sooner.

“We have large news outlets that are touching on gaslighting specifically, but we also need to be discussing the other mechanisms of psychological and emotional abuse, so victims don’t get to a point where they feel like, ‘Okay, now I’m having to look that I’m being abused,’ when abuse and things that qualify as abuse were happening way before anything became physical. Because the truth is that it doesn’t always become physical at all, but all that damage is already there.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse

Anne agrees. She spent seven years going to therapists for couples counseling and porn addiction, when she was being abused the whole time.

She was trying to get help.

“This is really serious. This isn’t something that is ‘Maybe I just didn’t know because I’m from some backwoods place’ or whatever. No. This means that anyone could have this situation.”

-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Shannon recognizes that many in the mental health industry refuse to open their eyes to the hidden abuses.

“I think we have a holistic problem within the mental health industry that they do not recognize other forms of abuse besides physical. Secondary to that, I personally think, and this is not to step on any toes or to offend anybody, I think we have a real problem in the porn addiction therapy community, specifically.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse

Shannon also agrees that the addiction recovery world also needs to rethink their approach to sex and porn addiction.

“We’re using these models of looking at porn addiction from an addiction model like drugs and alcohol, but the game playing and the manipulation and everything that goes on underneath it is actually more in the model of psychological abuse.”

-Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse

Anne agrees wholeheartedly.

“Drug addicts abuse drugs, alcoholics abuse alcohol, and porn addicts and sex addicts abuse people. That’s what they abuse. They are abusive in their behaviors. They are abusing other people. Other people are their drug, and that’s what makes it so scary and difficult.”

-Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Shannon and Anne have made it their missions to teach others about these hidden abuses, so they can help victims recognize it sooner and get the help they need.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery makes safety for all women and families a priority.

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group provides a safe place to share with other women facing similar circumstances. With UNLIMITED access to more than 15 live sessions a week, it’s easier than ever to find a BTR Group session that fits your schedule without having to leave your home. Each session is led by a Certified Betrayal Trauma Specialist.

Full Transcript:

Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.

I have an amazing author on the podcast today, but before I get to her, we’ve made a lot of amazing changes to our website, btr.org, lately.

Our Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group, which has over 20 sessions a week and almost 90 sessions per month depending on how many days in the month there are, is the least expensive way to get immediate help. You can go to our website and join a session today without having to wait for an appointment.

Our coaches are amazing. They understand the abuse and they can help you set boundaries for your safety and they can also help you explore if it really is abuse. If you think, “I know something is wrong, but I don’t know what it is,” they can help you with that.

Some women don’t feel super comfortable in a group setting so we also have Individual Sessions available. Go to our website, btr.org, and check out the daily support group schedule by clicking on Services and then Daily Support Group.

I have Shannon Thomas on today’s episode. She is the international best-selling author of Healing from Hidden Abuse: A Journey Through the Stages of Recovery from Psychological Abuse and Exposing Financial Abuse: When Money is a Weapon.

Shannon is the owner and lead therapist of an award-winning counseling practice and co-founder of the non-profit Keep Dreaming Big Project. As a leading trauma therapist, Shannon is one of the few in the field to bridge the gap between pop culture and clinical advice.

Shannon has been featured in top media outlets including Oprah magazine, Associated Press, Business Insider, Yahoo!, Yahoo! Finance, Teen Vogue, Reader’s Digest, Elite Daily, Bustle, and now Betrayal Trauma Recovery, so we are really grateful to have her on.

Her book, Healing from Hidden Abuse, is on our website at btr.org/books. If you click on it, it will take you directly to Amazon where you can purchase it. This book has been published in multiple languages and serves as a road map for book studies and host groups in 11 countries.

Shannon also coined the Six Stages of Healing from Hidden Abuse model, which has favorable reviews and high applause from readers and medical professionals around the world.

Shannon understands the need to be an overcomer. Life has thrown some interesting twists and turns along her path and we are so happy to have her on today, welcome Shannon.

Shannon: Thank you. Thank you so much. I’ve been looking forward to getting a chance to chat with you.

Anne: You are the international best-selling author of Healing from Hidden Abuse and Exposing Financial Abuse.

Can you describe hidden abuse for our listeners?

Shannon: You bet. Hidden abuses are those abuses and behaviors associated with them that are not as obvious. As a culture, we’ve really come to understand what domestic violence is when it comes to physical abuse.

Hidden abuses are those other types of abuses that you don’t see, that we don’t necessarily have obvious bruises and injuries from. They are the types of abuses that are more covert, and they are hidden. They include financial, emotional, psychological, sexual, as well as spiritual abuse.

Anne: When you talk about sexual abuse, that’s something that we talk about quite a bit on our podcast. The sexual coercion that happens when a man is using pornography or having an affair and not letting his wife know about it, so she does not have the ability to give consent to be in the relationship because there are all of these behaviors that she doesn’t know about. That’s one thing that we talk about quite frequently, but I’m really interested to talk about the other ones.

Can you give one example of abuse that a lot of people or the general public wouldn’t necessarily say, “That’s abuse,” or “That is clearly abusive,” once they’re educated about it?

Shannon: I believe that psychological abuse is one, as well as financial. With the financial abuse, there is a wide spectrum to it. It ranges from being exploited financially, used for what we can give, all the way to being controlled by finances, being controlled by an abuser with finances and everything in between.

I think there’s still a lot of confusion around what exactly financial abuse is, so I wrote Exposing Financial Abuse as an exposé. It’s full of survivor stories, in their own words, and we included everything, whether it would be marriage or business partners or family. I think there is the biggest gap in knowledge around financial abuse and exactly what it involves.

When it comes to psychological abuse, we’re starting to get more understanding on a general range as we’re talking about gaslighting, there are more articles on intermittent reinforcement and some of the terms that go along with psychological abuse. I still think that it’s not as understood as well as it needs to be and often it’s clumped in with emotional abuse, and those are very different.

Anne: They’re very different, but they are all very similar in some ways too. Wouldn’t you say that they all come from the heart of entitlement attitudes. They’re all coming from the same place but exhibiting themselves differently or would you not agree?

Shannon: No, I think you’re right about them both coming from a place of entitlement and selfishness. I think the key difference is that people who are emotional abusers can get better. They can come to an awakening that their behavior is toxic, that they’re perpetuating, maybe, what they grew up in and they can get help and they do get sustainable changes going on in their life.

Psychological abusers don’t do that. They may, for a very short time, be in the doghouse and change the behaviors and may even try to go to counseling. But it’s mostly for manipulative purposes and as soon as the dust settles, they are right back to baseline behaviors.

Even though entitlement, lack of attachment, and all of those lacking in empathy can come with both emotional and psychological abuse, emotional abusers can get better and change and have changed lives and changed relationships.

We don’t see that with true psychological abusers. Any change is only temporary and for their own gain.

Anne: What is the difference between emotional abuse and psychological abuse?

Shannon: The difference between emotional and psychological abuse is the intent. Emotional abusers, I like to say, are wounded and they wound other people. They’re messy. They don’t necessarily have a sense of how their behaviors are impacting others. There are no excuses for it. It is still terrible, it is abusive, and it has to change.

Psychological abusers get entertainment out of the trauma they cause people. I don’t believe emotional abusers do. They’re abusing out of their own dysfunction. They will give authentic apologies but then go fall right back into behaviors that they don’t want to be doing themselves.

They can feel shame. They can feel remorse. We see this with folks that need to go through rehab programs. We see this with people who really need to step away from the habits that they’ve created that are unhealthy.

Psychological abuse is wanting to deconstruct a person’s identity of themselves through things like gaslighting. A psychological abuser gets entertainment out of the harm and chaos that they can cause. You can see the smirk. You can see the game playing and you can see that they are gaining some energy from all of this dysfunction that they leave in their wake. Those are two really different people.

Anne: That is really interesting because as I think about our community, they are all wives and ex-wives of porn users who went down the porn addiction route or the porn addiction recovery route without having the abuse identified, but all of them have also suffered emotional, psychological, sexual abuse, the hidden kinds.

It wasn’t seen by therapists or other people who were thinking, “Oh, he’s just sick, let’s handle him with gloves, let’s make sure he’s okay, and you need to be supportive of his recovery,” sort of thing, while they’re still being abused. It is such a dangerous situation.

Once women understand what’s going on, healing from it is a process, as you know. So, in your book Healing from Hidden Abuse, you develop a recovery model that follows Six Stages of Healing from Abuse. What are the six stages and how are they helpful to victims of abuse and betrayal? 

Shannon: The first stage is despair. That’s the stage where we really don’t have a sense of what’s happening, we just know things are out of control. This is also the stage where a lot of people will have a lot of self-blame. “If only I was a better spouse.” “If only I could be more patient. “If only, if only,” and they really feel like they can’t come up for air. Their life is like a snow globe being shaken up and they don’t have the education or the terminology to be able to describe what’s happening in their life. They just know that things are not okay.

We go right into the second stage which is education. That’s where, in the context of psychological abuse, we give them—and I give them in the book—some key terms that are foundational to psychological abuse, like I said, the gaslighting, the intermittent reinforcement, narcissistic injury. We talk about the stages that these types of relationships go through which are idealize, devalue, and discarding stages. There is a distinct pattern with a psychologically abusive relationship.

The third stage is an awakening. This is where people have a moment or moments where they come to an awareness of exactly what they’ve been living with and dealing with, that thing that they couldn’t put their finger on, but they knew was not right. That gut check becomes now very aware because they’ve gone through the education and they can talk about it. They describe these hidden abuses as trying to describe air. It’s very difficult without the right terminology.

The awakening can be very bittersweet because it’s “I know I’m not crazy. This other person may have told me I was crazy and has spun me in all these different directions. I know now what I am dealing with,” but that’s a really hard reality to face, and it can be very painful, but also very freeing.

Then after we come out of the awakening stage, we get right into the fourth stage, which is boundaries. “What am I going to do now, now that I know what I’m dealing with?” Some people choose to stay in the relationship and set what I call “Detached Contact Boundaries.” Other people get to a point where they can’t do this relationship and they try to go no contact, to whatever version they can, depending on children they share and things like that.

The fifth stage is restoration. This comes down the road where we start looking at “What are those things that were lost during this relationship?” It could be the way they view themselves. It could be relationships with family and friends. It could be a wide range. It could even be their health.

Many times, these types of toxic relationships deeply impact the wellness and health of the victim. In restoration, we look at those areas that we can bring restoration to, but there are times and moments and memories that we can never get back and we have to grieve those. But that stage five is taking control and restoring what can be restored.

Stage six is maintenance. “What do I do now that I have walked through all of these stages?” This takes time. This is not a quick fix at all, and we may loop to different stages throughout this process. Even on a given day we may be in boundaries and go back to despair and go back to blaming ourselves, and then having to go back to education to get grounded again.

Those are the six: despair, education, awakening, boundaries, restoration and then maintenance.

Anne: The education stage, that second stage, why do you think so many women are scared to read a book like Healing from Hidden Abuse or Why Does He Do That? or The Verbally Abusive Relationship?

I think they think, “Well, I don’t want to make something out of this.” Like, “If it’s not abuse, I don’t want someone to talk me into thinking it’s abuse.” Some women are just afraid of even getting educated about it because they think, “If I find out he is abusive then that’s going to be really bad. I want my family to stay together. I don’t want to get divorced. What options do I have?”

Can you talk about that fear of becoming educated?

Shannon: Yeah, there is a huge fear, and I think you touched on both of the reasons. I think part of it is, like I said, awakening is very hard and it’s painful. Also, the boundary stage is where a lot of people get stuck because, “I’m out of despair, I’ve been educated, I’ve had this awakening that, yes, this is very real, and now what am I going to do?”

It is going to take quite a bit of what I call mental gymnastics to go back to not knowing what you know now. That is intensely frightening. I’ve also heard from a lot of clients, over the years, and people that I’ve spoken to who’ve said, “I don’t want to make a big deal out of nothing. This is not abuse. I have never been physically harmed,” “Every marriage has problems.” Depending on their faith community it can also be, “You’re supposed to be in this ‘Until death do you part or until you have some biblical grounds to leave.’”

There’s a large range of belief systems about divorce and marriage. I think people avoid wanting to read the books because it’s fear, it’s also, “My situation doesn’t fit into this, so this isn’t going to be relevant and I’m already stressed and busy. This is going to be a waste of time.” Then there’s the subconscious “I bet my life is going to be in here and that’s going to be really painful.” 

Anne: I just want women to become educated about it. That is the goal of Betrayal Trauma Recovery. That’s what we have been doing since I started podcasting.

I really think it’s interesting how we get labeled as man-haters or they just want women to get divorced. People accuse me of all sorts of things when, really, I just want to educate people about abuse. It’s pretty cut and dry. It’s not like I’m trying to cut every man’s private parts off or something.

I just want to educate people about abuse. Abuse is a behavior, and people can change their abusive behaviors, if they choose to. A lot of them don’t choose that, and you need to stay at a safe distance until those abusive behaviors have stopped.

It’s pretty cut and dry but when you bring up the word “abuse”—and I’ve been surprised at how people think they already know everything about abuse, or the walls go up and they push back and they don’t want to learn about it. They do not want to be educated.

Shannon: I have really seen that with the financial abuse. People even in the abuse recovery community have this lackadaisical attitude when we know that up to 95-99% of abusive relationships, domestic abuse involve a financial abuse component. That’s a huge number. Yet, even in the recovery community itself, it has not been a topic that’s really been addressed.

I wrote Healing from Hidden Abuse in 2016, so it was part of that first emergence of books from Jackson MacKenzie and Shahida Arabi, there really weren’t that many books out there at the time. Now you look, and we’re almost at four years, and there is a plethora of information, some of it not very good. There also was Lundy’s book before all of ours, but there were a few. There were very few books out there.

When we went to do some research for the financial abuse book, we could find no books that were specific to financial abuse in a relationship. There were some podcasts, there was a couple of blogs, there were a few books about finances and rebuilding, but nothing specific that told survivor stories about how money is used as a weapon.

That’s why I wrote that book, really as an exposé to pull back the curtain. I think that, when it comes to needing to get to the physical place so that people realize, “Okay, I’m in an abusive relationship,” that is the heart of the problem that we’re still seeing.

I was really glad to see that The Today Show did a piece on gaslighting with Maria Schriver. We’ve got some large news outlets that are touching on gaslighting specifically, but we also need to be discussing the other mechanisms of psychological and emotional abuse, so that victims don’t have to get to a point where they feel like, “Okay, now I’m having to look that I’m being abused,” when, like you said, abuse and things that qualify as abuse were happening way before anything became physical because the truth is that it doesn’t always become physical at all, but all that damage is already there.

Anne: Yeah, and in my case, we’d been going to therapy for seven years. I’d been staring it in the face, trying as hard as I could to hit what the problems were head-on, and because I went down the pornography addiction route and they never talked about abuse—abuse wasn’t even mentioned, which I think is crazy now—because I was hitting it as hard as I could by going to therapists, reading books about addiction, I’m thinking, “If I, a proactive person who wants to solve problems, is going at this as directly as I can and I can’t figure it out for seven years, this is serious.”

This is really serious. This isn’t something that is maybe I just didn’t know because I’m from some backwoods place or whatever. No. This means that anyone could have this situation. Just the lack of education about abuse is astounding to me and it’s astounding that trying to solve a problem for seven years and looking at it like that, I still didn’t find it until he got arrested for assaulting me.

That still stuns me. I think we probably went to over seven therapists.  

Shannon: I think it should stun you. I personally think there is a real problem in the mental health field, and I am a therapist and I’m more than happy to say that, because I think it’s true. I think one of the things that are an issue is that our counseling programs have, historically, not trained people coming out of a master’s program to identify hidden abuse.

They have obviously gone to identify domestic violence, but that is changing for sure because I myself have gone out and spoken to different classes. I know other therapists are doing trainings. I know we are starting to get there. I think we have a holistic problem within the mental health industry that they do not recognize other forms of abuse besides physical.

Secondary to that, I personally think, and this is not to step on any toes or to offend anybody, I think we have a real problem in the porn addiction therapy community, specifically.

Anne: I could not agree more. I absolutely agree with you.

Shannon: I think they’re using a model, as a whole, that is an addiction model that we would use when it comes to alcohol, drug addiction, those types of things. The difference is that, in alcohol and drug addiction, yes, there are exploitive behaviors that happen, but they are not the same type of exploitive behaviors that happen when you are dealing with a sex addict.

We’re using these models of looking at porn addiction from an addiction model like drugs and alcohol, but the game playing and the manipulation and everything that goes on underneath it is actually more in the model of psychological abuse.

Anne: Absolutely.

Shannon: That’s where I think we get seven years of therapy without the word abuse ever coming up. I think that’s a major problem.

Anne: I agree, which is why I started Betrayal Trauma Recovery. This is why I started podcasting. It’s just stunning to me, still, that there is an entire industry that is basically asking abuse victims to “Don’t make a decision about your safety until you’ve been in couple therapy for six months,” or whatever. I mean stuff like that, that is pretty industry-standard for sex addicts, just absolutely should not be happening in an abuse situation.

Shannon: Well, it ends up being terrorizing to the victim.

Anne: Yeah, absolutely. I say drug addicts abuse drugs, alcoholics abuse alcohol, and porn addicts and sex addicts abuse people. That’s what they abuse. They are abusive in their behaviors. They are abusing other people. Other people are their drug, and that’s what makes it so scary and difficult.

That’s the whole point of Betrayal Trauma Recovery is to catch women who are going down that pornography addiction recovery route and say, “Whoa, you need to be educated about abuse because this is not going to help you.”  

Shannon: We also see that in the porn addiction or the very traditional sort of model of porn addiction recovery and where we’re asking family members or partners to be a part of that recovery.

We also see in a faith-based community, where you have somebody that their faith is important to them and the abuser is saying the words that need to be said so that they can gain the sympathy and then all of the responsibility is now being put on the victim to keep this marriage together and to be “not giving their marriage over to the devil.”

All of this pressure is put on the victim, when the focus needs to be on the perpetrator’s behaviors.

Anne: Absolutely, and on her safety.

Shannon and I are going to continue our conversation next week. I’m so grateful for her time. I’m grateful for all women who are sharing their stories of hidden abuse and betrayal and the emotional and psychological abuse that they suffered while they were being betrayed, unknowingly, and then afterward when they found out about their husband’s double life or when they found out about the psychological abuse that they experienced and they tried to confront their abuse and then sometimes the abuse escalates, sometimes it gets better depending on the situation.

This is the place for women to share their stories. So, if you would like to share y our story, please email my assistant, Kari, at kari@btr.org. Send a brief synopsis of your story and let us know that you’d like to come on the podcast.

If this podcast is helpful to you, please rate it on iTunes or any of your other podcasting apps. Every single one of your ratings helps isolated women find us. I love reading the reviews that you write. It’s so encouraging, and I really appreciate it.

Similarly, thank you to those of you who support this podcast by setting recurring monthly support. You can do that by going to our website btr.org, scrolling down to the bottom, and click on Support the Podcast. We really appreciate your support.

Until next week, stay safe out there.

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