Victims of betrayal and abuse deserve validation, compassion, and a safe place to process trauma.
When Chelsea joined BTR group sessions, she found the support she needed on her healing journey. Listen to her powerful story of identifying abuse and working toward safety; tune in to the BTR podcast and read the full transcript below for more.
Recognizing Abuse Is Difficult For Victims
Many victims, including Chelsea, spend years, sometimes decades, enduring abuse without knowing that they are being abused.
Often, it takes support in order to identify abuse, especially the cover abuse that many women in the BTR community experience.
BTR Group Sessions: Find Validation, Community, & Support
“I do feel like there’s a lot of validation. When I went to BTR, whenever I would have a situation in group, and they would tell me what it was, that was really validating for me.”Chelsea, member of the BTR community
BTR Group Sessions can help you identify abuse. But the daily, online group sessions also provide a setting for processing trauma, sharing difficult emotions, and asking questions.
BTR Is Here For You
No matter where you are on your journey to healing, you deserve compassion. BTR is here for you.
Join the BTR Group Sessions today and find the community that you deserve. We love you.
Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery, this is Anne.
I have a member of our community on today’s episode, we’re going to call her Chelsea. She’s going to be sharing her story. Welcome, Chelsea.
Chelsea: Hi. I’m so glad to be here. BTR has helped me so much, so I’m just excited that I got to get on here and contribute as much as you guys have helped me.
Anne: Thank you, and you sharing your story will help other women, so it’s an awesome circle of life.
Chelsea: It’s a club we don’t want to be in but we are.
Chelsea on the BTR Podcast
Anne: Exactly. So, let’s start from the beginning of your story. When you first met your husband, did you recognize, or maybe when you first got married did you recognize his behaviors as abuse at first?
Chelsea: No, I definitely didn’t. I guess everything’s hindsight 20/20, but at the time I was a single mom of two kids myself, so I don’t know if it was just insecurities I wasn’t aware of, but it kind of just like a lot of other stories go. It just happened slowly, and it was right circled around insecurities I already had so I didn’t really notice it at first.
Anne: Did you think something was wrong? When did you start recognizing like something’s not quite right?
Chelsea: I would say it was like, a few months into dating. I guess the biggest thing for me was all the things he had originally complimented me about or liked about me, he started to make comments about that in like a derogatory kind of way. So, I guess that’s why they recognize it as abuse. I remember being emotionally distressed but not really understanding why. If that makes sense.
Recognizing the Abuse
Anne: So, he kind of changed his tune? So, I’m just using this as an example. Maybe he said you’re so beautiful, I’m so attracted to you, and then later maybe he was like you’re not attractive to me.
Chelsea: Yeah. Yeah, basically. So, a couple of examples early on where I was single and I have a really good co-parenting relationship with my ex-husband. I had the perfect situation for me, which was like, I had my kids during the week and on the weekends. I was 25 years old back then; this was five years ago, and I kind of just had the best of both worlds in a way and I’m a very social butterfly, life of the party kind of person and I love to wear red lipstick. That’s just a small example because he did end up using that against me a lot. It was like one of those weird off to the side things, but just stuff like that.
So, when we first were dating, he would you know compliment that I was so fun, and he liked how I did my makeup and stuff like that. And then even like, just things about like how good of a mom I was and then fast forward a few months, probably like four, five, six months is when it all slowly started going downhill. He started saying things like you have children at home, why are you acting like this? And why do you wear makeup like that? It makes people think you’re XYZ. And that’s really how the very beginning of it started.
“It Took Me Years to Realize It Was Abuse”
Anne: This is an interesting question because I get this too. I think all victims get it, right. Where it’s like if you saw a few red flags before you got married, you knew what you’re getting into or something like that, which is not true at all. But did you think that marriage would maybe solve some of these things? Were you thinking that okay, once we’re married, you know, blah, blah, blah, then these things will get better? Did you have any thoughts like that?
Chelsea: Yes and no. So, what ended up happening was I ended up getting pregnant about a little less than a year of dating, and that was a whole fiasco. That’s a whole other story, but right before I got pregnant, I tried to cut it off. It took me years to realize it was abuse. So that definitely never really came into my mind, but it was so emotionally tumultuous. I don’t know if that is a good word to use. I was like I can’t do this anymore. The way he would degrade me or like the way fights would go. I was like, I don’t want to do this anymore. And then that cycle of abuse was already in play. That wasn’t really any different than after we were married, but I tried to break up with him. I actually moved away, a couple hours away, for a job and I was like, okay, this is going to help me cut it off because it’s really hard to cut things off with an abuser, whether you’re married or not married, you know. And to me that was like my way; you know, emotionally I was having a hard time cutting it off because he would always come back around as they do. I was like if we’re physically not in the same place this should be good.
Understanding the Abuse Cycle
Well, he ended up coming to still visit me on the weekends, and these episodes still kept happening every time he was there. And it would always be this big whole thing. Like the cycle of abuse definitely was happening still, and then I ended up finding out I was pregnant. And in hindsight, I tell the story sometimes now; I have multiple kids and this instance was like the only time I remember just like falling and sobbing on the floor. At the time, I just was like I just started this new job, like I was trying to start this new life or whatever, but now in hindsight, I think it was more of that subconscious knowing that what was really happening underneath all of it was the abuse I was going through. And how that was just going to make it so much worse, and it did.
Anne: So, you got married because you were pregnant, essentially?
Chelsea: Basically, yeah. Like he ended up begging for me back and like wanting to make it work and of course, add a pregnancy in there and you’re already vulnerable. Like in these cycles, at least that’s how it was for me, these cycles come around and add a pregnancy in there and it’s like, okay, I really want this to work now. Like I already have two other kids. I don’t want to have another kid and be a single mom. And at that point, I still really wanted to be with him, but I was like fighting that war with myself. So, I just wanted to believe him when he said he wanted to make it work. So yeah, we ended up getting married, but even our wedding, leading up to the wedding, and our wedding; we eloped, and even our wedding night was just horrible.
Horror Honeymoon With an Abuser
Anne: A lot of people have horror honeymoon stories or wedding night stories. Yeah, that’s awful.
So, you’re married and you’re pregnant. Do you start trying to make things work? You know, like trying to love, serve, forgive, be understanding, you know, that sort of thing? Do you start doing the common marriage advice or common church advice at this point?
Chelsea: So, we end up getting married after the baby was born, he was a few months old at the time, because all this whole drama played out for a while before I ended up moving back and everything. But I didn’t notice, I moved back and that’s when I quit my job and like pretty much left my career, because I had a corporate career at that point, to be with him and be a stay-at-home mom. And that’s like really what I thought I wanted at the time.
Anne: Really quick, what’s his job?
Chelsea: He’s in the military.
Anne: Okay, so he’s got a stable, respectable job.
“Things Really Turned Once I Was Fully Dependent On Him”
Chelsea: Yes, and that was used against me all the time, but that’s another story. But yeah, so I noticed that, as I told you the story of four or five or six months into dating is when things turned, well then things really turned once I was fully dependent on him. That’s when things got even worse. At that point, we did some counseling and things like that, just like typical stuff, but at that point, I don’t know. It’s crazy looking back on it now because I’m like, I don’t know what I was thinking. I think I really was just going through the motions. I don’t know any other way to describe it.
Anne: What did he seem like to the counselors? Did he seem like a really upstanding good guy to the counselors?
Chelsea: Yeah, and even through the years, like he will admit that he has “problems,” but like, it would always be like yes, I have problems but it’s not me. As ironic as that is, you know what I mean?
Anne: If you just love me for who I am and helped me out, but they’re your fault, because you’re not understanding and because you’re not patient and because you’re not forgiving or something.
Blame-Shifting: A Universal Tool of Abusers
Chelsea: Or he would always blame my own because he came from like a very well-off family, and I didn’t. So, he always tried to make it seem like you know, I have a lot of trauma from my childhood, which I feel like that plays into it, at least for me personally, and ending up in a situation like this, to begin with. But he would use that against me. Like well, you’re the one who has mental health issues. You’re the one who has trauma. Like it’s clearly not me, the only issues I have is, you know, the cheating or the prostitutes or whatever the case may be. Like, you are the one who is basically “crazy.” And that was just really hard because I think in a way, I believed it.
Anne: So, when did you recognize that this was abuse?
Chelsea: Oh, gosh, you know, not until probably the last six months to a year before I ended up leaving, which was earlier this year. I didn’t realize it was actual abuse. This is something he would say too. So, as I said, I believed it. And he says that to this day, like I was abusive. He’s not an abuser.
Anne: I play tennis, but I’m not a tennis player.
The “Toxic” Lie That Abusers Use To Manipulate Victims & Therapists
Chelsea: Yeah, basically. And then he would even be like and, a lot of things he would say to like multiple marriage counselors we went to over the years were like, well, I used to be the abusive one but now we’re equal. Now we’re just toxic because we’re equal. Like that really came into play the last couple of years before I ended up leaving.
Anne: And because an abuser would never admit that he’s abusive.
Chelsea: Yeah, I think that’s part of it.
Anne: Then they believed him, right. You know what, this is a catch-22 because they admit they’re abusive, and suddenly they’re like a saint. Wow, this is a man who can really be honest and stuff. And so, in that way, you’re thrown under the bus because it’s like he’s changed what’s wrong with you? And then if they won’t admit it, and they just present as this really great guy, then they also are like, he’s a great guy. Like it’s a lose-lose. Either way, the woman isn’t believed.
When Therapists Don’t Call Out Abuse
Chelsea: Yeah, and I will tell you something that happened when I was pregnant before we got married, and I was going to counseling or like therapy. And I wish sometimes that they would call it for what it is because I think she was really a therapist, and she definitely made it known that she did not like him, like as much as she could in a professional way, you know. But I remember telling her of an incident that had happened where he had said something to me like, about my past, like well, how do you live with yourself? Something like that? I told her about it, and she was like, he said that? Like that is not okay. She said stuff like that, but in hindsight, I’m like why didn’t she just tell me that was abuse? Instead of telling me like, that’s not okay. Like, you know, she was very adamant about that, like I could see the conviction in what she said. But now in hindsight, I’m like why didn’t you just tell me I was being abused?
Trauma Mama Husband Drama
Anne: I am going to 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 which has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book, Trauma Mama Husband Drama, 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.
Thank you so much for your review, and now back to our conversation.
Ask Yourself: Do I Feel Cherished?
Anne: People will be like well, I don’t like this thing, but I need a label for it in order to be able to take action. Like, people ask me all the time that this is what happened is this abuse or not? I don’t want to say well, it is abuse, but let’s just throw that out the window for two seconds. Are you okay with that? And maybe that’s what she was sort of doing? Because victims don’t need some expert to come in and tell them okay, this is what you should and shouldn’t accept. Like, what a really good therapist would do or the coaches here at BTR is don’t worry about what the label is. Sure, it’s abuse. Yes. But like, let’s really just look at what kind of life do you want, right? Is this acceptable to you? And you need to become the source of your own expertise. Like, you are the expert on your life. You are the expert on what you want your life to be like. So, we don’t need to listen to someone else telling us this is abuse or not to say I don’t like this. This is not enjoyable. I don’t feel cherished. This is actually quite miserable. And even if it didn’t fall under the realm of “abuse,” let’s pretend for a second. If that’s not something that you want to live with, you don’t need someone else to tell you that in order to say hey, like, this is what I want.
BTR Group Sessions Can Help You Process Trauma & Abuse
Chelsea: Yeah, you know what, you have a good point. And now that I talk to more people about this openly, yeah, I say the same thing. I think that’s what it got to. It was like I could tell him he was abusive all day long, you know, that went on for 6-12 months after I put a label on it, and that didn’t really help because he would just deflect like he did everything else before I put a label on it. So yeah, I mean, you have a really good point. But I do feel like there’s a lot of validation. Like when I went to BTR, whenever I would have a situation in group, and they would tell me what it was, that was really validating for me. Like this is what’s happening, and it’s like okay. Because they make us question our reality so much.
Anne: Yeah. I’m not saying don’t call out the abuse. That’s not what I’m saying. But I just want women to know that like, you don’t need someone else to tell you, although yes, it’s helpful, that’s what we do here at BTR. It’s abuse, it’s abuse, it’s abuse all day long. Because I’m like, I just wish women had that inside of themselves, but I’m so grateful that we’re here to help validate.
Chelsea: Oh, for sure. And like, I think that goes hand-in-hand with the narcissist thing. Like people always want to know is he a narcissist? And I’m like well, it doesn’t really matter. The label doesn’t matter because how is he treating you?
Recognizing the Abuse
Anne: Exactly. So, did you recognize it was abuse when you found BTR? Or before? Or how did you find BTR?
Chelsea: Like I can’t remember the exact time. You know how trauma brain goes. Like you can’t even remember doing things. Yeah, I don’t remember the exact time, but I just remember the timeframe and I was about to leave. I already had been looking at apartments and like I’d made the decision to leave. I think I was listening to the podcast. I think I just knew that I needed something to like keep me accountable. I was scared of myself that I wouldn’t follow through with it.
Anne: Okay, so you start listening to the podcast, and then you join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group?
Chelsea: It was right around the same time that I knew I wanted to leave. I listened to the podcast and binge listened. I read Why Does He Do That?, and that was like very pivotal for me. It was that book. Why Does He Do That is what I tell everyone about that and BTR. Like, those are the two things I tell everybody about. Once I read that book, I read it in like two days, I was like oh, this is my life. This is not going to change. You know, likely not going to change, and I need to do something. So, then I joined BTR group. I was scared that he was going to come back around because I had seen the cycle so evident at that point that I was like he’s going to come back around. Like, I’m going to pay for this apartment, I’m going to tackle my stuff, and then he’s going to beg for me back. Like I don’t know how I’m going to handle this. I knew I needed something to help me through that part, and then I ended up staying for a while.
How Do Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group Sessions Help Victims?
Anne: So, talk about your experience with Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group. You join, we have multiple sessions a day in every time zone. Talk about how that helped. You mentioned before how when women and the coaches were saying this is abuse, this is abuse, that it was super helpful because it was validating, and you felt like you weren’t going crazy. Can you talk more about how that gave you strength through this process?
Chelsea: Yeah, like that gave me strength because they would label things that I didn’t even know. Like, I remember I think in my first session, I don’t even remember the incident that was happening, but I told one of the coaches what was happening, and they were like that DARVO. I was like, I don’t even know what that is. And then when she told me I was like oh my gosh! Like my mind was like, blown because I was like, how? This happens to me constantly. How did I never know there was a term for this?
What is DARVO?
Anne: We should take a minute to define DARVO. So, if you have not heard of DARVO, it’s an acronym. It stands for Deny, so your abuser abuses you and you call him out on it. Hey, you’re using porn, or you cheated on me or you lied to me or you’re manipulating me or something, or you hurt my feelings. Even as simple as that really hurt my feelings. They Deny that it happened and then they Attack. So the D is deny, the A is attack you, and then the process of that ends up reversing, that’s the V, the Victim, and Offender role. So, a really famous one would be prominent people who are accused of rape for example. So, Bill Cosby is a very good example. Someone accuses him of rape, he denies that it happens, then he attacks the victim and says no, no, no, she’s just trying to get money, she’s just trying to get attention. I’m the victim here because she’s trying to ruin my life. So, the victim-offender role gets reversed. So again, Deny, Attack, and then Reverse the Victim and Offender role.
Chelsea: Yes, so I remember that was in my first session. I remember just being like, this happens to me like almost on a daily basis. This happens to me by his family. This happens to me by him, like I can’t believe there is a word for this. I remember just leaving that session being like, oh my gosh.
“I Get To Decide if I Want to Be In This Situation”
Then I kept going through the process of moving out and everything, and something aside from the support and everything. Hearing everyone’s stories was really impactful for me, I guess because I realized I didn’t know what the goal was, I guess. I knew it was supportive, but I didn’t know like how it would be. Once I saw that they aren’t really persuading you to do one thing or another, and it’s more about making your own decisions and deciding for yourself what you want to do or what’s happening. Anyway, hearing other people’s stories and realizing wow, I get to decide if I want to still be in this situation 5, 10, 20 years from now or not, you know. That was very enlightening for me, hearing other people how long they had to go through it. Like, that was a real wake-up call for me.
Anne: I think that’s one reason why women are afraid to join Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group is that they’re afraid that if they find out it’s abuse, or if they acknowledge it’s abuse, that they’ll have to get divorced, for example, and they’re just not quite ready to do that yet. Or some other version of that where they feel like they’ll go down a road they don’t really want to go down. A lot of women are worried about that. What would you say to a woman who’s concerned about that?
Find Validation in the BTR Group Sessions
Chelsea: From my experience, I mean, I can’t say because like I had already planned on leaving when I did join, but from the stories I saw, I remember just really seeing how people could find even that little bit of safety. Like, no they weren’t ready to leave or maybe they don’t want to leave at all and knowing they could have support. Like validation that their feelings are valid, what they’re going through is valid, and even just finding the strength to be able to stand up for themselves or self-care. Like, I always remember them asking what our self-care was for the day and I remember being like I don’t know, I don’t ever do self-care, you know, just stuff like that.
I think it’s so important even when you’re in that situation, you’re so like spun out trying to survive and like keep your head above water. It’s like a breath of fresh air to be in a group where you’re understood and validated regardless of if you are planning to leave or not.
Support the BTR Podcast
Anne: We wanted to make sure it was safe for everyone no matter where they are in their process and no matter what their goals are. At BTR our goal is safety. We just want to help women feel validated and make their way to safety in whatever way that it looks like for them. So that’s our goal here.
We’re going to pause the conversation here and Chelsea and I are going to continue our discussion next week, so stay tuned.
If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. Until next week, stay safe out there.