Recognizing Abuse by Karen Tate

I’ve been thinking a lot about abuse.  Of course, most of us know about the domination, exploitation and  need for control meted out by patriarchy, but I wonder if we have actually normalized many abuses?  Abuse in the home, in the workplace, in our culture.   Perhaps  we accepted it unconsciously because so many of us are conditioned by religions that tell us to make noble sacrifice and tolerate suffering silently. I wonder if we’re calling it out when we see it – often and loudly – or if we’ve become conditioned to quietly accept the abuse with little push back.

My intent is not to offend anyone with this.  I want to find common ground and defeat the polarization we find around us, but our President is the poster child for abusive behavior.  Do we recognize his lies and fear-mongering and so many of the ideas he gives credence and license to as abuse?  Not only is he eroding our democratic institutions but he poisons the political, social and cultural arena with negativity, fear and hate, rather than uplifting us and encouraging us to evolve and be the best version of ourselves.  I equate him to poison in a well from which we must all drink.

Of course corporations abuse society by their unfair advantage in the political arena – corporations are people – and the danger of Citizens United allowing unfettered money to drown the political process.  So many don’t pay taxes yet benefit from the societal infrastructure enabling them to survive and thrive.  Their money has corrupted officials who should be looking out for the planet and the public good rather than the benefit of corporations.  This is a whole essay in itself and I’ll refrain from going on about abuse of corporations, from greedy landlords creating distressed rental markets to  the oil and gas industry, to Big Pharma, to the military industrial complex, just to name a few.  Suffice it to say, it would not surprise me to learn cures for diseases are buried because “managing” the disease makes more money.  There’s so much more money in waging war than making peace.   We might learn there are new sources of energy we are not tapping into.   You get the gist.  Greed is also abuse.

Getting back to real people, what about toxic and abusive women and men in our world?  In our families, in the workplace, in our groups.  I’m thinking of passive-aggressive cowards who manipulate or the sociopaths or the narcissists who have us walking on egg shells or breaking us down, little by little, every day.   Sometimes the abuse is so subtle we don’t even recognize it.  We simply lose our self-confidence or wonder why we’re always anxious around certain people.  It’s like death by a thousand cuts.   This is all abuse and I ask, Why do we put up with it?

In my deeper exploration of abuse and the infliction of emotional distress, I started understanding domestic violence in a very visceral way.  Sometimes you are in a relationship with a person, maybe it’s a family member, boss, co-worker,  and there is this roller-coaster ride that goes on for years.   It seems fine for a time and you think you can manage the abuse and the daily chipping away at your soul and personal self-worth, then you feel the next blow and you think to yourself you can’t do this anymore, but apologies are made.  This is a classic abuse pattern.  Think of the alcoholic or the drug user who does the same thing.  There the problem is a bit easier to see.  It’s harder when you’re the target , not the observer.  There’s an attempt to have a reset and things are okay for a few days, weeks or even months when you can breathe a little easier – until the next blow, literal or not, on your body or psyche.   Leaving is complicated and more fear-inducing than the abuse you’ve come to be able to tolerate or manage.   Maybe it’s too embarrassing to admit to others or yourself.   Maybe you don’t leave because you fear for your life.  Maybe it’s economic.  Maybe it’s because you have other people who depend on you and what you provide to them.  Maybe you’ve invested so much time in this relationship or job you argue with yourself about the pros and cons of staying or leaving.  Starting over feels daunting or finding something comparable monetarily seems doubtful.

So you suck it up and suck it up and suck it up, day in and day out, year after year, until it’s making you physically sick.  Until your self- worth is eroded.  Until you wonder if you have the strength to put one foot in front of the other.

I can’t speak to personal domestic  violence because I’ve been married to a wonderful guy more than thirty-five years, but I think if one is in a marriage of domestic violence, it’s probably more clear there is abuse happening,  between spouses, especially if there are bruises.  I think we might not always recognize actions as abuse when it’s happening within the immediate or extended family, in a social/religious group or in the workplace.  We ignore lines are being crossed and we make excuses for the actions of others which might actually be intentional infliction of emotional or physical abuse of ourselves or others;  Oh, she’s just a spoiled bitch, or he’s just a bad boss or so and so had a difficult childhood and that’s the reason he does those things.  She has a domineering father and if she wants her inheritance she’ll tow the line. That’s why she’s so unhappy and spreads around the misery.  There are a million reasons and we tolerate the bad behavior toward us – why?  Why aren’t we schooled in setting healthier boundaries?  Why aren’t we doing periodic check-ins about the quality of our life and relationships?

We each have to be honest with ourselves and find the reason we tolerate the abuse – we must be willing to see that what is being meted out toward us might actually be abuse and the intentional or unintentional infliction of emotional distress.

No family member or friend, no boss, co-worker,  or religious leader, has the right to abuse or inflict emotional distress upon us.  There comes a time when we must say enough is enough.  Maybe it’s because they’ve broken us and we’ve cracked, hit bottom and there is only up and out.  Maybe the Universe takes the wheel and drives circumstances so that you no longer have a choice but to “get out of Dodge.”  Maybe something triggers a clearer vision and we  find an escape hatch.  Maybe a friend helps us through the steps necessary to maneuver an exit or a severing of ties with the abuser.    There are as many different scenarios as there are people and circumstances.  The point is we have to begin to consciously recognize this treatment as physical, financial or emotional ABUSE and call it out and not tolerate it anymore.  We have to throw off any conditioning that has kept us tethered to this abusive relationship.  We must set healthy boundaries.  We must realize that abuse isn’t always sexual and non-sexual abuse is just as valid and damaging.  And we must sometimes reach out to others for help.  This may not be something you can do alone, but it IS something you can do, with help, if necessary, with Goddess, certainly.

Escaping these patterns is not easy.  It can be down-right frightening, but we’re talking about the quality of the rest of your life.  I know from personal experience,  once you get away, in time, you might find this monster who inflicted so much distress in your life was really powerless without your active participation in that dance you were both doing together.  You might come to understand yourself better as you process why you stuck around.   You might find the challenges and changes thrust upon you were actually a true gift.   I found the light at the end of the tunnel was shining the way toward a healthy new beginning.  The light wasn’t the train coming at me, but the train taking me out of dark tunnels – but I understand you won’t find anything until you’re out from under the monster.


Karen Tate, speaker, author, workshop presenter, and social justice activist is the radio show hostess of the long-running internet podcast, Voices of the Sacred Feminine on Blog Talk Radio. She can be seen in the influential docu-film, Femme: Women Healing the World produced by Wonderland Entertainment and actress, Sharon Stone. She is an associate with the Joseph Campbell Foundation and organizes the Joseph Campbell Roundtables held at the Museum of Woman in Irvine.  Karen is the author of three books and has curated three anthologies, referred to as the “manifesting a new normal” trilogy. The most recent, Awaken the Feminine, is just out in early 2019. Karen is a certified Caring Economy Conversation Leader and Power of Partnership Practitioner with Riane Eisler’s Center for Partnership Studies; has a certification from Smith College in the Psychology of Political Activism: Women Changing the World; and was named one of the Thirteen Most Influential Women in Goddess Spirituality and a Wisdom Keeper of the Goddess Spirituality Movement.  She lives in her mountain sanctuary with feline daughter, Lilly, and Roy, her husband and partner of more than thirty years.

Categories: abuse, Abuse of Power, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, General, Violence, Women's Voices

Tags: , , , , ,

8 replies

  1. Wise advice. I left academia and its abuse some time ago, it took me longer to say I would not see my father again during the last 15 years of his life. We kept in touch by email and I was totally pleased when I found the Christ “homeland” in Lower Franconia Bavaria about a year before he died. We worked together on that!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We live, supposed, in a democracy — my dictionary defines “democracy” as: “the principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.” Oh WOW! What a wonderful definition for democracy that truly is!! Not a speck of abuse!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So agree with you here luv, and yes greed and ego are abusive, it is time for change, it is time we raised our own vibrations and freed our self from this constant abuse all around us.


  4. Excellent post and each point more relevant than the last. Today the most obvious forms of abuse are in evidence to one and all thanks to movements that encourage us to speak up. But the more subtle forms remain hidden in plain sight, wearing the clothes of acceptable social norms. This article goes a long way calling attention to these.


  5. This is such a powerful post! You are absolutely right about everything. Our world is so full of wickedness that many have become callous to how abuse is wearing us down as a society. We continue to allow the powerful few to steamroll the majority and we seem powerless to do anything about it. I have hope that soon God will rid this world of evil the men that continue to use greed and power to abuse others (Psalms 37:10,11). We’re so deep in this mess that only God can fix it.


  6. Thank you for this insight. I think it is such an ingrained and overwhelming topic that it appears beyond remedy, even to those who hate it. Individually abused women are often so confused they don’t recognize their experience as abuse. This is just a microcosmic version of the macrocosm of devaluing women as standard practice. In my workbook, Redemption from Biblical Battering, therefore that is the first level to tackle: recognizing abuse.


  7. Thank you Karen Tate for your leadership, and articulating this enormous and ongoing problem! Our entire society is built on a separation from the natural world and the sacred, and a lack of cohesive culture or community. We are also up against an economic paradigm that forces us to compete to “earn a living” and consumer capitalism that turns everything (including our spiritual life) into a commodity. The patriarchy wants us to be separate and alienated, as that makes for better consumers! No wonder the majority of citizens are dysfunctional! We come from narcissistic and abusive childhoods, and the cycle continues to repeat itself. And yet, we are the generation who are waking up, calling out the root of the problem, finding alternatives, and healing ourselves and our kindred spirits. Localvore, gift economies, intentional communities, loving the land, and the Old Ways of the matriarchy are all excellent directions! ANCIENT SPIRIT RISING


  8. 20 years and it’s over. Need someone to help me get my WordPress setup with a Plumfund Divorce Page properly setup. Any suggestions will be appreciated. I am the nerdyolelady in this site. It’s has been published as an example page. Definitely want to change that. Currently I have been up all night trying to figure out how to get the link to open. Currently it has to be copied into a browser. Help me out ladies.


Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: