Blowing Their Cover

From Patricia Evans:

The verbally abusive man often has an ‘inside’ self and an ‘outside’ self.

He shows one self to the world. This is the persona or image, that he made up from the outside in. It is his outside self.

His ‘inside’ self is the one that appears when the world is shut out. Then it is just him and him in you, so to speak. As if there is only one mind, HIS, in the room and so of course he knows what you are, what you are ‘trying to do’ and even how sensitive you are.”
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Dan often worried about what neighbors and friends would think because he didn’t want his cover to be blown. He sent me emails after HE angrily walked out on me a few weeks before we split expressing concern that I would make a scene at a subsquent neighborhood get-together. Mind you these are people from the same neighborhood he yelled at me in front of a month or so prior.

Projection, again.

What’s crazy is that I had never made a scene or yelled at him in public when he and I had issues–or if I was angry or frustrated with him. Never. He was always the one who did that.

He yelled at ME at restaurants.

He cursed at me in front of the neighbors.

He humiliated me at parties in front of friends, and in other public places (and that seemed perfectly OK to him, oddly enough).

Yet, he was worried I would make a scene when we had to be at a neighborhood event together– right after He blew up in anger and walked out on me just two days before. This is a special brand of crazymaking and a classic example of an abuser blaming his victim for his anger – projecting his own personality issues onto his victim. And, it’s an example of how paranoid they are that their cover will be blown – that Mr./Ms. Wonderful “public” persona they show to everyone else will be proven to be fake.

And guess what? It is fake.

The abuser tries to get their victim to play along with this pretense – while he simultaneously blames her for his own abusive behavior. Remember that projection, justification, denial, minimization, and blame are an abuser’s key tactics. They’ll never acknowledge their own anger, hostility, yelling, or abusive behavior. They’ll just blame you for it. It’s easier that way (for them).

There was at least one or two more instances where Dan was worried his cover would blown. And in virtually every instance, he blamed me and projected his bad behavior onto me, then was worried that I’d blow his cover – ie: somehow reveal to his public allies what a nasty person he was to me in private – by causing a public scene myself – something I’d never done.

Twisted? Well, yes.

My own personal advice in regards to “blowing their cover” is this: Do not enable them by hiding it for them.

Don’t hesitate to use the word “Abuse” and “Abuser” both to his face and to others in safe quarters (do not do so if he may become physically abusive with you, but you certainly can tell everyone else!)

He’ll hate it, of course. But keeping it a secret is only enabling him. It’s like enabling a drug addict or alcoholic – covering up their problem for them is being an accomplice to it. You’re not helping yourself by keeping his ugly secrets for him. And you’re not helping him either. Because until or unless he admits he has a problem – until he’s faced head-on with his problem – he’ll never change. Even if you refuse to enable him by hiding his problem, you still may never get him to face it. If he doesn’t want to face it, then your only options are to end the relationship – or continue to be abused.

There may be minimal value in trying to explain their behavior to an abuser’s allies who’ve never seen it–and who wouldn’t believe it anyway. However, there is no reason to hide it either when the subject arises.

When we went to counseling I made no secret that I knew Dan was an abuser/abusive. I called him that repeatedly. I showed him the book – which he demanded that I put back in my bag. He didn’t want to even see it. The reaction from him was similar to when someone tosses holy water on a vampire. He almost shrieked. I could see the venomous derision on his face. He hated that he’d been called out.

But if people ask – depending on who they are and how much information they want – I tell them what the problem was. Dan is an abuser. He’s abusive. He was also an alcoholic. But he was abusive even before his drinking became excessive. That’s fact. And in many cases, that’s all I said.

But be prepared when you do this because as I mentioned, abusers typically have an entire small city of allies (friends, coworkers, neighbors, church members, etc. who they show their pretentiously wonderful “public” persona to – and those people will never believe he’d ever do or say the nasty things he does to you (and only you). 

If you try to tell them,  then you may just look bad in their eyes and in their own ignorance, they’ll stick up for Dr. Jekyll because they think he’s so “wonderful” and nice. And he is nice, to THEM. Remember they only see his “nice” side – his “outside” self. Only you see Mr. Hyde – his “inside” self. 

You may just end up hurting your own reputation trying to convince his allies he’s abusive. They may think you are the “crazy” one. So don’t try to convince them. Just calmly and flatly state that he’s an abuser or alcoholic or whatever the problem is, and leave it at that. I at least tell them anyway, even if giving no detail. Because it usually sticks in their mind in some way. And some of them will begin to actually think about it and modify their relationships with him. Which would be a wise and safe thing to do.

Think of it as a form of public service – possibly protecting unsuspecting and innocent others from being abused in the same way by this person.  You would tell others if someone robbed you, wouldn’t you, if you knew who it was – if you’d seen them snatch your belongings? Of course. It’s a matter of public safety. And a matter of your safety.

But remember never to confront an abuser if you are in physical danger. You can certainly tell others though, especially friends, neighbors, helpful family members, counselors, law enforcement, legal council, DV shelters – anyone who can help and/or needs to know what you’re going through so that they can help you get away from the abusive person in your life – and stay away from her/him themselves.

Blow their cover. Be careful about it. But there’s no reason for you to hide their problem for them. They need help, just like an alcoholic does, and helping them to cover up the problem will not get them any closer to admitting their problem and getting the help they need to change.  And if they don’t want to change because it’s easier to just find another target for their abuse, then that’s their choice. But you don’t have to stick around for it.