Emotionally Abusive Relationships and Healing: In My Own Words

The following post comes to us via Ava Budavari-Glenn, a political communications major and a nonprofit communications minor who is entering her sophomore year at Emerson College. She is a writer whose work focuses mainly on advocacy, and a community organizer who has worked for nonprofit organizations and political campaigns. She is a media and communications intern at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.

Part I: Signs of an Abusive Relationship

I’m not ready to tell my story yet. I don’t know when or if I ever will be. But I am writing for my younger self, who was in the middle of a toxic situation and didn’t have the language to understand what was happening to her. I have not studied this academically — I am just talking about my own experience. And sometimes that’s what people need to listen to. I know I did and still do.

Emotional abuse is an attempt to control another person through behavior that causes psychological trauma or distress. Continue reading to identify the warning signs of an emotionally abusive relationship.

They body shame you. It may be in a sarcastic tone or disguised as a joke, just ways for them to tease you because they “like you.” It may also be covert; they might not directly call you fat or ugly, but find other ways to degrade your body. Tell you you’re too slow. You don’t run fast enough. You’re not strong enough. They may make fun of your athletic ability, call you names even if you’re just playing a game for fun.

Their mood is unreliable. Everyone has good days and bad days, but the kind of day anyone is having should not determine how they treat people. They’re happy to see you one minute and completely ignoring you the next. They are flirting with you one minute and glaring at you 15 minutes later. You haven’t changed your behavior or what you have said. Whether you can have a nice conversation is totally dependent on their behavior, giving them complete control of the situation. They make you feel like everything is your fault. You find yourself asking questions like, “What am I doing wrong to make this person so upset?” That is a power imbalance, which is one way they trap you: It makes you think that “they have good moments too, they are not always bad” — because if they were always horrible it would make it easier for you to leave. This back-and-forth unpredictability is a way to control you. Continue reading

Kaity’s Story Leads to the Formation of P.E.A.C.E.

The following guest post comes to us from Bobbi Sudberry, mother to Kaitlyn Marie Sudberry and founder of Kaity’s Way, a Phoenix-based nonprofit with the mission to advocate for healthy teen relationships by providing education, skills, and tools to youth and their allies.

Kaitlyn Marie Sudberry was a beautiful, vivacious, artistically talented young lady. Her ambition was to make the world a better place; however, her goal was cut short when she became the victim of an ex-boyfriend’s rage. She was not alone. While February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, teen dating violence, like domestic violence, happens every day of the year. It is a global issue. And you can help! Did you know that 81 percent of parents admit they had no idea their teen was experiencing dating violence? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Psychological Association acknowledge intimate partner violence among teens is very prevalent and should not be ignored. The Sudberrys and Kaity’s Way strive to help prevent others from experiencing a similar loss through P.E.A.C.E. — Patience, Empathy, Acceptance, Caring, Equality.

Kaity’s Story

On Monday, January 28, 2008, our lives were shattered, literally obliterated. What we knew as normal no longer existed after we heard the devastating news that afternoon. One of our children, our 17-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn “Kaity” Marie Sudberry, had been murdered by her ex-boyfriend not more than 100 feet from our front door. That morning when we exchanged I love yous, how was I to know that it would be the last time I would hear those words from her?


Our children want and need education on teen dating violence.


Kaity was a sweet, fun-loving girl who had her whole life ahead of her. She was a high-school senior, and she had been accepted to Northern Arizona University to study wildlife sciences. She loved nature, animals, gardening, vacationing, family time, sports, music, art — and she loved trying new things. She was my shopping, football, and gardening buddy. Why is she not here doing those things with me today?

She was 16 years old when she met Daniel Byrd at school. They became friends, and then started dating. She brought him home to meet my husband and me. He was very polite and mannerly and held a good conversation with us. He said he liked Moon Valley High School and was on target to graduate. He told us a little bit about his family. He seemed like a very nice young man. He appeared to treat Kaity very well. They did the usual things that teens do when dating. They went to the movies, walked to and from school together, hung out with friends. It appeared to be a normal, healthy teenage dating relationship. Continue reading

Who Controls Your Birth Control?

On the day after Valentine’s Day, the National Domestic Violence Hotline released a report about disturbing behavior that may be displayed by many abusive partners. According to the New York Times, the hotline collected stories of abusers sabotaging their partners’ contraception, whether by hiding their birth control pills, poking holes in condoms, or refusing to use condoms altogether:

About a quarter [of respondents] said yes to one or more of these three questions: “Has your partner or ex ever told you not to use any birth control?” “Has your partner or ex-partner ever tried to force or pressure you to become pregnant?” “Has your partner or ex ever made you have sex without a condom so that you would get pregnant?”

One in six answered yes to the question “Has your partner or ex-partner ever taken off the condom during sex so that you would get pregnant?”

The survey was not part of a scientific study. The respondents were not made up of a representative cross-section of the general population, but rather were a self-selected group, already in abusive relationships and willing to talk about their experiences. From the data released by the National Domestic Violence Hotline, it is impossible to tell how widespread such forms of abuse are in society as a whole. Despite this, the data collected do point to a disturbing way that intimate partner violence can manifest itself. It is important to recognize interference with one’s birth control — and therefore one’s bodily integrity — as abusive behavior.  Continue reading