Don’t you find yourself often being overtaken by a strong sense of crippling self-doubt whenever you think of the fact that everybody loves your abuser while they hate or if jot hates then at least dislike you?
Doesn’t this sense of crippling self-doubt becomes even stronger when your abuser tells you that you are not worthy of love and deserve to be hated not just by him/her but everyone else including your people(family and friends)?
In spite of all this reassurance from people and your abuser, disguised as a loved one, don’t you still have a very strong gut feeling that tells you that “You are not as bad as they believe”?
Well! If all of this or most of this happening to you then you are very likely being a victim of manipulative tactics known as “Smear Campaign”.
A smear campaign is a planned attempt to malign a group or an individual aimed at undermining their credibility by spreading lies and twisted truths among people. This term comes from the field of politics. But nowadays this term is also being used in the field of psychology.
What is “Smear Campaigning” in relationships?
Smear campaigning in abusive relationships is defined as a planned attempt made by an abuser to ruin his/her victim’s social image by spreading rumors and presenting twisted facts among people in a close circle like family, friends, and colleagues to rob the victim of his/her social support so that the abuser a keep going on with the abuse more conveniently and smoothly without any hindrance from society in the form of social support. Being treated unfairly by society and being invalidated by the abuse, makes a victim doubt his/her own sense of reality and thus give oneself a second guess while giving the benefit of doubt to the abuse.
How is it done?
In order to keep the victim weak, helpless, and hopeless about ever thinking of taking a stand for herself against the abuser, he keeps running a smear campaign against the victim. In some cases, this happens in an ongoing relationship while in other cases this starts after there is a breakup/divorce/separation depending upon the character and moral values of the abuser.
It can happen in any type of relationship, both by males and females in romantic relationships, marriages, and even in parent-child relationships. This is most common in intimate partner relationships and has been mostly reported by women being the victim.
Here is how you can identify a smear campaign being run against you or someone. Following are some smear tactics that abusers use:
Examples of “smear tactics”:
- They provoke you to tell them, anything that ever hurts you about your loved ones and then use this information, later on, to pit them against you.
- They read your messages and emails to understand your relationship dynamics with others and present them with twisted truths that will damage your relationship with them.
- They observe what is required of you or what is disliked about you by certain people and then use this knowledge while giving discrete information to them about you that will damage your reputation.
- They put a lot of effort in hiding the good deeds that you do in private that if some people get to know about, then they will be highly impressed or feel grateful for you.
- They share the credits for your achievements that come out in public in front of you without your conscience and take the entire credit behind your back, as you are not there to defend.
- They take whole credits for teamwork done by both of you, behind your back and in rare cases in front of you if you are too timid or too scared.
- They blame your parenting for any real or perceived shortcomings in children and act as concerned parents behind your back
- Whisper or stay silent about your good qualities and sacrifices that you make for your family.
- Shout aloud any mistakes or shortcomings you have as a family member sometimes even when you have them because of extreme cases like a serious illness.
- They present half and twisted information to people about you, like telling people that you didn’t cook for him and kids today, and hiding the rest of the information that you were severely ill today and he didn’t provide you and kids anything to eat.
- Blaming you for reaching late or being absent at social meetings.
- Blaming the responsibilities he has because of you which are stopping him from achieving something at the workplace, and other places where he is required to.
- Making it difficult for you to stay in touch and visit your loved ones and blaming you directly on their face for not keeping in touch.
- Stopping you directly or in subtle ways to do favors for your loved ones while doing them himself to prove that he cares more than you.
- Using your mail and messengers to reply on your behalf and then deleting them.
- Spreading unnecessary lies about you here and there just to maintain the smear.
- The abuser also keeps tight control on you about the time you spend with these people he is pitting against you while making sure he is mostly present when you socialize with them to make sure that you don’t ruin the campaign he is running.
When people have a set of information that consists of a huge number of lies that tell bad things about you as compared to the tiny amount of truth that tells them what you are then they are not much at fault about how they perceive you. After all, they too are being used as a pawn for the psychological game abuser is playing with you and them.
Take care of yourself and reach out to a trusted person who is not a common friend and try to keep them away from your abuser as much as possible. This will bring validation to your suffering and lessen self-doubt. This will be the first step to acknowledge and understand what's going on with you and will clear the fog giving you some clear understanding of what needs to be done next for the best.
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