let's talk about A.B.U.S.E.
So I worked at the family-run (husband and wife) language school on La Gomera until I faced an abusive situation which led me to terminate my contract and look for new opportunities. I was the sixth teacher leaving the school in 7 months which reflects on poor leadership and the bad reputation of the establishment.
This is a sum-up of how I experienced the incident, how it affected me and how I responded to it. The accompanying quotes are from the book: Finding your own voice by Evette Rose. I have chosen these quotes as they perfectly reflect my experience and prove the common fashion of an abuser/ abusive behaviour.
It was in March, five days before my Kambo initiation, when I came to work in the morning and as I was preparing for the lessons R., the husband of the school director (SD) walked in and started to say something about the rubbish bin in my classroom. He was angry right off the bat. I told him what I knew about the rubbish and he went away. I thought he might have just had a bad day and didn’t give it more thought. He came back a few seconds later louder, angrier, more aggressive. He kept on circling around the rubbish issue adding insults about me and my work. He was trying to belittle me and convince me that I am a bad person because I dared to disagree with him when I shared my side of the story about the rubbish and that I stood up for myself against his verbal attack. “Abusers take advantage of the honesty and integrity of innocent people.” By now I knew it was not about the rubbish (how ridiculous!) and not about me, but his ’personality disorder’ that needed attention. He was an adult bully.
“Abusers gain control by demeaning and belittling others in order to establish their role.”
“When you feel bullied and disrespected, you tend to feel vulnerable. Abusers try to put you in a vulnerable position, as it’s easier for them to control and manipulate you.”
Everything I said to him seemed to be fire on wood. Even the kind words, the diplomatic ones, and the jokes about his temper. My words had no power or impact on him. Trying to rationalize with him in a respectable manner only provoked more insults. At some point he walked near me in the classroom, closing the door behind him and spitting his threatening attitude all over me, and I was thinking if he dares to hit me, I will call the police. Then when he was done, he opened the door and told me that he doesn’t want me in “his” school and that I’m fired. He kept pointing to the classroom door and scowled at me to leave right now. I, again, suggested he calm down and that we should discuss whether I am fired or not with the SD (his wife), as she hired me for the job and she’s the one in charge of the decision-making, not him alone. More wood on the fire. I experienced him as irrational, dominant, and intimidating. “He attempted to dominate to establish his false sense of authority in order to get his way.” I think he was searching for my weakness. He didn’t find it. There was only one thing left for him to do: abuse his power as the owner of the language school, and kick me out. “Abusers tend to find your weaknesses and use it against you. The more they hurt you, the more they disempower you.”
Then I called the SD on the phone to ask her what she thinks of all this and I believe the first thing I said was “your husband has just fired me and I want to know if it’s something that you want as well?” Then I asked if they had a fight at home that could have triggered her husband to lose control of his temper. She was surprised to hear what happened and she asked me to wait, she would call his husband to talk to him. Then the phone started ringing repeatedly, in the meantime my students arrived, and I still didn’t know what I was supposed to do. R. didn’t answer the phone saying “I pick up the phone whenever I want. You don’t tell me when I talk to my wife. I talk to her when I want to.” He acted immature and unprofessional. “His tantrums were just like a child’s in that they would become progressively more violent and aggressive. This is a very common pattern for abusers.”
I recognised he was narcissistic early on when I started to work here. He pretended to be nice but his smile had no warmth or sincerity behind it. He was ignorant of school matters and he dumped most of the responsibilities on his wife. His attitude, though, didn’t affect me directly, so I just kept a gentle distance from him and focused on my work. R. was also from the part of the world where women and men are raised differently and I could sense he didn’t have a lot of respect for women.
This incident, eventually, helped me understand the school director’s behaviour as well. It came together why I felt she was powerless and insecure, and why she was unable to set boundaries. Her personality and actions probably reflected the way her husband treated her at home. “If you are in an abusive environment for long enough, you start to think that you deserve to be abused.”
My students arrived and it was very uncomfortable. The school director asked me over the phone to go home for now, and she would call me later, meaning do what R. says in order to keep the peace. “Keeping the peace protects the abuser. By being a peacekeeper, you give your power away, and it makes the abuser more powerful.”
R. said he would be the teacher instead of me but while I was packing my bag, I saw all the students walking out of the classroom. He sent them home with whatever lie he told them. At home, I called two of my friends because I needed them to help me reflect on what had just happened to me. I was shaking inside from fear and felt very confused and shamed. I suddenly caught myself questioning my self-worth and my own truth. One of my friends I reached out to was a wise older man, trained as a social worker, who knew a lot about aggressive (and all sorts of abnormal) behaviour. He reassured me that I could have done nothing better in the situation as I was not trained to handle irrational aggression. Why would I? It’s not part of my job. Then he said that my safety should be my priority at the workplace and suggested to ask my boss (the school director/ the wife) if she could guarantee my safety till the end of the contract. He also encouraged me to bring awareness about what happened— don’t go into too many details, but share with coworkers what happened and how it made me feel. I followed my friend’s advice and this is what happened. The school director wanted me to talk, just the two of us, in the back room. I told her I was comfortable in front of everyone (I called a meeting, R. was not present). She wanted to be quiet about it, I wanted to roar! I was also thinking maybe her husband was watching us online through the camera that looked over the reception area where we gathered.
When I shared my feelings, the school director’s eyes turned wet but she stayed strong enough to hold the tears back and replied diplomatically protecting her husband. She could not guarantee my safety and questioned in what way I felt not safe around her husband. She said R. was not going to be here for almost 2 months so I’d have nothing to worry about for a while. We are short of teachers, the reception is often unattended because there's no one to cover it, one teacher has been down with covid, I cancelled my private lessons to focus on healing from the verbal attack, the SD holds the fort with her newborn hanging on her breasts and he decides to go on a holiday in the midst of the chaos. "They don't care about teamwork; they only want power. They don't care about people; they believe they are the only person of value that exists in the world."
And I was thinking, what happens after that? It can’t be her final answer and with that the solution too. But for a woman who is under her husband’s control, it was the answer and with that the solution too. Had we been in the UK, this case would have been reported to HR and they would have dealt with the matter. Here, there was no HR or any other to report to. The next authority in line would have been the police or the ambulance.
I knew abuse escalates. I don’t know where I knew this. I just knew. I also knew I had to cut it out right where it started, from the beginning. And to protect myself (to guarantee my own safety!), I thought the best thing was to resign from the job. For my own emotional and mental peace. If there is a colleague who acts abusive, the higher parties may deal with that individual but if your employers are abusive, you don’t have a chance. Follow your moral compass.
Here’s what I learned about being a victim:
Victims don’t want to feel alone and their feelings, emotions, thoughts don’t want to be rejected, judged or ignored. I wanted to be heard and seen when I spoke up about my experience. I needed people around me who supported me by accepting how the abuse affected me and not projecting their opinion on me.
I only had one colleague from the five who approached me with emotional intelligence. She came into my classroom every day until I worked there to make sure I was OK. She gave me a hug, asked how I was and talked to me naturally. She cared about me genuinely, which made me feel encouraged to recover/ move on faster from the experience and win back my confidence. Two of my colleagues were quiet around me and rather avoided contact, like I was a disease. The school director brushed off the incident quickly and never asked how I was feeling after the meeting.
How ‘being yourself’ can inspire or help others?
I was thinking if I could do something for the school director who I suspected was in an abusive relationship with her husband for a very long time. I knew I was stronger than her and could address the elephant in the room without guilt. Then I dropped the idea of saving her. Saving her is not my responsibility. Shifting the focus from my trauma to hers would have resulted in me not dealing with my feelings thus delaying the process of my healing. Soon after that, I realised, that speaking up and setting boundaries was enough for me to open her eyes and inspire her toward change. Vulnerability is strength.
I feel like the divine uses me to create some kind of a tower moment in other people’s lives like it was part of my purpose or something.
I remember before the incident I had felt some kind of a conflict was stirring in the background. I picked up on something in the environment that made me unsettled. That went on for a couple of weeks. Something has changed in the vibration and it was hard because I couldn’t see tangible results of why I felt this. Then I started to have a new adult student of whom I sensed an aggressive streak, and he admitted that he had used to be a fighter. Also, Ayahuasca and Kambo were probably still working in me, clearing my energetic/ astral field and re-aligning me with my soul purpose. So I believe that there were invisible signs leading up to this tower moment at the language school.
In addition to the abuse, the SD gave me an updated contract. She said they hadn’t registered my hours correctly and I found out that I was underpaid. As I had kept saying to them that something was not right with my salary calculation and had kept asking about things in my contract for months. Surprisingly after the abuse, they gave me the answer which made me feel like they were trying to console me with money. It just confirmed my decision about leaving this place.
How to bounce back abusive/ narcissistic attacks?
“The key here is to honor yourself enough so that you don’t get lost in the confusion that an abuser can create with their manipulative behaviour. Be absolutely clear within yourself about who and what you are.”
More useful quotes on abuse:
“Abusers will play games with people until they find a person who is submissive enough for them to dominate. Once they have gained control, the dominance kicks in. When abusers become more in control of others, they become more dangerous. Once they have achieved their goal of power or a favourable position, they will seek out even more.”
"Abusers are on the lookout for potential partners who have low self-esteem, poor boundaries, and insecurities. They deliberately choose weak partners as it is easier to manipulate them. Abusers have an incredible urge to control their environment and the people close to them. They lack the verbal tools to communicate their needs and in many cases, as a result, they use violence and force to express unspoken words and emotions. The abuser normally fails to recognise that the person on the receiving end of their actions is traumatized by their behaviour."
“As a child, we were taught to never question our parents or authority figures. Children were not allowed to say “no” to adults because they are our superiors and they allegedly know what they are doing. The consequences of this are that we stop questioning people in authority. This includes people who are in roles that give them the power to make decisions on behalf of loved ones, such as a father/ mother figure, priest, and teacher just to name a few.”
“If the abuse becomes normalized then you stop recognizing how bad or dangerous your circumstances are.”
“Poor personal boundaries and fear of confrontation allow an abuser to get away with their unacceptable behaviour.”
“Abusers can be violent and stalk if you decide to leave the relationship. Disagreements could escalate into arguments and even violence. There is a freeze instinct that kicks in and you reach a point where you feel safer to just put up with the conditions, even though the conditions are unsafe and unhealthy. Feeling frozen contributes to many self-sabotaging decisions.”
"The recipient of the abuse tends to suffer in silence because he or she feels either too ashamed to ask for help or often due to blackmail from the abuser. The abuser ignores the partner's needs, rejecting them and making them feel that they are not worthy of being believed or listened to."
If you think you (or someone else) are in an abusive relationship or want to educate yourself on the topic, I recommend you Evette’s book. "This book relates to Evette's personal experience in overcoming the trauma of abuse. In this book she also guides the reader how to understand the cycle of abuse and most important of all, how to recognise and break this cycle."
Here's a link again to the book, click HERE