Power and Control Wheel: Intimidation

Making her afraid by
using looks, actions,
and gestures. Smashing
things. Destroying her
property. Abusing pets.
Displaying weapons.

Making her afraid by using looks, actions, and gestures.   I touched on this briefly in Power and Control Wheel:  Coercion and Threats.  The fact is that Bubba was very skilled at making all of us afraid of him with looks, actions, and gestures.  When a man who is at least 8″ taller than you backs you against the wall and clenches his fists, the message is clear.  He is bigger than you, he is stronger than you, and he can hurt you.  More than that though is the intent – you know very well that there is only a small space between gesturing and doing.  

He was very good at doing this to Serenity.  She was 11 when she caught up to me in height.  She has always been tall for her age but she is still nowhere the size of her father.  Over the years I’ve seen her hide in her closet, cower into a corner, jump fences outside to get away from him, and even run away from home.  

Smashing things.  Bubba smashed things in anger.  He broke a good plate by throwing it across the kitchen and it shattered when it hit the sink.  (And guess who ended up cleaning it up?  Certainly not him.)  He threw various objects at Serenity over the years.  He always seemed to miss her by mere inches.  I don’t know whether he meant to miss her or if his aim was just that bad.  Either way, it terrified her.  And who in their right mind would throw objects at their child’s head and think it was ok to do so??????  And who would be baffled by the fact that that child wanted nothing to do with them as they got older?  

Destroying her property.  Bubba never really destroyed my property but he didn’t take care of it either.  I treated the items in our home with equal care.  After all, I viewed things in the home as belonging to the family and it was everyone’s job to take care of the things we worked hard to purchase.  Bubba only took care of his things.  If something belonged to me it was ignored, even if it was in danger of getting damaged.  It just didn’t enter into his reality that he had a responsibility to share in the upkeep of our possessions.  He took care of his stuff but never mine.

Abusing pets.  We have a cat, Kitty.  Kitty never liked Bubba.  Bubba didn’t like Kitty.  For the most part, they ignored each other.  There were times that I’d go to bed and read for a bit, only to get back up for a drink of water to find Bubba holding Kitty in the crook of his arm.  She would either look like she was sleeping but be tense all over or her eyes would be as round as saucers.  Kitty has never been a lap cat.  She just doesn’t enjoy sitting on anyone’s lap, even mine.  He would force her to sit with him and you could tell she was too scared to move.  I’d tell Bubba to move his arm so she could move and he’d either tell me she was fine where she was and refuse or he’d let her go and after she ran he’d blame me for bothering her.  I never saw that he outright hurt her but forcing her to sit with him was abusive -especially considering Bubba established a pattern of doing it.  

Displaying weapons.  I would never consent to Bubba buying a gun although he talked about it often.  I would tell him that if he took some gun safety classes and actually learned about guns, then we could discuss buying one.  I thought it was fool-hardy to buy a gun and have it in the home when he didn’t know the first thing about them.  It was a recipe for disaster.  Bubba used this as another means of expressing his anger at me.  He would complain that I didn’t “allow” him to get a gun but he never made any move to actually take a class and learn about them.  It was always easier to just complain about what a horrible wife I was to deny him that instead of actually doing something to make it a reality.  He got the best of both worlds.  He got to play the victim and the martyr all in one fell swoop.  

The day after the incident, I’d had police escort Serenity and me back to the house to pack up our things to go stay with my parents.  Bubba showed up with a vicious looking hunting knife.  He told the police that he bought it for protection because he didn’t know where he’d be sleeping since I kicked him out of the house.  The officer took it from him before allowing Bubba to come into the house to talk to me.  It was scary to realize that after he blew up like that one of his first thoughts was to purchase a knife.  His first thoughts should’ve centered around what he’d done and how awfully he’d behaved.  Nope.  Bubba’s first thought was to buy a huge hunting knife.



  1. BlueBiscuit

    Even though my abusive husband was the same height as me he was still very intimidating. He would tower over me if I was sitting down. If I stood up he would say I was squaring off to him and if I was gonna put myself in a man’s position he would treat me like a man and hit me,

    • It was because he was not physically taller than you that he had to use these tactics with you. Just being able to tower over you didn’t work so he called your femininity into question. You weren’t putting yourself in a man’s position, you were simply you – you can’t control how tall you are. Questioning your femaleness was yet another way to make you feel less than.

      I hope you can embrace who you are now. There is such power in just standing up straight with confidence. I am very short but I walk with my head held high. No one can ever mistake me for a shy, timid mouse any longer. I may be the same physical height I was when I was still married, but I’m grown 6 inches in attitude since the divorce. 😉

  2. Cantata

    The intimidation was a huge factor for my relationship.

    He refused to take the dog out, ever, even when I was pregnant and on bedrest. He then proceeded to blame me for the dog crapping all over the house. He constantly yelled at the dog, and more than once told me he would shoot it. I finally got rid of the dog because the stress of his interactions with it were too much for me to handle with an infant.

    Weapons were huge too. He had several guns, and never kept them locked up. We got into many heated arguments about them, especially when our child was old enough to walk, and he left a loaded glock on the counter. Seriously, who leaves a loaded gun within reach of their baby?? It blew my mind, but according to him I was crazy and overreacting.

    I still worry about the guns. I don’t know if he has them safely locked up, and visitation isn’t supervised. I still wonder if he is carrying when we transfer our child for visitation. I wonder if I should get a gun just in case. It is hard to deal with even after you leave.

    • That is frightening. The one thing I’ve had to do with visitation is to just give the children’s safety to God and trust that He loves them even more than I do. I pray for them so much and even more when they are with Bubba.

      I urge you to think long and hard before getting a gun. If you chose to do it, do it for the right reasons – not out of a place of fear. Do it for safety, do it for fun, do it for yourself. Also, educate yourself before buying. Learn to shoot, take gun safety classes. Don’t let it be a knee-jerk reaction because it won’t end well.

      I’m sorry you had to re-home your dog. That is just another sin that your ex will have to answer for someday.

      • Cantata

        I do already know how to shoot, and would do a LOT of thinking before buying a gun. Where I would keep so it would be safe but accessible, etc. I would absolutely take a safety class.

        Speaking of safety class, I really want to take a self defense class of some sort, so I have tools just in case.

      • A self defense class is an excellent idea!!!! I have yet to do that and I’ve wanted to since I left.

  3. Amanda

    My ex trained the kids to lie to me about how abusive he was when I was at work. Even to the point to lie to me about my son needing staples in his head once that I was told was an unfortunate accident because my son failed to catch a fan blade my husband was gently tossing at him when in actuality he threw it at his head in anger for getting in the way. My 3 kids finally told me the truth about 2 years after I left him. There were 5 CPS charges brought against him during our marriage and each time I sat there and defended him and said there was no way what happened could be true and each time was a accident. I was so brain washed. How do you acciendtially smack your son in the face with a spatula, or accidentially throw your son against the wall for spilling a drink? Every time I convinced myself it was an accident and he didnt mean to do it and he just doesnt know his own strength. He also abused all our animals, he would choke the dog out for peeing in the house, in front of the kids, so I got rid of the dog. After i left him he took my dog out into the desert and left him there and then lied to me and said he ran away.
    I still carry so much guilt for not seeing what was right in front of me and acknowledging it for what it was. My daughter now 17 still deals with the abuse she endured while in the home with him.

    • I carried that guilt too. I actually sat down with the older two and apologized to them for not seeing it sooner and not protecting them and keeping them safe. We had a really good talk and I told them that I would never again defend his actions and would call him out on his abuses. It was very healing to apologize to my children. Someday, when Shane is older and understands, I will apologize to him. Right now he is too young to understand the full extent of what happened. He just knows that daddy gets mad and yells at them and he is afraid when that happens.

      Yes, we were brainwashed to accept the abuse as normal. We were trained to defend them. But when we know better, we do better. You learned better and you got out! That is the important part.

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