As someone who has survived and thrived despite having experienced various forms of emotional abuse, thanks to involvement with narcissists in my own life, it was often hard to see while I was in the “thick of it.”
How do you know if your relationship is emotionally abusive?
Physical abuse is often pretty obvious, but emotional abuse can be incredibly hard to detect, especially if your victimizer is a narcissist.
On the plus side, there are plenty of warning signs.
If your significant other is a narcissist, he (or she) might engage in certain narcissistic behaviors and types of manipulation, such as the ever-pervasive gaslighting tactic that is the bane of so many victims of narcissistic relationships.
According to Dr. Phil, the following are signs of sexual abuse. If you’re being sexually abused, you can’t wait – you need to get out ASAP. If you don’t have any support (which is unfortunately common for victims of narcissism and abuse, since abusers often isolate their victims), start here, and check out these resources as well.
You are being sexually abused if your partner:
Views women as objects and believes in rigid gender roles.
Accuses you of cheating or is often jealous of your outside relationships.
Wants you to dress in a sexual way.
Has ever forced or manipulated you into to having sex or performing sexual acts.
Held you down during sex.
Demanded sex when you were sick, tired or after beating you.
Involved other people in sexual activities with you.
With so much negativity coming out of the collective noise of Hollywood’s early-to-mid-twenty-something stars and the gossip mills they fuel, it’s nice to notice and recognize when someone does something that’s actually a GOOD thing. (And of course, it’s also smart, because when we focus on good things, we get more of them!)
If you watched ABC’s Modern Family, you know who Hailey Dunphey is – the daughter of bumbling Phil and stressed-out Claire. She’s a beautiful, seemingly vapid (at first glance) girl who turns out to be super smart when it suits her.
The actress that plays her, though, hasn’t had such an easy go of it so far. In fact, it seems that as her star rose between 2010 and 2014, Hyland’s behind-the-scenes real life was pretty hellish.
Why did Sarah Hyland get a restraining order against Matt Prokop?
You may have already heard about Sarah Hyland‘s domestic violence struggles with her ex-boyfriend, actor Matt Prokop, who is accused of physically abusing and assaulting her. Sarah Hyland was granted a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend, Matt Prokop, in September 2014. Prokop, who played Ethan in ABC’s Modern Familyas well as playing several movie roles alongside Hyland, was accused of making violent threats towards her. News outlets report that Sarah sought help from police and the court to keep Prokop away from her because she was afraid of his behavior, for which she had sought medical treatment.
Does this make him a narcissist? Maybe, but we aren’t aware of an official diagnosis. Either way, he appears to have been a narcissistic abuser. In fact, according to Hyland in an October 2014 interview with Meredith Viera, Prokop demonstrated the qualities of an abuser when he “relentlessly bombarded me with vile, threatening and emotionally disturbing texts and voice mails including his own suicide threats.” Hyland reported that Prokop choked her so tightly that she “could not breath or speak.”
Prokop also allegedly terrorized her “both verbally and physically during the last four years of their relationship,” according to The Things, and his career ended with his relationship with Hyland.
3 Lessons Narcissistic Abuse Survivors Can Learn from Sarah Hyland
The clearly toxic relationship between Hyland and Prokop certainly appears to be an example of narcissistic abuse, and there are certain lessons fellow survivors of narcissistic abuse can learn from this situation.
Lesson 1: Even beautiful, successful women can be silent victims of abuse.
According to the Daily Mail Online, Hyland’s rep offered a statement from her attorney Lee A Sherman, which noted that “On September 19, 2014, Ms. Hyland obtained a Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order against Matthew Prokop. The documents filed speak for themselves.”
The statement continues: “Out of respect for the court, the process, and all parties, I have advised Ms. Hyland not to comment on the matter. We request that you respect the parties’ privacy during this time.”
Additionally, Hyland alleged in the court papers that she “experienced four years of abuse at his hands during their relationship.”
“His grip was so tight that I could not breathe or speak,” she said in the documents of a violent incident with Prokop in May. “I was scared and in fear for my life.”
Sadly, Hyland is not alone in her plight. According to SafeHorizon.org, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. That’s 25% of us.
Lesson Two: No woman deserves to be abused, and every woman has the right to stand up for herself.
As a young woman who is idolized by girls around the world, I think Hyland’s actions are the best she could’ve taken. Too many young women, especially in her age group and those in their late teens, are far too willing to accept “whatever” in order to remain attached to a man.
Safe Horizon says that women ages 20 to 24 are at the greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence.
While you might think that Hyland accepted the abuse for too long, she’s doing something right NOW. By standing up now and publicly declaring that domestic violence is NOT OK, Sarah Hyland is showing women around the world that they have the right to be safe. She is also offering herself a huge support network by going public with this one. Go, Sarah!
Lesson Three: Get involved if you see a friend or loved one getting abused.(It might literally save their lives.)
A few more sobering statistics from Safe Horizon:
Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults.
Women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men
Every year, 1 in 3 women who is a victim of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner.
According to TMZ, court papers note that Hyland has said that it was only thanks to her TV mom Julie Bowen that she felt strong enough to break free from the tumultuous 4-year relationship.
We may not fully understand how seriously Hyland was being abused, but the fact is that abusers kill their victims on an all-too-often basis.
If someone you know is in an abusive relationship and is in physical danger, you have a responsibility to stand up and say something. Julie Bowen’s support helped Sarah Hyland step away in a very public way, but you can support a loved one in a much quieter way by just offering help and support as you are able. If nothing else, you can connect them with the right resources.
So what do you think? Did Sarah Hyland do the right thing, and what would you say to her if you could?
Excerpt from the Daily Mail Online:
Threatened: The 23-year-old claimed in court documents that she was physically abused by Matt during their four-year relationship
In the court filing she also says she had sustained injuries with a ‘very sore throat following this event.’ Sarah then described how she got her TV mother Julie Bowen involved to help her ‘peacefully end the relationship.’
The actress, who plays Julie’s daughter Haley Dunphy on the hit ABC comedy, flew out her beau to his home in Texas earlier this year.
But when Matt arrived and saw everyone in his house, including Julie, he ‘ran outside into the backyard and began screaming,’ according to the documents.
Seeking help: Matt, who had a stint on Modern Family and co-starred with her in Disney Channel movie Geek Charming, entered rehab in August
Sarah said he threw a ‘lighter’ at her, which triggered Julie to step in and get her out of the house as she ‘wasn’t safe’.
She also claimed that Matt threatened to commit arson by setting one of her homes on fire and to get rid of her dog.
Following their split, Sarah said her former boyfriend ‘relentlessly bombarded me with vile, threatening and emotionally disturbing texts and voice mails including his own suicide threats.’
The former couple started dating after meeting while auditioning for High School Musical 3: Senior Year in 2008. They later starred together in the Disney Channel film Geek Charming in 2011.
Read more about Sarah Hyland’s story in the Daily Mai: click here
October 2014 Update
Update: In October 2014, Sarah Hyland was granted a permanent restraining order, and Matt Prokop has not worked in the film or television industries since. E! News reported that “Prokop has been ordered to stay 100 yards away from the Modern Family actress and her home. He has also been ordered to not go near her job or workplace and own or possess a gun or ammunition. The restraining order also demands that Prokop stay 100 yards away from Hyland’s dog, Barkley Bixby, as well as not make any threats, or attack, or harm the dog in any way.”
Are you dealing with narcissistic abuse?
Does this story feel a little too familiar to you? You might be dealing with narcissistic abuse, which is a pervasive, covert type of abuse that involves the exploitation and psychological abuse of one partner in a toxic relationship.
While narcissistic abuse can result in profound emotional and psychological harm, as well as long-term physical effects, the covert nature can make it difficult to spot and even more challenging to manage. Worse, if you find yourself involved in this kind of relationship, your self-confidence and self-worth are often so low by the time you realize it, you can’t or won’t leave.
We have previously identified the victim mentality and discussed the reasons that some people choose to embrace it. We also briefly touched on the negative side effects of playing the victim.
Being a victim undermines your ability to make any change in your circumstances–it paralyzes you and makes you unable to take action on your own behalf.
When you feel powerless, you might feel like the universe is “out to get you,” and that there’s just nothing you can do to stop it. You might even call yourself a “survivor.”
But I’m here to tell you that “surviving” isn’t living, and living is pretty amazing if you give it a shot.
When you can feel powerful and in control of your own live, you can create personal change that can help you to live the life you really want.
So, how do you overcome the victim mentality?
1. Change your mind.
I know, you’ve heard it all before. But really, the very first step you must take to overcome the victim mentality is to make a choice. You have to simply DECIDE that you are not a victim.
Choose to be in control of your life. Choose to take responsibility for every single element of your life–every person, situation, thing and circumstance, even though it might feel uncomfortable at first.
2. Don’t play the blame game.
One of the reasons folks with the victim mentality often have low self-esteem is that they don’t feel like they’re responsible for their own lives. They blame other people or situations, and this nurtures that victim mentality.
This can negatively affect their relationships, their goals and ambitions and ultimately, the quality of life.
Here’s the solution: start acknowledging that you create your reality. Start small, if you need to, by just taking responsibility for every single thing that happens tomorrow.
You’ll notice an immediate difference–rather than relying on someone else to validate you, you can approve of yourself. Rather than requiring the approval of your spouse or parents or friends, you can start building your own strength from within–and before you know it, you will be able to stay positive, no matter what happens around you.
3. Be thankful for what you have.
Oprah Winfrey once said that you’ll never have what you want until you want what you have. I think that she meant that being grateful for the good things in your life will help to bring more good things to you.
So, the next time you’re feeling sorry for yourself, take a look around and find something to be grateful for–and then another thing, and another, and so on.
And once your perspective is brighter (and it will be, if you really do this little exercise), ask yourself what good could come of the situation you’re dealing with.
So, instead of asking yourself “why me?”, ask yourself what opportunity could come from the situation.
4. Let go of the past.
When someone hurts you, it’s human nature to feel like a victim. But the longer you hold on to resentments and anger, the longer you are still drawing more of that into your life.
As Catherine Ponder said, “When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”
So, you want to be free of the past? Forgive the people who hurt you, and forgive yourself for holding on to it for so long. Release the people, the situations and the things that have caused you pain, and you’ll find yourself freer and lighter, and moving in the right direction.
Please note that this does not mean you should live in abusive situations or try to change abusive people. You can only change yourself.
5. Don’t beat yourself up.
It can be tough to change your way of thinking, so if you find yourself slipping, don’t feel like a failure. You’re human, after all.
But when you do notice a little slip, make a concerted effort to change your mind.
Affirm to yourself that you are in control, and give yourself a little hug. It might help to come up with a particular mantra that you repeat to yourself anytime you feel victim-like–something like “I am strong and powerful and I decide what happens in my life,” maybe.
So how about you? What are your best tips for overcoming a victim mentality? Tell me in the comments!