Victims And Their Predators


Yes I suppose I’m upset, but more accurately, I’m disappointed; again.

I’m sad too, because once more, some good people have every reason to become cold and hard. Most are women – but there are men too; the victims of abuse. I ask you read on.

Why oh why I ask myself again and again are some people so intent on ruining the self-esteem, confidence and self-perception of others? Why is it that small people determinedly go out of their way to elevate themselves in sick, disturbing and twisted ways by intentionally diminishing others? What makes some people pour their energy into financially, emotionally, sexually and physically hurting and exploiting others?

Her name could be Sandra, Delores, Kelly, Cindy, Fatima, Tatiana or any other. She could be living in poverty, entrenched in the middle class or among the well-to-do. She just might have a degree or her Masters, dropped out before getting her high school diploma or be back in an adult education classroom. Her height, weight, eye or hair colour don’t define her, nor the country of her birth, the family she calls her own. She is at the same time anyone and everyone; your next door neighbour, the person you share the bus with, the driver in the next lane, the co-worker you admire for her good work habits. She could be your daughter; and you could be entirely unaware. And not be excluded, his name could be Dan, Keith, Jordan, etc. with the same realities as those above.

I’ll tell you this: he or she didn’t deserve what’s happened. She didn’t ask for it, he didn’t seek it out, neither one is in the least deserving of being on the receiving end of an abusive relationship. Let’s make it personal. YOU; yes you, you are blameless. You deserve better; you’re worthy and your not at fault. What you looked for, what you thought you’d found, wasn’t the abusive, manipulative relationship you ended up in. Those emotional beatings you’ve been on the receiving end of are just as real, just as devastating as a physical assault.

So what’s prompted this? Well, as you’d have guessed, once again, I’ve encountered victims of abuse; suffering at the hands of their past and current partners. What do these predatory men who’ve inflicted this abuse on these people have in common? Here’s their description:

  •  They are polite, well-spoken, charming and well-mannered
  •  They introduced themselves as caring and loving
  •  They discouraged contact with the victims friends
  •  They separated the victim from receiving help/support
  •  They went too far, apologized, said it would never happen again
  •  They bought gifts, they came smartly dressed
  •  They keep the victim guessing, on their guard and nervous
  •  They set impossible standards, demean and shame

Recognize anyone you know? These are the fellows who can charm parents of the victim into actually taking their side, who act and sound remorseful when it suits their needs and punish, pummel and humiliate when they are in the mood for, ‘fun’. These abusers dash hopes routinely, snoop through purses, get their mutual friends convinced they are the, ‘good’ one. These are the ones that turn kids against the victim; making it out that the victim is to blame for the fights, the arguments, the separations, the divorces. They are often extremely intelligent, convincing, likable and their greatest skill is manipulation. You might even like them very much yourself and come to doubt the truth of the victim’s claims.

I’m working closely with two victims of abuse at the moment. We’re looking to move forward with interviews that will lead to employment offers. I’ve only a small glimpse of the abuse suffered and endured. I’m hurting for them – and I’m not being trite – I’m being serious. But my hurt is absolutely nothing in comparison to theirs and please don’t think I’m suggesting it is.

What I see is two beautiful people both inside and out. They’ve got a lot to offer potential employers. They are bright, intelligent, well-spoken, educated, have superior interpersonal skills and… they are fragile, damaged, but not for a moment are they anything less than amazing and deserving.

What they want; what they deserve is decent jobs and stable, caring, meaningful relationships in true reciprocating partnerships. What annoys me and saddens me is when good people – strike that – beautiful people become jaded and hardened towards the world; when they distrust (with reason) others and miss the very healthy and secure, loving relationships they so crave. Those abusive, small-minded, evil abusers at that point have won.

If you know an abusive individual, stop pretending they aren’t doing any harm. Distance yourself from them and call them out. Abusers don’t like being in the light. If you know a victim, offer support, believe them and stand with them. Be a good ambassador for humankind. At this point, more abusers are male, more victims female. If you’re a male, you’ve got an onus to be one of the good guys; to keep alive the slim glimmer of hope for some woman that good men, while hard to find, are still out there. This is especially true if you’re in a position of authority and work with vulnerable populations. It falls to all of us however to be decent.

If you’re moved by this, impacted by this, add your voice. A like, a thumbs up, a comment. Let us stand together.

How Do I Explain A 10 Year Gap?


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Today I sat down with a woman who hasn’t worked in the last ten years. “This is a huge problem for me. I mean, what do I say?” The look she gave me as she asked this question flooded poor self-image, a lack of hope, embarrassment; take your pick.

Well, I replied with the same reply I ask anyone who has been out of work for a period of time. I asked her politely to confide in me and tell me the real reason she’s been out of work so long. You see I have a mindset which is that there isn’t a problem I can’t solve or an issue I can’t strategize for when it comes to overcoming a dreaded question and performing well in an employment interview. That may sound cocky and I don’t mean to. What I mean is that anytime I sit down with someone who presents with a problem – big or small, I go in with a mindset of being able to provide this person with a viable solution at the end. If one doesn’t work, I’ll come up with another possible answer. The one that works for the person I’m helping is the one they choose and the one they feel they can pull off.

Maybe you’ve got a problem issue that you dread coming up in a job interview too. That question that inevitably gets asked just when you thought the interview was actually going well for a change. Take heart, maybe you benefit too.

So the reason? “I raised my girls.” Hmm… I’ve heard this before. Heard it before yes, but never from this woman. And this is crucial for anyone reading this who also helps others with interview preparation. You will hear over and over again the same tough questions people face, but please, never lose sight of the fact that this person sitting before you has never raised this issue of you. If you never lose sight of this and tune in like you’re hearing this for the first time, the person feels so validated and connected with just by your response, they’ll actually tell you more.  And this was the case today.

In just a moment or two, I arrived at the real reason she’d been out of work for 10 years. It went something like this:

“So what’s the real reason you’ve been out of work for 10 years. Tell me.”

“I raised my girls.”

“That was important for you. (Pause) Any other reason?”

“Well, my ex; he was abusive.”

And there it was; the answer to the question. Well, if not THE answer, it was at the very least one possible answer she could consider giving if and when asked. The key in finding out if the answer would work for her is in letting her actually hear it delivered as she might deliver it so she could gauge the strength of the answer. Hence, I asked her to reverse our roles, and pose the question to me as if I was her.

“Okay, so why have you been out of work for 10 years?”

“That’s a fair question and I wish I had a better answer. The truth is I was in an abusive relationship with a controlling partner who refused to allow me to work. He kept me at home raising our children. I’m no longer in that relationship and it took some time to relocate, rebuild my self-confidence; something I’m still working on. I tell you though I’m mentally and physically ready to work and I will arrive each day with a willingness to learn, grateful for the opportunity and you’ll have a worker who does their best.”

“I like it” she said. When I told her this was just one possible way to answer the question and offered to give her other suggestions, she stopped me. This one resonated with her because of the honesty, and she felt for the first time she wasn’t on the spot to make something up, like totally fabricated employment, which she said she’d been told to do by someone else.

Do you know how I could tell this answer will work for her? I read her face. Whereas I’d seen low self-image, hopelessness and embarrassment at the outset, now I saw hope, possibilities, relief.

Now, here’s the hard part if you yourself have a sticky situation that makes answering some interview question a major problem. You have to find someone you can confide the truth in – whatever it is. Only when I know the real reason behind your problem can I offer up a possible resolution that you might adopt. If you hold back on that truth, any possible solution will be based on what you share, for how could it be based on what is kept hidden?

So, criminal record, abuse, fired, exploited…what’s your issue? What is the question you dread in an interview? Whatever you fear won’t be diminished until you come up with a solid response that puts fear in its place. The only way to come up with that solid response is to lay it out and that takes courage.

For the record, I’m confident that wherever you are in the world as you read this, there is someone with the empathy, understanding and most importantly the expertise to guide you and counsel you through your own situation.

Reach out in your neck of the woods and all the best my friend.

 

Bad Employer; A Decision To Make


Roughly two months ago I was introduced to an unemployed Photographer with a long-term goal of owning her own business and studio. After 4 days of working together, she was offered and accepted a job as a Manager of a Photography studio; the kind of place you’d find in a big box store where you and the family might go for some portraits or to have your passport photos taken.

Now this job wasn’t her dream job, but it was in her field, it would put employment on her résumé, and it would certainly bring in some immediate income; albeit not the amount she’d want down the road. Setting aside some of her wages for that long-term dream studio and getting a job offer after a frustrating long job search did wonders for her self-esteem.

Well as happens occasionally, the experience has backfired; she’s feeling used and abused, the position was immediately clarified as employee not Manager, and the wages aren’t consistent with others in the same role. She’s continued to be poorly trained, she hasn’t even got one person she primarily reports to, and if you can believe it, she only interacts with these Supervisors by text; she never sees them in person and works on her own. In this odd setup, she is monitored by cameras, and is told she isn’t selling enough to hit her daily targets, but when asking for guidance and training, she’s told to phone other locations and ask for tips and tricks! Another employee told her she’s on the ‘fire’ list too.

So we sat down together face-to-face yesterday afternoon. My inclination as I listened was to tell her clearly that I believed she should quit. However, professionally, I know it would be better for her to come to her own decision. In other words, my goal was to hear her out, take what she was feeling emotionally and physically, work with that and give it back to her in such a way that she’d have the clarity to make her own choice. What she wanted I felt, was validation of her circumstances, and to understand the impact if any, on her social assistance status were she to quit.

I admired her desire to keep the job until she found a better one. It’s not in her nature to give up on a job. In was here that I drew a parallel where she had in the past been in a relationship where she didn’t want to give up on her abusive partner. Back then, she’d thought she could ‘fix’ him; make him better. That didn’t work, and she eventually removed herself from that abusive relationship and is the better for it, now with someone who treats her better. This was similar; not in her nature to quit, trying to make the situation work because she really enjoys working with customers, but at the same time, being shuffled to and from 4 locations to fill in staff absences. She’s been scheduled to work every weekend so far; despite having asked for one off to celebrate her own birthday, and the schedule changes without her being told herself until another employee calls to tell her. Oh and I saw the texts on her mobile; very inappropriate language and very poor communication.

In the end I made sure first and foremost that she knew there would be no sanctions, suspension of benefits or other penalties for quitting. Sure, we in Social Services generally want people to keep jobs until they find better ones, but this isn’t healthy; it’s someone in a position of being mentally abused. We discussed of course the pros and cons of staying and quitting, and should quitting be her decision, how to go about it a few different ways.

I think what helped her the most was realizing that this minimum wage job, while yes in her field of photography, could be easily replaced by any job with no loss in wages, but where she would likely be much better treated. Perhaps a little wiser, her mental health and self-esteem are worth more than keeping this job and trying to fix it.

By the way, if YOU are in a similar position, I empathize with you. You need the income I understand, but bad employers and being mistreated on a regular basis come with a cost. Is the income you’re getting enough to really offset the cost to your own mental and physical health?

Being August and rolling into September, we’re in the second best time for getting hired. Now – right now – is the best time to ramp up your job search and go at it with renewed energy. You’re worth more than staying in a job where you’re poorly trained and supported, make minimum wage or well below what you’re experience and education qualify you for. It’s definitely up to you and you alone whether you stay or go.

Now if you do quit a job, the worse thing an employer can do is not pay you for some of the wages you’re entitled to, which is illegal, but they might threaten that. You might fight this or just walk away and report them to the Ministry of Labour in your area. You don’t need to put a short-term job even on your résumé, so it won’t haunt you into your next job either.

Bad employer? Is it worth it to stay?

The Importance Of Shifting The Agenda


I was really looking forward to our one-on-one resume appointment; after all, she’d been smiling and engaged all through the group presentation just a few days before. Adding to that positive first impression, she’d called ahead to advise me of a slight conflict with another appointment and respectfully asked to make a small change in our appointment time. (This kind of respect for other people’s schedules goes a long way). Finally, she’d also mentioned that she had, on her own, taken efforts to use the ideas I’d shared with the group; full marks on initiative and personal accountability!

So as I say, I was really looking forward to our meeting.

It started off well enough as she was on time, nicely dressed and there of course was the nice smile I’d remembered. As requested, she’d come prepared with a job she was interested in applying for too; a part-time Receptionist position with a local funeral home as it turned out. While she didn’t have a résumé and we were starting from scratch, she had obviously put pen to paper and with this data, it would be quicker to take what she’d put down and re-work and re-word things to fit the posting.

Ah, this was going to be a nice time together…probably just an hour I’d imagined.

After we had reviewed the job requirements from the posting, highlighting each one to make sure we’d note these somewhere on the résumé, I remarked that her last employment was some 7 years ago. “Why the gap?” I wondered to myself; so I asked.

“I took time off to start and raise a family…and I got a divorce.” Everything had been normal until she mentioned the word, ‘divorce’. In a seconds she was fighting for tears, looking expectedly around for a tissue, and not seeing the box behind her, was wiping away the tears from her eyes and apologizing profusely.

Instantly I realized the résumé could and would have to wait. This kind of thing happens more often than people might think. Years of working with people have taught me a number of things, and one is that for someone to break down so quickly at the mere mention of divorce suggested to me it was fresh, the rawness still very new, and yes, there was the distinct possibility she’d been on the receiving end of some kind of abuse.

As it turned out, it was a case of past abuse, for when asked if she had someone she might talk to about her experience, she mentioned she was seeing a Counsellor provided through a local women’s shelter. The mere mention of the shelter told me enough, as I wasn’t the right person nor was this the right time to have a counselling session. Still, it costs nothing to give someone your full attention and pause, assuring them that its okay to express their feelings.

I wondered if this woman was ready to work. I mean, it’s extremely probable that she’s going to be asked about the 7 year employment gap on her résumé in an interview, and would she share to them what she shared with me, and would this repeat itself anew?

When I very gently asked if she was ready to work, she said that she had original been thinking about volunteering to get going again, but the part-time job appealed to her as she hoped it would be through the day so she could still take care of and see her 3 children. “How silly of me though! I think I should just forget the job and look at volunteering somewhere.”

This could be a classic response of someone who was told things like, “No one will ever hire you” or, “You’ll never make it without me” etc., so it was really important to point out a couple of things to boost her fragile self-esteem. First of all, she was still sitting with me and wanted to do a résumé, which while she had broken down, she hadn’t gathered up  her things and bolted for the door. So it was important to her. Secondly, she had the skills required for the posting; and if granted an interview, she’d feel good knowing the résumé worked. If she got a job through the interview, it would bring added stress – but good stress, and if she didn’t get the job, she’d be no worse off for the experience.

Well we finished that resume together, and near the end, I again pointed out some positives. The smile was back on the face for the world to see, and she genuinely liked how we had marketed herself on the résumé which made her happy.

When you work with people in this field, it’s key to remember that the agenda you have all nicely laid out shouldn’t be so rigid that its importance outweighs the people sitting before you. While not a formal counselling session, this had been more than a résumé appointment.

This interaction highlights the difference between working solely with a résumé expert and a resume expert who works in the context of serving people first and foremost. Total cost for the 1 1/2 hour resume/listening/support/self-esteem repairing session? Zip.

For the record, I share not to get any praise or accolade. I share to highlight and remind us who work with people that establishing and nurturing a trusting relationship will take you places while remaining detached will have you wondering why your resumes don’t turn into jobs.

Abused? In A Shelter? Trying To Work?


Here’s your situation…

You’re unemployed, the car needs $450 of work to even get back on the road. You’ve know a few people but none well enough to really call close friends, and certainly no one to really confide in and tell how you feel. You’ve had three failed relationships with men who’ve abused you verbally, emotionally and occasionally physically, but they were always smart enough to never leave evidence. Now you find yourself living in the shelter system, safe but removed from most of your belongings. Your family blames you for the choices you’ve made and your not even notified or invited to family functions; weddings, funerals and holidays included.

On top of the above, you’ve got no job, your references are weak at best, you’ve got little experience or it’s in a field you no longer want to work in because the jobs you have had in the past only put you in vulnerable situations, attracting the kind of people who only brought you trouble.

Now you find yourself receiving social assistance, a nice name for welfare. As your housed temporarily in a safe house for abused women, you’re only getting some funds for food and transportation. You’re safe for the time being but the stay isn’t indefinite, and you’ve got to find a place to move to within a looming deadline. Where you’re staying you’re surrounded by other women with similar stories, and while the humanity in you makes you open to feeling their pain, in another way you don’t feel it’s doing you good to be constantly hearing others talk about their situations. It’s all still kind of raw and open.

There’s the courts to deal with too, and that means you’re dealing with law offices and lawyers; yours and his. It’s not a world you ever thought you’d have to deal with and your out of your depths. So much paperwork, so many things to send by email and post, other things to record and organize, meetings to be kept and names and contact numbers to store.

Personally, you’re worried. Your decision-making skills seem pretty poor, your more confused than you remember ever being, little things seem like major problems, your self-esteem is fragile and no matter how much you try you just can’t seem to turn off your brain. Even reading a book or a magazine isn’t possible. After 20 minutes you find you’re still on the same page of a book and you suddenly realize you can’t recall what you’ve read anyhow. You’d go out for a walk to clear your head except it’s the evening and you feel more vulnerable as night descends and the house gets locked down for security reasons anyhow.

On top of all of this, you want to get a job. A job after all will bring you some immediate income. You worry though if you can handle it. After all, how many balls can you juggle at once?

For those of you that think I’m laying it on rather thick; that this might be an extremely rare situation for a woman to be in – maybe one in a million, I wish you were right. Unfortunately you’re not right and I’m not laying it on rather thick. This is reality for far too many women.

Having visited just such a residence and being a man, I’m a bit of a rarity. Men as a pretty hard rule aren’t allowed in women’s shelters. Even the nicest and best of men can trigger fear in those in residence there – being the one place they are assured they are completely safe. Having been in one on a professional basis, it’s given me some experiential insights I wouldn’t have otherwise. But even having made a visit to the inside, I’m not naïve enough to think I understand what it’s like to stay in residence there. I would never presume to feel that.

Can you understand perhaps even a little how difficult it must be to then go about rebuilding your life and trying to get a job? Whether you’re a Job Coach, Employment Counsellor, Temp Agency, Recruiter or Employer, you can’t ever know the story behind the woman who appears totally employable but for some odd reason is having problems moving ahead.

On the outside, this woman before you might seem pretty together. Perhaps she’s well-groomed, dressed appropriately, arrived on time for the interview and even interviewed well. Sure there’s the issue of very few references or little job experience but she seems to have the right personality and attitude for the work. Yet, why when you offered them the job did they decline? Or if they did take the job, why did they have to go and quit on you after just two days on the job?

It’s what you don’t know, and what they just can’t share with you that’s behind their apparent lack of respect for the trust you placed in them. At the moment their emotionally messed up to put it bluntly. There’s a gulf between what they want to do and what they are capable of doing. They know it, and now they feel guilt for having to decline a job offer they thought they could do.

If you knew their story, you’d get it. You might even Champion their efforts. Something to bear in mind if you find yourself puzzled with some woman’s behaviour.

Want To Work But Your Partner Says No?


If you are in a relationship where your partner tells you to stay unemployed you could be in an abusive relationship. This is especially true if you express an interest in working and the conversation is closed. To be in an abusive relationship you don’t have to be at the receiving end of a punch or slap, it could be an issue of control.

There’s some warning signs to look for in the controlling behaviour of others. Could be that your discouraged from seeing your friends; told they aren’t good for you to hang out with, and that the controlling person has your best interests at heart. This tactic is really about isolating you from other people, and when you’re isolated, you become an easier target to control. And as for looking for work, if you are isolated and don’t get to talk to many people, there goes your networking ability. Who’s in a position to help you get a job if they don’t even see you much, let alone know you want to work and could use their help?

Another sign to look out for has to do with finances and who manages the money. Many people who have control issues want to manage all the money. They themselves may use money for socializing, buying drinks for their friends and buying things for themselves, but the money they allow the controlled person to spend is severely limited. So again, with respect to work and wanting the money that comes from a job, the controlling person doesn’t want their partner working because then you might gain some independence.

So when someone is controlling the behaviour of another person, what’s behind it? Well it could be that the person has low self-esteem and actually needs someone else to be dependent on them in order for them to feel important. Being the ‘bread winner’ and bringing home the money is a physical way in which they can be the big provider; aka the caveman who brought home the kill for the day and then had their partner cook it up for them. There’s a mistaken belief sometimes that if one can’t provide for two without the second person working, the first is a failure.

Now most of the time, and I’ve been careful not to attribute gender into this piece until now, the male is the controller and the female is their victim. However, there are situations where a man is the victim of a woman who refuses to let him work, removing from him his sense of masculinity. Before you retort with, “What has masculinity got to do with it?”, the word is one used often by men in this predicament themselves. I will not change what they state as their feelings with something we might otherwise find more politically correct. And with an increase in gay, lesbian, transgendered and queer relationships, it may not be a typical male to female model at all. So the, ‘one person to another person’ analogy is where I’ll keep it. Abuse is abuse, leave the gender out of it for now.

Abusers worry about their partner meeting people, sharing things with those people that they don’t approve of, and want to know all the details about what they talked about. They are worried too that if they aren’t watched, their partner might stash some money away for themselves, or open up a secret bank account. So questions about where the money is at any time are always asked.

Now consider anyone who is unemployed for a moment. Probably not very proud of their unemployment, and may have even retreated somewhat from social gatherings. But get a job; ah get a job and what happens? Their self-esteem is back, they are more confident and only then share they good news. It’s much the same for a victim of abuse who is controlled by another. If they get a job, there’s a little rise in their self-esteem, maybe a crack of a smile more often, and possibly purchases of things just for them like new clothes. And if they break free from the controlling partner, only then do they talk much about being free of the controlling partner and in so doing reclaim some personal dignity.

I’m reminded of a 20 something woman who was very attractive, in good shape, and wanted to work. Her partner, who I never did meet, told her he’d have to approve of where she worked, when she worked, and he’d handle all the money issues for her. Alarm bells couldn’t be ringing any louder for me. She wasn’t ready when we first met to see things objectively, (how could she?) but eventually she saw things for the way they were.

She started with a job in a dollar store, and her partner monitored her from outside the store and every so often came in after she had helped people to ask what they’d been talking about. While he got banned from the store, she had to deal with his anger when she went home. Eventually she left, and when she did, he hurled physical and verbal abuse. BUT SHE WAS FREE.

Does this hit home with you? Describe you or someone you know? My advice which is always related to jobs and careers is to first get yourself in a safe spot. Seek supportive counselling. It’s private and confidential. Your safety has to be first.

Don’t Believe, “You’ll Never Amount To Anything! You’re Useless!”


Would you consider the person at the receiving end of comments like the heading of this blog as someone being abused? Would it have to take a slap against the head, a yank on the arm or some other physical contact in your opinion to qualify as abuse?

It is abuse of course; not physical abuse, but it’s still abuse. In this case its verbal abuse and it can have a life-long profound affect on the psyche of the person who hears that message twenty times a day their entire childhood and teenage years. By the time they get to adulthood, they see themselves as damaged goods, not worthy of a normal life, they mistrust authority figures and may paint all men or all women with the same mistrust and anxiety.

As a man in social services, I often come into contact with vulnerable people who have been victims of – or more correctly are still victims of – abuse. I’m aware even now that as I write this there are abusers among my audience who are smiling broadly and laughing as their abusive behaviour just got validated. You see that’s the sick pleasure they get out of their abusive behaviour in the first place; they feed on creating fear and submissive behaviour in their victims, and want nothing more than the knowledge that their victims know it for the rest of their lives.

But I want to address those who are trying to move ahead and make a future for themselves. If you’ve been told for a long time that you’re not going to amount to anything, it will take some time to change your view of yourself and see yourself as someone who has something of value to contribute to an employer. Often I help people, (mostly women) who are victims of abuse, and they have been isolated from having friends, have been kept from working, or made to work in degrading jobs and followed there and back to make sure they don’t do anything other than make money for the abuser.

You have skills first of all that you may not think are of value to anyone. And yes it’s probably true that you may not honestly be in a position to see those skills as being valuable to anyone for a long time until you come to like yourself. Just liking something about yourself may be difficult in itself. Just a single thing. And if you’ve never experienced abuse first-hand or dealt with those who are victims of abuse, this seems incredible to believe.

Think of your survival skills, and how you coped and just got through those days when things were bad and you got ill-treated. Your goal was just to make it to the pillow at night and you found ways to do it. You even went out of your way perhaps to try your very best to please the very person who mistreated you, and it was never good enough. You may not know it, but you might be excellent therefore at dealing in some kind of customer service job where you are entrusted to provide customers with superior service in the hopes of getting them to be loyal and repeat customers. Why? Because you’re genuinely concerned about making sure customers are treated well; they way you yourself would wish to be treated.

You may have had only a small amount of money to make due with, and had to budget every cent, pay bills, deal with debt collectors and deal with strong personalities. It could be said that you would do well with some proper training, to occupy a position in an organization of minding a company’s finances, because you know the value of economizing, and can maximize the dollars they do spend.

Moving on from being a victim is tough. It’s not as easy as just forgetting about the abuse or the abuser and ‘shaking it off’. Even someone who thinks they are fairly past those feelings can have something trigger an emotional anxiety or fear that isn’t immediately obvious to other people. But move on you can.

Sure there’s counselling, and I really do recommend you get the service of a counsellor. Find someone you trust and have a good chemistry with and pour it all out over time. You will feel better, and you’ll learn more coping strategies and get suggestions on people and places you can safely go to receive support and guidance. Trusting others may be something you find impossible or at the very least challenging, but please understand that the more you distrust everyone, that abuser is still having an influence over your current behaviour. Try from time-to-time to give others a chance with an open-mind and see if your trust isn’t justified. It will help your mental outlook to do so.

And you will amount to something and you aren’t useless. That’s a myth that abusers drill into their victims so they believe the only person in the world who cares at all is the abuser. Instead of supporting you and having you view yourself as a beautiful person to be treasured and well cared for, they chose a long time ago to demean and bring you down to a level beneath them. And that’s often because they are the one with mental health issues themselves. They themselves need help to see their own behaviour as wrong.

But you? You are someone who deserves a good life. Oh yes you do.

“You’re Useless!” And Other Put-Downs


This week and next, I am facilitating a Self-Employment class at work. I’ve got twelve individuals, all of whom are on social assistance, who are interested in launching their businesses soon; intent on gaining their financial independence this way rather than the more conventional route of working for someone else.

While all of them present with their own barriers to employment, there is one whose comment struck me as all too common, whether one is job searching or attempting to run a business. The comment made remarked on those closest to her; family and friends who have always doubted her openly and are now telling her she doesn’t have what it takes to run her business and she should just suck it up and go get a regular job.

Now that’s as much about this one person I’m going to share in this blog today. However, I’m going to sum up a multitude of individual conversations with others throughout. Comments that openly criticize others are destructive and painful for the other person. While some people do say these mean comments to bully and intentional hurt, often they are made in a bizarre attempt to be helpful.

But why do the comments sting so much at all? To answer this, its important to remember that the comments are coming from sources that people generally expect to be supportive and nurturing; our family and closest friends. More than any other people, our parents, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, our best friends; these are the people constantly in our lives who know us best. And if they know us best and they don’t believe we have the ability to succeed, then how good are our chances of success?

You must also realize that because you are without a job, you have lost temporarily, the status that typically gets assigned by our society to people who have jobs. And it’s generally believed that trying to launch a business is much more difficult than going to work for someone else.

I’m telling you this: If you are constantly being put-down, criticized, having your abilities questioned, yelled at, told you’ll never amount to anything or you’re just a major disappointment, you’ve got to take action. It is absolutely critical that the attacks stop. If you continue to endure and live in a situation where others slam you constantly – especially if those others are family – you run a high-risk of believing all those negative comments, doubting your self-worth, depression, withdrawal from society and even suicide.

To start with, if you haven’t done it, have a conversation with those closest to you about your job search or your new business venture if you’re going that route. Explain the ultimate goal, why you’ve settled on that career or business idea, and how the skills, experience and education you have puts you in a position to succeed. If you are taking training, share that too. All of this may legitimize yourself in their eyes, proving you’ve really thought this out. And then ask for their personal support, telling them how you value their opinion, and that you really need them behind you.

Now if you just get some negative reaction, they just call you stupid or a complete waste of space, you have to in my opinion for your own good, remove yourself from the source of all the destructive and hurtful comments. This could mean moving out or restricting phone contact to once a week instead of daily calls. And it could mean putting rules of engagement in place, such as, “if you start yelling at me and telling me I’m stupid, I ask you to stop once and then I hang up the phone.” You really can’t afford it you see to constantly be verbally assaulted and abused; and if you didn’t realize it until just now, you are a victim of abuse – it’s verbal but it’s still abuse.

Being the victim of verbal abuse can be more deadly than a victim of physical abuse – although please don’t think either are preferable. It’s just that others can’t see bruises and welts who would help, and it takes much closer observation to see the damage.

If you do leave home, don’t do it in a rage, yelling and screaming, yelling accusations back and forth. Do it calmly, with purpose, knowing you may at some point in the future, welcome and seek out that contact so don’t burn the bridges on your side of the relationship. You’re not leaving to hurt the other people, you’re leaving to preserve the person you are and save yourself. This also applies if you have to temporarily terminate a close friendship with someone who doesn’t believe in you. Same rules; leave with kindness and respect for them even if it seems incredibly difficult to do.

You are a person of worth. You do have good qualities. You are entitled to succeed. There is a job out there you can do and do well. Your idea for a business may just be your future calling.

Ironically, those closest to you are usually scared for you and want you to succeed. They want to see you well-off but know they may be powerless to help you so they just rant and seek to motivate you by calling you names. They know not the destruction they cause, and are powerless to do otherwise. That conversation you have might give them an opening.

The Unemployment / Self-Esteem Connection


Of the many things one loses with unemployment, perhaps there is no greater loss than that of self-esteem. I say this because there are many I know who are unemployed and have lost the ability to believe in themselves.

You see for many, the initial period following a loss of employment or commencing a job search after training can actually be euphoric; a period of optimism as the thought of working somewhere outweighs the current lack of work. The job search is new, there’s been no rejections, and they have a sense that they’ll be hired soon. For the person just getting out of school or moving into a new town, there can only be reason to be positive.

However, when the weeks of searching turn into months, and the months start mounting to the point where a year is fully in view, that optimism often turns to pessimism; and the frustration will often get a person looking inward. “What am I doing wrong?”, “What’s wrong with me?” These are two questions people will often ask. And you know it might be easy after seven months or so to look at the person and tell them that they aren’t going about it on a full-time basis anymore, putting in a seven hour daily job search, but realistically, how fair is it to expect someone out of work that long to maintain that level of enthusiasm for a job search that’s become a source of reinforced futility?

Think about it for a minute. Day after day, waking up and in those first few groggy minutes as you lie in bed, your unemployment snaps into sharp focus and your mind starts racing; filled with negative thoughts, self-doubts and depression. The link between unemployment and self-esteem isn’t so strange is it? After all, just see someone get a job and you’ll see a smile, a twinkle in the eye, quickness in their step, and you’ll hear relief and enthusiasm back in their voice.

Now maybe you might argue that a strong person should be able to intellectually separate unemployment from how they view themselves; after all, their unemployment may be impacted severely by factors beyond their control. This is true of course; the economic engine driving hiring cycles may be sputtering or running in high gear, but how often can you expect some job seeker to be ignored completely or rejected from not taking things personally?

Every now and then, when counselling someone out of work, I’ll encounter someone whose self-esteem has become so frayed, that they will literally break down. When those eyes become glossy, and the rapid blinking begins, its only seconds until a waterfall of tears cascades and rolls down their cheeks. There is a real injustice I think linking unemployment and self-image, but it’s there nonetheless. Why is this?

So much weight is placed on who we are as defined by what we do. As I’ve often said, it’s because we often ask, “So what do you do for a living?” when we meet someone. Can you imagine if we were sincerely able to turn that question into, “Hi. So what would you like me to know about you?” (Think about it; this is often a version of “Tell me about yourself”; the dreaded interview opener!)

This low self-esteem issue is tied inexplicably to one’s belief in their abilities and self-recognition of their positive qualities. It can be so low during unemployment, that when asked what they like about themselves, the unemployed often can’t name much. And the other group who generally can’t name much they like about themselves are victims of physical or sexual abuse. So are the unemployed seeing themselves as victims? That would be a study wouldn’t it; linking the connections between the unemployed and victims of abuse. And that doesn’t diminish I hope true victims of assault and abuse, but rather I hope emphasises the impact of long-term unemployment. In a way, people in both know they should ‘get out’ as it were, but feel powerless to bring about the change without help.

I myself have had periods in my own life where I’ve been out of work. I applied for a job in August one year, and after applying, writing a test, having two interviews and waiting, I got a letter telling me I was now in a pool to be selected from when hiring would occur. Eventually, I did start work – in March of the following year! All during that period I searched for other work, but my exertion ebbed and flowed, and it was isolating. I have never forgot that feeling, and each day bring that empathy – and sympathy if truth be told, to the workplace.

Tying our image to our employment is unhealthy in so many ways. How many times do you hear about someone who recently retired and was looking forward to it, suddenly finding themselves with little purpose, and needing to get out and do something? Why? Boredom and lack of purpose. When you go from being someone as defined by a job to being ‘just’ a person seen around town a lot, part of your identity is gone. For this reason people will often say to people they meet, “I USED to be a _______. In other words, they want you to recognize them not so much for who they are now, but who they used to be.

Remember, you’ve still got lots of good qualities. If you are having trouble believing that, it’s not you, it’s unemployment distorting your perception.

Living With Abuse and Jobsearching


Why of all days blog about job searching while in an abusive relationship? Well today is Valentine’s day, and it’s supposed to be a day for love and for lovers. But there is no day that’s set aside for victims living in an abusive relationship, and I want to tie this into the job search; because today of all days, some victims in an abusive relationship may suffer today more than any other day.

Job searching for anyone is tough. I’m hearing from more and more people all the time that are telling me how the job search is harder than they remember it being; that the days of getting interviews all the time are over, and it’s getting harder to keep up their self-confidence. Okay so let’s work on the assumption that anyone looking for work is struggling with self-esteem issues over a prolonged job search. Now I want those of you who are in healthy supportive relationships to imagine conducting a job search without any support of any kind. Would that be tough? We all could use some support and encouragement.

I’m not done though. Now imagine if you can, trying to present yourself as a professional, competent assertive person when you’ve got a partner who treats you like a possession; who degrades you and tells you forty times a day that you’ll never amount to anything. (Get a job!) You might think to turn to your friends for some moral support but, sadly, your partner controls who you see, yells at you if you do speak to anybody, and isolates you emotionally and physically from other people who might be in a position to actually help. You’re controlled to the point where their insecurity won’t let you even talk to someone of the opposite sex. (Get a job!) How’s that job search going now?

I’m not done though. You’re told repeatedly to get a job and start contributing and yet you get the conflicting statements about how stupid you are, worthless you are, nobody wants you, and the best you can hope for is to stay with this person because they’ll put up with you. (Get a job!) On top of looking for a job, you’d better clean, cook, do laundry, dishes, and I’m not even going to get into the sexual gratification area, but you’d best be at least decent in that department too. (Get a job!)

How likely is it that you’d be allowed to do much searching on the internet at home to look for work? (Get a job!) After all, your abusive partner would be yelling at you most of the time and definitely doing a search history to see what websites you’ve been visiting and checking your email to see who you have been talking to. Delete that information before they check it out – even accidentally – and you might get slapped around or worse.

Getting a job might seem like a good thing not only for the income, but quite frankly the most appealing thing might be actually getting away from your partner for a few hours or more a week. Guess what? Your partner might just show up at your workplace and spy on you under the premise of ‘visiting’. In the worst situations, they actually interfere with your work and leave your boss with no choice but to let you go because of the disruption your partner shows. (Get a job!) And all this time, you partner will tell you that you deserve everything you’re getting in life. Having a lovely Valentine’s day yet?

Point made. There’s an end to this blog coming, but sadly for those in abusive situations, there is often no hope of an end in sight. So what if anything can you do? Well some of you reading this may know of an abused person, and further more, an abused person who is looking for work. Sometimes the abused person can’t imagine how they would support themselves financially without their abusive partner.

So here are some things you might do if you want to help. First, find out about some resources in your community that help victims of abuse; shelters and counsellors for a start. Victims often have no idea where to get started. Offer to store their resume or important documents like certificates, ID or copies of ID etc. so they can’t be stolen or withheld. Most of all, just be an ear. Don’t fret about knowing what to say, just listen and ask how you can help. If you have the ability, maybe you can make copies of their resume for them, let them use your own home computer to apply for jobs if they can get to your home.

Of course one of the things that any of us can do for victims of abuse is point out their good qualities. Who knows how many people, and over what period of time have beat down their self-image. Reinforce the positive and tell them things you admire in them; point out their strengths in a genuine way. And because victims live constantly in such a high state of stress and anxiety, as much as it defies logic, don’t add pressure on them to get out. Give the information about options and if you have the skill, write out an exit plan so the possibility is there. When the time is right for that person they may put that plan into action.

Interviewing for a job can be intimidating and stressful for anyone. Ironically I’ve interviewed people before who used their years of enduring abuse as part of their answers to interview questions. They spoke of their determination to improve their lives, their resolve, their appreciation for opportunities, and their inner stamina to keep working until things are done. The best interviews are usually when applicants bring real-life examples from their past into the interview, to demonstrate how they have used a skill or character trait in the past and how they would transfer that experience to the present job they are applying for.
All the best.