In the previous post, I discussed a few tactics that abusers use for manipulation and control. One of those tactics is called hoovering, which is when an abuser senses their victim distancing themselves from the relationship, they will shower the victim with gifts, compliments, trips, and other means to suck the victim back in.
A Little Background…
My abuser was an ace at surprises. He took any opportunity to flip a normal situation into a grand event. He used “surprising” me as a manipulative tactic to hoover me back in and to accomplish personal goals. He was also great at financial manipulation (which I will discuss further in a later post). He had combined our finances under his name. I was forced to use a card with his name on it for everything. This made it difficult for me to do anything for myself without punishment. Meanwhile, he was spending our money on events, concerts, Patagonia gear, leather boots (which he had over eight pairs of) haircuts, expensive watches, technology, etc.
A Breaking Point
After years of staying home with the kids to support my abuser and his endeavors, my soul was dissolving. I had to make myself solid again. I had always been a singer and a musician, so I decided to pick up guitar lessons which led to songwriting, songwriters’ nights, and starting a band. I finally had something of my own; Something he couldn’t take from me.
We had a dirty, old side garage that was being used for storage and would be a perfect space to work on my music. I would need to make my own money if I wanted a chance at creating a music studio. I started gigging and getting cash back at grocery stores (God forbid I used our money for myself). I worked hard saving up for my space away from his abuse where I could write and sing and make my voice loud! It was a slow process; I would have to be discreet. I was afraid if he knew I had money he would take it, and he did.
A Quick Escape
My grandmother passed away and left me a check which she requested I use for travel, education, or the like. When I told my abuser of my plan to flip the side garage into my music studio, he rejected the idea. He told me we couldn’t afford it. I told him not to worry, and that I had been saving my gig money and had just received a check from my grandmother that I could put toward my space. He told me we couldn’t afford to put any more money into the house, and that he needed it for a corporate call for a brewery he was investing in.
I was furious but couldn’t dare show it. The next day I loaded up the car and drove ten hours with two kids under the age of four to Jacksonville to stay with my parents. I used the time away to ground myself. I came to terms with my financial situation and regarded it as a setback that I could overcome. I would figure out how to raise the rest of the money for my studio. My idea of what the studio could look like went from serene and sacred to basic. I convinced myself I didn’t need AC; I didn’t need much - just a rug and maybe a chair. I could use an extension cord to hook up my equipment.
After a week of centering myself, I drove the ten hours back home with the kids. Tired and needing to pee, we arrived at the house with relief. *Side bar: If you’ve never driven alone for ten hours with two kids under the age of four, I would compare the stress level to the stress of disarming a nuclear bomb. As soon as the kids and I stepped inside, my abuser was in the corner with a wet vac, screaming, “help! help!” I plummeted into a frenzy, my stress level already through the roof. My youngest started screaming. What could possibly be so bad that he couldn’t welcome us, let us pee, and then we figure it out?
“Help!” he said, “it’s flooding!!!!” His voice drowned behind the wailing shop vac. I stood there confused trying to make out what he had said. “Go through this door, grab the towels in there!” he shouted. “What the hell are you talking about?” I thought, “What door? There is no door there.” I looked up, and sure enough behind him was a long black plastic bag covering a door-sized hole. I swashed the bag to the side expecting to see our old, shitty side garage, but it wasn’t a side garage anymore. It was a fully renovated and decorated music studio.
I fell to my knees. I screamed. I cried. My youngest was still crying, he had no idea what was happening. I was in my thirties and still didn’t know what was happening. My abuser was filming me. He thought I was falling to my knees with gratitude and thanks, but I was falling with defeat and shock.
I was distraught. I wanted to scream. I knew I was being filmed, so I had to act like I was the luckiest wife in the world (at this point I was an expert at this task). When he posted the video to Facebook in a true narcissistic “look how awesome I am” style, the comments were the worst part. “You’re so lucky!” and “Way to go!” There were hundreds of them, and no one knew the reality. For months, anytime I went anywhere, people would say, “How awesome is your studio! You’re so lucky! What a great husband you have!” I would smile and bear it.
While I was in Jacksonville, my abuser spent $7,000 on my studio. He owned a house flipping business and pulled all the men off their normal jobs to get this gigantic renovation done for “me” in just five days. $7,000 was money he said we didn’t have five days prior when it was my idea. He took my money from my grandmother. I went to Florida to distance myself, and it scared him, so he hoovered me back in by making me a music studio. He was taking control of my project, my money, my autonomy. I felt violated. I was robbed of my opportunity to believe in myself and was left feeling defeated and little. Of course, I was grateful to finally have my space, and I took advantage of every minute I could spend in there, but the walls were dripping with my abuser, I couldn’t escape him even in “my own space”.
Hoovering and Help
Hoovering can be as small as a simple compliment or even bigger than a $7,000 renovation. It is a tactic used to confuse and manipulate the victim and gain control. If you feel like someone has been using a hoovering tactic on you, please reach out to someone, research, and as always, connect with the domestic violence hotline at: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) TTY: 1-800-787-3224 https://www.thehotline.org/