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January 2, 2023

There is a Hide and Seek Resemblance to the Hidden Abuse we experience.

“It is called hidden abuse for a reason. It is usually never done in public. Abusers will endlessly provoke you in private or secretly do things to get a reaction. Many times, the public will witness only the victim’s reaction to the abuse and not the abuse itself. Unfortunately, survivors end up looking like the crazy or unstable ones, while the narcissists look like the mistreated victims.”

Maria Consiglio

As kids, most of us have played a game of hide and seek. It’s a game of being targeted, of running and hiding, of trying to outmaneuver being found, and of being “it” again.

It has some similarities, therefore, to the practice of hidden abuse.

For many of us, we are familiar with this more subtle form of abuse. It’s not the obvious black eye or broken bone. There doesn’t need to be physical evidence displayed on our bodies for this kind of abuse to exist.


Tag: You’re it!

First, in this scenario of hidden abuse, you and are often “chosen.” We are the designated “it” target of the game. We don’t get a vote. It’s just decided. It’s our role to play in the game.

Abuse, especially hidden abuse, works like this. For whatever inexplicable reason, we are the convenient scapegoats, saddled with others’ sins, issues, problems, and disordered patterns of thinking.

Being chosen as “it” is usually not announced. No one ever openly declares we are “it,” like the game insists upon.

Yet, make no mistake, we are decidedly targeted.

We are tagged. And we cannot be untagged, as far as the abusive individual is concerned.

Running and Hiding.

We are forced to play in the mind games of manipulative tactics. It’s the triggering poking, the dog whistle that can rattle us. Mostly, because most of the abuse is already a set stage, behind closed doors, away from view. Our abuser can inundate us with constant, wearying, terrifying, and destabilizing tactics, all for the sick purpose of getting us unhinged. Often, our abuser is aware of a more public situation in which some form of an outsider “audience” will be present to watch things play out. Our abuser may be sadistic, fully enjoying this bind we will be placed in, the awkwardness, the discomfort, and the pressure.

The Countdown.

There can usually be some form of predictable pattern or timeline. There can be countdown, like, after a certain number of hours or days, being terrorized and upset by the abuser, there is a time-release element to the next phase of the hidden abuse. The clock is ticking, waiting for an exact moment of maximized opportunity to inflict the most heightened and twisted form of public trauma, all done covertly.

No one else will get “the inside joke.”

But we will.

No one else knows the pain behind a childhood nickname, just casually mentioned in public. But we know what it signifies.

Other people may not understand a certain turn of phrase, word choice, or facial expression our abuser makes sure to drop in this public setting.

But we hear it, see, it, and freeze in fear, intimated by it, nonetheless.

It is just a matter of time. Tick-tock.

And we know it.

And that is part of the hidden abuse.

Inevitable Discovery: Tag! “It” Again.

Part of the despair, and the no-win torture of this hidden form of abuse is how the strategic and covert tactics don’t end. They continue to roll out, no matter how much we try to modify our behavior, no matter how much we reason, or plead with toxic people. The despair can set in when we realize that it won’t change or improve.

Many of us, after years or decades of playing this sick hide and seek game, have finally reached the point in which we decide to cut ourselves off from them.

Leaving can be the only possible chance for a change. It becomes our last resort.

Come out of hiding.

So, where is the hope for us?

Abuse, in any form, is devastating.

How much more so, when the covert nature of it, like in hidden abuse, seems to thrive in the dark.

Perhaps, therein, lies our answer: shed light on its reality.

This sick game of tag exists.


Once we know it, see, it, speak it, and claim it, we can work to extricate ourselves and heal from it.

Call it out.

Call out the game, even if it’s only silently, to ourselves.

We experience what we experience.

We are not crazy.

We are not overreacting.

It is real. 

And we don’t have to play with its hidden nature any longer.

Copyright © 2023 by Sheryle Cruse


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