I’ve debated posting this for weeks, and as such it is now the very last day in October. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. That is not something you normally come to this blog to read about and who knows if it’s something you would normally look up on your own- which is why I found it even more important to write about today. I’m hoping someone reads this who might need help and not even know it. Maybe someone like I was a couple years ago.
Social media has been abuzz lately with trending topics like #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft. It made me sad to read all the reasons why people stayed in relationships and why they left. Almost everyone who responded was talking about why they left a partner who was physically abusive. What’s interesting to me is that of the many forms of abuse the only one that really seems to get attention is physical abuse. There are so many other forms of abuse that hardly get attention. What about those people whose abuser is a relative or family member? A permanent fixture in your life. When you’re a child there is no #WhyILeft choice.
It’s not hard to point out why Ray Rice is abusive. He brutally beat his wife in an elevator and there is footage that we can all see. It’s a concrete, black and white, right vs. wrong scenario. Nobody in their right mind would contest that what he did was ok. But what about abuse that is not so clear cut? When someone constantly belittles you, threatens you, yells at you, or intimidates you? There is no bruise that others can see, but does that mean it isn’t there?
When you are being verbally and emotionally abused as a young child, there’s not a lot you can do. Some children will lash back and yell back and threaten back and mirror what their abuser is doing back to them. Some children will take it in and believe everything they are being told about themselves. After all, being told constantly that you shouldn’t have been born and you were a mistake, that you aren’t talented, and all the reasons you are unworthy of happiness and joy wears on a kid. In my experience, I lashed back and was told that I was a difficult kid, an overly dramatic teenager, then later that it was natural to question the way I was raised once I had my own children.
It wasn’t until I gave birth to my first daughter that I realized it just COULDN’T possibly be normal the things I dealt with. Through counseling I discovered that this person in my life was likely mentally ill and definitely emotionally and verbally abusive. Even if someone is not hitting you, it’s NOT ok for the person to:
- Threaten to hit you, or come at you forcefully but not actually hit you.
- Slam things, pound fists, or throw things near you, leading you to believe that you will have something thrown at you, even if you never actually get physically hurt by this behavior.
- Threaten what they will do to you if you tell anyone about how they are.
- Tell you “you don’t even know what abuse is” or says “see, I’m a nice guy”…have you EVER met a nice guy that said “see I’m a nice guy?” If you have to announce how nice you are, chances are you’re not nice.
- Only show abusive behavior around you or a select few others but is generally nice to other people.
- Belittle you with phrases like “see, I knew you couldn’t do that,” or “you should have never done xyz…I knew it wasn’t going to work out.”
- Casting a shadow upon happy milestones in your life- weddings, births, holidays, etc. by making it all about them- whether it’s by not showing up, acting inappropriately, or doing something to disrupt the day in a negative way.
Especially when dealing with a verbally or emotionally abusive person who is selectively abusive, it can be incredibly hard to prove the abuse to yourself or others. My abuser is incredibly nice and friendly around other people. Has a great job and is well liked and respected. There are a handful of people that get the brunt of the angry temper, bad behavior, and verbal abuse. As a person who has dealt with them, it hurts me that I get the brunt of the angry attitude yet others do not and this person clearly has the control to flip a switch.
Although I don’t have bruises or scrapes on the outside, there have been plenty of long term effects. I have had anxiety my entire life. I obsess over how others might perceive me. When someone raises their voice at me for any reason, I fly off the handle because I have learned to constantly be on the defense. I’m hypersensitive. I’ve always been naturally attracted to relationships with people where I feel the other person needs my help. I stress more than the average person would when preparing for big events that I know this person will be part of because I am afraid of them ruining it for me. I hesitate to celebrate or feel pride and joy in myself when I do something wonderful because I’m not sure I deserve good things. I could go on all day.
After years of counseling I have come to the conclusion that this person will never change. As a form of closure for the past, I’ve tried forgiving this person, and during that conversation I was told they had no clue what I was talking about. I am still navigating whether I want this person in my life at all, but I’ve reached a comfortable place where there are boundaries and I feel safe. I’m not sure what the long term answer is or if there even is one. I am choosing to live my life out loud and not hide this because I have no reason to be ashamed. If any of my story sounds familiar to you, I hope you find the strength to do the same! You are worth it.
If you are being abused in any way, call for help: Domestic Violence Hotline– 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224