If you’re reading this article, chances are that you’ve been a victim of domestic violence. If so, the very first thing you need to know is that though is is extremely emotionally debilitating recovery is possible. This is a subject very close to my heart. It is one of my passions. I work in the field, particularly with children and young people. I have also experienced it for myself. It can happen to anybody regardless of age, race, gender, status, religion or class. And it is a global problem.
Current statistics state that, in the UK alone, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives. However, it is the most under-reported violent crime, so the figures are likely to be a lot higher. Two women a week are killed by a partner or former partner. That is more than a little frightening, don’t you think?
I was 19 and incredibly naive when I got involved with an abusive man. He was 23 at the time and I thought he was very cute. I had a rude awakening when he slapped me hard across the face for the first time.
As is always the case, it wasn’t even my fault. He was supposed to meet me after I had been to the theater. He didn’t come to meet me and turned up at the flat two hours later offering no word of an explanation. So I quizzed him on why he had failed to meet me. That, it seems was my big mistake. That was when he slapped me and slammed my head off the fridge.
I was stunned. I was upset. I was hurt and I was angry. I didn’t understand what had led him to feel the need to react so violently. I remember thinking “If they can do it once they will do it again” over and over and over. I was emotionally distraught.
So I went to the bedroom and started to pack up my things. I was leaving and not looking back. But he followed me in. He was so full of remorse, so sorry, so full of promises it would never happen again if I would just give him a chance and believe him. He loved me and didn’t want me to go. He pleaded with me to stay. I ended up feeling sorry for him. He was very manipulative. So because I loved him (or thought I did) and so desperately wanted to believe him, I stayed. See how debilitating it is. You don’t even think right.
And it did happen again and again and again. Not only did I have to endure his abuse but also that of his ex partners, who he had fathered children with. I wonder now if his ex partners also suffered abuse from him. They made it clear that they did not like me and would make cutting remarks and threats whenever I was within earshot. Oddly enough, it was not so much the ex partners but their sisters that were to launch their verbal attacks upon me. They were full of hatred and venom towards me and I just had to learn to live with it. I was far too scared to retaliate. I could not match that level of aggression. They had their own issues and I was made the scapegoat for a lot of them. Here again, I was not facing reality. I was exhausted, emotionally exhausted.
He had grown up in a household where he had seen his dad beat his mother up on a regular basis. This, however is an excuse, never a reason for being abusive. Now I know what I know about perpetrators of domestic violence I know that there are those that grow up witnessing the same as he did but refuse to repeat the cycle of violence when they become involved in their own intimate relationships. Indeed, I have close personal friends that grew up in these very difficult circumstances and have not repeated the pattern.
We are all responsible for ourselves. We cannot change anyone else. We can only ever change ourselves. Quite often, the only way to stop abuse from happening in a relationship, is to leave it. Now that is not to say that perpetrators don’t or can’t change. Not at all. The only time, however, that a perpetrator of domestic violence can change is when they hold their hands up and take full responsibility for their behavior. If they admit that they have a problem and are willing to take responsibility for it and work on themselves to change it, there is a possibility the abuse will stop.
I made the mistake of thinking that if I just loved him more or did more of this or less of that, that he would see how much I loved him by how much of an effort I was making and he would revert to the loving, caring, understanding, carefree, fun guy I first fell in love with. But the sad fact is that the person you fell in love with was an illusion that they created in order to ensnare you. Maya Angelou said it best when she said “If a man tells you who he is by his actions, believe him”. In other words, it doesn’t matter how many times he (or she) tells you they love you or that they are sorry, if they are abusing you, in any way, then the words are empty and mean nothing.
What I found out was that it doesn’t matter what you do, what you don’t do, what you say or don’t say it’s never enough. You end up analyzing your own behavior instead of theirs. You walk on eggshells all the time. You can never relax. But this is what a perpetrator wants. When you’re in this condition the abuser is in control, and as long as the abuser is in control, their is no hope for recovery.
They want you to think you’re crazy, that you’re stupid, fat, ugly, thick, a crap mother, shit in bed, can’t cook, nowhere near as good as their mother!!! Oh yeah, I know how it feels to always fall short of the mark. To be made to feel like a constant disappointment and that I was the one at fault all the while.
If there is anybody reading this that is or has been affected by relationship abuse IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!!!! Please know this. No matter how many times you are told that you deserve it and nobody else would have you, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!
Perpetrators will always justify and minimize the abuse saying that you’re just too sensitive or it was just a joke or just a slap. Abuse is abuse is abuse no matter how it is dressed up.
Abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual or financial and can often include all of these. There are a lot of myths and stereotypes surrounding domestic violence. The main one being that it’s just about the physical stuff. But it’s the emotional abuse that usually, if not always precedes this.
There are many services available for survivors of domestic abuse, not only women and children but men too. And also for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender survivors. There are links to useful sites at the end of this blog.
I have mentioned only briefly my experience but I have suffered from physical abuse and also emotional abuse in a relationship. I can tell you that it was the emotionally abusive relationship that was the hardest to leave. It became an addiction because the highs were unbelievable but the lows were unimaginable.
Emotional abuse is often the hardest part of an abusive relationship to recover from for survivors. When you’re denigrated on a daily basis it chips away at who you are and erodes your self-esteem so much so that you no longer know who you are or which way is up.
It takes time to recover and rediscover yourself after leaving an abusive relationship. But with time and patience and the right support from friends, family and support services it can be achieved.
There are some links below that may be of use if you or someone you know may be suffering domestic or relationship abuse. Some of these websites are for women, some are for teens experiencing dating abuse and unfortunately there is only one I know of that is specifically for LGBT survivors.
Sources / Supporting Links / Works Cited: www.womensaid.co.uk