We’ve all seen movies, known someone, or heard about someone who was a victim of severe domestic abuse. We’ve seen women in the store with sunglasses that are too big, but still don’t quite hide that bruise. We’ve all seen the visible side of domestic abuse, and we all cry out that violence has no place in a relationship, but what about those abuse cases where violence doesn’t play a part? Is it still abuse? Should we still be concerned? We know something is wrong, but is it right to tell her to run? The US Department of Justice lists 5 different categories of domestic violence, and only two are physical.
Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual’s sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem is abusive. This may include, but is not limited to constant criticism, diminishing one’s abilities, name-calling, or damaging one’s relationship with his or her children.
Economic Abuse: Is defined as making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding one’s access to money, or forbidding one’s attendance at school or employment.
Psychological Abuse: Elements of psychological abuse include – but are not limited to – causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner’s family or friends; destruction of pets and property; and forcing isolation from family, friends, or school and/or work.
Bruises are only part of the abuse, and from my own experience, the bruises are easier to forget and forgive than the words and threats that are thrown. The physical part of domestic abuse really only has to happen a few times for the effects to start. The victim changes his/her actions or routine in fear that they may make the abuser angry; they may sequester themselves from friends and family because the abuser has found fault or doesn’t ‘like’ the friend or family member; the victim may only go out when the abuser ‘allows’ it, and even then must pay penance for it afterwards.
During my brief marriage; friends and family noticed that I would give excuses as to why I couldn’t attend family events, make excuses for why I had to leave early from the few events I was permitted to attend, and would lie straight to their faces when my then 3-4 year old would tell stories about her home life. Many didn’t understand what I was so afraid of since my husband traveled for a living, and really, unless you’ve ever been a victim, it’s very hard to understand the mentality. I find it hard to look back on myself and understand why I stayed, so I’m sure other people think the same thing. I’ve been asked before, “Why didn’t you just leave?”. Well, for a victim of domestic abuse, leaving is frightening. We’ve been told for years and made to believe that we’re worthless, stupid, good for nothing; that we deserve how we’re treated; we’re financially dependent on our abuser and, especially if we have children, we’re terrified to leave because we have no money and nowhere to go. We think we can’t leave. We’ve been alienated from our families, sometimes to the point where they’re angry with us because they are hurt and don’t understand our distance, and we think we have nowhere to turn.
Especially when the physical part of your abuse happens so rarely, it’s easy to make excuses or forgive the rage, condescension, and name-calling. He cheats on you and you blamed yourself. You even get to the point of delusion that you begin to tell yourself that his controlling and abusive nature means that he loves you. Why else would he get so angry that you wore make up in public if not because he doesn’t want another man looking at you, and isn’t that sweet? And he always says he’s sorry, doesn’t he? He’ll even cry when he apologizes and swear it’ll never happen again, and you’ll believe him because it’s oozing with sincerity.
It’s even true that abusers are some of the most overly-romantic lovers out there, but you must remember that it’s always because they’re apologizing for something. The night my ex-husband proposed to me, it was as an apology for screaming at me, holding me up against a wall by my throat, and saying “You’re lucky I don’t break your face”. And I’m so stupid, I said yes. Really?? What’s wrong with me?!
The truth is, I was naive. I thought he could change. I thought if *I* was better or could do things better, maybe he wouldn’t get so angry. I blamed myself for his outbursts because I thought it was my fault he was angry; when, in reality, he is why he was angry. Not me. I only wish I saw then what I see now, maybe I would have spared my children some of the things they saw and heard. I can only pray that, by my leaving, my two daughters realize that I left because I deserved better; and I hope they know they deserve better than how they saw me be treated by their father.
Leaving was hard, I’m not going to lie. And there were many times in the first year I was gone when I thought I should go back, that he’d changed and learned his ‘lesson’ and that my children would be better off with two parents together, even if it was violent. It wasn’t easy, and without the support of my family and friends, I probably couldn’t have done it.
Leaving is going to be hard, no matter when you do it or how. But once you make up your mind to leave, don’t wait. Leave. Flee. God has better things for you than abuse. True; God doesn’t condone divorce. But God also does not condone the abuse of His precious daughters either.
If you want to leave but don’t know how, there is help out there. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline here:
National Domestic Violence Hotline
You can call the police, you CAN call your family. Don’t be deceived and think they won’t help you. Your abuser wants you to continue to believe that you’re worthless because HE’S insecure. He thinks that by controlling you, you’ll stay with him. Don’t fall for it, and don’t put up with it. You deserve better. Don’t be silent. There are shelters, there are programs like TANF that can help you financially until you get on your feet. Don’t be afraid. You CAN run. You CAN do this. You don’t need him, especially not like this. Remember: domestic violence isn’t just physical.
**If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse; don’t be silent. Your silence allows it to continue. Your voice could save a life. Domestic abuse is NEVER okay.**