"It's not really abuse, is it?"
What is domestic violence and/or abuse and am I a victim?
Date: 6/9/2007 6:09:23 PM ( 12 y ) ... viewed 2386 times
Incidents of domestic violence and abuse are on the rise. The frequency of incidents and the intensity of the violence are increasing, as well. Domestic violence and abuse crosses all boundaries of culture, financial status, race, sexual orientation, and career status. ANYONE can become a victim and ANYONE can be an abuser.
Victims of domestic violence and abuse are often so emotionally damaged that they will remain wiht their abusers rather than take the risk of leaving - they know what to expect with the abuser and risk is something that has underlying fears: fear of failing to stand on their own, fear of being hunted down and murdered, fear of change, fear of the unknown, etc. Because abuse is built upon a foundation of fear, the victim would rather cope with the known than risk enduring greater fear of the unknown.
There are several types of abuse that are all integrated, at some level and to some degree. Just because a person hasn't been hit, yet, does not mean that they aren't enduring abuse. Domestic violence is easily defined. Abuse, on the other hand, is insidious and often misunderstood in its ability to inflict damage. Abuse is any behavior that causes pain, degradation, humiliation, shame, fear, or terror.
Physical abuse is the most obvious well-known form of abuse. This includes hitting, slapping, punching, pinching, shoving, tripping, or striking the victim with an object. In some cases, the first instance of physical abuse was sudden, extraordinarily violent, and without warning. In most cases, it began as "horseplay" where one party would attempt to dominate the other by wrestling and, when the future victim would seem to be gaining an upper hand, a vicious pinch or slap might have occured. This was the first demonstration of dominance, aggression, and control. Over time, the pinches and horseplay would de-evolve into punches, slaps, shoves, and so forth. Typically, the abuser would refuse to apologize, make light of the injuries that they had inflicted, and insist that their victim just "get over it," thus, setting the stage for greater emotional abuse. Or, the abuser will blame the victim for their beatings by saying things like, "You love to make me do this, don't you?"
Emotional and verbal abuse is are as obvious as physical abuse, though they are far more common and certainly more damaging. Physical abuse can (and, does) leave visible marks whereas emotional abuse is not apparent. Typically, the abuser begins to wear down their victim's self-esteem and confidence by making inappropriate comments about the victim. I know a wonderful artist who is involved in an abusive relationship and it began, early on, when her boyfriend said, "You can't paint or draw," in reference to her work. Of course, he passed it off as a joke, but there is nothing comical, charming, funny, or clever about his remark - it was said to throw her off guard and cause her to doubt her own abilities. Once this type of abuse has begun, it will insidiously move into more demeaning, humiliating, and degrading language. "You don't have the sense that God gave a lizard," or, "You'll never be able to do that," or, "You're the one taking antidepressants, so you are the one that's crazy," or, "I'll go to counseling after you get some help," are all remarks that are verbally and emotionally abusive. The abuser will always refer to illnesses and injuries as things that the victim experience deliberately. "Your broken ankle has cost us a fortune," or, "Just what this family needs! You're sick, again! Well, I'm not watching these kids while you just lay around," or, "You think you hurt? My head is ready to explode!" Illnesses and injuries are minimalized for the victim while the abuser is always experiencing something far worse and, in their minds, life-threatening. Victims of domestic violence and/or abuse are often physically ill and experience injuries that are not inflicted by the abuser - this is due to emotional detoxification: so much negativity must be physically processed, somehow, and the body will become medically sick or subconsciously inflict injury upon itself in order to rid itself of the mental/emotional toxicity.
Sexual abuse is one of the forms of abuse that most people refuse to acknowledge because, for the general population, sex is seen as an act of mutual consent. Sexual abuse is any act that makes the victim feel shame, pain, degradation, and humiliation. Sexual abuse includes (but, is not limited to) forcing the victim to submit to sexual acts that they find painful or humiliating, outright rape, demanding sexual favors in trade for simple necessities, referencing the sexual behavior of friends/acquaintances/former partners/etc., demanding that the victim engage in risky sexual behavior, and making sexual innuendo at inappropriate times (in front of children, in public, etc.).
Religious or spiritual abuse is when the victim is not allowed to practice their religious or spiritual ceremonies or rituals, the victim's belief system is ridiculed, the victim is forced to adopt the abuser's beliefs (or, lack of them), the victim must negotiate in order to practice their beliefs, and so forth. Often, the abuser will tie in religious abuse with emotional and sexual abuse. Typically, the abuser can be quoted saying things like, "YOUR religion states that you are to obey your spouse," or, "I am not going to THAT church/synagogue and you're NOT taking our children, either," or, "You can go, but the kids aren't going and I'm not going to babysit them," or, "Your religion says that a 'good spouse' will submit to whatever I want." Religious abuse can be particularly crippling because it brings into play one's sense of morality, ethics, and principals - all of which are warped, twisted, and perverted by the abuser.
Financial abuse is often overlooked, but certainly part of the whole package. The victim is denied access to financial information (account balances, debits, etc.) and must negotiate and/or plead the right to know their own finances, often without success. The abuser often lays claim to all joint income and, if at all possible, will "encourage" the victim (usually female, but not exclusively) to remain home, thus setting the stage for extreme tension when the victim tries to talk about finances by saying something like, "I'm the one bringing in the income, here - you don't need to know our financial status!" The abuser will often open secret credit accounts or credit accounts using the victim's personal information. The victim is also under great pressure to cope with bill collectors when payments fall behind - the abuser will force the victim to deal with the collectors and demand that they lie to protect the abuser. Because the victims are bound up in a domestic situation (i.e.: married to or living with the abuser), they are compelled to give into the demands of the abuser because it's just simpler to avoid a beating or the silent treatment. Often, finances and sexual abuse are bound together, as well: "I'll get Junior that Playstation that he wanted for his birthday if you give me oral sex," or, "You're not getting groceries for those kids until you bend over," or, "If you don't engage in a threesome, I'm not paying the utilities and then, the kids will catch pneumonia because you are frigid," etc.
Will it ever get better?
No, an abuser never gets better until they choose to take the steps of taking responsibility for their actions and stand accountable for the sins that they have committed against others. The abuse will always continue, and in some instances, escalate to the point where suicide and/or murder are possible. There is no convincing an abuser that they are causing damage - they always have a ready answer or excuse. My abuser would say, "That's NOT abuse," whenever I would beg him to stop pinching or punching me. For many years, I remained in denial and kept silent.
Denial is the prime reason that victims remain with their abusers. "He's not that bad," or, "He's a good provider," or, "He's a great father," or, "She's just joking," or, "She never hit me," are all bona fide, verbatim denials that have been the most popular. Denial, in part, is the fear of admitting to having made a serious error in judgement - we do not want to admit failure at any time, and admitting to being a victim is, in the victim's mind, the worst failure possible. Victims will often accept responsibility for their abuse, "If I hadn't gotten mushrooms on the pizza, he wouldn't have gotten so angry," or, "If I had just called the insurance company and filed the false claim that he wanted me to, he wouldn't have gotten pissed," or, "If I had just kept the baby quiet and let her sleep, she wouldn't have thrown stuff at me," etc.
I think I'm a victim! What do I do?
Chances are, if you have identified yourself as a victim of domestic violence and/or abuse, you have already tried pleading with your abuser to go for help - you've offered sexual favors if they attend counseling - you've offered to go with them - you've even accepted blame for their behaviors. What you do now is entirely up to you.
If you make the decision to stay with your abuser, then whatever happens from that point on is your responsibility, even if he/she is the one that's inflicting the damage. Opting to remain translates into accepting the miseries of remaining a victim. Of course, if children are involved in the relationship, they will also evolve into either abusers or victims, depending upon their inner nature. For that reason, alone, leaving is a much better option.
If you make the decision to leave, you must have all of your ducks in a row. It would be very wise to keep a running log of all events, discussions, abuse, etc., in a secret written journal. Do not maintain any information, resources, or journals on any technological device - abusers can (and, do) see websites that have been visited, access user history, or hire a forensic technologist to search devices for information. The journal should contain dates, names, exact quotes, and actions without including moral monologues, judgements, or feelings. This log will be priceless for your attorney and abuse counselor.
Next, contact your County's Abuse Hotline - nearly every County in every State has a toll-free number. Learn about what is available, where to go, what to bring, and how to get out. When preparing to leave, it cannot be stressed enough: tell nobody, especially the children. Children cannot, and should not, be burdened with life and death information as they will invariably divulge any and all information if they are forced to. Do not tell mutual friends or family members - abuse is often secret and well-meaning friends, family, and/or acquaintances might attempt to "help save" the marriage or partnership by telling your plans to your abuser. If there are pets involved, contact Animal Control, your local Humane Society, or SPCA, and make arrangements. There are also thousands of Nationwide animal rescue leagues networked that can help. NEVER threaten your abuser with leaving even if you intend to follow through with your threat - in their warped minds, such a threat is grounds for murder as they will not have their belongings taken from them: belongings are you, children, etc.
When you leave, take ONLY clothing, personal documents (ID's, Social Security Cards, birth certificates, baptismal records, passports, etc.,), cash (NO credit cards, personal checks, or debit cards), and children's clothing. Try to fit everything into no more than 2 suitcases unless instructed by the shelter, otherwise. Do not pack or leave when the abuser is at home - again, leaving is grounds for murder in their minds. When you finally leave, do not look back. Do not wish that he/she would change. Do not pretend that your abuser will change and entertain the idea of going back. Do not go back "for the sakes of the children" or, worse, to collect personal property - personal property can be replaced whereas, your life cannot. Do not make excuses for the abuser. Do not discuss any of the details of your abuse with your children until you have been involved with an abuse counselor for a good, long while.
If you feel that you are in iminent danger or that your children are in iminent danger, call the police, file charge, and GET OUT. If you file charges and your abuser is taken away, he/she will only come back to the domicile - it is their right unless they are ordered by the Court to stay away. An order of protection is meaningless to the abuser! Sure, apply for one, get it granted, but vacate the home to a safe shelter. Houses and possessions can be replaced, but a murdered mother or father cannot.
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