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Domestic Violence Doesn’t Always Leave Visible Bruises
Words do hurt.
Over the last two decades or so, there have been great strides made in recognizing that domestic violence doesn’t always come with broken bones and bruises. That there is more than one way to hurt a person. Some injuries can take weeks to heal, others can take years.
The injuries that take years are the ones that aren’t seen. Sexual, emotional and verbal abuse can’t be seen to the outside observer, unless you know what you are looking for. For the sexually, emotionally and verbally abused, most are actually shocked when they find out who is doing the abusing, because to the outside world, this person is so charming, seemingly so caring about their “loved” ones, and appears to want to be involved in every aspect of their lives. And it’s not understood why the abused looks so sad, so depressed all the time, since it appears to everyone that the abused has someone who apparently loves them and would give them anything they want. Little does the outside world know that there is a very high price that is being paid for those material things.
Per the Domestic Violence Intervention Services, Inc. website, www.dvis.org, the following are ways to tell you are being abused without being physically touched:
You are being emotionally abused if someone…
- Withholds approval, appreciation, or affection as punishment
- Continually criticizes you, calls you names, shouts at you
- Makes all decisions for you
- Wants to control all your actions
- Humiliates you in public or private
- Ridicules your most valued beliefs, your religion, race or heritage
- Manipulates you with lies and contradictions
- Subjects you to reckless driving
You are being sexually abused if someone…
- Makes demeaning remarks about your gender
- Calls you sexual names
- Forces you to take off your clothing
- Touches you in ways that make you feel uncomfortable
- Forces you to have sex against your will
- Treats you and members of your gender as objects
- Insists you dress in a more sexual way than you want to dress, or
- Insists you dress less sexually
- Accuses you of sexual activity with others
Admitting to something like this is not very easy.
You may never fully realize that someone is being abused in the above manner, because they have learned how to mask and deal with it so they don’t deal with anymore cruel verbal attacks or emotional blackmail than they have to.
The victims if asked to go out with friends, will find a reason why to not go because if they go out, their cell phones are constantly called or texts are incessantly received. Then when they get home, they get the third degree as to where, who and what was done. If these things didn’t seem to add up to the abuser, then accusations of unfaithfulness ensue.
I know of all this because without fully realizing it, until a situation recently, I have been the victim of verbal and emotional abuse for 13 years. I have finally taken the first steps to taking back my life. I have filed a protective order against my ex-husband for myself and my children.
No one sets out to become a victim of domestic violence, no one falls prey to it instantaneously, it slowly, happens over time, and domestic violence crosses all barriers, racial and socioeconomic. After a while, the one being abused, just withdraws and feels trapped. Some don’t make it out alive because they are so stripped of their self-esteem. Their spirit has died and they feel there is no hope. Usually, if there are children involved, they wait until after the children are out on their own and “safe”. But there really isn’t anywhere safe because what has been done has affected the children and they are doomed to repeat the patterns, no matter how much it was attempted to protect them.
I didn’t realize how far back the control went until I was talking with my sister, and apparently even in the early stages of my marriage the emotional warfare was going on. Then when I started examining my entire relationship with my ex-husband, the signs were there from the very beginning. For example, his getting mad at the least little thing, and then turning it around to where I thought it was my fault, and he had a right to get angry and say the things he did. When I tried to break up with him, not because I didn’t care, but because I always felt like I was doing something wrong, he actually cried and said no one love him and that if I loved him I would stay with him. On my wedding day, I knew I shouldn’t have been marrying him, but I thought it was all just “jitters”. But it was little things like that, which didn’t seem that big a deal at the time, but they were minute compared to eventually being accused of cheating on him every time I went out with friends without the children. I couldn’t even go to my mother’s house without there being accusations of infidelity. I was even told no one else would want me because I’m too independent and that I need to change if I want a “real” man in my life.
The children weren’t spared these little digs. They grew up with this as their “normal”. Both children as well as myself, don’t feel we can do anything right, that nothing we do is good enough. That the only way for us to be loved is to conform to what he wanted, but what he wanted and what made him angry changed as often as the winds.
To help deal with what has happened to me and my children, we will be starting counselling in the coming weeks. I have requested in the order that he receive counselling as well before there is to be any contact with the children. Because I believe that all children should have a good relationship with their parents. But I also believe that the communication needs to be healthy and that no one deserves to be talked down to, belittled, and made to feel there thoughts and words haven’t any value.
Over the coming weeks, months and possibly even years, I know it’s going to be a roller coaster of emotions and it is not going to be easy. But I now have resources to help not only myself, but my children as well, heal from our invisible wounds. These wounds will take time, and we have to be kind to ourselves during this process, and know it is acceptable to cry, it’s alright to be angry with him, and eventually in time to forgive him. I don’t mean that in forgiveness we are saying that what has happened is acceptable, but that in forgiving him, we can free ourselves to be able to move on and become happier people.
We have a long road, and it wasn’t easy speaking up, it took a specific incident, and my sister loving me and my children enough to ask why I was allowing this to happen, and shaking me out of complacency. She reminded me I am stronger than this and that I can’t stay silent anymore. The hardest part has been done by taking that first step to admitting that even though we don’t have broken bones, black eyes, and bruises that are seen, we are still battered and bruised in a different way.
Below are some websites that can help.
For help in your area type "Domestic Violence (your city) into your web search engine
- Domestic Violence
An overview of domestic violence or domestic abuse, the types of abuse experienced, possible causes of domestic violence and how to find help either for yourself or your friend.
- National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
- Joyful Heart Foundation
The mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues.
- DVIS: Domestic Violence Intervention Services