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Can It Be Abuse If There Are No Bruises?

Updated on May 16, 2008

He really does not mean to hurt me. Really. He can't help it. He was raised in an abusive home.

Everyone else thinks he is great. I don't know what it is about me that sets him off.

If he loves me so much why does it hurt so bad?

I feel like he is never happy with anything I do.

I have a constant unsettled feeling - like the rug is being jerked out from under my feet as soon as I gain my balance - over and over again.

Excerpts from an abuse survivor's journal

Emotional abuse is like a thief in the night. It quietly and stealthily destroys, plunders, and devastates its victims. It robs them of their joy, dreams, security, and mental well-being. It causes emotional and physical pain, a sense of severe loss and creates anxiety. The world is spinning too quickly and the victim can't get off to make sense of it all.

Abuse often creeps into a relationship slowly and grows in intensity over time. After all, if he treated you poorly on the first date there would never be a second date. The growth of an abusive relationship might be compared to the proverbial frog boiled in a pot of water. The frog could escape at any time as the water begins to warm. He chooses not to because he does not perceive the warming of the water. Finally it is too late and he boils to death. Most women, likewise, are caught in the abusers web of charm and flattery before the abuse begins. Many women do not find their way of escape and boil in the arms of their once charming lover.

Abuse of women in relationships is staggering. If we cast aside cases of mental/emotional abuse and look at physical violence only, we find that annually upwards of 3 million women report having been assaulted by their partner in the United States. Many more never report the assaults. Attacks by male partners are the number one cause of injury to women between the ages of fifteen and forty-four. The emotional effects of partner violence are a factor in more than one-fourth of female suicide attempts and are a leading factor of substance abuse in adult women.

As disturbing as the picture concerning physical abuse is, it does not address the pain of women who have never been beaten but who live with psychological abuse. The wounds from mental cruelty are as deep and long-lasting as wounds from punches, kicks, or shoves but they are typically not so obvious. In fact, women who have experienced both physical and mental violence from a partner routinely report that the man's emotional abuse is what caused them the most lasting harm.

One of the obstacles to recognizing mistreatment in a relationship is that most abusive men are "nice guys!" They do not look like an abuser to the public. They possess many good qualities such as acts of kindness, warmth, humor, and generosity. He might be successful in his career and have no problems with drugs or alcohol. He most likely does not fit anyone's image of a cruel or intimidating person. So when a woman feels that her relationship is spinning out of control, it is unlikely to occur to her that her partner is an abuser. She will most likely blame herself and repeatedly attempt to fix the relationship.

The victim, however, is not the cause of the abuse and she can not fix the situation. The abuser might claim that she drove him to it or that he lost control. But abuse is NOT a loss of control, it is quite the opposite. The violent man is a man at work on his own agenda. He is training "his woman" to be what he wants her to be and only what he wants her to be at all times.

Abuse is a pattern of behavior that seeks to establish dominance and control over its victims. Many tactics such as intimidation, humiliation, manipulation, and punitive and violent actions are used to reinforce one person's dominance over another.

In this series of writings I will define seven types of abuse and many of the tactics abusers use to maintain control within a relationship. These types of abuse include: emotional, physical, sexual, social, financial, and religious. Most family and partner abuse involves behavior from more than one of these categories.


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    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 6 years ago from northeastern US

      the number for the national domestic abuse hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE.

    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 6 years ago from northeastern US

      i was engaged to a guy who hit me. it took me two years and joining a support group to break up with him. i knew i had to, it was just too hard to lose the person i loved most. i would break up with him and then go back until a friend gave me the book "women who love too much". i saw myself in it and took its advice. i owe my life to the friend who gave me that book. now i'm married to a guy who has never hit anyone, a loving, affectionate, fun, generous forever companion.

    • profile image

      Katherine Thorntoun 9 years ago

      I am reading all your articles. I think your style is great. I hope you write a lot more.

    • profile image

      Mary Stuart 9 years ago

      Hi Greta,

      I am glad you enjoyed my posting but I am sad fro you that you feel trapped. I will continue to submit postings dealing with abuse. I do hope you find your answers. It is so diffiult to escape but when the dust settles you will find that it was worth the effort. You won't believe the joy of living without abuse!

      I wish you the best.


    • profile image

      Greta 9 years ago

      Hi Mary.

      Thank you for your article. I hope you write a lot more of these. I am afraid I am in an abusive relationship and I don't know how to get out. I am looking for information.

    • profile image

      Mary Stuart 9 years ago

      Hi Ago Donkey,

      I hope i did not accidently send off my unfinished repsonse a moment ago.

      I was agreeing with you that abuse is not relegated to men only. I do agree thta women can also be abusers. I think the stats might be skewed because men are more reluctant to report abuse. Of course whenwe are talking about physical abuse it is more prevalent among men but not exclusive to them. That is probably because men are typically stronger than women, not because women are better creatures!

      I disagree that emotional abuse is no big deal. I have worked with abused women thse past several years. Bruises and broken bones heal but the destruction that is wrought upon a victim's psyche from years of craziness is so much harder to overcome. Pleaes think about taking care of yourself and putting an end to the abuse. You might be able to salvage the relationship in the long run if you take action today to stop the abuse. Both you and your partner will be happier!

    • profile image

      Agro Donkey 9 years ago from Ohio

      I agree that some guys are morons, but I also recognise that woman can be just as bad. My girl is physically abusive because she knows I'm not going to hit her. She has told me this on several occasions and she will say what she knows hurts the most just because she knows it will hurt but you have to ask yourself a question. Is it worth it? For me it is. I love her to death, she can't hurt my physically, and words have never killed anyone. So for me, I don't care. Yeah she has her days when I just want to walk away but for the most part I'm happy. Loved your hub though. Nice work and keep it up but women are not the only ones who are abused. You should write a hub on that.