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Physical Abuse: The Battered Wife Inside and Out
The Domestic Violence Resource Center reports that 1 in 4 women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.
Domestic violence often includes multiple forms of physical violence. Not all physical violence leaves bruises or broken bones but all violence is designed to gain and maintain total control over you. Physical abuse includes pushing, pulling, restraining, blocking an exit, smothering, hitting, spitting on, biting, poisoning, and kicking. Unwanted touching, tickling, squeezing, or other unwanted physical attention are also forms of physical violence. Other less obvious forms of physical abuse include withholding food or beverage, sleep deprivation, withholding of medical attention and reckless driving.
A person who harms or threatens to harm a pet or personal property are giving sure signs of impending physical violence. Long term emotional abuse and threats of violence are also signs of impending physical violence.
The typical view of physical violence includes a woman with blackened eyes, broken teeth, and visible bruises. The more ruthless abusers, however, will not leave visible wounds. He will accomplish his violence in such a way that his victim will be able to show her face in public without betraying her abuser's violent nature.
Years after Debbie left her abuser she described his playful nature in frightening tones. He enjoyed wrestling and tickling her but his "playfulness" typically left her in tears. In the beginning she thought he simply did not know his own strength and meant no harm. "Wrestling and tickling with him was never a purely playful time," she said. Wrestling typically ended with her in tears and the abuser angry that she was so weak. Physical abusers will also turn playful tickling into episodes of misery. Debbie described one tickling episode that did not end until she vomited.
Cindy avoided watching television with her husband for their entire marriage. When she was forced to sit next to him he would alternately squeeze her knee until she yelled in pain and dig his fingernails into her cuticles when they held hands and "he always insisted upon holding hands." She said that she eventually associated television viewing with pain and quit watching it altogether. Her abuser never acknowledged the pain he inflicted on his wife. He said that she was whiney and "acted like a girl."
Gracie loved playing in the water but refused to enter a pool with her husband. "He never knew when play ended and misery began," she said. Her abuser enjoyed holding his wife's face under water. He never held her under long enough to cause serious harm but he caused a certain apprehension in the water. "I never knew when I needed to take a deep breath and be prepared to have my face held under water." He began this same behavior with the children causing them to fear water as little ones.
Samantha described her abuser's driving as her greatest terror. He drove fast, tailgated, and seemed to think he was the only car on the road. Samantha learned to simply close her eyes and pray when she had to go somewhere with her abuser. He accused her of never wanting to have fun. She was afraid to tell him that she would love to do things away from the house but was not willing to chance his driving. After all these years Samantha said, "He was the worst driver ever! Sometimes he was sober but it was no help." What Samantha did not understand is that abusers enjoy scaring their passengers witless. It gives them a sense of power over their passengers. Many abusers have a numbed sense of their own safety and therefore have no qualms of putting other people at risk.
Marla described her need for medical attention when her children were quite young. She had developed a cough that would not let up. She grew weaker and weaker and asked if she could see a doctor. The family medical insurance policy had a deductible that had not yet been met so her abuser denied her the opportunity to see a physician. She struggled to keep up with the children and eventually collapsed. She spent 5 days in intensive care because of pneumonia. She awoke one night and heard 2 physicians discussing her case. They gave her a 50/50 chance of pulling through the night. Today she said that she fought with all her might to get better because she simply could not leave her children in her abuser's care. She laughs that the hospital visit cost thousands of dollars. An office visit would have cost $75.00. "Who got the last laugh at my expense?" she asks.
Physical abuse, just like all other forms of abuse is about having power over others. Abusers do not view the world as being made up of mutual relationships. If the abuser is not winning then he feels like he is losing. That is not acceptable. He will employ several tactics to maintain physical control of his victims. The less accomplished abusers will leave visible wounds. The more accomplished abusers will create a perpetually on edge, panicked state in their victims. She will never know when the next squeeze, harsh "tickle," painful snap of a towel, swat with a wooden spoon, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in the van, or dunking in the pool will occur. She soon learns to be forever on guard against attack.
In healthy relationships, physical contact is used to love, nurture, and help; there is no place for physical harm in a loving relationship. If someone threatens you or exerts power over you or your children in a frightening way then it is time to leave. You can decide what to do once you are safe from his clutches.
The books listed below are among the best books I have ever read on domestic violence in all of its forms. They easily lead the reader through the abusers progression from emotional and verbal abuse through spiritual, sexual, and physical abuse. These are truly great helps for the woman who wants to change her own life.
- Sexual Abuse in Marriage
The darker side of abuse!
- I Was Married to Scott Peterson - Living with Narcissistic Personality Disorder
The terrors of living with a narcissist; truly a precarious life!
- Can It Be Abuse If There Are No Bruises?
Yes! Abuse comes in many forms. Not all forms leave bruises!