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Physical Abuse: The Battered Wife Inside and Out

Updated on February 15, 2012

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.


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    • Mary Stuart profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Washington

      I know how that goes. I used to claim that I would enable anyone in whatever bad behavior they wanted to engage in. Truly that was the case with my abuser. I never held him accountable for his many violent tactics. I thought that a "gentle and quiet nature" would win him over. I was well intentioned but very misguided in my ways. After a number of years of a difficult marriage I grew very bitter toward my abuser. In the midst of my bitterness I excused his drinking, philandering, rage, and all manner of vile behavior because he had suffered some heavy losses in his early years. I felt sorry for him and thought that excused bad behavior. In time I quit recognizing bad behavior. I dealt with my own pain by disengaging from life. If I shut off all emotions then it would quit hurting, right?

      Yeah... abuse if an odd thing. We excuse our abusers and shoulder the pain on our own. I hope your friend is able to clear her foggy thinking. She has to if she hopes to experience a loving relationship.

    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 

      6 years ago from Cape Cod

      Hi Mary. Domestic abuse is so, so sad. I have a friend who was abused by two husbands and several boyfriends. Alcohol was a common factor among these these poor excuses for men. Sadder still was my friend's attitude.

      "He'd never do anything like that when he was sober," she'd say. This rationale not only condones, but actually forgives this terrible behavior. To this day, many years after the last abuser, she still defends them with this faulty logic.

    • Mary Stuart profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Washington

      I am so happy you made it out of your violent childhood and married a wonderful man. So often children of abusers become abusers or marry abusers. I stayed way too long in my marriage. Domestic abuse is a most peculiar thing. It is never just physical or just emotional or just sexual. It is always a package deal. Granted one form of abuse is typically the primary form but other forms are almost always included as a package deal of sorts. That said, I stayed for many years because of the emotional battering. My husband was quick and constant to tell me how inadequate I was and how I could not possibly make it on my own. He also threatened to take the children from me. When he was not belittling me or threatening to take my children he explained in detail how he would kill me should I ever walk. He described the trajectory of bullets and how he could "pock me out" and I would never see it coming. When I walked a ridge above my house he described what I did on my walk. Perhaps I stopped twice to tie my shoes or stooped to look at the flowers growing along the road. How did he know? He used the scope on his gun... Simply put, I was terrified to leave and terrified to stay. I left when my fear of staying exceeded my fear of leaving. Life has been good since leaving. Thanks for writing.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      6 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Mary! I grew up in an abusive situation. My father drank and beat on my mom. My mom drank to put up with my dad. I felt so sorry for my mom as she had not worked since I was born and felt trapped. I have always told my daughter to be independent, don't ever HAVE TO depend on anyone. My husband is a winner! We have been married for 25 years and I have NEVER been afraid of him.

      I don't understand women that stay because of the children. Unless they are so co-dependent as my mom was. The children are probably more miserable than the mom taking the abuse. Anyway...great hub! Unfortunately there are probably many women that can relate to this. Voted up and interesting! Thank you for you follow! Have a wonderful day! :)


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