Every 9 seconds, a woman is beaten or abused. October is National Domestic Violence Month, and this is a topic that is dear to my heart because just 7 short years ago, I was one of those women.
The image you see here is of me, 7 years ago, right after another one of his moments of rage. The abuse was not only physical but also mental and emotional. This is the first time I’ve shared any of these photos.
How did I end up there?
I look at the face of that person and I feel so sad for her. I know what she was going through, how embarrassed she was for anyone to know, how he left bruises on her body but, intentionally, never on her face so that no one would know what was happening behind closed doors.
All the myths you’ve heard about domestic abuse are pretty much false. I can tell you that first hand.
I’m not the product of a broken home. In fact, my parents have been married 53 years.
I don’t have “Daddy issues”. My dad and I are super close and I’m a total daddy’s girl.
I don’t have low self esteem. Never have.
I’m not weak nor stupid. I was manipulated by someone with narcissism, and this can happen to anyone.
I thank God for the ability to leave the situation when I did. I know that many other victims don’t always have the same opportunities to get out of the hellhole that is a toxic, abusive relationship.
Did you know that in 15 states, more than 40% of all women who are murdered involve violence at the hands of an intimate partner. (source: Center for American Progress). This issue is one that I will always speak out about and do my part to improve the lives of those affected by it.
It starts with education and open, honest conversations, so let’s start by breaking down 4 often-stated myths about domestic abuse:
“She’s weak and stupid for staying with him”
Domestic abuse victims are neither. More times than not, the relationship doesn’t start off abusive. In fact, they usually start very loving, with very few red flags. As the relationship gets stronger and both parties become more invested and trusting, the abuse becomes more frequent and more evident. By the time it’s slapping you in the face (literally and figuratively), you’ve already fallen in love with the abuser’s charming, loving side. These types of relationships are often emotional rollercoasters, because nobody is all good or all bad. One minute everything is great, the next minute it’s chaos. It’s a constant cycle of manipulation, often at the hand of a narcissist.
“He’s not beating her; so what’s the issue?”
Domestic abuse is not limited to just physical. It can range from emotional, verbal, and even financial. When someone is hindered from making their own decisions and doing things that are best for them in any way, that’s abuse. Verbal and emotional abuse cut deep and they can stay with you and affect your psyche in ways you never imagined. All types of abuses are humiliating, degrading, saddening, and heartbreaking. One thing is almost certain: if there’s one type of abuse, there’s usually at least one other present also.
“She should just leave.”
Often times the situation is complex. There may be kids involved, there are usually financial concerns... there could be a gang of reasons. The reality is that no one should have to be in an abusive relationship. It’s not uncommon for an abuser to threaten the victim. Imagine being scared for your life or someone else’s that you care about. It’s like having to choose between two evils. Typically, an abuser is also a controller, and they ensure they’ve created every roadblock possible to prevent the victim from leaving. That’s why it’s not uncommon for abuse victims to stay, mainly because they have no way to support themselves -- the abuser usually controls the finances in the household and has all the assets in their name. This paralyzes the victim from leaving or staying away.
“But what did she do to provoke him?”
Abuse is not about what the victim did or didn’t do, that’s why it’s called abuse. Abuse is ALWAYS about the mental state of the abuser. You know the saying “hurt people hurt people?” It’s true. This is another reason many victims stay -- they see that the abuser is in pain and needs help -- so the victim feels that they can be the one to help them. It’s perfectly normal to argue/disagree when in any type of relationship. The issue happens when these arguments are taken to extremes. Partners will upset each other, that’s natural, but it’s how one internalizes these arguments and reacts to them that sets apart a healthy relationship from an abusive one.
I'm not sure if it’s truly possible to really understand what it’s like being in an abusive relationship if you’ve never been in one. But I hope this encourages empathy and compassion for abuse victims. Your bff could very well be suffering in silence, you might think you know what’s happening but you could have no idea.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, please please please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).