Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Abuse is not...

There are many myths surrounding Domestic Abuse. These myths not only create a society where women are not supported to speak out against abuse and where abusers feel justified in their abuse, but they also mean that many women in abusive situations are unable to even comprehend that what is happening to them is abuse. This means that they stay trapped for longer.

So today I want to start a new series. This is my ‘Abuse is not…’ series which explains what abuse ISN’T. Every Wednesday  I will talk about what myths I believed when I was in my abusive relationship, and using examples from that relationship I will explain how I now realise I was wrong.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE share this blog series with as many women as you can. If even one woman reads these posts and comprehends the reality of her situation we have saved another person from enduring what I endured for so long, and that is good. The truth about abuse is that it is everywhere.  Anyone can be affected by abuse and most people who know them will have no idea. So please share, because you DO know people affected by domestic abuse, whether you realise it or not.

So here’s my first post…

Abuse is not: Only abuse if you’re being punched/ kicked/ hospitalised.

Abuse creeps up on you slowly. I genuinely didn’t realise that I was being abused, despite the fact that by the end I was often bruised or tender somewhere from my husband’s violence.

I thought if he’d done it ‘by accident’ by ‘not realising his own strength’ or just ‘lashing out’; then that was different to intentionally setting out to do me physical harm. In reality, ALL abusive men say “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”  None of us really know their intentions, but that doesn’t really matter does it. They did cause harm and they did have a choice not to.

My husband only actually “beat me up” punching me repeatedly once. He was more inclined to grab me under the chin and shout in my face, or push me up against a wall/door/kitchen counter, often bruising my back or shoulders. He would grab me and hold me whilst shouting at me or block the doorway and refuse to let me leave. Sometimes he’d shout so much and so close to my face he’d be spitting in my face. I didn’t see any of this as “abuse” because I wasn’t being punched, kicked or hospitalised.  Regardless of whether bones are broken or marks are left, regardless of whether it’s a loss of control or a calculated premeditated act, all these are acts of violence, they are all against the law, they are all assault and all abuse.  The same if they are done to your child.

In addition I thought abuse happened on a daily basis. This is not the case.  Abuse cycles, there will be an explosion- sometimes an act of violence but not necessarily; it could be shouting or crying or attempting suicide.
This will be followed by what is termed “the honeymoon period” at this stage he re-builds your confidence that he’s a good guy. These are the ” highs”  that most abuse victims feel make up for “the lows” during this time you will feel loved and special and as though your relationship is “just meant to be.” Slowly you’ll find yourself in the next phase of the cycle, “tension building” this is the time he is simmering, he’s moody and bad tempered, nothing you do is right, you’re walking on eggshells trying to make him happy, trying to get back to the honeymoon phase. Instead this phase ends with an explosion and the whole thing starts again. At first these cycles could last a year or more and slowly, ever so slowly they got shorter and shorter until they were happening on an almost daily basis. The fact that what we traditionally deem to be abuse was happening infrequently led me to believe I wasn’t being abused. In truth the whole cycle is abuse, because the whole cycle is about keeping the victim under control.

Finally abuse is not always physical, and even when it is it’s unlikely to be JUST physical. Abuse is about maintaining control of the other person and most abusers will not turn to violence as a means to do that if there is another way. Emotional abuse was by far a bigger part of my relationship than anything else. I could write a book detailing the emotional abuse he inflicted on me but the easiest way to sum it up is this: 
If you spend your time walking on eggshells, changing the way you act, dress, speak or think either because of someone else’s emotional reaction to it or because of the way someone else has made you feel then chances are you are in an emotionally abusive relationship.

Not all emotionally abusive relationships will lead to physical violence but you can guarantee that most physically violent relationships will have started as emotional abuse.

For me I spent years thinking “it’s not that bad I’ll leave if he…..” and then when he did I’d just move that boundary a bit further. By the time he actually beat me up I didn’t even know where the boundaries were anymore.  He had been abusing me for about 12 years. I was broken, his constant emotional abuse had led me to a place where I made excuses for him without realising I did it, where I was unable to think rationally or clearly, where I couldn’t imagine a life without him and where leaving was as scary as staying, so I still didn’t leave. I would urge anyone who thinks they are being abused to act now, not to put it off until it gets worse, because it will get worse and it may be too late by then.

For more information about whether to spot if you are in an emotionally abusive relationship check out these links…..

Please check out the rest of the Abuse is not series by clicking on the tab at the top of this post

(Thank you to Carolyn Phillips for designing the banner for this series and providing photographs for this post. She takes beautiful pictures. Check out her blog here.) 

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