One in four women will be domestically abused by a partner or ex-partner within their lifetime. Two of those women each week will be killed. Whatever the abuser may have their victim believe, no one deserves to be abused by someone whom they’re supposed to love and trust. If you truly love someone you do not abuse them, physically or emotionally.
Domestic violence is a serious issue, and it’s something that’s not discussed enough. It’s one of those topics that people, regardless of whether they’ve been through it or not, feel uncomfortable discussing, which is understandable – it’s not a nice thing to talk about. But we have to talk about it more. By talking about it more, we learn the signs. We learn the signs to look for in our friends, and the signs to look for in ourselves.
The key thing to remember is that the abuser is nothing more than the grown up version of a bully. They target those that they deem as weaker than themselves, and attack them in order to make themselves feel stronger. They’ll often blame their outbursts on other things, too, such as alcohol, or even the victim. Most abusers will also have anger management issues, be it alcohol-fuelled ones or that they simply struggle to control their temper.
If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, there are several things to look for. One is bruising. In order to cover up their bruises, they’ll often wear long sleeves or trousers, or, if the abuser is smart enough, they’ll do it in places others are less likely to see, such as their stomach or back. If the bruise has done enough damage, however, it’s still easy to see when they’re in pain. If they have a bruise or wound that you notice and ask about, they’ll lie about how they procured it. They might stutter, struggling to come up with a story, or they’ll seem more clumsy than usual – constantly walking into door frames, falling downstairs, tripping over the cat…
Another sign is that the person will shut down. They’ll withdraw from the rest of the world, being quiet in social situations or avoiding them altogether. Some abusers will also refuse to let their victims hang out with people unless they approve of them, and even then, the victim will have to check in frequently, sometimes even having to put the person(s) they’re hanging out with on the phone with their abuser to prove that they’re really with them. They have to know where they are, what they’re doing and who they’re with every hour, every minute, every second.
When the victim ventures out into social situations with their abuser, they’ll glance over at their abuser constantly, particularly if they’re conversing with someone else, regardless of what it’s about, because they need to seek approval before answering.
The key thing to remember is that abusers could sweep the Oscars with their manipulating skills. They don’t want you to know that they’re doing it. So you’re not going to.
If you’re the one being abused, you may not even know it, but if they’ve raised so much as their pinky finger towards you, it’s abuse. If they’ve ever taken their anger out on you, and called you stupid, useless, idiotic…it’s abuse.
People forget that abuse can be emotional too. Has your partner ever insulted you? Told you that you look bad in something? Kept your bank card away from you and insisted on having control of your finances? Done as much as they possibly can to stop you from having any independence? Abuse. The Refuge website explains it well in their FAQ: “If you are forced to alter your behaviour because you are frightened of your partner’s reaction, you are being abused.”
There are two types of insults: jokes, and serious ones. If it’s a joke, they’ll have a smirk or a glint in their eye. If you know them well enough, you’ll know that it’s a joke. If it’s not a joke, it will often be said with a snare. A snarl. Malevolence.
If you feel that you are being abused, talk to someone. Family, friends, a counsellor – anyone that you feel will listen. Charities like Refuge help victims (and their children) who are affected by domestic violence by offering a safe place to escape your abuser. Another thing to remember is that what they’re doing is illegal, and you need to stand up for yourself. If you don’t press charges, but you manage to get away, how do you know that they won’t move on and do it again to someone else? There’s no guarantee. There’s also no guarantee that you’ll be safe from them unless you prove to them that you’re no longer a victim and that you have the law on your side. Restraining orders are a good way to keep them away from you – and possibly your children as well. If the abuser makes you feel like you can’t get out, or like they’re going to hurt you if you tell someone, remember that they already are hurting you. If you don’t do something about it now, things may well escalate.
Some victims feel that as long as their children are not affected by the abuse, it’s ok. It’s not. Your child can still be affected by seeing you abused, and your life is just as important as your child’s, and what happens one day if things go too far and you end up in hospital, or worse? Who’s going to protect your child then?
The abuser, that’s who.
No parent wants to leave their child with someone that could hurt them, so why would you leave yourself with someone that could hurt you?
Part of loving someone is loving everything about them, even their flaws, and maybe even complimenting them too. Those that we love can never be seen as worthless, useless or inadequate, and if they’re seen as that, that’s not love. There may be a fine line between love and hate, but that doesn’t make domestic violence acceptable. That doesn’t make having your life controlled by someone else ok. The only person that should ever be in control of your life is you.