They say it takes seven times for a victim of domestic abuse to finally leave for good.
Domestic abuse is defined as: A pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.
The most apparent (to yourself and others) is the physical kind. Bruises, bloody lips, black eyes, and broken bones. While this might be the easiest to spot from the outside, it can be the hardest to walk away from, because of the fear of what the abuser will do to you if you seek help or attempt to leave. In many cases, there are children involved, and this can either spur a departure to spare the children from the abuse - or it can work against them in keeping the victim around because they wouldn't be able to financially support themselves and the children without the abuser's help.
Emotional/mental/psychological abuse is harder to spot, because it can become a case of "he said/she said" to outsiders. Abusers are very careful about covering up their actions with innocent stories to outside parties - and will even go as far as labeling the victim as the abuser. This adds to the emotional and mental turmoil for the victim because it mentally weakens them (which is the abuser's goal) and can even start to make them believe that they are at fault, or doing something to deserve the abuse. It's a nearly impossible cycle to break away from, no matter how many flashes of reason the victim experiences - particularly if the abuser always "comes around" and begs for forgiveness, acknowledging how horrible they've been and promising to change.
There are many factors that make any kind of abuse very difficult to walk away from. Financial dependency is among the most common. The victim is in a situation where they either have nowhere to go, or no money to support themselves on their own. This only strengthens the abuser's power because they know that even if the victim crashes on someone's couch for the night, they always have to come crawling back and rely on them.
Regardless of the category - abuse manifests as erosion of self-worth, controlling behavior, neglect, bullying, and making the victim feel inferior or stupid against a challenge.
It makes you feel like you're to blame for being mistreated - making you feel like you've done something to deserve it.
There are countless sleepless nights trying to rationalize the abuser's behavior and your decision to stay with them. You make excuses for the other person - and for yourself - because you still love them.
- It's having hurtful uncaring things said or screamed at you.
- It's being guilted into sex you don't really want to have.
- It's having things thrown at or around you.
- It's being neglected and treated like and told that you don't matter.
- It's being hit, choked, and/or thrown into things.
- It's being left to cry alone, or forcing yourself to cry silently because your crying makes the other person angry or violent.
- It's being driven into a state of depression so powerful that an otherwise mentally stable victim can actually have thoughts of suicide.
Relationships, friendships, and even parent-child relationships can have any form of abuse.
I haven't publicly revealed my own personal experiences with abuse before - and I still won't get into extreme details or name names. But I have found myself the target of many types of abuse from several relationships over the years. As I've been handed from abuser to abuser, it's almost like they worked together to convince me that I'm the problem (because what are the odds that I just keep happening to end up with abusers?) - which is why I was hesitant to talk about it before.
But upon doing some hesitant research, I found that apparently it is a common a pattern to repeatedly end up with abusers - because psychological wear-and-tear has weakened the victim to where they don't feel strong enough finding someone that doesn't feel "comfortable". And if abuse is what has been the norm, then it's bound to draw them back in when the opportunity for a new relationship comes along.
My own experiences with abuse include being called crazy, stupid, retarded, a bitch, and a whore. I've been told that I don't matter, that I'm not allowed to get upset or I'm making things worse, that my mere presence is stressful, that they only tell me they love me to "spare" my "feelings", and that the only reason I'm being kept around is because they "feel bad".
I've been angrily screamed at to "stop crying".
I've watched as my priceless, irreplaceable tokens of love were torn up or otherwise destroyed out of anger.
I've been told my depression and anxiety was "not" their "problem".
I've been spat upon.
I've been lunged at and chased with sharp weapons and baseball bats.
I've watched as my possessions were thrown and broken in rage.
I've had hateful things frightfully growled directly in my face.
I've had heavy objects thrown at me.
I've been thrown and slammed into and against countless couches, walls, and other objects.
I've been beaten - resulting in black eyes, bloody lips, and countless bruises.
I've been choked within inches of my life, multiple times.
I've been thrown out onto the streets in the middle of the night, many times - in one case I had to go find a 24-hour laundromat to sit up in all night because I had nowhere else to go.
When I've tried to reach out to people, it wasn't always easy - and it didn't always yield results. It's amazing and very discouraging how many people don't take you seriously when you reach out to them for help with abuse.
If someone comes to you for help with an abusive situation, it's important to offer HELP not ADVICE. Abuse victims know what they SHOULD do...but it isn't always feasible and/or they don't have the strength to carry it out. This is why they turn to people for help - they need support and someone to do anything to help, short of physically show up and carry them away from the situation (and sometimes, that's even not too far-fetched).
As difficult as it might be, if you ever find yourself in any kind of abusive situation - do your best to GET OUT. You can replace possessions, you can go to a shelter, you can worry about money later. But you can't risk damage to yourself and to your soul by sticking around.
It's NEVER ok for someone to tell you they love you and then mistreat you in any way. Talk to someone - anyone - and get yourself AWAY from the abuse. Enlist and accept help from anyone who is willing to offer it. It will be painful and confusing at first, and it might seem like you've lost your entire world.
But it's not forever, and it's the first step to making a better and happier life for yourself - one that you truly deserve.