I’ve written about abuse many times. It was just a part of my life growing up. Observing it and receiving it are both abuse. I’ve told many stories on my blog about the parade of step-fathers in my life and gone into some detail about the abusive ones.
I’m not a psychologist, and never professed to be, but feel I am an expert at explaining the effects of abuse, which in some small way may help an innocent person gain the strength needed to leave an abusive relationship.
In sports they say the best coaches often come from the ranks of bench warmers. They spend a lot of time observing what works and what doesn’t, which helps them teach new players. Makes sense to me.
In that context I suppose I could be a coach for abused women to help them change their lives.
Sadly, abuse begets abuse. My grandfather was abusive to his children. He was a Southern Baptist preacher who truly believed ‘Spare the rod, Spoil the child.’ With four children he shared his abuse in a way I could never quite understand. If one child did something against house rules they all got a beating. I’m sure there was verbal abuse also, along the lines of not being good enough in God’s eyes, that sort of thing.
I can tell you, abuse is abuse. Physical or verbal, sometimes just implied through body language, you can feel it. You begin to have that ‘fight or flight’ adrenalin rush. It’s scary as hell.
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He didn’t force her to have sex, thank goodness, but instead fell immediately to sleep. Slept like a baby, got up the next morning showered and left for work whistling a happy tune.
My mother found a knife under his pillow. We went to the police before the hospital. The officer took our statements as we sat there bruised and bloodied. Then he informed us that there was a 48 hour waiting period in the state of Michigan before they could issue an arrest. “It’s a cooling off period necessary in domestic cases, in case you change your mind,” he told my mother.
This was 1966 and I would like to tell you things have improved for abused women since then, but I feel it’s been baby steps. If you pay any attention to the political rhetoric this year you know how clueless many can be about this subject.
In some ways I understand why. My mother and I moved in with my aunt and uncle later that day. They did issue a citation to her husband after the 48 hour waiting period. But she moved back to him two weeks later.
Here’s the thing...abuse isn’t just about the physical. It’s a mind game from the get go. My mother had been abused as a child by the man she wanted love from in the worst way, her dad. Somewhere in her head she felt some of it had to be her fault. If she could just be a good girl and do as she was told he would show her the love she craved.
Ironically my grandfather showed me the love she always wanted from him and it created a competitive and contentious relationship between mom and me. He treated me so well I couldn’t believe the stories I heard about his abuse. Eventually I did, and then spent many years trying to analyze all of this weird family dynamic.
Women like my mother are drawn to men like her fourth, of six, husbands. You just have to know the background to understand why she had that many husbands. She never felt worthy of love.
I think there’s a song about looking for love in all the wrong places. It’s true. Abusers have an attraction to the vulnerable and the vulnerable are helpless to walk away from that dangerous attraction.
The times I’ve heard, “He didn’t mean to hurt me. I kind of deserved it.” Or, “He’ll change... I just know he loves me.”
I’ve also heard, “Where would I go? What about the kids?” It can be very complicated. I realize that.
We have to advocate for stricter laws in domestic cases. We’ve made strides since 1966, for certain, but there is so much more we need to do. Women’s shelters were almost unheard of back in the day. Now there are safe houses and advocacy organizations to help women in these relationships. If you don’t know where to turn Google ‘shelters for abused women (your city)’. There are people there to help you.
We have to do more to educate those who have no idea what this is like. If you’ve never gone through it you probably feel sad when you hear of a case like my mother’s but have no idea how to help.
First: Believe it.
Second: Rest assured it is happening in every demographic, no matter race or economic standing.
Third: You can’t fix what you don’t recognize so shining the light on this subject is a great way to help us all move forward.
Barbara's bio: My dream of going to Art School never happened but my education has never stopped. From a less than idyllic childhood, to marrying at 18 and having two children before turning 21 it’s been a hell of a ride.
My husband’s career took us through ten moves in our first ten years together. He had a steady path and I had the privilege of reinventing myself with each move.
From modeling to real estate marketing to management I discovered I’m really an entrepreneur at heart. I’ve owned a modeling/talent agency, women’s health spa, among other ventures.
In the ‘90’s I was overwhelmed with the need to paint. I had denied my art for over 25 years and it was screaming to come out.
After the art surfaced I began writing poetry. Some were silly rhymes and others were emotional and personal. That led to journaling. In 2005 I published my first children’s book, TheDuffy Chronicles, Duffy Finds His Family, a fun little story about our pound puppy. It will be a trilogy with the 2nd one coming as soon as I find time to finish it.
In 2010 I started Zero to 60 and beyond. What an experience that’s been. My blog is the prelude to my memoir.
***Domestic Violence Resources
National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) TTY- 1-800-787-3224
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (includes downloadable guides for helping women in abusive relationships)
RAINN - Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network 1.800.656.HOPE
National Alliance on Mental Illness, aka NAMI
National Clearinghouse on Family Violence - you will need to opt for English or French
Women's Aid - 0808 2000 247
Australia & New Zealand:
Domestic Violence Information Manual - phone numbers vary by territory
For Male Victims:
Why Men Stay in Abusive Relationships
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