Does this sound like a ridiculous question to you?
Depending on the reason you came to this page, perhaps not.
If you suspect that you may be abused, then you are further along than I was when I first started this process. Please keep reading.
Ugly words, full of connotation. I especially despised the word ‘victim.’
I still do.
Same thing with the word ‘abuse.’
Mean. Disparaging. Controlling. Manipulative. Cruel. These were all terms I could accept. But abuser? My husband? Me, a victim?
I thought those terms were more than a little extreme. Abusers were the ones that gave their wives black eyes and kicked them while they were lying helpless on the floor. Victims were on billboards and in the hospital, their faces unrecognizable from swelling, the bearers of broken teeth. After all he was still loving towards me at times. Wasn’t he?
It is time that we know exactly what abuse is.
According to the United States Department of Justice, abuse, referred to here as domestic violence, is defined as follows:
“We define domestic violence 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. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.”
And there are many kinds of abuse. Again the USDJ lays out five types of domestic violence. They are:
- Physical Abuse: Hitting, slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair pulling, etc are types of physical abuse. This type of abuse also includes denying a partner medical care or forcing alcohol and/or drug use upon him or her.
- Sexual Abuse: Coercing or attempting to coerce any sexual contact or behavior without consent. Sexual abuse includes, but is certainly not limited to, marital rape, attacks on sexual parts of the body, forcing sex after physical violence has occurred, or treating one in a sexually demeaning manner.
- Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual’s sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem is abusive. This may include, but is not limited to constant criticism, diminishing one’s abilities, name-calling, or damaging one’s relationship with his or her children.
- Economic Abuse: Is defined as making or attempting to make an individual financially dependent by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding one’s access to money, or forbidding one’s attendance at school or employment.
- Psychological Abuse: Elements of psychological abuse include – but are not limited to – causing fear by intimidation; threatening physical harm to self, partner, children, or partner’s family or friends; destruction of pets and property; and forcing isolation from family, friends, or school and/or work.
The behaviors laid out in these examples are not an all-inclusive list, but are common behaviors exhibited by abusive people. Abuse occurs in all ethnicity groups, to both genders and in every walk of life. There is no shame in admitting that you have been or are being abused.
To clarify, we are not talking about marital strife here. In a conversation with a former member of my church, a friend who supported me was told, “C’mon, haven’t you ever yelled at your wife?” We are not talking about angry words exchanged and fighting. I found an excellent condensed description on the website cedarnetwork.org.
It is a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victim’s liberty or freedom, to strip away their sense of self. It is not just women’s bodily integrity which is violated but also their human rights.
I have to be honest though, because of my preconceived notions of what constitutes abuse, it was hard for me to come to grips with this. When I was just far enough removed from my situation that I was able to look at it more objectively. I was able to see that I lived my life attempting to keep my husband happy in order to make my life bearable. This is something I will discuss in more detail later, but it is best described as “walking on eggshells.”
I am not the only one who had or has a misconception about what abuse really is. The friend I referred to above has his own blog. While it is primarily a music blog he often posts articles about other things: practical advice, thoughts on certain topics and has since started writing articles about his family’s involvement in my situation. Several responses to his article about abuse reveal typical misconceptions about the topic of abuse. Here are two of them.
Yes women and men are abused. That said the church is infiltrated with women’s libbers who call things abuse that are not. That is FACT. The church needs real men who love their wives and wives that are willing to submit as God calls them to do. When that happens, everything works. If it is not happening, it does NOT mean the marriage can be abandoned and there should be NO Christian that encourages women to divorce husbands because of some fighting or a man wanting to be a leader in the home as God commands.
I will watch this with interest but I am skeptical of all the abuse stories rampant on the internet. If a woman is hit, she should separate and wait for God to heal her husband. The women that claim “emotional abuse” and such things in many cases just need to stop whining and try being the godly and submissive wife she is called to be. Emotional abuse is not a concept found in the Bible.
There is no way I can address these and the many other misconceptions about abusive behavior here but I will attempt to do so in the following articles that I write.
After finally accepting the word abuse (very reluctantly), one of my first questions was “How could I let this happen to me?” Even my parents, once I started to tell them everything, though they were entirely supportive of me, did not understand. Their question of “Why didn’t you say anything?” showed a naivety of the nature of an abuser/victim relationship. At that time I could only respond with: “I don’t know.”
As I navigate these waters and find myself further and further removed from my situation and as I read useful books and articles, I find myself more and more amazed at the trance I was in.
I have a bachelor’s degree in the Science of Nursing. I have been a critical care nurse for over 18 years. Despite being reared by my parents to be strong and independent, to know what I believe and think for myself, I became a victim of abuse.
Abuse is very often not the picture that I painted near the beginning of this article. Please don’t get me wrong. That sort of abuse happens to thousands of women, and men for that matter, on a daily basis globally. But if this is what we narrow our understanding of abuse to, then thousands of more cases go undetected and women, whom I am directing this article towards, go unprotected. It can be tricky to identify, even when you are in the midst of it. That can actually be a part of the abuse.
I am only scratching the surface here. If this had been all I had read, then I very well may never have identified myself as a victim of abuse nor my husband as an abuser. In fact, I didn’t, at least not on my own. All I knew, was that I had to get away. It took friends and family to continually point out his behavior and ask me what I thought it was.
If you have any doubt or question that this could possibly be you, I implore you to read my next article, titled “The Insidious Face of Abuse: An Insider’s Story.” While I cannot lay out every single tactic that an abuser uses to control his victim, I can highlight many common behaviors employed by them.
I want you to notice two terms that I just used: tactics and employed. I will cover these in more detail in the next article. They were not used carelessly but chosen carefully as they give an inside look at the artful scheming of an abuser.
On my helpful resources page I have included several links and other helpful information regarding abuse.
Again, if you think you may be a victim of abuse or at the very least think your mate is mean, cruel, vindictive, controlling, manipulative, keep reading. You need to get help, but I will not paint a rosy picture here. Help in this arena is not easy to find. God provided me with two people who cared enough to help me see my situation for what it really was. He gave me a family that was supportive and believed me. All told however, I was reduced to four adult friends (two couples) who live in my immediate area and my family 900 miles away. My former husband would say that this is evidence that I am crazy. (Again, more on this later.)
I very well understand that help may be difficult to find, but don’t give up. Your emotional well-being, your sanity, your life depends on it.
P.S. If you have children, it is critical for you to find help for their safety as well. Even if they are not directly harmed by the abuser the repercussions on them are inevitable. They will not go unaffected.