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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Five Years Later: What I'd like you to know about domestic violence

Sometimes I look back and I can’t believe it all happened to me, but it most certainly did.    Five years ago I had Brad forcibly removed from my house.   When I looked back at my posts about what led up to my decision and the day itself, it all came vividly back.   The things he did and said were so outrageous that it’s almost hard to believe; and yet,  I know every word is true.   I wonder how I lived through it all.  I was suffering so much to try to keep the family together, but finally had to give up.  I can honestly say that I don't have any regrets, but I can also honestly say that it has not been easy. As recently as 5 months ago, Brad threatened to beat me up because he was angry about something.

On this 'anniversary', I'd like to explain some things I have learned over the years.  I think the average person says "Why doesn't she just leave?"

This is why:

The victim truly believes the abuser can change their behavior.
Leaving means giving up.
The victim is ashamed to talk about it and ashamed to ask for help.
Leaving an abuser is very scary - the victim feels like they can protect their children more if they stay.
In fact, women are more likely to be seriously harmed or killed after they have left than during the relationship.
The victim feels powerless and overwhelmed.

A key take away from this is:
Just because a victim doesn't leave, doesn't mean you should assume “It can't be that bad.” It probably is that bad and it only gets worse over time.

A few more points that I have learned or experienced first hand:

  • Living with an abuser is chaos and torture. The arguments start randomly and are endless, taking hours and hours of your life away.
  • The victims are always on edge and afraid of the abuser.
  • Even though you might think,‘it’s not that bad’, it is - no amount of abuse is acceptable and it’s okay to leave.
  • No one deserves to be abused, and the abuse always gets worse. It’s not okay – if it doesn't feel right, it’s not.
  • Children are hurt by what they see and hear on and ongoing basis and boys that see it often become abusers. Girls that see it often become victims.
  • Leaving has many issues including emotional, financial, physical, and safety. Leaving needs to be carefully planned
  • Most women (75%) do eventually leave. 
  • If the victim has children, the abuser will still be in the picture to some extent if they leave, but it’s still much better than dealing with him all day, every day.
  • Men that abuse and manipulate their partners will continue to do so. My ex-husband often tries to manipulate me, sometimes verbally abuses me, and threatens me with court action occasionally.
  • Ex-wives are still scared at some level and will give in because it is easier and safer than fighting - I live this still after five years.
What can be done?  The only real answer is to create a plan and safely leave the abuser.  Battering intervention programs really try to help, but the reality is they only help those that want to be helped. Do not make assumptions that if someone has been through the program that they are better. My ex-husband has been through the program twice and none of his behavior has changed. It's only less extreme because we do not live together, so it cannot escalate.

I would encourage anyone in this situation to have an open, honest dialogue with a safe person. If you know someone in this situation, try to gently bring up the abuse and get them to talk. Hiding the abuse and not talking about it will not help.  Saying it out loud and getting support really helps.  There will be lots of tears at first, but hopefully they will be replaced with resolve to get out of the situation.  It takes more strength and courage to leave than you can possibly imagine, but it is possible. I did it and I have never looked back.