by Kristen Lee
“My name is Christine, I don’t mind my real name being used, as I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of.
I met my first partner in 1984. He seemed a nice easy going polite man, until due to my circumstances, I moved in with him about a month later, I began to see and feel the other side of him. He found a letter to another man whilst rummaging through my things, this letter was an old letter that I’d never got round to posting, just a friendly letter that is all, that got me my first slap, because he loved me and was jealous, and of course he was sorry.
After that the beatings came thick and fast, for whatever reason entered his head, and the sexual abuse came with it: walking sticks, pens and other items put into me because I deserved it and I couldn’t get him done for rape.
He was charged and found guilty in 1986 of G.B.H (grievous bodily harm) with intent after breaking my jaw and giving me numerous other injuries including a bruise on my vagina that was 10 cm long.
He did a year in prison and was released on good behavior, I went back to him thinking this would change him; it never did, so after seven years in total I finally left him. By this time I had two sons by him I think they gave me some strength to leave for good.
A year or so later I met my next partner, who again seemed nice and understanding, I told him about my ex, which to him must have been a ticket to do the same, so again I had another seven years of physical and mental abuse, more mental than anything.
The final straw with him came when he broke my nose whilst I was feeding our baby son. Enough was enough and I left again, took my children and moved to the other side of the country.
I have a new partner whom I have been with for coming up to eight years; he has and never will lay a hand on me or turn on the mental abuse
It never was my fault and I’m not ashamed of what happened to me which was a lot more than I have written here, it has made me who I am today, and believe it or not I am proud of myself for being able to sit here and write this, and if my story can be a help to others it will not have been for nothing.”
Christine’s story is one of many found on a website called “Hidden Hurt.” Unfortunately, there are way too many stories similar to Christine’s, or at least covering the same topic. Unlike Christine, several women are too ashamed to come right out and say it, share their real name or information, or even ever tell anybody their story or what is happening to them. They are ashamed, embarrassed, and scared. Several of these women or men truly believe that the abuse that occurs is their fault.
Due to these beliefs and feelings, many people in these situations are not as fortunate as Christine is. They may end up living their whole life with someone who abuses them, or they may not to get to even live that whole life because the abuse puts an end to it. Even if some victims do get it, they struggle to rebuild their life without them. They are not comfortable, they are afraid, they are broken, and many of them struggling with conditions like Depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Domestic violence can include a wide range of several things. The signs may include things such as name-calling or putdowns, keeping someone from contacting family or friends, withholding money, stopping a partner from working, actual or threatened physical harm, sexual assault, stalking, intimidation, and many more. The abuse can be verbal or physical, and can happen to people in any type of relationship.
Did You Know?
Shockingly, one in every four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. This means that an estimated 1.3 women will be a victim of physical or mental assault by an intimate partner each year. Even more shocking and devastating is the fact the most of these cases of domestic violence are never even reported to this police or anyone, and out of these cases that are reported, less than one-fifth sought medical treatment when the injury occurred. These tragic incidents are responsible for almost one-third of female homicide victims, and for the surviving victims, these domestic violence cases lead to more than 18.5 million mental health care visits per year. The survivors are at high risk for depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, flashbacks, and other types of mental and emotional distress.
One of the biggest warning signs of a relationship involving domestic abuse is if you notice fear in one of the partners. If they seem like they are walking on eggshells around their partner, they are probably afraid of upsetting them for a reason. Also, if you ever notice a partner belittling their partner, yelling, humiliating, criticizing them, ignoring their opinions and accomplishments, or treating them as an object in any way, there is probably abuse involved. If you notice certain aspects of a friend’s life being controlled such as where they go and who they see, limiting access to money, limiting access to the phone or a car, and constantly and overwhelmingly checking up on them this is also abusive in most cases. The most common tactics that an abuser will use are dominance, humiliation, isolation, threats, intimidation, denial, and blame. Any action or behavior involving a partner inflicting any of these onto their partner should be watched for as physical abuse may be involved.
Several of the signs listed above may be hard to notice in another person, but make sure to watch for them in your own relationships. In terms of helping out your friend, some of the following warning signs may be easier to spot. If a person seems overly anxious to please their partner, if they check in frequently to let them know exactly what they are doing, go along with anything their partner says and does, or if they talk about their partner’s excessive jealousy and possessiveness. Warning signs of physical violence may include frequent minor injuries being attributed to “accidents,” frequently missing work or school without any explanation, or dressing in clothing designed to hide multiple bruises and scars. They
may be being isolated by their partner if they seem restricted from seeing family and friends, rarely go out in public without their partner, or have limited access to items such as money, phones, or a car. Psychologically and emotionally, these victims may portray very low self-esteem, go through a major personality change, or display signs of depression or anxiety.
As mentioned before, trying to help a victim out of a domestic abuse situation can be tricky. It will help to talk to the person in private and let them know exactly what you have seen to make you worried. Make sure to be very supportive and avoid any judgment or blame placement on the victim. These victims may be confused, ashamed, embarrassed, and afraid, so dealing with them may be a very delicate situation.
Common Myths About Domestic Violence
Domestic violence only happens to poor women of color.
This is not true! Domestic violence can happen to any people of any class, culture, religion, race ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital status, age, or sex.
Some people deserve to be hit.
Absolutely not. Physical violence is illegal, especially among families and households. The victim is certainly not responsible for the abuse, although they may doubt that themselves, and the only person to blame is the abuser themselves.
Domestic Violence is a personal problem between the members of a relationship.
Abuse can lead to severe injuries, mental illnesses, and death. That should not be something that the abuser gets to decide. Also, several people that abuse their partner also abuse children that may be involved in the relationship. Members of society should certainly care about the well-being and care of someone else, especially children who may not be able to defend themselves. These abusers should be stopped from hurting other victims or their current victim no matter what.
If it were that bad she would just leave.
Now this is one that I especially feel strongly about. There are several reasons why a victim of domestic violence might not leave a relationship. The victim might be scared, there might be children involved, they might not know the power they have to leave and live on their own, or several other various reasons. When people assume that just because a person doesn’t leave that it means everything is ok, or even worse that they want to be abused, they are completely wrong and have no right to make that statement or assumption. An example of this has been happening recently in popular news.
The story between Rihanna and Chris Brown is well-known. After he has allegedly beat her, she has returned to him. Several people do not understand this so they put it down, and that is very disappointing. Just the other day my friend said, “I am so disappointed in her for going back to him after what happened.” That statement was offensive, not fair, and morally wrong in every way. Rihanna does not deserve “disappointment” for making a decision like that. Victims like her can truly believe there partner has changed and want to give them another chance. Plus someone who has never experienced the sort of hell that is involved in domestic violence thinks that it would never be them, that they would not get caught up in that or ever go back to someone like that, but it usually isn’t the case that the victim has a choice. Due to physical and mental constraints, the victim may not be able to leave. And several people will not understand this, but there is a sort of comfort that victim may feel with an abusive partner. It is the sort of life they know as normal, just like prisoners may become institutionalized or war may become the new “normal” for veterans.
The Violence Wheel and Cycles of Violence
Violence and abuse is almost never a one time thing. It is a constant cycle of the tension building, incident, making-up, calm, and once again leading back around to the next time the tension begins to build. The cycle can take any amount of time to complete and may happen numerous times throughout a relationship. In some severe cases, the making-up and calm stages disappear from the cycle.
The Violence Wheel is something that has been developed to look at and understand the different ways of abuse that the perpetrator may use to keep control of their partner.
Domestic Violence and Mental Illness
Several women who were victims of domestic violence end up isolating themselves, with depression, or with post-traumatic stress disorder. This is due to the psychological damage that the physical and verbal abuse can cause. One out of every four women who are victims of domestic abuse attempt suicide. After experiencing the abuse, several women tend to blame themselves for the abuse or everything that goes wrong. The abuser manipulates the victim into believing that everything is their fault. This learned behavior of self-blame only worsens the depression that the victim may be feeling and many times they see suicide as the only way out. A study conducted by Bargari, Ben-Shakar, and Shalev in 2007 tested the relationship between abuse and development of disorders such as Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).The study looked at several different kinds of abuse, and questioned women to look for symptoms of abuse as well as any symptoms of MDD and PTSD. The results of this study showed that battered women are more likely to develop and show signs up MDD and PTSD. These findings should be addressed to decrease the affect that abuse has on women after the fact and try to lessen the burden of abuse.
There also several findings that show how several women try turning to drugs or alcohol after they experience abuse, but this can only lead to more physical or emotional damage. The best thing to do according to The Office on Women’s Health is to speak with a counselor or doctor if you have any of the common feelings of numbness, anxiety, shock, anger, or fear. Everyone is different and these feelings are completely normal so there is no reason for any woman to be ashamed.
Changes to the Victim’s Life
Along with mental health problems, domestic violence can also cause several changes to the victim’s life. According to studies, abuse can change the sexual preference and behavior of a person. It can change the way a victim views themselves and others, as well as impact their way of thinking and acting. A study done by Abrams and Stefan (2012) investigated case studies of three different women involved in therapy. The findings of these study show that due to abuse at an earlier time in their life, they not only struggled with depression, anxiety, and personality disorders, but also showed that masochism and humiliation in sexual preference are a direct impact of abuse. The women did not trust other people, and also showed a pattern of blaming themselves for many things in life because of a directly learned behavior of blame from their abuser.
I personally know someone who has experienced several of the things talked about above. I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down and talk with her to listen to some of her experiences and how she has dealt with them. She gave me permission to use her story, as long as her name remains unknown. For argument’s sake, let’s call her Hannah.
Hannah is currently involved in a relationship with someone who she has had some issues with in the past. Also for argument’s sake, let’s name her boyfriend Dexter. They have been doing very well for a while now to eliminate any concern for her. Hannah and Dexter have been involved with each other for almost two years now. Luckily for Hannah, his cycle of violence is not one that gets to the tension building stage very often. According to her, there have been three main incidents between the two of them. When Hannah and Dexter first started with each other, things escalated pretty quickly. The first time they had sex, Hannah was drunk and saying no at first. She said that when he started to show anger and signs of aggression, she became fearful and gave into his will. Hannah says that she understands that by definition this is rape, but she also feels that several things could have done by her to completely avoid that situation. She says that matters to her. Although rape is never the victim’s fault, Hannah does not want to put all the blame on Dexter in that situation.
When I asked her how she coped with this, Hannah said, “Although it was scary and still sometimes upsetting, to me it wasn’t something so serious to report or even have to get over.” She attributed it to a drunken night, and stayed involved with Dexter having consensual, non-aggressive interactions with him.
The second time an incident occurred was a little harder for Hannah to deal with. It was another scenario of rape and aggression, but this time Hannah was sober. Hannah gave me the basics of the situation but said she preferred not to disclose some details of this incident with me. After this, Hannah stopped talking to Dexter for a while. With the help of some of her really great friends, she was able to talk some of her feelings and frustrations about the situation out. She had minor injuries, but did not get care or treatment for any of them. Hannah and Dexter talked things through again, and this time Hannah decided to take it slow. They had minimal contact for a little while, until things eventually rekindled. After that, things were great between them for eight months.
The last incident Hannah told me about shocked me a little bit. Once again, not all details were disclosed. While there was a group of people over at Dexter’s house, Hannah and Dexter got into an argument. Hannah was drunk and feeling very bold, so since she was so angry she proceeded to talk back and yell at Dexter during this argument. She said that she was so mad and trying to get his attention that she hit him in the face. That threw Dexter into an angry rage and he became very aggressive with her (details were not disclosed about this part), but eventually things lead to Dexter literally throwing Hannah out of the room onto their kitchen floor. The other people in the house obviously heard the commotion and rushed to keep Dexter away from Hannah after. A friend drove Hannah home and tended to her minor injuries.
After that, Hannah and Dexter did not have any communication at all, but it was Dexter who did not talk to Hannah even though she attempted to speak to him. She blames herself for this incident and very upset not having Dexter in her life. She said, “Even though I know we have our issues, he is my best friend. I feel like he is the only one who truly understands me, and I honestly don’t know what to do without him.” Hannah was struggling for a while and decided to go to counseling. She said talking through it helped a little, but the only person she wanted to talk to was Dexter.
Although Hannah and Dexter are doing well now, incidents like these changed the ways of Hannah’s thinking and a lot of her behaviors. She shared that her and her counselor discovered a trend of self-blame due to a lot of these incidents. She is very dependent on Dexter, yet she understands that things could go wrong if she isn’t careful. He also understands his wrongdoings, which is a step in the right direction for them. Him being away from her also made him understand how much he needed her as well and he doesn’t want to do anything that would cause him to lose her. It is apparent that this situation did take several tolls on Hannah’s life and cause her to be very burdened by several thoughts and things. Hopefully they will continue to keep going strong together.
Domestic Violence more of an issue in society than many people realize. Unfortunately, several women are not able to and never get the chance to speak out about their situation or make a better life for themselves. Some one you know may be going through hell at home and most people will not even realize or recognize it. To keep friends and family safe, people should learn about and make themselves very familiar with the warning signs of domestic violence, but also should know that they should approach any situation with caution to avoid any incidents with themselves or within the relationship. These victims have dealt with a sort of confinement that some people can never imagine and hopefully will never have to see. They are confined by their partners, as well as judgments from certain parts of society. The best thing others can do for them is understand them. All they may need to get out of this hell is a little support and information.