By BIS Contributor Debbie Lane

 

Abuse is an overused word these days and is many times used in ridiculous situations…

…like a small child (who has obviously watched too much TV) threatening their parent to call the police because they are being abused (simply because they are not getting their own way). This parent most likely has not abused their child—it is an example of the child trying to manipulate the parent to get what they want. That is not abuse.

True abuse is defined as “any action that intentionally harms or injures another person” and there are many types of abuse, according to the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness:

“Abuse can be emotional, financial, sexual or physical and can include threats, isolation, and intimidation. Abuse tends to escalate over time. When someone uses abuse and violence against a partner, it is always part of a larger pattern of control.”

Abuse can happen at work (such as workplace bullying), but it seems to happen more often at home (behind closed doors). Abuse is not a one-time event—it is a continuous. You may have lived with it for so long, that it has become your norm and you don’t recognize it for what it is. Listen to your close friends who may be whispering in your ear that “Something is not right, and we’re concerned for you,” even when your head tells you that you’re too smart to be a victim in an abusive situation.

I believe, if we could shine a flashlight to reveal the truth, that we would be shocked at how many people we know (young and old) that are being abused by family members in their own homes. Home… a place that is meant to be a safe haven shared with people you love, and who love you. I believe most of these victims suffer in silence—for reasons too numerous to list in this article. I also believe that these individuals, who are being abused, do not look like victims—that they put on a face to the outside world that looks amazingly normal and trouble-free.

If you are a victim of abuse, you may have quietly tried to get help by discussing what is happening to you with counselors and your friends. Your mind may know that something is wrong, but you may be getting so many mixed messages, that you can’t figure it out. Your mind will drive you crazy, as it replays over-and-over-again different situations that have happened involving the abuser—trying to make sense of them. You may have tried a lot of things to make the abuse stop, but your abuser probably already has you convinced that everything is your fault. You may actually believe that— so you’re not defining your situation as “abuse”…yet.

More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) in the U.S have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. (Source: National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010 Summary Report. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Division of Violence Prevention, Atlanta, GA, and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. (Source: Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States.  2003. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control, Atlanta, GA.)

85% of domestic violence victims are women. (Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003.)

It may help you to know a little bit about this person who is making your life miserable. Whatever form of abuse they are using, it is typically a learned behavior with the following common beliefs and attitudes, according to the Center For Relationship Abuse Awareness:

  • Sense of entitlement
  • A belief they should have power and control over their partner
  • Belief that they can get away with it
  • Learned experience that being abusive gets them what they want
  • Belief that their lives should take priority

While this is what abusers believe, they want you to believe that you are the cause of the abuse. This is NOT the case! According to research from the Center For Relationship Abuse Awareness, abuse is NOT caused by:

  • Provocation
  • Behavior of victim or problems in the relationship
  • Stress
  • Drugs or alcohol
  • Testosterone
  • Genetic factors
  • Loss of control
  • Anger
  • Communication problems
  • Illness or mental health issues
  • Culture
  • Poverty

…These are just excuses abusers use to justify their behavior. Funny thing is, as ridiculous as all this sounds as we read it, these abusers can be incredibly charming (before their abuse starts). The game they play is a mind game of manipulation, and they are good at it. Normal people are caught in this web of deception—having no idea what happened to this charming person. For the abused, it feels like being caught in a spider’s web—and as the years go by, and you try to escape, you may get a body part untangled (let’s say an arm) and just as you’re about to get another arm untangled, the spider comes along and pushes you back into the sticky web. It feels like there is no way to escape, so you convince yourself that your situation is normal (even though you know in your heart it is not).

If you are in a situation that sounds similar to what I’ve been describing, I hope this information gives you a new lens and perspective to evaluate your life. If you are being abused, it is best that you come to terms with it and make a plan to get to a safer environment.  Sometimes the plan you make may take years to implement.  (If you are being physically or sexually abused, leave immediately. There are safe places in your community that can help you.)  If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, help them. People that are being abused often can’t see the truth, and need someone to walk with them in their journey to freedom.

As we have shown a light on abuse, I hope this information touches your heart, gives you hope, and inspires you to change your situation. Recognizing and admitting you are in an abusive relationship can sometimes be a huge step.  Having the courage to change your situation and get help is an even bigger step.  But you can do it!  And you don’t have to do it alone—there are resources out there to help you.

Another great site I found is loveisrespect.org.  It has a lot of information, including “What is Consent.”