The damage of domestic violence goes far beyond physical abuse. You need to stop trying to save your abusive partner and start trying to save yourself. You deserve better than to be a victim.
Everybody has the right to feel safe in their own home, yet so many people don’t. For them, tonight will be another night of violence. Another night of watching what they say in case it triggers an assault. Another night of cowering in a corner, wishing the beating would stop, hoping the person they love doesn’t go too far, praying that they’ll still be alive come morning.
Domestic violence is such a painful experience to live through. The physical pain, the visible scars, they are terrifying at the time, but it’s not the physical abuse that ruins lives; it’s the shattered psyche and the deep emotional wounds that leave the real long-term damage. This is too often overlooked when considering domestic violence – you don’t have to be struck to be the victim of violence. Fracturing someone’s mind is arguably the most violent thing an abuser can do to their victim, and it can happen to anyone. It’s so subtle, you barely even notice yourself being conditioned to accept abuse as normal. Before any violence, the insults start creeping in, imperceptibly undermining the victim’s confidence. Insults disguised as jokes. Then it progresses – maybe they demand to read your messages, justifying their actions with phrases like “If you had nothing to hide, you wouldn’t care about me reading them”. Over time, the situation develops to the point where everything you do is wrong. Nothing is good enough. You believe it is your fault because the abuser has conditioned you to feel that way.
This is what they want. They don’t want you to be a strong person. They need you to be broken. They need you to be damaged, emotionally drained and devoid of self-belief. They need you to feel dependent upon them. Once you reach this stage, once they have you trapped, that’s when the violence turns from psychological to physical.
It often starts with a single blow. A one-off incident, which the abuser claims is a “loss of control”. Maybe they say they blacked out, that they don’t remember it. Maybe they blame it on alcohol or drugs and promise to curb their intake. What they always do is say that it won’t happen again, but it will. It always does.
The abuser will be full of contrition … for a while. They’ll buy you presents and take you to nice places. They’ll shower you with compliments, and tell you how much they love you. You’ll begin to trust them again as the memory of the attack fades. You may even think that you’re happy … until the day it happens again. And again. And again. Once becomes once a month. Once a month becomes once a week. Somehow, they always make you believe it is your fault.
You are innocent of blame – it is your abuser who is responsible. You are a victim of abuse and you need support. Talk to someone about what is happening. Domestic violence isn’t normal, it isn’t “just what happens in a relationship”. It is abuse, and you deserve better than to be a victim of abuse.
Outsiders looking in wonder why victims stay with their abuser, why they don’t walk away after the first time. They stay because the emotional violence inflicted removes hope. The abuser convinces you that nobody else would want you, and that you cannot survive on your own. They twist the situation in your head to convince you that you need them, that it is your fault what is happening. If only you hadn’t said that thing, or forgot to do that other thing, none of this would have happened. The psychological conditioning is so subtle that the victim grows to believe the lies of the abuser. They make you dependent upon them, so that you feel you have to stay with them, that you have no option. They convince you that you need them to survive in the world. It is this psychological damage that far outweighs any physical injuries. It is this brainwashing that affects victims for years after the relationship has ended.
Please try to understand that what the abuser tells you is lies. They are taking falsehoods and interweaving them with the truth to make them seem believable. Listen to me: It is them nobody else would want, not you. It is them that cannot survive on their own. It is their fault what is happening, not yours, and you deserve so much more than what you are going through right now.
However hard you try, however many tears you cry and however much blood you shed, you will not change the abuser. Many people believe that they have a special connection that can ‘save’ the abuser. Maybe you are in an abusive relationship right now, and you think you can be the person that changes your abuser. You won’t be. The only person who can alter the abuser’s personality is the abuser themselves, and it’s a process that can take years, with no guarantee of success.
You can’t save the abuser. You can only save yourself.
Victims often believe that the abuser loves them, but they don’t. Love is empowering; it liberates you and makes your life better. Love isn’t based around intimidation and fear. Love isn’t destroying your partner’s self-belief. Love isn’t balling your hands into fists and unleashing them upon another person. Physical and psychological violence is not love. Stop lying to yourself that it is, and take whatever support is available to get away from such destruction.
It is so hard leave an abuser. Some people are terrified that the abuser will track them down and punish them. In extreme cases, they are worried the abuser will kill them. The fear is too great to walk away. The thing is, if you stay, the abuser will continue to inflict physical and emotional torture upon you. The abuse will kill you if you stay, or worse: it’ll drain every drop of life out of you and you’ll spend the rest of your life existing, maybe even waiting for death. Only by leaving the abuse behind do you give yourself a chance of happiness, a hope of a different future, a happier future. Walk away from the abuser and take that first step towards the life you were born to live.
There is help out there to support anyone trapped in a violent relationship. In America, both men and women can call The Hotline, on 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), 24 hours a day. In the UK, women can call the National Domestic Violence Helpline free on 0808 2000 247, 24 hours a day. Men can call ManKind on 01823 334244.
If you feel in immediate danger, telephone 911 in America or 999 in the UK.
Photo: Flickr/ European Parliament