The Wideness of the Issue
Domestic violence (also referred to as intimate partner violence (IPV), dating abuse, or relationship abuse) is a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship.
Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. People of any race, age, gender, sexuality, religion, education level, or economic status can be a victim — or perpetrator — of domestic violence.
Domestic violence includes behaviors that physically harm, intimidate, manipulate or control a partner, or otherwise force them to behave in ways they don’t want to, including through physical violence, threats, emotional abuse, or financial control.
One Story (excerpts from Awakening the Light: A Survivors to Thrivers Going-Forward Story)
I share portions of my story to illustrate how quickly we can get trapped in a relationship, how we can be smart in many ways but have our vision clouded by love, how we can excuse bad behavior until we are pushed to our breaking point. My story describes how emotional and verbal abuse, along with intimidation tactics, can be as hurtful as physical violence. I do hope you feel a supportive, kindred spirit in my story if you find yourself in an abusive relationship or if you want to help a loved one who is struggling. If you are encouraged by my story, I invite you to read it in full and join me on the healing journey.
I was twenty-two, young and naïve. My belief that I was unworthy of being treated well filtered out seeing my fiancé’s true character and what life with him would look like. There were signs of a darker side to him but I felt like plans were already set in motion for our wedding so I needed to follow through on my commitment. Also, I felt like this charismatic guy had chosen me. Wasn’t I the lucky one?
The abuse began on the honeymoon. As I made it through each day, each week, each month, I would silently celebrate the milestones for surviving his abuse. When he would yell, berate and threaten me, I would sit clenching my fists, feeling my nails digging into my skin, seeking to transfer the pain that surged within me to the outside where I felt it physically.
Nothing I could do was right. I couldn’t lay a bag down without it being in the wrong place. If we went to a gathering or party, when we arrived home, all my actions were evaluated and criticized: how much I smiled, what I said, whom I engaged with, how long I talked to a person. And that was the easy part. That was when there was no anger attached. With the anger came curse words, yelling, degrading comments, and even having things thrown at me. At times, I would think that if he would just hit me, then the damage could be visible.
With each angry, hateful word, another stone was placed around my heart to try to protect it. With each stone placed, I became more numb, less me, more a shell of a person.
When you wall yourself off in this way, to protect that precious part of you, you certainly don’t want to be touched by the person whose attack led to the creation of that wall. How can you be intimate with someone who terrorized you? Yet, he insisted that sex was my duty as his wife and would force himself on me. When he was done with the conquering, I would move to the farthest edge of the bed and cry. It was decades before I could name this experience for what it really was: RAPE.
I would often drive across town to a friend’s house to escape my husband’s abuse. In my desolation, I knew that having that friend to escape to was a gift and an oasis. On the way to her home though, I would think, “If I just kept driving straight and hit that tree, it would all be over.”
After six months, I couldn’t take it anymore. My body started shutting down, and I could no longer ignore the impact of an abusive marriage. I decided that it was better to be divorced than deceased.