Saturday, April 4, 2009

Abuse

For today's post I've decided to tackle a very serious subject that has affected many many people I love including myself. (so we'll take a break from my son's blindness for a little bit.)

I want to address a very important subject. There are a lot of people out there with some common misconceptions about abuse. Most people would assume that it happens only to women, that these women are in long term physically abusive relationships and that they are obviously stupid because most of them stay with their abuser. While these may be common situations when it comes to abusive relationships there are many different forms of abuse. And the people who are being abused are not necessarily stupid, they have reasons for staying with their abuser, even though people outside of the relationship know that the best thing is for the victim to leave as soon as possible.

Firstly women are not the only victims of abuse. There is a higher percentage of abused men than one would believe. The reason we don't hear about it more often is we are culturally and societally programmed to believe that women are the weaker sex. Men are supposed to be bigger, stronger, smarter etc (even though we know it isn't true, we're taught to believe it). Most male victims of abuse are unwilling to admit that they have been abused for fear of how their friends and families and society at large will see them. Especially when the abuser is female, or if the abuser was male and the victim is a closeted gay person.

Next, there are many people who don't even realize they are being abused because they believe it must fit certain stereotypical conditions. They think abuse only happens between couples. Or that it's only abuse if there is physical violence. Or they believe that if they fight back then it is not considered abuse because they contributed to the violent situation. There are many different categories of abuse. If you are in a relationship where someone is controlling you, whether it be them telling you when and how you may run your life or them preventing you from leaving the house, earning money, holding a job, speaking to your friends.

I spent 5 years in a relationship like that, because I refused to believe that it was abuse. He had not hit me (maybe only a handful of times throughout the whole relationship) so I figured it couldn't be abusive. He did however control my every move. I was not allowed to see or speak to friends or family without his permission and not unless he was present and had approved the interaction. For instance if I was on the phone with someone he wanted to know immediately who it was and what they wanted, and if he disapproved of the conversation he would find a way to get me off the phone. This included my own parents, I was hardly ever allowed to visit with them, it was up to him when we went there and how long we stayed.

He used a lot of guilt and manipulation to force me to bend to his will. If I wanted to do something without him he would first tell me he didn't want to go, and that he wanted me to stay, and if I persisted he would move into the whole "ohh but I'll be here all alone and I'll be depressed without you" bit. And if that didn't work for him he would move onto "Fine. Do whatever the F you want." Usually I would cave at some point and we would spend yet another night sitting in the tiny living room while he played video games and I did nothing, because that was exactly what I was allowed to do. I was supposed to watch him play video games for hours on end.

He also abused me sexually. Not something I like to talk about, but I think it's important to get it out, and to let other women out there know that they are not alone and that they are being abused and it is not okay. I thought that because we had been together for years and were in a relationship that it could not be considered rape. He controlled all the finances and prevented me from getting a job so if I wanted anything for myself I was reduced to begging for it from him, and he would usually buy me things if I would do as he wanted.. It was degrading and made me feel like a pros.titute. But that wasn't the only time he would make me have sex. He also would force it on me when I told him I didn't want it. He would often tell me to stop crying because I was ruining the mood. I want to tell you that I know now that that is rape. Whether we were together forever or had just met, if one partner is unwilling it is rape. And that I should not have felt obligated to do anything just because he paid the bills. If I had felt that I could leave the relationship at all I would have done it.. I felt trapped, and I felt like I had absolutely no other choice.

I think the worst part was that from the outside he seemed like the perfect guy, he had a stable job, was responsible and seemed caring. He made it very easy for people to like him, and it actually took about a year before he revealed his true nature to me. He had everyone fooled, all of my friends and family thought that it was a bit odd that I didn't go anywhere without him and if I did I had to answer to him and have my phone on at all times because I couldn't miss a call from him, but thought that all was well regardless because he just seemed like a good guy. It wasn't all him though, I deceived everyone as well. I did not want to believe that he was abusive, and as things got worse I did not want to believe that I was stupid enough to stay with someone who was controlling and abusing me so I thought it would just be easier to keep up the cherade and pretend he was the best partner in the world.

I thought that if I told people how he really was with me that they wouldn't believe me or if they did believe me they would know just how much of an idiot I was for staying with him, and I just couldn't do it. C eventually helped me get out of that relationship, by sharing with me all the things that had happened to him.

Needless to say, I had to realize it for myself that he was abusing me, and there are probably a lot of women out there who feel guilty and bad and who don't realize they are being abused. I want you to take a good look at your relationship if you think something like this may be happening to you.

On to the next point, it is not always your significant other who abuses you. It could be a mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend, sister, brother, anyone. it's possible to be in an abusive relationship with anyone. If you are being controlled by someone that is abuse. It doesn't have to be physical. If your brother is forcing you to do every errand or chore for him by threatening suicide that is abuse and he badly needs help. If you feel guilty about leaving the house because he is depressed and needs you to stay and entertain him or buy things for him to make him happy that is abuse. He is holding control over you. And while it may make you feel like crap because you believe you have to be the one to hold him together, it is not your job to take care of him 24/7 and you should be allowed to have your own life. (I'm not saying don't help the kid if he's suicidal, but don't think that you are the only one who can take responsibility for his life, he needs to do that for himself not force others to take care of his every need).

I used that example because of the situation with my own brother, but it applies to pretty much any relationship. If someone is holding something over you and using it to get what they want from you, no matter what that may be. It's abuse.

On to the last point, it is not always easy to leave. There are numerous reasons people stay in abusive relationships. In some cases it's all the person has ever known. It's hard to leave and go out into the scary unknown when you are used to being abused, you feel terrified to leave. You may question what will happen if there is nowhere to go, no one to help you? It's easier to stay where you have a roof over your head and a predictable pattern to your life than it is to go out and change everything and be on your own and possibly living on the streets. Then there is always the fear that your abuser will come after you and the result of him finding you will be the most violence you have ever faced. In some cases the victim ends up beaten to death after trying to leave an abusive relationship. I want you to know that if you are in an abusive relationship there are places to go, people who can help you. You should seek out a shelter. Most places have shelters for abuse victims to go where they can hide from their abusers while they sort things out.

A lot of people who are being abused will act out, displaying destructive beahviours as a way to deal with the loss of control in their lives. Usually it's against themselves. An example would be cutting, or taking drugs. Depression is also a sign that you or someone might be being abused. Follow the link below to learn more about abuse and how to recognize the signs and what to do if you or someone you love is being abused.

http://www.cyberparent.com/abuse/

4 comments:

Rachel Inbar said...

Great post. I have also been planning one about abuse (but I don't know when I'll get around to it). I was in an abusive relationship for nearly 15 years - 13 of them when I was married to my ex. It took me a very long time to understand that it was abuse - and even then, I kept believing that there was something that I could do to change his behavior.

His physical abuse was small things - pinching my arm if I said something he didn't like, pretending to choke me (but not so much that I couldn't breathe), etc. but the emotional abuse was baaaad.

It was only during the last two years of my marriage that I started to tell people what was going on. By then, I had practically no friends (I wasn't allowed to talk to anyone on the phone - and he never gave me messages if people called) and even my family barely came over or called anymore.

The divorce was tough and very not-pretty, but I lost over 220 pounds of ugly fat :-)

Karen said...

This is such a powerful post. Thank you so much for doing this, and for being so open and honest. Abuse is so difficult for all of us to talk about.

I have four kids and the older two are in their teens so I've started talking to them a lot about what is and isn't OK in a relationship. I found it so hard to describe the difference between having a fight or getting mad or nagging someone vs. emotional and verbal abuse. Finally, I looked at them and said, "Everyone does things wrong. It's OK for someone to tell you that you did a bad thing. But when they try to make you believe that you're a bad person, it's time to leave." That's the best description I could come up with, but it still isn't enough. I'm thinking I'll ask them to read this post. You described it so well.

Chuckie72 said...

I remember the e-mail you sent me while I was at work the night you were looking things up for me and realized that this was you, unfortunately I don't have the e-mails anymore, but I'm glad I was able to open your eyes through my experiences.

I think you got most of the signs here:
http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_types_signs_causes_effects.htm.

Where we live they have recognized that men are abused too, and have opened a shelter for abused men...

Karen said...

I did go ahead and ask my kids to read this. I haven't had much of a chance to talk to them about it since they read it last night and have been in school all day today, but I think that it opened their eyes to the idea that abuse isn't always obvious, even to those involved.