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Confronting Domestic Abuse

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“I m not sure what’s more terrifying, leaving my husband or fearing his next attack? I used to be a confident person; I don’t even know who I am anymore. I feel worthless and paralyzed. Please help!”

Unfortunately this touching letter is not a singular cry from a victim of domestic abuse or domestic violence (when physical abuse is involved). This problem is widespread and happens among many partnerships, married or not; heterosexual or same sex couples, all ethnic or financial groups. While women are more often the victims, men too are abused. Abuse, be it verbal, emotional or physical has only one aim; to give the abuser complete and continued control of his victim. Abusers hardly ever change. They are very clever making the abused feel that their attacks are solely their fault of their victims. Abusers will intimidate, threaten, isolate the abused because they need to be in charge and will use any means to achieve their goal including outright brutality.

The victim can only escape this doomful existence by recognizing and dealing with the tell tale signs of abuse. Like alcoholics, the victim has to face the fact that she or he is in an abusive relationship and make the conscious decision to get help, to get out.

How to recognize if you’re in an abusive relationship:
• Are you often afraid of your partner?
• Worried about provoking his anger by what you say or do?
• Do you feel lost and worthless, shut down and see no way out?
• Believe you’re at fault for your partner’s outbursts?
• Do you feel humiliated, put down, criticized? Are you yelled at or threatened?
• Does your partner control where you go, what you do and check up on you?
• Do you feel isolated and fearful of asking for help?
• Does the abuser hurt you or threaten to do so, or worse, kill you?
• Do you think you have to ask for permission for anything you do?

Nobody has to live in fear. If you answer yes to any of these questions, you are probably in an abusive relationship. Know that you can terminate it and build a new life of dignity and happiness, even if the hurdles seem insurmountable. Many help groups are listed on the web. Call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) a Crisis Intervention Referral for domestic violence.

Abusive behavior often starts with threats; to hurt you or take your children away or mistreat your pets. The abuser’s goal is to break you down, to make you feel worthless, guilty for the deteriorating relationship. Often emotional and verbal abuse leads to physical or sexual abuse, even among consensual or married partners. Forcing a partner to have unwanted sex is clearly domestic abuse. Many abusers choose economic leverage to control victims by denying them access to money or credit.

Organizations and individuals want to help. Still, victims find it hard to reach out and escape. Abusers are clever and cunning. They do anything to keeping their victims; turning on the charm, promising to change or, if that doesn’t work, increasing threats and fear tactics. Often friends or relatives of the victims are nervous about getting involved, feeling they don’t have the right to interfere. Reaching out to a victim in danger is not interference but an act of compassion, helping another human being in need.


Edited by Jody Smith

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