This is apropos of nothing; it’s just something on my mind. It’s something I feel like I should say.
Dating violence/partner abuse/domestic abuse isn’t always a smack or a punch.
In fact, most of the time, it’s way more subtle. And it almost ALWAYS starts as something way more subtle.
A “playful” pinch.
It starts slowly and it builds from there. And if it isn’t stopped or dealt with, it becomes worse and worse.
This is unfortunate because in a way it almost sneaks up on us. We don’t see it getting closer and closer by small mean steps. And then it suddenly takes over our lives and we have become terribly, almost impossibly linked to the perpetrator.
We love them. We know the good in them. We think we can help them. We think no one will understand.
And, generally, we’ve been cut off from our support system. We’ve moved from our family. We’ve stopped calling our friends. We don’t attend church anymore. Et cetera.
So we feel like, even if we do want out or want help or just want to talk, there is no one there to talk to and no way to reach out.
This is a product of the abuse itself. It’s one of the nastiest parts of such abuse.
But I want everyone who reads this to know one thing: there is always someone to reach out to. If you’re the abuser and you don’t know how to control your rage/anger/emotion/whatever, there are people you can talk to.
For male abusers and men who feel like they may abuse*:
For victims of abuse who can safely use a computer to access help:
Or a phone:
And in the UK:
0808.2000.247 / www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/
Also, your friends and family do care. If you can’t find support in certain members of your family or friends and even if you feel you’ve been away from them too long, remember there is always someone and it has NEVER been too long and it is never the wrong time to reconnect. NEVER.
The same goes with your church, your youth group, your mosque, your temple, etc: they want to see you whenever you can make it and some of them want to help. They may not know you need help and they may not know how to help you, but they want to help. They want to support you and protect you.
And to those friends and family, both blood and spiritual, I say this: It’s happening in your lives now. Someone you know is being abused by someone else that you know. It may be your son or your daughter or your neighbor, but it is happening. It starts young—so much younger than you can imagine.
If someone comes to you for support, even if you can’t see the abuse, even if they haven’t spoken to you in a while, believe them and help them…you may actually be their very last and only hope. Remember that the abuse can be invisible. It can be words you never hear and bruises hidden from every eye. And remember that abusers often find ways to keep their victims away from their other friends and family.
In my training for volunteering with the Women’s Crisis Center, I heard a story about someone who was abused for years. No one knew because she never left the house. She wasn’t allowed. And no one questioned that because she had a car…they thought she could leave if she wanted. They didn’t know she was being terrorized nor that her husband had dismantled part of the car so she couldn’t leave. And anyway he terrified her into staying in..except to check the mail. After years and years of abuse, this woman told her mail carrier (the only person she saw) about the abuse and her mail carrier helped her escape.
Keep your eyes and hearts open. Watch for the signs.
Listen when your daughter says “oh he just has a bad temper, but it’s fine if I don’t upset him.” That is a warning sign.
Watch when your son or daughter becomes withdrawn and stops hanging out with anyone but their partner.
Let the people you love know that you love them every single day and that no matter what happens they can count on you and can always come back. Because the victims of abuse are all people, all ages, all genders, all socio-economic levels, all levels of education, all colors, all sexual orientations, etc and every single one of them needs to know there is a way back.
You can be that way back.
* Not all abusers are men, of course; this hotline just happens to be for males.