It begins, I believe, with the modeling that we witness as we grow up. It, being the preconceived thought pattern young girls allow to penetrate their identity, of what type of man they find attractive. This is not something that is easily avoided. If a young girl lives day in and day out with a father or male figure that is authoritative, demanding and unfair to the women in his life, then that young woman may seek out men with similar personalities in their mates as they reach sexual maturity. Boys that witness their fathers or male figures verbally or physically lashing out against the women in their proximity may begin to feel that the mode of communication or allowed format of “being” with a woman constitutes an abusive type of demeanor from them. Not to say that drugs and alcohol in some people cannot play a part in personality changes, but for the most part, we seek out people that provide a comfort level to us. Unfortunately, the comforting feeling may stem from abusive attention.
People, women in general, don’t enter into relationships hoping to be degraded, yelled at or physically abused. Many times, the symptoms are present from the beginning. It may present itself in the form of constant insults or the continuous questioning of their decisions from their partner. A way to demean them or question their abilities. Then, it may slowly progress to pushing or shoving. Lastly, and most seriously, hitting or punching, choking and kicking.
I knew quite a few battered women as a teen. I was afraid of their husbands. These men would walk into the room and snap their fingers and the woman would jump up, no life in her eyes and shoo me out the door. I would walk down their stairs and hear slaps and cries and often, I could hear furniture being toppled over. I never told anyone. I was afraid to. The next day, I would visit my neighbor and see her sporting a new black eye and listen to her excuses as to why her boyfriend or husband got mad the night before. I begged these women to leave these men. They stated they couldn’t. Eventually, they moved away, to another neighborhood where the neighbors hadn’t yet begun to alert the police about the screams of terror coming from their home. The most shocking of endings during that time in my life was the loss of a 17 year old babysitter in the neighborhood. She was always fighting with her boyfriend and coming to work with bruises around her neck and arms and bloody lips. I told my parents about her and I’m sure out of fear, they told me to mind my own business. One weekend, she told me she was going out of town to meet her boyfriend and she was going to tell him that she had had enough. They found her body in a ditch the following Monday. I ran outside and cried after my mom had broken the news. I felt responsible for her death. I knew she was going to meet this monster but I didn’t know who he was or what his name was. I felt helpless and petrified that I one day would meet up with someone like that myself.
In college, I had a friend that would get into fist fights with her boyfriend. Then, afterward, they would make passionate love. I couldn’t understand that kind of foreplay. They eventually ended it with each other; thank God, after they put each other in the hospital. She threw a full sized antique mirror down the stairs on top of him, breaking his leg. He grabbed her by the arm and twisted so hard that he popped her shoulder out of socket and broke her arm. I still wonder today if both of them married abusers.
As an adult, I have made friends with people from all walks of life. Some of them are being abused as I write at this moment. These women are smart, educated women. They are athletic and work to support the family. They wear clothing to hide their body marks. Or, they tell their “war” stories of how they staved off the most recent attack as if they are bragging. Some of these women are hollow shells, with sunken eyes and smile less faces. They go through their daily routines of raising their children, catering to their husbands and pretending that others have it worse than they do so they shouldn’t complain.
The fact is, NO ONE should be subjected to constant or intermittent battering. Yes, we all yell, argue and possibly get into heated arguments with our loved ones. The difference is simple. Beyond a hurt feeling and some tears, no one truly gets hurt to the point where they are immobilized in their life. Constant mental abuse knocks the self esteem right out of you. Fear keeps a person from speaking out. Fear of more abuse keeps them quiet. Relationships should not have this as the building block or the foundation. Home should be a place where one feels safe. If you don’t feel safe in your own home, or have never known the feeling of safety, then please call your local abuse hot line.
I have suported local abuse shelters for women and their children for years but giving clothing, toiletries, toys and food. I cannot imagine how difficult it is for these families to leave all that they have and begin a new life; in hiding for some. I left a mentally abusive relationship but I had the financial means to begin again. I realize that many women fear what will happen to their children or anticipate more abuse if they attempt to leave.
The children however are forming images of what they believe a relationship should look like. If your relationship is abusive, then that will be the comfort zone for your child unless they are lucky, as I was, to have other influences in their lives that can help steer them toward good choices in life. I saw a lot of abuse. I saw many adults throughout my life tell me that my business was to stay out of other’s. I have been told by my friends that they can’t imagine giving what they have up to begin again. I hope that someday, they can realize that they don’t have anything if all they hang on to is the dream that he won’t come home and beat her that night. Abuse is death. Even if you feel like you are alive…you are allowing someone to slowly kill you from the inside out. It is a slow and painful death. For the abused, the children and difficult for those who love you to watch you remain in a situation that could mean the end of your life one day.
My wish for you, if you are in this type of situation is that you will empower yourself with faith in humanity and the kindnesses of your friends and family. Seek out people that can help you realize your potential. Read books. Scour the Internet. Erase your history if you fear that your abuser will discover your resolve to change yourself. You have as much right to be happy as any of us. He will not change. He will always give you excuses. Put your children and their future first if you cannot imagine yourself as being important enough at this moment. Do something. Pray to God. Make a friend. Think of a time in your life when you felt confident in yourself and slowly work yourself toward that moment again. Build up your bravery and know that it is NOT your fault. Live without fear. LIVE.