While out to eat with my kids a few months ago, a male server tripped over a chair and dropped some plates. My heart began to race, and I was short of breath. I was waiting for the blame. I never touched the chair. I wasn’t even that close to him. But when something bad happens to a man, it triggers my anxiety.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence “Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another.”
Most people associate domestic abuse with physical violence like pushing, punching, and hitting, but there are so many more types of domestic violence. Emotional and psychological abuse can be equally as dangerous and can leave victims feeling trapped in hopeless situations. This can also be early warning signs of physical violence to come.
I was such a strong woman and I’ve always told myself I would never be with someone who abused me. I couldn’t fathom why someone would stay with an abuser.
It happens so gradually you might not even notice until you escape the situation.
It started with my friends. I lost touch with most of my friends because he preferred the company of his friends. I could reason that away; I liked them too.
He got jealous when I would talk to guy friends. I became introverted and awkward around any men as a result. I reasoned that a married woman shouldn’t want the company of other men. I avoided wearing or doing anything to make myself stand out to avoid his jealousy.
He began taking large amounts of money from our account. I reasoned that he made money too, so he had the right to his money.
When I would forget to do things, he would go a full day or two without talking to me as punishment. I admitted I was forgetful and I should work harder at remembering things.
When I was struggling to breastfeed and needed more support, he complained that I didn’t care enough about when he ate and only cared about when the kids ate. I told myself, I should show him I care more.
Once the kids were asleep, I wasn’t allowed out of our bedroom because that was his time to be alone and relax. Of course, I could understand needing time to unwind at the end of the day.
Looking back, I see some signs of abuse, but when those bad times are mixed with good times and I wanted my kids to have that happy, picture-perfect family, there was a lot I could forgive.
Because of experiences like mine, emotional and psychological abuse can be harder to escape.
I was never slapped, punched, or hit. Even now, I try to rationalize to myself; it isn’t like I was physically abused. I think, well it could have been worse.
I still have things that trigger me and cause panic attacks. I fear any man that even appears to be slightly upset. I can sometimes become incredibly uncomfortable while talking to people, men in particular, even in everyday situations.
I have found a few things that work to combat my lingering anxiety:
- I joined a group at a local church for people going through a divorce. Talking about my experience helped me through feelings of hurt, guilt, and anger.
- Putting more energy into my hobbies helped me remember who I was before.
- Red became my signature color. I tried for so long to hide myself and blend into the background. The first time I went out alone after my divorce, I put on a red dress and lipstick and let myself be bold. When I’m in an uncomfortable situation, I put on that red and remind myself I deserve to be seen and I no longer have to hide.
- I’ve also found a community of other women who have been in similar situations.
- Focusing my attention on being a mother has helped. I can be a better mom when I’m happy and thriving.
With October being Domestic Awareness Month, it’s a good opportunity to read about domestic violence warnings signs.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence here are some signs to watch for:
- Controlling behavior
- Demeaning victims in public or private
- Bad temper
- Victim blaming
Please visit their website for a more complete list.
If someone opens up to you about abuse, they are experiencing, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, you can do the following to support them:
- Listen to them.
- Don’t judge them.
- You cannot “rescue” them; leaving must be their decision
- Help them create a safety plan.
- Offer your continued support.
If you or someone needs help, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)
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