By Julie Federico
October is Domestic Violence awareness month. I don’t think one month is enough time to shed a lot of light on domestic violence, it is a very complex issue. But in light of this month’s celebration I wanted to offer hope to women living with domestic violence. If hope can be found when your life has been turned upside down and you can not really tell anyone what is going on.
The people who say domestic violence is not real are the same people who say the Holocoust was a hoax. Domestic violence is real, the pain is real, the chaos and dysfunction equally as real. It is unfortunately true, it is all too real. I think when you admit out loud that it is real, you can begin to accept the current situation, and then most importantly begin to change it.
You need to think only in these simple terms and not shovel grief, regret, and guilt on yourself. Many women spend so much time trying to answer the peaceful sleep interrupted question, “How did I get here? How did I not see this coming?” That they lose sight of the more important question, “Why am I staying?” Don’t spend too much time trying to answer questions that will not benefit you greatly. At this time you need to conserve your energies, don’t look backwards only look forward. Where do you want to be next Christmas morning, do you want to wake up to a peaceful holiday? Or more of the same dysfunction?
Abuse is calculated and you were groomed to accept this completely inappropriate behavior that you are living with now. It started with many small acts that sacrificed and ignored your needs. At first it is so easy to dismiss this behavior. For example you never get to eat at the restaurants that you like, only the restaurants that he likes. This theme goes to you trying to turn up the heat in the car while you are driving. He turns it off and says, “You are not cold.” Each of these things in isolation is not cause for alarm. In an abusive relationship this behavior will lead to other inappropriate behaviors more damaging. What the abuser is doing is baiting you. He is sending out small problems to you, not eating at your restaurant, not allowing you to use the heater. He does these intentional low lying behaviors then watches your response. To your credit you probably just thought this issue was about the heat in the car, right? It isn’t but at the beginning you would not know this. It is not until you educate yourself about abusers behavior that you start to see how you were led into this abusive relationship. It was task by task, item by item. No one meets someone for the first time, goes out to a nice dinner and gets beaten up on the way home. This would be waaay too easy. All of your self protective syrians would be ringing at full speed. You would get out of the car and say, “I never want to see you again!” The abuser knows this intuitively they are an expert witness at human behavior. At the beginning abusers are hands down some of the most charming people you can meet. They appear like the boy next door and will do anything for you. There is no standard timetable on when this changes, it just changes over time. Abusers are very patient while they create the seemingly perfect life with you only to turn the tables later. If none of your needs ever get met and there is an unbalance of power in your relationship you are in an abusive relationship. You may wake up everyday upset and unable to identify what is bothering you. Think of the unbalance of power, how as a couple you are always working to meet his endless need list. Your needs never make the cut, this makes people feel anxious and unloved. You are not crazy, you are living in an unhealthy relationship. I think you should put this on a post it note in your office. So often the abuser wants you to believe you are crazy, this absorbs them of any wrongdoing. Seeing small things like this can make a big difference in your thinking. It can lead you on the path to wellness.
You should not spend your time changing something that does not need to be changed. Domestic violence needs to be changed, domestic violence is not fair to those in its ugly web. The damage that it does to children is life changing. If you have young daughters you are training them to accept this type of behavior in their future relationships. If you have boys you are grooming them to be junior abusers. Either of these things are enough for women to make changes to leave. Many times women can not make changes for themselves because they have fallen into the belief of their abuser that their life and their needs are worth nothing. I say if you feel into this belief, in time you can fall out of it.
“You are special too, don’t lose yourself.” Ernest Hemingway
Before women can even begin to think about leaving they have to take stock of their relationship. They have to see the abuser as calculated and completely intentional in his behavior. Their favorite trick is to get you to believe that your life and your needs are not important. They work to get you to this point by repeated abuse, but then in time they can back off because you believe this to your core. They step back, smile at their twisted work and silently celebrate that you are seeing yourself as worthless. Don’t fall into this trap and it is a very large, tight, deadly trap. Step back, become an observer in your own life and see things from a different perspective. When you become more objective you will start to see what is really going on. It is not good news, don’t freak out. Just become aware, notice things, start to accept your reality. Don’t try to change what is happening in your house, I think this is a waste of your precious energy. Abusers don’t’ change, you can change, you can live happily ever after. For next steps visit www.domesticshelters.org for life changing resources. You are not alone there is a team of people waiting by the phone for you:
1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
For the month of October, I am offering Anger is OKAY Violence is NOT at a significant discount on my website: www.juliefederico.com