by Annette Young
I was talking to some friends the other day and unlike myself, they had managed to fall in love and sustain marriages that were nurturing and kind, they hadn’t fallen foul to the potential risk of domestic abuse. Of course, there were times when their marriages became a little frayed at the edges and the stresses of life tested their relationships somewhat, but my friends admitted, they could not even begin to fathom how anyone could fall foul of an abusive relationship, let alone stay in one.
If you read the posts on this website frequently, you will know that I am a staunch supporter of all who have suffered from unhealthy and damaging relationships but I am only too aware that not everyone can really understand what it is like to love someone and yet be in the midst of a relationship which seeks to destroy from the inside out. It’s madness right? I mean, who would choose that?
The problem is, abuse of any kind is rarely talked about and so, there’s a layer of secrecy surrounding the act and people on the outside speculate. What outsiders do not usually consider is that an abuser does not wear the word tattooed on his or her forehead, there is no noted marker that makes them stand out in the crowd, the opposite is true. Sadly, abusers are often absolutely charming , they smile, they say all the right things, they are helpful and kind and demonstrate their love and affection willingly…for all to see. But behind closed doors, this pretence is very quickly laid to one side and the reality soon becomes very ugly indeed.
I was very quick to point out to my friends that if you fall in love with the wrong person, you are often so deeply involved that you don’t notice the little changes. In fact, change can be very subtle until you are trapped within and suddenly wake up and realise that you have lost your sense of self, that you’ve become someone you no longer recognise and it seems impossible to get up and leave. Outsiders may also fail to fully understand that abusive relationships can even be addictive. I could see my friends gradually understanding that it’s not a matter of saying ‘yes, that abusive relationship is for me please!’ They realised I think that even the strongest individuals can fall foul to toxic relationships because they don’t suspect that the ones they love could betray them in this manner.
It’s not surprising at all that my friends were so innocent of the types of abusive relationships that exist, as it’s not something that you see, but it really does go on all around you. Domestic abuse in any form is not uncommon, in fact, far more people suffer from some aspect of it than you might imagine. It’s not all the about the woman with the black eye (although this is horrendous) it’s about the man or woman who is talked down to constantly, or even subjected to sarcasm and barbed comments in front of others so that their shame and humiliation becomes entertainment. Words become weapons in the same way as do fists.
If you have suffered from abuse yourself, or know others who have, don’t bury your head in the sand, talk about it, discuss it with anyone who will listen, because the more people know, the more they will be able to recognise it and to protect against it.
When victims stay quiet about their experiences, they do so from a sense of vulnerability and through deep feelings of shame but, make no mistake, the only people who should feel shame are the abusers. These are people who take pleasure in hurting others. They pick on those who are vulnerable – those with a less than nurtured background, those who feel isolated from friends and family, or, who already lack a little self-belief. They can spot weakness at fifty paces in the same way that a wild animal will sniff out a raw wound on its next victim. Abusers do not deserve to act in secrecy. Let’s send that message out into the world!
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