Before I even begin I want to preface by saying that I know my story is pretty common. Many of us have unfortunately experienced domestic violence whether it was our own personal relationships or someone close to us. As I read up on DV, it was troubling because there are far too many people who fall victim to it. The worst part……statistics say that more than 10 MILLION children in this country are subjected to it every single year. The painful reality is that it will leave a mark on most of them that will either have them become a victim later on in life or become a victimizer. People who suffer at the hands of someone who physically or emotionally abuses them go through many different stages of grief and self loathing. They may even feel it is deserved or that they did something to warrant it because their abusers shift the tides to take the guilt they feel away. Some don’t want to leave out of fear or even out of love and that can lead to tragedy far worse than a bruise.
The other day I was on Twitter and I connected with a young lady who was speaking about how women are afraid of reporting their husbands or boyfriends when they are battered. As we dialogued, it was truly upsetting that we both could identify instances in which a woman was afraid of confiding in someone or had family members who didn’t want to report it because she begged them not to, ended up losing her life by his hands. You often wonder what makes a person so violent that they beat on and torture someone that they claim to love. Most of the time it is happening in front of their children. What is going on inside of a person that makes them so enraged they knowingly hurt their significant other over and over again? How do you identify it and get this person help before it gets so out of control that they end up in jail or dead themselves? These are answers that so many people still try to answer due to the varying degrees of abuse people suffer.
When I was growing up I too experienced volatile environments. The first being the relationship my mother and father had with one another. He was very much so an abuser. At the time I didn’t understand why he was that way or what he may have experienced in his life that influenced it, but I knew even then that it wasn’t right. I would later learn that he too had been exposed to it growing up and so had my mother. They were both once in an environment where someone close to them was being abused by their loved one. The saddest part is that they continued the cycle of abuse by being involved in a relationship that perpetuated it. It’s almost as if the painful parts of life became an extension of how they subconsciously chose to live later on down the line. They likely made that choice for themselves and the family they created because at times the pain we experience embed themselves in us to a point where we enact them without our knowledge
I do relate and connect strongly with the way it affects the children. During some of the more memorable battles between the two of them, I can remember feeling like I needed to help my mom when she was defending herself. It almost felt as if it was my job to protect her. I was just a little girl………..maybe five or six. Just imagine how many children live in the type of environment where they never know what type of day they will have. They never know if they can go to sleep in peace or if they will be awakened from their sleep by yelling and fighting? That’s how I lived for many years until the two of them separated (for which I was very grateful). The instability of their relationship and the life that we had as a family made me yearn for the type of stability that they didn’t provide.
I would often sit and wonder how he could do those things to her while I stood there watching. While you stand in helplessness, it connects to the helplessness that the person being abused is feeling. Being mistreated begins to take a toll not just on your body but your spirit as well. At some point you begin to feel bad about yourself, your self esteem and self worth are affected and you begin to justify why the abuse is happening at all. Those are the moments where you concoct implausible reasons why staying is ok and you struggle with abandoning the person because you know that someone beating you down physically and emotionally is only a reflection of how they feel about themselves. I saw those things in her face so many days and as a child, you always carry it with you even when you don’t know you are holding it in your life’s baggage closet.
Though she left a few times, she always went back. Sometimes people want to leave for good but there are many reasons why they uphold their commitment to the relationship. She may have seen it wasn’t healthy for her or for me but her hopes for a miracle always kept her there. Her love for him and her family made her stay. His apologies and all the better days that would follow before another storm made her stay. Her praying that somehow one day he would wake up and realize his wrong……….it made her stay. The reality is, when someone is abusing you to this degree, you CAN NOT keep making excuses for them. They have a problem much deeper than most people around them can help with because if it were just that easy for them to stop, they would when they saw the pain that they caused all of the people that were involved. They would just stop. Better yet, they’d have enough self control to walk away from a situation when they knew it was escalating to a point that violence was imminent.
Fortunately for my parents, it never led to a tragic situation that neither of us could walk away from. But there are so many times that it could have gotten more out of control than it did. Though people didn’t completely get involved, there was a network of loved ones who did see what was happening and they provided support to both of my parents. Having a network of those who care and want to help is what really allows people to gain the strength they need to walk away when they are being hurt or doing the hurting. It’s so critical because they MUST feel they have someone to talk to and somewhere to go as they are making a transition like this. At the end of the day, that support is what got my mom in the head space that said, I don’t have to be here, I don’t have to take this, I deserve better and my child needs better. It took awhile but it happened. So even though she ignored the support for so long as many women do, when she needed it, she was able to reach out to it.
As the offspring of a woman who was abused, I urge women who are being abused to consider what it does to their children. I am not saying that it isn’t already considered but it truly needs to be at the forefront of your thoughts. If I were to really sit down and allow myself to reminisce, I can give detailed accounts of times in my life where I watched my mother suffer and each and every time it brings an overwhelming amount of sadness. It is sad that you can truly love someone deeply and they have no problem mistreating you. But we live in that world where so many people are capable of so much more than what we give them credit for. I will always carry with me the things that I saw even if I don’t think on them every day and I see how much they still affect her no matter how many years have gone by. It really does stay with you so it must be considered every single time you decide to stay where it isn’t healthy for you to be.
I know there are times where women are so afraid for their lives and the safety of people who care for them that they don’t leave. The fear is so great in them and those around them that getting out seems nearly impossible. They keep their children and themselves around it thinking it will keep the situation calm but it only keeps them under the control of their controller. It becomes an internal struggle for them because of those fears. As outsiders to these situations it is difficult and also taxing as we continue to provide them with whatever support they need until they finally start to make better decisions for themselves. The truth is, all that can be done is ensuring that their support system stays strong and they know their resources. Bigger problems exists as far as the way law enforcement deals with volatile individuals but as we continue to go from state to state fighting for stiffer DV laws, we can start with ourselves, one situation at a time.