By Dr. Donald Tate
Yelling… a scream… a cry out… objects shattering… a hard shove… a slap… a gut wrenching plea for help… a fall…a kick or a punch to the body… another frantic plea for help… but when it’s over, the abuser says tenderly, “You know I love you, Baby!”
This is a normal occurrence many children witness daily throughout the United States. Statistics show that 2-4 million women are abused each year. According to the FBI, a woman is battered every 15 seconds. In the time it will take you to read this short article, over 100 women will have been harmed or killed! And women and children are not the only ones being abused today. Abuse data exists for men as well. All of it needs to stop.
Many years ago, when a woman’s spouse abused her, she knew to observe the unspoken saying, “What happens in this house stays in this house.” Explanations about bruises, slips, trips, and falls, focused on victims being just plain clumsy or having accidents. The abuser usually says, “See what you made me do? Why did you make me do that? You caused your own problem, you know. It’s your own fault.” Thankfully, times have changed, but not for all abused persons.
HURT PEOPLE END UP HURTING PEOPLE.
Many children grow up making an effort to not become what they have seen; however, too many end up repeating the only behavior they’ve ever known.
Young female children grow up thinking that to receive physical abuse is to be shown love, and they will stay in an abusive relationship because of what they’ve seen their mothers endure. They won’t report abuse or seek resources or other supports that are readily available.
Abused females, and now males, may experience, guilt, shame and embarrassment, anger and fear when faced with the decision to leave their abusers.
A secondary consideration is that most often, the abuser provides the financial support in the home. So an abused spouse faces the prospect of homelessness, on top of the physical and mental abuse already endured. Half the homeless women and children in this country are fleeing domestic violence.
Studies also show the problem is further complicated by the fact that women face a greater risk of assault when they threaten to leave their abusive partners, or report them to authorities. Additionally, and maybe more tragic is the reality that abusers tend to abuse their children as well as their mates or partners.
I have a close friend I’ll call Benita. When I met Benita, there was some permanent swelling in her face; she explains this was due to nerve damage under her left eye. This almost destroyed Benita after her abuser beat her in the face for seven hours. She had neither the strength, nor the will to flee because she believed he would surely kill her.
She volunteered that when she was 18 years old, she was thrown headfirst into a pile of bricks when she was out with friends as a crowd watched. No one helped her, but all stood around and watched like it was the neighborhood entertainment. She was even beaten when she was pregnant. Her abuser always ended the torture by blaming Benita for provoking the pain, and she always tried to “do better” to avoid another beating. Predictably, she was always unsuccessful.
Benita’s empowering moment, her epiphany came while watching Oprah, whose topic that day was “Domestic Violence.” Benita was in shock as she listened to other women reporting their stories, and the stories of women who died at the hands of their abusers.
She watched the clip of a child recording his mother’s beating.
Tears poured down Benita’s face and her body trembled when she heard Oprah say, “THIS IS NOT LOVE! GET OUT NOW!!” Benita realized in an instant that she was not alone, that real help was available, and that she was not at fault.
At the end of the show, several numbers came across the screen and Benita wrote them all down. She called and a caring person connected her to the local agency for abused women. Benita’s next call was to her mother, saying with resolve, “Mommy, I want to come home.”
If anyone reading this article is in Benita’s old situation, we join Oprah in saying loudly and clearly, “GET OUT NOW! THIS IS NOT LOVE!!” There’s real help available, just a phone call away.
I highly recommend grief counseling before, during, and after you take the life-changing step to leave – to change your circumstance and maybe that of your children. The danger of remaining in a toxic environment is that you develop a co-dependency based on a distorted reality. The road to escape and recovery begins with the belief that escape and recovery is possible. One of the important purposes of good counseling is to provide you with the reality checks needed to change your attitude, behavior and cirumstance. I specialize in grief recovery and helping you find your “new normal” way of living and not dying.