am i being abused

It Can’t Happen to Me

I am quite simply the poster child for “This Can’t Happen to Me.”  I was raised in a stable Christian home.  My mom and dad just recently celebrated 50 years of marriage.  Both of my parents were raised in loving Christian homes, and so on and so forth for generations.  I am the baby of the family, the only girl.  I have two older brothers.  One was my partner in crime, while the other was more like a father figure.  In high school, I was the president of the debate team and floor captain of the volleyball team.  I was in all honors courses and got pretty much straight A’s.

Can you see the picture of the perfect middle class upbringing?  Of course, my childhood was far from perfect, but it definitely doesn’t fit most people’s picture of where an abuse victim would come from.  Yet, it did happen to me.

In college, I began dating a Christian guy, from a good Christian home.  After just two dates he wanted a commitment.  It was every girl’s dream, right?!  He was so attentive and made an effort to listen to the music I liked, study with me, take me dancing, and hang out with my friends.  We spent every possible free moment together.  When he felt we didn’t get to spend enough time together between school and both of us having part time jobs, I quit my job.  He kept his.  We’d see another girl walking down the street, and he’d suggest I wear an outfit like hers.  Suddenly he didn’t like to dance, and he didn’t like me dancing with anyone else.  I stopped going to the places I had gone before I met him.  I spent less and less time with my friends.

Over time things escalated even more.  My internal warning bells would start to go off.  But he said he loved me, so I would ignore them.  No one had ever paid this much attention to me before.  I was caught between feeling loved by him and being suffocated by him.  I desperately wanted him to love me, and I found myself willing to do what I had to do to keep him loving me.

The name calling got worse.  He called me things I wouldn’t call my worst enemy.  He constantly insisted that I wasn’t a normal girl.  A normal girl would do this or that, especially if it related to sex.  When he’d get extremely frustrated, he’d put his fist through the wall.  His jealousy became all consuming.

After 2 years of dating, he asked me to marry him, and I said yes.  A year later, we were married.  A month later, he hit me for the first time.

It didn’t matter that I had come from a Christian home or not.  It didn’t matter whether I came from a stable home environment or not.  It didn’t matter that I came from a middle class family in a good community or not.  It still happened to me.  It didn’t matter that I managed to complete 2 Bachelor’s degrees and a Master’s degree.  It didn’t matter that I was the bread winner for our family.  It didn’t matter that we had the perfect house in the perfect suburban neighborhood and 2 kids.  It still happened to me.

It happened to me because I did not know any better.  Dating violence was not something that happened to someone like me.  If it didn’t happen to girls like me, then why should I be aware of it?  Why should I know what the warning signs were?  Why should I be taught what constituted a healthy relationship versus an unhealthy one?  I went to Sunday school.  I went to youth group every Sunday.  Didn’t I understand just how much God loved me?  Didn’t I find myself worthy of that love?  Why would I let someone abuse me if I did?

If I had known all of these things, this wouldn’t have happened to me. 

Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves.

Ezekiel 33:5

Hindsight is truly 20/20.  So let me give you the benefit of my 20/20 vision.  You do need to worry about dating violence.  Intimate partner violence can affect you, your child, your friend, your neighbor or your parent.

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Your Wife is Abusive

To Anonymous,

Your wife is abusive.  There is not a doubt in my mind.   She might not deliver cuts or bruises (or maybe she does), but the injuries she inflicts do leave scars.

I do not know what it is like to be a man living with an abusive wife.  But I do know what it is like to live with an abuser.  I do know the effect it can have on you and especially on your children.  I know the feelings of confusion, of hurt and despair.  I know what it is like to constantly have to walk on egg shells, afraid that something you might say or do or even not say or do could set them off.  I know what it’s like to question your own sanity; to question or even believe that you are truly at fault; to wish you could just do exactly what they expect of you so that you can make them happy.  I know the fear of what they might say or do to your children.  You hold your breath or even get angry with your children when they do something that you know might set your spouse off.

I know it goes against all social norms.  I can imagine how it might make you feel to admit that you are being abused by your wife.  I am an extremely successful independent woman who made twice as much as my husband, was raised in a Christian household with parents who are still together and have no history of domestic abuse… and I yet still allowed it to happen to me.  You are not alone.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you feel afraid of your wifes reaction so much so that you cannot discuss whatever is bothering you?
  2. Does she frequently humiliate you, criticize you or undermine your self- esteem?
  3. Does she try to isolate you from friends and family?
  4. Has she stolen from you (or your children) or run you into debt?
  5. Does your relationship swing from extremes of distance and closeness, as manipulated by her?  Such as walking out one day followed by weekends away the next?
  6. Has she damaged or destroyed anything that belongs to you (or other members or your family)?
  7. Do you feel that she controls your life?
  8. Does she act possessive and accuse you of being unfaithful and involved in affairs?
  9. Does she belittle your ideas, thoughts and feelings?
  10. Is any emotional response to her behavior unacceptable?
  11. Do you have to account to her every moment of your time?
  12. Do you have to account for every penny you spend?
  13. Does she threaten or intimidate you to win an argument?
  14. Does she blame you for every problem, even her behaviour towards you?
  15. Does she regularly threaten to leave you or the kids?
  16. Does she make you feel that you are alone and unwanted?
  17. Does she ridicule or insult your beliefs, gender, sexuality or ability?
  18. Does she withdraw approval, appreciation and affection to you or your children?
  19. Does she call you names and shout at you in public? Does she humiliate you in private or in public?
  20. Does she manipulate you with lies and high drama?
  21. Does she manipulate your sexual relationship based on her moods? Seeks sex to make up after an argument?
  22. In sum, she generally makes you feel that you are not good for anything, unwanted, and  a burden to everyone.

This list is the same list applied to help a woman realize she is being emotionally abused by a man.  I just changed all the he’s to she’s.  You don’t have to answer yes to every question either.

When most people think of domestic abuse, they picture a woman who has been physically assaulted. But not all abusive relationships involve violence. Just because you’re not battered and bruised doesn’t mean you’re not being abused.  You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars.  But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep.  In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse—sometimes even more so, especially on a child.  Verbal and psychological wounds leave a child forever changed.

  • Emotional abuse attacks a child’s self-concept. The child comes to see him or herself as unworthy of love and affection.
  • Children who witness abuse in relationships or emotional spousal abuse demonstrate higher rates of physical aggressiveness, delinquency and interpersonal problems than other children.
  • The consequences of emotional abuse on a child can be serious and long-term.
    • Emotionally abused children may experience a lifelong pattern of depression, estrangement, anxiety, low self-esteem, inappropriate or troubled relationships, or a lack of empathy.
    • As teenagers, they find it difficult to trust, participate in and achieve happiness in relationships, and resolve the complex feelings left over from their childhoods.
    • As adults, they may have trouble recognizing and appreciating the needs and feelings of their own children and emotionally abuse them as well.
  • Emotional abuse can result in serious psychological and/or behavioral problems. These include depression, lack of attachment or emotional bond to a parent or guardian, low cognitive ability and educational achievement and poor social skills.

You do not have to live this way.   No one should have to live this way.  You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.  Her behavior is not your fault.  Nothing you have done results in her abusive actions.  You can not fix her.  I know you have tried.  Only she can make the change, and it will take more than talking to a counselor a few times.

By staying in the relationship in its current state you are enabling her abusive behavior, while continuing to put yourself and your chidren at risk.

Love,

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Sleep Deprivation

While we were married, my husband wanted to live 100% by the rule “don’t let the sun go down on your anger”.  If I begged him for sleep, he would accuse me of loving sleep more than him.  He found it as an attack on him if I asked to stop arguing so I could sleep.

Night time was absolutely the worst time of day.  I was terrified to go to bed.  In the end I would do almost everything I could to avoid entering the bedroom.  It always started with some expectation of sex or some sexual favor.  If he was not “satisfied” and sometimes even if he was, the torment would continue throughout the night.  On average, 2 nights a week he would keep me awake until the wee hours of the morning.

On nights I would fall asleep before him, he would wake me up.  He would slam his hand down on the bed, jarring me awake.  Some times he would accuse me of doing things to myself (think touching myself).  Other times he would accuse me of cheating on him, because he’d just dreamt that I had.  I learned to not move.  I learned to barely breathe.  I could lie like that for hours waiting to be sure he was truly asleep.

 He came home late from hanging out at the bar with his friends and was disgusted that I was reading a book.  He had clearly drunk more than usual and lashed out immediately.  Upon entering the bedroom he blurted out a very profane comment towards me, which in turn set off a whole chain of unpleasant events.  He lay down to go to sleep, but was soon unsatisfied with the situation and got back up.  He picked up the humidifier and threw it across the room, smashing it against the wall.  He then stormed out, slamming the door.  I didn’t move.  I barely even took a breath.  I continued to lie frozen in fear.

A while later he came back into the room and ripped the covers off of me, proceeding to throw them onto the floor to soak up the water from the humidifier he had smashed.  He left again.  Terrified I remained frozen.  Another block of time elapsed before he once again returned.  He laid my wedding rings on the bed next to me.  His special way of letting me know I had forgotten to put them on before bed.  Then he was gone again.

I have no idea how long I remained frozen, afraid to move even a muscle.  Eventually I found my courage and quietly slipped out of bed to make sure he was asleep.  I hung up the drenched duvet, got towels to mop up the rest of the water, found a blanket, and finally settled in to try and get some sleep.

In the morning it was as if nothing had ever happened.

 I was not even aware I was being abused by being kept awake at night.  It took me months of counseling before I ever understood that sleep deprivation was a form of abuse.  An often easily dismissed form of abuse, I now clearly see it as a very effective form of torture.  In fact in most states consider purposeful, repeated, and unnecessary sleep deprivation to be a form of physical abuse.  The United Nations defines sleep deprivation as torture.  “The forced deprivation of someone’s necessary amount of sleep has been used in the interrogation of terrorist suspects to make them more amenable to providing information or confessions.”1

The effects of consistent loss of sleep are severe and can make it harder for someone to free themselves from the cycle of abuse.  WebMD reports that the lack of sleep has 10 surprising effects2:

  1. It causes accidents.
  2. It impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving.
  3. It can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes,
  4. It kills your sex drive.
  5. It can contribute to the symptoms of depression.
  6. It ages your skin.
  7. It makes you forgetful.
  8. It can make you gain weight.
  9. It may increase risk of death.
  10. It impairs judgment.

Yet as a society we find it much easier to protest the use of sleep deprivation as an interrogation tactic by the US military, than to acknowledge the abuse happening in our own neighborhoods.  It’s time we opened our eyes to the reality that the same tactics we so readily abhor, when brought to light by the main stream media, are in fact being carried out in bedrooms across the world.

Sources:

  1. http://terrorism.about.com/od/s/g/SleepDeprive.htm
  2. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/10-surprising-results

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