It doesn’t have to be this way
by Teresia Smith
Domestic Violence. Homicide. Sexual Assault. Abuse. Did you ever think this would happen to you? I have heard many people who are not in a violent relationship declare that they would never allow someone to do that to them. They would do this, and they would do that, but the reality is, nobody expects to be a victim. When you find yourself in a situation you never expected, it’s easy to feel trapped with no options. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Most little girls grow up dreaming of a Prince Charming, a beautiful, magical wedding day, two well behaved children and a beautiful home on a cul-de-sac with neighbors who are more like family. You know, just like the old movies or TV shows where mom and dad characters were perfect, and there was always a hero that saved the day. Somewhere along the road of real life, those dreams were left on the sidelines, and a different life emerged.
For some, the abuse started while dating. Possessiveness, jealousy, a constant need to know where you are and who you are with, limiting your friends and not wanting you to hang out with certain people because they don’t like them. At first you may find it flattering thinking someone cares that much for you. In your mind, you think that once you are married it will all change, and usually it does change – for the worse. You become isolated from family and friends. You are allowed to go to work and come home, and if you vary from that, someone is watching, and your abuser is told your every move.
Your cell phone is checked constantly. Money is kept tight, so you have few options. What was once flattering, grows more controlling, and it becomes stifling and unbearable. Their need to control you grows and moves to verbal abuse, emotional abuse and usually becomes physical abuse. It rarely gets better. Instead, once physical abuse starts, it often ends up very violent and sadly, someone is severely injured or dead. It doesn’t have to be this way.
When you talk to survivors of domestic violence, and they share their experiences, you hear similar stories of them being told what to do, how to act, what to wear and who to see by their abusers. Manipulation, isolation and belittling are common threads. One woman interviewed by ABC Life described it as ““You weren’t free to be yourself because of the mental manipulation constantly making you second-guess yourself, constantly belittling you.” Domestic abuse is not only the physical abuse. Mental and emotional abuse can be as much if not more damaging than physical abuse. Survivors will tell you that it isn’t something that just happens overnight, but rather a gradual process that chips away at your confidence and self-esteem. Many times this leaves a victim to blame themselves; questioning if they had just done something differently would the abuse stop.
This also leaves them fearful to leave. Many times well-meaning people will say, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” It’s not that easy. The fear of what may happen after they leave or what the abuser may do to them if they leave is a very real fear. Often there are threats of suicide, blackmail or revenge. They have been so controlled, belittled and attacked that they do not have the self confidence they can survive on their own. These are all reasons some victims choose to stay. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Before you decide to get into a relationship, know the warning signs of an abuser. Educate yourself on the true definition of love in a relationship and don’t settle to just be with someone. Realize those controlling behaviors are not flattering. Talk to your children so they know what to look for in a healthy relationship as they reach dating ages. If you are already involved in a relationship and you think you are being abused, reach out. Crisis Services of North Alabama offers services such as safe shelter, crisis counseling, support groups, court advocacy, SANE nurses for exams, etc. We would be glad to meet with you, hear your concerns about your relationship and offer you any resources applicable. Our services are free and confidential.
Reach out and let someone try to help you. Don’t wait for the violence to escalate. Too many victims are dying at the hands of abusers. There is always someone to talk to. You may contact Crisis Services of North Alabama Jackson County Office at 256.574.5826 or our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000. You are not alone. It doesn’t have to be this way.