What is Domestic Violence in your mind? What do you picture? I think maybe everyone has a slightly different version in their mind around what constitutes Domestic Violence. I know for me growing up, I thought Domestic Violence was like the billboard ads I saw growing up outside of Los Angeles, with the woman in them with a black eye and the saying “love doesn’t hurt.” Not sure if anyone remembers those ads? I thought that was Domestic Violence.
At the time I didn’t realize that Domestic Violence is often much more insidious than that. It usually leaves no marks, and is well hidden. It is the daily verbal, emotional and psychological abuse that occurs along with Domestic Violence that can drive one to the brink of the edge. I, and many Domestic Violence survivors, never had a black eye. In fact the family may appear to be picture perfect, as did mine. Many, like me, don’t even know they are being abused. A punch to the face and yes, they would most likely get it. I know I would have, but a shove with the chest, things thrown at me, screamed at in my face, threatened, broken beer bottles, being knocked down, over powered, grabbed, blocked, held hostage, holes punched in the wall, holes punched in the wall near my head, but not actually my head, didn’t register for me as Domestic Violence. While those things can have the same effect as a black eye, by inflicting fear and trying to gain control of the victim, in many minds, including mine, these things do not constitute Domestic Violence, but that is Domestic Violence.
Physical violence is horrible and I’m so sorry to anyone (including some of my dear friends) that were subjected to it , but I also want to add that it wasn’t the bruises that nearly destroyed me. It was the psychological torture that goes along with the abuse that makes you question your own sanity and whether or not you even want to live. I was blamed, gas lighted and told I was crazy so many times in my 10 yr abusive marriage that I actually started to believe it. I ended up having a very real fear of ending up a like Jack Nicholson in the old movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
The thought of being crazy, oftentimes feeling crazy and wondering if I would end up in the “funny farm” was a slow torture. It took court ordered psych evals to prove to me that he was in fact an abusive, Narcissist and that other than some slight OCD (hand washing) which is 95% resolved and an occasional panic attack that I am, in fact, not crazy. The therapist even laughed when I very seriously asked “so, I’m not crazy?” She said “no, you were severely traumatized.” She also said I tested clear from PTSD, which was only because I had done years of therapy by that point and had resolved my PTSD with the use of EFT Tapping, which was a god send.
If you were like me, I grew up being slapped, hair pulled, spanked, grabbed, shoved, beat with a belt, had soap shoved down my throat etc. That was normal for me, so I didn’t considered it violence. So when my husband did the same sort of things that my own mother did, it never in a million years occurred to me because of the abuse I had endured when I was a child, that I was also in an abusive Domestic Violence relationship with my husband at the time.
My biological father was extremely violent, he would threaten to kill people, including me, beat people up, slam them against the wall, choke people…..traumatizing violence to witness as a child. Did I think he was abusive? No. He was, and it was Violence. If you are being screamed at, threatened, shoved, hit, slapped, punched, kicked, hair pulled, pinched, grabbed, spit on, pushed, blocked from leaving a room, held hostage or unable to leave or flee the house, you are being abused, this is Domestic Violence.
It wasn’t until I met with a counselor for severe panic attacks, depression and suicidal thoughts who told me I was in a Domestic Violence relationship and needed to go to a safe place that I realized it. I was still so far in denial that I thought counseling would help my marriage,which is one of the worst ideas ever in a Domestic Violence situation. I left a couple of times, we tried counseling, then he would act out in other ways, until we stopped. We’d get back together and have the honeymoon phase, I got pregnant again…..you know the rest. Going back and forth is not unusual especially when the abuser has led you to believe that you are the problem, not them and you start to believe it.
For myself the strangest part of it all was that it wasn’t the abuse or a physical attack, like when he knocked me down while holding our infant daughter, that made me leave. Or him grabbing my oldest daughter so hard that she had black and blue marks on her little arms, which I’m ashamed to admit now, although I did leave after that. For me it was finally after 10 yrs of living hell, when my daughters were 8 and 4 after they’d had a fight. I ran up the stairs to smooth it over. He followed and as I tried talking to them, he interrupted and said “you need to shut your fucking mouth!” That was it for me! I had enough, I was done. In that moment just like that, it was done. I knew I couldn’t have these two girls who looked up to me thinking that it was ok for a man to talk to a woman like that. Everyone has their breaking point, no one can know what it will be or how long it will take. I filed for divorce the next day. I was done.
It took another 9 years to finally be completely abuse free and 100% no contact, but I got my life back and the starting point of that, was the day I left. It would be 10 yrs this spring that I finally said enough, no more abuse. I’m so grateful I found the courage to do it, especially with no family support. At one point I was a single mom working two jobs and in school full time. He stopped paying child support, I hit bottom having to apply for welfare and nearly ending up homeless. I had no support from family at the time, and in fact I had them telling me I should just learn to get along with him, despite knowing about the abuse and seeing bruises on my daughters.
My family still supports him and he is with them now. My aunt moved him in and helped with his legal fee’s, helping him take custody of our younger daughter from me with a bogus claim of PAS, which nearly broke me. They do holidays together and, in fact, he just celebrated my twin sisters 40th birthday with her. They are all together because they are abusive and think that abuse is acceptable. I am no longer willing to accept or tolerate abuse in any form! They have no use for me unless I am allowing them to control and abuse me and my children. Some people will only “love” you if you are allowing them to control you. Birds of a feather flock together and he is right where he belongs. He can have them, I don’t want abusive people in mine or my children’s lives, even family.
Despite all of that, the betrayal from my family and the incredible pain he and my family have caused to me and my children and my current husband, I’ve managed to create a new better life for me and my children and start over. I have a relationship with my husband that is a mutually respectful relationship based on unconditional love. A relationship where we support and encourage one another. Where we are striving to be better people everyday who are loving, kind and caring. If I can find that from where I came from and the abusive family I came from, anyone can. I am free. Wishing you well on your recovery journey. – Anne-Marie Wiesman
What were your beliefs about domestic violence or what it was growing up?