This morning at work, I received a call from a young woman. “I was assaulted by my partner,” she whispered in tears. It was completely unrelated to the reason she was calling and I was not expecting such honesty. I was taken aback and had no idea what to do. What do you do when a stranger bares their soul to you? When someone is so vulnerable and desperate that they blurt out their hurt to any ears that will hear?
I didn’t do anything… I froze… I sat there, trying to be as professional as possible and all I offered her was a meager, “I’m so sorry that this has happened to you.” She was off the phone before I could even come to terms with the magnitude of her words. I was dumbfounded and sat with the phone to my ear for several minutes after she hung up. I thought about her for the rest of the day and I’m still thinking about her now.
I wish I had the courage to tell her that it was not her fault, that no victim of abuse is ever at fault. I wish I told her that she deserves better, that she deserves a man that will love her and cherish her. I wish I told her about her worth and to not let his actions dictate what she thought she was worth. I wish I told her to be strong and fight for herself and for her life, because this man definitely was not going to.
I thought of all the people I know who have suffered physical and emotional abuse at the hands of their loved ones. How frequent and constant this story is and how easy it is to become a victim. Some of the closest people to me have been victims of abuse. Some of the strongest, most independent and strong willed people I know, have been victims.
The thing is, victims of abuse don’t start dating someone who already beats them up. They don’t fall madly in love with some man or woman that calls them names or dominates them. No, they fall in love with a beautiful persona that their oppressor has created to gain their trust. Once that trust is gained they slowly manipulate and infiltrate their victim’s life. They make it impossible for their victim to leave them and even harder for their victim to see the truth.
In all the stories I have heard and all the people I have known to have suffered emotional or physical abuse. It all began in a very similar way…
A whirlwind romance with a charming man. He dotes, he spoils, he woos, he makes his victim malleable with sweet words. He is demanding of your time, in a sweet way, in an unobtrusive way. In a way that suggests he cannot live without you for a minute. He does small manipulative things, to test the waters, to see if he has you under his spell. Perhaps you see glimpses of this other person hidden beneath the surface, but you dismiss what you see as nothing more than a moment.
He will say things that announces his superiority or remind you of all the amazing things he does. There will be little fights about his jealous or controlling tendencies, but he makes you believe all this is only because he loves you. He manipulates you to believe that your needs are unimportant. You tell your friends, but when they try to help you to see sense, you slowly withdraw. He has already convinced you that this is right, that this is worth it and that no-one understands what you both have except the two of you. Soon, your closest friends are removed from your life, your support network is taken away.
He immerses you into his life, into his way of thinking, into his way of thinking about you being solely dependent on him. He will put you down and bring you back up again. He uses his affection to control you, to make you think he is getting better and that he is working on himself. He starves you of affection one minute and then consumes you with it the next. He never stops. He makes you feel confused, almost crazy. Your self worth is diminishing and the person you see in the mirror is becoming unrecognizable.
His emotional abuse slowly turns to physical, but not all at once. Perhaps it starts with him yelling, getting right up into your face or tightly gripping your arm. He’s never done that before and he never will again, is what you tell yourself. It was just a one off, you say. He didn’t really mean it, you think. He says it will never happen again.
The physical abuse is slowly amplified, touches become grabs, grabs become chokes. Slaps become punches, punches become kicks. It could have taken years to develop, but this is where you are. You feel it is your fault, that somehow you encouraged it, somehow you deserve it. You feel like you have no worth, no personal power. You feel weak and know no better. He has successfully groomed and conditioned you to believe his lies.
But I am asking you to come out of the darkness…
You are not worthless.
You are not weak.
You are not beholden to him.
You are not at fault.
You are not alone.
And there is help.
These are some of the support groups I could find in Australia –
1300 789 978 Mensline Australia
(07) 3217 2544 Brisbane Domestic Violence Service
1800 811 811 24 Hr Statewide Domestic Violence HOTLINE (QLD)
Sometimes it’s easier to share with someone who has absolutely no connection to your life.
If any of the above story sounds similar to you or someone you know, then please speak to someone. There are numerous support groups around. People who won’t be caught off guard and offer no help like I did this morning. People who are there to listen and not judge. People who are there to empower you and help you recognize your worth.
Because you are worth it, you just need to be reminded of that fact.
Let’s spread the awareness so that men and women who find themselves in similar situations aren’t ashamed to speak up about it because they think it’s their fault. Share this story and let them know that it isn’t and never will be their fault.