It started with a word…

Many of us victims, former victims, struggling survivors and overcomers have at some time asked ourselves, “How did the domestic violence begin?”  I figure there are no statistics to back this up, but feel it is a dependable observation: Domestic violence, as well as spouse/intimate partner abuse starts with a word. That’s right, one word, or maybe a sentence. Not necessarily a specific word or sentence, but that’s how it begins. A put-down or perhaps a threat, or even a suggestive comment that could be interpreted in numerous ways, but your gut tells you it’s not meant in a good way. That’s where the abuse starts. Something as innocuous as, “You’re not going to wear that, are you?” or “I can’t believe you’re stupid enough to say that.” I’ve often said if a word is not fit to say to a friend, coworker or minister, then perhaps it should not be directed at the person we are supposed to love, guard and protect with our heart and very life.

 That first word is the beginning of what we know as verbal abuse. Verbal abuse leads to emotional abuse. So, what’s emotional abuse? Well, it’s when you not only hear the derogatory or threatening comments, but begin to believe them, and worse, reach a point of accepting them as truth. For so many years I heard how fat, stupid, undesirable and useless I was, that eventually it became my truth. I fell into agreement with what was being said to me. I began to see myself as fat, stupid, undesirable and of no value whatsoever. I was convinced I was unlovable.

 The verbal abuse escalated to emotional abuse, which eventually turned to physical violence. Now, you’re hearing from a woman who was convinced she would never be “one of those people,” because physical violence just did not happen in my family or in my life. It was saved for “white trash” or “the welfare people.” First, I apologize for ever having such an offensive and prejudicial attitude as that. How very wrong of me! I have come to know through personal experience as well as interaction with victims from all walks of life that domestic violence and spousal abuse have absolutely NO regard for race, gender, socioeconomic status, where you live, what your education level might be, or what line of work or profession you may have. And it is not “just because” he/she has a bad temper or short fuse. Domestic violence comes at the hands of an abuser or batterer who is consumed with obtaining and then maintaining power and control over their victim. . . yes, their VICTIM.

 So, for each of us (mm-hmm, I include myself, I said it far too often, as well . . .) who has thought or even said out loud, “It can’t be domestic violence, he hasn’t hit me,” I will finish that sentence for you—”He hasn’t hit me . . . YET!” Given enough time and opportunity, the likelihood of that one word escalating to one grabbed arm or slap across the face or strangulation or a bullet . . . well, will you just think about it?

Carolyn is an advocate for sexual/domestic violence and assault awareness, also focusing on child sexual abuse. She is a Life Direction & Empowerment Coach, working with victims and survivors of molestation, sexual assault, domestic violence or spousal abuse, and bringing training to organizations seeking to help victims. Listen to Carolyn’s interview with Cynthia Brennen, on “Help, Hope & Healing.” Visit her website:

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