Domestic violence and emotional abuse—emotional abuse and domestic violence: You can’t have one without the other. It is a well-tested statistic that tells us all domestic violence begins with emotional and/or verbal abuse. No exceptions. There are far too many who question if they are actually a victim of domestic violence. Their reasoning is they have never been hit, no broken bones, a weapon has never been pulled on them and they have no bruises or scars as proof that domestic violence ever existed in their life.
For over 16 years, I too, questioned whether I was a victim of domestic violence. If it makes you feel any better, call it domestic abuse. Either way, you are a victim. Emotional abuse is always and without exception the first step into domestic violence. My first word of abuse was “stupid.” It accelerated and became, “Stupid, ignorant bitch.” Rarely did a day pass without those words being thrown at me as if they were a punch to my face. All the while I was wondering if I actually was a victim of domestic violence, scars were building up within my very soul and spirit. I was becoming as broken as the jaws and ribs on victims who were experiencing physical violence. But, how was I to explain to others so they could understand that I was being abused as well? Emotional abuse is a sort of ghost, constantly haunting you, causing you to question your own sanity and driving you to think thoughts you never thought you were capable of thinking. Your silence only perpetuates the situation. Please do not read into that meaning you should immediately shout to the rooftop. For you see, a victim who speaks out puts herself in a position of greater danger. A victim who chooses to leave the situation is at the greatest level of danger. As always, I stress the importance of having a safety/exit plan in place and ready to put to use before you attempt to leave. Your very life could depend upon this.
It was not an easy decision for me to speak out, but I believe in some manner it has been worth it all—all the pain, rejection, hurt, degradation, hopelessness and doubt. In recounting some of the trauma and trials of my life, I was able to reveal the good with the bad in my book, Orange Blossom Wishes. Hopefully, through sharing accounts of a life subjected to molestation, sexual assault and marital abuse, others have been able to gain a strong reassurance: Whether you are the victim, or a friend or family member of a victim, there can be hope beyond measure and a future full of life well worth living. Yes, a life free from times someone trespassed against you, your body, mind, soul and spirit.
The most important thing to know about emotional abuse and domestic violence is that you are not alone. I want you to know that. I have had my share of battles finding emotional healing and mental health. Having personally experienced well over a decade of emotional abuse and domestic violence, my desire is to help you regain (or perhaps finally establish) a sense of value, hope and faith for your own future. You may feel or even believe you are the only one who has ever been through such traumatic mistreatment. Is it possible anyone has been touched as inappropriately as you? Has anyone else had to suffer the verbal abuse you are going through while you are being told how useless and ugly you are? Could it be that anyone else has stood before their friends or children, humiliated and demeaned to the point they felt like giving up on life like we have? It could be the very idea of speaking to someone about what you have been through strikes fear to your very marrow. I know all too well that twisted combination of fear, confusion, depression and low self-esteem. I have had those moments of being frozen in what seemed like suspended animation, doubting not only who I was or why I was there, as someone screamed words into my ears of how useless and undesirable I was. I have lived through times of being groped along with the smell of cigarettes and alcohol, wondering how I lost control not only of my own body, but my very soul.
We must realize there are many others who are also smothered by their own silences. They, too, are gasping for a clear, fresh breath that might make them feel just a bit more alive. If we have been through this and made it out alive, healthy and whole, is it not our responsibility as a fellow traveler to extend our hand to victims of emotional abuse and domestic violence, reaching down to help lift them up? So often we dismissed domestic violence and/or abuse as strictly physical acts taken against another human being. I respectfully take exception to that. Verbal abuse is abuse. Emotional abuse is abuse. If it comes from a spouse, mate or family member, it is domestic abuse. If it causes you to become self-destructive, it is an integral part of domestic violence. You don’t have to be hit to be a victim of domestic violence. The same detestable behavior now commonly leads to news stories of ones found raped and/or murdered.
Emotional abuse and domestic violence? They are conjoined twins. It is nearly impossible to separate the two. If you are riddled with scars covering your soul, please be aware of one thing: You are a victim of emotional abuse and domestic violence—yes, you are a victim. We know from reports, statistics and experience that the chances of escalation are about 95%. It is not likely to get any better. This is your life. These are your choices. It is your power and control that has been stolen, abused and perverted. This is your life, and it is yours to live. We would all like to believe that things will get better eventually. But, the question is, “When will ‘eventually’ arrive, if ever?”
I sincerely hope this blog post answers some questions that many may have regarding emotional abuse and domestic violence, how they go hand-in-hand, and if you are truly a victim. May this serve also as motivation and inspiration for those who have somehow lost themselves along the way. It is easy to quote statistics and read reports. However, it is more likely one can place trust in the words of a survivor who personally experienced the victimization himself/herself. I hope that is the case here. I see myself as a fellow traveler, hand extended, reaching out to help those who are still plodding along the path that I traveled far too many years. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it ain’t no train. No. It is the beacon of hope drawing you into a place of peace, faith and restoration. Let’s walk together. I’m right here with you.
Carolyn S. Hennecy is the author of ORANGE BLOSSOM WISHES: Child Molested, Woman Abused – Her Victorious Journey to Freedom
and her most recent book, a guide for victims of domestic violence, BeLEAVEing – Safely Leaving Abusive Relationships.
She is also an international speaker, consultant and trainer.