Sometimes both those who are knowledgeable of domestic violence and those who still have a lot to learn about the subject contemplate if there are various levels of domestic violence. For a long time I actually vacillated between confusion and guilt. I was verbally abused. I was emotionally abused. Later, I was grabbed by my arms and slapped in the face. So, that meets the criteria of physical abuse, but at what point does a crossover from abuse become domestic violence? After all of these various levels of domestic violence, and even years after being dragged throughout our home by my hair and having my head rammed into a door repeatedly, my mind could not process if that qualified as real domestic violence. It was then I decided it was time to leave. Perhaps a gunshot or knife must be involved to ramp it up from abuse to violence. That was my warped thought pattern. Sad, huh?
Whenever I appear for book signings or speaking engagements and hear about injuries other women have sustained, mine seem so trivial in comparison. The news is inundated with stories of mutilations or murders directly resulting from domestic violence. I have actually found myself apologizing for the fact I never suffered a black eye, broken bone or was hit by a bullet.
Then, one day it came to me this is not a competition. This is real life. Perhaps there are various levels of domestic violence. The key is to bloom where you are planted. If you were a victim of emotional or verbal abuse, use your experience to reach those who are still in that place. If your x-rays show proof of multiple broken bones, use those to reach victims still struggling with an abuser who does not hesitate to beat them. If you are a family member who has unfortunately experienced the worst of the worst, had a beloved child murdered at the hands of a domestic violence abuser, and if you are emotionally capable of doing so, carry your story to the public. The majority are often heard saying, “How terrible! I can’t imagine that could ever happen to me.”
Then we have another situation. How many of those who have experienced a broken bone or black eye either will not or cannot speak out simply because they fear repercussions from their victimizer and/or people finding out their dark, hidden secrets? I have wondered for too many times how close I was to getting that black eye… Broken bone… Or worse. Would the next incident be the one that made me another murder victim? We have no way of knowing. We cannot second-guess the past. We can only learn from it and move forward. Obviously, I can’t go back, and “what if” or “just maybe” don’t do any good. But, I have learned this through my experience as a domestic violence advocate—the statistics reflect the odds of escalation to serious injury or death were stacked way against me. And if it applies to me, it applies to you.
For far too many years I lived in the past. Contemplating the various “levels of domestic violence” I had endured robbed me of potential and happiness for too many years. That has now become a road less traveled. I just don’t go there anymore. A valuable lesson I learned from the years of abuse is this: seize the moment. “Now” is truly all we have, so make it count. If you are enduring unspeakable travesty or grief, measure it in moments. Inhale deeply, exhale slowly. Do your best to clearly think and plan. Tell yourself, “I can make it. I will make it!” At that point you can hopefully utilize each moment to put yourself into a better and safer position, whether it is emotionally, mentally or physically. (Numerous options are listed on our Victim Support page of this website. I encourage you strongly to utilize that information). There were times it was difficult to even catch my breath, much less envision a tomorrow at all. Many times I wondered if I would live to see the sunrise again, and there were many times I didn’t really care if I did. To be void of all hope was like feeling as if death were a python, and I was the victim having the life squeezed from me.
Whether we like it or not, truth is reality. For skeptics who never experienced abuse, you may consider domestic violence survivors as crybabies or drama queens. Perhaps walking a few miles in a victim’s shoes will give you a clearer perception of what it’s like to be on this side of the line. As for me, I will continue to speak, as long as I am able. I owe it to those victims and survivors who cannot.
I’m not offering excuses anymore. In discovering the ability to learn from the past rather than living in it, we can be empowered to make the most of each day. We can begin to realize that worrying and fretting unnecessarily is a waste of energy and time. Yes, we must plan—to a point. We can’t be guaranteed what will come tomorrow, or even if tomorrow will show up at all. We can sit around and wonder what levels of domestic violence we find ourselves trapped in. We can even ask ourselves that same question: “Are there various levels of domestic violence?” Or, we can take control of our circumstances, and change them if they are not acceptable. Whether or not there are different levels of domestic violence, or if it all fits into just one box, nobody should ever be expected to remain in an abusive or violent relationship… Not ever!