If you or someone you know is being abused, please, reach out, get help if you can. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline if you are in the US (1-800-799-7233 |1-800-787-3224 (TTY)) or check some of the links below. Please, you are not alone, and help is there for you. If you are in immediate danger, please contact emergency services for your state/country.
When most people hear about domestic violence, they see images of battered and bruised women or traumatized children. Domestic violence isn’t always physical, but it is one of the more common types of abuse that gets reported. Abuse can be physical, psychological, emotional, mental, or sexual, and I have dealt with all of those forms. Psychological abuse is one of the hardest to prove, as the abuse doesn’t leave physical marks, causes in my opinion, the most damage. While we see discussions of women dealing with abuse, men who are abused (especially psychologically abused) often feel too ashamed to speak out about the abuse because of the belief they will be seen as weak.
I have personal experience with trying to prove psychological abuse, and how difficult it is to get anyone to believe the abuse is occurring. I was told that because there were no signs of physical abuse on my body, I could be making it up and it would just be a he said she said battle. I was even told that because there were no signs of physical abuse, I was to leave the domestic violence shelter I was staying at because they needed room for more pressing cases, the ones they could prove abuse had occurred.
Psychological abuse is something I am disturbingly well acquainted with, going back to my teenage years. My first husband, who I married at the age of 20, was highly abusive; but no one ever thought he was anything more than manipulative and a “weasel” (as my dad liked to call him). I didn’t even realize just how abusive he was until I was outside of the relationship. That is another problem with psychological abuse; many people don’t know they’re being abused until after they are able to step back and look at the situation from the outside. I lived with him for over six years, dealing with everything from him emotionally tearing me down, to him “building me up” and claiming credit for my happiness. He drove me to the brink of suicide many times through his actions, neglect, and words; and then would turn around and pull me back from the edge, all while claiming he was the sole reason I was still around.
I managed to separate myself from him for a little while, since he was constantly making sure I was nearby or somewhere he could easily reach me, and was able to finally look at the situation I was in. I could finally see just how badly I was being treated, how he was keeping me depressed and beaten down emotionally so that I wouldn’t move out and find work of my own. While I was the primary money earner in the family for a long time, he always acted as the head of the household; claiming some sort of ailment as his reason that he couldn’t work. His parents went a long way in keeping me in the relationship, working with him to guilt me every time I tried to leave or tried to fight back against his abuse. Away from him and his parents, I was able to see just how badly I was being treated, and realized I had to think fast if I wanted to escape from the situation.
I knew that if I went back, the abuse would begin again, yet I had to go back so I could get my belongings and my medications. I made a plan with my parents to have a place for me to stay when I ran, and said a prayer to whoever would listen. I even cut my hair while standing outside of my car with the razor blade I’d packed. I’d originally planned to slit my wrists with the blade, but stopped myself when I made my plan. Driving home, I kept repeating to myself what I was going to do, and what I was going to say. Strangely enough, my script wound up being thrown out of the window.
My ex-husband and I had had a daughter together, who was living with my parents after a rather horrific abuse cycle between me and my husband. He’d driven me to the brink of suicide (as I have covered in previous posts), and I’d barely stopped myself from killing myself and my infant daughter before desperately calling my mother in the middle of the night and begging me to take and protect my daughter. Now, three years after the event, I faced my abuser with the determination of reuniting with my child. After his comments about my hair, and his berating me for not waking him up when I got home (I got home late at night and just let myself in and slept on the couch), I told him I wanted to be with our daughter again. He told me, flat out, that I had to choose between her or him, as he was not going to go with me nor work with me and my parents to get our child back.
Something inside me snapped at that point, and my script vanished. It was no longer about me, but about my daughter, who I’d managed to protect from the abuse I dealt with. It was that thought alone that kept me going as I looked at my husband and informed him I could no longer live without her, and that I was moving up to be with her. He tried to point out I had no money, and that I wouldn’t be able to get a place without his family’s help, as he didn’t know I’d spoken with my parents about the situation. He’d always done his best to be around when I spoke to my parents, so that he could then twist whatever was said at a later time in such a way that it would sound like my parents were the abusive ones, and that he was the hero of the day to protect me from them. I kept my focus on my daughter, and blocked out everything he said to me from that point onward.
To this day, I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t made me choose; if I would still be there, enduring his abuse, or if I would have found the courage to leave after six years. One thing that I do know, is that my relationships afterward continued down the abusive track, even into the realm of physical abuse, because I didn’t know anything better. It wasn’t until I’d gotten psychological help that I was finally able to learn what a normal was supposed to look like, and in turn, find someone who I was able to form a mutual bond with instead of sitting in the role of the abused.
Harvey and I celebrated seven years together on the first of April this year, and while we’ve had our struggles, especially with my transition, I can safely say that the cycle of abuse has finally broken for me.
Resources: (Unless otherwise stated, resources are for both men and women)
The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233 |1-800-787-3224 (TTY))
RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE (4673))
National Domestic Violence Helpline UK (0808 2000 247)
Help for men who are being abused (Provides multiple resources)
National Dating Abuse Helpline (1-866-331-9474)
National Child Abuse Hotline/Childhelp (1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453))
National Human Trafficking Resource Center/Polaris Project (1-888-373-7888 | Text: HELP to BeFree (233733))
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (1-800-537-2238)
National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health (1-312-726-7020 ext. 2011)
More resources can be found at NCADV (The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)