We’ve used the word “victim” a lot in our posts as a label for those in abusive relationships. I would like to explain why. Abuse is a crime. Simple. It is a harmful action against another human being. Whether it be verbal or physical or psychological, it is a crime. I feel it is important to establish this fact because abuse is downplayed in our society to such a staggering degree that it is viewed as untouchable. It is a difficult thing to stop because the crime is of such an insidious nature that the victim doesn’t even realize they are being conned. And for those stuck in emotionally abusive relationships, it’s an even harder crime to stop because there is no physical proof or evidence. But I want our readers to know, abuse is a crime. Abuse must be stopped. The more we put domestic violence and abuse in this untouchable category, the more we pander to it. The more complicated we make it, the more untouchable it becomes.
So how do we fight a crime in which the victim does not even realize they are a victim?
The first time my best friend met my abusive boyfriend (I didn’t realize he was abusive at the time) she did not like him. I was offended by her honest opinion that he was an elitist and that she postulated we would not mesh well. I thought she didn’t know him like I did. How could she come to this conclusion so quickly, in just one meeting? My ego was bruised because I deluded myself into thinking I would know if my boyfriend was not right for me, after all, shouldn’t I know best? I have always respected my friend’s opinions and ideas, she has always been a voice of reason in my strangest or most stupid moments. She has always been there to talk me back down to earth.
I’ll never forget the time in my life when my brother, a Marine, almost talked me into going into the military to pursue a career in Arts and Communications. At the time, I was struggling to find a way to earn experience without having to sell my soul for free to a publication. I had bills to pay and could not afford interning for free or for experience. I already had a degree, so he advised me that I could go in as an officer. I appreciate his advice and I am still flattered to this day that my loving brother had enough confidence in me to believe I would survive the military. But when I posed the idea to my friend, she scoffed (rightfully so, knowing my absolute hatred of gyms). She said the military would kill my artistic soul and that I would not do well in that environment. I again was offended. I recall with shame, giving her a lecture on not supporting me enough and being too negative. She apologized, but thankfully I let myself listen to her deduction and I realized she was right, as she always was.
I have to give credit to this friend for planting the first seed of doubt in my mind about my abusive relationship. She did not say he would abuse me. But she was not scared to tell me that she knew he wasn’t right for me. I was too close to the subject. I had already molded in my mind how he would be, that I failed to see the warning signs in front of me. I had another friend at work, who patiently listened to all my rants and tears over every incident with my abusive partner. She never judged me and she never said I was stupid for staying with him. But she would say that she did not like the things he said to me. She would help me feel sane again. She helped undermine all of his efforts to completely break my confidence in myself and my own sanity. I sometimes wonder how I would have reacted if during the course of my tumultuous relationship with him, if I had been shown the Power and Control Wheel. No one had ever talked to me about verbally or mentally abusive relationships. I finally, one day, googled signs of an emotionally abusive relationship, but by the time I thought to research it, I had already made up my mind to leave him. My research only helped to strengthen my resolve.
So how do we fight a crime in which the victim does not even realize they are a victim? We educate as many people as we can. With the honesty and bluntness of a friend, we pull back the veil over their eyes and show them the truth. We let them know what the signs are. This is something we should talk about with our kids. This is something we should talk about with our loved ones. Until we treat it as a straightforward crime, we will not be able to fight it. Abusers are con artists. They may not be stealing money (although economic abuse is totally a thing), but they are stealing our friends, our children, our coworkers, our family. We should warn others just as we warn them against scammers, rapists, and muggers. We should talk about this in our schools. We should talk about this to our kids. Educate everyone close to you.
Follow this link to find the definitions of different types of abuse.
Follow this link to learn the signs.