What do you think of when you hear the word ABUSE? (–be honest!–)
Sadly, when people hear the word abuse, they typically think of visible physical injuries such as black eyes, bruises, broken bones, etc. The stigma attached to the word abuse is driven into our subconscious’ from the early stages in our lives. Unfortunately, our judicial system also tends to believe in the stigma.
Well, I am here to tell you that abuse is, in most cases, something that you cannot recognize from physical appearance. The abuse we hear about, on t.v. and other media, plays a large part in creating the stigma associated with abuse. The reason for that is because physical abuse, that is obviously visible, is much easier to prove in a courtroom. However, I could easily give you more than 100 other ways, both physical and non-physical, in which a person can be severely abused without there EVER being a single mark to show for it.
Please understand, I am not trying to downplay the severity of physical abuse that results in visible damage. No one should ever have to suffer from that type of abuse; however, there are hundreds of other ways in which people suffer from abuse every day that do just as much damage, if not more, but is often overlooked and quickly dismissed. This type of abuse is easier to hide, so the victim often suffers from the abuse for many years before anyone ever realizes something may be wrong, if ever.
Let me give you some examples of abuse that does not fit neatly into the stigma:
- Marital rape: A spouse does not have to use physical force to rape their partner. There are many other ways in which a spouse can force their partner to yield to their every sexual desire, no matter how perverted or disgusting it may be and no matter how much the victim pleads for release from the situation. For example, an abusive spouse could force a victim to perform these acts by threat – threat of sleep deprivation for days, threat of exposing a personal matter to others, threat of waking the children and having them become involved in the argument/fight, threat of the abusers anger getting out of control and becoming physically abusive to the victim or the children. There are so many ways in which an abusive spouse can do this without ever leaving a visible mark that it’s impossible to list them all. However, the damage done to the victim is just as severe, and sometimes more severe, than a broken bone would have been – especially when this is something that occurs every night for many years. Or consider this – a spouse who takes advantage of his/her trusting spouse while that spouse is too intoxicated to consent, or worse yet, a spouse who deliberately takes his/her wife out drinking one night but later has a “friend” come home with them to take advantage of his/her intoxicated spouse? The number of examples are endless.
- Verbal assault: Obviously verbal abuse would never leave a mark on a victim, and in many cases, can’t be proven because courts don’t allow recordings as proof. The possibilities for the ways an abuser can torture a victim with verbal assault are endless. Abusers may verbally assault their victims every day by telling the victim how worthless they are or how much they are hated. They can threaten to kill them. They can desecrate and humiliate the victims in front of their children or in public. They can accuse the victim of cheating every time the victim wears something new or fixes his/hair differently. These examples are not one-time only examples. These are things that abusers do on a daily basis to their victims until their victims sometimes even begin to believe it themselves. This can easily cause damage that can last for many years after a victim escapes. It also may not ever be something the victim can fully recover from, depending on the severity.
- Mental abuse: There are many sociopathic and narcissistic abusers out there. There are also many other types of abusers out there. The sociopath/narcissist; however, is typically extremely good at playing mind games with the victim. They claim no responsibility for their acts and always find a way to blame it on the victim. They tell lies after lies until the victim becomes confused and is often unable to determine what is a lie and what is the truth. The damage from the constant mental games is indescribable. There is no trust and the victim is never sure what to expect (Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde). This type of abuser often tells so many lies that it’s something that just occurs subconsciously. They do it without even thinking. This type of abuser is often very charming and can easily win people over. This type of abuser will often make people feel sorry for him/her and convince people that his/her victim (in many cases the spouse) is crazy or mentally ill and the abuser is the victim. The victim not only suffers from the daily direct abuse of this type of abuser, but also from the comments & acts of those that the abuser has “won over” and made to believe that the victim is the bad person.
What I have listed here are only a few examples of non-visible abuse. What is extremely important to note here; however, is that all of these examples are examples of both physical and emotional abuse. All abuse is emotionally damaging. It is also physically damaging because of the stress that abuse puts on the body. Victims can become depressed, have chronic migraines, and experience many other health issues as a result of abuse.
It is very difficult to describe how abuse of any kind makes a person feel. Unless you live it (and I pray you don’t), there is truly no way to understand. We must remove the stigma and keep our eyes and hearts open to those that may be silently suffering from abuse so that we can reach out to them and provide a shoulder for them to cry on. Our judicial systems also need to remove the stigma. Abuse is abuse! Whether abuse occurs by use of muscle or whether it occurs by use of words & threats, doesn’t make a difference. Every single type of abuse destroys a person, both inside and out.
Stand Up And Speak Out!! Think you can’t do anything but look the other way? You’re wrong! Don’t be afraid to say or do something, slip a note to a friend with the local sister care # on it, or simply be there to provide support.
We can’t put an end to abuse if we refuse to acknowledge it exists!!!!!