Hiding Abuse

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sad coupleNaturally, in my work I hear many stories of abusive relationships. I am familiar with many of the dynamics that operate in such situations. One of these, which is somewhat puzzling, is the extent to which women will go to protect their abusive partners. Even though a woman may be intelligent and assertive in other areas of her life, she often completely backs off this one. If she has bruises or broken bones, it’s pretty obvious. However, if the abuse is psychological, then it’s easier to hide.

Repeatedly, I hear of men who are highly regarded in the outside world, well liked and even admired. At home it is a different story. It is almost as though they work so hard being good, helpful, and accommodating everywhere else, and then home is the only place that they can release their tensions and frustrations. To an extent, that could be true of everyone.

What I am talking about here is someone who behaves in truly abusive ways at home, to the extent that friends and colleagues would be shocked if they really knew what was going on. I am talking about behavior that is mean, controlling, bullying and intimidating. I am talking about behavior that leaves a woman feeling devastated and worthless.

Like the child who protects the abusive parent, the woman keeps her secret. Partly, she is too embarrassed to admit to others that she allows herself to be treated this way. She is also afraid that if she tells others, her abusive partner would be devastated. Perhaps it would even have adverse implications for his career. Friends may no longer like him, because of the way he treats his wife and children. No matter how badly he has treated her, she feels that she just could not expose him. If the abuse has gone on long enough, he may even have her convinced that his abusive behavior is her fault. She knows that if she tells, then it could mean the end of the relationship. She may secretly wish for this, but then must deal with the fear of being alone and supporting herself. She fears she may lose the home, and worries about the children. Consequently she feels trapped.

The abusive behavior continues, and she slowly loses first, her sense of self, and then her health. Or perhaps one day she has had enough, and if he shoves her or hits her she calls 911. Interestingly, these same women have undoubtedly done a good job of teaching their children about sexual abuse and they have reinforced the importance of telling someone if you are being abused. Well, the same thing goes for physical and emotional abuse. If we don’t tell someone, the abusive behavior continues. Children experience things that they should not. Women put all of their energy into survival, and have none left for growth. No wonder they become tired and depressed.

If you are in an abusive situation, tell someone. Tell your friend, your doctor, your family or a therapist. Abusers do not need protection, they need help. Telling someone is the first step.

Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.
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