The #YesAllWomen campaign is shining light on the abuse and harassment many women face from strangers or acquaintances at school, the workplace, social settings, or right out in public on the street.
For many women, however, the monster isn’t lurking around some corner in a dark alley or spiking their drinks at a club. Instead, he’s the pillar of the community sitting at your dinner table.
Of course people know domestic violence and sexual abuse of women and children by family members is common, but they still often only visualize the victims and abusers as poor, unemployed, uneducated, street trash living “on the other side of the tracks.”
Let me tell you from experience that the “nice guy” neighbor you talked to this morning could be as much of an abuser and misogynist as the rapist that turns your stomach when you see his mug shot on TV.
Domestic violence and sexual family abuse perpetrated by men are complex issues, and yes, oftentimes alcoholism, poverty, substance abuse, and mental illness play a massive role in why these atrocities happen. Sometimes, though, the patriarch abuser merely feels it is his “right” as the head of the household to treat his family as he pleases, venting his rage on them and often treating them as his property, because hey, “I’m the man, so I make the rules.”
For any number of reasons, including fear of further abuse, lack of financial independence, or being psychologically traumatized into believing the lie that they truly are subservient and worthless, wives and girlfriends stick it out, smiling in public to friends and outsiders while living a nightmare at home. Even sadder, women will sit by and watch their own children be bullied, controlled, abused, and raped by the men in their lives, all because they feel completely powerless.
I am by no means an expert, and of course this is an extremely weighty and involved topic that can’t be fully addressed in a few paragraphs. If, however, you just happen to be a woman reading this right now and have even an inkling that your partner may be abusing you in ANY way, step back, address it, and MAKE IT STOP.
Abuse isn’t just hitting or shoving. Does he scream at you, especially when you aren’t even arguing, but just out of pure rage? Are you to blame for all the family problems because you are “too stupid” or “an awful mother”? Is he asking you to isolate from your own parents, siblings, or friends simply because he
doesn’t like them? Does he diminish your job or accomplishments? Does he constantly threaten to leave you, take your children, “ruin you” or any other form of psychological threat or manipulation?
These are just a few examples, but if you are a woman and the man in your life is making you feel “less than” in any way, I think that in your heart of hearts, you already know that what is happening isn’t right.
If you are a bit concerned, talk to him, ask him to get help, and offer to go to counseling with him. If he refuses, well, isn’t that another warning sign right there?
And if you are downright afraid – LEAVE AND TAKE LEGAL MEASURES TO PROTECT YOURSELF IMMEDIATELY.
I know, easier said than done, especially if you have children. Ultimately, though, the choice whether or not to leave an abuser could be a matter of life or death. The man who slaps you today may be the man who beats you to death tomorrow. Also in the end, no matter what hardship, sacrifice, and pain you may face, you will have your sense of identity, power, and value back in your control.
An abuser wants to erase you. Don’t ever let that happen. Draw yourself back into your own life, and make the lines even bolder than they were before.
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