Look at the people around you. Chances are at some point of their life most of them were victims of abuse; whether it was:
- Domestic – Domestic violence involves violence or abuse by one person against another in a familial or intimate relationship. Domestic violence is most commonly thought of as intimate partner violence, but can also include violence or abuse from a family member.
- Sexual – Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity, with perpetrators using force, making threats or taking advantage of victims not able to give consent. Most victims and perpetrators know each other. Immediate reactions to sexual abuse include shock, fear or disbelief. Long-term symptoms include anxiety, fear or post-traumatic stress disorder. While efforts to treat sex offenders remain unpromising, psychological interventions for survivors — especially group therapy — appears effective.
- Psychological – Psychological abuse can be defined as the systematic use of malicious manipulation through nonphysical acts against an intimate partner, child, or dependent adult. Also known as emotional abuse, these actions can include threatening the physical health of the victim or the victim’s loved ones, purposely controlling the victim’s freedom, and/or acting to undermine or isolate the victim. Psychological abuse can occur prior to physical, sexual, or other abuses. However, it can also happen at the same time. Even when it occurs by itself, it is thought to cause long-term damage to the victim’s mental health. Frequent bruising and broken bones are often signs of physical abuse, but this type of abuse leaves no visible marks. Psychological abuse is emotionally damaging because it is about someone manipulating your emotions in a psychological manner. In private, many emotional abusers may come across as bullies. However, it is more than just bullying or verbal assaults. This makes it difficult for others to believe the victim is being abused because the abuser often fakes affection in public, while knowing precisely how to manipulate situations in private that hurt and humiliate his or her victims. The abuser is not crazy. He or she chooses who to be mean to and will often do whatever it takes to stay in control of the relationships and victims. For example, the person who is nice to the friend who irritates him or her, but comes home to call his or her spouse or children stupid, lazy, or worthless for the same irritation.
Abuse is an issue that many people are passionate about but fail to interact with, possibly because the signs can be nearly invisible. Smiles, “I’m fine”s, and sometimes even pure fear of consequences can mask the dark truths in a person’s life. Most abuse cases aren’t even reported. Bruises aren’t always visible.
Statistically, 1 out of 4 women and 1 out of 7 men are victims of domestic abuse, in most situations the abuser is their significant other. Although domestic abuse pretty much covers all the factors that allow a person to fit the criteria of an abuse victim, psychological abuse is my focus in this article. The mind is so fragile, one incident can scar your memory for years afterwards. It not only damages your mind, it can also affect you physically by causing nutritional deficiency, abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal problems, neurological disorders, chronic pain, disability, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as noncommunicable diseases such as hypertension, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Victims of domestic violence are also at higher risk for developing addictions to alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and self-harm as coping mechanisms.
This is a really important issue for me personally because I am a survivor of psychological abuse. I was told that what I did wasn’t enough, or that my efforts to obey weren’t satisfactory. My abuser influenced other people to talk trash to me no matter what I did. All of this began when I was six or seven. I stopped caring around age twelve and started paying attention to what people were saying was cool or worthy of popularity. All I wanted was someone to care about my existence; let me rephrase: I wanted people to follow me with the sole purpose of making me feel better about myself. I made mistakes with that clouded mentality and it lowered my friend count and at one point I started getting closer to whoever would look my way, no matter how toxic they were to my faith and my life. After a while, my mom helped me understand what was going on and told me to step back and find the source of this desperation. It turned back to my abuser. He manipulated my young mind to the point that I acted on negatively influenced impulses. At one point, I had considered suicide as a source of escape from everything I couldn’t control, I pushed away my mom; my main caretaker, and even myself. It felt like there were chains around my brain that where being pulled in every direction. Last year was my last straw. I stood up to my abuser and cut him out of my life. He reacted by throwing the bible at me out of context and telling me I was on the receiving end of God’s wrath, which sent me spiraling into a soulless pit of depression. I didn’t sleep or eat for weeks, because of newly developed stress anxiety, and hid from reality as much as possible. It took about six months to feel somewhat normal again. The pain doesn’t end but life goes on. I submerge myself in my support system made up of people who related to my situations either by association or experience. I still have anxiety and I doubt it’ll ever go away. That just speaks to how badly abuse can affect people.
I met a woman who lived in fear that her husband would attack her children, aged 9 and 5, if she even thought about leaving the relationship. Because her children were at risk, she couldn’t go to a safe place but instead brought a safe place to her through a friend who worked for government security. That is the first step of getting out of an abusive relationship; acknowledge your situation and get help in any way possible. In some cases, abuse victims will think that they deserve the treatment they’re receiving. No one deserves to be mistreated ever.
If you’re reading this and you’re in an abusive situation, find a safe place or talk to a person wearing a safety pin. Both have resources to help you. Or contact me. I’ll do whatever I can to get you to a safe place and help you start a new path to a safe, successful future.
The signs are subtle but people are screaming for help. You just have to listen hard enough.