Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Telling My Story: “But he didn’t hit me.”

This is the third part of my story.
Part 1
Part 2

I was isolated, afraid, and all trust in my own instincts was being slowly stripped away. I was exhausted and living in survival mode.

The life of an abuse victim is exhausting. I was constantly on edge because I didn’t know who he would be or how he would react at any given moment. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde analogy is apt. Would he be loving and thoughtful or belittling and angry? I had to be ready to meet whichever persona he chose to show with the correct response lest I make things worse. (Note the language I used there: lest I make things worse. That is the dynamic of an abusive relationship: the victim is always at fault and the one responsible for setting things “right.”)

Just when I thought I had a handle on something, anything, and think, “Okay, I can do this,” he would throw me for another loop. I lived in a state of continual fear and uncertainty.

I later learned that I had been living in the cycle of violence. This describes the pattern of an abusive relationship: a phase of tension building, where the victim is walking on eggshells; followed by an explosion of violence; followed by a false honeymoon period, where the abuser is kind, loving, and seemingly repentant. The false honeymoon fades over time and builds into another phase of tension building. And the cycle repeats.

Imagine living that, day in, day out.

I was sleep-deprived because the middle of the night was his favorite time to make demands and pick fights.

I had to keep up a good face with the rest of the world. I was so confused about what was happening; how could I possibly explain it to anyone else? Would anyone understand? I feared others’ reactions. All I wanted was for one person to tell me I wasn’t crazy, it wasn’t my fault, and that I could get help.

All I wanted was to be met with safety and love, not judgment.

I never had a moments’ rest or peace. Even when we were physically apart, he was always there, through incessant calls and texts and the way he always occupied my brain. Everything was filtered through the lens of the relationship, of surviving.

This relationship consumed me.

Despite all of this, I doubted the relationship was abusive. Why? Because he never hit me.

I didn’t fully understand how abusive he was until I first sought help. I thought of abuse as only physical. In my mind, an abused woman was a battered woman. Abuse is so much more than hitting.

There are five kinds of abuse: physical, emotional, financial, sexual, and spiritual.

He may not have hit me, but he used physical intimidation and sleep deprivation to his great advantage.

He may not have hit me, but he isolated me and stripped away everything I held dear.

He may not have hit me, but he belittled me, tore me down, and subjected me to constant mind games.

He may not have hit me, but he raped and sexually assaulted me on a regular basis.

I lived this for nearly two years.

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