Saturday, April 11, 2009

Are You Being Abused?

Domestic violence and abuse is a problem that crosses all ethnic and financial barriers. We would never suspect that good old fellow from the church singing in the choir is an abuser at home. It would be unthinkable to believe that the lovely lady at the beauty salon abuses her partner.

What does abuse look like? It can be extreme, as in repeated beatings, death threats and spousal rape. It can be much less apparent, such as emotional blackmail, limiting activities and funds, jealousy, caustic remarks and sarcasm. It can be constant or periodic. There is a wide range of behaviors that fall under the heading of abuse: physical, emotional and financial.

How do we recognize when we are being abused? The first sign that we are in trouble comes when we don't want to tell our family or friends how we are being treated by our partner. We are ashamed. We begin to enable the abuser by hiding what is happening. We isolate ourselves from our family and friends, fearful that they will sense that something isn't right.

There we are after the slap across the face...shocked...and the abuser says, "Look what you made me do. You just got me so angry! If you hadn't ____________ this would never have happened." We are hurt and angry at first. But the abuser is cunning. He/she tells us that it is our fault and that if we don't do _________ anymore than this will never happen again. He/she is soooo sorry. We are plied with gifts, flowers, affection and a lavish apology. All this attention feels so good after we were treated so badly. We foolishly believe him/her. All is well... for a time.

Soon the tension begins to build again. We can't put our finger on it but we know something is wrong. It gets worse and worse and finally another incident occurs. We are again shocked. We were told that if we fixed ourselves this wouldn't happen again. The abuser blames us again, then follows with another apology and more promises never to let another incident happen. Our gut tells us we are in trouble, but we ignore it. We love the warmth and attention we get after an incident, and once again believe that all is well.

This is the pattern of abuse: tension building, incident, honeymoon phase, tension building, etc. Abusers are addicted to the release they feel when they act out. They cannot control their behavior any more than an active addict. The partner being abused enables the abuser to continue to live within the pattern by not setting effective boundaries early on in the abuse cycle. Once the cycle is set the abuser needs more and more of their "fix" in order to feel good. Incidents may worsen and/or get closer together over time.

If you suspect that you are being abused take action. Get counseling. There are abuse hotlines available all across our country. Call. Reach out. Don't allow isolation to keep you from asking for help. There is no shame in being a victim of abuse. You can protect yourself and your children.

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