ABUSE. A TOPIC SO PAINFUL TO LEAN INTO THAT MOST PEOPLE END UP AVOIDING IT ALTOGETHER.
Abuse comes in several different forms and all of them are damaging and have the potential to produce short and/or long-term effects. It has such shock value that when it is brought up in conversation, most people instantly enter denial. No one wants to believe another human being is capable of inflicting such pain and horror on another person so they begin to rationalize it, which is damaging as well. Rationalizing can happen for both victims and abusers, which is how the cycle continues.
There are many forms of abuse and while we encourage you to learn about them all, here are 4 important terms in this arena that we need to identify and understand together before we can continue:
Verbal / Emotional Abuse: intentional or unintentional behavior, body language, or words that are used to insult, humiliate, manipulate, demean, scare, or verbally hurt or control you. *More examples here
Physical Abuse: the act of inflicting physical and aggressive harm to another person intentionally; intentional prevention of you taking the initiative to care for, protect, or defend yourself. *More examples here
Sexual Abuse: when a sexual act is forced upon an adult, or a child, of any age or gender without their consent. In the case of minors, it is also considered sexual abuse to expose yourself to a minor, to masturbate in front of a minor, to show a minor pornography, to lead a minor into any other manner of sexual misconduct that physically, emotionally, or mentally, harms them. *More examples here
Domestic Abuse: a pattern of behaviors used by one partner to maintain power and control over another partner in an intimate relationship. *More examples here
It goes like this…
Most abusers aren’t aware that they are crossing boundaries and if they are, they have a story they tell themselves of why it’s a justified action. Many victims aren’t ready or are too embarrassed to admit that they are being abused that they, too, have a story they tell themselves of why it’s justified or not as bad as they think and feel. Many of them may also fear that they won’t be believed or that they’ll have to work hard to convince someone else of what’s happening, so they stay silent. This is how the horrific and age-old cycle of abuse works. A cycle that we need to all work together to expose and eradicate.
You might be a current or past victim of abuse if…
- certain tones of voice, smells, behaviors, places, thoughts, or feelings trigger you to extreme anger, anxiety attacks, rapid heartbeat, shaking, vomiting, dizziness or make you overwhelmingly feel the need to flee or escape your environment
- the fear of letting down, disappointing, or failing your partner causes you extreme stress or panic
- if you constantly feel like you “can’t win” or if a disagreement always gets turned back on you or is made to be your fault (gaslighting)
- if you have ever thought to yourself, “this feels like abuse” or have asked the question “how do you know if _____ behavior is abusive?”
- if you constantly cancel plans to avoid having the people you love getting involved or making excuses
- if you have cuts or bruises on your body
- if your spouse has ever forced you to have sex, even after explicitly saying NO (yes, marital/partner sexual abuse is possible and it is not justified ever)
- someone in your life uses scary or threatening words or behavior to manipulate you into certain behavior
- you begin to live in fear that someone is following or watching you
- you have dreams/nightmares about an action done toward you that you do or do NOT remember
- you feel constant anxiety or tension in your body that you cannot otherwise explain