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Invisible Aspects of Domestic Abuse
Having been the victim of domestic violence myself when a child, I invited the wonderful Cher Duncombe to be a Plum Tree Books guest blogger on this difficult subject which will always be of particular importance to me.
A slap, she went down. A kick, she crawled. A scream, he choked her. As she gasped for air, he stared into her eyes until the light dimmed and she fainted.
These were some aspects of domestic abuse that I faced in a previous marriage. As horrible as the physical abuse was, the emotional and psychological pain were even worse. We can recover from a slap or a kick, though sometimes the physical abuse, lest there be any doubt, leads to death. But there is a living hell in which many women dwell with silent tears. It is a dark and lonely place of shame and self-hated instilled by the abuser.
Often when we think of domestic violence or abuse, immediately our thoughts turn to an image of a battered and bruised woman. What we may not realize is that there are many facets of domestic abuse invisible to the eye, but abuse nonetheless. Isolation, for example, may be a precursor to physical abuse. Its angst is created by keeping a woman from family, friends, anyone with whom she has a connection, and the goal of the abuser to have complete control of his victim. I lived this part too.
I am an educated woman but all my life had suffered low self-esteem. When this man said he loved me, I took the crumbs and said yes, I would marry him. Beneath his façade, however, were many layers of misogyny, probably due to having been abused by his own mother. In the early years of our marriage, he did not want me to work even though I had a college degree and wanted desperately to teach. No career, he had said. It was the beginning of my isolation.
Later, as friends whom I had known for years, were not allowed by him to visit, I began to feel despondent. Even my phone calls were timed and monitored as he listened outside the doorway. He then carried this over to my immediate family. There were three years when I did not see my own mother. He had denigrated her at every turn, and being a perceptive woman, she recognized in him what I was unable or unwilling to see. He was abusing me. It was only the beginning.
Since I was not permitted by him to work, I had no money of my own. Economic deprival is another form of domestic abuse. If I wanted to go shopping, he went with me. He chose my clothes. He ordered my meals at restaurants. He told me how he wanted my hair to look and what shade of lipstick to use. He dominated my speech until I just stopped voicing opinions and let him pull my strings like a puppet-master. He said I wasn’t pretty enough, not smart enough, not savvy enough and could never make it in the world without him. I came to believe all of it, and I became invisible.
But the physical abuse began when I joined a nearby church. I was emotionally starved and paid the price every time I came home from a service. Rape, forcible rape, can happen even in a marriage and in the most painful, despicable ways. As my mother had predicted, all of this escalated to a point in which I lay in a hospital near death. Doctors there recognized immediately what was happening and enabled me to seek help through a safety-net they provided. It was almost too late and took years for me to recover. Some of the scars still linger, but I am free of him.
I lost ten years of my life to this man. All my education had done little to prepare me for the theft of my soul, my being, and almost my life. Domestic abuse crosses all socio-economic bounds. Learn to recognize the signs. Your tears should never be silenced and no one has the right to steal your life.
©Cher Duncombe October 17, 2012