Recently, I observed a wild bird that had accidentally gotten trapped inside a storage room at work. As it sought frantically for a way out, it emitted a high-pitched chirp that seemed eerily like a scream emanating from deep within its soul. The bird’s eyes darted about the room, seeking an escape route. Its little heart was surely racing and fluttering wildly; it must have been wondering if that day was to be its last day of survival. Mistrustful of my helping hands and those of my co-workers as we attempted to return it the great outdoors, the winged creature desperately attempted to find a safe place to roost and hide. Finally, we caught the little bird and set it free. It was wonderful to see the bird spread his wings and fly out into clear blue skies, once again at peace.
Immediately after this experience, a thought came to my mind. I realized that a helpless abused person must feel very much like that trapped bird.
If you are caught up in such a situation, or know of someone who is, your circumstances or theirs is one of extreme peril. Unfortunately, many who dole out physical violence can go a step too far and take the life of the victim who puts up with the abuse. And if the abuse is of the emotional/mental variety, the victim carries scars that, although unseen, wreck havoc upon his or her psyche; under such treatment, victims are never truly at peace. They come to see themselves as unworthy of love and respect, which is a terrible fallacy.
If you are wondering whether or not you are being verbally abused, there are certain signs that are as clear as the colors on a traffic light. Anyone who, on a regular basis, spews out words of hatred or constantly blames every negative happenstance on you is a verbal (emotional) abuser. He will attempt to demolish your self-esteem in an effort to feel superior to you, for he is an adult version of a schoolyard bully.
While such abusers do not want their own flaws unmasked, shining a light upon your imperfections seems to make them feel ten feet tall. There is not one single truly perfect person in this world, so don’t let a sorry excuse for a human being trample your inner soul. So what if you are not the absolutely perfect cook or housekeeper? So what if you are a bit overweight or don’t look like a movie star? Will the world truly come to an end if you burned the roast, let a little dust slide, or will never be mistaken for Angelina Jolie?
Since everyone wants to be loved by someone else, emotions can sometimes interfere with the rational thought process that would carry you far from the reach of the abuser. Emotional cruelty should never be taken lightly, for it is the worst kind of blackmail. When someone threatens that something terrible will happen if you leave a bad relationship, this is not love! It is manipulation, pure and simple. It is a desperate attempt to keep you in their clutches. Threatening to commit suicide is another form of emotional blackmail. No one should be so emotionally vested in another human being that they are willing to take their own life, if the other person walks out on the relationship.
If your partner becomes too obsessive with you, it is a clear signal that physical or emotional danger lies just around the bend. Obsessive behavior manifests as wanting to know your every move, monitoring your phone calls, disapproving of your good friends and the time that you spend with them, accusing you of cheating when you have been faithful, exhibiting jealousy for no apparent reason, trying to tell you how to dress, and wanting to be in control in all aspects of the relationship. If there is a history of abuse in the family (i.e., if your husband’s father hit his mother), there is a good chance that your husband will display the same type of behavior. After all, he saw it as he was growing up; he may have been conditioned to think that this is acceptable behavior. Sadly, he may actually think that this is the way to keep his loved ones close to him!
Physical abuse is something that no one should have to experience: no woman, no man, and certainly no child. Beating someone to within an inch of his or her life is treatment that should never be condoned. Time and again, statistics have shown that once an abuser hits you for the very first time, the odds are high that he will do it again and again and again, unless you take action to protect yourself.
Hurting animals is a very, very bad omen of things to come. Numerous studies conducted and published by national animal protection agencies as well as licensed psychotherapists have linked animal abuse to the maltreatment of human beings.
If you do find yourself in a bad situation and you feel it will only get worse, for your own sake, create a getaway plan. The initial decision to liberate yourself from a dangerous entanglement can be very tough. You can find yourself weighing the security of a roof over your head, and your material possessions, against the fear of leaving the abuser. Once you come to the honest realization that your health and emotional/mental well-being are the most critical factors in your life, you will be better positioned to make the decision to leave.
With respect to your getaway plan, sock away some money in a safe place, preferably not your home; do this a little at a time, if necessary. If you have to run, there may be no time to get the cash out of the house and, if the abuser is obsessive/jealous, he may very well go through your personal effects to find and steal your money! Remember that credit cards can be traced, so amass a cash resource for your getaway. Keep your car keys in a place where you can find them quickly. It is not the wise to run to the home of a friend or relative, as that is the first place that the abuser will hunt you down.
If possible, record any threats that are made against you. While the recording may not be admissable in court due to entrapment laws, it can be useful in obtaining a restraining order against your abuser. Although restraining orders are not a panacea, if you apply for one, there will at least be a formal record filed with the police concerning the abuse perpetrated upon you by your significant other.
Stand firm in your resolve to leave. Your very life may depend upon it; surely, your self-esteem does. Prepare to receive what will sound like sincere apologies, tears, and oh yes, flowers from the person making your life miserable. Know that he will not change. He lacks the resources to do so unless he seeks and takes to heart professional counseling. And even as he maneuvers through counseling, you will not — and may, in fact, never be — safe around them. He will have broken your trust as he sought to break your spirit.
If you have been tortured on any level, mental or physical, it is difficult to move past this type of treatment unless you yourself seek healing through a licensed psychotherapist. If you balk at one-on-one counseling, you may very well find solace in group counseling. There is no shame upon you for having been abused; the shame rests with he who used his fists against you, and he who cut you down to size for the sole purpose of feeling more important and secure.
Should you sincerely believe that your relationship is worth saving even after the abuse, you may have to live part from the abuser for a while until his issues are resolved. But, you don’t have to deal with the pain alone.
It is not easy to come to terms with abuse, but it is harder to continue to take it, day in and day out. Don’t be that trapped bird fluttering its wings against a closed windowpane. Don’t wait like a scuttling insect, to be squashed by a size twelve shoe.
If it helps you, recite the Serenity Prayer. This prayer has helped many gain the strength to carry on when they thought it was impossible. For others who want a more solid assurance, please call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can, and
The wisdom to know the difference.
Another prayer that you may find useful as you plan to reclaim your sanity and self-esteem was written by a man of great faith, Reinhold Niebuhr:
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right,
If I surrender to His Will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and
Supremely happy with Him,
Forever in the next.