womenTALK: Blog

Tuesday, Nov 02nd 2010

Domestic Violence: You Are Not Alone

Dear Readers,

You may notice that today’s post is not written by me. My friend, Liz Scherer from the blog Flashfree: Not Your Mama’s Menopause, has offered to step in while I’m away. I’ll be learning lots of new nutrition and eating strategies from the folks at Green Mountain at Fox Run in Ludlow, Vermont – and will be sure to share what I’ve learned when I return.

Below, Liz bravely shares an intimate detail of her life. It’s an important read for every woman.

I don't generally get too overexcited about National [fill in the blank] months, days or years. In fact, these days, we are so innundated that it's a wonder that any initiative that deserves attention actually gets it. However, I believe last month’s National Domestic Violence Month is one of those ideas that deserves attention. A lot of attention.

I am not going to bombard you with statistics about sexual abuse or violence against women; they are readily available though organizations like National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, I do want to focus on something that women need to be aware of, especially if they are newly-divorced or newly-single and back on the dating scene again.

When you think domestic or intimate partner violence, what do you think of?

More often than not, the first thing that comes to mind is sexual and physical abuse, right? And no wonder, because it is truly a national if not an international problem, and increasingly prevalent among teens as well. It can cross genders, ages and race. However, domestic or intimate violence can also be emotional, either in conjunction with physicality or by itself. In fact, like physical abuse, emotional abuse is similarly based on power and control. Emotional abuse is verbal or non-verbal, it is constant criticism and repeated disapproval, it is blame, insults, accusations and insinuations. And, although it is intangible, it systematically destroys self-confidence and creates deep scars that can take years and a lot of work to heal. A key reason that women often don't report being emotionally abused is that it's hard to prove. And its wounds can be so deep that the cycle becomes too powerful to break.

I know strong, self-empowered women who wound up in a cycle of emotional abuse, hardly realizing what it was other than it made them feel terrible on a daily basis.

I am one of those women.

I am not going to name names or provide details. But I will share that over time, self-blame starts to set in and it's easy to believe that there's something wrong with you, not your partner. And instead of walking away, you stay long after you should stay.

My story is a common story. I partnered with someone who presented himself as one way to the world and another to me. A seemingly charming man who wooed me and then turned into Mr. Hyde.

Bad day? My fault. High rent? My fault. His unhappiness? All my fault. Another viewpoint? Nope, not allowed. The 'boss' of [fill in the blank]? Him, not me. Compromise? Not real good at it. Invalidation? All the time. Highlighting my flaws? Yes.  Explosive anger? You bet. I walked around on eggshells for most of the relationship, always trying to please, to try to make him like me, to make things better..."if I, then" set in fairly quickly.

He really didn't like me. And you know what? I didn't really like him. But I stayed with it because damn it, I was going to prove to him that I was worth it.

By the time the relationship was over and I made the decision that it was time to cut my losses, I had lost a lot of weight and a lot of me. At the end, 12 pounds lighter and in for a long haul of therapy, I realized that I was angry, damn angry. But mostly at myself for allowing the abuse.

The weight eventually came back on. I did (and continue to do) a lot of therapy. I had another relationship and learned to trust -- not only him -- but also myself.  But I'm still wary. And some of the trauma and self-doubt remains with me to this day.

Emotional abuse is ABUSE. Don't let it happen to you. Talk to someone. Let them in. If you need help, please, please get it. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799.SAFE).

Truly, you are worth it. And you know what? I am too.

About Liz Scherer

Liz Scherer is a digital copywriter, health journalist/reporter, marketing and social media strategist, blogger, speaker and women’s health advocate. Her blog,  Flashfree, is geared towards providing evidence-based, alternative and integrative approaches to managing the physical and psychosocial challenges of menopause and midlife. It is currently ranked among the top 100 women’s health blogs and top 100 best wellness blogs for women. Liz is also a frequent contributor to both Women Grow Business and Savvy Auntie and writes a monthly column on netiquette.

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Comments

Sep 15, 2011 03:Sep 3 | Home Based Business for Women said

It is so scary to know that

It is so scary to know that the rate of crime in violating the rights of women is increasing. Home Based Business For Women

Nov 03, 2010 21:Nov 9 | Susan said

Thank you, Liz for sharing

Thank you, Liz for sharing your story. It's amazing how you've found the courage to bounce back and raise awareness among other women.

Nov 03, 2010 21:Nov 9 | Susan said

Thank you, Liz for sharing

Thank you, Liz for sharing your story. It's amazing how you've found the courage to bounce back and raise awareness among other women.

Nov 03, 2010 17:Nov 5 | Liz Scherer said

Thank you

Sheryl:

You have such an amazing community here and I am humbled by the comments and the support. Thank you for the forum.

Nov 03, 2010 08:Nov 8 | Steph Auteri said

Thanks for writing this. I

Thanks for writing this. I once dated a man who was a bit sexually abusive but, more than anything else, he was emotionally abusive. Because it seemed so... intangible, it always felt weird confiding in others about it later on. Like what I had experienced was not actually has bad as it felt.

Nov 03, 2010 15:Nov 3 | Liz Scherer said

Domestic Violence

Steph - that's part of what's so difficult about emotional and verbal abuse - the intangibility. It almost becomes part of our fabric, making it difficult to break out of. For me, the bad lasted much longer than the relationship and at times, I still struggle with it.

Nov 02, 2010 21:Nov 9 | Kristen said

It's so true that you don't

It's so true that you don't often think about emotional abuse. Thanks for sharing this--how do you recognize if a friend is being emotionally abused? I've heard that unless the person is ready to get out of the relationship there's not a whole lot you can do other than offering support. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Nov 03, 2010 17:Nov 5 | Liz Scherer said

Kristen, this is an

Kristen, this is an interesting question. And a difficult one to answer. I did have several confidantes during this time but few truly knew the extent of the abuse. I wasn't entirely forthright. And you are correct, the person who is in the relationship needs to come to her own desire and understanding to leave. This isn't always easy. I am not a counselor so there are nuances or actions that could probably be taken professionally to assist a woman or friend in a truly damaging situation. I recommend that you take a look at some of the links in the post; more specific information is likely available from the right resources.

Nov 02, 2010 21:Nov 9 | Merr said

I was just reading a book

I was just reading a book that mentioned the phrase "emotional vampires" -- which I think you address here, too. So important to realize that abuse can be emotional as well as physical (or fiduciary)...I bet many do not realize this. Your post will help in this regard.

Nov 03, 2010 16:Nov 4 | Liz Scherer said

Merr- what an interesting

Merr- what an interesting characterization. And so very true. This type of abuse literally (and very slowly) sucks a person's soul. If I can help one woman walk away, I've done what I have intended to.

Nov 02, 2010 20:Nov 8 | Alisa Bowman said

This was a great, eye opening

This was a great, eye opening post. I was riveted the whole way. Thank you Liz for sharing your story and allowing us all to learn from you.

Nov 03, 2010 16:Nov 4 | Liz Scherer said

Thank you Alisa. I appreciate

Thank you Alisa. I appreciate that very much.

Nov 02, 2010 18:Nov 6 | Christinegl said

Such a thought provoking

Such a thought provoking post. The examples of what emotional abuse is really like sent chills down my spine. Thank you for reminding us that this is indeed abuse.

Nov 03, 2010 16:Nov 4 | Liz Scherer said

Thank you Christineg. It's

Thank you Christineg. It's sometimes difficult to explain how damaging emotional abuse can be. I appreciate your comment.

Nov 02, 2010 18:Nov 6 | Jennifer Margulis said

It's scary how some men can

It's scary how some men can come across as safe and even kind in the world and then go home and hit their partners and batter their children. We ALL have to come out of the closet about this kind of violence, and our society needs to better protect women and children from abuse.

Nov 03, 2010 17:Nov 5 | Liz Scherer said

It is true, we do need to

It is true, we do need to talk about this more. Communication and support are the keys to solving this type of problem in our society and awareness is always the first step. Thank you Jennifer.

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