How many times have you heard that abuse is never OK, that violence is not the answer and that you can’t change anyone? Probably a lot.
My mother used to tell me and my sister and brother over and over, “People are not for hitting.”
But, somehow, while living with a violent husband, I had made an emotional pact with myself and with my husband that went like this:
- The violent blows I was receiving wasn’t abuse as long as he was sorry after
- I could somehow help him with this problem
- I was somehow accountable and some what responsible for it.
Wow. I held that belief for more than a decade. I was completely wrong.
Abuse is never OK, ever.
It was never my fault. And no one can change another.
According to Dr. Susan Hanks, founder of the Family and Violence Institute, men abuse their partners because of psychological issues within them and has nothing to do with the women they are with. Beyond that, there are subsets of reason why they abuse, but it’s never because of the women, ever.
I know you might be thinking now, “Yeah, I know, but I called him the worst name, so I sort of …” Nope, NEVER, your fault. “I know, but I did come home late when I said I would be home on time..” NEVER your fault. “Yeah, I know but he drives me crazy and I let him know it. I’m a handful. I am demanding. I yell at him. I don’t really like him or maybe I don’t even love him anymore. I sort of deserve it…” Nope, NEVER, ever, no matter what, is it your fault.
Men who choose to abuse are doing so all on their own to cope with their world and why they decide to make such a crappy choice over say, leaving their partner or talking it out, is still under review by a growing field of research.
However, what is crystal clear in the research, is that women are NEVER the reason. No matter what.
Women are responsible for only one thing when it comes to domestic abuse: Safety.
If women had more responsibility than that, then they would end domestic abuse in a second. I hated getting hit. I hated being abused. I hated that my children were living in such turmoil. If I had any responsibility for it, wouldn’t I have stopped it?
It just can’t be done. Abuser have to want to stop it, then seek lots and lots of therapy, and remove themselves over and over again from the opportunity to abuse. In other words, if they wanted to stop, they would stop pulling back their arm and thrusting it toward you. Easy.
Women have one role when there is domestic abuse: figure out as quickly as possible how to get safe as quickly as possible. Women can be permanently injured and of course killed during just one abusive episode. Stick around for more and your odds of injury or death go up, not down.
Think about the statistics collected by agencies around the country:
- Today, one in every 10 unions have ongoing violence in the household,
- Three women will be killed today by their partner and then, another 3 will be killed tomorrow,
- 1 in 3 women will experience domestic abuse in their adult life,
- The majority of cases are not reported,
- Most women stay after the first incident of abuse,
- Violence often begins during pregnancy,
- The majority of victims are women, anywhere from 85 to 95 percent.
If you are thinking about divorcing your husband, chances are high that there is some form of abuse going on in the household and if so, the odds are even higher that you are the victim, and possibly a victim who is taking the blame.
I don’t mean to paint a picture that all divorces center around abuse. Heck, no. I know there are many people out there happily breaking their unions and seeking to have wonderful co-parenting experiences, shared holidays, cooperative lifestyles and so on.
In those divorced, couples therapy and shared parenting time may work just fine without incident.
But, in cases that involved abuse, “couples anything” is not healthy or safe. I know that might go against your inner voice that tells you that somehow you are at least partly responsible for such treatment. You aren’t. That voice is wrong.
Research is mounting
There is so much research out there now that I couldn’t possibly fit it in the 1200 words of this blog. Just like the excuses used by someone crashing a diet, abusers’ excuses are made to cover up the real responsibility of the abuse _ him.
If you are in an abusive relationship or leaving an abusive marriage, you need to think about safety. You need to think about the safety of you and your children, that’s it. Being around an abuser is not safe.
It’s like walking a tightrope. Sure you might be able to make it across that thin wire to the other side, but why stack the odds in favor of falling to your death in order to get from one building to another. Just walk on the nice wide ground and you won’t have to worry about it at all. Don’t waste your time trying to figure out how to navigate such impossible terrain.
It is understandable that you are upset, confused, angry, scared, hopeful that he will change, depressed that he hasn’t, worried for your future.
I know it is not easy. I certainly kept trying to use a wire to get from one place to another.
Only after I got help, built margin in my life and began to heal, did the last two decades look so nuts.
But, let me encourage you. There is hope. You are not alone and you can do it. You are worth it, no matter what you think. You are here on this earth for purpose, if only to enjoy the sunshine. You don’t need to be better to have better treatment and trust me, not all men abuse.
Seek the help that is right for you in your situation. Stay away from advice that is meant for those couples who are divorcing, but still respecting each other. That advice is not meant for your situation and will get you thinking that you have a role in the abuse. You don’t. You were married to a broken man that needs professional help, and until he gets it, shouldn’t be married to anyone.
Julie Boyd Cole is a mother of two sons, a journalist, writer and business woman. She has written for the Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Yahoo.com, among many publications around the country. Currently, she is the chief executive administrator of a non-profit in North Florida. And Julie is a survivor of domestic violence at the hands of her ex-husband, an NFL sportswriter, and today is an advocate helping other victims sort through the trauma of domestic abuse. Julie also writes for bruisedwoman.com and @bruisedwoman on Twitter about the topic of domestic abuse, co-parenting with an abuser and the emotional damage caused by narcissists and personality disorders.
She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org