Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Thoughts on Escaping an Abusive Environment, Part 1

A couple weeks ago I had a conversation on twitter with a local newspaper. They have been running a series on signs of domestic abuse and how to help youth beware. I responded that I wished the issues of emotional and psychological abuse were included because, while they may be mentioned, they are never talked about in terms such that the public actually grasps the equally damaging and dangerous reality. There are many similarities to physical forms of violence often not recognized because the differences are rarely accepted.

That probably sounds absurd. This is a common reaction when this subject is dared to be discussed.

I have recently discovered the ion TV channel and found I quite enjoy the Criminal Minds show. One of the episodes last week (too new to the show on reruns to be able to tell you which one by season and name) was about a woman who killed her husband. The prosecutor asked the behavior analyst people to come in and prove competency for facing full charges because she intended to argue against the 'battered woman' defense plea. As the show progresses, certain details come to light.

The woman is despised by her children who adore their father. 'If anyone has been victimized, it was him - he was always patient with her. She's just a lazy, hateful, dirty, stupid woman.' The problem is, when they examined the crime scene, the house was so beyond spotless that everything was (and had been) measured to perfection by a ruler. The son condemned her for never attending his games. She confessed that she was such a failure, she didn't want to embarrass him in public as well. The final piece of info that changed the prosecutor's mind? (Remember, it's a 45 minute show so highly simplified.) They asked her to tell of the events after the murder. Did she call 911 immediately? No. Why? She had to clean up. To hide the evidence? No. Her husband would have been furious with her if she'd had people over with such a mess about.

Don't get me wrong. I am in no way endorsing such a 'solution' for escaping an abusive environment. I am, however, hoping to show that while physical/sexual abuse is obviously horrible, abuse of the mind and spirit is equally hideous and even more insidious because it enslaves the victims into non-being right under everyone's noses. It makes the victims chain themselves because the abuser has so distorted the victim's understanding of reality that they accept the abuser's right to dictate all 'truth'.

Society lets them because the means used are, in moderation, considered acceptable interactions. 'Teasing' when no other form of communication or validation beyond belittling, condemning, criticizing, railing, etc... becomes no longer playful but a cover to hide behind so they can express exactly what was intended with an 'out' so the abuser can't be condemned for being so cruel. 'Can't you take a joke?!' I can't even remember all the times I tried telling people the latest sting/cut/wound and they'd blow it off because 'we say things like that, too - what's your problem?' It confused me and reinforced the idea that I was alone and had nowhere to go.

It was years before I perceived that the people who dismissed me did so because the context was vastly different. They couldn't conceive that a person in a 'family culture' could actually be in a situation where they ONLY heard condemnation. Where 'I love you' was an empty band-aid meant to convince everyone that nothing is actually wrong, be it self or other, private or public. That the same man who 'apparently' (I never witnessed it) boasted about his daughter in public never once told her to her face that she had accomplished anything worthy of affection or pride but instead demanded the world and condemned her for not including the solar system as well.

My dad knew he couldn't get away with physically hurting me. I would know that was wrong and there would be evidence to prove it. Instead, the man who insisted he was smarter than anyone we'd ever meet, used words and contrivances to manipulate and break down. That will sound an excessive claim to those who have not experienced it themselves. It is true non-the-less. He admitted it himself in one of his last middle-of-the-night four-hour-long lecture/threat sessions. "I learned long ago that I need to break you into tears and then I can make you do what I want." Shortly followed by his admission that my ability to later choose my own choices after time had passed frustrated him to no end. I know what I'm talking about.

I don't mean to detail my own experiences here. I've touched on them in various forms in various blogs past. I've spent over a decade trying to understand what happened at home. Over time, I came across information that my dad's abuse was not so circumspect against my mom. I've also seen what his actions have meant for more than one sister who has found herself in a subsequent abusive relationship (physically and sexually). I have been highly aware of other stories (case-studies, in my mind, are what all stories are) to watch and learn and better understand what happens and why. So when the journalist said another follow-up article on how to escape abuse might be considered, I began to take notes. Even if they don't run such an article, I will write of it anyway: this needs to be talked about.

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