Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Thoughts on Escaping an Abusive Environment, Part 2

I hope Part 1 helped you understand that even if you haven't personally experienced emotional, psychological abuse, that it is still a horrible reality with terrible results for others. I had not intended to do this in two parts but setting the stage is critical to begin such a discussion on such a topic and required enough space that a single post would be far less effective. Having primed the subject, now I turn to my notes and thoughts on what is needed to escape an abusive environment. These thoughts are taken from my escape, my mom's inability to escape, and observing and considering the happenings and implications of culture and others' experiences.

Before the idea of escape is even possible, there must be a vocabulary that allows understanding, awareness, social acknowledgment, and dialogue of the realities of the existence and nature of such abuses. This is, in part, why it's so critical to talk about it. Having been so trapped, I am always concerned and a bit agitated when all the conversation goes to physical and sexual abuse. I in no way mean to negate that need, but it puts me in mind of the family who addresses all their concern for one child's health problems to the detriment of the others'.

Until there is a general awareness that there is a problem, those so trapped will be as I was when daring to speak out about it as I wrote in part 1. And even then, I only spoke because I hurt - because my identity and psyche were being so damaged I didn't know how to survive it. So I asked for help from the hurt and the hurting was scorned. I didn't know what was wrong or why or that there was anything to be done about it.

If society can't conceive or won't admit that there is wrong, how will an embattled child know they have a right to better treatment? Especially when the abuser is telling them, convincing them, that they are less human, less worthy. Have you never heard of a victim told that the life the abuser has 'given' them is better than they could hope for anywhere else? Because it's already more than they're worth being given? The victim must know that respect for self and choice and ability are expected and honored and that despite the abuser's claims, the victim has that same right as the members of that family up the street that actually loves and respects each others' existence.

Sometimes victims get stuck in the same pride that others face. They want to believe that they couldn't have fallen for the lies and are stronger than those who get manipulated. Sometimes they think they can shield others in the family by pretending it isn't happening or by 'running interference'. Sometimes they need help to admit they need help, that they are trapped in a bad environment and allowing it to continue only allows for further damage to self and even others.

The victim must know help is available. Will family or neighbors believe and support or will they deny and condemn? My mother had no confidence that support was available for a bed-ridden woman (MS) and her children. She was also afraid that leaving would incline my dad to act out in violence and debated to her death whether it was safer to leave or to stay. Her death took that option off the table. Being sick, she also feared because she was unable to work and provide for her children without the financial support of a husband. Again, discussion and awareness in society would enable to victim's awareness of resources available.

Ultimately, the victim must be brave enough to act. Often it is recognizing the damage occurring to children/others should they stay that motivates final action. Distance often brings a sense of safety by creating a physical barrier that might incline the abuser to consider the inconvenience of pursuit a deterrent. It also means a new environment where new, healthier rules can be put into play without the same social repercussions.

Physical separation is only the first half. Mental and emotional separation is begun in the process of leaving but the healing takes time relative to the length of time and trauma in the abusive situation. Following are things that aid healing. Their lack can likewise hinder healing.

The survivor needs a safe environment and safe people where they can learn to simply be without having to always fear another attack for every little thing they do. They need time to absorb the comprehension that they have a right to correct mis-assumptions of another (an authority figure, even) without fearing recriminations (respect). This means they gain an awareness that silence is no longer needed for survival.

They need an understanding that sometimes the trauma will revisit in times of stress but it is as the aches of an old injury as a storm front comes in. It is also good for those they interact with to recognize this pattern. Like healing injuries, pain killers can incline some to think all is well but when the pain returns, more Tylenol may be needed. The same often occurs in the healing of traumas. Do not fear the pain. It will also be daunting to face the actions of rehabilitation (such as learning to trust again), but, like physical therapy, it is worth the soreness.

Ultimately, it takes time as proof that survival away and continuing safety and even flowering is possible, sustainable, and defensible. This can be aided by working contingency plans should the feared return of the abuser occur. They may never become necessary, but simply having options and plans available returns a sense of control to the survivor.

On a personal note, I have found that my emotional state can be measured by whether or not I can laugh. If One can laugh, one will survive. If there is no laughter, the stress is at a problem level.

Alma 55:20[e]...prisoners...give them power to gain possession of [themselves]...

1 comment:

  1. Very insightful blogs Katie. I agree mental and emotional abuse is terrible. I don't know if the past six years or working at a middle school and young woman's rehab center has made me wiser. I have seen the effects of such abuse on youth and it's terrible. Something people need to be aware of so healing can take place.