Domestic violence is never just physical. Abusers don’t build up your self-esteem. They either tear it down or capitalize on it being low in the first place. They tell you that no one else wants you. They tell you that no one else will love you the way they do. And people in abusive relationships swallow the “You will never find another person like me” pill, every single day until they build up a resistance. They can no longer hear anyone who tells them that they are beautiful or that they deserve more, or that they should leave. They become immune to anyone who contradicts the other person in their relationship.
People get involved in abusive situations because they don’t love themselves, but people stay because they grow to love the other person more than they love themselves. More than likely, they didn’t have a person in the home telling them they were beautiful or that they were enough. They most likely experienced some type of emotional, sexual, or physical abuse that served as their blueprint for a relationship. When they were old enough to start dating, they unrolled the blueprint and tried to replicate the feelings and emotions they learned from their childhood experience.
Their childhood experiences taught them what love was supposed to feel like. If anyone in their life consistently made them feel less than, ashamed, or unloved, they subconsciously sought to recreate those feelings. That was their concept and definition of love.
Physical abuse and grooming have a great deal in common. Grooming a child for sexual abuse begins with buying them toys and gifts, spending quality time with them, becoming the friend or uncle or aunt that they have always wanted, giving them emotional and financial support, and causing them to feel that their world would be incomplete without you in it. Then comes the hand on the knee. A week later, the hand gradually moves closer to the thigh. Later, the hand moves into the most private areas that “strangers” shouldn’t touch. But this person isn’t a stranger. And so begins the abuse along with the confusion, guilt, and shame. Did I deserve this? I can’t tell my parents now because I let it continue for so long.
Physical abuse is very similar. Both are gradual processes. No one punches you in an elevator on a first date. Instead they present themselves as an Oscar-winning actor in a romantic movie. Weeks or months into the relationship, after you are smitten, an insulting comment falls off their tongue, along with the guilt and shame. (“I must have deserved that.”) A push comes after an argument. (“I said something to cause that.”) A slap meets a cheek. (“I shouldn’t have raised my voice.”)
The most accurate description I have ever heard to describe physical abuse is a frog in a pot. If a frog is thrown into boiling water, it would jump out. But if a frog is placed in room temperature water that is gradually turned up, they don’t notice until the water is too hot to jump out of and the pot is too dark to see the light. The shame and guilt of not getting out earlier or having to expose their secret to their friends and family, serves as their lid.
Blaming the victim leads to people staying in abusive relationships. They will say I should have left a long time ago.They will say I deserved it because I was too stupid to leave. With any situation, you are either part of the problem, or part of the solution. So if you are one of the people who asked why Janay Rice married Ray Rice after he knocked her unconscious in the elevator, or if you said “She only married him for his money” then you are part of this societal problem that we call domestic violence.
The whole point of domestic violence is to emotionally capture the mind, to make a person not want to leave, to cause them to think there is nothing better out there, and to make them uncomfortable confiding in someone else to further isolate them from friends and family. They are often threatened with abuse if they leave, and what is to come has already been proven with black eyes, bruises, cuts, and emotional scars.
Instead of asking what is wrong with a person for staying, we need to start asking what is wrong with a person for rendering another person unconscious. Remember that, the next time you judge a person for staying in a relationship.