Domestic abuse rarely begins with a beating. In my experience and from talking to other women I know this to be the case. Often, by the time the first blow is struck (and sometimes this never happens) abuse can have been taking place for months or years.
I’ve wanted to write about emotional abuse for a while now but I can’t seem to do it justice. I’m not sure if even now after all these years, part of me still feels daft for mentioning it and that’s where it is so clever and powerful. I feel silly for telling you someone calling me fat caused me trauma, that someone telling me everyone laughed at me but him kept me in place. This is years down the line so maybe you can imagine when you’re in that place how hard it is to talk to people about what’s going on.
Emotional abuse is powerful in it’s subtlety. It’s a chipping away so gentle it feels like love at the start. A physical attack is like someone taking a hammer to a brick wall and smashing it with brute force until it’s destroyed. Emotional abuse is more like a gentle, gradual picking away at the cement between the bricks until one day the wall collapses, to the eyes of the world all on its own.
Looking back in hindsight as a free woman I can see how gradual emotional abuse was and how easy it was to mistake for being cared for.
What ended up with being screamed at about what a vile looking person I was, that I was so ugly looking at me made him sick began with comments about how I should change what I was wearing because I looked so nice in a different outfit. I felt flattered back then he preferred one outfit.
What ended with me being isolated from the outside world began with him asking me to stay in with him instead of going out with my friends because he loved me and would miss me too much.
What ended with me being accused of sleeping with every guy I came across, being called vile names and not daring wear make up began with him advising me that a certain guy liked me and maybe I should not chat with them so much so as not to hurt their feelings down the line.
I struggle to connect the start points to the end points in these examples. I certainly can’t fill in the gaps between. Herein is its power. Such a sneaking increase in power and control disguised as love is hard to understand. It’s hard to notice when you’re in it, it’s hard to understand from the outside. It’s so very damaging though.
For me, the after effects of emotional abuse have been far greater than that of physical abuse.
It’s the reason I struggle sometimes with how I look, the reason I can’t stand compliments and the reason I suffer with self doubt.
It’s the reason I can’t envisage doing the love stuff, I’d be distrustful of it.
I’ve made great strides of course after years of working on the issues he left me with. I hope I’ll continue to and one day look back to even now and see more strides that have been made. After all, those brick walls I was speaking about earlier, rebuilding better and stronger than ever is always an option.
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