There has been a lot said about domestic violence recently and I feel the urge to add my two cents. The first is that domestic violence is not just physical; it is mental, emotional, sexual and physical, and can exist in every realm possible.
You can’t look at someone and recognize the abuse if it’s not physical. And you can’t assess someone who is out of such a relationship and ask them why they stayed, or how they stayed. It’s what they knew. It’s what they grew accustomed to. And, oftentimes, that person who was in the relationship is a far cry from the person you are asking. Time can heal and scar and disguise old wounds.
Just because a person stays with their abusive partner doesn’t mean they’re *only* afraid or *only* weak or any of the other simple descriptors others might apply to them. There is a lack of general understanding on how these people feel internally – oftentimes the abusive partner has worn them down to the point where they are utterly brainwashed.
They feel they have no friends, no one to turn to. It doesn’t matter if they’re intelligent and can recognize the detrimental space they’re in, and it doesn’t matter if their friends try and coerce them to leave. It doesn’t even matter if their friends stand in their face and shout “I’m here for you!” because until the victim is ready to, they will not leave an abusive relationship.
For all of you out there supporting someone in an abusive relationship, all I can say is: Do Not Give Up. There will be the day they are ready to leave, and they will need you. They need to know that their abuser isn’t right and that they aren’t worthless and that they do still have friends. It might be a week, a month, a year or a decade, but whenever that person is ready they will be terrified of taking a step. For a long time they have probably been convinced no one likes them anymore, so for you to come forward and offer your continued friendship is the biggest and best thing you can do.
Yes, programs are important. Domestic violence networks, toll free numbers, shelters and therapy groups are crucial. Education, respect, understanding and compassion are also crucial. But knowing you have at least one friend who will come and pick you up at 3am when you’ve had enough, hold your hand and feed you ice cream is the most important thing someone leaving an abusive relationship needs.
To those who helped me through those darkest moments, thank you for never giving up. And to my soulmate, who loves me even though my demons rear their ugly heads sometimes, you have given me the strength to put it all behind me and I love you siempre.