Those who have been following me for a while know that I am a survivor of abuse. Again and again, the topic comes up in my life. The thing which I feel isn’t known well enough is what abuse looks like when there are no broken bones, no black eyes, and no split lips. There are so many other types of abuse, and they are just as detrimental and can be so much harder to detect. So, I’ll share with you a few of the ways I have endured invisible abuse.
Sexual – it doesn’t necessarily mean rape. It can be much more subtle than that. I have lived through two types of sexual abuse, both of which caused me to feel powerless, unloved, and disrespected. The first was when he had total control over when and how we had sex. He only wanted it when I didn’t. It was a form of control which he later admitted to me that he had done (it’s nice to know that I wasn’t imagining it). The second was that he just didn’t care enough about me to respect my wishes. There was a certain aspect of sex which I don’t like. I’ve never liked it. It actually causes me pain. I told him this repeatedly, but he didn’t respect me enough to care. He repeatedly tried to force this form of sex on me, thinking I’d be okay with it, thinking he’d get away with it, thinking this time it wouldn’t hurt me. Or, simply not caring. His sexual desires were more important than my comfort, my health, and my feelings on the subject. I put up with it, trying to be a good partner, despite the emotional and physical pain it caused me, but each time, it reminded me of how much more important his desires were to him than my happiness.
Physical – physical abuse isn’t just about being beaten. Being held hostage is a form of physical abuse. Not only does it destroy a relationship by completely unbalancing the power (let’s admit it, ladies – if he can physically stop us from leaving our home, we are utterly powerless) but it is also illegal (kidnapping much?) Or even something smaller – not being allowed to move about the house as I wanted. He would get in my way for the sole purpose of bullying me and prohibiting me from going where I wanted in the house and doing what I chose. Being abused in such a way reminds us that if he wanted to kill us, there is nothing in our power that we could do to stop him. It makes us feel trapped, ineffective, and weak. It reminds us that we are at his mercy and his whim, and we are his victim.
Financial – I was a homemaker. I relied on him for any financial needs I had. He made it clear that it was his money and that I had no say in whether or not I was given any of it. He decided when and if I was to get any. We were supposed to be in an equal partnership, yet I had to be content with whatever he decided he wanted to give me. He often made me feel guilty about the fact that he was supporting me, even though we had decided on me staying home together. He didn’t want me to get a job because that meant I would no longer need him. Maybe he was afraid that if I had my own money, I could afford to leave him? I don’t know. I later came to realize that even the things he gave me were still *his*. It was made clear to me that the phone he had given me was *his* and not mine. It made me want to get a job just so he wouldn’t be able to throw that in my face anymore. When I finally did leave him, I had his van (which he had previously told me he would put in my name, but reneged). He threatened to take the van away if I didn’t drive for twelve hours every weekend so he could see his kids. Another form of control.
The problem is – he never wanted to admit that he was abusing me. To him, it was my fault. I was too sensitive. Or, I was just on the lookout for such problems since I had been abused before. His inability to admit that he was abusing me (which is the only way to correct the problem) is what caused the end of our relationship. To this day, I’m sad about it. I know that he could be a really great guy if he was just able to see the damage he caused and cared enough to fix it.
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