The Truth About Physical Abuse

“If he ever lays a finger on me, he’s out.”

My mother said it of my abusive, alcoholic father. I said it at the beginning of my long-term relationships. When I was growing up, I associated “abuse” with the physical kind. “Wife-beater” was a pretty common term back then and, for my mother ~ and, eventually, me ~ it was a deal breaker.

We know much more about abuse than we did in those days. One of my biggest realizations was that abuse was not limited to an actual physical beating. Further, I learned that physical abuse was not limited to slapping, kicking, or punching.

While the abuse I experienced was mostly emotional, psychological, and financial, there were a few instances of physical abuse, as my counselor confirmed during one of our sessions.

Once, {Abuser 1} watched me thoroughly vacuum the entire downstairs area of our home. I moved furniture, stretched to reach high places, crouched to get under the furniture that couldn’t be moved, etc. Shortly after I finished cleaning, it was bedtime for the kiddos. As we put our daughter to bed, I casually mentioned how tired I felt and he responded, “Why? You’ve done nothing all day today” in his usual snide fashion. I felt infuriated because he’d trivialized so many things I did; I’d finally reached the breaking point, and I needed to get away from him. To my horror, he wouldn’t let me go. This man was 8″ taller than me and he blocked the only path out of the room. I started crying, begging him to stand aside, but he didn’t oblige. He was holding my arms, trying to calm me down, but, in doing so, he exacerbated my panic attack. He didn’t care that I was extremely upset or that he had a part in upsetting me. I started beating on his chest until he moved and then I went to sit on the bed to catch my breath, my whole body trembling. I remember thinking, “This is what he does to me…he brings out the worst in me.” I’d never done that to anyone in my life.

For a long time, after that, I felt ashamed. I talked about it in my therapy sessions, read books about abuse dynamics, trying to understand why I reacted that way. My therapist was awesome in helping me realize it wasn’t my fault, but it was more than that. Abusers create those sorts of circumstances to get their victims to react. He wanted me to pound on his chest to justify the abuse, by convincing himself that I deserved what he did to me. On another occasion, he attempted to physically push me out of our home, ignoring my children’s tearful pleas to stop. Although he didn’t give me bruises, black eyes, broken bones, or any other physical injuries, he did physically abuse me. I believe, with all my heart, that my children saved me from more serious instances of physical abuse but, I also believe that things probably would have escalated if I hadn’t moved out when I did.

{Abuser 2} did leave bruises on my arm when he grabbed me. We weren’t fighting at the time; he just didn’t know his own strength when he grabbed me to pull me to him for a  rough hug. He hit me really hard when we were walking up the stairs in my house and tried to pass it off as a playful “spank”. He was 10″ taller and a very solid, strong man with big hands. When he hit me, it brought tears to my eyes from the sting. I wasn’t ready for it and I’m surprised it didn’t knock me over or cause my knees to buckle. He only laughed it off. The “massage” he gave me entailed him digging his thumbs into my back until I was gritting my teeth in pain. I protested and he got so pissed off that he got in bed and went to sleep without another word. I felt shocked, but I also knew that he would have hurt me worse if I’d stayed with him. Physical abuse can start with a smaller incident which the abuser will casually pass off as an “accident” that s/he “didn’t mean”, but it’s actually a test to see your reaction. The ONLY correct answer is to end it. Getting angry about it but staying or dismissing it out of fear or masking your reaction with laughter are all GREEN LIGHTS to continue. And it will continue.

Physical abuse is never limited to only a severe beating. It’s not limited to being hit/kicked/punched several times, a couple of times or once. Physical abuse happens when the abuser touches you with intent to cause pain, upset, push or intimidate you. If it happens once, it will happen again. Every time you stay and do nothing, you’re telling your abuser that you are okay with it and, you’re essentially saying, “More, please.”

Take care of yourself. Trust your instincts. Don’t stay, thinking things are going to get better. No relationship is worth enduring abuse and control. “Love” is merely an illusion; genuine love is absent from an abusive dynamic. You are worthy of someone who treats you with love, respect, love, and kindness. Never be afraid of being alone. Never relinquish control over any aspect of your life.

As always, we’re here to help. ❤

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