Thursday, November 25, 2010

Domestic Abuse

Apparently, at least in Israel,today is National Domestic Abuse Day - a day used to raise awareness about domestic abuse and to remember those who didn't survive it.

Abuse isn't only about getting beaten up. It's also about being so scared that you lie all the time. It's about wishing someone would never come back when they leave the house each day. It's about being repeatedly told that you're worthless, that without your partner you'd have and be nothing. It's about a relationship that's in no way equal. One calls the shots and the other does whatever s/he's told - not out of agreement, but out of fear of not complying. Abuse is those black and blue marks you have on your upper arm from where you were pinched because you said the wrong thing. It's about living in fear. It's abuse when you warn your kids not to go downstairs because you know they'll end up getting beaten no matter what they do, or pretending you're asleep until your partner leaves the house so that you wont have to interact, or getting cable tv so s/he'll leave you alone...

If you recognize any of these signs (or many others that I am sure I failed to mention) - get help and find a way out. Be clever. Abusers hate to lose their abusee. Do things quietly and carefully. Make sure you have the right support. I believe every city has an organization (at least one) to help women who are abused (if you're a man, it may be more difficult). If you are being abused, try first to admit it to yourself, then to someone you trust. And once you make the decision to get out, know you're going to have to follow through with it. And it's hard. Abusers will promise just about anything to get you to stay and if you fall for it again, you'll be falling right back into the cycle of abuse. You're going to need a lot of support. Long term.

I know all this because I was there. I lived this for many years of my life and sometimes I even thought I was happy. I was lucky. I got out and I've been able to mostly get past the emotional scars that years of abuse leave you with. I'm still working on it and it might take the rest of my life.

I was talking to someone just yesterday about why women choose to stay and how I still understand the decision (not that I agree with it, but I understand it). It can be a huge step to be on your own, maybe responsible for small children, often without the resources you were used to. I was lucky in that sense too. I had both a good job and sold my half of the house to my ex.

It's been over 8 years since my divorce. At that time, I thought that even if I lived alone for the rest of my life, it would be better than living in fear. But, as most of you know, I did get remarried and my husband and I have 3 children, in addition to my 3 from my previous marriage. My husband is my best friend and a person I love, respect and trust. I feel truly lucky that he chose me and that he has chosen to be a parent to my older children as well.

If you're being abused, please believe that things can be better, that it's your responsibility to make them better. You only live once.