On first glance, some may argue with me about the title of this piece. "Of course they matter," some may say. "My life has been ruined by my abuser. I'm a prisoner to anything they want from me."
I will tell you in a moment what I mean by giving someone power. I will also give you a bit of personal perspective.
An ex-girlfriend was abused by her parents. Both of them. The father used to beat her physically, and the mother used to not only ignore the father, but contribute vocally by berating her daughter's physical appearance at every opportunity.
Though her mother did not beat her like her father did, the years of emotional abuse took their toll.
When we met, 'N' was shy around me but a mutual attraction was immediate. We dated for nearly a year, and within that time issues of depression and PTSD came quickly to the fore. She suffered, and she suffered badly. The end of our relationship occured over an argument. Weeks later, as the only person in her life she said she was still able to trust, I abided by a request and picked her up, at midnight, from a psychiatric hold.
N blamed her troubles on her parents, specifically the abuse they had enacted upon her for all those years. We stayed in touch on and off for about six months, and when her mother passed the subsequent chain reaction had caused her to call me with threats of suicide so she could "join her."
With extensive and continued therapy and medication, N has since managed to move on with her life. It was, though, certainly touch-and-go for awhile.
Reclaiming Your Power
N and I used to speak about taking a very difficult step: Reporting her parents to the police.
The idea was hers, but it has since led me to interview others about their own abusers -- whether family members, friends, or associates -- about how to dilute the efficacy of their own attempted abuse.
One answer was unanimous: "I wish I contacted the authorities as soon as it was threatened." The second most heard answer: "I should have gone into a hotel or a shelter as soon as I was threatened."
It is very easy for someone who does not suffer abuse to be sympathetic, and offer well-meaning advice. I have, fortunately, never been abused, and my advice is well-meaning.
So why should you listen to me?
I worked with victims of physical and emotional abuse for ten years when I was a special education teacher. Further, as mentioned above, I have been involved in personal relationships with some who have suffered. Some, as N was not the only one. Further, I have done some volunteer work on the outside with both abusers and those they abuse.
On the part of the abuser, excuses generally are rampant. "I have an issue with my temper." "I love my daughter, but she does not listen to me." "I have a problem, and I will be getting help for it." Or, "I have no problem. It's everyone else who has a problem."
There is some truth to that last comment. Those who stay and are co-dependent on their abusers frequently believe both parties will get better without professional help. This is a surprisingly common response. Abusers will express, with some frequency, strong regret about their actions. They will plead for sympathy, and often promise they will never do it again. "I snapped," is a typical refrain.
Perhaps they did. But that's no excuse.
In these circumstances, they should not matter.
What matters is you, and your safety.
The following are ten ways for you to reclaim your power, if you are either threatened by or are the victim of abuse:
- Remove yourself from the situation. Of course, this is not always easy. If you can, take yourself to a hotel, or a shelter, as mentioned. If you have children and this is not practical, try to take a drive with them as your children may be in danger as well. If you have no access to a vehicle, call a service. Whatever it takes. Remove yourself if feasible.
- Do not be afraid to call the cops. Worrying about how the other person will react only places you in more jeopardy.
- File for a restraining order against the other person, even if they live with you.
- Work on yourself. Take classes. Read up on abuse and abusers. Speak to a therapist.
- Be sure to call 911 if you believe your life is in imminent danger.
- Never negotiate with an abuser. There is nothing to negotiate. Your life is what matters.
- Carry your phone with you at all times. Keep it in your pocket.
- Never agree to be abused. Sometimes, the abuser will try to convince you that you need to be "punished." Do not buy into the manipulation.
- Create a plan. Notify friends in advance if need be. If you believe your life or health is threatened, within that plan create a list of resources and friends you can contact. I would strongly suggest downloading a new "download" app, hide it among your other apps, and enter the information therein, so if the abuser manages to peek at your phone they will not find any text messages in the usual location.
- Erase your phone records after each call for the same reason.
Your health and safety come first. You have options.
An abuser will most always have excuses for his or her actions. If you are the victim of "emotional abuse" as opposed to physical, try not to convince yourself this is acceptable. It is not. Emotional abuse bears many scars, and is frequently just as bad -- and under certain circumstances can become even more harmful -- than physical.
How? An example is after years of abuse by a cousin, a former student of mine killed himself. He suffered from depression, and was long convinced his life was not worth continuing as he became convinced his aunt was right. His family tried to get him help, to no avail.
He was 22.
Your abuser is not "better" than you in any way, nor do they "know better." They are sick. The problem is theirs ... and transferred to you only if you allow it.
I hope this helps, but note: The issue of abuse contains more complexities than a simple article will allow for. Look at this piece only as a beginning of your healing, and please continue onward through the advice that applies to you.
You're worth it. Strip away your abusers' power per the steps, above. And thank you for reading.
Photo Credit: Stock