“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
It’s a nice thought, and I only wish it were true.
The horrors of domestic violence against women are well known- the physical trauma, the isolation, sometimes death. What isn’t well known is the millions of cases of emotional abuse, mostly due to the fact that’s its victims don’t recognize it.
I was 18 years old, just out of high school, when I met my husband. We seemed to have so much in common, and I was happy as ever. Soon after we were living together. We spent every waking moment together, and it seemed to good to be true. However, 6 months later, after we were married, is when everything made a turn for the worse.
I used to have a very active social life- always spending time with a few close friends and my older sister. Looking back, I realize that’s what made me happy. Soon after getting married, whenever I so much as suggested going out with my friends, I received accusing glares or immediate opposition. I shrugged it off, just thinking my husband wanted to be included. The truth is, I couldn’t stand going out into public with him. A simple trip to the grocery store could mean public humiliation. Either he drew the wrong kind of attention to me by using rude(and loud) comments or despicable language, and then accused me of “controlling” him when I asked him to stop. Still, I told myself that this is just the way he is.
I began to have to convince myself that I loved him, especially when I became pregnant with my son. I was terrified of being alone to raise a child at 19 years old. I just HAD to make this relationship work. The next struggle came with my “laziness”. I worked full time in fast food through most of my pregnancy. As any mother could tell you, being pregnant alone can wear you out. Throw in a job where you are on your feet 40 hours a week and you become downright exhausted. He would complain that the house wasn’t being cleaned(even though he didn’t work and was home all the time). I was called lazy, worthless, and a few choice words I won’t include here. I cried a lot. The combination of the pregnancy hormones and the constant badgering at home caused me a lot of upset. After a huge episode, he would always try and make it up to me, either by finally doing some cleaning, getting me some flowers, or letting me rest after work. At the time I thought this was sweet. Now I know that this is just another method abusers use to keep their victims close.
My friends and family began to wonder where I was. I was banned from seeing or talking to my two best friends or my older sister because my husband was convinced that they didn’t like him. I was not allowed to go anywhere other than work alone because he was convinced that I was cheating on him(which is not true). It was a battle to let me go back to school because he thought that once I got a better job I would meet someone else and leave him. It never mattered what I said. He was always right.
It also didn’t matter how I wanted to spend the money. A couple days before I got paid he always knew exactly how he was going to spend “our” money. Sure some of it went to bills, but more of it went to frivolous things for him like video games or drugs. All I wanted was to save some money for emergencies, but to him that meant I was saving up money to leave him. I was forbidden to have a cell phone because I could use it to talk to other men. I was forced to leave my debit card and any cash I had at home when I went to work or school so I wouldn’t buy “stupid” things. If I didn’t follow these rules, he would get back at me.
An example: I spent 5 dollars on some lunch at school. Why? I was hungry. He spent 120 dollars to trade in his perfectly good gaming console for a brand new one. Why? He wanted to “pull host” in his nightly online gaming sessions. When it came time to pay the cable and internet bill, we didn’t have enough. As he checked the transactions on my debit card, he saw where I bought lunch. Never mind the 120 dollars he spent on something stupid, it was my fault we were out of money. He then forced me to go to the grocery store with him, where he caused a huge scene in the parking lot, screaming at me, calling me disgusting names, punching and kicking the car. I refused to get out of the car with him acting like that. I had a panic attack as strangers came to the car to see if I was alright.
It took until the day my husband threw me through a door to wake up and get my son and I away from him. Thanks to my loving friends and family, I was able to take my infant son away and start life as a single mom. I am currently in a wonderful relationship and I haven’t been this happy in a very long time. My point is that it is very difficult to recognize emotional abuse. When you feel ashamed of yourself in your own home, when your partner makes you cry more than anything else, when you begin to believe you are as terrible as he says you are, that’s abuse. Just as you probably wouldn’t stand for physical abuse, don’t stand for emotional abuse. Reach out to a friend, family member or counselor for help.
It doesn’t matter the circumstances- no good person deserves to be treated like garbage at the hands of someone who is supposed to love and support them. I hope that my story inspires you to learn more about emotional abuse, and if your current situation resembles mine, I urge you to seek help. Not tomorrow, not next week, NOW. DO NOT wait for it to escalate.