Sometimes when I look back at my life I wonder how I got through an abusive relationship.
They used to say back in the 80s that "Denial" was not a river in Egypt. That was mainly because so many of us lived in denial of what was really going on in our homes. We were so clueless we could have heard "The Nile." Get it? It’s a little humor before starting this very serious topic that is not funny at all.
Women who are abused either physically or verbally go through four primary psychological stages that are clear evidence there is abuse going on. If you think you are in a situation of domestic violence, get out now. As you read this throw your identifications and prescriptions in a grocery bag, grab your kids and get out. You can finish this article later. Get immediate help at a shelter, a church, call the police, do anything, but get out now! CLICK TO GET HELP
The fact of the matter is it does take some time to understand the dynamics most of us go through when we are in an abusive relationship. The stages we go through may sometimes be evident to those around us but not to us. Below is a recap of these stages and if you can recognize yourself in them, be glad you’ve had the insight. Be joyful you are now "enlightened." Now you should get out!
In stage one most women refuse to believe or to admit to themselves that there is a problem. They frequently attribute their partner’s behavior to something "accidental." Many women will offer excuses for their partner’s violent fits either to others who witness it, or in their own mind. In this stage many women truly believe it will never happen again.
This second stage is probably the most confusing of all. In this stage many of us who have lived this problem feel terrible guilt. Although in this stage we do admit there is a problem, we actually feel responsible for the problem and feel we could have avoided being beaten, or verbally abused if we had just done this or that. We see ourselves as unable to live up to our abuser’s expectations and blame ourselves for not having the self-control or foresight to avoid the abuse.
The third stage is very similar to the "negotiation" stage in the Five Stages of Grief. Here we finally understand that it is nothing we are doing to provoke the situation. We get to a point we no longer blame ourselves and are fully cognizant that our abuser is responsible for this. However, although we have gained an understanding of everything, many women still feel committed to their nuclear family for the sake of religion, family, the children, or a social image they wish to maintain. Women in this stage stay in this situation hoping they can work things out.
In the final stage of Battered Woman Syndrome we finally realize the situation is not going to change. Frequently we understand that our lives are in danger and in many cases our children’s lives as well. At this point the realization sets in that statistics prove abusers seldom change their behavior, therefore we have to change and make the first move to get our life and self-respect back. We assume responsibility for our lives and we make the decision to leave our abuser.
If you are in a domestic violence situation please contact the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or click on this link.