To The Woman With The Bruises: I Know You. I Am You.

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Woman recongizing other women in DV situations

To the woman with the bruises:

I know you. I don't know your name, where you live, your age, or phone number.

But I know you.

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I know that look in your eyes — that frightened, defeated, depressed, broken look. I know you because I once saw that look in my own eyes.

I know what it's like to live with someone you're terrified of. I know what it's like to go to sleep sick and wake up scared.

I know you.

And I want you to hear me, as one domestic violence survivor to another: it's not your fault.

I know the psychological warfare you've been besieged with. I know how your self-esteem is non-existent, replaced by a constant stream of negatives.

I know that you've come to believe that you're so useless, damaged, stupid, and lazy, that you deserve every word hurled at you in anger, every blow that's ever landed upon you, be it emotionally or physically.

I know you believe that if you could just be better, this would all go away, that you'd meet with approval, that finally, he'd be happy. And love you.

After all, he can be sweet, can't he? You have memories that you treasure in your heart, that you keep close and turn back to time and again. There's hope there. Proof that he can be loving, kind, and gentle, that the rage that takes him over, that's what's to blame.

At heart, he's so loving, isn't he? Here's the truth: No, he's not.

His rage is just a part of him as any good you've ever seen. And the reality is no amount of enduring his rage will ever get him to stop. Nothing you say or do is responsible for his behavior and therefore, nothing you say or do will ever make him stop lashing out at you.

Because it's all on him. You bear no responsibility for his abuse of you. None.

It doesn't matter how angry you make him or what you've done. Burn dinner, late home from work, decided to go out for a girl's night, and put a dent in the car. Doesn't. Matter.

As an adult, he has the responsibility to control his emotions — because he's the only one who actually can. And unless you're physically attacking him and he's defending himself from you, there's nothing you can ever do that would justify him putting his hands on you in anger. Nothing.

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It doesn't matter why he's abusive, be it mental illness, addiction, or just being an evil abusive jerk. The end result is the same: someone who abuses their partner isn't someone who you need to be with.

You can't heal him, save him, fix him. You need to attend to your own safety.

And as for all that stuff he's drilled into your head? Think about something: if you're so lazy, stupid, ugly, fat (or whatever load of psychologically damaging crap he's hammered into your head) ask yourself, why would he want to have someone like that around? 

Considering how high his standards are makes no sense at all, does it? It's because you're none of those things. What you are is a wonderful person who has the right to be treated by a partner as a blessing in their lives.

He breaks you down psychologically and physically because he knows he's not worthy of you. So controlling you and keeping you caged by fear and self-loathing is the only hope he's got.

That's why he ups the stakes the way he does. Finding fault with something he'd praised before, be it a meal you cooked or a dress you wore is his way of assuring himself that no matter what he does, he's in control.

There is never, ever a way to satisfy him.

I'm praying you get out. Leave him. There are women's shelters you can run to. Call 911. Please, get help. Get to safety. Get yourself some therapy to undo the damage he's done. Be the woman you were made to be.

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And I promise you, that woman? She's nobody's punching bag.

And if you do these things, you'll look in the mirror one day, and the woman gazing back at you will have joy in her eyes. Peace. Excitement. A love of living again. And strength. There will be a strength there that you recognize.

I know you. I was you ... I am you. I got out. I stayed out. You can, too. 

You can do this.

If you’re experiencing domestic abuse, you’re not alone.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that approximately 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the U.S. More than 12 million women and men over the course of the year suffer from instances of domestic violence and abuse.

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse or violence, there are resources to get help.

There are ways to go about asking for help as safely as possible. For more information, resources, legal advice, and relevant links visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline. For anyone struggling with domestic abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474 or log onto thehotline.org.

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Melissa Charles is a freelance writer who has appeared in Scary Mommy, Huffington Post, and more.