There are many good definitions of domestic abuse / violence out there. You can take a look at www.womensaid.org.uk – I recommend that you do in fact.
In my personal definition I use the phrase domestic violence because I have first hand experience of the damage done by non-physical (as well as physical) violence. It is no less damaging than the physical, and many will tell you it can take longer to get over. My personal description of my experience of domestic violence would be: being in a relationship with someone who exercises control over you – enforcing a submission of your will to his will – through fear, manipulation, verbal and / or physical abuse, and deception.
Outsiders seem more focused on the physical aspect of it (“How could you have stayed with him so long and he was hitting you!!??”). But usually this is not the first stage or manifestation of his need to control (“Mate, hitting me was the least of it! By the time he started hitting me regularly something in my was already broken – something that takes longer to heal than a bruise…”). I believe that this is why women who have experienced physical violence can often downplay this side of it, much to the shock and bewilderment of those on the outside. It is why I want to find ways of highlighting all forms and guises of domestic violence – it may not be physical but it is still violent and destructive. Have a look at this definition of violence.
For me, the hardest thing to get over has been the control over every detail of my life. It came about so insidiously that I did not even realise it had happened, or the extent to which it had happened. It meant that when it was over I absolutely struggled to make decisions for myself, big or small! I had no opinion and no confidence in my decision making ability in many areas.
Abusers are not these evil, stern, horrible men that you can see a mile off are wrong uns. They can be charming, fun, the life and soul of the party, warm, funny, extremely intelligent, appear caring and seem to be good listeners. They can appear stable and wise. In my case I found it so easy to rely on him because he seemed to have all the answers, he ‘got’ me, and we really clicked. See here for more on the warning signs of an abuser.
A final and very important point to note, that was a total revelation to me, is that he did not beat me up (physically or verbally) because he had anger management issues and had difficulties controlling his temper. He beat me up because he chose to. It was his way of exerting authority and control over me. I only discovered this afterwards. I researched domestic violence / abuse to help me find out I why it had happened to me because I needed to make sense of it. I expected to see it related to anger, but over and over I read that it was not. It did make sense though. What I read was correct:
- He did smash up, cut up, and throw around my things but not his things – even in what seemed to be ‘the heat of the moment’, when calculated decisions about what to pick up and throw should not have been possible.
- He was careful not to belittle me in front of certain people, and to keep the appearance of a wonderful relationship in front of his friends.
- He did hit me in front of others but only certain others – family members who he knew would support him no matter what, and after I had done / appeared to have done something that justified his ‘anger’ in their eyes.
These are signs that he was in control of himself, which means his behaviour was a choice. So all the talk of having an anger management issue for years which he struggled with and prayed over, and in fact was much improved (lucky me!), was just nonsense… excuses. As was the suggestion that these violent outbursts were triggered by me – my selfishness, my loud voice, my arguing with him, my lack of due submission, my not being like his mother, my not being like his sisters, my not listening, my male friends (and when they vanished, my female friends), my attitude, my housework (that was rarely up to scratch), my not keeping up appearances in public, my lack of support for his goals, my not understanding the pressures he is under, my this, my that, my the other.. Any of this sound familiar??
If you are in an abusive relationship, this applies to him as well. He knows what he is doing and is choosing to continue. His depression or tears afterwards, or complete silence on the issue are complete manipulation tactics. Realising this is the beginning of getting free.