Research has found indisputable correlation between intimate partner violence and mental illness. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide ideation are some of the effects domestic abuse can have on a woman’s mental health. But finding help is difficult.
“Women who suffer partner abuse may be in particular need of social support, for several reasons. Abused women may not disclose abuse or seek social support because they may feel stigmatized if others know of their abuse, they may see violence in the home as a private matter, or they may fear retaliation from their partners if they disclose the abuse.” (Mitchell RE, Hodson CA. Coping with domestic violence: Social support and psychological health among battered women. Am J Community Psychol 1983;11:629 and Sullivan CM, Tan C, Basta J, Rumptz M, Davidson WSD. An advocacy intervention program for women with abusive partners: Initial evaluation. Am J Community Psychol 1992;20:309)
This is the story of ‘C’. She is still scared of being recognized by her abusive ex and her case against him is still in court. That’s why we cannot reveal her identity. She is from the USA and a successful editor. But one man changed her life. And scarred her forever – physically and emotionally. This is her story, in her own words, of how her ex abused her and almost drove her to the brink of a breakdown. Fortunately, she fought back and he couldn’t ruin her life forever!
My abuser was a dream come true
“I’m not comfortable giving my name just yet, as my case is still open here.
I was with my ex for about a year — about 3 weeks shy of one year, to be exact. My story is somewhat typical – I met him and instantly fell head over heels in love with him. That’s not my usual response, though! I’m slow to fall for people and I’m usually the one in control of the relationship. Anyway, I had just gotten out of a long term relationship and my abuser was a dream come true. Exciting, fun, loved food, I felt at home with him. Friends never saw me this giddy over someone.
Looking back, I can see it all unravel with 20/20 hindsight, but as it was happening, I had no idea what was going on. It started slowly with him getting angrier over something than seemed normal. He’d have a tantrum, drop something and say I broke it. Then he’d threaten suicide. Then he hit me. I was hit?! This sort of thing doesn’t happen to me! I jumped so far into denial; it was like it never happened. But it did start to chip away at me.
About a month after that he terrorized me verbally and through texts and emotionally. About a month after that was the first real attack — again I was in so much denial about it I really can’t even remember it now. One month later, another big attack and I tried to get away. But I took him back. A blissful summer, he was there for me and then….bam! He went nuts. For weeks on end. I was terrified to leave. My father was ill and I knew I was going to need family support to get the hell out of there, but my father was too weak. So I waited. I tried to manage the situation. But I waited too long. The last assault was horrific, I thought I was going to die, I called the police.”
No-one would believe me
“So those are the facts. The whole time, I was head over heels in love with him. If he just understood, he’d stop. If I could get him to trust me, he’d stop. The good was amazing. I was with him during all the major events of the year…we shared all the major news. With him I felt safe, happy, satisfied. I wanted to be with him forever. He was the first person I put before everything else. He was more important to me than my career. If felt good to be vulnerable, to be loved the way I needed to, to trust a man. He was a dream when he was good.
Legal proceedings began. That process was more hellish than being with him. I’m a good girl, I don’t get in trouble. I don’t understand the system. I thought it would all be wrapped up in a month. Not at all. Several months later it’s still going on!
I broke the restraining order with him and saw him for a while. It was glorious, helpful, scary. Then I got nervous that I was messing up the case. The District Attorney (DA) was ok with it, but told me to stay away. He and I kept communicating; he started threatening suicide, ruining me at a trial, etc. One night he scared me so badly, I called the cops to report him for violating the restraining order.
Every phase of all this I feel something different …and it’s all been very hard!
A peek into what my life was like with him:
- My brother teased me: “What’s that? A hickey on your neck?” I played it off. It was actually a bruise from getting strangled.
- The day before Father’s day he beat me till I was bruised. Went to visit dad, covered bruises, and pretended nothing was wrong.
- I remember how puffy my face would become when I cried for hours upon hours when he was hitting/terrorizing me.
- I was so terrorized my body would just shake uncontrollably
- No-one would believe me. He donates blood, rescues animals, supports women’s charities. People think he’s great….BUT HE BEATS/CHOKES/TERRORIZES WOMEN.
I’m an editor (and was when I met him). This was the first relationship where I was abused. I’m in my late thirties. I had been in a relationship with a guy, who was controlling, but I actually had the upper hand in that one, so his desire for control never really affected me. I can’t say that I’ve ever really been taken advantage of by a man…usually I have the upper hand in relationships – not that that is a good thing, as I think I was closed off to real love, real feelings. I was with people I didn’t really love so that I wouldn’t be the weaker one. The sad part about the relationship with my abuser was that it was the first time I really allowed myself to be vulnerable (before the abuse) and I loved it.”
I got help
“I started to see a holistic healer afterwards. She is a Kineseologist and she’s amazing. Luckily my injuries weren’t too bad beyond bruising, but she was able to see more subtle things that were wrong. And when I was going through the incredible stress of legal stuff (along with working many hours at an unforgiving job) she managed to keep me healthy and feeling as strong as possible. She helped physically and emotionally, from reading me affirmations, to giving me color therapy. When I wasn’t eating well, she gave me supplements. She leant an ear and told me to be ok with my stress and give myself a break.
Medical doctors were done with me after the initial visit, but she tended to me the whole way though (and still does!). In the springtime, she recommended I do an eating cleanse – basically eating super clean foods. I did it and it really helped to change something in me. I felt healthy and strong and clear and energetic….a great way to feel when everything else is so hard. We tend to comfort ourselves with bad food during rough times, only making ourselves feel worse.
I also go to a battered woman’s group once a week, which is helpful. And I see my therapist once a week as well. The thing is, I kept so much in for so long…I’m only starting to FEEL it all now.
Where am I now in life? Ugh. Sometimes I feel worse off than I was. The legal stuff is very hard and as much as I try to move on, it pulls me back in as I have to think about it, him or even go through old texts, emails, etc. And I guess sometimes things get worse before they get better. Ultimately I feel split. Logically I know he’s dangerous and bad and disturbed and I need to stay away. But emotionally I miss him terribly. I have trouble understanding the level of his mental illness, how irrational it is.
What is also disturbing is that I don’t trust my gut anymore. My instincts drew me towards him, my gut said move forward with him. My gut is usually never wrong, but this time it was so off. It’s very disorienting feeling like you can’t trust yourself!”
Here’s what she wants to tell others who are suffering in silence:
- “Sometimes it’s very difficult reconciling that this great love you had was for someone who could be a monster.”
- “A lot of the things your abuser accuses you of or insults you with is actually how he feels about himself.”
- “The second you feel something isn’t right in a relationship…like, something is really off…get out.”
- “Anger management alone has not been shown to be effective in treating domestic violence offenders as domestic violence is based on power and control and not on problems with regulating anger responses.”
- “When seeking a therapist, look for one who specializes in Domestic Violence or Trauma. Do NOT go to a relationship counselor. If you are still with your abuser Couples Therapy DOES NOT work. The Abuser will dazzle the therapist as he dazzled you.”
She signs off with just one statement:
“Wouldn’t it be great if part of the punishment for the abuser was that they had to wear a Tshirt that says “I beat women” for 6 months?”
What do you think? Tell us!