Domestic Violence: Anyone Can Be A Victim
It is very important in my campaign against domestic abuse that I share the view points of men and reach out to men, whether they have been the victim or abuser. Jay Pasky recently blogged about his personal experience with domestic abuse on his blog BleedFree.com. His life has been touched by domestic violence on a few different levels so he brings a passionate as well as knowledgeable approach in his efforts to help and reach out to victims. He was kind enough to reach out to me and share his personal experience as well as offer advice for victims of abuse.
Borrowing the subject line in his emails: 'From the Desk of Jay Pasky'...or more appropriately in this case, From the Heart of Jay Pasky:
Domestic Violence: Anyone Can Be A Victim by Jay Pasky
I don’t pretend to be a great man. I like to think I am a good man; however, I have made mistakes in my life I wish I could correct. Mistakes that will always prevent me from being a great man.
Having grown up in a household where my mother was the typical Italian matriarch, I saw power and strength in her daily life. I had a physically abusive father who I didn’t see for 15 years. I grew up with a step-father who was emotionally abusive and yet distant at the same time. I looked to my mother for strength, but that wasn’t enough. Growing up in the 80s as a hemophiliac who spent more time in the hospital or being home-schooled with tutors than at school or outside playing, I needed guidance. I needed a dad. I didn’t look to my mother for guidance. I looked up to the people every mother prays their children don’t meet.
It wasn’t until I married my first wife that I realized just how messed up my mind and life had become. I put my wife on a pedestal. In my mind, she could do no wrong. I defended her actions to my family and friends, even at the risk of alienating my family and losing my friends. Which is exactly what happened. I sat back and allowed my wife to emotionally mind-fuck me, to weave lies on top of lies, to poison me with pain medication until I became a junkie, to turn my children against me – until my life was miserable beyond comprehension.
Finally, something snapped. I woke up one day and realized I had failed as a father. Here was our 14-month-old daughter walking around the house in a shit-filled diaper for hours while my wife sat in front of her computer chatting with men in our town and across the country. Cyber-sex had become more important to her than our children. Why this didn’t surprise me, I don’t know. I had met her online. Her mother met her last two husbands online. Our oldest daughter was scared to death of me coming home because “daddy will deal with you soon” was drilled into her head from the moment she committed some “sin.”
My now-ex-wife, 5’9″ 220lbs and me, 5’6″ 135lbs fighting and screaming at each other. Me demanding that she start acting like a mother, standing in front of the door, stopping her from running off to see her boyfriend. As she grabbed my arms and tried to bite me and move me out of the way, I did the only thing I could. Digging my thumb into her arm pit, I shoved her as hard as I could. As she stumbled backwards, I backhanded her. In front of my daughters who watched in horror.
My arrest and interrogation was just the beginning of my nightmare. Thankfully, once the police took both our statements, saw the physical differences between the two of us, all charges against me were dropped. Without the heavy doses of prescription narcotics I had been “prescribed,” my mind became more clear. Turns out, what I was being told about my family was fabricated lies the exact opposite of what they were being told about me. My “prescriptions” were well past being needed and I was addicted because my wife had been grinding up the pills and putting them in my food. It was only recently that my oldest daughter told my family how she “helped mommy put drugs in my daddy’s food.”
I am not a great man by any means. I do not excuse myself for what I did. Living in a Methadone, liquid Morphine, Norco and Oxycontin-induced stupor does not excuse what I did. I have not seen my daughters in 6 years. I’ve watched them grow up in pictures and long for the day that I can finally see them again.
It is a common misconception that domestic violence and abuse can only happen to women. But the truth is, it can happen to anyone regardless of size, gender, or strength. The problem is that most men who are being abused don’t come forward. We’re taught to be “men,” to stifle our feelings and act tough. This has led to domestic violence against men to often be overlooked, excused, or denied. This is especially true when the abuse is psychological, rather than physical. Emotional abuse is often minimized, yet it can leave deep and lasting scars. No one should live in fear of the person they love.
What exactly is domestic abuse? Also known as spousal abuse, it is when one person in an intimate relationship tries to dominate and control the other person. When physical violence enters the picture, it becomes domestic violence.
The goal of domestic violence and abuse are for one reason and one reason only: control and gaining and maintaining total control. Using fear, guilt, shame and intimidation, abusers will wear you down in order to keep you under their thumb.
Abusive behavior is never acceptable, whether it’s coming from a man, woman, a teenager, or an older adult. Abusive relationships can destroy your self-worth, lead to anxiety and depression, and make you feel helpless and alone. You deserve to feel valued, respected and safe.
But how do you know when you’re being abused? The most telling sign is fear. Do you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner. Are you constantly watching what you say and do in order to avoid a blow up? Does your partner belittle you? Does your partner control where you go or what you do? Does your partner keep you from seeing friends or family? Does your partner constantly check up on you, read your email or instant message history? If you answered yes to any question, chances are your relationship is abusive and unhealthy.
Make no mistake, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep. In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse – sometimes, even more so. The bruises, scars, broken bones, blood from physical abuse are all to visible; but the scars from emotional abuse are deep inside and visible only to the one being emotionally or verbally abused.
Abusers use a variety of tactics to manipulate you and exert their power. Abusive individuals need to control the relationship. They need to feel in charge. They will make decisions for you, tell you what to do and expect you to obey without question. They will treat you like a servant, a child or even as their possession.
An abuser will do everything they can to make you dependent upon them. Cutting you off from the outside world, preventing you from seeing family or having outside friendships. An abuser will require you to ask permission to do anything, go anywhere, or see anyone and set time limits on your time away from him or her.
Despite what is believed, abusers are able to control their behavior. Abusers pick whom to abuse. They don’t abuse everyone in their lives, they save their abuse for the people closest to them, their spouse or their children.
Abusers don’t accept responsibility for their actions. Commonly, abusers use the actions of others as excuses for their own behavior. They blame the person who made them angry, as if that person were pushing some magic button that released violent behavior. How often have victims heard “why did you make me do that?” If your partner is chronically unemployed, someone is always doing them wrong or is out to get them, then they may make mistakes and then blame you for upsetting them so that they can’t concentrate on their work. They may tell you that YOU are at fault for almost anything that goes wrong. Abusive people might say, “you made me mad” and “I can’t help being angry.” Although they actually make the decision about how they think or feel, they will use feelings to manipulate you. Abusers see themselves as the “victim” in the relationship, and do not take responsibility for their own feelings or behaviors.
Abusers are very good at blaming you for their bad behavior. They are experts at finding excuses to dodge responsibility. The reality is that there is NO EXCUSE for abusing another person. There is no GOOD reason. We are ALL responsible for the things we say and do in life. There are ALWAYS other choices the abuser could have made other than to be abusive. Every single time you are abused, the abuser made a CHOICE to do so.
- Lie: “You pushed my buttons. If you had just left me alone I wouldn’t have hurt you.”
- Truth: There is no excuse for abuse.
- Lie: “I had a bad childhood. You should feel sorry for me and not blame me when I hurt you.”
- Truth: Many people had bad or abusive childhoods and NEVER make the choice to abuse another person. It is NOT an excuse for abuse.
- Lie: “I have a mental illness. I’m not responsible for the things I say and do.”
- Truth: If someone has a mental illness they ARE responsible to do whatever it takes to treat that. Many people have mental illnesses and never choose to abuse another person. They are SEPARATE issues. Mental illness may exacerbate abuse but it does not cause or excuse it.
Domestic violence affects every member of the family, including the children. Children who see and hear violence in the home suffer physically and emotionally. Children exposed to family violence are more likely to develop social, emotional, psychological and or behavioral problems than those who are not. Studies indicate that child witnesses, on average, are more aggressive and fearful and more often suffer from anxiety, depression and other trauma-related symptoms when compared to children who have not witnessed abuse or been abused. Children growing up in violent homes often feel they are responsible for the abuse and may feel guilty because they think they caused it or because they are unable to stop it. They live with constant anxiety that another beating will occur or that they will be abandoned. They may feel guilty or confused for loving the abuser or getting mad at the victim. Children may be at a higher risk of alcohol or drug abuse, experience cognitive problems or stress-related ailments (headaches, rashes), and have difficulties in school.
It’s impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but there are some telltale signs and symptoms of emotional abuse and domestic violence. If you witness any warning signs of abuse in a friend, family member, or co-worker, take them very seriously.
General warning signs of domestic abuse
People who are being abused may:
- Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner
- Go along with everything their partner says and does
- Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing
- Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner
- Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness
Warning signs of physical violence
People who are being physically abused may:
- Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”
- Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation
- Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors)
Warning signs of isolation
People who are being isolated by their abuser may:
- Be restricted from seeing family and friends
- Rarely go out in public without their partner
- Forced to adhere to a timeline when without their partner
- Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car
- Their partner will call or text often to find out where they are and what they’re doing
The psychological warning signs of abuse
People who are being abused may:
- Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident
- Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn)
- Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal
If you suspect someone you know is being abused, speak up! If you’re hesitating—telling yourself that it’s none of your business, you might be wrong, or the person might not want to talk about it—keep in mind that expressing your concern will let the person know you care and may even save his or her life.
Talk to the person in private and let him or her know that you’re concerned. Point out the things you’ve noticed that make you worried. Tell the person that you’re there, whenever he or she feels ready to talk. Reassure the person that you’ll keep whatever is said between the two of you, and let him or her know that you’ll help in any way you can.
Remember, abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims. People who have been emotionally abused or battered are depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They need help to get out, yet they’ve often been isolated from their family and friends. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing. It is common for the abused person to leave but then refuse to file charges and go back to the abuser several times. Don’t become discouraged. Continue letting them know you are available to listen and you will help as much as possible. Sometimes, just knowing this will set their mind at ease.
Separated for three years, I finally divorced my ex-wife in 2008. I met my current wife, Sara. I rebuilt my relationship with my mother. I apologized to my family and friends. It has been a long hard struggle, but I am making it. Am I the victim of domestic violence or was I the abuser? I’m not knowledgeable enough to answer that question.