While the impact of abuse on a person’s soul may actualize differently, we need to break free from old ways of thinking. Abuse is abuse. Period.
It never ceases to amaze me how people still seem to define what abuse is and isn’t, and what abuse a person should just “put up with” for the sake of preserving the martial relationship. I once heard a mental health professional tell a client, “as long as he (the husband) isn’t hitting you then you need to stick it out.” This professional was saying this to a woman who had been suffering through emotional and mental abuse by her husband for over 8 years. This post is not about whether the abused should or shouldn’t leave or divorce their partner when abuse of any kind is taking place – so let’s not get hung up on that issue. This post is about brining awareness that abuse is happening in your community and the abused deserve more from the person they trust to disclose to then just “stick it out” or any type of response that undermines the abused. We need to listen. We need to protect. We need to advocate. But the truth is, this mental health professional’s view on abuse is not uncommon in our society that demands physical and visual proof of something before its believed.
The reality is, out of the many types of abuse a person can experience, only one type (physical abuse and sometimes this remains hidden as well) will outwardly produce the physical and visible proof our society tends to want in order to believe a person is being abused.
Since we know abuse can remain hidden from us so easily, why do you think we still tend to respond to a persons disclosure of abuse with suspicion or disbelief? It is a question for us all to ponder.
Instead of responding in these ways, why not chose to BELIEVE and not question the validity of what you hear? It doesn’t matter if you think their partner is or isn’t capable of abusive behaviors. It doesn’t matter if the abused has their own flaws in the relationship.
We are not listening to the one abused to judge them, provide excuses for the abuser, or justify abusive behavior. Abuse is wrong, but until we stop providing excuses and justifications the abused will have to continue to fight to be heard and believed.
Here are some thoughts on how to support the abused. What I am about to share with you is just a snippet out of Lundy Bancroft’s book, Why Does He Do That. To learn more about each of these points please read his book. The following information can be found on pages 370-372. This book is a must read for everyone.
How to care for the abused: (this list shows the difference in how you can care from that of the abuser)
1. The abuser: Pressures her severely
So you should: Be patient. Remember that it takes time for an abused woman to sort out her confusion and figure out how to handle her situation.
2. The abuser: Talks down to her
So you should: Address her as an equal. Avoid all traces of condescension or superior knowledge in your voice.
3. The abuser: Thinks he knows what is good for her better than she does
So you should: Treat her as the expert on her own life. Don’t assume that you know what she needs to do.
4. The abuser: Dominates conversations
So you should: Listen more and talk less.
5. The abuser: Believes he has the right to control her life
So you should: Respect her right to self-determination
6. The abuser: Assumes he understands her children and their needs better than she does
So you should: Assume she is a competent, caring mother. Remember that there is no simple way to determine what is best for the children of an abused woman.
7. The abuser: Thinks for her
So you should: Think with her. Don’t assume the role of teacher or rescuer. Instead, join forces with her as a respectful and equal team member.
-Lianne Johnson, LPC