Welcome to Ask April, a no-nonsense advice column focusing on what it is you can do to correct things that need correcting. While we all know much in life is out of our control, and sometimes, our reaction is all we CAN control- we really do have a lot of personal power, thankfully. Our will is just as important as the wills of others around us, and while we need to be considerate, we also need to make sure others are equally considerate of us. It is my hope that when you write in to me, asking advice, that I can help you make a good decision that somehow improves whatever situation you’ve found yourself in. As with anything I share, I recommend people don’t automatically take my word for anything, but include my advice in with the rest of the things that help them make a decision. I wish you well. Read on.
Every other week, I answer a call for advice, and every other week, I share my views on something I observed- I call this Observational Wisdom.
Abuse is an ugly topic, and a chronic condition of the human race.
As a species, we just cannot seem to stop doing it.
One issue we run into is difficulty identifying it. That is because abusers are master manipulators.
Nothing is ever their fault.
Nobody understands them.
They can’t catch a break.
They gaslight so well, you may question yourself so much , you are convinced the abuse never happened, or worse, that you are overly sensitive, and you are just blowing the whole thing out of proportion, and NOTHING is wrong except with YOU.
They try to turn loved ones against you the second you leave, which is retaliation for the fact you won’t tolerate abuse. Don’t think you can prevent them from spreading hostile things about you even if you stay. They do that no matter what.
They lie. And lie. And lie.
Beyond all these things, we associate abuse with certain things, but not other things, when in reality, there are many forms of abuse.
Men beating their wives, or parents beating on their kids, and rape are not the only form of abuse.
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard or read somebody say they thought they were not being abused simply because nobody was hitting them.
But keep in mind that deliberately starving people, withholding medication they need, doping people up on chemical restraints, pressuring recovering alcoholics into drinking, keeping animals out in bad weather, and isolating people or animals are also forms physical abuse can take.
Non physical forms of abuse are, unfortunately downplayed, because as a society, we have zero tolerance for emotions. We hate having them, and we shame ourselves, and other people for “letting people get to us.”
We are supposed to have no feelings except exuberant joy at all times, and that is completely denying our nature as human beings.
Refusing to honor the feelings of pain, sadness, despair, fear, anger, loss, and other “negative “ feelings creates an emotional crisis, and divorces us from the wholeness of being human.
So, the stigma against nurturing all of our feelings is one form of brainwashing society inflicts upon us, and it is one thing abusers latch onto.
One thing we do not realize is that mental, emotional, and verbal abuse, as well as neglect CREATE physical issues. They are just as physical as violent abuse.
Just because somebody is not hitting, punching, kicking, pushing, strangling, cutting, shooting, or otherwise compromising our physical safety because they want to be violent does not mean they are not physically harming us.
As mentioned above, just because somebody is not being violent does not mean they are not being physically abusive.
How many times will a haircut to humiliate a child happen, resulting in suicide of said humiliated child before we accept this is just as physical as beating the kid?
What is it going to take for us to realize the physical issues that telling somebody they are ugly/fat/unattractive/etc. causes? If they start to believe it, they might starve themselves, or overeat and harm their health. They may just not bother to try to take care of their appearance, or they could go the opposite direction and overdo it so much, they are stressed about looking “perfect” constantly.
This can further develop in them refusing to hold out for healthy relationships, instead, enduring mistreatment due to the belief that they just don’t deserve better.
When are we going to accept the physical pain that hurting people’s feelings causes? Crying, losing sleep, and the brain fog that comes from a huge emotional blow can create physical issues that can result in bad performance on the job, which can lead up to termination, or falling asleep while driving, resulting in death.
After you have abused somebody, and put your voice in their heads, sometimes, people realize you were wrong, yes. But the amount of time, effort, and sometimes money to counselors they expend getting your voice out of their head could be better spent on other things. How many hours of their lives have been taken away by this that they can never get back?
Say somebody has been brutalized and ran away to escape. They left town- moving hundreds of miles away, but are followed by their abuser. Let’s say that six months of stalking, and said abuser goes away forever, and is never heard from again. The fear that the abuser can be around the corner at any time can linger for years, even for a lifetime. Even unconscious things like flashbacks can crop up at the worst of times.
We understand the connection between stress and the immune system. But we make the mistake of just associating that with on the job stress, because let’s face it, we don’t want to accept that people who we are SUPPOSED to be moving on from can affect us so long after the fact.
Somebody hurting you emotionally, and/or putting ugliness in your head can create long term pain that chips away at your immunities.
That is physical harm, and I am not going to say it’s not.
Society supports abusers by shaming victims for feeling hurt, and downplaying just how bad the pain caused by abuse is. People like to share smug quotes like “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” This shows complete lack of understanding of the fact all people are different, and some are more or less sensitive. I agree, some people have the ability to allow EVERYTHING to roll off their backs- yet abusers know that not everybody is this way. They have the uncanny talent of tracking down the people who they KNOW they can get to, and they devote their time and effort into doing so.
As a sensitive individual, I have spent years working very hard to try and learn how not to let things get to me, and I will continue to do so. I do this because people are going to do what they are going to do, I cannot control that, and I have to protect myself as well as I can. Nobody is going to do it for me. That does not change the fact that the few people who hurt me on purpose were wrong, and targeted me, and others like me, because they enjoy feeding off the pain they cause in others.
I am not in any way responsible for them, but they don’t take responsibility for their words and actions either, so I have to try my best to block out what is attempted. That does not mean it won’t hurt. It just means I am going to do all that I can to try and minimize how much it does hurt.
Having said that, it’s STILL not my fault when I am hurt by certain things. Nobody CHOOSES to be hurt.
Do not tell an abused individual to move on, get over it, or CHOOSE not to be hurt.
Also, do not project your personal beliefs about forgiveness and reconciliation onto other people. Forgiveness is not something a victim owes a perpetrator. Reconciliation for the sake of faithfulness to a relationship is likewise, not something a victim owes. Abusers have no right to relationships they use for abusing. Nobody owes them that, and questioning somebody’s devotion to a relationship they leave due to its being abusive does nothing but add to the pain the victim feels, regardless of whether they take advice to do so or not.
It is only politically correct to encourage battered women to flee abusive marriages.
But if a child disowns an abusive parent, they are shamed as being ungrateful to their valiant parents who made many sacrifices and gave them life.
I call bullshit.
If somebody is friends with an abuser, and decides they don’t want it anymore, it is socially unacceptable to do so. They have to toughen up, and be inclusive.
If somebody manipulates them into paying their bills because they don’t want to work, it’s abuse. It just is. People are going to try and force you to continue, call you stingy, and basically try to keep the manipulation going, saying you are lacking in compassion.
Even with kids, society teaches kids NOT to hit back at bullies, and instead, run crying to a teacher, and FORGIVE the bully. I say, teach your kids to knock the bully on their ass, and then, as a parent, raise hell with the school if they try to penalize your kid for sticking up for themselves.
It should not be up to abuse victim to educate society that abuse is not okay, but unfortunately, this falls on us.
If you are a victim of abuse:
1) Get out as fast as you can, and do NOT listen to your abuser or other people tell you all the various reasons they think you shouldn’t. Abuse is grounds for immediate termination of a relationship, no ifs, ands, or buts.
2) Accept that what happened is not your fault. YES, you chose to get involved with them, and you might even have ignored red flags….but THEY chose to do what they did. It was not okay, even though they thought you would put up with it. They were wrong, and this is their fault, not yours.
3) Do not be ashamed in any shape, size, or form. You are not the one who did this. This was done TO you. You might feel “stupid” for allowing it, but you can’t think that way. You need to focus on healing, and you cannot do that if you are blaming yourself.
4) Do what you have to do in order to heal, but you first have to honor the pain. You cannot escape from it, and even after you have healed, there may be times when a flashback knocks you on your ass temporarily. You do not deserve this pain, but it is there, and you have to allow yourself to process it in the way that helps you heal best.
5) Don’t rule out professional counseling, but a support group of people who have dealt with similar things is absolutely crucial. The understanding of people who experienced similar things helps you understand you are not alone, and they have coping techniques you might be able to try.
I could write volumes on this, but I want to get this out fast. I have more than one loved one processing abuse, and I am currently processing abuse, myeslf.
I will close by saying if you don’t think you have anybody else, you can reach out to me.
We will get through this together.