The Lie: “He never hit me, so it can’t be abuse.”

sarahSarah:

The Lie

“He never hit me, so it can’t be abuse.”

The Truth

“Abuse isn’t just about physical violence. It’s about power and control.”

Honestly…I wish he had hit me. Maybe then it wouldn’t have taken me so long to recognize the abuse for what it really was.

But he never hit me… he didn’t have to.  He could control me perfectly well by his looks, his words, his behavior, and plain-out fear.  I never knew how he would react – sometimes: explosive anger, sometimes cold silence, sometimes sad puppy-dog eyes meant to make me feel like I had hurt him.

It worked.  I was afraid. I was terrified of doing anything that might make him angry, but even my best was never good enough.  I felt like a captive, a prisoner.  I was afraid he would kill me. I had lost my identity and had no idea who I was anymore.  I thought that maybe I was going crazy.

Then one day, I Googled the term “emotional abuse.” What I read online blew me away.  These websites described my life.  I started reading everything I could find on the subject of emotional abuse, verbal abuse, mental abuse, psychological abuse, gas lighting, sexual abuse, domestic abuse (especially in “Christian” marriages), and complex-PTSD.  I wasn’t crazy.  My body was responding normally to an abnormal situation.  I also realized that abuse also isn’t about how many bruises or broken bones you have.  Abuse is about control.

Even though couldn’t deny reality, I didn’t want to admit that’s where we had ended up.  I felt guilty, grieved, embarrassed, depressed, hopeless, weak, scared, and very alone.

But, one thing I knew for sure – we couldn’t live like this anymore: it wasn’t healthy for him, for me, or for our kids.  With support and a safety plan, I confronted him about the abuse.  He denied it.  He apologized with tears.  Not long after, he moved out.  He got “counseling” and wanted to move back in.  But unfortunately he hadn’t changed.  We are currently going through a divorce.

I couldn’t have done this on my own.  Tangible support and the healing journey for me has and still is coming in the form of trained counselors (thank you, Safe Harbor!), my new church family, real friends, enjoying my children, my faith, and lots of hiking.

It has been over two years since he left.  Most days I am living free from the distorted version of reality I had endured for more than two decades.

Emotional/psychological abuse is soul-rape.  It is destructive.  But there is support, hope, and healing.  You can live again.

Quotes:

“He never hit me… he didn’t have to.  He could control me perfectly well by his looks, his words, his behavior, and plain-out fear.  I never knew how he would react – sometimes: explosive anger, sometimes cold silence, sometimes sad puppy-dog eyes meant to make me feel like I had hurt him.”

“Emotional/psychological abuse is soul-rape.  It is destructive.  But there is support, hope, and healing.  You can live again.”