As many as one in three women will suffer physical or other form of abuse in her lifetime. Lots suffer in silence. Those who speak out run a gauntlet of often well-meaning but profoundly ill-informed remarks, that can leave us groping for the right words to respond. Here’s how I answer the most common comments.
1. “Are you sure it’s abuse?”
It’s abuse. I’m constantly tiptoeing around him, yet somehow everything I do is wrong in his eyes. I’m afraid. I’m not the person I was. I sometimes wonder if I’m going crazy. Worst of all, I can’t see a future for me beyond this. And the fear of not being believed by people like you is one of the (many) things that make it so much harder to escape.
2. “I’d never have thought he’d be capable of that. He seems so nice!”
He’s a regular, model citizen isn’t he? I mean, he goes to church, holds down a job, chats to other parents at the school gates. But he’s wearing a mask in public. You’ve never seen his real face. Be thankful. It’s ugly, and terrifying.
3. “I knew this was going to happen. He always appeared shady to me.”
And you did nothing because..? Congratulations on being proven correct, by the way.
4. “Have you tried [insert idea here]..?”
Yes. I’ve tried everything. Couples counselling failed. He wouldn’t take an anger management course, and wasn’t interested in getting treatment for his addiction / mental health problem. I’ve shut up when my heart cried out to answer back to his hate-filled rants, I’ve pirouetted on eggshells and changed beyond the point of self-recognition in my effort to avoid triggering his abusive behaviour. I’ve worked myself half to death trying to fix him. It didn’t work. And it won’t work. There’s no shame in walking (or running) away from a toxic, destructive individual. So take your attempt to ‘save the relationship’ elsewhere, please.
5. “Wow, you must be a wreck right now.”
Ten points on your observational prowess.
6. “I’d never allow my partner to do that to me. Why did you put up with it?”
I once thought that (victim-blaming) way too. Then my previously loving, caring partner began to drop his mask of normality. Imagine you’re in a giant pan of lukewarm water. Someone puts on the lid and begins turning up the heat. At what point do you realise your upper limit for pain and leap out of the soup?
With endemic victim-blaming commonplace across our media and public infrastructure, it’s hardly surprising that misconceptions and ignorance abound in the murky waters of domestic violence / abuse. What would you add to this list of ill-advised remarks? How would you respond to these observations? TELL US in the Comments!