As onlookers, we usually have a lot to say about abusive relationships. We often ridicule the abused even making suggestions of how they could rid themselves of the situation and/or the person. Even with this, the abused will tell you it is not easy they will go as far as providing reasons, some of which you may never understand or accept, as to why they stay.
The hardest reason to understand or accept is: that the abuser was a loving and very attentive partner for years and then they changed. The abused will advise that they are waiting for their relationship to return to what was. The change however never comes and the abuse escalates moving sometimes from verbal to physical. Or the verbal abuse ignites to becoming emotionally distressful.
The cold and hard question is, can an abuser change? The truth is yes and no. Yes, they can change if they accept that they are an abuser and are willing to change. Acceptance is hard to come by and often requires professional guidance for acknowledgement to be realised. The person will require treatment and will need to be re-trained on how to deal with their anger and manage self and deal will issues. This is not an overnight fix it takes time and the willingness of the abuser.
If the abuser is not able or willing to accept and acknowledge that they have abusive traits then they are not fixable. And, the abuse may escalate because of the attempt to have the person accept that they are an abuser.
It is often easier for the abused to acknowledge the abuse. The issue, though, most times is that they stay in the relationship out of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the person. The most difficult thing for the abused to accept is that they are being abused and it is not their fault.
And, the hardest abuses to accept and acknowledge are emotional and verbal and their several reasons why this acceptance is so hard to realise. A few of the reasons are low self-esteem and self-blame believing that one caused verbal and emotional beat-down. The extreme have noted that the abuser is just being expressive and means nothing and that is how they are. How then does nothing hurt? How then does nothing traumatise you? How then does ‘them’ being themselves make you feel less than a person? If someone puts you down constantly, makes you feel less than a person constantly, shuts you up constantly. Isn’t that abuse?
Though the physical abuse is more apparent, both the abuser and the abused will defend the reasoning behind the beating, the scares, the swelling, the broken bones, the fractures and the stitches. The question though is, how can someone love you and inflict pain? The abused is gender neutral. Yes, men have been abused by females and it is no different. Actually, the emotional trauma can be worse based on the societal definition of, who is a man? As it has become the norm for the woman to be abused by a man. I say, though, that neither is right and whether the abused is a man or a woman the abuse needs to be acknowledged and treated as such.
An abusive relationship is not easy for anyone especially if you want to walk away. The feeling of shame and dismay lurks. It can make a strong woman/men forget their strength and become weak. The thought of being judged or accused of lying because of family members, friends and colleagues perception of the abuser. Often describing the abuser as: good, nice, an excellent partner as no one sees the monster that lurks behind the door. The word love and what is it symbolises can also delay or prevent the abused from walking. The feeling of obligation due to manipulation makes it hard for the abused to trust their own thoughts or feelings. The fear of retaliation. It is true that abusive relationships often ends when the abused dies.
How we can help
While I encourage you to get involved to stop or prevent the abuse you need to do so cautiously. As the abused, when approached, may become defensive even if they are a close relative or friend worst if they are not. When engaging the abused you should:
1 Talk without being judgmental – In your first conversation trying to speak to them without being judgmental. Never cast blame on them or their abuser. Show concern, stick to the issue.
2 Listen more talk less – Allow them to talk and open up to you. You should always listen and respond without judgment. Let them tell their own store and decide on the way forward. Remember they are the one in the situation and they know and understand the abuser.
3 Never impose – Create an environment where they realise their own power so as to dictate their next steps. Remember this is not about you. Encourage never force, always meet them where they are at. Remind them that no one deserves to be abused and that they deserve better.
4 Encourage them to seek professional support – remember that walking away is hard. The abused will need to become physically and emotionally strong to tackle what is to come and restart their life.
5 Support them through it – this can be difficult as you will have to be patient even though it may become frustrating at times; as the first conversation may not lead to change. Remember it takes approximately 7-13 attempts for the abused to walk away from an abusive relationship. Noting that leaving can be a very tumultuous and an extremely dangerous time for the abused. Leaving requires for the abused to acknowledge the abuse, careful plan and have established a strong support system, especially if children are involved. Remember no matter how overwhelming, always let them know that you are there for them no matter what they decide.
Edited by: Baby Kimmie and Claudine
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Next Issue – Types of Abuse …their psychological impact