There’s something I feel horrible about that I feel I need to share…need to face…need to understand. And here goes…
I’ve been teaching psychology for 24 years, and in so many of my classes, we cover domestic violence. I also teach a class on domestic violence and worked at a DV shelter during my graduate school internships. I can draw you the cycle of violence and explain every detail of the power and control wheel. I can explain how women will leave their abuser an average of 5-7 times before they leave for good, and I can teach you about how abuse victims are so bonded to their abusers they feel they can’t leave.
Further, my sweet ma was married to an abuser (not my dad) for 28 years. He beat her, psychologically manipulated her, and verbally abused her during this time. I felt such an anger towards her all of these years…actually, more like a rage…because she wouldn’t leave him. Yes, I understood about the dynamics of abuse, but I just couldn’t understand why she would allow him to blacken her eyes and bruise her skin. (She’s now be away from him for 5 years, and has never been happier).
Here’s where my apology comes in: I ALWAYS said that I would NEVER allow a man to verbally berate me or physically hurt me. No way. Ever. And then I learned something very humbling. All of us are potential victims to an abuser. All of us. Even you. And that’s a scary thing to admit to.
Predators don’t abuse strong women. Of course not! And when Sarge first met me, I was a strong, confident woman who was in control of her life and doing well. So, Sarge had a job to do. He had to break me down…little by little…until I was so down I would allow him to do anything and everything he wanted to me. And he broke me down with my own weapons. He learned my vulnerabilities. My past issues. My empathic nature. My wants. My needs. My hurts. And, like a magician with slight of hand, he began to slowly use these things against me to break me down, piece by piece.
Have you ever heard the story about killing a frog? How if you put a frog into boiling water they will jump and do anything to try to get out of the pot? But, if you put a frog into tepid water, and then slowly bring that water to a boil, they will simply stay and die because the water heats up so gradually, they don’t even notice the change in temperature.
I feel like something similar happened to me. I was this strong ‘statue’ made of tiny pebbles. And Sarge taking one pebble away at a time went unnoticed. Because the pebbles were so small at the beginning. And it was just one. Every so often at first. And then they were taken away at a faster and faster pace until I woke up one day, and I was a fraction of what I had started out being. Of course STRONG people won’t take abuse. But guess what? People that have been slowly and methodically ‘taken down’ will. And I did.
You know, I love to loom bracelets, but they do take a lot of time. Using little tiny beads while weaving a thin needle through delicate threads is somewhat tedious. And what amazes me is this. It might take days to complete a bracelet. But, if I make a mistake and want to start over, I can take my scissors, make 1 big cut, and the bracelet is destroyed. In other words, it takes a lot more effort and time to build something up than it does to tear it down.
Sarge tore me down pretty quickly. In just a matter of weeks, I was to the point where I was enduring things I never dreamed would happen to me. NOT ME!! I was too educated about abuse. I’d witnessed it too long in someone I love. And I knew, on some level, what was happening, but I rationalized. I justified. I took what I was given and felt I deserved it. At times, I even apologized for it.
So, here’s my mea culpa: I’m so sorry to all of the abuse sufferers out there that although I could teach the concept, I truly couldn’t understand the actuality of being an abused woman myself. I always thought, somewhat smugly, it would NEVER happen to me. I’m educated. I’m financially stable. I have a great career. I have my own home. I have family support. And you know what? None of this matters. We are all ‘built’ of emotions, experiences, thoughts, perceptions, beliefs, etc. and these can be broken down so much faster than you would ever think. So fast, you don’t even notice it. So quickly, that when you do, you’re simply a pile of pebbles that can be easily walked on. Time and time again.
This is what I know: Abusers know how to entice their prey…how to trap their prey…and how to break down their prey until they have complete control of it. No one is insusceptible to this. It can happen to anyone. Just ask me.