One woman. One horse. 48 states for Domestic Violence Awareness

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Domestic Violence is Also This - Not Your Typical Physical Abuse

This is part eight of a series. It contains details of my own experiences and other potential ptsd triggers which may be disturbing to read.

The term “domestic violence” is in some ways misleading, the words themselves reinforcing the misconceptions and myths about this extremely common issue.  What do you think of when you hear the word “violence?” Probably the first word that came to your mind, as with most people - even many of those who have been abused  - is physical violence of some kind.  Hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, shooting, stabbing.  Something visibly violent.

But domestic violence does not start and end with physical violence, and many people have been victimized without having a hand laid upon them.  So many women (and men!) I have talked to have expressed the belief that they were in a “bad” relationship, but it wasn’t abusive because their abuser never hit them.  For this reason, I have come to prefer the term “domestic abuse,” which more easily is understood to include other abuses than just physical.  

It’s time that everyone understood that domestic violence, or domestic abuse if you prefer, is more than just physical violence.  It also includes financial, psychological, emotional, sexual, spiritual, and technological abuse.  For this October’s domestic violence awareness month, I will be discussing each one.  Most abusive relationships include a combination of several types of abuse; many of the types have overlapping characteristics.  Only one type is needed for a relationship to be called abusive, though; experiencing only one type is just as difficult and damaging as going through them all.

Not Your Typical Physical Abuse

We all know what physical abuse is, right? Hitting, kicking, slapping, pinching, biting, choking...

But there are other kinds of physical abuse that are perhaps less obvious.  Did you know that physical abuse can occur without the abuser laying a single finger on their victim?

* Denying the victim food, water, or sleep
* Locking the doors so the victim must stay outside, which is especially dangerous or hurtful in bad weather or at night
* Driving recklessly while the victim is in the vehicle, with the intent to scare or harm the victim (ie, not just your average bad drivers)
* Preventing the victim from seeking medical attention
* Preventing the victim from calling the police
* Forcing the victim to use drugs or alcohol
* Abandoning the victim in an unfamiliar or dangerous place

My story

I could fill a book with a list of the times I was beaten... when he used a heavy flashlight, when he crammed my head between the furniture, when he duct taped my hands together and my mouth shut and I tried not to cry because I was sure I’d suffocate if I did, when he kicked my shins so hard I couldn’t stand up, when I ran through the cactus in flip flops because it was less painful than what I was running away from.

But I too sometimes forget that there are other ways to be physically hurt without being hit.

The list of times he drove recklessly down the road while I screamed and cried in terror would be almost as many pages.  A vehicle is a dangerous place to be alone with an abuser, because when they’re behind the wheel you are completely at their mercy.  And in easy reach for a backhand slap or pinch, and unable to leave when the verbal abuse starts.

I don’t drink much hard liquor anymore, as I have too many bad memories of having a bottle of rum or whisky forced in my mouth and being made to chug until I was dizzy.  For a short while, he also forced me to take excessive amounts of Benadryl.  There was no logical reason for any of this; it was all just a way to control and hurt me.

He was obsessive about healthy eating, but often not in a healthy way.  I was forced to follow whatever food obsession he was currently on. It was his under his orders that I became vegetarian (but I actually like it - but not for his reasons - so I still am a vegetarian).  For a while we subsisted largely on canned peas and corn, straight up (I still have a hard time eating these now).  He would decide the portion size too, and it didn’t matter whether it was too much or too little for my appetite, I was expected to eat it all and not complain.

And I was never allowed to get medical assistance when I was hurt, or even annual checkups.  He would not chance me being alone with someone that could recognize abuse and report him.

How to get help

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, contact your local shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline (visit their page here).  Support for survivors is also available. 

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