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Domestic abuse is a problem.  I know that’s a sweeping generalization, and as a writer I should avoid those — but it is a problem.  From articles I’ve read and stories I’ve heard some of my friends tell, to people who haven’t experienced it, it is nothing but a fairy tale.

“She’s just blaming him for ditching all of her friends.”

“She’s just being over-dramatic.”

And abuse goes both ways.  Statistically, men are more likely to suffer from emotional abuse than women are.

But this is what I cannot stand when I hear other people talking about abuse stories:

“It’s not like he hit her hard.”

Just because you aren’t physically hurt doesn’t mean you aren’t being taken advantage of.  In fact, I feel like not enough attention is given to emotional abuse.

My friend had an extremely controlling boyfriend for about two years.  At first, we all just thought she was in the “honeymoon phase”, where she blows all of us off to hang out with him.

But then we graduated, and she disappeared out of thin air.  She dropped out of college and moved back home into her parents house.  And if you knew this girl, you knew that was something she would  never, never do.  This girl wanted to study abroad in Italy and be a famous designer.  She wanted the full college experience, and she was determined to leave our hometown all together for good.

But then out of the blue she moved home.

She ignored all of my texts, and the texts of my other friends.  We never saw her over breaks, or the summer.  All until one day, where I get a text message saying, “Let’s see ‘Ted’ tonight.”

At first I almost told her no, since I was so offended that she had blown me off for so long.  But I decided to go, anyways.

And I am so glad that I did.  She hadn’t seen an ‘R’ rated movie in forever, but she wouldn’t say why.  At first she was pretty quiet about her life.  She pretended as if our separation had never happened, and acted like we had never stopped being friends.  We watched the movie, and she went on her way.  I was so confused.
Then I hear some tidbits from my mother, who sometimes works with her mom.  I hear stories about a controlling boyfriend.

She and I got closer again.  And then I heard the full story.

She was out of control of her life.  She didn’t mean for it to happen.  She thought they were in love.  She thought that he loved her.  He watched her bank account, he helped her pick “appropriate” friends, he helped her realize she’d never use her college degree.  He was the only person in the world that could ever love her.  She was so damaged that no one else could accept her.  Her mind was twisted and she and her family were destined for hell.  She would never be successful in her dreams.  She was out of shape.  She was a whore.  She didn’t truly know what love is.  She needed to leave her family.  She needed to quit working and spend all of her time with him.  Time alone?  Who needs that.  It’s not allowed.

This was the basic gist I got over the time that we reconnected.  There were some slightly more physical ones, too.  There was a crazy large scar on her leg.  She talked about the bruising she used to get on her upper thighs.  She got shoved, and sometimes slapped. but never hard enough to have to make up an explanation.

She would never speak about their sexual life.  When I brought it up, she would only say “It was weird and it was awful.”

Even after a few years, I could tell that she wasn’t completely healed from it.

So I know from my friend’s experience how damaging an emotional relationship can be.  And I am sure that other people have had even worse experiences.  Just because someone does not have scars or broken bones, doesn’t mean they weren’t hurt.  I think it is appalling that emotional abuse is brushed off as dramatics.  Abuse of all forms should be taken seriously.

Most of all, though, I believe we should nip abuse in the bud.  I wish I would have said something to her about it years ago.  I wish that I had tried harder to stay in touch.  I wish that I didn’t let her go so easy.  But I cannot change my actions, and I cannot change what happened to her.

But you, though, you still have a chance.  Watch out for your friends.  You may be their last defense.

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