Sometimes I wish he had hit me. I wish that he had left some physical mark on me that I could show people. That way people could see that he was abusive. If people could see mental scars, emotional scars and the scarred memories - those good days marred by bad endings - then maybe they would believe me when I say I didn't leave him because he didn't do dishes; I left him because he was abusive.
It is only in recent years that the definition of domestic violence has been expanded to include abuse that is not physical but still causes harm e.g. emotional, financial, psychological. Just two months into 2015 and in our country already 13 women have been killed by their partners. 13. I don't want to even take a guess how high that number is around the world. There are many things that put women at risk of being killed by their physically abusive partners; the riskiest time in their relationship is when they leave. But every year women are killed by their partners who have never laid a hand on them before.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia
I am sad, I am disappointed, I am confused as to why, in 2015, we have come so far but we have so far to go. I am sad that I, like many other women, wish my abusive partner had hit me just so you would understand why I left. So you could see the justification. After all, she should leave if he hits her. But what does she do when he doesn't hit her? Doesn't need to hit her? How does she draw the line between a rough patch and abuse when you tell her he's not abusive unless he hit her?
I've been in two abusive relationships. Neither laid a hand on me. They didn't need to. Just because they were not physically violent towards me does not mean I did not fear for my life. One was well trained in martial arts and took great joy in reminding me of the fact he could beat me to a pulp if he wanted. He would back me into corners during arguments and I would cry and beg him to back off. But he used his height and broad shoulders to intimidate me. He would even smile as be backed me further into a corner and I would begin to sink towards the floor, arms over my head as I cried and begged him to go away.
The other? He didn't back me into corners. He didn't threaten to hurt me. What he did was convince me I was a bad mother, so bad that I didn't deserve to have my child in my life. He convinced me that everyone - including my family and friends - could see that I was turning into my own mentally ill and abusive mother. He had me so convinced that at one point I walked out the door and started to walk to the train station with the full intention of throwing myself in front of a train. If I could not be a good mother to my daughter, she was better off without me.
Between them I had my money controlled, my social life, even my appearance. Often, I was "given control" without being given control - his actions after the act would prevent me from doing it again or even starting in the first place. For one man I would balance the budget and ensure the bills were paid but he would refuse to put a single cent towards them. For the other, I was in control of where the money went and when but he would hoc something to buy something else or use a loan repayment to get some gadget he wanted. For one, I could cut my hair, but if I did he wouldn't talk to me for three days and would deny me any form of affection for weeks. With the other I could hang out with whomever I wanted as long as he could reach me at any given point in time - failure to be immediately contactable resulted in accusations and sometimes him even returning from work to make sure I was home.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia
No one sees this type of abuse. I cannot show people the scars, the bruises, the injuries that lead me to leave his abusive ass. It was none of anyone's business how often we argued and what we argued about. So no, I can't show you what he said to me, the words he used to describe me. You don't know what happened behind closed doors, you don't know the things he did to intentionally drive me up the wall with worry and stress.
My high-school sweetheart was abusive. My husband was abusive. But you wouldn't know that because my relationship and what happened in it is none of your business. When the relationship ended and he spread lies about me cheating, I didn't correct them because I genuinely believed he was capable of change and did not want our mutual friends to walk away from him because of the mistakes he made in our relationship - after all I believe my friends would shun an abusive male. When my marriage ended and you were told it ended because he didn't do the dishes I didn't correct you because explaining I left because of his abusive behaviour was too hard.
Sometimes I wish he had hit me. I wish that he had left some physical mark on me that I could show people. That way people could see that he was abusive. That way I wouldn't be accused of walking away because it was too hard. And maybe, just maybe, it would help another identify how she was being abused without being physically harmed and save her life.
Edit: I would like to add that since I wrote this article more women have been killed. In fact, as of 31st March 2015, 28 women have lost their lives due to domestic violence. My heart goes out to their families. Domestic Violence needs to stop.