On May 30th 2010, the monster that had berated me, beaten me, stripped me of my pride and power was finally locked away. For 8 years I was physically, sexually, and emotionally abused by a man who was a drug addict, alcoholic, and child molester. For 8 years I was tormented, tortured, and shaped to believe that I was worthless and would be better off dead. You might think that because I am no longer undergoing abuse, that I must be fine and free of worry, but that is wrong.
Yes, I don’t have to deal with that monster, but the physical and mental effects are everlasting. I, and many others alike, suffer from depression, PTSD, and anxiety that affect my day-to-day life. People do not realize the severity of the situation of abuse and tend to ignore signs of abuse. Abuse is often time overlooked because of the manipulating personalities of the abusers, or because of a lack of desire to get involved in the situation that could lead to complications in their own lives.
This is a deadly mistake…. Abuse that is gone unchecked can lead to several physical, mental, and emotional problems throughout the adult life, or in some cases, death. Many people around you, and maybe even yourself, may have or are currently suffering from abuse either from an intimate partner or family member. This isn’t just another write-up on abuse from someone completely indifferent to what abuse is like in person. I, myself, have suffered from abuse. For 8 years I was a victim of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
To this day I still have many issues including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety. These problems affect my day to day life. Many people do not understand the lasting effect of abuse, or they may not even know what abuse is and the many forms that it comes in. Abuse can come in many ways by many people, has lasting physical and mental effects, and can be devastating if left unattended.
First of all, abuse is, by definition, “The cruel and violent treatment of a person or animal.”- (8.) You might think of abuse as just the physical form; punching, kicking, biting, stabbing, but there are many other forms that abuse comes in. There are 6 types of abuse: Physical, sexual, verbal/emotional, mental/psychological, financial/economic, and cultural/identity. Physical abuse, is again, the physical contact that can include hitting, kicking, choking, or holding someone against their will. This is the most obvious type of abuse because of the physical evidence that is left (bruising, cuts).
Sexual abuse can be physical and non-physical. It can include rape or forced sexual actions, or refusing or using sex as a weapon against their partner. This is used for power and control because of the emotional and cultural significance of sex. Marital rape was not made illegal until 1993, which means that many people, especially men, assume that sex is something that they are entitled to. Verbal and emotional abuse is harder to recognize and to prove. Abusers use malicious words to berate and belittle their victims until they feel so worthless that the abuser has complete control over them.
As one survivor of abuse put it, “My ex-husband used words like weapons; like shards of glass, cutting and slowly draining my life, until I had nearly none left. I didn’t think I was abused because he didn’t hit me- usually… I had begun to believe his awful lies- how worthless I was, how stupid, how ugly, and how no one would ever want me.” (1.) Mental and psychological abuse is when the abuser uses words or actions to wear away at the victim’s mental wellbeing and health, which often times leaves the victim to doubt their sanity.
The abuser will do things such as moving items in the house, denying certain events, or isolating the victim over a period of time to make them dependent upon the abuser because the victim is shaped to mistrust their own judgment. The abuser will make them feel crazy to gain control over things that their partner or child do. Financial abuse is all about control over their intimate partner. This can include refusing the victim access to their bank account, spending their money, restricting them from having a job, or intentionally running up debts for the victim.
This leaves survivors of financial abuse unable to take out loans, buy a car, or get a job or an apartment because of the bad credit that the abuser left in their name. Cultural abuse is, “When abusers use aspects of a victim’s particular cultural identity to inflict suffering, or as a means of control.” (1.) This type of abuse can include not letting the person engage in cultural activities or customs, blackmailing them about their sexual orientation, or even isolating them because they do not speak the language that is prominent in their country/city.
Abusers aren’t always noticed, but some common characteristics to look out for are being possessive, manipulative, narcissistic, having a fascination with things such as weapons or violence, blaming others for their problems, and have unpredictable behavior. Abusers typically don’t show their true selves until they are alone with their victim as to not draw attention, which is why it is so important to look out for these traits. In short, abuse is hidden in many forms and can be hard to identify.
Furthermore, abuse leaves scars on the survivor, and not just visible ones. Traumatic events can change the brain completely from decreasing in size to losing connections between neurons. Maltreatment can cause the brain to decrease in size and volume in certain areas of the brain that include the hippocampus, the cerebellum, the prefrontal cortex, and many other parts of the brain.
These areas of the brain control learning and memory, communication and emotions, perception and motor skills, and the ability to process stressful or dangerous situations. This is the reason why many victims of trauma have trouble with communication and memory. I have trouble remembering a lot of things from certain events like going places or doing things, to little conversations that I had a few minutes ago. It is very difficult to work with memory problems, trust me, I know. When this happens, our brains go on “autopilot”, which is a coping mechanism your brain uses to protect you from situations that may be too stressful for the brain to deal with.
This can happen even when you’re in a completely calm environment with trusted people; all it takes is a smell, a word, or even a simple gesture to trigger the autopilot cognitive state. Other physical effects can include chronic fatigue, hypertension (high blood pressure), and heart disease. Trauma has a huge impact on the mental state and function. Mentally, trauma can lead to depression, anxiety, Post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorders, and suicidal behavior. Things like depression and PTSD are not something to joke about.
There is a major difference between being sad and being depressed. Depression leaves the person feeling empty, helpless, and unable to concentrate. Many common emotional effects are feeling hopeless and unmotivated, having the inability to trust others, dissociative symptoms, and apprehension. Trauma, even in small doses, leaves the mind and body different in certain ways, and it is important to recognize symptoms of disassociation and deprecating behaviors.
Going on, abuse is a serious crime and is punishable by many factors, but the abuser isn’t the only one that can face consequences. Abusers can face termination of parental rights, a criminal record, and even lifetime registration as a sex offender. But what you may all not know is that if you know about the events of abuse and fail to report them, you can face major penalties. Reporting abuse is mandated by law and failure to report to a law enforcement agency or hotline is considered a misdemeanor and you can very well face fines and/or jail time.
Not reporting or helping can lead to the victim growing up with all of the earlier symptoms of trauma, and in some cases, if abuse is not stopped, it can lead to death by the abuser or suicide. I want to make it very clear to you, that this is very serious and cannot be taken lightly because if you just ignore someone is any of these situations, you are no better than the abuser in letting the abuse happen. Standing by and not saying anything is cowardice and unjustifiable.
In conclusion, abuse can come in many forms and leads to a lifetime of illnesses and mental and physical scars. It is hard to recognize some types of abuse and its abusers, so if you see any signs of abuse including injuries, disconnection, or extreme changes in behavior, say something because you may be saving a life. Spreading awareness is the first step in helping, which is why I wanted to share this with you all, and I hope that you will be an advocate for violence as well. Don’t let someone become another victim, speak out and do what you know is right.