When I first found myself in this world of learning about domestic violence and reading books and watching DVDs and attending meetings and conferences and such, I would cross out violence and write abuse in my notes.
I absolutely hated that it was termed domestic violence and I was trying, in my own little way, to stage an intervention to get it changed to domestic abuse. (I’m cute like that.)
And the reason I hated that term so much is this: because abuse is not just physical and I felt that calling it domestic violence completely discounted all other forms of abuse, all of which can be just as damaging and leave much deeper and longer-lasting scars.
However, I’m changing my tune.
Violence is defined as rough or injurious force, action or treatment.
And I realized that verbal abuse and manipulation and gas-lighting and lies and put-downs and stalking are all rough. They are all injurious.
A friend put an Instagram picture on Facebook of a text conversation he and his wife had. It was totally cute but totally unnerving to me. He had apparently asked her to get bread at the store. She apparently forgot. She made a joke about it. It was just a sweet little exchange between husband and wife, except somewhere in the middle, he said, “It’s okay…..forget it..…” And she replied, “I know it’s okay.”
You know it’s okay?? How do you know that?? How can that just be okay??
People in normal marriages do not understand how words like that can sound like a foreign language to those who are used to abusive exchanges.
In an abusive marriage, this little mistake – forgotten bread – would’ve necessitated a thousand sorry’s, a possible trip right back to the store, and some emotional backlash in the form of “who forgets something like bread?” all the way to the silent treatment or an implication that you’re losing your memory/losing your mind.
And it wouldn’t end there, in that moment. For the woman in this kind of relationship, she will analyze it from top to bottom: a) why did I forget the bread?, b) is there something really wrong with me?, c) do I really have – as I was told – “mind gaps”?, d) did I forget it on purpose to be passive aggressive?, e) should I go to the doctor to make sure I’m not in early onset dementia or maybe there’s some medication I can take?, f) maybe my anti-depressant is making me forgetful, yet another reason to be ashamed I’m on the stuff, g) I cannot forget bread – or anything else – the next time, h) maybe there won’t be a next time, maybe he’ll insist on doing the shopping from now on because of my obvious incompetence, i) but wait, he forgot such-and-such a couple weeks ago…..why is that okay, but me forgetting is not?, and on and on and on it goes. (You have no idea..…)
So this is why I am now totally on board with calling it domestic violence. Because the rough-ness and injurious-ness of it all kills someone emotionally. And if that’s not violence, I don’t know what is.
“I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “because the man who divorces his wife covers his garment with violence…..” –Malachi 2:16–
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