Is It Abuse? Here's My Personal Experience.

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It's not always just physical.

I was in an abusive relationship for 5 years. I didn't leave and I didn't report it to the police. A lot of that was a mix of Stockholm syndrome, severe emotional abuse that led to devastating low self-esteem (in addition to the physical stuff), and gas lighting.

My abuser was my boyfriend, a person I thought was the love of my life, and my coworker. I suffered his wrath at night and then had to work by his side every day, staying professional, as if nothing had happened. He pointed out every single one of my flaws and then told me no one would ever accept them but him. He distanced me from my friends and family without me even realizing it. He would have fits of rage and then promise he'd change and go to therapy. He'd never make it to therapy, claiming money issues, busy schedule, and make me feel bad that he so desperately wanted help but couldn't make it there.

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Didn't I get how hard his life was? I was unsympathetic! Why was I acting this way?

It didn't end there.

My boyfriend encouraged me to open up to him and then threatened to disclose the information I told him if I ever left. He'd get me to an incredibly low, insecure, and vulnerable point-- and then cheat on me-- and know I'd do nothing about it because I was too sad and insecure at that point to be alone. He told his friends and our coworkers that I was "crazy and jealous" so that when I finally did seek help regarding our relationship, I seemed unreliable.

In abusive relationships, two things are common:

Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm syndrome involves the "strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other."

Gaslighting

Gaslighting is "manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a target."

For example, one time my ex slammed my head into a car door, and then just told me flat out--- it did not happen. He claimed so fervently that the incident did not occur that finally I thought to myself, despite having bruises on my face: did I imagine it?

Stats

Let me break it down for you.

  • Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national average.

  • One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

  • One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.

  • Nearly half (43%) of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors.

  • College students are not equipped to deal with dating abuse – 57% say it is difficult to identify and 58% say they don’t know how to help someone who’s experiencing it.

  • One in six (16%) college women has been sexually abused in a dating relationship.

  • Nearly half of all women and men in the United States will experience psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

  • 1 in 4 women will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. For women with a disability, this figure doubles.

Still Abuse

In fact, Huffington Post Women just published the powerful piece, "Maybe He Doesn't Hit You, But It's Still Abuse." It chronicles tweets by women exploring their different experiences with abuse with the hashtag #maybehedoesnthityou.

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Abusive relationships can take several forms and many times the emotional repercussions far outweigh, and are more confusing, than the physical. If you need help for an abusive relationship, you can call the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence for anonymous help at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).

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