YOUR ABUSER MAY BE ABLE TO TRACK YOUR ONLINE ACTIVITIES. Find out how to protect yourself. In addition to that information, be aware that there are software products that allow someone sharing your computer to track where you go online, what keystrokes are typed, etc. If in doubt, do not use a computer the abuser has access to!
Links to Help
I've been physically, verbally, and emotionally abused by parents as well as some past boyfriends. I've also been sexually abused by some of those boyfriends. For a very long time, I was a victim. I lived, thought, spoke, and acted as a victim. I tried turning proverbial cheeks after fighting back proved to do more harm than good. But eventually, I took my life into my own hands and developed a stronger personality that won't tolerate abuse from anyone.
The most significant thing I've learned as a result of abuse is that abusers almost never realize what they're doing, let alone that it's wrong. Abusers know they are committing an act of violence, that they are hurling insults, etc., so don't think I'm excusing them of the culpability of their actions. I mean that abusers never seem to realize that their actions constitute "abuse." They have justifications for everything they do, and convince themselves that those justifications excuse behaviour that would be intolerable to them in another situation. Abusers frequently say things like the following statements:
Trying to confront most abusers with the inappropriateness of their behaviour is useless, in my experience. They too often refuse to acknowledge that what they did was wrong. If the abuser is in a position of power, such as a parent, the chances of convincing them that their actions constitute abuse are even smaller, because they have the "I was just trying to teach you right from wrong" excuse to fall back on.
Abusers also often believe their actions arise from love. This, in my opinion, is a gross misconception of "love." People who love each other do not deliberately hurt each other, even to ostensibly correct behaviour. Respect is an essential component of love, and if you are capable of striking someone instead of communicating with them in an appropriate fashion, you do not respect them, and therefore do not truly love them.
I am sure there are some people out there who do genuinely love their children, but still believe in spankings as "discipline." This is a faulty premise, unless the child is allowed to spank the adult should the adult make a mistake. If a child is spanked for lying but the parent is not spanked for lying, then this is an exertion of control, not discipline. Discipline is intended to teach, and may or may not include the use of physical force. What lessons are taught when the child is disciplined in a manner inconsistent with how adults are disciplined, such as spanking? The lessons include: do as adults say, not as they do; big people are allowed to exert physical control over small people; children have no rights of the self; and mistakes are grounds for fear, not learning.
Take, for example, a scene I witnessed while on a road trip in California. While at a fast food restaurant in Barstow, a common stopping point on the long drive between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, I saw a tired-looking child of approximately two years of age get frustrated as the woman who appeared to be his mother tried to get him to sit down. He whined and smacked her hand away, using his tiny, pudgy soft little hand. She then used her much larger, much stronger, much harder hand to whack him in return, with the accompanying scold of, "Don't hit people!"
What lessons were taught there? How effective was the "don't hit people" lesson, when it was accompanied with the apparently wrongful behaviour? Was the child's reaction of crying and dropping down into his seat an indication of a lesson learned in how to sit down in a restaurant, or an indication of behaviour motivated by pain and fear?
Another example: what is the lesson when a child's mouth is washed out with soap for using words they may well have heard adults use, or heard on TV shows watched by the parents? The lesson is that the child will be deliberately, consciously poisoned for doing something that will be considered acceptable, although possibly uncouth, a few years from now. The act of washing a child's mouth out with soap is a slow, careful, deliberate act of abuse. Excuses of losing control do not apply. If you are capable of forcing a lightly toxic (or worse, depending on the soap) substance into your child's mouth, not only can you not claim to respect that child, but you are a cold, calculating abuser. And all of this over swearing? No reasonable person could conclude that that kind of torture is justified over an issue of appropriate communication skills.
Of course, not all abuse is physical. Verbal abuse can be just as scarring as physical abuse, but is harder to pinpoint, and thus harder to fight. A teacher can see a child's bruises from physical abuse and call in the authorities, but what is to be done with a child who believes that they are stupid, useless, ugly, fat, pathetic, or any other thing that they've been told by verbal abusers? If an adult has mysterious bruises and explains them away with feeble statements such as "I fell" or "The door hit me in the eye," friends and colleagues can recognize this as potential domestic abuse and find ways to help. If an adult just has a poor self-image, friends and colleagues may never know that it's because the adult in question is insulted at home on a daily basis.
Again, people who love each other do not verbally abuse each other. Disagreements are not verbal abuse, nor is it abuse just because a voice is raised. Verbal abuse is a consistent application of insults that stems from a lack of respect, and is often done for the purpose of making the victim feel poorly about themselves. And again, respect is integral to love.
Abuse is not limited to women and children. Men suffer both physical and verbal abuse as well, and to discount their experiences as them not being "manly" enough is a sexist attitude. A man should no more have to endure being hit, shoved, or insulted than a woman or child should. While children remain almost entirely powerless to stop abuse, and women are still too often condemned for their own victimhood, the abused man has almost zero recourse in western society. There are precious few shelters for abused men to flee to. An abused man has almost no support network, because admitting to being abused is an invitation to chastisement and disrespect in and of itself. While an abused woman may have a friend to turn to for help, all too often an abused man will be met with comments such as, "What, are you a wimp?" if he confides in a friend.
Furthermore, western society sees female-against-male violence as minor, or even comical (i.e. a woman slapping a man in the face), but demonizes men who use violence against women in self defense. Men are expected to take physical abuse, while women are seen as delicate beings incapable of inflicting serious damage. Lorena Bobbit was hailed as some kind of feminist hero for cutting off her husband's penis, but how would society regard a man who cut off his wife's breast, even if he had the excuse of having been abused by her for years? This sexist double standard is all-too-often ignored by those who fight anti-female sexism and similar double standards against women.
Victims of abuse really only have one way to protect themselves, and that is to remove the abuser from their life. Even that isn't foolproof, as evidenced by the number of people hunted down and killed by former abusive spouses. Children removed from abusive homes are too frequently placed into social services that treat them poorly as well, and do little to help rebuild their lives. Victims of abuse often feel, and sometimes justifiably, that they are trapped by their abusers, so even if they know they are a victim, they feel powerless to escape. A common element of abuser control is to keep the victim from having a support network or access to help.
If you are being abused, do not wait for the abuse to end. It will not. You need to excise the abuser from your life. Very few places in the world will accept you doing this by violent means, such as killing your abuser, even if your abuser has threatened or tried to kill you. Self-defense laws often require you to be in immediate danger, and killing your abuser in their sleep does not qualify. Furthermore, answering abuse with violence drags you down to their level. If you kill someone, that is something that will haunt you morally and legally for the rest of your life.
Therefore, the best way to excise an abuser is to cut them out of your life through legal means. This is not perfect; as already mentioned, some abusers become murderous stalkers, and most laws are pathetically weak when it comes to protecting abuse victims from vengeful ex-abusers. Children have even fewer rights, and are too often returned to abusive parents only to turn up dead a short time later.
Education and empowerment are the best tools for an abuse victim. Knowing your rights, how to survive on your own, and how to rebuild your life are crucial to getting an abuser out of your life. Those things will vary from person to person and between geographical areas. However, the following key items are true for almost all victims of abuse:
If you remove the abuser from your life, expect resistance, denial, and attempts at manipulation. All of the justifications they've used before will be brought out in full force now. They will attempt to make everything they've done appear to be your fault, both to exonerate themselves and to guilt you into remaining under their control. If they do admit to any wrongdoing, it will only be a temporary admission, used to regain your trust so they might maintain their hold on you. As soon as they once again feel in control of you, the abuse will restart, possibly worse than before.
Remember: someone who deliberately hurts you does not respect you, and if someone doesn't respect you, chances are they never will if you remain under their control. While a one-time mistake isn't necessarily abuse, any repeated behaviour designed to hurt you is. The longer you put up with it, chances are the worse it will get.
There are many sources of information and support both online and off. I've compiled some lists of sites and contacts by geographical region (most of these sites are either English only, or I've linked to the English page, because I can't speak other languages enough to ascertain information about non-English pages). Please select your area below to view the appropriate page (some of the area-specific pages have resources that may be applicable to other countries):
If you know of a non-US abuse hotline number not listed on these pages, please email me and specify the geographical area of the hotline, hours, whether or not there is a line for deaf people, and any other pertinent details.
DO NOT email me to let me know of a specific abuse shelter's page/number in the US. There are too many to list, so I've restricted that list to national and state-wide organizations only. Email of this nature will be ignored and not answered.
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Page last updated June 5, 2004.
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