Domestic Violence: My story

Domestic violence is known about. We hear about. We talk about it. We think about it. Many of us have, or will, live it. According to a report in 2012, statistics state that in Australia 1 in 3 women will have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, while 1 in 5 will have experienced sexual violence.

There are so many facets in domestic violence, despite the distinction seeming to be between only physical and sexual. Where do we draw the line? Where does emotional abuse become considered physical? When a punch is thrown? When a woman is struck by a man, or a man struck by a woman? What about the years of emotional abuse? What about the resulting mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks? What about eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia? What about the personal belief that perhaps a the victim deserves to be treated the way that they are? These effects are triggered not only by physical harm, but also by emotional abuse.

Does physical abuse encompass verbal abuse? Does it include that night when a man screamed at a woman that she was fat or ugly, stupid or useless? What about the short fuse, resulting in the woman screaming at the man that he is a sad excuse for a partner? That he doesn’t achieve enough? That he doesn’t earn enough? Or what about the stay-at-home parent who is told off by their partner, made to feel bad because their partner is “working hard at the office whilst they sit around playing games and changing nappies”? It may seem far fetched, but these are situations that arise; these are issues that are evident in our culture.

There is definite awareness required regarding domestic violence. But as a survivor of emotional abuse, I wonder if there is awareness of the detrimental effect of this on peoples lives?

For years, I was told that I was not pretty enough, not skinny enough, not dressed in the right clothes; not dying my hair the right colour. It was always subtle, always under other peoples radars. It was enough to hurt me. What woman learns to love herself, when a man constantly tells her that she “should look more like that girl over there”, or asks “why don’t you wear clothes like her”? When the person she loves and cherishes tells her that she should “wear more makeup” or “act like that girl” or “die her hair that colour”, what is he saying? He is saying that who she is, is not enough. Not enough for him, not enough for her, not enough for the world. When a man treats a woman like she is not enough, frequently, she will begin to feel like she is less than. If a woman believes she is less than anything, why and how will she endeavour to be more, and how will she believe in herself, her goals and her dreams? How will her self esteem build her up; rather than tear her down? And if woman can feel this way, what about young girls? What is the impact on them when the women that they look up to cannot lead with strength and determination, because they cannot focus on more than getting through each day? Will these grow up to be strong, or will they grow up thinking that this is just how woman feel? That they too, are not enough just as they are?

It has taken me years to move past the time I spent in the abusive relationship; and often, I find it almost impossible. I have days where I cannot see past the pain, where I truly believe I am not enough for anyone, let alone myself. There are days where the words haunt me, and the moments scar me over and over again. But, because I now have someone who loves me and builds me up, those moments are becoming easier; I believe in myself just a little bit more.

I believe that one day, I will once again believe 100% that I am good enough.

xx Nellie

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