Recently, I asked a friend for feedback on these first few articles. With her permission, I’m going to address a couple of concerns.
She said she was uncomfortable with the term, “the beast.” Was he really that bad?
And here we encounter a problem I’ve bumped my head against numerous times. She may have asked if the anti-husband really deserves to be called a beast, but that’s not what I heard. Without realizing it, my friend triggered a case of the Wild-Eyed Crazies.
What I heard: Are you exaggerating?
The scary part? I’m actually minimizing.
Folks want to believe only what they see. In the case of verbal abuse, emotional abuse, bullying and other cases where a dominate party violates the trust of those dependent on them, scars aren’t always visible. You can’t imagine how many times I wished the anti-husband would just hit me already so I could call the police.
It’s hard for those outside the fractured family circle to understand the kind of torment these men dish out. If I walked around covered in bruises, black eye, broken bones protruding through the skin, no one would question my angst. But we’re talking injuries you can’t see inflicted by actions no one else witnessed. You’re just going to have to take my word for it and that’s a huge leap for those who can’t imagine anyone would purposefully hurt their own wife and children.
It also plays smack dab into the hands of the abuser.
Typical Family Time
The beast loved to verbally beat the bloody hell out of me and the kids right before company pulled into the driveway. Then as we stood there bleeding, he morphed into Totally Charming Man– witty, funny, man’s man, envy of wives everywhere. Throughout the coming evening, he sat back and watched, taking potshots at each of us in turn, saying things no one else could possibly understand without the subtext.
Challenge anything he said, I wound up looking like a heinous bitch. The kids react, he punished them publicly, making an example of them, showing his audience how fully he controlled his home. Was this abusive? Taken as an isolated incident, maybe not. Day by day, damaging friendships, dividing the individual family members from one another, isolating the family unit which no longer wants outside contact with the world– You bet it was.
Could anyone else tell what was going on?
Only if they’d lived through something similar. Later, several friends came and apologized. One said, “I lived with an abusive alcoholic father for 18 years and you had red flags waving all over the place. I should’ve known.”
Appearances Are Deceiving
Ours looked like the perfect Christian home. Others wanted to model our success. But please understand—if you only saw us sitting in a pew an hour on Sunday morning, is that really any indication of what goes on behind closed doors? If you come over once every three months for barbeque and cream soda, can you possibly have any inkling what’s going to happen the minute your car pulls out of the driveway?
Tell Me What Happened
I can’t. If I told you I was sexually abused as a child, would you ask me for details? Would you want me to recount the incidents, one by one so you could judge for yourself how damaging these might be? Would you decide that fondling really isn’t all that bad and I should be over it by now? Or get into a discourse about how your neighbor’s wife was repeatedly sodomized and that is much, much worse. In comparison, what you describe doesn’t sound like abuse at all.
And yet, abused women who live with hateful domination, verbal onslaughts lasting hours on end, raging fits designed to punish them for their crimes, and constant threats of violence get this reaction all the time. Tell me a few incidents. Tell me what happened. The implied message? I’ll be the judge of whether this is abusive.
The very worst incidents are the ones I don’t want to remember. The words ‘domination’ and ‘manipulation’ and ‘bullying’ are codewords for memories that lap at the edges of the very stuff it takes to get through another day. I use them to talk about what happened without plunging back into the muck. A triggered memory–one that shows up without invitation– can set back recovery by days, weeks, even months, depending on how long it takes to find the shreds of truth that barely hold me up and weave them back together.
It’s taken years to even admit to myself that abuse took place. How can I expect you to understand in the thirty minutes before you head back to your semi-normal family and the husband who may annoy the crap out of you, but never would purposefully set out to destroy your soul?
- Emotional Abuse
- Verbal Abuse
- Sexual Domination
- Manipulation and Control.
If you really want to help, really want to understand, you’ll have to educate yourself. Material is out there, pages and pages of the stuff. You’ll have to put criticism to one side and realize that women and children coming out of these marriages are showing the *effects* of abuse.
Please try to understand:
That pain you see, making you uncomfortable, isn’t free floating out there in space.
Something caused it.
*Someone* caused it.
The pain itself is a pretty dadgum good indication the story is authentic and, Yes Virginia, it really was that bad.
Don’t judge victims based on your own observations. You can’t see the damage done to the human spirit with eyeballs. You can’t examine the broken and bloody soul, x-ray the innards, assess the wreckage. What you *will* see is a fairly put together woman who’s learned to shut up and play nice, peeking out around the very frayed edges who probably overreacts to seemingly minor statements.
You can’t expect a survivor to explain in ten minutes it took her a lifetime to understand.