I sat there listening to my friend tell me everything she had been going through in her relationship for the last 10 years. I couldn’t believe my ears. All this time, I had assumed she was one of those women who willingly isolates herself within her man’s world leaving her friends far off while the romance is strong. Whenever I saw her, she seemed a little shut down, maybe even “off” but I attributed that to our distance plus she never said anything about her relationship. When I first met him, he seemed really charming and fun. But ever since they got married, I didn’t get to see her much. It seemed they always had something else going on and she eventually stopped socializing with our group of friends. Today, she’s telling me story after story of how he controlled, manipulated, and abused her for years. I just can’t understand why she – a smart, strong, wise person – would remain in that relationship and keep silent about his mistreatment for all these years.
As an outsider, it can be hard to understand why someone who used to share their secrets with you suddenly stops and hides details of their relationship. The victim before you now may not resemble the friend you felt you knew. You might actually think to yourself, “I would never allow myself to be in that situation.” But if you were, you may believe, you would never keep silent. You would certainly reach out to your friends for help. Before you continue on this train, it’s important to remember that abuse doesn’t happen all at once. Most abusive relationships begin with an incredibly positive and romantic beginning when the victim attaches themself to their partner. Over time and in the subtlest of ways, abusive behaviors begin to take place, one by one. This is the grooming stage of the relationship. An abusive relationship doesn’t start with a punch. It isn’t as obvious as one might think. Eventually, over time and as a result of many failed attempts at conflict resolution, the victim feels compelled to remain silent. They are overcome with self doubt and confusion. It’s not uncommon for victims to fail to understand the dynamics of abuse or grasp the definition of domestic violence. Abuse happens to all types of people. It is not a discriminator of persons. Victims can be from any gender, ethnicity, economic status, or educational degree. Whatever their background, victims struggle with speaking out about their abuse. Often, they feel shamed or fear and coerced into remaining silent.
There are at least three compelling reasons why victims keep silent while they are in an abusive relationship: 1. Fear of Retaliation, 2. The Stigma of Abuse, and 3. Double Abuse. Let’s unpack these three reasons why victims choose silence over seeking help. As you read about these three, we hope you will gain compassion for the person in your life who is experiencing psychological or physical abuse. If you are a victim or survivor, we hope you are validated and find grace for yourself.
As we start 2022, The M3ND Project would like to thank you for your constant support. The M3ND Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that relies on charitable contributions to educate, equip, and restore those impacted by abuse. We educate on covert emotional abuse and train individuals and organizations on the frontlines who are addressing and responding to victims. Please consider helping us continue our work by making supporting our Giving Tuesday campaign with a small monthly or one-time donation. https://secure.givelively.org/donate/m3nd-project-inc/become-a-monthly-m3nder-2022