Why Saying “It’s Not Bad” is Dangerous

By Jenn Rockefeller

Language is at the core of what we are as a society. It’s how we communicate our wants, needs, thoughts, and emotions. Sometimes using a slightly different word to convey something can give a statement an entirely different meaning. When we talk about something as serious as domestic violence, sometimes we use language that doesn’t carry significance and thus, the situation is downplayed.

Minimizing abuse
To minimize is to reduce to the smallest amount or greatly underestimate the true importance of something. So when domestic violence victims tell themselves, “Oh it’s not that bad,” they are, by definition, not admitting the true depth of the problem at hand or, if they do realize the severity, they don’t want to admit it to others.

The more a victim minimizes the abuse they are experiencing, the more likely they are to not even identify their experiences as domestic violence. This puts victims in a more dangerous situation and exposes them to further abuse.

Why does a victim minimize the abuse to begin with? Victims may pretend that the abuse “isn’t that bad” for a variety of reasons. They may fear that no one else could care for the them like the abuser; they may not want to acknowledge that the person who claims to love them is the one hurting them; or they may not be willing to admit that they are experiencing domestic violence at all.

The language we use
Everyone (victims, survivors and society in general) uses specific language to talk about domestic violence. But that specific language can sometimes make abuse seem less dangerous. It’s vital that victims and survivors call it what it is–violence–and the definition of violence is emotional or physical force intended to hurt, damage or kill.

No matter how unimportant the act seems to the victim, it’s essential to use the phrases and terminology that will garner awareness and bring justice. Below are just a few phrases that victims often tell themselves (and others) to minimize the severity of the abuse:

  • “Oh it’s not that bad.”
  • “(The abuser) only emotionally abused me.”
  • “(The abuser) only hit me twice.”
  • “It’s not like any bones were broken.”
  • “(The abuser) just had a bad day, that’s all.”
  • “My friends and family don’t know (the abuser) like I do.”
  • “I should have listened to (the abuser) when I was told to do something.”

The language we use to talk about domestic violence makes it seem less dangerous than it really is. But how is it less dangerous? When victims don’t immediately recognize the severity of abuse or downplay it, they are essentially staying in a relationship that may escalate into something more violent. By the same token, when victims downplay the severity, the courts and the authorities may not take it seriously either. They may say, “Well if it wasn’t that bad, why are you making a complaint then?” Authorities may not have the “incentive” to investigate the crime.

The importance of language
Words are powerful and, when used in proper context, can have a significant effect on how society views certain situations. The language we use to describe domestic violence is one way we can control this societal perception. Using stronger and more accurate language to convey the severity can garner more widespread awareness. Even the way we communicate can help–make direct eye contact and use urgency in your voice. Use more powerful words. When we use words that carry more weight to them, then others around us will know we are serious about our situations.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

Survivor Story: Hope for the Future

Written by: Pam, Survivor

When we met, I was 19; he was a few years older. He was charming, funny and handsome. He told me his story of heartbreak. I believed his lies; my heart went out to him, and I fell for him. We had children together, and we were married for 13 years. The abuse started small but escalated over the years. This was many years ago before everyone had cell phones, before personal computers. Now when I read about and hear all of the signs of domestic violence, I can say that, yes, I experienced nearly every one of them.

He had periods of time where he was not abusive; this could last for months, weeks or days. During the calm times, I would get my hopes up that he had changed, that we would have a normal family life. I never knew when he would spiral out of control; it usually came out of nowhere.

When he tried to direct his rage, usually verbal, at our children, I got in the middle of it; I was their protector.

I believe one reason I didn’t leave is that I knew if we were to separate and divorce, he would have the children alone with him at various times. Right or wrong, one reason I stayed with this man was to protect my kids from being alone with him. I felt beaten down. I felt trapped financially, emotionally and physically. I was so weak. I felt isolated.

I felt guilty for staying with him.

Towards the end, he had a hunting rifle out on the floor cleaning it. I can still see this scene in my mind. We had been fighting quite a bit, and the subject of divorce and child custody came up. I made the comment that the mother is normally awarded custody of the children.

He looked up at me as he was cleaning this gun and said, “Not if the mother is dead.” I remember shutting my mouth and praying that somehow the kids and I could get out of this nightmare. Not too long after this incident, he left us and went to another state. He left us with nothing. We were in the process of being evicted from our house, and our car had been repossessed.

I never opened up to my family about the abuse over the years. They knew he could have a bit of a temper, but he was a charmer and could be a totally different person around them. No one heard about what when on behind closed doors.

After my ex left, my family and church helped me get on my feet. I went to college and earned a degree. My ex told me continually I wasn’t smart enough for college.

I felt safe; my kids felt safe, and our home was calm. Yes, I still had to deal with my ex for several years, but thankfully it was from a distance.

Soon after my divorce, I met a wonderful, kind, loving man. We fell in love, real love. He loves my children and me. My ex said another man would never want me. My husband and I have been happily married for over 25 years. God brought us together, and I am so thankful.

This is a very short version of my story. There are so many details, thoughts, feelings, memories that I could share.

Please know, there is life after abuse.

There is always hope, joy, love, and peace.

There is healing.

I know, I found it, and I am thankful.

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What’s YOUR Raw Truth?

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, complete the form below. You can choose to remain anonymous.

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Our mission is to provide resources and support services to victims, survivors, and families impacted by domestic violence. Without the support of our community, the services and programs we provide would not be possible. Your support enables us to continue programs that are critical to those affected by abuse to rebuild their lives and thrive.

Click here to donate!

Survivor Story: My Abuser Locked Me in a Closet and Beat Me with a Hammer

Written by: Courtney, Survivor

First off, I apologize because I am not very good with words, but I want to get my story out there. Hopefully, it can help other women, so here it goes!

About four years ago I met my ex-husband. I thought he was charming, cute, and smart. He always said sweet things. I would say after about six months of us being together, we decided to get married. Mind you, in those six months, he cheated about four times. I ignored the signs because I thought I could be the one to change him.

So, in February 2013, we got married in a courthouse. The only family from my side that showed up were my sister and her husband. My family did not want any part of it. And, again I ignored the signs. The day we got married, he actually cheated on me. I remember I was so heartbroken because he was gone all night.

As time went on cheating became a regular occurrence, and physical abuse came into play. I would say that by the time we were in our first year of marriage, I was being strangled until I passed out, punched, and kicked. He even went so far as to pouring trash on my head and rubbing dog feces in my face. I could remember one time he hit me on top of my head with a gun and blood poured down my face; he stood there with a gun pointed toward me telling me he wished I would die.

I remember feeling worthless, asking myself what I did how can I make this better. But in reality, there was no making it better. I have lost jobs for coming to work with my face literally swollen from being beaten. I actually lost my children, friends, and family but still thought if I could show him that I loved him that he would do better and everything would be ok.

I literally left and came back to him numerous times –  so many times I lost count. Finally, one night he locked me in the closet and was beating me with a hammer all over my body. I remember crying and asking God to just please kill me, pleading and asking why this was happening to me.

The next day I went to church, and, of course, my face was beaten up. I remember feeling embarrassed, like I was two feet tall. The speaker that day came up to me and said, “God hears you crying at night, and he wants you to step aside and let him fight this battle.” I broke down …

The next day I left, and I never went back. I never thought I was strong enough to leave, but I actually did. Here it is about three years later, and I have a good relationship with my children, family, and friends.

I do still deal with nightmares and apologize about everything. Every day I look in the mirror, the scars he left me remind me how strong I really am and that I came a very long way. I really do hope this story helps somebody out!

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What’s YOUR Raw Truth?

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, complete the form below. You can choose to remain anonymous.

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Our mission is to provide resources and support services to victims, survivors, and families impacted by domestic violence. Without the support of our community, the services and programs we provide would not be possible. Your support enables us to continue programs that are critical to those affected by abuse to rebuild their lives and thrive.

Click here to donate!

Survivor Story: I Escaped After 20 Years of Being Raped, Isolated, and Abused

Written by: Giovanna, Survivor

I was 14 when I met the father of my two adult daughters. It wasn’t at all love at first sight. In fact, it wasn’t love at all. For me, it was an act of rebellion. He was a partier and popular. All the girls wanted him, but the funny thing was that I couldn’t stand him. He pursued me continuously until I gave in. My being 100% Italian and his being 100% Jamaican was a complete no-no for a relationship in my family.

I started to get involved with the parties that he would have; everyone went to them, and there were drugs, drinking, and people being plain stupid. Eventually, I lost my virginity to him. Six years later, my first daughter was born. Actually, he tricked me by sabotaging the condoms to purposely get me pregnant. He knew what he was doing. He knew once my family found out, I would have no choice but to move in with him.

Well, it worked. I was trapped. Almost two years after my first daughter came my second. I didn’t even love him. The abuse started pretty quickly after my first daughter’s birth and got worse through the months and years. I left him three times in a span of 20 years.

The third time, he raped and beat me for three days with my then 9 and 11-year-old daughters in the house. Those 20 years were a nightmare. He is such a horrible person that the devil is most likely terrified of him.

That weekend in hell was the scariest of them all. He was leaving the horse, and he turned to me and said, “When I get back, you’ll be lucky if you live through the night.” That was when I knew I had to get away from him while he was gone.

You see, a few months before that nightmare weekend, I decided to get a prepaid mobile phone. He didn’t let me have much money from my paycheck, but what he would give me I would save. Ten dollars on a 120-minute card went a long way for me. I cut a slit in the inside pocket of my purse, so if he went in there, he would never find it. He had a cell phone that I wasn’t allowed to use, and we had no house phone because he didn’t allow it.

After he left, my girls and I watched him pull away, and I instructed them to pack as much stuff of theirs as they could that they wanted to take with them, and I called my mom who lived ten minutes away to come get me before he came back to kill me. She came quickly. We had a total of four garbage bags. I was able to find our social security cards and both of my girls’ birth certificates, and I took as many important documents as possible.

That night we left with my mom, and we never looked back. It was hell for a few years after. We lived in a domestic violence shelter that was luckily in a nice hotel and were code red. We were in and out of court, but the judge kept letting him off. Eventually, it died down. That final day of our suffering and struggle had finally come to an end.

I met an amazing man who, four years later, became my husband. He unexpectedly came into our lives. He helped me get back into my family’s lives and heal my relationship with them. He helped heal my girls and me, helped us to trust again, and made me feel the most beautiful unconditional love that I never knew existed. My girls love him like a father and call him their dad. He has shown them what a healthy, loving relationship looked like. He was patient and so loving.

My abuser has stalked us, but he will never be able to find us again. We’re safe and a few hours away from him. Almost ten years later, here we are. We own a beautiful home and a business, live in stability, and I have an endless amount of love from my incredible husband.

There is so much more in between what I have written here, but it would take me days to write it all out. There were many beatings… A LOT. I was raped numerous times by him, tortured, held captive, and taken away from my family. There is just so much. But what I look at when I look back at all of this… I see myself and my girls – now 21 and 23 – as warriors that survived hell.

My husband and I are grandparents to our almost two-year-old beautiful granddaughter that my 23-year-old daughter blessed us with. We have a total of four kids, my girls and his kids, aged 13 and 14.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a terrifying journey, but what waits for you at the end is beautiful freedom. You can finally start living instead of just merely existing. My goal is to get my story out there so maybe a woman that comes across it one day will be able to understand that there is hope.

You can begin to live a happy life after going through hell and back; never give up. Fight. Be that warrior and take your power back. Find that inner strength and win that battle. The courts won’t always help. They surely didn’t help me; I had to make a choice: live or die. I chose for my girls and me to live, but not just live, to tell our story and help another human being in that situation.

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What’s YOUR Raw Truth?

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, complete the form below. You can choose to remain anonymous.

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Our mission is to provide resources and support services to victims, survivors, and families impacted by domestic violence. Without the support of our community, the services and programs we provide would not be possible. Your support enables us to continue programs that are critical to those affected by abuse to rebuild their lives and thrive.

Click here to donate!

Survivor Story: My Baby Died After My Children Were Placed with My Abuser’s Family

Written by: BTSADV Survivor

I have been in front of this page off and on for about two weeks trying to get the courage to tell my story because it didn’t even start with intimate partners but my father’s mother. So here it goes; bear with me.

When I was a child, my father’s mother manipulated both the system and my father and managed to completely alienate me from my mother and her entire family. (It doesn’t always help when you have law enforcement in the family.) Later, my grandmother even manipulated her own son into signing me over to her. I found out later that there weren’t even any legal papers; he just trusted her.

I spent years being isolated and conditioned into believing the only things I’d be good for were making babies and doing what men wanted me to. So, when I was 17, I finally got my blessing; my first son was born in 2009. I met his dad in high school, and he was the sweetest man. We had reconnected in 2008, and I got pregnant one month into what was meant to be just a hookup.

I spent the next four years living in an abusive hell. The worst part was my grandmother – who supposedly loved me enough to be the only person that didn’t leave me – supported my abuser! Every time I would get him out of our lives, she’d bring him back. I was too dependent on them because she told a lie to my driver’s education teacher. I wasn’t able to get a license without a doctor confirming that I don’t have panic attacks.

My grandmother and abuser also financially abused me. I was working, and they spent all my money while I worked and lord only knows what else, now that I think back. I finally got the courage to leave in 2012 when I was pregnant with my second son. I had met a friend who was finally willing to help. He wasn’t the first to see it, but he was the only one to help. My own family backed her and still does.

After losing someone that meant a lot to me, I made a plan and escaped. I was committed and arrested, and that was enough for my abuser to get our son, who was three at the time. I was also pregnant and had nobody really that could help me. Because I was only 21, I really had no idea how to navigate the court system. They even managed to get custody of my second son before he was even born because they told lies about my best friend – who would later be my husband – and me.

I finally found my mother who, as it turned out, was nothing like I had been told she was. My sister had died of SIDS, and my grandmother had used that to damage my mother’s reputation; in the 1990s, it was easy to create doubt about SIDS deaths.

I got my son back and then a few weeks later my then-boyfriend, the kids, and I were in a car crash that almost killed us and left us with no car. We were separated for a while as we got back on our feet, but we were still unaware of what exactly we had been accused of.

Eventually, we were able to move into a place all on our own without government assistance. The following night, they took my sons, and I would never see one of them again. They had accused my boyfriend of assaulting my son; after two years of hell, they retracted that accusation. Before they could undo it, my children were given to my ex-husband and abuser’s stepmom, as I had also made allegations and he had been arrested several times for other crimes.

Four months after they were given to her – three days after my 22nd birthday – my second son died. He was only nine months old. Two months later, we got the call that she had been arrested because they found drugs in my son’s body – an anti-depressant and Benadryl. It made local news; she was bonded out before the story even blew up, and she only served 41 days in jail and three years of probation. As of last Christmas, she is free.

I live with so much pain every day, but I keep it together for my boys. I have since had another son – who is now three years old – with my other ex-husband. The trauma of what happened had destroyed my relationship with the other guy. He is a good guy, but we were 21 and 22 when this happened; we tried with all our might, but we couldn’t move forward. I moved 1000 miles away and met a great man who is good to us all. It’s been two years, and we’ve moved twice more.

It’s very hard for me to tell my story because it’s so much more twisted; this is the short version! My abuser is currently in prison for a rape he committed on a young girl; he was 27 she was 14. His story made international news, so karma did get at least one person. He will be in prison until 2033 and has no idea where we are.

My oldest is nine now, and he struggled to get past all this and the things he saw. His bonus dad has helped him so much, and he sleeps soundly knowing that monster can never touch us again. If you’re still here bless your heart!

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What’s YOUR Raw Truth?

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, complete the form below. You can choose to remain anonymous.

========

Our mission is to provide resources and support services to victims, survivors, and families impacted by domestic violence. Without the support of our community, the services and programs we provide would not be possible. Your support enables us to continue programs that are critical to those affected by abuse to rebuild their lives and thrive.

Click here to donate!

Survivor Story: My Abuse Left Me with Physical and Emotional Scars

Written by: BTSADV Survivor

My story has its roots within the story of a man who was abused as a child. The man who abused my puppy and me was abused by his stepfather. I had to sit him down to convince him that my puppy was innocent, no matter the infraction he felt was made upon him. He stopped hitting my dog because I threatened to leave him.

Things were okay, but the emotional abuse persisted. I was treated like someone who insulted him by being in his presence. It went from him beating down my door to punching holes in my wall and threatening to kill himself. He was attached in an unhealthy way.

The situation escalated quickly from a person with relational and emotional issues to a person who was physically harming me. He hit me countless times. He hit me with objects from the wall in my legs, and I still have scars from this. I also have a scar on top of my eyebrow that was left after he punched me so hard it broke my skin. Often his hits were unexpected. I still suffer today from being hit by him on the head many times.

He had threatened to jump out of my moving car while I was driving 65 mph on a highway. I left the relationship with the self-esteem of someone who was nonexistent on this Earth, and he made me felt that I deserved it.

A serious warning for anyone that suffers from emotional abuse or witnesses their partner be physically abusive to other people or animals: you are not the exception. A person that abuses is ill-minded, and you cannot expect a different outcome, no matter how much you trust or love your partner. Therapy was the only way out of the dark hole that this person put me in.

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What’s YOUR Raw Truth?

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, complete the form below. You can choose to remain anonymous.

========

Our mission is to provide resources and support services to victims, survivors, and families impacted by domestic violence. Without the support of our community, the services and programs we provide would not be possible. Your support enables us to continue programs that are critical to those affected by abuse to rebuild their lives and thrive.

Click here to donate!