Most relationships don’t start off with physical abuse. Often the first sign is subtly controlling behavior. Maybe calling and texting you many times throughout the day. Not allowing you to go out with your friends alone. Always demanding a reply to questions or texts right away. This can make us anxious, but we brush it off thinking, “Oh, they are just worried about me… they just really care about me”. We sometimes feel guilty for overthinking the control too much because at this point it really isn’t too bad.
Next, we may deal with verbal abuse. This can often come in forms of being talked down to, belittled, or being told we did things we didn’t actually do. When being talked down to, we often shrug it off thinking they must have had a bad day and they don’t really mean what they said. When we are accused of certain things, such as cheating, and take it thinking the abuser had been cheated on before. Maybe they just need our reassurance.
But finally comes the point where the physical abuse begins. Now what? What are the excuses we tell ourselves then? First, let’s take a look at what physical abuse is. The definition is any non-accidental harm done to the body by the use of force, which results in pain, injury, or a change in the person’s natural state. Seems pretty vague so let’s dive deeper.
How it Started
My first experience with physical abuse was by a man who pushed and pinned me against a wall and began screaming in my face. I bumped my head and was certainly frightened but did not have any injuries. I knew he was having a bad day and fighting with his brother, so I just stayed quiet and kept my distance to ensure I didn’t make him more angry. It was the first time it happened, so in my mind, it wasn’t that bad. I prayed it would never happen again. But it did.
“When walking he often held onto my upper arms very tight. To others it appeared like we were the happy couple, the man holding his women near him and he must be proud of her. What they couldn’t see was the bruises he left on my arms.”
As time went on, the bruising began. When walking he often held onto my upper arms very tight. To others it appeared like we were the happy couple, the man holding his women near him and he must be proud of her. What they couldn’t see was the bruises he left on my arms. He often held me so tight that his fingers left black and blue marks all up my upper arms. He wasn’t doing this because we were the happy couple that everyone admired, he was doing it to control where I went or who I talked to.
When around my family, I found that I wore longer sleeves to cover up the marks. Thankfully at the time, no one had noticed. By Summer, he knew enough to stop. He had made his point and I knew not to stray too far from him. In my mind, I thought he just really likes me and doesn’t want to lose me. This was not ok.
I was very young at the time and naive. I was an awkward teen and he was a few years older so, for me, I thought he was bringing me out of my shell. What he was really doing was pushing me deeper into that shell.
A couple of years down the line, we were at his Aunt’s house and he got into an argument with her. I felt uncomfortable and decided to go to the bathroom. While I was in the bathroom, I heard them arguing about how he had cheated on me. I did not know he had cheated so hearing this of course made me extremely upset. I remember the panic setting in and trying to figure out how to get out of the bathroom and pretend I didn’t hear anything. I just wanted to go home.
He knew I was in the bathroom too long so he came looking for me. I rushed out of the bathroom and ran for my cellphone. I was trying to call my sister to come and pick me up. He got angry and grabbed my phone, then from across the room threw it at my face. It hit me directly in the mouth and busted my lip open. I can remember the shock and then instant regret set in. I knew now that I couldn’t call my sister. I felt like I had to hide my injury.
He began apologizing and saying he didn’t mean to hit me and that the things I heard about him cheating weren’t even true and that is why he was so angry with his Aunt. He convinced me it wouldn’t happen again and that I could stay at his house until the bruising on my face and lip went away.
I felt hopeless. I felt as though I couldn’t go home because my parents had already warned me so many times before that he was no good for me. I felt as though if I went home and they saw the bruising that they would call the police and cause too many problems. Not realizing this is exactly what I needed to happen… I instead hid away at his house.
At this point, what had happened to me was indisputably physical abuse. It was also physical assault. Throwing a phone in general, whether it was meant to hit me or not, was not ok. The phone was still my property and that was abuse. I finally had the courage a few years later to leave and never look back. Swearing to myself that I would never put up with that type of abuse again. I thought it was over. I swore I would never let another man physically harm or leave any kind of bruise on my body again.
“I swore I would never let another man physically harm or leave any kind of bruise on my body again.”
Years down the line, I met someone new. While pregnant, I was assaulted by him. Of course, it didn’t start out this way. It began like a normal relationship should, being showered with love and gifts. He seemed proud to be with me, proud enough that he wanted to have a baby. As soon as I got pregnant, he changed. I then learned it was never about me, I was a vessel to carry his child and now that I was carrying his child, he could control me.
Fast forward past a few physical altercations that did not leave bruises, the baby had been born. She was only a couple of weeks old at the time when I walked in to see him sleeping next to our newborn. Out of panic due to the risk of SIDS, I ran over and tried to pick her up off the bed. He instantly woke up and shoved me to the doorway of the bedroom. As he jumped out of the bed, the baby began falling. Although, he was lunging at me, all I could do was stay focused on her and reach for her. He threw all his body weight into mine and flung me onto the hardwood floor. I remember the pain coursing through my body, but my focus was still on the baby. At this point, he picked up the baby while I was still on the floor trying my best to get back up. While holding her, he once again used his body weight and flung me to the floor. This time, I did hit my head as I connected with the floor even harder than the first time.
Thankfully, the baby was unharmed, but I wasn’t. I was left with abrasions on my back and on my arm where I had fallen, and a softball size bruise on my upper leg near my hip. I can still remember the agony I was in the next morning. I met with my mother that day, limping from the pain, and I showed her what he had done. The tears from her were enough to break my heart. I, once again, was in an abusive relationship.
By the time this baby was 6 months old, I was able to leave. It took all the courage within me to accept who he was and that he was not the person I thought when we first met. I had spent months telling myself he didn’t mean it and that I could somehow manage to get things back to the way they were at the beginning. Deep down, I knew that wasn’t possible. I had been here before and you can’t change an abuser.
“I was never struck with a hand, but I was left with bruises.”
Anything, such as being pinned against the wall, being held a little too tight, or being pushed to the ground is still abuse. I was never struck with a hand, but I was left with bruises. Once is certainly too many times. There is no excuse for ever leaving a bruise on another human being. Bruises heal over time, but the pain from the abuse never truly goes away.