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Surviving Abuse – Part 1

Abuse is kind of like a hamper overflowing with dirty clothes that's been quickly crammed in a corner, far out of sight. You know it's there because you can't ignore the smell, but you’re not quite sure exactly how you should go about bringing up the stink in the air. However, catching a whiff of something bad and cautiously commenting on the smell isn’t enough. As important as spotting the signs of abuse may be, what comes next is equally critical. Too often people stay in situations of domestic violence because they cannot access the resources to separate themselves from their abuser. They might not even recognize that they're within an abusive relationship. They might not be able to articulate the violence that exists within their life. Abuse victims tend to be isolated; it's either a self-imposed isolation because they feel like they can’t talk to anyone or it's because their abuser is possessive and controlling. This cycle of violence will continue if those around simply awkwardly look the other way instead of confronting the situation head-on. 

The trauma sustained from the abuse experienced, whether it’s verbal, physical or sexual, will inevitably have a negative impact on the victim’s sense of self and sense of self-worth. The abuse inflicted goes beyond cuts and bruises, leaving invisible scars on the victim’s psyche. It’s these hard-to-see, damn near imperceptible scars that people carry with them. It's the pain held within of which people can’t seem to bring themselves to let go of that end up having the biggest impact. The thing about abuse is that it’s not fixed in time; even when it stops, it hasn’t really stopped. It’s one thing to experience violence, but often victims internalize the abuse and carry that violence within them for the rest of their lives. The bruises will fade, the cuts will heal, but once words have been spoken into your life, you carry those words with you forever. These words take root in your mind and you repeat them to yourself, over and over and over again. Before you realize it, it is only through these words that you understand yourself and the world around you.

It’s easy to pass judgement and ask why people don’t simply leave the relationship, but leaving is never simple. They might be so isolated from their friends and family they don’t know who to turn to for help. There also exists the fear that if they try to leave their partner, their partner will try to retaliate and the violence will only escalate. Whatever the reasons may be, judging and nagging domestic violence victims with questions of why they haven’t left is counterproductive.

Abuse can be anything: verbal, sexual, physical, etc. It can happen to anyone irrespective of gender. It can occur in a variety of contexts: within the family home or within a romantic relationship. In the second part of "Surviving Abuse" I had the chance to talk to two girlfriends concerning the abuse that they experienced. The first was physically and emotionally abused by her boyfriend while the second was sexually, emotionally and physically abused by her father.  

This Valentine's Day, it's important to remember that there is no love in abuse and no abuse in love. Stay tuned for Part 2.

 

Source: Cover, 1

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Student. 22. Canadian/Eritrean. Short?
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