A Third Of Women Worldwide Are Abused By Partners: Why They Are Often Trapped Into Staying In Abusive Relationships
These are shocking statistics, but domestic violence is a puzzle: it's difficult to understand unless you have experienced it first hand. I hope this post will help spread some light on the topic.
I know first hand how little help there is out there for women who leave abusive situations and how the resources are on the side of the abuser. I left an abusive situation 7 years ago. The tipping point that made me leave was when I was beaten and received a concussion. That was the most severe, but not the only, time I was abused in the relationship. There were other instances I prefer not to describe.
After I left my abuser I lived alone, but remained silent about what happened to me because of multiple reasons. My life had been threatened. My health insurance was tied to him through marriage; so were my finances. Although I was (and am) legally disabled, I attempted to work but became even more severely ill. I had to pay the bills somehow. Life was an immense battle at that time.
I had no job and no real work experience. Because I am severely ill, I need multiple medications to survive. I have multiple chronic health conditions that cannot be managed without medication. Unfortunately, my health insurance was tied to his employment. I could not buy insurance on my own.
If I had pressed charges against him due to the violence, he would have lost his employment and his insurance, and I would have lost my health insurance. You can probably see how complex a situation this is for someone with a serious illness. Many people who are caught in situations of domestic violence are in this trap: they either have to depend on an abuser for medication, housing, or else help with providing for children. A victim may not want to remain silent, but may have little choice when her own life is on the line.
In addition, threats made towards a victim's own personal safety are a major factor. After I left, the person who abused me, he told me that he would find me and kill me if he found that I had told what he had done. Many abusers use threats like this to keep victims from speaking out about what they have gone through.
People often misunderstand domestic abuse. It's very difficult to understand from the outside. In misunderstanding, outsiders point fingers of blame at the victim in an abusive relationship because they have no idea how the power dynamics are structured, or how the abuser has made sure to tie the person who's being abused's financial support to himself; or as in my case, mandatory medical care. If a person being abused chooses to leave, she often leaves with no money, insecurity about where she will live, no car for transportation, uncertainty about being able to get employment. She has to rely on other resources such as family or friends. In absence of these, she has to turn to social security nets, but these are sparse and can take months to kick in, if they even exist at all. They've been cut back severely in recent years.
Women who leave abusers often become homeless, exploited, or living on the street. I myself was in serious danger of this when I left. However, after the concussion, I reached a breaking point.
The nurses at the hospital suspected domestic violence in that incident, and a doctor actually came in to talk to me and ask if I felt safe at home, but unfortunately when the doctor came into the room to ask me if I felt safe at home, my ex was in the room with me at the time. He actually never left the room all the time I was hospitalized. The doctor asked "Do you feel safe at home," and I looked over at my ex and realized that if I sad anything other than "Yes," I would be likely to be hit when I returned home; so of course, what does one say other than, "No?" It's not a question of protecting an abuser; it's a question of protecting oneself; one's life.
But subconsciously, I think it was at that point that I made up my mind to leave, when I got stronger. It was a moment of truth. From that point forward, my freedom was worth more to me than my survival. It took about 6 months after that for me to actually leave. But I did.
Most people have no idea, in addition, how strong a woman must be to leave an abuser, cut all ties, go out and live on her own, with virtually no assistance, especially if she has no family to fall back on, no assistance coming from any other place in life. This was the case for me.
In addition, I will add that abusers of women can be in positions of immense power at work and can use this as leverage to make a woman's life hell if she dares to challenge him or leave. This was also my situation. For 7 years, I have rarely spoken up about the experience of receiving a concussion (or some of the even more degrading things I went through as a survivor of domestic violence) because I am afraid of being stalked further. My ex has the power to do this. This is part of why I use a pseudonym, but in my case, and in the light of the NSA disclosures, it may really do me no good.
The person who abused me worked, and most likely still works, for the government. He had a very high level security clearance, and he is one of the people who can review any and all of the data that the government requests. Including mine. I have at this point legally severed all ties between the two of us, changed my address, phone, divorced him, but because of his position in the government, he can quite easily find where I am and track me wherever I go. My first instinct is to remain silent, to continue hiding.
But I have decided to no longer remain silent on this issue because, to quote the poet Audre Lorde, "Your silence will not protect you." I too have come to realize that my silence will no longer protect me. As a public, we have to stand up against this NSA invasion of privacy on a broader scale; over a million people now have Top Secret security clearances, and a much larger number have lower level clearances; and some, perhaps many of them, like my ex-husband, are violent, mentally unstable, but are able to hide it well. Some, of course, have a history of domestic violence. And because they are in such high up positions of power, they can be extremely manipulative, with immense resources. It is very difficult to fire them once they have obtained these positions.
I remained silent 7 years ago because I was struggling to survive and I desperately needed his health insurance. Every day was a battle to survive. I am no longer remaining silent because the number of people in his position is growing daily and this is an immensely unsafe state of surveillance.
Are these the people you want reviewing, combing through your data? Even if you, as so many people say in defense (or fear) "have nothing to hide?" I too have nothing to hide. I have never committed a crime. I have never been arrested or even accused for a crime. I have only been a victim of domestic assault, yet I fear for my life, because one of the people the government trusts is the person who manipulated and assaulted me for years. The government does not hire people of the strongest ethics; they hire, instead, people of immense ego.
Another of the most worrying things about the government process of hiring people to do work on projects requiring Top Secret clearance is their backward insistence they screen for people with NO mental health problems; no history of ever seeing a counselor or psychologist at all. Since most people have a need to talk about issues that come up in life from time to time, and everyone needs help in life at some point, that means that there's an enormous stigma among that community to hide all mental health issues, from the small to the very large. The man who used to abuse me would not consider going for counseling. He was obsessed about appearing and acting normal. He was manipulative and controlling and completely in denial about his behavior. He felt that he had a right to hit me when he was "stressed out." It was not, in his mind, something to seek counseling for; and besides, if he did seek help, he felt it would endanger his job and his security clearance. And is it really surprising that people who go into this field end up, as my ex did, as a repeat domestic abuser?
But this is the way it is in the government, and this is the unfortunate trap that the hundreds of thousands of people who handle and sift through your private and personal information on a regular basis are caught in; they are by nature, and by the way they are selected, off balance. They can't seek help or counseling, even if it's really needed, because it "looks bad" on paper. So they hide their mental issues, and sometimes of course, it explodes in violence, as it did towards me. And I was tied to him, because I needed my medicine. Without it, I die. It was an invisible gun to my head.
So what happened, when I eventually left him? Well, as was predicted: I nearly became homeless, and almost died. Not just once. It happened on several occasions, especially when I divorced and didn't have health insurance and the medication I needed. One of the worst instances was when I had dozens of pulmonary embolisms in my lungs at once. I could barely breathe and had to spend a week in the ICU.
When I was working, I had to go without proper food, transportation, and I wore myself down to the point that I had a central retinal vein occlusion in both eyes, rendering me fully and permanently blind in my left eye and doing only minor damage to my right. I had to do chemotherapy and I was lucky to escape without going fully blind. (If you want more details on my physical condition and what I went through when I left, please see this post: https://plus.google.com/117665613028757061169/posts/UzBE87uoeWX
Having said all this:
Do I regret leaving him?
NOT FOR A SINGLE DAY OF MY LIFE. Even had I died on the street, I'm glad I left. It's better to die free than to live in the sort of situation I was in.
And if you are reading this post and identify, if you have been through any abuse at all, whether it's with a partner, family, or whoever, please send me a private message. I will try and help and I will keep your information confidential.
No one has the right to be physically violent towards you or your children. Regardless of what excuses an abuser may tell you, regardless of where they work or what data they have access to, they are committing a criminal act when they do so. If you are in this situation, I will try and help you leave, if it's what you want to do. I know it's the scariest thing you will ever do in your life, but the best words I can offer you are: It gets better. The day you decide to leave permanently is the day your life begins over again. If I can help you, I will.
And for those of you who are reading this and have had no experience, I hope you take away from this the fact that you should never judge or blame someone who has been through domestic violence. You do not know the horrors of the situation and you do not know how awful it is to be tied to someone who is abusive. What is truly miraculous is that anyone manages to leave at all. If you run into someone you believe is in trouble, offer assistance. Even if it's just to say, "Call me if you need to talk. I worry about you. Are you safe at home?"
You would be surprised how often the real answer is, "No." Our society hides a lot underneath false smiles. #DomesticViolence #NSA #Pseudonyms http://www.nbcnews.com/health/third-women-globally-have-been-abused-partners-study-finds-6C10378922