The Loneliness of Domestic Violence
Alt title: Why You Feel Alone
In many crises, one of the first things counselors and loved ones will tell you is that you aren’t alone. If you are going through cancer treatment, are in financial trouble, or suffer from anxiety, a million websites and friends will explain how you aren’t the only one suffering and that support is a phone call away. Unfortunately, though supporters often say the same thing about domestic violence, it’s hard for victims to accept the truth of that statement.
Why You Feel Alone
The loneliness of abuse starts at the earliest stages of a relationship. Abusers isolate their victims, not just physically, but emotionally. People who suffer from abusive situations believe they are alone because their partners – people who victims love and trust despite abuse — tell them they are. The seeds of isolation tend to start in the beginning, where an eventual abuser criticizes friends and family. Victims in this stage often feel pressure, even if it’s emotional rather than physical, to disassociate from other people who love them. By the time physical or more severe emotional abuse begins, victims feel too disconnected from other relationships to tell anyone what’s happening.
Abusers often tell their victims that the violence they perpetrate is the fault of victims. Abusers may feel remorse for the violence but, in their “apologies,” explain that it wouldn’t happen if only the victims didn’t or did act in a certain way. At the Women’s Center, we want to you to know this isn’t true – abuse is never an answer and perpetrators of violence should be the ones feeling shame. However, even if victims don’t believe this in their mind, their hearts often trust their abusers, meaning they feel like they did something to deserve the abuse and too are ashamed to talk about it. That shame is isolating.
But it’s not the only shame victims of abuse must overcome. People who try to help victims inadvertently isolate them by suggesting that they are “better than that.” Victims interpret this as, if I’m better than that but can’t leave, then something must be wrong with me. Other times, friends may say “how could you let him/her do this to you,” making it difficult for victims to ask for help. Advocates and allies mean well, but victim-blaming is another isolating factor for those suffering from domestic violence.
But You Aren’t Alone
When you feel like no one understands what you are going through, consider the following stats:
- Almost 20 people a minute suffer abuse at the hands of an intimate partner in the U.S. In one year, that’s over 10 million people.
- One in three women and one in four men have experienced physical abuse by a domestic partner in their lifetime.
- On an average day, domestic violence hotlines receive more than 20,000 calls nationwide.
- Domestic violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
- Just 34% of people who suffer domestic violence seek medical care, despite injury.
That’s a lot of people being very quiet about real suffering. If you’re suffering from domestic violence, trust us when we tell you that you aren’t alone. At the Women’s Center, we offer help when you need it, but we also want you to know others have traveled this path and come out on the other side happier and healthier. You can, too. Contact us for help leaving an abusive relationship.