Bobbi’s* husband flings the plate of dinner onto the floor. “Woman, this isn’t dinner, this is pig feed. Make me a new plate, now!” Her husband proceeds to sit at the table, glaring and calling her names, telling her she was lazy and stupid for not being able to do ‘anything right’, while she pulls together a fresh dinner for him. Bobbi says this isn’t domestic violence, “he didn’t hit me, and it really was my fault. I should have been more careful when making dinner, the dinner wasn’t hot enough”.
But Bobbi admits she walks on eggshells every day because she never knows when he will get angry like this and lash out at her. She recounts several more stories about him getting angry and calling her names. “He never hits me, so it can’t be domestic violence”, she says. “But sometimes he ‘shoves me’ around, y’know, that’s not really hitting.”
*Name changed for privacy
Really?! This isn’t domestic violence? This isn’t a case of a woman being emotionally scared, intimidated, called names, and “put in her place” by her intimate partner. Emotional abuse, as defined by the Department of Justice at www.justice.gov/ovw/domestic-violence
Emotional Abuse: Undermining an individual’s sense of self-worth and/or self-esteem is abusive. This may include, but is not limited to constant criticism, diminishing one’s abilities, name-calling, or damaging one’s relationship with his or her children.
People ask me, what do you do? I tell them, I’m a mental health therapist who works with women that have experienced domestic violence find a sense of personal worth and empowerment. My clients say that I help them to feel heard and seen.
A blank stare is a common response. I never see domestic violence, they say. Where are you going to find clients like that? Do you have to go to the inner city, go to the courts, or non-profit agencies? Isn’t that a too specific clientele?
Almost always, as the conversation continues, little details about their or their friend’s lives start to emerge that begin to paint the picture of something less than a “Leave it to Beaver” home life.
Recently, at a meeting of upwardly mobile, high achieving women, I shared that at least 1 in 4 women are abused. That means there were probably several women in the room who had experienced abuse. At first, there seemed to be disbelief, then gradually it came out that one woman had been in an abusive marriage, next another admitted that her parents drank and fought in front of her, and she witnessed her father beating her mother, another woman revealed she had been molested by her father.
This was in a room of only nine women who all live in wealthy suburbs and have six figure incomes. Domestic violence happens anywhere and everywhere.
Healing is available for you and any loved ones you know who are experiencing domestic violence.
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