Commentary: Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Speaking from experience

I don’t walk around with visible wounds. That’s not how my abuser chooses to abuse me.

You won’t find my name at the top of this article. I have too much pride for that. But I am suffering. Straight up not having a good time.

Coming to the realization that I’ve been in an emotionally abusive relationship for almost eight years was hard. Figuring that out two months after having our second child has just about put me over the edge.

I’ve struggled with opening up about what I’m going through with others. It’s hard. Mostly because before all of this came to light I would’ve told someone in my position to leave like it was truly that easy. Speaking from experience…it’s not.

Emotional abuse is tricky. I can honestly say I did not realize it was happening. I can’t tell you why I swept bright red flags under the rug. I can’t tell you why I didn’t run like hell at the first sign that I was losing myself. I guess it’s just easier to stay and hope it gets better. Again, speaking from experience…it doesn’t.

I am getting help with my mental health. I see a Military Family Life Counselor. 10/10 recommend that service to anyone who even thinks they may need to speak to someone. I took steps and am now financially independent of my abuser. But I still go home to my abuser everyday. It’s hard to leave.

Why don’t I just leave? Thinking of the time between breaking up and him leaving makes me uneasy. What type of mental warfare will he launch at me? Will it escalate to more than just words?

I’m not sure if it would be this hard to leave back stateside. I would like to think that I would already be out. One of the things I’ve come to terms with after being overseas for so long is that things take longer to do. Setting up your internet service, in and out processing or just getting an appointment anywhere can take weeks. Because of this, I can’t come to terms with potentially subjecting myself to what may come when I take the steps to make him leave. I feel like a coward.

These probably sound like a lot of excuses and not a lot of action. Trust me, I beat myself up about it every single day. But there are additional layers to my situation that make things more complicated.

I know that I will eventually leave.  I’m still working on that timeline, taking those small steps. I have little eyes looking to me to be a good role model. I have my own eyes looking back at me every time I look in the mirror.

Believing I was worthy to use the resources available was a big step. I didn’t think that what I was experiencing warranted their use. I’m not being hit, why take away an appointment or time from someone who might be? I’m the military member, shouldn’t I have seen this coming? Shouldn’t I be able to handle this myself?

Domestic violence is not just physical. All abusers don’t abuse the same way. Feeling intimidated to the point that you don’t speak your mind or put your needs or the needs of your children first is domestic abuse. I know that now.

I don’t believe my situation is unique. I believe that this scenario is playing out in a lot of lives and relationships. This scenario does not discriminate, it’s not sexist. I believe that I’m not the only one reluctant to utilize resources.

I think the overseas environment is an abusers ultimate dream. Why? Isolation. It’s enough to make you feel stuck.

I am thankful for my leadership and my support system here. They’re my safe people. If you’re able, I encourage you to be a safe person for someone else. My safe people check in on me. They champion me when I make those small steps. They listen when I need to vent. They remind me that better days are coming.

Not all victims of abuse will walk around with bruises. Not all abusers choose to abuse that way.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please contact the Family Advocacy Program:
DSN: 479-2370,
CIV: 06371-46-2370 

If you’re not ready to take that step and just need to speak to someone, Military and Family Life Counselors are here for you:
CIV: 0152 2607 9170,
0151 5674 8179,
0162 471 5603,
0152 2607 9489