home
RSS
March 5th, 2009
03:18 PM ET

The tangles of domestic abuse

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

For four years, I dated a man who beat me. The first time was around Christmas of my freshman year of college. I had known him a couple of months. He was the first guy I had ever had a physical relationship with, and I was madly in love. But he had a dark side, a short fuse, and I was very vocal and told him what I thought. The problem was, instead of arguing with me, he just beat me up.

The episodes continued throughout our relationship. At one point, he actually put me in the hospital with a concussion, my face and body covered with cuts and bruises. My friends begged me to leave him. His fraternity brothers did an intervention of sorts and told me he was a no-good, nasty, SOB. But for some odd reason, which took hours of therapy years later to figure out, I just stayed with him.

It wasn't that I was unpopular or lonely. I had lots of friends, men and women. I was a good student, a leader on campus. I came from a loving home, with a father who never hit my mother, or me. But for years, I had a secret that only the closest of my friends knew about. I was an abused girlfriend.

According to a National Violence Against Women Survey, 22 percent of women are physically assaulted by a partner or date during their lifetime. I was one of them. The question was, why did I stay? The American Psychiatric Association finds that many women remain in abusive relationships for many reasons, lack of finances, poor self-esteem, children and even religious and cultural values. In my case, I felt I had done something wrong and deserved it.

It also might be because I was also raised in a family and at a time, when sex was a little taboo.  It was the ’70s and I was in school on a large rural campus. You just didn't do it unless you were married. So when I had sex at the age of 18 with this young man, I had pretty much made up my mind he was my future husband. So I put up with it. There was a strange bond I had with him, because when he wasn't beating me up, he was very nice to me. He treated me well, sent me flowers, took me places. We laughed, had a great time together. But periodically when we argued, he would just lash out with his fists. It was horrible. But what was even more horrible was that I blamed myself for mouthing off. I thought if only I could keep my opinions to myself, the beatings wouldn't happen anymore. How naive of me. How foolish.

The ironic part of this story is he ended our relationship because I graduated from college and he didn't. He threw me out. I guess he was jealous. He was definitely a jerk.

Six months after we broke up, I was coming home to my little apartment, carrying decorations for my first Christmas tree as a working woman, and I found him sitting on my doorstep. I have no idea how he found me. He asked to take me to dinner so we could talk. I reluctantly went. While chatting over the meal, he said he wanted to come back and that he "didn't realize how good he had it." I quickly answered back, "I didn't know how bad I had it, but now I do!" For once he didn't whack me. He got up and left me at the restaurant, never to see me again. I had to take a cab home. As I sat in the back seat I felt a sense of relief but also shame that I had let it go on so long. But I was no longer a victim: I was free. As I look back on it now, It was the best cab ride I ever took.

Are you the victim of domestic abuse? Do you know someone who is? How did you help? We want to know.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


soundoff (141 Responses)
  1. GF, Los Angeles

    @ Sarah I have to disagree with most of what you wrote. Your choice to stay in abusive relationship is just that – your choice. It is completely unfair to involve friends and family in that type of drama. They have ever right to walk away and live their lives – not be a hostage of your drama. I don't know if your daughter is the product of this 8 year relationship – if she is – well then you again made a choice to procreate with the loser. You chose to be a hostage in the situation. Don't assume it's ok to put that drama on others. It wouldn't happen if you had walked away but like many other posters you wouldn't because you loved him and he was sorry. Pathetic.

    March 11, 2009 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. sarah

    Thank you GF Los Angeles for your comments. I agree it was my choice to stay in an abusive relationship and at no point did i say that 'its ok to put the drama on others'. I simply wanted to outline how isolated victims of domestic abuse can feel, and that is exactly what we are 'victims'. The abuser will go out of his way to make sure that friends and family eventually slip away one by one. I question your understanding of domestic violence. You obviously have no first hand experience. I would assume your answer would be that you just wouldnt be that 'pathetic' to put up with an abusive partner. I would argue that it could happen to anyone and it is never the victims fault. In most cases as I did for years the last thing you will do is tell anyone about what is happening in your relationship because you are ashamed and scared of the consequences. If the victim does not speak up and confide in someone the risk that she will never be free of the abuser is even higher. And like you say, that person has the choice to listen and be there for the victim or indeed turn their back. Yes we all have choices but have you ever been in the situation where if you leave someone you are convinced that they will kill you but if you stay you may be able to just keep him calm enough to avoid another beating? Thats a pretty difficult choice to make i am sure you'll agree.

    March 11, 2009 at 17:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Michelle

    We all make choices. Like many of you I am a survivor of domestic violence. All of our experiences are similar, I though that maybe it was just me that gave up a son, family, friend and my life. Instead of rehashing what I have been trying to forget for 12 years I would like to offer hope and prayers. Please know that NO ONE deserves to be physically, emotionally or spiritually abused. Look inside yourself and find the light. Only you will know when it is time. The more everyone pushed me to leave the more determined I became to stay. IT HAS TO BE YOUR DECISION...MAKE THE RIGHT ONE before it is to late.

    12 years of recovery for a man that wasted 5 precious years. The best part of him still loves me and that is all the love I need. The best part of him are my two boys. They are the light!

    I wish you all well.

    March 11, 2009 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Gabriela

    To: GF, Los Angeles, this is a person who did not asked to be abused, and it's because of people like you, who is not willing to support a relative or friend in this situation, that many women are killed, murdered, beaten up because they are ashamed, and afraid to talk about it. Please read a little bit more about Domestic Violence, and the affects in women, it will help you realize that we do not choose to be a hostage.

    March 11, 2009 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. GF, Los Angeles

    To Gabriela you may not have asked to be abused and no one asks to be abused but to stay with the abuser when he's hit you the first time – you have chosen to be continuously abused. To complain about it to your friends and family and ask them to support you in your decision to stay with the abuser is wrong. I'm disappointed CNN did not post my response to Sarah and I'm not going to rewrite it again. In short, I had an aunt that was physically and verbally abused and she chose to stay with her husband and disowned her brother and sister in the process. She chose to move away without telling us where she was going even though my mother and her brother sent her money over many years to support the 3 children she had with this loser since he refused to work. I refuse to be sucked into a friend or relative's drama because they have chosen to remain in an abusive relationship. You are a hostage of your own mind and no one else. Only you can free yourself. Crying on someone's shoulder does nothing unless you take action to either change it or stay in it.

    As for Sarah, no I don't agree it's a difficult choice to make. Again I would leave the first time I'm hit much less insulted. I would never stay one more day much less years with a man like that for it to turn into that situation described.

    March 12, 2009 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. GF, Los Angeles

    p.s. you're all victims because you allow yourself to be one. Unless your physically restrained by chains or locked up in a room – you have no excuse not to leave.

    March 12, 2009 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. sarah

    Well said Gabriela.

    March 12, 2009 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. donna

    Every day of my life I live in fear.....I am (so far) a survivor of domestic violence. He has broken into my house, tapped my phone, put spyware on my computers, tried to kill my parents (he cut the fuel line on my dads truck cause he knew they helped with teh our daughters so I can work and that they had a LARGE life insurance policy), lied to police saying I had had assaulted him (his injuries were self inflicted and his story kept changing so the officer drove me home from the jail in the front seat o the police car) , he used "spoofing" to make it look like the ER was calling me...he had just let me a message saying our daughter was deathly ill and he was on his way to the ER with her-only she was fine and thaty never let the house. AND this was after our divorce was final!!
    My real clue came when he tried to take out a $500,000 lie insurance policy on me a month after our divorce was final.
    Yet he still walks free. We were in court yesterday and he harassed me in teh courtroom and in the parking lot....
    I look over my shoulder constantly. never knowing when he may appear and kill me.
    I keep asking for help...begging....but he is so slick..so devious....he does so many things when no one is looking, or that no one can prove.
    I have made out my will and instructed my attorney on what to do when he does finally get me. Until then I try to live my lie as normally as possible for my daughters.
    I am a well educated proessional. I wanted to divorce him for a long time but I was scared of what he might do to me. 6 weeks ater we were married he was driving me to give birth to our 2nd daughter ( I married him because I had been injured in a car accident and I was scared and injured) He was yellling at me so hard he had to pull off the road.
    But still I have no regrets...I have shown my daughters a different world for the last 18 months and if he kills me tomorrow at least I know I have a difference in their life.

    March 12, 2009 at 20:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nee

      I have lived in fear since I was nineteen and I just turned sixty. I would have twelve to fifteen year intervals away from him bothering me but the fear was always there and it continues even today. Currently he is in jail for the concussion he gave but in six months he will be out and the protective order will be gone unless I can get an extension and the misery will start again. I am having the best Christmas since I was a teenager and I finally feel safe but in the back of my mind I wonder how safe am I really? Through the years, I have had my vehicles tampered with until the repair bills kept me broke from pay to pay, brake lines cut, tires slashed, my home broken into, prized possessions missing and appearing, half truths, rumors, and lies spoken about me, and threats to family members, animals, and anyone or anything I love. I have cut myself off from friends and family to keep them safe, and I have altered my life style by walking in crowds, never leaving my home or entering my home after dark. I have be been to Women's Aid in Crisis, magistrates, and the police with all willing to help but he does not have an address and no one can locate him. The last beating took place in my home with me running for my life and he stayed still long enough for his arrest. Am I afraid, deathly. One more blow that night and I would have died. I have postponed my docto

      December 24, 2011 at 19:18 | Report abuse |
  9. Melissa, Los Angeles

    @ Sarah and Gabriella I think you're both missing the point. No one asks to be abused whether it be the first time it happens or the 100th – the point is if you allow it to happen a second time and continue the relationship because you don't want to leave the man since you love him or you think he'll change because he says he will or whatever other excuse you come up with to justify your staying – you are a hostage of your own mind and a victim of your own inaction to change your circumstance.

    March 12, 2009 at 23:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. sarah

    I can only say that you are lucky that you have never been in such an awful situation, and I repeat, I question your understanding of the complex issue of domestic abuse. To GF and Melissa, you both made the assumption that I stayed in my abusive relationship because I loved him and he was sorry. That is simply not true. I was controlled through fear and intimidation from the abuser.

    I think it is discusting that you have posted on here 'you are all victims because you choose to be one'. You are insulting many women who live through and who have survived domestic abuse. I am proud to have survived what I went through and having met many other survivors and shared experiences with them I have found them to be the most inspiring and STRONG women I have ever met. I am not ashamed of what happened to me and I will not accept your comments of 'all victims ask for it because they stay'. Frankly, you are displaying great ignnorance on the subject. And as for my wonderful friend who has always stood by my side throughout my terrible experience- She had the intelligence to see that if she turned her back she would only be contributing to the power my ex partner already had. She also understood that it was not my fault, ever.

    You mentioned that CNN didnt print your response to me? I can only assume that it was an irrelevant and uninformed response? I ask you to be respectful to the women who have shared their experiences on here. You have no idea of the struggle and strength it takes to come out of the other side of a violent relationship.

    March 13, 2009 at 16:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. vernie

    thank you so much for this article and all of the posts. I was hit for the first time a few days ago, i broke it off immediately the next morning. Since then i've been aching to go back (I even called him). I know this is the wrong thing to do and reading this articles and these posts help me stay strong. I think as girls we are cultured to believe in fairy tales: that by simply kissing the frog, he will change into a prince. Every minute, I want to believe in his promises for change, but reading your stories helps me be realistic in the fact that men like that just can't change. I hope this understanding will be enough.

    March 15, 2009 at 00:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. vernie

    Further, to those who believe that it is the woman's fault for not leaving, I just have to add that is a product of our own sexist society. While there may not be physical chains around you, there are certainly psychological ones. It is never the victim's fault, and no one volunteers for this. I think until you have had it happen to you, you cannot really understand that it is not black and white. When you invest so much time and emotions into one person, one person that can be the most wonderful person on the planet most of the time, you remain optimistic. It is human nature. Again, I commend all of you for sharing your stories, you inspire me to stay strong.

    March 15, 2009 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Kathy

    I also endured an abusive dating relationship in late high school and college.

    My abuser never hit me - I think he realized that would have led to intervention by others in my life. Instead, he used fear to completely control me. Just like you, I felt I had to marry him once the relationship became physical - sex was never discussed in my house, and I blamed myself for everything that happened. Why not? - he certainly did. Once he realized how deeply I cared about him and how afraid I was of not marrying him, he used it against me in terrible ways. I had no control over any aspect of our relationship, and it involved constant emotional and sexual abuse. He worked to isolate me from my friends and family, punishing me for spending time with them. I had to dress and wear make-up precisely how he wanted, or he would humiliate me or threaten to end the relationship. He criticized every thing he could find to criticize, from the way I walked to how loudly I breathed. He kept me from attending my parents' 30th anniversary party.

    It has been hard forgiving myself for allowing those things to happen. It has been harder wondering how I can prevent it from somehow happening to my own children. I didn't grow up in an abusive household. It started in a relationship that involved a lot of secrecy because of my decision to become sexually active at 17, and it involved an insecure boy who was willing to do just about anything to maintain power and control over me. The best analogy I've seen regarding the psychology of dating violence is a comparison to Stockholm Syndrome. At least for me, I really did live in the world of my abuser. The idea that I could leave him was so far out of the realm of emotional possibility - my every effort was geared toward keeping him happy. It was truly as if I was brainwashed. The periods of sweetness and love between the dark periods just served to keep me there - it was like an addiction. Looking back, it is hard even for me to identify with the mental position I was in.

    Contrary to what you might think, I was not a weak person. I was raised in a middle-class home. I was able to stand up for myself in other areas of my life. I was a straight A student. I went on to attend Harvard after the relationship finally ended.

    I am now happily married, but there are deep scars. Parents must communicate with their children about their relationships. The high school counselor I visited blamed me for everything. I only told him a fraction of what was happening, but the warning signs were there. He should have known better.

    The fact is that it's impossible to truly understand why a victim stays until you've been in that situation. We owe it to our sisters and our daughters and our friends to educate ourselves as best we can, and to hold abusers responsible for their behavior. There is no excuse for abuse, whether it is physical, mental, or sexual. No human being has the right to control another. Until all of our boys and girls are raised understanding this, victims will continue to suffer in silence.

    March 16, 2009 at 11:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. GF, Los Angeles

    To Sarah it's not luck – I CHOOSE my relationships carefully and I walk away from those that aren't healthy. You chose to stay period. Violent beatings take place over time and you gave this person that time to control you. That is your choice and no one else's.

    CNN did post my second response which was what I summed up in my first but shorter. You apparently aren't reading it since you keep missing the fact that I'm telling you it's a choice that you and all the other abused who stay make. True strength comes from a woman who walks away from an unhealthy relationship the first sign it appears i.e. the first hit or the first insult. I cannot ever understand why a woman will stay no matter how many sad blogs I read – you're all adults who are capable of leaving and moving away if need be. This isn't Darfur where women (the true victims) are indiscriminately beaten and raped – that is real fear – you're all women who chose these men and chose to procreate with them and live with them.

    March 16, 2009 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Kathy

    GF, until you have been a victim in an abusive relationship, you can't claim to understand the psychological effects of the methods an abuser uses to control a victim. Do you also think Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is all in someone's head? Anyone who blames the victim for staying is ignorant of the real dynamics of abuse. There is no simplistic "it's about choice" explanation for why strong women end up in these relationships. Do a little research. There is a wealth of information out there from organizations who work with abuse victims (and work with batterers), advocates who actually understand what's going on. You would be surprised how similar most domestic violence relationships are - the methods of abuse may differ, but the cycle of power and control is almost universally the same. Until you have walked in those shoes, you can never fully understand - just like you couldn't understand the PTSD suffered by people who have been through other traumatic events you haven't experienced. The best you can do would be to educate yourself, which clearly you have not.

    March 16, 2009 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. sarah

    A violent man does not start out being violent. I was in my relationship for 2 years before any violence occured, during which he was able to lay the ground work of manipulation and control. Abusive men are extremely clever at this and it is only in hindsight that you are able to see exactly what they were doing. Of course if you met a man and a week later he hit you it would easy to walk away. But after years of manipulation, control and invested emotion it makes it far more difficult. I think it fantastic that finally there is a greater awareness of domestic violence. There will always be people that are ignnorant and refuse to try and understand the complex issues of this delicate subject. I congratulate the women have shared their stories and have come through their nightmare.

    March 17, 2009 at 04:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. sarah

    the violence is only the product of the initial ground work. This is the issue that needs greater understanding. I agree with Vernie that there are psychological chains that hold the victim. I would also like to ask how old any victims were on here when they began their relationships? I was only 16 when I met my ex partner. I believe this has alot to do with how much easier it was for him to manipulate and control me over time. I think many young women are young when they experience this, i'm curious if this is the same for any of you?

    March 17, 2009 at 04:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. B Leist

    I have a sister that I am struggling to get her to leave her husband of 8+ years who is for the most part only verbally abusive but has become more physical with her recently. The whole marriage was a mistake but because of religious beliefs and guilt, she has remained with him. My husband and I have offered her a home and other necessities but she just has not made up her mind yet. It is a struggle at times to keep a positive attitude and not get totally frustrated but she and I are the last of the family as our parents are both dead. I wish there was an easy solution but try to remain supportive and keep tabs on her to make sure she is ok. She has to make the decision to leave herself.

    March 18, 2009 at 04:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Melissa, Los Angeles

    To Kathy and Sarah read Dear Abby's 15 signs of an abuser on her website. Doesn't take a genius to recognize the signs – just a willingness to accept them in the partner chosen.

    PTSD is very real for victims like I mentioned in Darfur – how funny neither of you addressed that and for our soldiers who have fought wars. What's there to get educated about? Most of the posts on here are the same – lived with someone for years who beat me – family and friends tried to help but the choice was made to stay until either they had enough or were killed.

    March 19, 2009 at 02:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Melissa, Los Angeles

    I meant GF mentioned in Darfur. Sheesh will you guys just get over it and agree to disagree.

    March 19, 2009 at 02:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. GF, Los Angeles

    Kathy I don't know where you're bringing up PTSD from. People who live in war zones have it and our soldiers have it. The daughter of Josef Fritzl and her children have it from being locked in a dungeon and watching their mother being repeatedly raped have it. Those are things beyond their control that is occurring daily like Darfur (hmmm no comment on that from you or Sarah). From what I've read on the blogs – only one relationship was truly terrifying and dangerous – the rest are similar with family and friends trying to intervene yet the abused chose to go back – B Leist is watching the sister go through it right now and has said it eloquently in the last sentence.

    I don't think it matters if a person is 16 when they meet their partner or 50 – if the self esteem isn't there that person will continue to see out abusive partners. I wonder how many of the posters have gone from one abuser to another.

    March 19, 2009 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. GF, Los Angeles

    To Melissa I just want to get the point across as someone who has witnessed abuse on a family member and I who have not ever been abused (thanks to my parents teachings) that we have the power to pick and choose our partners. I'm with a husband of 2 years who treats me well and I wish others would know what that feeling is like to have a partner that is considerate, kind, encouraging and thoughtful. He's never laid a finger on me much less uttered an unkind word. It took me 36 years to find this man and I would've spent another 36 looking. Never settle ladies (and gentlemen). Deep down we all know what is right.

    March 19, 2009 at 16:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Kathy

    GF, I discussed PTSD because many victims of domestic violence suffer from it.

    Melissa, there is no reason to address Darfur here, because with respect to the posted blog entry, it is a completely separate matter. To imply that domestic violence victims aren't "true" victims by comparing DV to the most atrocious human rights violations is like claiming that someone with broken legs isn't suffering an injury because they didn’t break their neck. Domestic violence causes real psychological damage, damage that prevents victims from leaving relationships.

    I again encourage you to visit any of the numerous organizations dedicated to studying and preventing domestic violence. I encourage you to attend a volunteer training seminar at your local domestic violence shelter. I encourage you to read books about battered women and the law, the history of the domestic violence movement, and the cycle of violence. I guarantee that you will be surprised by what you learn.

    Finally, although such cases were not discussed in depth here or in the blogs you read, GF, many cases of domestic violence involve stalking, death threats against a woman's family members, herself, or even her children, threats to take away custody (when there is no documentation of the abuse, as the abuser often makes certain there is not, these threats are not infrequently carried out), or threats to report an undocumented alien to authorities, resulting in her deportation and permanent separation from her children. In other words, many women face the risk of serious, often deadly consequences if they leave an abuser. These are things out of a victim's control, obstacles that prevent her from leaving even when she is mentally able to leave. Ending a domestic violence relationship is the most dangerous time for the victim - you will find that in most cases where a husband/boyfriend kills a woman and/or her children, it's after she has left. And in some of those cases, the abuser was never physically violent before the separation.

    If abusers all wore signs stating that they would beat a woman, we would avoid them, wouldn't we? Unfortunately, they don't, and many of the early warning signs of an abusive relationship (obsessive love, jealousy, etc.) are taken for romance in our society. As stated by a poster above, these relationships don't start out abusive. To understand how they become that way, and why intelligent women don't recognize what's happening until it's often too late, again, turn to the experts.

    You're passionate about your beliefs; if you do care, please find out what really goes on. You could make an enormous difference just by learning the truth.

    March 19, 2009 at 21:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Barb

    I was with an abusive man for 17 years, and it wasn't out of love or thinking it would change. It was out of pure terror. He abused me emotionally and physically, and I knew the evil he was capable of. I believed his threats, and when I finally did try to leave, he made good on his threat and tried to kill me. He imprisoned me in my home, made me call in to work, and tried to break my neck and then proceeded to bash my skull in once I was unconscious from him twisting my neck. I ruined his plans, though, when I woke up so he decided he was going to have to shoot me. After begging for my life for over an hour, he finally believed my lies of how much I loved him and would never call the police, etc., and actually drove me to the hospital. He was charged with 2 felonies and sentenced to jail, but as they were unable to find a weapon that he used to split my skull like a melon, he could not be charged with attempted murder and only served 2 out of the 6 months he was sentenced to. Although I am a 40 year old RN with a bachelor's degree, I lived with my parents for 7 months because I was petrified to be on my own. You're always looking over your shoulder, and every little insignificant event, such as a car turning around in the driveway, is a major trauma. I am back in my own house now, but I have a security system, a gun, and an order of protection in place until 2016. The only reason he leaves me alone is because the judge told him he'll go to state prison for 7 years if he does one thing to bother me. I never told a soul what he was like for 17 years although my parents always said they knew. People like him do not deserve to live free EVER and should be punished to the full extent of the law. Oh, by the way, he is an RN, too, and always confesses to everyone about what a good Christian man he is. God help us all.

    March 19, 2009 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. GF, Los Angeles

    Kathy, I looked up the Dear Abby site and that explains it all for me. The warning signs are there if we choose to "see" them. No I won't visit a shelter or read more about it – all it does is anger me that women allow themselves to become so helpless – again they choose to be there – women in Darfur or other war torn nations do not choose to be with these men who assault them. The fact that women choose to stay like Rihanna baffles me – yes there are extreme cases of abuse but again time was given to that abuser to do that. We're going in circles here – I will follow Melissa's advice to agree to disagree.

    March 20, 2009 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Kathy

    GF, I think you have hit on one grain of truth - that the warning signs are there if we CAN see them. That is precisely why dating violence prevention is so important - so that young women and men can learn to recognize those signs before they begin dating relationships. And should they miss those signs, they then need to be able to recognize the characteristics of a relationship that has turned abusive - characteristics that include the methods of control and psychological abuse so many posters here have described.

    With respect to your decision not to learn more about domestic violence, that of course is your choice. Blaming victims publicly, however, just puts more power in the hands of abusers. For decades victims were blamed for the abuse, dating back to when it was legal for a man to physically "chastise" his wife, and the phrase "rule of thumb" was coined (based on a law specifically permitting a man to beat his wife with a rod, so long as it was no thicker than his thumb). Whether they are being blamed by the abuser because they "provoked" his abuse, or being blamed by someone for failing to leave, when leaving may well mean death or permanent separation from their children - victims can't win. One poster described the methods used by abusers in family courts to gain custody of children, and she was absolutely correct. I have personally seen it happen.

    What is perhaps most harmful about your posts is your suggestion that friends and family should be left out of abusive situations. In most cases of domestic violence, it is friends and family that provide the only hope of escape to victims. It is their ability to break through the psychological barriers and help the victim to realize what's going on that has helped many women to escape. If everyone who knew a victim of abuse followed your recommendation, many more women and children would be dead.

    I hope, for your sake and for the sake of any future victims of domestic violence you encounter, that you do choose to learn more. In the meantime, since you cannot speak from knowledge or experience, you should keep judgmental thoughts to yourself. It is the strength of women who survive each day in an abusive relationship, the strength of women who are able to leave and tell their stories, and the strength of those who are willing to spend the time understanding victims' experiences that have brought us to the point at which domestic violence is illegal, and the point at which police do in fact respond to domestic violence calls (instead of turning a blind eye and considering it a "private" matter, as recently as 20 years ago in many parts of this country). The next challenge will be finding a way to prevent our children from getting involved in these relationships in the first place.

    That, I hope, is something we can agree on.

    March 21, 2009 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Kathy

    One last post, for those that are in abusive relationships now.

    No matter what kind of obstacles are there in your own relationship, you CAN leave. You do have the strength. Everything an abuser does is an effort to make you believe that you don't - because he knows deep down that you do. There are resources to help you, people who understand how you feel and what you are going through, who do not judge you, and who will do everything they can to help protect you, and if you have children, your sons and daughters. They can help you make a safety plan to help you leave safely. They are there for you because of thousands of women like you who were strong enough to leave, and to survive. They did it, and you can do it. Oprah is right; he will hit you again. You know the truth; what he is doing to you is wrong. If he loved you the way he says he does, he would not do this to you. Nothing you can do will change him. You deserve to be treated with respect, and you can be with someone who will. You will heal. There are men out there who will not try to control you, and you can fall in love again - more than before. If you have children, witnessing abuse makes them more likely to become abusers and victims. For their sake, and for your sake, seek out help; it is there.

    You are stronger than you think you are.

    March 21, 2009 at 02:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nee

      I know a woman that married an abusive man and her main goal in life was to raise their son and leave as soon as the son could make it on his own. The day finally arrived, and she made her get away, settled in far away state, kept to herself, and made no contact with anyone including family and friends. She did fine for a while but one day her car was tampered with and the next her home was broken into and Malays continued until her brakes failed her and she ended in the hospital. Her estranged husband came to hospital and informed that she would continue having trouble until she came back home. Needless to say, she has been back home for so many years that she is in her seventies and the abuse continues. Could she broken away and ran again, I don't know. Could she run now, I doubt it. She has given her beauty and youth to an abuser and will be there until she dies. How sad for her. Does anyone has the right to force another to put up with such a lot, No! I have fought my abuser since I have been nineteen and I am staying free at great expense but so far I have had a way to pay for freaky mishaps to my car and my house. How, I would love to have a normal life without police reports, and the heartache of never being able to be close to anyone for fear their life would be in danger.

      December 24, 2011 at 19:40 | Report abuse |
  28. Black Man in San Jose

    Well, I am a man. I was caught in an abusive relationship with a woman who was Bi-polar, intelligent and vindictive. I relucantly gave up a career and many opportunities with my life to live with this person. When I moved into the home with the person after years of having her beg and plead for me not to go I discovered a very angry, mean, and psychotic woman in my midst. Our relationship escalated into a violent one with mutual combat happening between the two of us. One night, on her birthday she physically assaulted me and I defended myself. I was the one who was arrested and eventually charged with domestic violence. Like a fool I returned to the home and we began living together, and the violence escalated to the point of her holding a knife to my throat and threatening my life. I had to leave my home the next morning....sneaking out with all my belongs and heading to a hotel. Then she and her family began to stalk me and tried to create a case around our relationship. Needless to say I have had to go through the trauma of the court system to finally have her admit to the domestic violence that she committed against me. Been a long and hard road...lost job, lost money, but finally some vindication and I have found the love of my life....I am happy now and moving on. Goes both ways, and it is a very difficult thing to examine what happens in someone else's bedroom and put it before a jury or the public eye. Men hurt too!

    March 23, 2009 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. candy

    I recently got out of a 7 yr abusive relationship. I remember before we were together saying to woman who were in a abusive relationship, "why don't you leave?", or "I would never put up with that". Well, you know what? I will never say that again! I know the pain and the control a partner who abuses you can have. They make you feel like, nobody will ever want you and that your not good enough.
    I had kids with this man, and the thought of being by myself with my children and having to support them financially scared me!
    When we would get into a argument, I would stand up for myself and verbaly fight back. That would make him really mad, and he would end up hitting me and kicking me and he even one time put his smoke out on my arm. Later, I would get the, I'm sorry I love you and will never do it again, or you made me do this, you just don't know when to stop, you are the only woman that this has happened with.
    Then when I would call the police, there were a couple of times when he would call wolf and tell them I attacked him and he was defending himself!!! I was even put into jail for the night, and as I turned around and looked at him that night, he starred at me and grinned!!! That is the #1 reason why after that night, calling the police was out of the question. He could make up such a believing lie, I didn't want to end up back in that place.
    Even though people say your not alone, you still kind of are. These men have broken us women down so much, we have no self-confidence left. It's more embarassing to go to the shelter's or talk to someone, because if feels like it will make things worse.
    For me, to let him go and get out of it, was for him to cheat on me and find someone else. I try to let them know who he is, but they don't believe me. He has now led everyone to believe that I'm crazy and a liar. The sad thing is people believe him.

    March 25, 2009 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nee

      Candy,
      Many well educated, financially secure women have been broken by an abuser because they follow a pattern. The honeymoon stage is where they make us feel like we are so special and we are so smart, and the abuser begins to say little taunts to make the victim feel a little shaky and the abuser keeps at his/her game until they make the victim feel helpless, and hopeless. It is all about control and if the victim stands up her their self verbally and/or physically the abuser will become more aggressive and physical in order to put the victim back in their control. Any word, action, or threat will be used to put the victim back in their clutches. The cycle begins again with the honeymoon period and the unkindness until the controller feel s/he is back in control again. If you keep track with a calendar and the process, you discover the pattern. It is a hard pattern to break and love has nothing to do with it. Fear does. Fear for self, children, loved ones, animals, possessions, and it comes down to your next breath. It takes a strong woman to deal with the fear on a daily basis, and a stronger to break the cycle because she is putting everything that matters to her on the line. I know. I v'e been there and living the last stage of the cycle now.

      December 24, 2011 at 19:57 | Report abuse |
  30. Autumn

    My friend is trying to get custody of his daughter. His ex is now lying and saying that he abused her in the past. What can he do?

    May 14, 2009 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. chicken investor forex informed

    Good Day!
    I dont usually comment, but after reading thorugh so much info I had to say thanks.

    May 19, 2009 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Catrice

    My experience is very similar to the comment that Candy made, though he and I did not have any children. My life has been turned completely upside down. I've always lived my life being respected by others and respectingthem as well. In addition, credibility has been completely destroyed. I still am distrught by the fact that so many people (employers, law enforcment responders, though not all, some friends and family) believe his claims that I would attack him or presented contentious behavior in the relationship that warranted abuse. My character has been ripped to shreds. Its not that I am worried about ego, I am crushed that those I loved and depended upon abandoned me. I still feel very alone. there are wonderful skilled therapists and agencies who bend over backwards to help but the damage to the community structure that I lived for and loved so dearly has been completely destroyed by his duplicitous manipulations. I will never be the same. To be honest memories of the physical and unsolicited sexual abuse have stolen from me the verve that gave me life. I struggle to push through me days and feel comfortable around new poeple and places. Domestic violence is insidious. I am so glad he's gone. I don't know what made him just stop in the middle of choking me this last time like someone flicked an off switch. But I do know I was terrified and still am. I worry that he's not finished. I try to enjoy my solitude in small doses. I pray everyday that someone will figure out what happened. I pray that my employers would soon understand that he orchestrated the chaos at my place of employment to further control and isolate me. Just as he told law enforcement and his family that I attacked him, he did the same on my job. He created the impression since we were also co-workers that I had an investment in being jealous, vindictive,lying etc. He was able to win their confidence despite my pleas to the contrary for help and their trust. I suffered daily two fold. The effects have been long lasting and the damage indelible on my psyche and soul.
    My work,attendance,sick days have gone out of control as opposed to when I began to inform my employers and ask for help. I tried so hard to help myself break free in other ways as well but my resources we unreliable and limited. I really needed assistance and to be taken seriously. Now I'm just trying to figure out how to get well and to be able to be productive and stay safe and out of his reach or the reach of his supportes who seek retribution because they believe he was unjustly charged. I feel so sorry for them that he gave them these horrible impressions of me because he is a sick man and they chose to blindly believe him. I am also hurting because I know he did this ti isolate me. When these people weren't around he would tell me people hated me and not to talk to them. I had no idea until later that while I wasn't around he was giving them the impression I was oppressing him in some way. So when they displayed animosity toward me I believed him when he said everyone hated me. Unfortunately he was to blame. I feel robbed of so many wonderful relationships I could have have if it had not been for him trying to isolate me. I would have had people to go to for help. He made sure that when I did there was no chance of anyone listening. I pray for a change.

    May 25, 2009 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nee

      An abuser has to lie and get as many souls on his/her side because that is their only defense. The truth has a way of coming out and in the meantime you find out who you can trust and who you need to be wary of. It make it difficult when the lies are believed and your likelihood is at stake. The only recourse you have is to be professional in all your dealings, pray all the time and God will see you through. If you lose the job, then remember that God never allows a door to close without having a better one to open. I raised two kids on that statement of faith. My ex did not pay our last child one penny of child support and he could not be found to do it. Anyway, you will have a wonderful reward in the future so hold your head high and do your best.
      What goes around, comes around , and paydays can be hard and long. My abuser said that I attacked him and he had to defend himself. I am less than five feet and weigh a hundred pounds, and he six feet and weighs two hundred pounds. I ran to the police station with blood all over me and when the officer wanted to check me for the blood , I said it isn't my blood, it is his. He had given me a concussion and was coming at me to finish me off, and I fought with every fiber in my being to stay alive. All he got was a deep scratch on his arm from my long fingernails. He is in jail and I am living in fear of when he finally gets out. I am suffering from pain in the cap of my head, my shoulders, neck and arms all day, every day.

      December 24, 2011 at 20:11 | Report abuse |
  33. Gordana

    I also have similar expirience with a domestic abuse. It was the first one who heated me. It was the first perosn that I ever new with such an agresion... As I saw him the first time to be agresive (not to me), I was young and I thought " wow what a strengh, this one will always protect me"... Before I started a relationship with him, I had several sexual relationships, though previous I was a very good girl...I was the best in highschool, at faculty... I told him about everything I did, and I was proud of how many different men did I have. He was even "better" than me, he was every day with a different girl in bed. He cheated me and he would always tell me even if I didn't wanted to know. I also cheated him at the start of our relationship, twice. Later we got in love, I new about his cheating and I felt very bad that I also cheated him and I didn't tell him. He was very jealous and I thought that he feels, and then I told him... I let him heat me, I loved him and I he new. I told him that he can heat me, I can bear it, but I can stand it... and it never stoped. After some time I got pregnant and he continued to heat me and beat me. Then I said that the baby did not do anything bad to him and that he has to stop! But he never stoped. He always came with different fantasy in his mind how I was with somebody. He made movies in his mind with any man, every age...

    When I would tell him that I will leave him, he would say leave. But when I would pack the clodes from my daughter he would through me out of his appartment and he would say that he will kill me if I take my daughter away from him. I went at the police, but in my country even if the laws are good, it is like there is not any law sometimes, but only relationships count... so the police told me that we are young and that he doesn't want to get involved in our problems...

    So I stayed. My daughter saw almost everything... he was also agrresive to her (but never heated her), he heated his own mother, his father... Since about 3 years we live in Germany, I have no family here. I am a PhD studend and I have a job that I like and enough money... Here at the beginning I called a police and told them and they said to him that if he ever touch me again he will have to leave Germany. So, his beatings here were very rear, but his emotional and phsihical abuse was almost everyday... He made me problems every time I had to go at seminars out of the town or Conferences. I had to take my daughter with me... I couldn't speak with my mail collegues only because I would have problems with my husband at home. And I didn't want to lie if I spoke (like saying hello) or not with someone... I was lucky that my chef, my group leader and all my collegues understood my situation and they are very very supportive!

    So, I since 2 months ago I left him, I was the first month in a women's shelter. There I find helpfull, but also stressful because perhaps I expected a warm place and I found a cold place... My chef helped me and found an appartment, a small one, but enough for me and my daughter. As an forainer I would need long time to find anything myself.

    I am very happy and greatfull that I have such a help from my collegues. I have enough money, I have my daughter with me, and she doesn't even want to hear him or see him. However, I also after I heard his taking down stars from the sky, how he is changed, and how he loves us I have sometimes, some seconds thoghts that maybe he desirce one more chance... as he says he never felt it like this...it is the first time I ever left him.

    However, the good thing is that he is not here near me and I can realy think rationaly. I told also him, that it is possible that he is changed, but I will divorce the one that I know. I told him that he could have the chance to show me after I devorce the one I married, but I told him that only if I am 100% sure in him I could again be with him...

    But I know why I left him, I left him to show my daughter that that wasn't a normal and healthy relationship! I did this to stop the everyday agresion that my daughter was seeing... and still, I loose time talking to him on skype and then I fill sorry for him, I know he suffers. But I foound out that he was telling all our friends, and people that doesn't even know me, he told what I was doing before our relationship, 10 years ago... and he told them that that was the reason that he was jealous to me. But he never told them that he beated me, he never told them that he beated me when I was pregnant! He also was saying bad things about my family who never did anything bad to him... He is not changed! If I did something bad to someone I love, if I realized that I was wrong, I wouldn't heart this person anymore... I would wait for forgivness... if this person did not forgive me, I would accept that as a punishment for what I did...

    And I am a succesfull in my field of knowledge, I find myself beautifull. Still I am such a stupid person when it counts for relationship...I let him heart me, and I let him heart (indirectly) my child! I am proud that I left him!

    But, now the devorce is coming and I know he wouldn't let me breath until the end. I am also afraid that he might try to kidnap my daughter (since he said many times) or try to kill me...

    April 13, 2010 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com

    The tangles of domestic abuse.. Great idea :)

    April 18, 2011 at 21:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Nee

    There are so many of us that have suffered and tried to get free but the abuser has left a mark on us that time can not completely erase. They take our trust in others, and leave us without the confidence to have faith in ourselves. No matter it it is one time or a lifetime of abuse, trust has been robbed from us and no matter who we encounter the spontaneity is gone. What a terrible way to treat another person.
    I have tried for forty years to be a free agent and my abuser won't give up. He is presently serving time in jail for a concussion he gave me two weeks ago. H

    December 24, 2011 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Meghan

    GF, Los Angeles all I have to say to you is you are very ignorant and uniformed of the issue of domestic violence. I have seen what happens and heard women's stories as I work at a women's shelter. What these women to through, you will never understand until you are in that situation. Also, don't say it won't happen to you because you never know. It is because of people like you that these amazing and courageous women are constantly stigmatized and stereotyped negatively. Yes, they may have chosen the relationship, but choosing to leave is never as simple as that especially when the man threatens to kill you or your family. It takes a lot of inner strength to leave and sometimes when women leave they and possibly their children are murdered. PTSD is a symptom of domestic abuse because essentially an an user can be very much like a terrorist, the assaults in the women can be very similar to those people in war etc face. It is known as battered woman syndrome and the affects have the same symptoms of PTSD and more. Pick up a book. These women who may leave then have to go through a lot of court processes which sometimes do no good, and while they're in front of the judge they are revictimized by he prosecutors etc because they must relive in great detail every horrid thing they had to go through. It is because of people like you that our society is in the shape that it is in. It infuriates me to read your responses as it is mortifying to know that someone so ignorant would post something so uninformed. These women have braved their fears to share their stories and you spit on it. The abuser takes everything from a woman, her confidence, self esteem, ability to believe she is worth something. I have heard a 3 year old boy say that his father was going to kill him, and that is exactly what happened to not only him but also his mother. All because the system is flawed when it comes to helping women in domestic violence situations. I would recommend you read Life with Billy by Brian Vallee hopefully that will knock some sense in to you. To all of you amazing women who have suffered in silence you are truly wonderful and extremely courageous. Don't let people like GF take that away from you.

    November 19, 2013 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.