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 (174 Responses)
  1. David Hersh

    All of my partners were physically abusive. From high school through two marriages and one more 4 year relationship. I quit relationships at age 58. I was in therapy at age 50 for sexual abuse as a child. I seemed to associate violence with love. My therapist worked with me for 2.5 years. I learned a lot and began to see myself as a person that would do any thing in order to not be abandoned. That feeling was very powerful. All relationship problems were my fault and I didn't mind that because I could change myself, but there were always probems.

    I was secluded, degraded, mutilated and all the rest of it, including hospitals. Just after my therapy I got involved with a person and I wanted to make an agreement with them, that there would never be any violence. I felt good bringing up that topic because I was doing something for me for a change. I was standing up for myself. I was going to win.

    After two years I was struck in the face and received a cracked cheek bone. People rushed to help me and wanted to call the police. I said no, that I was going to be ok. I really had to laugh at myself , then I cried. I walked away from that relationship and promised myself to never get involved again. I am 62 years of age, I live alone and am quite happy. I am free, and my name is David and I do not date or live with women any more. Sadly enough, my story is very true.

    When I go for a walk I will see older couples holding hands I look at them, I wonder if he is really happy, I never ask them of course. But how would I know? I sometimes try to figure out how or what could I have done to change things back then. I certainly didn't want my life to end like this being alone. I still try, and that reminds me to not go there.

    I have a terminal illness now so I won't have to figure things out much longer. I'm not angry at any of my partners, I just have a deep sadness that I allow myself to feel once in a while, but only when I am alone.

    March 6, 2009 at 06:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Majaii Jackson

    To keep it short. I was married at the age of 16 yrs old to a man who beat me at least 3 times a week. He would wouldn't touch my face because he was the son of a preacher and we would have to attend church and I school. It escalated and the years progressed. He started burning me with irons, blackeyes,cutting me with knives and raping me. I left on a on throughout the years but at the age of 19yrs old I planned a escape. I packed my baby's bag and left everything. It was the end for me "I thought". He raped me, beat me and had my 1 yr old beating taking part of it. I was pregnant with his 2nd child and wasn't going to keep it. I prayed about it and kept him. I went through a shelter and got back on my feet. A year later he's back after the protected and restraining orders because he wants access to his wife and kids. I tried to give him a chance thinking that counseling had changed him. Only a few months later he kidnapped me, stabbed my little brother 28 times and left him for dead. In saying all this I've learned the hard way. Yes people can change some (very few) due but it always wind up in death or bodily injury in some kind of way. My little brother was 13 years old at the time and by the grace of God he lived. I've moved on an is now 28 years old. I am a testimony to young women everywhere.

    March 6, 2009 at 08:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Steve S.

    Awesome comeback remark when he said he didnt know how good he had it

    March 6, 2009 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Terry, TX

    Bless you for sharing the story....

    March 6, 2009 at 08:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Gabriela

    I was a victim of Domestic Violence, it took me approximately 7 years to realize it, I spent part of my 20's in a relationship were I was the caused of everything, "I'm sorry's" were common.... only to get worse, I have a beautiful and healthy boy from this relationship and he helped me in realizing that it wasn't going to get better, I didn't want anything to happen to him. Rihanna is one of millions of women and children who are beaten up, every 15 seconds a women is beaten up. As a woman the support needs to be unconditional, no matter what is her decision, going back with this monster or not.

    March 6, 2009 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jean

    In any and all of life's situations: the first time you are a victim,the second time and thereafter you become a volunteer. Stay this route and eventually you will become a cadaver. I'm not blaming the victim, but enough is enough! Free will and choice belong to everyone.
    I am soooo sick and tired of hearing about this Chris Brown/Rhianna nonsense. You can't make a person do what you think is the right thing. She is setting an extremely bad precedence for abused persons, male or female, everywhere.
    I am also not in favor of radio stations not playing his music or people offended when his music is played. If you can separate the escapades of Michael Jackson and R.Kelly from their music/talent, then there is no need to stop me from listening to a CD I already own.

    March 6, 2009 at 09:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Mary

    I was married for 6 years to an abusive man. I saw the red flags very early on when out of a very small argument, three weeks into our relationship, he punched a hole in my wall of the Greenwich Village apartment I adored; my first apartment I had on my own. Thus, the dance began. After he punched the hole in my wall, he told me it was over and that he couldn't be with me because he could somehow see that I could "make him get this angry and do things like this.". Right from the start he set it up so that I was begging HIM for forgiveness and begging him to stay.

    This cycle was to go on and get worse over the years. What isn't addressed I notice in the media regarding domestic abuse is that one of the biggest reasons woman stay is because in their minds, they actually love this person and as in my case, the abuse wasn't every day. I couldn't understand why I should leave this person because of some incidences that lasted less than 2 minutes in contrast to ALL THE WONDERFUL AND LOVING TIMES WE SHARED. Crazy-thinking, I know.

    We got married within a year of meeting and were both musicians. This was a huge bonding mechanism for us (at least for me). He was very involved with helping me get my career off the ground and by this point, you have to understand, as with any relationship, an EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT takes place. But I ignored the fact that I was constantly walking on eggshells. I chose to look the other way, when he began hitting ME instead of walls or doors. I definitely looked the other way when the emotional abuse set in in the form of threatening to leave the marriage every six months. I'd beg and plead with HIM NOT TO LEAVE ME and once again, the merry-go-round would continue.

    He NEVER fully took responsibility for what he did. Never. He used to say things to me like, 'See, this is why I need to leave you - look what you make me do" type of manipulative statements.

    And here's the thing. I believed him. Like the writer of the essay, I too, "had a mouth on me". Always have, always will. I say what's on my mind. I'm opinionated. I'm outgoing. And somehow, this became the reason (or one of the reasons) I "deserved" to be brought back to "reality".

    But I have to say, the very worst part of the whole experience was when I FINALLY got the courage to press charges. It had been over 5 years of this and we got into a very minor argument. We were living in a loft with an upstairs sleeping area. I don't remember what was said, but the next thing i knew, I couldn't see out of my left eye and there was blood EVERYWHERE - all over the bed. I couldn't see the far side of our loft space out of that eye. I then realized he threw our cordless phone at me and (I'm sure to HIS surprise), it hit me in the lower-left corner of my left eye.

    I can remember he ran up the stairs to our bedroom with ice in a towel and then left. HE ACTUALLY WENT TO THE STORE TO REPLACE THE PHONE BEFORE TAKING ME TO GET MEDICAL CARE!

    Something happened to me while he was at the store buying the phone. It was almost a spiritual experience. See, I knew for a fact that if I were to make him take me to the hospital, he would end our marriage. Before, that thought was so terrifying to me (again, we LOVE these people), I wouldn't have done that - but not this time. I KNEW I had to end the madness.

    When he got back I told him we were going to the hospital (I didn't drive, he did and we would have to get to Manhattan quickly as we were living in Brooklyn at the time) and that he was definitely taking me to the hospital.

    I actually went along with him when we drove over the Williamsburg Bridge and we concocted some story that I can't even remember now as to why my eye was in the condition it was in - again, I was going to protect him.

    Well, guess what? The hospital didn't believe me. the social worker there didn't believe me, the administrative staff didn't believe me. I was questioned privately for a long time. Several times. I had to have surgery on my eye. I was told I came VERY close to losing sight and it was amazing that I didn't. It took about three weeks, but after many discussions with social workers, etc, I did indeed press charges. By the way, he only got three years probation.

    After about 14 hours at St. Vincent's, we drove back over the bridge - back to the loft. On the way back, he said his infamous words, "do you see what you make me do?". Again, I believed it, somehow. We never spent another night together again.

    He actually left the second we got back, took the dog and some clothes and went to his mother's on the other side of Brooklyn. The kicker for me was many of our mutual friends TOOK HIS SIDE and basically stopped talking to me. As if I was the bad guy in the scenerio. I'll never forget one person we knew for years, someone I thought was my friend and cared about me saying, "well, Mary, you know you can be 'loud' and demanding. I"m not saying what he did was right, but you need to look at that about yourself".

    So for a VERY long time I really believed that it "took two" in an abusive situation and that if I wasn't so "demanding" or "kept quiet" enough, his behavior wouldn't have manifested in a physical way.

    There is a lot of ignorance out there and I think the biggest is that deep down, people believe that something "triggered" the abuser to commit his crimes. I have since learned that isn't the case AT ALL.

    THERE IS NO EXCUSE, REPEAT AFTER ME, NO EXCUSE FOR ANYONE TO HIT YOU, BELITTLE YOU, EMOTIONALLY ABUSE YOU - EVER!!!! I don't care how "mouthy" you are, or how "opionated" you are, or how "demanding" you are. The issue is with the abuser.

    I recently heard he is remarried. I pray he has gotten the help he needs. I pray for this woman. Abusers spin the truth, so I am sure she doesn't know the entire story or very much of it at all. During our marriage I never told anyone (amazingly) and it actually made it easy for him to make it look like a "one time deal".

    I'll never forget the Brooklyn DA telling me that the rate for batterers to "rehabilitate" is very, very small. God, I hope his new wife is O.K.

    March 6, 2009 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Suzanne

    I am a counselor who has worked in domestic violence. Perpetrators of domestic violence have learned to use their skills to gain power. It's not about love, it's about power. Their intentions are methodical and calculated. They know EXACTLY what they are doing. They are able to identify even a small, insignificant sorce of vulnerabilty in another person and exploit/manipulate it. There are warning signs. Many websites and local shelters offer counseling, information, and protection. PLEASE DON"T HESITATE, DON'T THINK TWICE, AND DON'T BELIEVE THE PERPETRATOR WILL CHANGE. Learn the MO, learn the warning signs. GET OUT OF THE RELATIONSHIP! Also do NOT go to counseling with your perpetrator. He/she will only beat you up when you get home. Don't kid yourself, this is a life or death situation. And the effect on any chidlren in the home is awful. YOU WON'T BE ALONE AND PEOPLE WILL HELP YOU. Don't let finances or family pressures or anything keep you from getting your power back!

    March 6, 2009 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Annetta W. Nunn

    It is unfortunate that many women, and some men suffer domestic abuse without knowing where to find help. I served as Chief of Police in Birmingham, Alabama and now serve as a court advocate for the YWCA's Domestic Violence Services program. Our crisis hotline number is (205) 322-9922, the statewide Domestic Violence hotline number is 1-800-650-6522, and the National hotline number is
    1-800-799-7233. I lost a relative to domestic violence. Please seek assistance and follow the professional guidance before it's too late.

    March 6, 2009 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Carol L. Lipsey

    I was a victim of domestic abuse by my children's father and it continued for six years. He was the child of an alcoholic father and had witnessed his father beating his mother. Because I was raised in a single parent home, I guess I was looking for some man, any man to love me. My mother tried talking to me repeatedly about why I would let this man do these things to me and I, for the life of me, could not answer her. It took years to build up my self-esteem to finally say, I want out of this relationship. He stalked me, threaten me, and even raped me, but I had had enough. It took a lot of soul searching on my part to close this chapter in my life. I've emerged a stronger, better person.

    March 6, 2009 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Linda Long

    I have had a best friend for over 30 years. She is a talented, intelligent, wonderful woman. About 4 years ago she married a man who later tried to kill her by strangulation. He was sentenced to over a year in prison. After he was released, she allowed him back in to her life..."she just needed to know he was ok". She now will no longer respond to my calls or emails. I have told her that I am concerned for her safety, however I have always been there for her. I'm devistated that she thinks this man is now ok! He had also spent 5 years in prison for molesting his daughter several years ago & lied about his past.She did not know this when she married him. She now even is in denial about this, insisting that a mistake was made. I believe he is isolating her from me. I feel incredible grief with the lose of her. Any suggestions?

    March 6, 2009 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. ZB

    I was married to an abusive man and because of religious reasons wasn't allowed to divorce him. I wish I had the strength to turn my back on those 'beliefs' for the sake of my life and sanity, but I didn't and I endured being kicked and beaten in the street, in the house, in front of his family. I'm at work right now and I cried when I read about Rihanna....my heart really goes out to her because I was the same age and my husband was my first love and physical relationship. He was my everything. No woman (or man) should ever have to go through that. It affects you for life!!! One guy I dated a year or so ago, grabbed me in anger and that was THE END. I do not speak to him, text him – NOTHING. Right now, I have this very strong urge to go and speak to a crowd of abused women (men) – letting them know they can do it – they can make it without these jerks. Everyone isn't like that.

    March 6, 2009 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Su

    When I was in my early 20s, I was in a relationship with a man who had a jealous streak. One day we had a fight because I came home to find that he had opened up my mail. I had nothing to hide from him and told him that if he wanted to read my mail, all he had to do was ask. He grabbed me by my shoulders and shoved me against a wall. I looked him straight in the eye and told him to never do that again. Then I packed an overnight bag, left, and never came back. Called him the next day and told him to leave. That was over 30 years ago and I have never spoken with or seen him since. I figured if he shoved me against a wall, then it would just get worse. I wasn't going to wait around to see if things escalated. My parents never beat each other or my siblings and me, so I was not going to put up with that crap. Thank goodness my parents raised strong kids! If Rhianna goes back to that jerk, she will probably regret it. They both need counseling.

    March 6, 2009 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Kristi

    I too was a victim of physical, verbal and emotional abuse. I too was from a loving family – my parents were each other's best friend – my father a perfect gentleman. After years of being in a relationship that turned abusive, I wondered what is wrong. Why would that man I grew to love want to hurt me. What was I doing that made him flip into a monster. I would blame myself, try to convince myself if I'd only do this or only do that, he would become the loving man again that I grew to love. He would constantly tell me to listen to him, do what he says, maybe I would find out he was right about everything. Although I would try my best to do everything he wanted, his way, it still wasn't enough my attempts were not good enough (at the same time, he would make no effort to change – told me I needed to show him). He continually hit me, kicked me, spit in my face, called me vile names, etc. – I think I experienced everything possible – I began to believe he would kill me if he thought he would get away with it. It was hard to leave him – I was in love and I thought I could help him overcome this personality of abuse. I finally found out I couldn't help him – couldn't change him – he wouldn't even address the subject. Yes, it is hard to escape from emotional feelings no matter how hard it gets, but the best thing you can do for yourself and others is – TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF – BE TRUE TO YOURSELF – LISTEN TO THAT INNER VOICE. You'll find you've never been happier once you let that load go – just let it go. Today I am happy, and am loved – what I lived through before was not love – not in any one's opinion but my own.

    March 6, 2009 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Bonny

    Great story.............. all the best.

    March 6, 2009 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Nellie

    Wow thanks for sharing your story. That was powerful!!! It was nice to hear from a firsthand source what abused woman goes through. Lucky for you, you found a way out. For some women/ young girls its not so easy. It amazes me when people say, "If it were me I would leave!! or Why would she stay?" But people never dig below the surface. Thanks again for sharing your story 🙂

    March 6, 2009 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. dg

    With Rihanna supporting Chris, she is stating by her actions that his behavior was justified. It's okay because he loves her. What!
    Wake up!
    This is the problem the police have with D.V., many women don't want helped. Why? Fear and finances, maybe. Who knows, each relationship is different.

    I hope the police use him as an example. This is BAD BEHAVIOR and should not be tolerated by anyone especially by teen idols!. If she wasn't dating him and recieved this kind of beating from a stranger would she accept it and refuse to press charges?

    This is sending a horrible message to the younger generation. If they claim to "love" you then it's okay how they treat you. BS

    I do not hit the people I love, and I don't teach my children that they must be hit before they can believe it's really love.

    What's wrong with this picture?

    If the person is not patient, kind, or tender ( even when they are mad about something) you can pretty well say that the love the feel is questionable.(Love that make's any one hurt isn't a good form of love it is usually and addiction or infatutation).
    I get angry at people but I dont beat them bloody to make them do or think what I want them do!

    Rihanna wake up!

    March 6, 2009 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. val

    To all of you who shared your stories, thank you. I know it took a lot of courage for many of you to blog about your experiences. Even thirty years after my abusive relationship ended, it can still be painful to think about. A lot of people will say I need to "grow up", but no one deserves to be beaten. Things happen in relationships, we all get angry, but constant beatings and degrading of one's partner can't be anything but wrong. If this blog has helped just one person think about walking away from an abusive relationship, than it has done its job. Again, thank you for such a huge response. Val

    March 6, 2009 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Rima

    Shannon – I think you know the answer to your question. Yes, it is abuse. This man is abusing you in numerous ways, limiting your contacts, controlling your behaviour, slapping you. IT WILL ONLY GET WORSE. If you do nothing for a long time, you may find yourself so depressed and beaten down that you can't act. Keep talking to your friends, family and get some counselling. Please do this quickly.

    March 6, 2009 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Christy

    Thank you everyone for sharing your stories. I really needed to hear them right now. I've just left a bad relationship, where the cops had to be called several times. He's been calling me and writing me telling me how sorry he is. It's been a year since he put his hands on me. But when we were together he would say the cruelest things to me when he was drunk. Naturally later he would tell me he was sorry and it was the alcohol and that's not who he really is.
    Yeah right. He's gotta blame something because he's certainly not going to look at himself. Any way he's threatened to kill himself, and to make up lie's and call childrens services on me. In the end he started saying cruel things about my son.
    After he said those things I thought to myself "What kind of a sick S.O.B would say something like that about a child?" Whats to stop him from hurting my son?
    Thank you for your stories, they have made me see that my ex-may be more dangerous than I had realized. Luckily he's not allowed on the property where I live and he's on probation so it's automatic jail time for him if he comes near us. I think I need to stop being lazy and change my phone number like I planned.

    March 6, 2009 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Victoria

    I too was in an abusive relationship for 4 and a half years he never abused me physically but he did our youngest daughter, he abused me emotionaly and mentally and he had so much control over me through his abuse that i was unable to see what he was doing to our youngest daughter. although it was not my fought i have always blamed myself i lost everything because of him, i lost my freedom and i lost my children aswell as all my friends as none of them had seen what he was doing to me. i am now getting councilling and getting my self control back the only thing i can't get back is m children as they were adopted. i have written a few poemsto show my feelings and i'd like to share this one with you all.

    Domestic Abuse

    Domestic abuse,
    What is it?
    It's violence towards you,
    And so much more,
    There's emotional abuse,
    What do you mean?
    I hear you ask,
    I mean they play on your emotions,
    They tell you,
    Your not worth anything,
    And so much more.
    There's mental abuse,
    And what is that you ask,
    It's where they get into your head,
    They control you,
    And make you feel,
    Feel like you can't cope,
    Not without them,
    They blind you,
    Nt physically,
    But so you can't see,
    See the real them,
    See what their doing,
    Doing to you and your children.
    How do you know so much you ask,
    I know all this,
    Because it happened,
    To me and my children,

    March 6, 2009 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. dg

    Alcohol is only a sober mans hidden or unspoken words. It is only an excuse. I ran from Arizona to Oregon and Texas to get away from an abuser. I was worth it and I'd do it again.

    Love does not cause broken bones, stiches, or bruises.
    It the above in happening in the name of love maybe someone needs a new dictionary.

    Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy but it is worth it, I don't have to check someone elses emotions before I speak, and I am allowed to make mistakes.
    Listen to the song Unwritten, Natasha Bettingfield, I think, it's a great inspiration for anyone thats starting over.

    It's not about how many times we fall but moreso its about how many times do we get back up!

    March 6, 2009 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Kristi

    Stories like all of these are what gives us hope – we are not alone. It is easy for people to say what we should do, what we should say, etc., but until you are in the shoes of a victim from abuse, no one knows what we experience. It is so hard to walk away – we have so many feelings of guilt because we do not want to fail. Remember that we are all winners and we are all survivors. For each of you that believe that you will not find another that loves you or charms you or cares for you like the abuser – believe me, it is not love they are giving you in return for all the love you give them. They are the ones with the low self esteem that need to use their power to stroke their egos. We have no positive place in their lives and we all know that what they are giving us is not positive for our happy well being. Keep writing ladies – it is what gives us hope and calms us internally. We are strong, we are wonderful human beings. Remember you are loved!!!!!

    March 6, 2009 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. GF, Los Angeles

    Reading these stories made me both mad and sad at the same time. Mad because these women (and a few men) chose (yes it's a choice) to remain in an abusive relationship and make excuses for the abuser's behavior. Sad that they lacked any self-esteem to remain single or be pickier of the mate. I've never been in an abusive relationship by choice (I'm in my late 30's) – I'm very picky of the men I date because my parents have taught me to choose men with good character and to discard those who have the slightest character flaw. The signs of the person's character are there if we open up our eyes and not let our heart blind us by a person's appearance and smooth words. Observe the person's actions and the way that person speaks on a normal basis (not when they're being lovey dovey). At the first sign if this person degrades and doesn't keep their word and more importantly lies, get out!! It's not worth it to be with an untrustworthy person – don't give them the opportunity to show more of their true colors.

    March 6, 2009 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. felicia

    Wow, to the power of the women and men I do agree men are a growing in numbers of domestic violence. The whole grow up theory its not what women in that situation need hear. The thing is they are bein told that daily grow up, your stupid, you will never make it on your own, and the whole first time their fought second time your fought let me tell you im educated, smart but that power and fear, I spent nightly a gun to my head on my knees with threats (that I believed) of killing me and my children they werent his and he had made true to putting a gun to their head if wernt for their dad who knows, so before you become so sure its that easy try to understand sometimes it takes a plan, I went to shelter and was given a plan, find safest place to go if he gets out of control, hide cell phone that dont work to call 911, talk to neighbors i did it and you know what if with the felony charge to this day I still am hiding, running, he still looking and threating to kill me, so when approciating this subject help is there but, it can fell.

    March 6, 2009 at 19:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Sarah

    I feel for this story as I was also in a very abusive relationship. I now have a metal implant in my shoulder because of it. Women stay for many reasons. I stayed because I was terrified that he would kill me or hurt my family. I put up with such abuse for over two years. My heart just aches for Rihanna when I heard this story. I really hope she finds it in herself to leave that maniac because no one deserves that type of treatment.

    March 6, 2009 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Deborah

    I am in a relationship that is psychologically and emotionally abusive. When I first identified that what was happening was not normal and was in fact very damaging to myself and could be labelled 'abusive' I felt immense shame. I am smart, well-educated, from a loving (but not problem-free) family and a middle-class background, with good friends. I also identify as a feminist. I felt that women like me (i.e. not poor, not uneducated, not from a bad family, 'empowered') were safe from abuse, so somehow I must be doing something that made me deserve the abuse. I realize now that this is not the case. My boyfriend and I are now talking openly about the abuse and how we can stop it. I'm not sure if this is manipulation or genuine. However, I am slowly realizing that I do not deserve to be abused, maligned or put-down. I believe that women who stay with their abusers frequently believe that they must somehow deserve the abuse, otherwise they wouldn't stay. If a friend had done this to me, I doubt I would have thought twice about ending the friendship.

    March 7, 2009 at 07:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Rosa

    Liz, I feel your fear. So many people can not see what Domestic Violence does to victims and survivors. He is going to beat her again. My god I will pray for her. I'm sure you will agree with me that, the memory of your horrible abuse will live with you for the rest of your life. I am a survivor and I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. I am blessed, I have my group sisters and my supporters from Women In Transition. I pray she get's help.

    March 7, 2009 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. krisMiamiFl

    Rhiana is setting a Bad example to young women. She is showing that it's ok to put up with that behavior(phycsical or verbal abuse). She should not be endorsing Cover girl Either. I just hope she getting counseling.

    March 7, 2009 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Darlene Ferguson

    I was brought up in an abusive home. Not violently, but mentally. I have very low self-esteem and I have tried for fifty-five years to come out of it. The men I have been with have all been abusive to me, either physically or mentally. I've been strangled many times, beaten with martial arts, sat at the end of a sawed off shotgun, raped repeatedly and held in bondage. I am educated in many fields and have a high IQ; but, I cannot further myself in any field because of my low self-esteem. I am in an abusive marriage now, mentally and verbally abusive. I stay because my pastor says I have to, I have had a liver transplant and he holds the insurance and I need my appointments and meds taken care of. Sometimes he can be nice and helpful and it makes for a confusing marriage.

    March 7, 2009 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Jay

    Thank you so much for the article and for sharing your experience, there are hundreds if not thousands of women out there that for one reason or another, are reluctant to leave an abusive relationship. I myself saw my mother be punched and slapped by my father. One day the screaming was driving me and my brother crazy, and we stepped out of our rooms to see my mother get punched and knocked to the floor. I still remember my mother's face when she looked up and saw us, it was shock?fear?dawning realization? whatever it was, she picked herself off the floor and proceeded to punch the crap out of my father in the face. Split his lip wide open. And then she called the police. I trembled with fear as they came and handcuffed him. I loved him but my mind fought with the right and wrong of the situation. I was only 8.
    The effect of domestic violence is extremely hard and painful for the children; they are torn apart in 3 different directions: loyalty to mom, to dad, and knowing that hiding the incident out of shame or having the police get involved means something is seriously wrong.
    My dumb *ss didn't realize my mom beat him up in front of us to undoe the damage us kids saw. A lot good it did, my very first boyfriend at age 16 was 5 times worse then my father. being malnutritioned and ignored or beaten or raped, i got pregnant then miscarried at 6 months. My mom begged me to return home after that, but remembering my father's anger and his kicking me out of the house, I felt it was my "burden" and "duty" and love would overcome all. "to love is to sacrifice" was my motto. I regret ever letting it continue after the first slap, I would have my 8 yr old little girl right now beside me if I hadn't been so scared.
    I also recently left a psychotic cheating husband who later assaulted me in the middle of the street because I changed our daughter's bedtime from 9 to 8 pm.(she was 5 at the time, falling asleep in school but god forbid I try to undermine his authority!) Thanks to him being manipulative and a chronic liar, I have had to battle in court for 2 years for full custody, and its still not over.
    I'd rather be alone than put up with trying to figure out the psychos from the real men!

    March 7, 2009 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Susan

    Rhinna has set a VERY bad example for young women. Chris VIOLENTLY beat her! This was not a case of a slap on the face and Chris realizing...OMG, what have I done... and immediately stopping. No, he went on to beat and beat her over a long period of time. It is clear, and very unfortunate, that Rhinna is already in the cycle of an abused woman and Chris WILL DO THIS AGAIN if she takes him back.
    In order to stop the vicious cycle of abuse, the woman MUST stop it the very first time it starts. Pack your bags, move quickly to the closest shelter, and seek help as to why you think it is ok for you to be treated in such a way. It is NEVER ok. You must have enough self-respect to never allow a man, woman, child or friend to abuse you in any way, shape or form. You are a human being and cannot be abused by an animal.
    And, if you have children, OMG leave at once! You CANNOT subject your child to such abuse and you cannot allow your child to see that it is ok for someone to do that to you.

    March 7, 2009 at 23:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. A

    Abuse leads to death and he has already told her what he would do to her. This is very serious coming from personal experience and I am praying for her that she gets out of this and comes out a winner but as for Chris, he is a sad little boy and needs to get some help. I am sad and just fe el bad for her because she obviously has low self esteem and probably feels that he is the best that she can do. Riahanna, get out and get some healing.

    March 8, 2009 at 01:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Isabelle

    To Dedrienne:

    Unfortunately, your assessment of the abusive relationship reeks of ignorance. Visit your local Shelter For Abused Women, if you wish to have a better understanding of the cyclical patterns of an abusive relationship or wish to help someone finally rid themselves of an abusive partner.

    March 8, 2009 at 04:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Isabelle

    To Marie:

    Your comment shouldn't have been posted. You, clearly, haven't the foggiest idea of what you are talking about. Please, visit your local Shelter For Abused Women for insight into the cyclical patterns of an abusive relationship. SHAME? Those words are extremely inflammatory and quite frankly, lead me to the next question, one that you will learn, if you visit your local shelter. Are you an abuser? Perhaps, you should volunteer at your local Shelter For Abused Women. You might learn something about yourself.

    March 8, 2009 at 05:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Sharon Burr

    I am a victim of abuse in a different way. My mother was abused by my stepfather on a fairly regular basis. He never hit my sister or me (accidently once for my sister when she happened to get between him and my mother in an effort to protect Mom. He was aiming for Mom but got Sis instead!). It has taken me most of my adult life to recover from this upbringing and to understand way my mother exposed us to this hurtful type of family life. Why didn't she leave? Why did he hit her? As an adult, I now realize my stepfather suffered from bi-polar disease and my mother had such low self-esteem she couldn't imagine living without a man in her life, even one who beat her up! While it took me a LONG time to recover, I can honestly say it made me a stronger woman and rather than falling into a trap that might have put me into some kind of abuse cycle, my mother's plight taught me to stand up for myself and no man has ever struck me, nor will they!

    March 8, 2009 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. mari

    I lived with an abusive partner from the age of 19 through 23. I am now 33, and now have a great life, a Masters degree, my health, and a routine and friends I love. I still cry when I read stories such as these, because I still remember vividly being in that situation.

    I initially wrote several paragraphs in response to this article, but realized I wasn't ready to "publish" my story as a comment. To the above women: I know what you went through. I think there are more of us than anyone knows. Most of my friends have no idea.

    I agree with Kristi – yes – you are all deeply loved. And you have friends you have yet to meet, and those that believe in you, who don't even know you. And there are those that do know you, and believe in you, and you may not even know it. I know the injuries hurt, and they may hurt for a long time. Mine are going on 13 years. Yes, life is different now, than it was before I met him, but I am also stronger than I ever knew, and that knowledge, and maybe even wisdom is more empowering than I ever thought possible.

    Take a deep breathe. Be careful. You deserve a place on this earth and you are wanted here. Seek out those that are kind. And trust in yourself. You are right. And, you are alright. XOXO

    March 8, 2009 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Information

    Does anyone have any useful information regarding protecting oneself from the inevitable "catch-22," that many Mother's face who stand by their children who have been abused? Often, "PAS," or Parental Alienation Syndrome is used against them and they often lose custody of the very children that were abused to the man that abused all of them!

    As they are often left without any resources, many States-most notably Florida-then "stigmatize," the woman to legally take any newborns she births to gain Federal funding through the "Baby Trade," by putting the child with a "care-giver," work with an army of lawyers to have the child stigmatized as "medically needy," and then prematurely terminate parental rights to have the child adopted. (Bonuses are granted for "medically needy," and for "expeditious" adoption and "permanent placement," so long as it is not with a biological parent.) The Federal credits/funding granted the State for this triple-play is over $11,000 per child...how many infants does DCF seize from innocent Mother's monthly?

    Right now a Mother is going to lose her son, in PBC, because her son aspirated meconium during labor...and she took her legally prescribed medication for her disability. The Fl. Statutes specifically State that this is legal...it is only logical, for if a Mother miscarries or dies...so does the fetus. DCF however has the power to seize without investigation, for instance looking at her Rx records or calling her Physician, and slander her without mercy or evidence.

    Mr. Abramowitz...Mr. Wexlar...are there any true "family preservationists," willing to help?

    Domestic violence often leads to a woman becoming stigmatized even when she does not follow the social model of becoming an alcoholic, or "drug abuser."

    March 8, 2009 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Mark

    Frequently the news contains information about crimes of all sorts. We here in the U.S. are blessed with tons of information about health. Why not have a regular segment on mental health issues and ways to detect and address them. Perhaps it will stop some crime. We need to address more of the issues that tend to be leading causes of crime. By having documentaries and helpufull information about the sypmtoms, lifestyles and consequences perhaps we can educate the public and de-mystify and de-glorify crimes and criminals rather than desensitize ourselves to them.

    March 8, 2009 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. sherry hoof

    Abusers are all about having power and control over their victums. The victums are the missing piece to the abusers personality. Abusers can't and are not able to have a normal loving relationship with any women or man. When a victum gets the psychological help they need and realize it is not their fault that the abuser is the way he or she is, she or he didn't deserve the abuse that the abuser did to them, they can then start to heal and will not put themselves in an abusive relationship again.

    March 8, 2009 at 21:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. silverside

    It needs to be acknowledged that leaving is fraught with difficulties.

    I finally left my abuser, despite his threats, including the threat to take my daughter away from me. People said to me, "no way that unemployed deadbeat piece of crap can get custody."

    Well, he did get custody. For 11 long years. My daughter's whole childhood. The courts didn't care what evidence I had or what I said. My daughter finally got out when SHE contacted a mandated reporter, who was required to contact Child Protective Services. They didn't get him on "abuse" per se (though there was plenty of that), but for maltreatment (house reeked of urine, animal feces and garbage everywhere, mildew on the walls, animal cages everywhere.)

    Everybody piles on women for why you don't leave. But when you do, you will be called a liar who is trying to keep a loving daddy away from his kids. You will be called an alienator. Any evidence you have will be ignored. Abusers have great track records for getting unsupervised visitation or even custody because a lot of them call turn on the charm when they have to, and are skilled manipulators. Until you deal with the custody issues that have become a crisis in this country, I don't want to hear about women getting blamed for not leaving.

    March 9, 2009 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Christianne Wa

    Thank you for your courage in sharing your story with all of us. Domestic violence is a health issue that is generally ignored and swept under the rug. But your honesty makes your post extremely effective. You write that many women remain in abusive relationships for many reasons, and in your case, you felt that you had done something wrong and deserved it. Given this psychological aspect, how do you think we can empower today’s girls and tomorrow’s women? What can we do to overcome this harmful mentality? Maybe sex ed classes in high school should cover domestic abuse and educate the youth of America about this suppressed issue. Later in your post, you mention that women may tend to find it harder to leave significant relationships because of societal expectations, and they blame themselves for speaking up or making their male partners mad. This situation clearly shows a need to reevaluate social norms and the roles of men and women in society. Since most abusers seek power in belittling others, the power dynamics in relationships are crucial in preventing abuse. The significance of dominance in their relationship warrants a redefinition of female roles and the empowerment of women everywhere. Looking to the news, what do you think of the Chris Brown-Rihanna situation, and the fact that they are reunited? Should Oprah do more than just warn Rihanna not to stay away from Chris? On a different note, it would also be helpful if you discuss domestic abuse with male victims and the unique issues they face. Nonetheless, your story really gives a voice to women who experience this everyday. Thank you again. Stay strong!

    March 9, 2009 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. z

    What happens when it is the woman who is the abuser? That is the situation I am in. I know I am an idiot for staying... but we have children and I prevent the worst from happening to them.

    There needs to be more discussion about women who abuse their men. Many of these same women also cheat on their spouses, just like mine does.

    If I could get full custody I would leave with the kids.

    March 9, 2009 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Mimi

    Why inthe heck are these white people trying to talk about a black issue I mean seriously get some black perspective on this case or they just need to drop it Yeah I know what he did to her was not right and he said he was sorry but to keep on talking about it is overkill. I mean if this were to happen with brad pitt and Angelina Jolie they would talk about it for a second and leave it alone but since its two black people they wanna publicate it as if it the juicyist sh** they have heard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 9, 2009 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Dey's All Just Bitches And Ho's

    Isn't what he did just the same as what is preached in gansta rap? Remember to insist that your kids buy another CD...

    March 10, 2009 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. sarah

    This is in response to Liz who has written about the fact her sister, who like herself at one stage is in a violent relationship. I am overcoming the hurdles of getting out of my violent relationship now which has been going on for over 8 years. I had my daughter 7 months ago and it is only since she arrived that i have finally 'seen the light' and realised that if i dont get out of this relationship i will end up dead. I am heading towards that light at the end of the tunnel and i really know that this time i will get there because my daughter is worth it. (Hopefully one day I will regain some self esteem and start to live for myself also). I have been physically, emotionally and mentally abused for a long time. The worst incident resulting in me being tied up with duck tape, raped and head butted and held for 3 hours while my ex partner ranted and screamed in my face. That happened 3 years ago. I still didnt get out.

    Over the years I lost friends and family who just could not understand why I always went back to this man and who themselves were emotionally drained from the worry and pain that it caused them. This of course just added extreme guilt (and still does) to the mixture of feelings I had. Family members would say 'why are you putting us through this hell'? and of course i could not explain why. I just couldnt get out. I was scared and so lost that it was eventually all i knew. My relationship was not about love it was about control. Once a happy out going and opinionated girl, i had turned into loosing complete control of my life. That was his aim.

    All I would say to you Liz is please dont turn your back on your sister. It will make no difference how many times you tell her he is no good, she will stay in that relationship until she is ready to leave. She may go back to him again and again but the worst thing that you could do is turn your back. You need to be someone that she can turn to and talk to about what is happening without feeling shame or embarassment and without feeling she is letting you down 'yet again'. Never judge her on her decisions just support her. This in the long run will help as she will never feel that he is the only person she has left in her life. That is exactly what he wants, dont give it to him!

    I have one fantastic friend who did just that. She sat and listened, never judged. Never thought i was stupid for putting up with it and more importantly she was able to take my mind off the nightmare my life had become. She would laugh with me and talk to me about trivial things. She was truely my angel who I believe (along with my little girl) saved my life.

    March 10, 2009 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Mary

    This comment is kind of directed twards Shannon. You are in the same exact relationship I was in. It does'nt matter what you do, none of this is your fault. You could be flawless and he would still hit you and traet you unfairly. He has dominance issues and it'll only get worse. Rule # 1: You should never have to give up your friends for NO ONE! He has issues and this should be a red flag for any girl or woman who enters a relationship and is asked to do so. Rule # 2: Any man who goes out and lies about where he's at needs to grow up and does not deserve you. Especially if it's 4 in the morning. He has obviously was out drinking and possibly went home with someone ( and may be thinking your doing the same when you do not pick up the phone). And Rule # 3: If he ever hits you, it'll only get worse. Especially when he's grabbing you the way he is and getting mad for petty reasons. Most girls or woman think "He wouldn't of hit me if I didn't make him mad." That is the biggest load of **** that we could ever believe. Take a stand for yourself, and oh yeah, he will not kill himself. Most men are to selfish to do that. Just remember, he will kill you first before he kills himself. He's just trying scare tactics to keep you as his own punching bag because you stay around to accept it. He will continue this behavior as long as he has you to do it to. Next time he hits you or especially punishes you in your own home,,,,You call the police and get a EPO (emergency restraining order) and then ultimatly a restraining order. You really need to rid him of your life and do not accept him back. I wish I would of known this earlier because I lived with it for ten years, and I regret every time I stayed as he kicked the living S*** out of me. Don't make this crazy mistake I made. I beg you, get out now.

    March 10, 2009 at 23:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Glenda

    I am a survivor of domestic violence and watching this case unfold with Rihanna and Chris Brown is disheartening. We all believe that it will never happen to me, but when it does you are brought into a state of disbelief. For two years I went back and forth, believing his kind words, stating how he was "going to change." Things got better for a few months, showered me with gifts, but as time went by he went back to his old self. Many ask why does a woman go back? Many go back because they believe they can change a man, many blame themselves for the beatings, thinking they have provoked him, but in the end it has nothing to do with women. Domestic Violence is a disease and without a cure it going to spread like a wild fire from generation to generation. We are taught as women to stand by your man through thick and thin and many take that to heart, but from my experience I have learned that love doesn't hurt, love is kind and comforting, a place where one can feel safe like no other. Many of us know woman who are experiencing violence right now as we speak, but we have to realize that there is nothing we can do for them until they want to help them self first. All one can do is be there for them and make them realize that they deserve better. Most importantly make them realize that they are playing roulette with their life by staying in the relationship. The abuse will increase and become more intense. Your life is worth so much more and everyone deserves happiness.

    March 11, 2009 at 00:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Sandra

    This story is for anyone who is in a domestic violence relationship. My name is sandra. I was physically and emotionally abused by a man whom i did end up marrying. Yeah crazy I know I grew up in a home where my father not only abused my mom he also abused me and my younger brother. It is really easy to say just leave it is hard to do when you are scared of losing your life. At the time I had three children that was also very scarred by this situation.My mom is still with my father. My ex husband began beating me and punching me around before hand. I went through all the stages including the honey moon stage where he would cry and vowed to never hit me again and i believed because I thought I could love him enough it would stop. But it never did. After going through this for many years I did leave but you have to be very careful with your escape plan. In my case I pressed charges on him and he was arrested and I hoped that would give me a chance to leave. Well I did move and in the process of moving the next day thinking he was still incarcerated.I went back to get some last minute things out of my apartment. When he came into the apartment and began beating me and choking me and telling me that he was going to kill me. I think I was blanking in and out of consciousness. While pleading with him please I dont want to die my children needed me. I had never seen him ath this point of no return. What saved my life was his mom who had given him a ride over to the apartment said she felt something was wrong. When she came in and demanded him to stop doing what he was doing to me saved my life. I can tell you ladies that their is a life after abuse threw faith and belief. I am now married to a man who loves me and even with my baggage of my abuse. Is continuing to teach me love should not and will not hurt. Please GET OUT with a safe plan .And always believe in yourself to know when it is time to leave. I hope this story will touch anyone that is end in this situation. Sincerely sandra

    March 11, 2009 at 01:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. cynthia haas

    this is about "what is a psychopath, what are the synthoms, how to recognize one, is it inherited, is there a cure?" The damage my husband, photographer Ernst, did before his death some 20 years ago continues in our children and my grandchild today, and other people.

    March 11, 2009 at 06:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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