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Perhaps you have wondered if your life includes tolerating abusive behavior from others. Abuse can happen on many different fronts, including: physical, verbal (mental/emotional), sexual, financial, social. Unless human beings are educated to learn what abuse is, there is a strong tendency for people to tolerate highly inappropriate or abusive behavior and minimize, rationalize, and justify it.

If you are being physically abused, you probably know it, but perhaps not. There is a tendency to make light of behaviors which should not be tolerated. For example, a wife may say that her husband didn't hit her with a closed fist, he just shoved her. Or, a man may say of his fiance, "She pushes me and slaps me, but she never has broken any bones." He is not attempting to be funny; rather, he is justifying staying in the relationship. If you are being hit, with open palm or closed fist, if you are being punched, slapped, shoved, thrown, bitten or encountering any other form of behavior where you are the target of another physically assaulting you, do not excuse it. Call it what it is: abuse. Do what you can to get your abuser to get help and if s/he won't, leave. Your safety is the paramount issue here.

Perhaps mental/emotional abuse is the most common type of abuse, the least understood, and the type which leaves the most lasting scars. Physical wounds heal, although they should never have to be endured. Words which belittle, demean, put down, hurt, call names, shame another are all forms of verbally abusive behavior and do damage that can endure for a lifetime.

There is one key question to ask yourself to determine if you are being abused: "Am I 'walking on eggshells?'." If the answer is yes, you are a victim of abuse. What does it mean to walk on eggshells? Do you assess the mood of the person who is abusing you in order to know how to behave? Do you try to adjust your behavior in order to make sure you will not anger or upset the other person? Are you aware of the most common things which "trigger" an angry outburst and do all you can to avoid having that happen in order to keep the peace? These are examples of "walking on eggshells" and no person should have to live in such a manner. You deserve to be and feel safe in all the environments in which your daily life occurs. You deserve the opportunity to be yourself and to be spontaneous. If you are living in a manner in which you feel you do all the adjusting in order to not upset, anger, or enrage another person, you are a victim of abuse.

If you find you make excuses for the behavior of another, e.g. "He's always crabby around the holidays", you are tolerating abusive behavior.
If you are chronically being put down, called names, demeaned, devalued, not affirmed in your feelings and beliefs, you are being abused. If you notice a pattern of abuse occurring, it is your right and responsibility to learn how to stand up for yourself, stop tolerating inappropriate and/or abusive behavior, and start treating yourself well.

Domestic violence is not limited to the physical realm, but can indeed take form in any of the arenas listed at the beginning of this article. If you are being sexually involved with someone when you really do not want to be, you are tolerating sexual abuse. If you find that you are saying of sexual encounters, "Oh, I'll do it and she will be happy. It's not that bad. I'll just do it and get it over with", you are allowing yourself to be sexually abused. And, of course, if you are being forced to engage in sex against your will, you are being raped, the most serious form of sexual abuse.

You may find that you have no access to money which is supposed to belong to both of you. You may walk around without even five dollars on your person. You may find that you are afraid to ask for something new. Your underwear may be limited to three pair which look more like rags than clothing. You may be being denied any part in decisions which involve expenditures. You may be told that you cannot go out to work. If these things are happening to you, you are allowing yourself to be financially abused.

Perhaps you are living a life in which you are socially isolated because you are told that you cannot go anywhere. You may be asked by your spouse to account for every minute of your whereabouts. You may live with a person who calls home several times a day to ascertain if you are home. You may be forbidden to go out with your friends or even to the grocery store alone. If these descriptions fit your life, you are allowing yourself to be socially abused.

The question you need to ask yourself to extricate yourself from any of the situations outlined above is: What is it about me that I allow myself to be treated in such a manner?

Take a good, hard, long look at yourself and your sense of self-worth. Call a domestic violence shelter and talk to a counselor about your situation and ask her opinion about how you are living. Make and keep an appointment with a counselor experienced in treating abuse victims and explore what your life is like. Ask yourself if you would like your children to live as you are doing. Begin to make a plan that will allow you to be treated as you would like. Tune into the cycle of abuse in which the following three phases repeatedly occur: 1. There is a buildup of tension. You can feel this and know that another outburst is likely to occur soon. 2. There is the release of tension provided by some form of violence or abuse. 3. Last comes the "honeymoon period" during which the abuser states how sorry he is, how it won't happen again. Flowers, candy, treats of some kind are likely to be given at this time. The abuser may cry or at the least swear that this is the last time. Ask yourself if the pattern occurs in your ife and how long you intend to tolerate living such a life. Begin to take action that will change your life so that you can begin to live as you deserve.

In summary, domestic violence is not limited to the physical realm, but also includes abuse in the emotional/mental, sexual, financial, and social areas. It is up to you to find out why you are tolerating such behavior. There is help out there and you can get it if you make the effort. A key question to ask yourself as you take a hard look at your life is, "Do I feel as if I'm 'walking on eggshells?'". No one deserves to be treated in a manner that devalues and demeans. Ask yourself what you can do to free yourself from a life of abuse. Take responsibility for yourself and do whatever it takes to free yourself from a life of being abused.