There is a saying in law “Take your victim as you find them”, known as “Eggshell Skull”. Essentially it means that if you injure someone and their injury is more, or different, because of a pre-existing condition, you are still responsible for that increased injury.
This philosophy should also apply to domestic violence/abuse.
When I was a child, my father was severely physically abusive to my mother. I was too young to have any true memories, but have heard enough over the years, from both of my parents and my older sister, to know it was true. They divorced when I was just two years old. Mom quickly remarried before I turned 3. My new step-dad turned out to be not much better. He started sexually abusing my sister at the age of 6, he sexually assaulted me once (to my recollection it was only once), he was also emotionally and physically abusive to me. He made it clear that I was not valuable to him and nothing I could do would change that.
That type of a start in life left me vulnerable to abusers. My emotional health was beaten down before it could even develop. I have always struggled with the idea that I was unloveable, and was too willing to accept anything that resembled love because, even if it hurt sometimes, it wasn’t worse than what I had grown up with.
In the cycle of abuse, it never starts with abuse. It starts with a honeymoon phase. This phase draws a person in with charm, gifts, “cute” jealousy, love-smothering. The second phase is preparation for abuse, tension-building. Subtle, or direct, comments designed to make you question yourself, your ideals, your values, even your mental health; testing to see how much they can throw at you before you start to resist. It starts slowly, just pushing your boundaries, hurting you enough to hurt, but not to make you leave. Then the abuse explosion happens. Finally, they return to the honeymoon phase with apologies, gifts, charm, loving actions and words. In the beginning of a relationship, the honeymoon phases last a long time and the abuse stages last a short time in comparison. As time passes, the ratio gradually shifts until the honeymoon phase is but a brief stop before the tension begins building again.
I remember, it was about 4 months after I left my marriage, when my minister sat down at my kitchen table and told me they thought my ex had changed, that I should give him a second chance. I asked how many chances he deserved. I asked how much abuse is enough? How many years, how many abusers should I submit myself to? How could I, in good conscience, submit my children to an upbringing full of abuse? My ex had started a honeymooning campaign against me with the church leaders, hoping to influence them to influence me to return, and they fell for his manipulations and lies. After I asked my questions and showed the latest, abusive, emails he had sent me, the minister left. They never approached me again.
I’m not stuck though in the cycle of abuse though. With God, counselling , education, self-reflection and filling my life with positive influences, I can beat the odds. I am no longer trapped or destined to be in abusive relationships. I can break the chains, I can chose a different path, both for myself and my children. I will speak up, I will not stay silent. I will make the stand to say “enough is enough. This ends here and now.”
A song that inspires me to keep seeking, and keep changing: