One of the reasons it is difficult to break the silence is because of the lies an abuser spreads regarding their partner. While the campaign to malign your character begins long before the relationship ends, the abuser also continues it long afterwards and will work extra hard to convince professionals and your community that you are making up stories out of a vindictive nature.
My ex did, and still does, this. When I spoke up, and showed he was abusive, when I left because he hit me and then because he hit our eldest child, he accused me of hitting him. For years prior to our separation he had accused me of cheating on him. He accused me of financial abuse. He slandered me to our church community, friends and family. He still, to this day, denies any abusive behavior towards either me or our children.
An abuser is well-versed in deflection, turning their own actions around and blaming them on someone else.
I cannot recall a single incident where I hit my partner in anger, I didn’t do it. Perhaps there was the occasional swat in play, but nothing more than that. I never cheated on my ex, never even considered it. He gave me responsibility for balancing our budget and then complained at the restrictions on his spending to try to stay within our budget.
Abusers are often very intelligent people. When their abuse is recognized, they often educate themselves on the signs of abuse and turn the accusations on the victim. It’s about control. If they can’t control you, they will endeavor to control the situation.
It is common in every relationship for misunderstandings to happen. For each party to see the situation from a different perspective, for the facts and impressions to misalign and for there to be “his truth”, “her truth” and “the truth”. In abusive relationships this misalignment is much less distinct. Instead of overlapping “truths”, you have “the truth” overlapped with “her truth” and “his truth” (assuming “he” is the abuser) being a completely separate entity, only occasionally touching “the truth”. An abuser lives in their own reality world. It is unreasonable and unfair to compare it with a typical relationship.
In this older news article from Global News, we clearly see that a woman defending herself, in fear for her own life, is accused and arrested when she calls for police help in getting away from her abuser. This is not a unique story, I hear it over and over again. The woman calls 911 and the police end up arresting her because she tried to defend herself. In court, women are told they must release their children to the abuser. Proving abuse is difficult and too often becomes her word against his because we don’t know enough to document the abuse until we are ready to leave. Even when there is strong evidence of physical assault causing hospitalization, the courts order the couple to share parenting time, ignoring the effects of abuse on children.
There is a great deal of education necessary before our society treats domestic violence with the scorn and horror it truly deserves. We must speak up, despite the counter-attacks, despite the lies and despite the criticism in order to protect those who come behind us. We must believe the victim of abuse, and if both are saying abuse happened, look for the one who is showing symptoms of abuse reactions.
A victim of abuse reveals a great many signs that they have been abused. Know enough to recognize them and it won’t confusing, or a case of “he said/she said” anymore.
We must somehow begin educating the psychologists/counselors and those in the criminal justice system, from the police to the courts, on the insidious nature of domestic violence and abuse. We must make changes because what happens now is not right.