What is abuse?
I started this blog to make sense of my own experience, and I have learnt that it is a lot more common than I ever thought possible. Research has meant that I have looked at resources and spoken to other women who have been in similar situations. There is a curious thing that happens when this subject comes up, even in a group of women. It's weird and odd and hard to get my head around, but it is very real. It's also very sad.
Most times when this nasty subject gets raised, someone in the group will mention a friend, or a relative who is or was living with abuse. In sharing the details of the situation, the speaker will often add in points, seemingly without even noticing, that judges the woman in question. It might be subtle, it might be blatant, but it almost always comes up - It's the "who is or was worst off" phenomenon.
So what is worse? How do we measure levels or degrees of domestic violence? What is it about society as a whole that wants to separate the so called deserving, from the undeserving? What about us secretly wants victims to earn or qualify their "status"?
Is emotional abuse worse than physical abuse? How bad must physical violence be before we regards it as true violence? How many more conversations on this subject will include the phrase, "My friend had it REALLY bad"?
In my opinion, all and any abuse is unacceptable. As a society we should have moved past any ideas that buy into the idea that it is okay for one person to scare another person to the point where they feel so threatened in a relationship that they cannot terminate it. However, I am not sure that broadening the definition or the signs and symptoms of abuse to include, "puts you down or attempts to undermine your self esteem" (NHS-Choices) & other similar points cited by other websites is useful. No relationship is perfect, and there is often conflict in partnerships and even the urge to hurt each other from time to time. Most relationships will either grow through these patches and evolve, or or will die.
For me, the absolute line, if there is such a thing, is that the victim should have nothing to directly fear from their significant other if they choose to walk away. People are allowed to fall out of love with each other, decide they want to live elsewhere, or live without someone. It is human to feel a sense of loss and desperation while dealing with the break up of any relationship, or during any life changing event. As humans, we are simply complex. We have emotions and we hurt when people around us do not behave or feel the way we want them to feel about us. We feel rejection, loss, and often resist change. We don't like feeling worthless, used, or discarded. All of these things are normal human reactions, and they hurt like hell, but they are not "abuse", not as I see it anyway.
I am wondering now whether abuse stats quoted as high as 4 out 6 women in the UK are really accurate. I do believe they are high, I am not sure they are THAT high. I think we should be very careful about where we draw the line between mean and nasty human behaviour, and actual domestic abuse or violence. I intend to explore this further in future posts.