I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I don't tweet much, but I do have a social media account that I use with a fair amount of regularity. Sometimes I hate that I love it. Sometimes I love to hate it. It can be a great ministry tool...but it can also be the devil on the small screen.
I'm always curious to see if anything I post hits anyone in a positive way. This week, it did. It was just a picture of a quote, and it wasn't even my quote. I saw it and thought, "Yes, that." I have no clue who the original author is, but it's not me, so I own that. But...it was shared more than anything else I have posted on social media in nearly 10 years, which led me to believe...this is a problem. Here's what it said:
"Just because a person doesn't put hands on you, that doesn't mean they aren't abusive. Abuse is control, blatant disrespect, and also hurtful words. Don't settle for emotional abuse thinking it's okay because it's not physical."
This Saturday will be my 16th anniversary in pastoral ministry. Over those 16 years I have seen this played out over and over. Folks will come into my office, shoot me a text, send me an email, or actually pick up the phone and call...and this is what it's about.
They have realized that something isn't right in the relationship, but since there are no bruises, the idea that they are being abused isn't on their radar. There may be this feeling in the pit of their gut that it's not a healthy relationship, but he hasn't thrown them against the wall, so it can't be all that bad, right? Not exactly.
This is a dangerous topic to write about, but maybe it's one we should be writing more about. Being controlled is abuse. Being separated from friends and family is abuse. Being told who you can talk to and who you can't is abuse. Having to walk on eggshells is abuse. Being afraid to talk because it might cause a rage is abuse. Being called names, talked down to, told you're not worth anything, or that you should just be thankful to be with him because no one else would want you...is abuse. There are so many ways one person can abuse another without leaving bruises, and none of them are healthy.
Ladies, a black eye is a definite sign of abuse...but you don't have to have bruises on your body to be a victim of abuse. If you've read this and thought, "Holy hell...that sounds familiar," talk to someone. I promise you this, the people in your life who love you have already noticed, and are probably afraid to say anything to you about it. They might not know what to say. They probably don't want to upset you anymore than you are already. But, I promise you...if they don't know for sure, they're at least suspicious, and their heart is breaking for you. They're just waiting for you to say something so they can help you find your way to healing, happiness, and peace.
If you're in an abusive relationship, and you want out, you will need their support. It doesn't mean that you have to spill your guts and tell them everything, but when someone, who you know loves you, asks, "Are you ok?" be straight with them. You may not be ready to right now, but pray over it, and in time you will have the strength and the courage to say, "No, I'm really not ok. I need some help."
One more thing...it's not your fault. You may have been told that it is, and that the only problems in your relationship are ones you've caused, but it's not your fault. You may have been told that if you wouldn't make him mad, there wouldn't be any problems at all...but it's not your fault. You wanted to be loved, and he said all of the right things. There was no way of knowing the monster that was lurking just below the surface.
Call a friend, your pastor, or a domestic abuse hotline. Be shrewd, but be courageous. If you are able, put together an escape plan. Find a trained counselor who can walk with you as you make your plans to get out. There are multiple resources that you can use to get away from an abusive relationship, and do it safely. Find a good therapist who can help rebuild the person you were before you were beaten down emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Know you're not alone and that healing is waiting. My prayers are with you.
To those who may know someone in this situation, be patient with her. Now is not the time to raise your voice to her, or to tell her how stupid it is to stay in the relationship, or to try to force her to get out. She's not okay right now. She probably knows that it's not a healthy relationship, but is afraid to make a move. Be gentle, but don't give up on her. Remind her, as often as you can, of her sacred worth. When she's ready, and when the time is right, she'll make her escape. If you've handled your end right, you may be one of the ones who can help her do it.
Here is a number you can call to begin finding your way back to healing. 1-800-799-SAFE
If you are in immediate danger, you can also call 911.