These days, there is a fresh batch of pictures depicting an extreme case of gender-based violence, making the internet rounds each week.
Most of them are disturbing and I will usually scroll right past them. However, a comment on one such batch of photos caught my eye the other day.
“What is wrong with women? How does it get to this? Why couldn’t she just leave?” a woman was wondering.
This took me years back to a time I dated an abusive narcissist – a proud man who carried on as if the sun rose and set on his narrow behind.
One time, after a bitter phone exchange during which I had hung up on him, this man sent me a text message telling me that I needed to apologise to his mother. Why? He had called me on her phone and when I hung up, it was as if I had hung up on her. I had disrespected her and I needed to apologise!
Now, I have always considered myself to be liberated. At the point of this phone call, I had read tons of material on abuse and had even written articles on the subject but for a while, I believed him.
For a while, I began thinking about how I had wronged this woman who I had neither met nor spoken to. Like all abusers, he had gotten into my head and made me begin thinking that his actions were my fault.
ABUSE ISN'T BLACK AND WHITE
Abuse is not black and white. Even physical abuse is not just the blows or punches that you see. If anything, these come at the very last stage of abuse.
Abusers are not always the unstable, deranged characters we see in the movies. Most of them seem well adjusted and possibly even romantic, especially to the outside world.
In cases where there are beatings, they do not occur every day. There will be honeymoon periods when the dust settles and this man is apologetic. He may even try to make up for the abuse.
If you have a profile of what an abused woman should look like, you need to unlearn everything you know about abuse. This woman could be any woman you brush shoulders with on the streets.
True, the woman with little education or the one from a lower economic background may be more vulnerable to abuse but often, the woman who actually gets abused is the one who seems well put together. She could even be the woman you look up to, the one that seems to have it all figured out.
Ignore the profile you’ve created in your head of the abused woman and keep your eye out for the signs. Look out for the withdrawal, anxiety and the constant bruising that they can’t explain. Look out for that woman who gets constant calls from her significant other all day long.
If you come across her, don’t admonish her because she hasn’t been able to ‘simply walk away’. Hold your judgement and reach out. Help them formulate a getaway plan.