When individuals hear the words “domestic violence,” they automatically think of physical abuse. Domestic violence is exactly that, but also, so much more. When I counsel victims of domestic violence, it is common for them not to recognize domestic violence for what it is. I have had many victims of domestic violence describe the relationship with their significant other in terms of, “Well, he never hits me; he never hits the children, he only yells at me when I do something stupid, wrong, and (feel free to insert correct word here).” I have actually had a woman tell me that her husband was not abusive because he never hit her. She went on to describe him pulling her around by her hair, grabbing her by her throat and choking her, and throwing her against a wall. Granted, her husband never “hit” her but the violence was every bit as intense and severe as if he had “hit” her.
Advising individuals who are in abusive relationships to get out of them is not always easy. As an objective observer from the outside looking in, trying to advise an individual to get out of a relationship riddled with domestic violence can, at times, feel like you are talking to a wall. Until victims of domestic violence realize for themselves that they are valid, worthy, and deserve the best, and that their children deserve lives free from the chaos and violence that comes with abuse, an objective observer like me can advise these individuals all day long about getting out. It has been my experience that victims of domestic violence will only get away from an abusive relationship when they own their strength and know that the person they were put on this earth to be was not someone’s punching bag, but a strong, important, and valid human being. At worst, something tragic happens and victims of domestic violence have to get out because the choice was made for them.
I speak from my own personal knowledge of this very type of situation. It was not until I stopped, looked at myself completely, and said to me, “If you go back, you will die. Either he will kill you or you will kill yourself because of how violent it is getting. The only way to survive and possibly be there for my children is to stay away from him and try to make it on my own.” It was only then that my power began coming back and I started breathing again. It literally felt like the layers of an onion start peeling away.
The repercussions of not getting out of domestic violence relationships are many. The biggest legal consequence is that, besides all the damage domestic violence relationships do to individuals and the dangers these individuals put themselves in, victims of domestic violence can actually lose their children for staying in an abusive relationship. These individuals are often charged with failing to protect their children. By not filing the proper paperwork, such as a police report, a victim’s protective order, and/or a restraining order in a divorce, the message victims of domestic violence are sending to the authorities is, “I don’t have it in me to protect myself. Therefore, you can’t trust me to have it in me to protect my children.”
Even though it may seem difficult to be strong and go through the necessary steps to take care of yourself and your children, in the end, you will be glad you did and your children will grow up in a much healthier environment.
So, having been a victim of domestic abuse myself and having counseled dozens of victims of domestic violence over the last nine plus years, if you are a victim of domestic violence, I implore you to take the first step and call the Oklahoma Safeline at (800) 522-SAFE or visit the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault website at http://ocadvsa.org/. Your second step, naturally, would be to contact an attorney.