Why I Will NEVER Judge Another Abuse Victim
Even When They’re Choosing to Stay
I never understood why people stayed in abusive relationships.
Why would someone stay with a person who was physically or emotionally hurting them?
How could they not see the abuse when everyone around them could?
Why aren’t they STRONG ENOUGH to leave?
“Have some self-respect!” I thought.
“Stand up for yourself!” I silently urged.
I would tell them that they deserved better.
I would beg and plead.
And yet they stayed.
And I wondered.
And I judged.
Why would ANYONE choose to be abused?
It didn’t make sense…until I was in the situation myself.
I wasn’t aware.
I didn’t realize it was abuse.
I thought it was love.
I’m an analytical, deep thinking, emotionally intelligent, person.
I know more than I should about different forms of abuse.
And I couldn’t see it.
I also thought I was a very strong woman.
I knew who I was and felt sure of my identity.
I felt confident in myself and had high expectations of how someone should treat me.
I had solid boundaries, convinced that I was only letting in people who were healthy for me.
I never would have imagined that I‘d let myself be abused by anybody.
I thought I could spot it from a mile away.
I never expected that I wouldn’t recognize it.
I wouldn’t have thought I‘d get into any type of relationship for over a year, blinded to the fact that they were abusing me the whole time.
But I did. I got sucked in. I was manipulated and abused. And I didn’t even realize it.
Once I did realize,
I cared too much to leave.
I thought I could change the person so that things could be healthy.
I saw this person as a hurt and damaged human being who needed love.
I had hope for the relationship.
I wanted to try harder to help them find peace.
I didn’t want to give up.
Now that I’m on the other side, and I can see the abuse for what it was, I feel an array of emotions. I feel sad at times and other times I’m able to rise above. Sometimes I’m angry and other times I feel somewhat at peace about it.
Sometimes I struggle with why I couldn’t see it before and I second-guess myself and my intuition. I wonder why I let someone have so much power over me.
Again, you think I would have realized it was abuse when somebody was telling me that they were breaking me down to make me feel better.
But I didn’t.
On some level I felt the treatment wasn’t right, but on a deeper level I truly wanted to believe this person loved me. I wanted to be good enough just as I was and I wanted them to see that. I wanted to stay to help them see their own worth and get healthier. My abuser seemed to fill the voids in me, the areas that didn’t feel good, the empty holes, the cracks and the brokenness.
I stayed — and I have no right to judge somebody else for doing the same.
I’m extremely grateful that the people in my life didn’t judge me. They saw what was going on and they wanted to help me. They talked to me, asked questions and even pointedly told me I was being abused. They did this only to hear from me that it wasn’t true — that I knew what I was doing.
Each one continued to be my friend and support me in whatever way they could, even though it was frustrating for them to watch me slowly sink into a deeper depression.
Thankfully, they didn’t judge.
This was such a blessing, as it would have been easy for them to walk away, throwing their hands up in the air in frustration. But they didn’t. Even though I was completely oblivious to it, and all of them could see, they stayed close and loved me anyway.
Would I have done the same for somebody if they were in my shoes? I like to hope I would have.
I like to believe that if somebody I knew was being abused and choosing to stay in the relationship, either ignorant to the abuse or not quite understanding it fully, I would’ve still been there for them. I like to think I would have loved them through it. I like to think I wouldn’t have judged them.
Truth is anyone can be susceptible to abuse, especially when the abuser uses certain manipulative techniques that cause the victim to disbelieve what is happening to them.
Some abusers have an amazing skill at convincing people that they truly love them and are only trying to help them be better. Now I know how easy it can be to get sucked in so much and Gaslighted to the extent that you can’t even see the abuse. Now I can more easily resonate with others in the same position.
And even when they DO REALIZE that they’re being abused, sometimes they want to make it better, to love harder, to make it work. They believe love can conquer all.
Knowledge is Power
For a long time I didn’t know, but now I am confident that I was abused.
I know that another person in a position of authority over me, treated me in a way that was manipulative, mean, disrespectful and wrong.
I let someone control me, break me down, tell me they loved me enough to treat me that way so that I could be better.
I gave my power away.
I let somebody else tell me who I should be — and I believed them.
And now I know this can happen to anybody.
If it happened to me, it can happen to any individual who has holes inside that they are looking to have filled.
People deal with filling these holes in many different ways — some people get involved with drugs, alcohol or another addiction.
I got addicted to codependency on somebody who was ultimately hurting me. I wanted to view it as someone helping me, but in reality it wasn’t helpful at all.
I must say it again — It can happen to ANYONE. Even the strongest, smartest, most confident and intuitive person is susceptible to it.
Reasons to Stay
Like me, you might wonder why people stay in abusive situations. There are many reason why people would choose to stay in an abusive relationship:
-They might not even realize the toxicity of the relationship.
-They might believe that abuse is normal because they haven’t seen enough healthy relationships to know how unhealthy it is.
-They might be afraid of what will happen if they decide to leave
-If they’ve been threatened by their abuser, they might not feel safe leaving.
-There are many positives in an abusive relationship — often the highs are as strong as the lows and the good times can sometimes outweigh the bad.
-The emotional connection could be so strong that it is hard for somebody to let go.
-If their abuser is apologizing and promising they will never do it again, this can make the victim minimize the abusive behavior.
-When they are so used to someone having control over them, it can be very difficult to get out of that cycle.
-Gaslighting or Mind Control is taking place, making them question whether it is actually abuse. *see below for more info on this
-If they have invested a lot in their abuser and have told them deep dark secrets, they might be afraid he/she will tell others.
-They might be embarrassed and not want to admit that they’ve been abused.
-They have low self-esteem and feel that they are to blame for the abuse and that others won’t understand because they think it is their fault.
-They love their abuser and are holding out hope that he/she will change (especially if the abuser has promised this over and over again).
-They believe their abuser’s behavior is due to tough times, or they feel as though they can change their partner if they are a better partner themselves.
-If a lot of other people look up to the abuser, they may fear others will not understand and will take the abuser’s side.
-They rely on the abusive person for finances, a place to stay, or emotionally in some way.
-They have seen the abuser’s loving side, the one that cares deeply for them and treats them well. They think that love can conquer all.
-Sadly, they may not feel that they deserve better.
*When a Victim is Under Mind Control
Some abusers have a way of gaining power over their victims through forms of mind control (also referred to as brainwashing, however brainwashing is when you know the person is your enemy, whereas mind control is when you believe they are your friend).
These abusers have the ability to change the way their victim thinks about him/herself and about life. They can do it so slowly that the victim doesn’t even realize it. The victim ends up making choices that the controlling abuser has trained them to make.
When a choice to stay is made under mind control, it is not really a true choice at all. It is similar to a blind person signing a consent form before surgery, where somebody is telling them that they can experience certain non life-threatening side effects, but LEAVING OUT that they could DIE on the table. They sign the consent form without being told all the information. When they are not given the entire picture, they are not making a true choice. This is what it can be like in an abusive relationship where mind control is present — the choice is not actually a true choice.
This is a very complicated scenario that requires an expert’s help to undo the mind control over the victim.
Many of these reasons for staying came up in my situation in various ways. Even though, from the outside, we may think that someone should just leave, actually choosing to let go of an abusive or unhealthy relationship is never easy.
I have seen it from both sides now — being IN IT is very different from being outside of it.
Helping a Victim
If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship and they are not ready to leave at this point, I would encourage you to do the following:
-Reserve judgment and seek to understand their point of view, thoughts and feelings.
-Don’t ignore or turn a blind eye —as difficult as it may be, stay in touch with them about the abuse and let them talk about it when needed.
-Be supportive and show that you are there for them, regardless of what they choose.
-Even if you can see clearly that they should leave, let them know you are there for them no matter what they choose at the moment.
-Give them some options or resources that may help open their eyes — sometimes a YouTube video, book or blog post may help them see the abuse more clearly. Send them these resources in a non-judgmental way.
-One of the most powerful things somebody said to me was “This is not your fault”. Let them know this — it may have a huge impact on them.
-Help them focus on their amazing qualities — that confidence can help build them up so they will have more strength to see that they can leave and seek something better.
-Point out what their abuser is doing, however don’t badmouth their abuser. Focus on the victim and their thoughts and feelings.
I have learned, through my own experience with abuse, that I have absolutely no right to judge anybody.
I’ve come to understand how crucial it is to pay attention to the people in my life that I trust. When many people are pointing out things like mind control, abuse, narcissism or that something doesn’t feel right, I need to pay attention to that (and my encouragement is — SO DO YOU!). We all have our blind spots and if we surround ourselves with people who have a proven track record of truly loving and wanting the best for us, we have an army that can protect us when we are in situations that we can’t see clearly.
People stay in abusive situations for a whole host of reasons and it’s important to note that nobody actively chooses to be abused. There is always more to the story than meets the eye and sometimes the victim doesn’t truly compute what’s happening (either they can’t see it or don’t want to).
They want to believe that that person truly loves them. They want to believe that if they love that person enough, they will be able to help them overcome their hurtful, destructive ways. They want to believe in the relationship — that love can conquer all.
I have come to understand that people can be blinded to what’s really going on because feelings of love and support can overpower other negative feelings or warning signs that might be present.
I hope that anyone who is suffering from abuse will have their eyes opened, either by the people in their life that they trust, outside information through literature or videos, or by some miracle.
When the Victim Leaves
It’s important to note that when a victim finally does decide to leave, it can be a long drawn-out process that can bring many ups and downs. The victim has many feelings to work through and getting professional help is highly encouraged.
Continue to be there for them and show them love, support, kindness and understanding. Having people show me these things repeatedly has helped me stay strong when I wanted to give up. This support was paramount to me being able to stay far away from my abuser.
You can be a support system for someone and love them through it. The impact you’ll have on them may be the very reason they leave and don’t go back.
If you or someone you know is being abused, you can get help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1–800–799–7233 or visit https://www.thehotline.org/help/.