Author: Suzanne Wirth
Date: 2015-07-29

Sometimes it’s hard to know if you are being abused. We know that something is not right in our relationship but is it abuse? Over the many years that I have been working with clients I have noticed that not all abuse produces bruises. Sometimes the abuse is in the form of control and dominance. Most of these victims are women but some are men. Dominance takes away someone’s adulthood and choices. Clients who are being emotionally abused often speak in a timid voice and rarely make eye contact. They make few demands and usually apologize for ordinary behavior- such as a sneeze. How did they get this way? Emotional abuse usually starts out in a very subtle way. A frown a sigh- some kind of quiet nonverbal cue that tells her that whatever she is doing is not what he prefers. Over time the behaviors become much clearer. The abusive spouse may loudly complain when his or her “beloved” acts spontaneously, seemingly without their input. And is it abuse when she walks into the room and sees that he is “going through her phone” supposedly because he needed someone’s number or rifling through her purse? Yes it is abuse of her privacy. Dominance can occur over finances too. Some women have said that they have no access to the money in the household whether or not they work outside the home. We all work inside the house it just doesn’t come with a paycheck. Access to the family money as an adult confirms one’s adulthood. Permission to spend money is appropriate when the money is not yours; not when you are sharing finances and are in a committed relationship handling a household and raising kids or pets. Recently a male client ashamedly admitted that he was afraid of his spouse. When I explained that there is no shame in being afraid, fear is a natural response when one is being threatened he seemed to relax and open up. The story he told included telling me that his spouse had pushed him down a flight of stairs because she felt he wasn’t listening to her. He ended up with a broken arm and he said that she felt that it was his fault for not listening to her in the first place. No person or animal should be subjected to abuse whether the bruises are visible on the outside or on the inside. All life deserves dignity and the mantra Do No Harm should always prevail. If you wonder if you are in an abusive relationship seek help in the form of a trusted friend or professional and tell them your story and see what they have to say. Two heads are usually better than one when we are deciding what is wrong with this picture. As long as both opinions have your best interest at heart. Abusive people rarely admit that their behavior is actually abuse so don’t ask their opinion. Rather you should take a reading of your internal feelings and trust your perceptions. Here at The Safe Place we are trauma specialists and we can teach you how to create your own Safe Place. You deserve to be safe both physically and emotionally.