The Silent Shame of Domestic Abuse: Why We Need To Speak Up
Stop looking away
September 01, 2017 at 5:46 pm
Last weekend, all anyone could talk about was the Mayweather/McGregor fight. I was asked about whether I would watch and even invited to a fight party, which I declined. When asked why, I just let them know that I didn’t support Mayweather because of his documented domestic abuse. They shrugged it off and went on about their business and I went about mine and that was that. This represents a deeper, darker pattern in our community. We can know about abuse, have proof of abuse, but for some reason, decide to look the other way.
Black men and women that are victims of domestic abuse, be it by a partner, parent or other family member, are oftentimes shamed into silence. This shame comes from a variety of people and places like family ("we don’t talk to nobody about family business"), church ("pray about it") friends or just the community ("you call the police then you are just putting another black man in the system"). We celebrate abusers and blame the victims, making it almost impossible for them to speak out. When a victim is brave enough, we lash out and beat them almost into oblivion, we make them relive their abuse all over again. Most importantly, we refuse to talk about it, we refuse to acknowledge the problem. I guess we feel if we look away, the problem will disappear. Or if it’s not us, then it’s not a problem. But so many of us suffer in silence and have nowhere to turn.
Domestic abuse comes in different forms. Sexual and physical are the ones most talked about when there are conversations. There is also emotional, mental and financial abuse. Unfortunately, because of our inability to acknowledge abuse in any form, most of us have no idea what emotional, mental or financial abuse looks like or the red flags to look for. Emotional and mental abuse tend to have more long term consequences than just physical abuse. The scars under the surface take a lot longer to heal than the physical scars. Emotional and mental abuse is so rampant in the black community. You know how the saying goes, “hurt people hurt people.” Because we have a hard time accepting that therapy is a useful tool and the fear of being labeled crazy or weak, you have a bunch of hurt, broken people doing the same things that hurt and broke them to other people. We glorify this abuse and classify it as love. Your partner psycho dials you multiple times a day, constantly pops up on you without warning, they won’t let you go anywhere without them, you have to check in multiple times a day with them, yet social media thinks you are #RelationshipGoals. No, what you are is someone who being manipulated and controlled. This is mental abuse. If your partner constantly downs your thoughts and ideas, manipulates every argument and fight to make themselves the victim and you the villain, no matter how wrong they were, they never acknowledge when they are wrong or made a mistake but will look you over with a fine tooth comb and critique every action, choice and decision you make down to the polish on your toes just to let you know you were wrong, your partner constantly lets you know they made an exception in their standards to be with you, your partner constantly lashes out at you for seemingly no reason. This is emotional abuse. This type of abuse will surround you in a cloud of self-doubt. It will make you second, third and fourth guess yourself and every decision you make until you all together stop trying. After a while, you will become just a shell of yourself and the reflection of your abuser. Your partner convinces you to quit your job or take a lower paying job to “stay home with the kids” or whatever reason then puts you on an allowance, they refuse to let you see the financials or deal with the household money in any way, they constantly remind you that since they are the breadwinner, what they say goes, no dime is spent without their approval, they always have a reason for why you can’t work or why you can’t work full time. This is financial abuse. They have put you in a situation where you are financially dependent on them and it makes it impossible for you to leave.
Usually, mental, emotional and financial abuse is already taking place in a relationship before the physical abuse starts. Some victims have unknowingly been abused so long before the physical even starts that it’s already too late. They don’t know how to escape. Fear and uncertainty keeps them there and shame keeps them silent. So they stay. What else is there to do? They have children and raise them in that environment, it’s their new norm. Their kids grow up and start their own families and continue the cycle, all while living with the suffocating shame and guilt over what is happening in their homes.
We must end this cycle. It’s ok to talk about it. We have to stop blaming the victims. We have to make them feel that it’s ok to come forward and speak their truths. Or else, we need to acknowledge our roles every time we see a story of a victim that didn’t make it.