Engulfed by a Storm
Those who have never been in a domestic violence situation are often perplexed as to how intelligent people become trapped and why they remain with someone who is abusive. In an effort to help provide clarity let us consider the dynamics of the following story:
Imagine as if you are one who is a fairly good in sailing and of at least average intelligence decides to purchase a boat due to a love for water sports and activities. He or she locates a vessel that appears to meet their every need. This vessel is absolutely awesome. It has every perk that a person would want in a boat, good to look at, power and appears in complete control when it is taken out on the water. Others see it and are envious as it appears to be perfect. Perhaps it has built by influential builders with a good reputation and has been in multiple events where it was successful with several trophies due to its performance in the public’s eye, contests, and views. Why-who wouldn’t want this prize?
As new buyer takes this boat onto the water to become more accustomed to its handling, one begins seeing aspects of the boat in a slow procession that warns that there may be a serious issue that needs to be addressed, beginning with a small infraction or imperfection perhaps as a scratch or a dent..then possibly the radio to transmit directions or SOS goes on the blink and stops…then when others climb aboard, the boat seems to be in stress and does not operate well-maybe the seating is unwelcoming-or maybe the motor seems to labor and therefore the others are no longer invited to ride with the buyer. Without the others the motor purrs along as long as the new owner takes it only to its familiar waters, and the captain of the boat feels safe again that his or her boat is fine as they ignore the oddities and the isolation that the boat brings to the owner…
Time passes and a succession of more and more issues arise, costly issues; issues that cause concerns-but how could this be? The owner takes the vessel to get it fixes as he or she complains of the issue (if the owner can get it to go) but when at the mechanic’s the boat purrs and looks wonderful. The owner is billed but told that they have a wonderful vessel, as the complaints are ignored and unconfirmed due to the boat’s performance when in the public’s eye…. and the owner feels embarrassed and possibly to doubt their own senses or intelligence. After all others confirm the boat is as it should be or that maybe the owner did something wrong…
Time and time again-when alone with the boat; the boat seems resistant to any needs of the owner and now is a danger to be within; so the owner seeks to sell or to give up years of investment of this vessel. Due to the isolation of the owner and the boat-this means that the owner will need to travel to where he/she can dock the boat and to proceed with trying to keep from losing anymore money or heartache. By this time-the boat has regressed from being a nuisance and minor irritation to major issues that caused pain and costly repairs. Some of the damages were unbearable. He or she cannot go anywhere without major issues yet others refuse to believe any issues are present except that the owner is crazy. The former mechanics and builder blames the owner and subjects the owner to unethical and harmful treatment but they appear untouchable, after all-he or she took the boat as is, and have no recourse. The expense of this vessel is beyond reason and drains all resources. By now the owner is exhausted, confused and knows of all of the dangers all too well.
At this point-(with a boat that seems to have a mind of its own when with the owner alone: to be dangerous to be within-as the radio for distress doesn’t work, the cabin collects water that threatens to flood it, the motor stops and cannot be restarted, and the anchor does not hold the vessel when in the storms-that tosses violently back and forth as the winds blow, the lightening flashes, and the thunder rolls…with the darkest of skies and thick fog surrounding the vessel, and no compass to provide direction; since now the owner doubts their own mind or ability; and has not been able to keep up with the warning signs and issues-while also without any support system to verify and confirm the vessel’s problems)-then the owner feels totally helpless and at the mercy of this vessel that threatens his or her very life. The darkness (secrecy) and isolation (absence of healthy support systems) keeps him/her from accessing help- especially during the thick fog (of deception and illusion). The stormy unceasing weather (violence and aggression, threats and dominion) increases helplessness of the owner as they are unable to start the engine (due to generations of domestic violent members and friends who work with the vessel-the abuser to keep the target under subjection and control) to propel the vessel to safety. The victim cowers to a fetal position, willing to do whatever he or she must to feel safe again and ride the storm on that vessel since the thought of jumping into the raging seas (leaving the abuser, supporting oneself, facing the perceived shame, starting a new life) is too frightening.
Many victims of this storm fall prey and are imprisoned due to the above, as they are programmed that they are the reason for their punishment that they deserved; as would be an unsuspecting owner of a vessel that was sold as is; and depicted as a prize. The need for control is extreme for the abuser who rationalizes that he or she is justified and this need is relentlessly demonstrated with more and more harsh lessons-to “program” and to “train” their target. These controllers confuse love with obedience and will keep their victims off balanced as they are very kind and loving on occasion-which then confuses the victim to believe that things will be wonderful again-like they were when that person fell in love with the abuser who SEEMED to be so perfect. Shame and guilt are also components that keeps the abused in line. Low self respect and low self image is driven into the victim so as to believe that they are not worthy of better and that they deserve their consequence. Most believe that no one else could love them due to the abuser’s emotional abuse.
Some victims however, when in the storm-are like the soldier who is in an impossible situation and believes that life is over one way or other, and with one last attempt to break free-will shift from fear and victimization to one of courage and will to face whatever it takes to get away and to survive. That soldier jumps out of their protective site with his/her guns blazing and a shout of anguish and determination-running into the fire of the enemy; almost as if to challenge their fate and to take out as many of the enemy as possible even if it cost them their life. These people (who choose to against all odds) will abandon the vessel and choose the raging waters to at least try to swim to a shore.
The aftermath of their choice to abandon ship (the domestic violent relationship) comes with high risks. Many victims not only fear their own abuser but also the abuser’s support system of family and friends. Their lives are at risk. If they are pregnant or with a small child, then they are at higher risk. In addition, many ask them why did they not just leave. Many judge them, They do not know that their families were threatened if they left. They do not know that they were threatened of losing their children forever. They do not know that the threats were very real for the victim and that their belief was due to many hard lessons that caused real fear and pain. Often these survivors face legal and medical consequences for their attempt to get free. In addition, they have been so isolated (moving from a home state, not allowed to work, without a vehicle or phone, and no money) to control them and to make it most difficult from them to leave.
Regardless of the risks and the costs, a person who seeks to break from this control-with counseling and support, can process their past and find a fulfilling future once again. It is a process of gaining trust and of destroying the distortion of thoughts; but with perseverance then that person can be not only whole-but stronger in their new self. We want to give you hope if you have endured abuse or if you are enduring abuse. Contact us today if you are ready to take back your life.