I Believe and Support Abuse Survivors
Today, a friend sent this video to me:
What's the most difficult decision you've had to make to fullfill your destiny?
What an incredible question! An inquiry that could have easily resulted in so many different answers from two women who have had lives filled with millions of experiences and decisions.
Out of all those life experiences and decisions, Witherspoon chose to focus on the impact of leaving an abusive relationship; specifically one that was verbally abusive and psychologically abusive.
The moment that most resonated with me is when she explains that the relationship (and leaving it), "changed who (she) was on a cellular level."
I have never before heard anyone say anything quite like this, but this is so fundamentally true. There is no possible way to live through an abusive relationship, and to leave an abusive relationship, and to not be affected and changed in a significant way.
Witherspoon then explains how leaving the abusive relationship is, "wrought with self-doubt, particularly if someone damages your self-esteem." She continues, stating that she can now be so ambitious and self-assured, because at one time, "someone tried to take that from (her)."
Witherspoon's explanation of her feelings and thoughts is extremely eye-opening. The feeling of self-doubt after the relationship ends; not sure if it's the right decision. After all, the relationship wasn't all bad, and there were many true moments of love and happiness.
More importantly though, after you leave, the thoughts of self-doubt can ravage your mind because you have been beat down to not fully trust any of your thinking.
Witherspoon then explains this important fact, "there is a range of abuse. There's verbal, there's psychological, there's so many things other than physical (abuse) that can be completely detrimental to your self-worth, your self-esteem, and your progress in life."
Oprah adds to the dialogue, stating, "it's all the same." She explains her experience of, "allowing (herself) to be psychologically and verbally assaulted, and there's no difference between that and being actually hit." There isn't a difference. There may not be physical bruises and scars; however, the scars are there. They're just invisible.
I applaud these women for sitting around a table and discussing an issue that impacts so many people. I applaud these women for showing the world that domestic violence can happen to anyone. I applaud these women for showing that being a victim isn't shameful.
Not enough people talk about domestic violence. For whatever reason, it's some big secret. People are victims and they suffer in silence. Why? Because of the shame they feel. It is a shame that society has created. Shame the victim. Doubt the victim. So people don't speak out. They hide and suffer in silence.
Let's look at Amber Heard. Recently, she spoke out about her abusive marriage with Johnny Depp. Her physical bruises weren't enough. She even went so far as to provide multiple pieces of evidence that showed his guilt. What did people do? They doubted her. They shamed her. They called her vile names. They questioned her character and everything she said.
Obviously, Hollywood actors and actresses are not like us, but this specific example shows how, at a basic level, victims of abuse are still shamed and are still doubted.
We need to change this. We need to acknowledge that domectic violence is not just physical: it is mental, emotional, and verbal; and all forms of abuse leave scars and forever impact victims.
We need to support those who come forward. We need to trust those who speak out about domestic violence. We need to listen and empathize. We need to tell victims that we believe them and remind them that it is courageous to leave abusive relationships. We also need to be open-minded when a victim does not leave an abusive relationship, and support them anyhow. We need to be understanding that domestic violence is extremely complicated for victims. We need to acknowledge that unless you have lived a specific relationship, you have no idea what the victim is going through.
We need to start a conversation and talk about this insidious reality that is happening in relationships all over the world. We need to acknowledge that our family and friends could be victims of domestic violence right now, and be suffering in silence. We need to dismantle the shame and stigma. We need victims to know that we believe and support abuse survivors.
I leave you with Amber Heard's PSA: