Since writing my book, The Dark Room, I’ve been thinking about why some women become victims of abuse. No one deserves to be treated with disrespect. It is important for abused children and women to understand that the abuse is not their fault.
In preparing to write The Dark Room, I researched the reasons people become abusers. To characterize the abuser, Hank, authentically, it was important to understand what created his need to over-power and control his wife, child and grandchild through physical and mental brutality.
But what about the victims? Are there qualities that contribute to making them targets? More importantly, are there practices that girls and women can adopt to prevent themselves from becoming targets? I’m happy to report that the answer to these questions is a resounding, “yes.”
What Abusers Look For
From studies, we know that batterers seek out people they can over-power easily, people they can groom to believe they are worthless, inferior, stupid, and responsible for the abuser’s behavior. The abuser’s attitude of entitlement may or may not be conscious, but unless he is truly psychotic, the behavior is learned.
Abusers convince their victims to believe falsehoods like, “If only I were better, prettier, smarter, more perfect, he wouldn’t have to hit me or humiliate me. If I do everything he wants, keep my opinions to myself, and serve his every need, he’ll stop.” No, he won’t stop!
It’s important for victims to remember that real love does not hurt. If someone is hitting you or putting you down, he is not acting out of love, no matter how many times he tells you he loves you and insists that your behavior is what causes him to lose his temper.
So, what can we teach our daughters and granddaughters to prevent them from getting sucked into destructive relationships? I believe the answer is self-love.
Liveyourdream.org is “an online volunteer and activist network offering flexible action opportunities to improve the lives of women and girls.” This organization’s website describes self-love as “naming and claiming all of who you are—even the scariest parts.” In other words, to protect themselves from becoming victims of child abuse and future violence, girls and women must learn to tell themselves the truth and believe the truth about who they are.
A good tool toward achieving self-love is journaling. In her new book, The Writing Rx, Ann Eichenmuller, another author published by High Tide Publications, Inc. recommends journaling to identify issues and express one’s honest responses to them. She even provides specific suggestions for how to get started.
In her book, Ann says, “Something about the act of writing gives you a sense of power over the subject.” It seems to me that writing self-affirmations in a journal would be a positive tool for empowering women and girls.
It’s Never too Late
What if you are in an abusive relationship or a survivor of past abuse? Liveyourdream.org suggests it’s never too late to learn to love yourself. Self-love is not the same as selfishness. Self-love is about discovering that you are worthy of respectful treatment no matter what anyone else tells you. It’s about listing your qualities and talents and believing you deserve to be treated with dignity.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Diary in the Attic, Unrevealed and The Dark Room. Coming September 2018 from High Tide Publications: I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com