I have heard various survivors say something along the lines of: “If only he had hit me, I would have known it was time to leave“. I can understand the notion that physical abuse sounds like it would be easier to identify as being wrong. Unfortunately, that is not how abuse works. By the time a relationship becomes physically abusive, your boundaries will have been pushed back so far, that physical abuse is as acceptable as everything else (which of course, is not at all! I am just talking about perception, power, and control here).
“Domestic violence is not about a single incident, he explained, but an abuser’s attempts to control a victim’s life by depriving them of resources, threatening them, isolating them and disabling their ability to effectively leave.
It’s those behaviours that put a victim at an extremely high risk of being killed, he said, even when there is no physical violence, or physical violence is minimal.
Based on my research, if you rely on physical injury before you identify a case as serious, you miss 95 to 98 percent of all domestic violence,” he said. “Often the severe assault is the fatal assault. It comes as a culmination.” (from: She Was Leaving Her Emotionally Abusive Husband. Now The Whole Family Is Dead.)
Whether or not there is physical abuse present, I think the spark that sends us packing, is usually not something that our abuser does or doesn’t do. It is rather the sudden realisation or feeling that there is something worth protecting from their destructive influence. Whether our children, our own (mental) health or a relationship outside of the abusive one… As a spark of inspiration, we realise there is something we do not want to sacrifice to the abuser, and we begin to consider our options.
I share my own story of becoming conscious of the abusive situation I was in, and how that lead me to cut all contact with my family, in this 30-minute podcast.
I think sometimes we begin to understand that we are in a bad situation because of how we are feeling about ourselves and our lives. I touch upon this in the podcast, but this list of 8 signs you are on the brink of a nervous breakdown also seems very accurate for issues you may be experiencing as a target of abuse.
But, as Aubrey says, the nagging question of when and how to know it’s the right time to leave remains. Even as we begin to realise the truth of our situation, and our need to get away from it… we have to be careful about how and when to make a move. Because, as I mentioned above, there is a lot that can still go wrong. Chances are— if you are reading this—that you are considering your options. So let me give you some advice about things to consider.
Escaping an abusive situation is difficult—if not full-on dangerous. Preparing your escape will make you more likely to get out and stay out. In this module, I’ll share some advice for you to consider as you equip yourself to make the first move; a series of starting points to help you remove yourself from an abusive situation.
Please always realise that abusers often escalate when their targets are trying to get out. For this part of your journey over-preparing is better than under-preparing!