It’s something we don’t really talk about until it makes the news. Then we talk about it for a cycle of time until something else distracts us.
So today, when 680 CJOB told you about Shaylene Wilson, 22, who walked away with just cuts and bruises after her boyfriend allegedly drove the passenger side of the car into a semi early New Year’s Day, the conversation started … again. Shaylene wants victims of domestic violence to hear her story to escape the cycle of violence, so she came forward to tell it.
Her boyfriend, Christopher Rutherford, 31, is facing numerous charges, including attempted murder and kidnapping. And it seems the most common type of questions people are asking: How can she go back to him? How can she stay with him? How can she not know better?
Those are all pretty much the same question. All questions that you should never ask a woman or man who’s been in or is in an abusive relationship. Yes, we need to better understand this, to help the people who are trapped dealing with this. No, these are not the right questions to ask.
Even asking a question like, How does an intelligent person like you end up in a relationship like this? is reinforcing what the abuser has been doing: Victimizing, belittling, blaming …
The image we often have of a battered woman (or man) is someone weak, someone uneducated, someone from a poor socio-economic situation. We often have these images, because those who are abused are so good at hiding it from us, so we construct our own realities the same way they reconstruct their own realities.
I have met extremely successful, confident women and men who have been in – or who currently find themselves in – abusive relationships. Abuse can slowly, insidiously and surreptitiously pick away at self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence. Abuse can drag you through lows and whisk you through highs that would never feel so high if you never experienced the low to begin with. Abuse can carry you to a world where you are slowly brainwashed into believing you’re to blame, you’re not capable, and you’ve messed up. Abuse can quickly make the victim look like the perpetrator. So when you say to someone it doesn’t make sense how such a smart person can end up in such a terrible situation, you reinforce what the abuser has done.
I’m here for you.
You are not a victim; you are a survivor.
You can safely share with me what you’ve been through.
You are stronger than you know.
I see the confident person you are and I will show you that person.
It’s never too late …
These are just some of the things you can say to someone who’s been abused. But, no matter your intention, to react with incredulous surprise because you thought someone was smarter or stronger “than this” takes the power away from someone who is grasping at any power source in reach. And it’s at that point that you can make the biggest difference in someone’s life.
Have you been in an abusive relationship, or helped someone through one? Taking your calls after 1pm: 204.780.6868 or 1.844.686.6868.