I am a woman, and I am an atheist.....and have escaped from the abusive relationships of my past and I now want to give back. This is a topic that is "skidded over" through the horrific consequences of religion, but I haven't seen the topic come up recently on TA as it's own separate entity of discussion. My goal around this conversation is for women to come together who either: 

1. Have been in an abusive relationship and escaped,

2. Are currently IN an abusive relationship and don't know what to do and are looking for support, 

3. For any men who are allies who want to add their comments/insights to be able to do so. 

There are lots of resources in many placed in the US, I don't know about the rest of the world, but I think that even still there is a lot of discrepancy and confusion about what domestic violence IS and there's a lot of people who are in abusive relationships that don't think that they are abusive, they just see them as normal. Also there's a lot of misconceptions and myths portrayed by media. I hope together we can blow a hole through all of that and get down to some real truth on the matter, as well as support anyone who may be going through it, to give them a safe place to fall....

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I hadn't intended this discussion be all about my struggles but rather I was hoping that other women would also step forward and share their experiences. I thank you Angela for having done so thus far. Domestic violence is a topic that no one really talks about much. While I may be in the midst of healing I do feel as though I have something to contribute and my sincere hope is if nothing else to raise awareness and I hope that if there are any women out there who are reading this thread and wondering whether or not they are crazy, or overly sensitive, or an emotional mess, or not good enough, or ugly, or stupid, or anything else you might feel about yourself that is negative, I would challenge that woman to take the step of calling a domestic violence hotline. If one is not available in your area look online for other options. 

The ugly truth about domestic violence is that often times the victim does not see it as abuse but rather "the way it is..." and it's accepted as the norm. Afterall, all couples have problems right? All men can have their moments, right? Everyone gets angry from time to time...so what distinguishes normalcy from abuse? Where does it cross the line? How do you KNOW it's abuse rather than normal marital problems? 

Even to this day my own family has reacted in a way to suggest that they think I'm a little over the top. My family is well-educated and not religious. I was the only Christian in my family for about 12 years...I have acted totally out of character after finding the Truth and I think no one really knows what to do with me yet, LOL. My family still makes excuses for my ex-husband. This contributes to me feeling like I'm crazy. If it weren't for the support I've received from other sources I don't know what would have become of me. 

The other ugly secret about domestic violence is that the abuser is often a saint to everyone else. My ex-husband always has put on a happy face in front of others as best he can. One time I remember we were visiting his family and they were going to start a barbecue grill. They were just starting it up and so the fire was at its height. it was uncovered. We were about an hour's drive from our home. Our son was 2, almost 3 at the time. His cousin is the same age. The area around the barbecue was about 15x15 ft. Not that big. I said to my husband "I don't want our son playing there. We need to take them out to the street to kick the ball, it's too dangerous." He responded, "He'll be fine, I'm watching him!" I said, "It's not about you watching him, he is fast, if he runs into the barbecue..." to which he interrupted me, "If you're going to act like that then we're going home right now." I took our son into the house and was totally embarrassed. His family didn't say anything. I was inside with our son and my husband came in and started yelling at me about being too overprotective. I said something to him about if he continued to talk to me that way I was going to call the cops. He told me he was leaving back home and I would have to call my mom to come pick us up. He got into his car and sped away. He was gone for about an hour. Here I was by myself with his family and they were asking me what happened. All they heard was me and him inside yelling and me threatening to call the cops. My husband is seen by them as one of the more mature and level headed of his family. He comes from a culture of heavy drinking and machismo, (Mexico) and he doesn't drink and isn't highly egotistical like some other members of his family. We had never fought in front of his family before. They were surprised to hear us fight like that. I told his aunt that he had been emotionally and verbally abusive towards me the past year and that it was getting worse. I was hoping for support. Instead she said to me, "I don't believe that about him. He's always been the most calm of his siblings. Even when he was a little boy, he's always been good." The look on her face was that of saying, "You are crazy." When he did finally come back and it turned out he had just stayed away to make me think he abandoned us without transportation he had a huge smile and was happy and talked with his family and joked around and everyone completely ignored me. I was on the verge of tears. He didn't even look at me. I couldn't help but feel like, "am I too over-protective? Did I over-react? AM I crazy??" Even typing this story I have those doubts. That's what abuse looks like. It's subtle and it eats away at you slowly. NOW - not all abusers are alike. But that was my own experience. I sincerely hope my story and experiences can help someone else. I don't care if the world knows what happened to me if it can help someone else going through the same thing. 

@Belle - "subtle" is right.  That's one thing they're expert at - going unnoticed by everyone else.  It's surprising how much talent and cleverness they can put into this.  They're expert manipulators too I find - if you don't play the game then X bad thing is your fault, like everything else.  I suppose it comes of a lifetime of study, of honing the skills.  Smoke-screening, manipulation, control, invisibility, subtle undermining.  The opposite of all the solid honest qualities. 

Charming too, right?  Give me a charmless person any day. 

Truthfully from what I've learned the abuse looks different for everyone. In some cases women choose to stay and this can be an equally valid decision. A woman should NEVER be ridiculed from an outsider who doesn't know her circumstances. In some cases she may be a homemaker with no way of supporting herself financially, or the idea of leaving the kids with their father unsupervised, (which is required unless it's an extreme circumstances by the court definition.) is worse than at least being present. There are lots of reasons to stay, lots of reasons to leave...ultimately it's about protecting yourself from being hurt. I will say however, my suspicion is that women who stay...are likely theists who are taught that divorce is wrong. I do believe that many women stay for this reason alone possibly. Or just because that's the way they think it is. My mother's mother lived with an abusive husband for over 60 years before he passed away. When he finally did she wasn't the least bit sad...maybe a little. But not much. His own kids also were not too torn up by it. Everyone had a sense of relief that he was finally gone. It was honestly the saddest thing because while his own family was almost indifferent to his passing, a car club he belonged to was full of members who had a special service for him and they all said how wonderful he was! Something is wrong with this picture. I'll never forget that.

I have a friend who changed his surname so it wasn't the same as his father's.  I don't know the full story and I don't like to ask.  If they were to pick on people their own size, out in public, they wouldn't last very long.  But they terrorise women and children behind closed doors, so it's very far from a fair contest.  

On a more heartening note, the same person rescued his sister from someone like that.  (yes, he's good at fighting, no, he's not scared of anyone, yes, he is always very kind to women.)  

I know someone who married absolutely the wrong guy, whom she met in college.  The instant the knot was tied, the emotional abuse and controlling behavior began, and he did his best to cut her off from her family.  And it only got worse once she had children; that was another hold he had over her.

It was only when she got raped and he blamed her that she got the hell out.  Her (now ex-) husband is a complete waste of space and oxygen and I would probably dance a jig if I heard he had died a gruesome death.

Apparently there is a subculture where men train their sons on how to do this.  I don't believe it's entirely learned by the young shitstain male because he has to learn what to do before the children are born, and he himself cannot have seen what his father did then.

@Steve:

she got the hell out.

Good for her. That's awesome. That must have been very difficult. He sounds worse than my own ex-husband. She is a strong woman.... I'm thankful that my ex is at least behaving himself (for the most part) now and not abandoning his son or trying to abuse me with not paying child support. His abusive nature is still there and it still shows up, and I still have to deal with it. But at least he's making some effort to do the right thing. I'm thankful for that. I cannot imagine how it must be for those women who are not so fortunate. While abuse sucks no matter what there are varying degrees. 

"If he hits me a first time, there won't be a second time."

That's what one of my mom's relatives said when I was about ten, seventy+ years ago. It made an impression.

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