…on Being Abused

I recently witnessed a troubling exchange in the grocery store.  I didn’t handle it well.  And I don’t know how I could have done it better.  It was troubling.

Dear Abused:

I hope I didn’t make your situation worse.  It was such a shock to hear a man’s voice yelling, “SHUT UP!” so near me.  I was just about to check out when his tirade began.  “What are you thinking?  Just do what I say!”, he shouted.

The clerk partially regained my attention but I turned to you again as she was calculating my change.  While your man charged past me  I turned and placed my hand on your shoulder. Did my empathy for you create a greater problem when your abuser spun around to watch from outside the door?

I hadn’t recollected myself as I walked out.  I stared directly into his eyes and gave him a “look”.  That was a mistake, I know.  As I muttered, “Asshole”, under my breath I glanced back and he was staring after me.  Why did I escalate the situation by increasing his anger? It’s simply not a good way to move through the world, AND he would certainly take any anger out on you.  He may even have misread the situation and felt that you enlisted my support.

I’m sorry.

And I’m sorry that you are remaining in this situation.  I do understand, though.

I get that you may think this is love.  Or perhaps when he is loving, he is so gentle and beseeching that you believe that he will never be abusive again.  This may be a pattern that you have known all of your life.  Or it may have begun as a wonderful and exciting love affair and slowly degraded to this. Either way, it is hard to see a way out of it, isn’t it?

Your sense of worth and faith in yourself may be eroded.  You may think that you deserve such treatment or you may just have forgotten that it is possible to stand up for yourself in this world.  Perhaps your fear and shame override your desire for escape from the bad times.

You may feel you have nowhere to go and no one to turn to.  Has your family have given up on you?  Your friends may be alienated.  After all, they have warned you, offered you a way out many times.  It’s a lonely place to be.

I wanted to do more.

I wanted to tell you that this isn’t love.  Love doesn’t hurt.  Love doesn’t destroy.  Love doesn’t imprison, emotionally or physically.

I wanted to tell you that this is not your fault.   We are all capable of putting ourselves in the hands of someone who eats away at us until we aren’t sure who we are.  There, but for the grace of God, go any one of us.

I wanted to tell you that there are people who will help you.  I could personally take your hand and lead you to a house that would shelter you, comfort you, counsel you and then help you establish a life for yourself that is safe and secure.

I hope that you have one friend, one phone number, one small spark within you that knows that life can be different.

I’m sending a check to our local women’s shelter and hotline.  I wish I could do more.



  1. Wow. I can relate so much – to both sides! I’ve been in abusive relationships (and left them, thank God), and I’ve been the one observing the abuse of others. It’s very difficult in either situation – to get out, and to get the abused one to believe that this isn’t what they want in the long run.

    What made me stay in abusive relationships wasn’t the fear to be on my own, but rather the notion that I wouldn’t be able to at myself in the mirror i I hadn’t tried everything possible. You know, when we crawl on our torso and drag ourselves forward by using our chin because arms and legs have been cut off. I don’t do this anymore. I don’t let anybody get myself into the “torso crawling” state anymore because I’ve learned it’s detrimental and won’t change anything.

    I may have just saved a dear friend from going back into an abusive relationship tonight. I could have read and worked through three articles in that time, but I didn’t because it wasn’t worth it. I want her to be well. She’s part of my (chosen) family. And she needs my help and support right now.

    Whatever you do to go against it is good. You can do more if you’re close to the “victim” (I put this into quotation marks because an abusive relationship requires both the victim and the suppressor to play the game, so it’s an interactionist thing), otherwise you’re liminted to general interventions like you did. But I believe whatever you do settles within the mind of the victim and does its work there. In the end, everybody has to take the own fate into his or her hands, and decide what to do about it. It’s *not* your fault if your actions don’t make a difference immadiately. Things like these take time. But they’ll work out eventually.


    • Oh, Kath, I am so happy that you helped your friend. Even if this isn’t the time…your love and support will help her keep moving toward changing her life. It’s important to not give up on the people we love.

      Good for you, too, that you have recognized abuse in your own life and moved away from it. It is so easy to slip into situations where our self-worth is eroded. Holding on to our personal value in this world is a stepping stone to a well-lived life. (Sometimes I am my own worst enemy on this one.)

      Onward and upward!


  2. A poignant and very well written post. Without realising the consequences, we sometimes do behave ways that can subsequently cause harm/pain to someone we sympathise with.

    This needs more exposure and if you permit me, I would like to give a link to this post and write a covering paragraph in my blog.


  3. So well written and I have been there and survived getting out of it and now have a great life. So your comment might be the thing she grasps and use to get out as you a anonymous woman reached out to her.


    • Thank you, Frida. And I am thankful that you have come through that time in your life. Everything we do in life makes a difference, I believe. I only hope that I can be mindful BEFORE my actions so that I can create positivity rather than to exacerbate problems.


  4. This was a beautiful post…and the word needs to be spread everywhere. Of course it is difficult for those who aren’t in the victim/abuser mindset to understand how anyone could do this…or let it be done to them. But it happens every minute of every day to too many people…men, women and children. Thank you so much for touching her shoulder. We always feel we should do more…but your touch might have been just the catalyst that gave her the courage to leave him. 🙂


    • I know that people don’t move out of these situations until they’re ready. I hope I always remember to be supportive and non-judgmental.


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