SPRINGFIELD, Mo. When you think of domestic abuse, you probably picture a woman being physically hurt by her partner. But your partner can be abusive without even laying a hand on you.
We spoke with women who have been through domestic violence about the scars that don’t show.
“They break your self esteem down so much that you don’t feel like you’re even worth it. You feel like you’re stuck with them, you know, that’s all you deserve,” said one survivor.
We agreed to hide the woman’s identity because she’s worried about retaliation from her ex-husband. She says the relationship ended years ago, but she still isn’t over the emotional abuse.
“The physical stuff, you know, you’re healed in a week. For the most part. But the emotional stuff… It stays with you for a long time,” she explained.
She says her ex-husband had angry outbursts that she had to learn to avoid. But the emotional abuse didn’t end there.
“Also belittling you, telling you that you couldn’t live without them,” she said.
This survivor says she decided to leave after the emotional abuse got physical, and her kids were there to watch it happen.
“He pushed me against the couch, and he started screaming in my face, he left bruises on my arm. And he did all of it in front of our kids,” she said.
She hopes that sharing her story will help another person get the courage walk away from an emotionally abusive relationship, especially if there are children involved.
“You need to get out of your comfort zone, you need to step out and do something different because you’re trapped in your life,” she said.
Felicia Rose is the Volunteer Coordinator for Harmony House, Springfield’s only domestic violence shelter.
Rose said, “Before you can beat somebody up physically, you have to beat them down internally. So emotional abuse is essentially an internal beating.”
She says oftentimes emotional abuse is followed by physical abuse, but that’s not always the case. Rose says an abuser doesn’t have to hurt their partner in order to do serious damage.
“Emotional abuse is one of the most damaging things a person can go through. A physical wound will heal in time, an emotional wound is something that takes quite some time to come over, if you ever can,” Rose said.
Rose says she knows from experience. Not only does she help women who have suffered through domestic violence, she’s a survivor herself.
“You lose track of the truth, if that makes sense,” Rose said, “You lose track of the reality that is you, and your own self worth, and your own self confidence, and your own self value. You kind of become what he creates, because emotional abuse it the mere essence of brain washing. And it just feeds a person a constant lie, so that they, in turn, believe this lie about themselves.”
Rose says if you’re concerned about your relationship, you can reach out to the Harmony House at 417-837-7700. Their new address is 3404 East Ridgeview Street in Springfield. See the sidebar for a link to their website.