Why do I shout about gender-based violence? Frankly, the answer is simple… Because I have been silent for too long! Yes, it is my time to speak up and speak out. Why? Because abuse does not go away if we ignore it. Much like the rest of society, I conditioned myself to partly ignore abuse. I did not want to, but I felt that speaking out was too risky. Why? Because it is likely that:
- People will not believe you.
- People will judge you.
- People will feel sorry for you.
- People will side with your abuser.
In other words… It is painful. It is painful to share personal pain publicly. It is like rubbing salt into a wound. But covering that wound with a band aid, does not make it go away. The wound needs exposure to heal, and when the scar emerges, it is not ugly. The scar tells a beautiful story of survival. Perhaps I sound a little abstract right now. Let me break it down…
At the age of 19, I entered an abusive relationship. He did not trust me, he accused me of things I did not do, he cheated on me, he lied to me, he badmouthed me to others, he recruited his friends and family to terrorize me telephonically, he called me vulgar names, he got physical with me a few times, and he even tried to strangle me once. He tried to use me financially. He wrote off my car, almost killing me and other passengers, whilst speeding and driving drunk in wet conditions at night. I left the relationship many times but kept going back over a period of 8 years! I went on to date other men but kept returning to him. I was trauma bonded to him and I did not know it.
What was the result of this relationship? I withdrew into a shell, became depressed and lost my confidence. Without realizing, I became a people-pleaser and essentially a doormat for everyone to use. After leaving him for the final time, it took me 7 years to recover from the abuse; to slowly rebuild myself. It took a lot of hard work, and grace from God, but I eventually liberated myself, and regained my confidence and joy. I thought I knew everything about abuse from this experience at a young age. I was convinced that it could never happen to me again because I would know better. But then…
At the age of 34, I entered a second abusive relationship. Yes, 34! I was not an inexperienced, naïve teen anymore. I was a full-grown, strong, independent, confidant, mature woman when this happened to me. And this time it was far worse! This abuse was not overt at all, so I did not recognize it and I did not see it coming. It was narcissistic abuse. This man insulted me, criticized me, judged me, belittled me, lied to me, objectified me and played manipulative mind games with me. He tried to control me and change my identity (personality, appearance, diet, political views and religious beliefs). He also tried to get money from me. He ripped my self-esteem to shreds. I only realized what was happening when the abuse changed from covert to overt. When I fell pregnant, his mask dropped. He began to harass me and stalk me because he wanted me to have to an abortion. When I refused to have an abortion, he went on to drug me without my knowledge, to kill our unborn baby.
What was the outcome of this relationship? My unborn baby was killed against my will, and my life was endangered in the process. I was living abroad at the time and had to flee the country for safety away from him. This meant leaving my home, friends, church and job. My entire life crashed to pieces, and I ended up with Complex-PTSD due to the abuse, trauma and grief that I experienced at the hands of this psychopathic man.
So how did I end up in a second abusive relationship? The answer is simple…. Lack of education! So yes, this is why I now shout about women abuse. I am not silent anymore because my story is education for women around the world. It is validation for them, and inspiration for them to also to speak up and speak out. I want to join my voice to the others who are making a difference today to bring about awareness.
After the first abusive relationship, I only understood what I had experienced. I did not have education about abuse. I did not understand what makes a woman a target, I did not understand what makes a man an abuser, I did not understand the patterns abusers follow, I did not understand the different types of abuse, I did not know that women keep falling into abusive relationships until they resolve wounds within their inner child, I did not know how to avoid being a target again, I did not know how to fully heal properly. All I ever had as a resource back then was The Oprah Winfrey Show, which helped me to a certain point at the time.
Now after the second abuse, my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of what I did not previously know about abuse. With the Internet, Facebook and YouTube now, I have had access to educational resources from multiple psychologists and survivors. I am convinced that if I had this education back then I would not have ended up in a second worse situation. In recent years, survivors have bravely come forward to tell their stories publicly about narcissistic abuse. The Internet is now flooded with resources to educate women (and men) about narcissistic abuse.
I wish I had the knowledge back then about narcissism, sociopathy and psychopathy. I wish I knew more about abusers’ motives for power and control. I wish I had heard of the terms like love bombing, idealization, devaluation, intermittent reinforcement, coerced reproduction, blame shifting, projection, discarding, gaslighting, triangulation, smear campaign, flying monkeys, bait and switch, trance induction, trauma bonding, Stockholm Syndrome, cognitive dissonance, hoovering, narcissistic supply, impression management, masking, pathological lying, narcissistic injury, narcissistic rage, dissociation, PTSD and so on. I wish I had heard of all the various healing therapies available. I wish I knew of all the subdivisions of abuse. It is not simply verbal, physical and sexual. There is spiritual, financial and psychological abuse too. I used to think that rape was about uncontrollable sexual desires. Can you believe I only learnt last year that rape is actually about power and control? Was I living under a rock all these years?
How is it that we, as women, are not educated about these things in high school? Why do women only learn about these things ‘post-abuse?’ Why do we only get help when it is too late? Why do we have to endure abuse a second time (or more) before we find information to help us?
Reader, please, I urge you… Please read up on these terms which I have mentioned. I promise you, it is a rabbit hole worth travelling down. Please teach your children about it. If you are a teacher, please teach your students about it. Please make the general public aware of it. Please use your various social media platforms to drive awareness, as well as any other public platform that you may have.
For lists of helpful resources to get you started, follow these links: 8 Book Suggestions for Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse and 10 Online Resources for Survivors of Narcissistic Abuse.
Within my small circle of family, friends, church and colleagues, I encounter dozens of women who have been deeply wounded by abuse in its various forms. I also encounter men who are hurt by narcissistic women. This must stop! We need to stand up against this violation of human rights, and we need to stand up for each other too. Silence is not the answer! We cannot stop the ongoing cycle of abuse by remaining silent. It is time we stopped caring about what people might think or say. It is time we braved our pain and exposed it to the salt that threatens to hurt us. The long-term cleansing that takes place, will be worth the initial sting of the pain.
So why do I shout about women abuse?
- It could save someone’s life, or at least save them a lot of trauma and damage. Educate, validate and liberate!
- It brings healing. Free your voice, free your pain!
As a final note, I want to say to those women who are still in danger of their abusers… Please be cautious about speaking out. Please consider if the abuser will harm you or your children for speaking out. If that is the case, I would advise that you only speak to trusted authorities for now. When it is safe, you can share your story with the world.
Nisha Devdhat is a South African born writer, using her words to spread love, bring healing and give hope, while educating and traveling the world. Currently, she is based in Asia as an English teacher.
Her writing portfolio includes articles, poetry and book reviews, which focus on the themes of literature, travel, education, abuse and trauma.
Nisha offers her writing skills to the public through her writing service. You could hire her as a freelancer to create content for your business or blog.
Nisha’s educational background is English Language and Literature, Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and Marketing Management.
Writing is Nisha’s way of expressing herself, externalizing emotions and practicing introspection. Writing provides her the opportunity to free her voice, challenge the status quo, and positively impact change in society.
#savingme is the column where abuse victims can publish their experiences just to let go and find comfort and support. Maybe it doesn’t feel like much but just publishing your story for others to read makes you strong. You can send your story about the abuse you went through to firstname.lastname@example.org and you can choose if you want it to be anonymous or not. More details here.