PART TWO: P.R.A.Y.
(Thinking It Through: Prevention, Recognition, Avoid, [It’s] Your Decision)
In last week’s column a woman described the pain of living in an abusive relationship and wrote of her challenges in trying to circumvent her torment and suffering.
Despite her nisyonos at every turn, Humbled but Strengthened never lost hope of freeing herself of her shackles and escaping the horror chamber, as was made evident by the title of the first part of her article: H.O.P.E. — for Hold On, Pain Ends!
In this follow-up, Humbled but Strengthened uses her own experience to advise, encourage and give strength to the abused woman finding herself trapped in a hostile environment.
First you must learn how to identify RED FLAG BEHAVIOR. Then you must learn to value yourself enough to uphold the boundaries of your personal comfort zone. Don’t confide in just anyone; choose mentors carefully! (A friend-turned-foe is dangerous!)
Take note of “isolated incidents” that become patterns of behavior over time. Always trust your feelings and instincts — even if you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is that’s disturbing you.
Know that “sincere remorse” that is expressed frequently is not sincere! No remorse at all is even worse.
Does he drive off into the sunset – leaving you behind to deal with the household – after every argument? Not romantic.
• Confidants with the authority or ability to intervene/protect you, yet who do nothing at all.
• Counselors who use even-steven style therapy. Abuse is not a 50/50 situation! It’s unfair to the victim, and increases the abuser’s excuses to abuse! Counterproductive. It’s like telling Mr. A., “It was wrong of you to steal,” and then turning to Mr. B. and saying, “But you were careless to leave your door unlocked.”
Your Final Decision:
When the status quo becomes unbearable and is unchanging for any consistent period of time, the first step is for an effective/influential person to make it crystal-clear to the husband that things cannot continue this way any longer. Sometimes a woman is so abused she can hardly think coherently anymore, despite being otherwise intelligent.
If you have the money or support system to manage your survival within the marriage, you may not be as compelled to leave as a woman who has zero resources with which to help herself within the marriage. A woman who just gave birth or is physically weak for any other reason, (extreme lack of sleep or illness) may want to leave but lack the energy. This woman’s husband must be strongly cautioned about his abuse and warned that she will be helped to leave if it does not stop.
Ultimately, each woman must arrive at a decision she can live with, even years later. To fully grasp the gravity of her situation, she should ask herself the following:
• Does the relationship (or lack thereof) bring out a side of you that never used to be part of your personality (e.g., distress, tearfulness, anxiety…)? Has this been worsening over time?
• Do you feel like you’re the only one who’s been earnestly trying to improve the relationship since [what seems like] forever?
• Does he physically/emotionally abuse your children?
If you’re going do it – do it! Don’t announce all your plans or he will beat you to it. He may seem innocent, but if he’s asking his own advice, he may be getting street-smart without you realizing it. Take steps to protect yourself in beis din or court, such as collecting credible evidence of all abuse. Also, keep your personal documents and those of the children (and valuables) out of the home. Don’t underestimate his accessibility to your secret hiding spots.
Don’t vacillate, thinking that after 25 years he’s finally going to change controlling behavior. This behavior emanates from an unhealthy place and worsens over time.
Your pleasant personality traits are a dream for an abuser; that’s how he got as far as he did in the first place. Your humble, vulnerable, pliable traits make you easy to control.
But most of all, each and every woman must know – with unshakeable certainty – that Hashem will never forsake her. Talk to Hashem in plain English or using your Tehillim, and He will send you a sign that He is with you.