Having survived three domestic violence relationships, I’ve discovered there is a formula that describes most. Untreated child abuse + codependent behavior = a domestic violence situation waiting to happen. Once you move past the formula a complex history lurks. There are other formulas but they all add up to the same thing, dysfunctional and abusive childhoods lead to codependent behavior and that attracts perpetrators of domestic violence.
Children raised by healthy, confident parents learn healthy confident behavior. A domestic violence partner wouldn’t be interested in a healthy, confident person. All bullies need victims; all perpetrators need someone with weak boundaries. An adult who suffered through child sexual abuse not only has weak boundaries, they often have no boundaries at all. An alcoholic needs a co-dependent and so on.
A domestic violence relationship is insidious, making its way down a treacherous path that starts out as the dream of your life. You meet a man who is handsome and charming. He’s not only attracted to you, he falls in love, very quickly. Sex happens swiftly; like a whirlwind you are in his spell. How did that happen? He thinks you’re beautiful. You’re the one he’s been searching for all of his life. Next thing you know he’s living with you. You spend all your time in bed with him. Then, one day, several weeks later he watches you as you dress for work and questions what you are wearing. Isn’t that skirt a bit short for work? Your top is a bit too tight. Maybe you should change into something else. He says you look too seductive. Of course he’s right. How come you didn’t notice before? You change clothes.
A couple weeks later you’re talking on the phone to your brother. Your live-in is giving you strange looks beckoning for you to get off the phone. You hurriedly hang up. He wants to know how come you’ve been talking so long. Have you and your brother ever gone to bed together? You’re embarrassed. No, of course not. Is he interested in you sexually? No. Now you’re getting nervous. You try to explain how close you and your brother are. Your explanation turns into a wrangle. The bickering turns into a heated argument. He threatens to leave if you don’t agree to stop talking to your brother. You’ll do anything if only he won’t leave. Tearfully you agree, wondering how you are going to hide phone calls in the future. The dispute is patched up with fierce sex. After he goes to sleep you lie there in tears wondering how this could have happened.
It is only the beginning.
Within months you are wearing what he tells you to wear, talking to who he says you can, no longer doing gardening in the front yard. An attractive single guy lives across the street and your live in says you are trying to entice him by wearing shorts and a tight top. You are no longer able to get together with your female friends on Saturday morning for breakfast. He thinks you are meeting another man. Your disagreements turn into arguments. The arguments become volatile. One day he slaps you as you are screaming at him. Now sex doesn’t patch things up. It turns into rapes and the rapes are causing flashbacks. You keep seeing your dad entering your bedroom when you are a young girl. You don’t know where the flashbacks are coming from but you can’t deal with the constant sex anymore. You fight back, screaming and scratching, drawing blood on his arm. He says coldly that you are an abuser. He moves out, stays at a friend’s house where he shows his scratches to him. You call tearfully begging him to come back, saying you’ll do anything, if only he’ll come home. You’ve been vomiting and dry heaving. You can’t take it anymore. He returns. One day the constant sex is causing you to lose your mind. You hide in the bathroom. He breaks the door down, drags you out into the hall and rapes you.
How could this have happened? Addiction to another human is just as serious as addiction to alcohol or drugs, maybe worse. I’ve been told that trying to get out of it is like coming down off heroin. I’ve been there; I know. Get help. Contact any sexual assault center near you. Join CoDependents Anonymous. Find a domestic violence help group. Call their hot line phone number at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Get a copy of REPAIR Your Life and begin working the program. Find a therapist who specializes in child sexual abuse. Email me at Margie@thelamplighters.org if you need help. That’s what I’m here for.