My name is Caroline Abbott, and I experienced emotional and verbal domestic violence as a child. I was never physically abused, though my younger brother and sister were severely spanked with a leather belt. As the older sister, I felt both relieved that I escaped the spankings and tremendous “survivor guilt” that I was not able to protect them. While I escaped physical beatings, I did not escape verbal ones. When my stepfather was drinking, I would be called “stupid” and “selfish” and raged at for an hour at a time. Other times, he would give us the silent treatment. He was generally harsh, cold and unloving. Our mom was unable to protect us. If she tried, he would turn his abuse on her, leaving her in a pool of tears.
While there wasn’t frequent physical violence in our home, there was always the loaming threat. There was very little of the opposite – warmth, caring or love. Once, I wrote to my birth father (who I hadn’t seen in 5 years), saying I would like to see him. When my mother told my stepfather, he went into a rage. The next morning, my mom took me into their bedroom and showed me the large holes he had punched into the walls. She didn’t say it, but the implication was that it was my fault and that if I contacted my father again, I would be the one with the holes.
Because of my childhood, I grew up believing many of the lies children of domestic violence believe, but most strongly the Lie that I was WORTHLESS. Moving into adulthood with these beliefs, I married someone who (subtly at first) reinforced my negative beliefs about myself. As the years progressed and his abuse escalated, he began telling me these things openly. He was trying to break my spirit. It might have worked, but something had changed over the years. I had started keeping a journal, pouring my experiences and feelings out each day. Unburdening myself this way was cathartic and healing. I also started going to a great church and had made a large circle of caring, supportive friends who surrounded me. They loved me, valued me, and let me know they believed in me.
So, although my husband was more and more emotionally abusive and distant, I began to see my worth, slowly learning to believe the Truths rather than the Lies.
I knew my husband was cruel and I was very unhappy. Once, he went an entire year without speaking to me…unless he was raging at me. But because he didn’t physically beat me, it took me a long time to fully grasp that I was being abused. One day (in an email), he told me to tell our children he had never abused me. Something in me balked at the idea. First, it wasn’t true. Second, if I said it was, this would be telling them the way their father had treated me all those years was OK, and finally, worst of all, I would be asking them to disbelieve what they saw with their own eyes.
I was gradually beginning to realize I was living in a home with domestic violence, just like I had as a child. I had searched for a succinct definition, but couldn’t find one and finally called the National Domestic Violence Hotline. I described what had been happening in my home for many years and they confirmed for me that yes, I was being abused. I went to my local women’s crisis center and met with an advocate several times. She and I wrestled with the many questions I had about divorce and my faith. The advocate asked me if I thought Jesus wanted me to be treated this way. Would Jesus treat me that way? Of course not! I now knew the truth and was fearful for my life.
One night, I had had enough, and when I stood up to my husband, his abuse turned physical. That was the last straw. The one thing I couldn’t accept was physical abuse. I also realized that if I stayed, my sons would likely grow up repeating the cycle as abusers and my daughters would likely repeat it as well, as victims of domestic violence.
I decided that for my safety and the future of my children, I must leave. So I did and sought out more healing through education (books and classes on domestic violence), friends, and counseling. I joined two different support groups and realized there were others in my church who struggled with domestic violence. People of faith in particular struggle with leaving abusive relationships because they don’t want to break the sacred vows they made before God. I was inspired to train to be a domestic violence advocate and wrote my first book, A Journey through Emotional Abuse: from Bondage to Freedom. My book helps those who experience domestic violence consider their faith and determine whether they can save their marriages, or whether, for their own safety and the safety of their children, they should leave.
I also began writing a blog on my website (www.carolineabbott.com). I write articles to share information, educate and help other adults, teens and children who’ve experienced domestic violence. Through my Facebook page, I have been able to assist people who are impacted all over the world. I have achieved a lot of personal growth through helping others who face what I did. I have also received great personal healing and an ever-growing sense of self-worth as I’ve seen how my work and writing have positively impacted others’ lives. I’m currently writing my second book, A Journey to Healing after Emotional Abuse.
I’ve contributed several blog articles to CDV’s website, I’ve shared my story and my journey in CDV’s upcoming book to give others hope, and I’m a consistent voice on CDV’s FB page for others who’ve struggled as I have.
Healing from childhood (or adult) domestic violence is difficult, but it isn’t impossible. Luke 1:37 says, “For nothing will be impossible with God” and I believe that’s true.