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I Didn't Know I Was Being Abused for Years — Here's Why

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Editor's Note

If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

I think mental, emotional and psychological abuse are so often overlooked because there aren’t often any immediate physical symptoms of it. If you don’t know what to look for, you won’t find it, and I think that’s why people on the outside looking in often often don’t grasp just how serious it can be. It’s never as easy as just standing up for yourself or just leaving because the abusers often have such a hold on their victim that everything the victim does is to appease their abuser. Because it’ll make it just a little easier. Or everything they say is turned into ammunition that’ll be used against them.

I think there’s a common misconception abuse has an age limit. Or that only men are abusive when that just isn’t the case. I think there are people, regardless of gender or race, who are more likely to be abusive and that’s primarily because so many people are afraid to come forward with their experiences.

When I was 6 or 7 my family went on a little drive around the base we were living at the time. My favorite song was on, so I sang along, my father powered the radio a bit and told me I sounded like a dying cat and that when he listens to a song, he wants to hear the singer, not me.

When I was 10 we had to run errands. I didn’t like going to malls and stores because of all the people so I would fixate on the music playing and “dance,” which I now know was a form of stimming. My father demanded I knock it off because I was bringing attention to myself and that made him look bad.

When I was 13 I rode the bus to school because we didn’t have a car. Every day kids at the stop would make comments about how I look, my legs and my hair, among other things.

When I was 16, I met a boy who was experienced and mature. I could talk to him about my struggles with school and making friends. One day, he told me he had a secret to tell me and I’d really love it. He told me he loved me, all it took was an exchange of photos I didn’t want to take. Every time I said the right thing, or gave him what he wanted , it made him happy and he told me he loved me. When I didn’t hold up, he promised he would find someone who could better suit his needs.

When I was 17, I fell in love for the first time. On the best of days, she made me feel on top of the world and made me laugh, but I couldn’t see my friends because she didn’t like them. When I tried to confide in her and tell her I didn’t feel important or loved, just in general, she accused me of not caring for her. Not paying enough attention to her and how much she’s doing for me.

When I was 20, my aunt threatened to beat me if I didn’t “knock it off” when I corrected her about my pronouns. Claimed to take it back or apologize only after I confronted her about it a few months later.

There are no obvious physical signs of mental and psychological abuse, but they’re there. And especially if you don’t know what to look for.

I’m 24 and I can’t sing along to any song around people. No matter how comfortable I am around them. I’m 24 and I now actively try to stop myself from swaying much or stimming in public because what if whoever I’m with yells at me? I’m 24 and I only wear long sleeves, pants and looser-fitting clothing. I’m 24 and I can’t trust when someone tells me they love me or tells me I can tell them anything. I’m 24 and every time I see a comment from my aunt, or my mother talks about something going on in her life, I see that image of her with such hostility toward me, when she claimed to love me so much.

I’m 24. It took most of my high school career to realize I was being abused. Not because it wasn’t evident, but because I didn’t know what to look for.

Unsplash image by grandfailure

Originally published: December 23, 2019
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