The problem I encountered from growing up protected from these things is that I was not prepared to handle them when the time came for me to be married. I did not even know there could be signs of abusive relationships early on because nobody had thought to talk to me about it. Its not that I wasn't loved, it was simply not something that was part of my growing up so it didn't become part of my adulthood. Until an abuser took it upon himself to make it a part of my experience.
My parents did a wonderful job teaching me about being polite and listening to others. They taught me about the dangers of sharing contact information with strangers and jumping in the car with someone I didn't know. As I got older, it was even clear that staying out all night and drinking was a terrible idea. However, abusive relationships simply didn't come up in any of these conversations.
- I knew from an early age that hitting is wrong, but it never dawned on me that someone who said they loved me might hit me.
- I was taught about sex as an intimate exchange between two people, but rape between a husband and wife wasn't ever discussed in any sex education classes.
- I learned that yelling and name calling hurts, and I knew that there are bullies who throw snowballs at girls on the way home from school. Unfortunately, nobody told me how to respond other than to run away.
- My family was not shy about teaching me how important apologizing is when I messed up, but I wasn't aware that apologizing for my existence isn't ever necessary.
- My parents even talked to me on a number of occasions about the difference between right and wrong touch, only it was assumed that my husband could touch me whenever he wanted to and there wouldn't be any problem.
Even with these intimate lessons I was not warned about abuse. My parents did not know that I would one day face the horrors that come with abuse or they probably would have taken the time to teach me what it looks like and what to do in the face of it. Why would I ever think to ask my parents about what happens when boyfriends, husbands or wives hit one another? Since yelling and name calling wasn't part of my experience, I didn't realize that arguments could easily cross a line to abusive behaviors. How could someone expect my parents to warn me about the dangers of something they never thought about?
The truth is they simply couldn't warn me, but now that I've experienced it I have warned my own children about the dangers of abuse. My children know about abuse because abuse is something I do think about. To be honest I think about the damage that abuse causes almost every day. I'm now hyperventilate and see the signs of abuse in the grocery store, I watch for it in my children's relationships and I recognize the signs of abuse long before most people would notice them. Abuse is now a daily part of my experience, even though I've not been abused by anyone in over 10 years.
Just because you are not involved in an abusive relationship doesn't mean you don't have to speak about the dangers of abuse. If you know about it, then you need to talk about it. There are people just like me, and parents just like mine who don't know how important it is to teach their children about abuse. Many people are unaware how destructive domestic violence is, a handful of people believe that parenting is protecting children from every possible danger. However, this silence is one of abuse's closest allies, because it creates unsuspecting victims who simply don't know how to spot abuse before it grabs hold of them.