Domestic Violence: Words that leave scars

by Angela Brooks

Domestic Violence is the hidden shame behind doors. Domestic violence does not have a dress code that matches what an abuser looks like. They can be police officers, fire fighters, preachers, teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, not just the drinking pot belly slob that is shown in TV.

I was called to the admission office to interview a new patient. In the brief shift report I was given, the patient sitting in the waiting area did not match what I was expecting to see. There was a well dressed middle age women sitting quietly in the big armed chair softly crying. She had a Kleenex in her hand and was fiddling with it until it fell apart.

As I walked in the door I reached over and snatched two fresh Kleenex out of the box and walked over to her. I stopped, she looked up and smiled. I extended the Kleenex and said "Hello my name is Angela and I would like to talk to you for a few minutes if that is ok with you." She nodded her head up and down "ok" as she reached for the fresh Kleenex.

With a hand motion I lead her to the office to ask the million and one questions that go along with being a new admission in order for the hospital to serve the individuals needs.

For the sake of confidentiality we will call her Sue, even thought that is not her real name. Sue was a well dressed lady that held herself in a very proper fashion. She was not the normal mental patient that we received in the hospital. Actually, she reminded me of June Cleaver from the show "Leave it to Beaver" that had the TV perfect mom and dad. 

When she spoke the pain that I heard in her voice was deep; she had very little eye contact while she was being asked the many pages of questions. She was so embarrassed to be sitting in that chair.

I asked, "Do you work?" She slowly spoke. "No, I have never had a job. I stayed home to raise our three daughters and a son." I chuckled, and said, "You were a home engineer and that is a hard job. She looked up and we both smiled. She said, "I loved my job, raising my children and being home to raise my family. I have two grandchildren and I keep them for the girls sometimes" As she talked about her family her face lit up and the tears stopped rolling down her cheeks. Her true passion of being a home engineer and the home organizer made her back straighten as she talked with her hands as she described her grandkids. I listened. I smiled.

I said, "So what brings you here?" Her shoulders dropped and her back slumped as she told the story of how her husband of over 30 plus years came home from work and told her she was leaving ; he had a new younger woman and he wanted her out of his house. She explained how she had never had a job and he paid all the bills, bought all the things inside the house, paid for the new cars they purchased every other year. He handed her $500 and told her to leave. She looked up at me and said, "I am homeless. He told me not to contact the kids and that I could not speak to them." I smiled gently "Do your children live in your home?"  She replied, "Oh no they are all married."

I pushed the phone toward her and asked if she would like to let one of them know where she was. She paused…"but he had said". The voice of mental abuse speaks even when the abuser is not in the room.

We finished the papers and moved her to the next floor with a diagnosis from the Doctor of depression. Can you imagine how she got depressed? This woman worked at home; she had a brand new car to drive every other year, a Cadillac. She prepared a home cooked meal daily for over thirty years and served her family as a home engineer. Her 30+ years of marriage were going down the drain.

The next day when I came onto the unit I once again saw her sitting at the end of the hallway alone with her hands over her face crying. I placed my hand on her shoulder and with a smile said, "Hey there stranger, how are you?" She looked up and wiped her face forcing a smile with as much as she could muster. "Hello," she said. We sat and talked a few minutes when I asked if I could alert a few of our internal connections to get her some help. She agreed that it was ok. I told her I also had a surprise I would like to share with her if she felt up to it. Sue looked at me funny, but had a sparkle in her eye waiting. I walked over to the end of the unit, unlocked a door and her oldest daughter walked in. A beautiful young women just like her mother. They embraced each other and I walked away to make a few phone calls.

Who Are The Victims?

ANYONE CAN BE A VICTIM! Victims can be of any age, sex, race, culture, religion, education, employment or marital status. Although both men and women can be abused, most victims are women

Domestic violence and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating.

Who Are The Abusers?
 If your partner repeatedly uses one or more of the following to control you;
  • pushing, hitting, slapping, choking, kicking, or biting
·       threatening you, your children, other family members or pets
·       threatening suicide to get you to do something
·       using or threatening to use a weapon against you
·       keeping or taking your paycheck
·       puts you down or makes you feel bad
·       forcing you to have sex or to do sexual acts you do not want or like
·       keeping you from seeing your friends, family or from going to work

YOU HAVE BEEN ABUSED!!  1.800.799.SAFE (7233) 1.800.787.3224 (TTY)
Anonymous & Confidential Help 24/7

 Sue had been mentally abused for so long in her marriage that she did not even notice it any more. He paid the bills so he got to be in charge. Their family was well known in the community and no one would believe that her husband was an abuser. They attended all the church functions as a family. They had the nice home, the new cars, and four kids who all went to college. 

Sue’s story ended better than most. She received a lawyer that took care of her case and allowed her to maintain her life style, plus divorce. Her abuse was not with her husband’s fist, but with his words that left deep scars in her self confidence. He twisted the emotions to meet his needs and leave her speechless. Behind the smile that baked the fresh chocolate chip cookies for her children after school was a woman who had lived for years in a prison she did not even know she had entered.

Words—just simple words—cut deep like a knife and punched her in the gut like a fist; they left bruises no one could see. The face she saw in the mirror was June Cleaver performing her job as a home engineer. However, she was an abused woman hiding the silent shame.

Angela Brooks has worked in a state-funded psychiatric hospital in Kentucky for 21 years as a nurse, assisting sometimes-dangerous patients who come in shackled and cuffed. At AngelaBrook.com, she offers stories of life on the inside of a psychiatric ward, and the site, as well as her company, offers support for nurses in the mental health field and helps them bring passion into their role at work.

On her BlogTalkRadio show, Mental Happiness with Angela Brooks, she shares some of her experiences “learning to love those others have forsaken” and gives tips on how to bring peace to your own life.

* Please note: I am not here to CURE, DIAGNOSE, Treat or suggest replacements for what a doctor prescribes – I am sharing my nursing adventures with you.

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Angela Brooks is a retired nurse after 25 years in mental health. She used her lunch breaks to build her business part time on the night shift. Her car became a mobile university as she listened to business training, coaching calls on CD and phone webinars. She blogged while she was at her sons' baseball practices.

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1 denny hagel October 26, 2010 at 6:16 am

This is a powerful and much needed message. The effects do not stop at the obvious victim but trickle down to every member of the family…Thank you for sharing this Angela. You have brilliantly written the story of sadly what is the story for many women.
Blessings~denny

2 Angela Brooks October 26, 2010 at 7:11 am

Denny YES it is a powerful message – so many we don't even know. I have another one I will be sharing… it just needs to be told.

3 Liza Flores Wayne October 27, 2010 at 6:41 am

Great article, Angela. It's a cause that resonates with me and that I am passionate about. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

4 Gina Parris October 27, 2010 at 6:44 am

Angela, that article made me cry. I am so naive about crappy marriages. I have a dear friend though who's story so resembles the woman here, but does it mean she needs to end up on the psych ward? She often asks, "Am I crazy?" I think landing here would be many women's greatest fear.

5 Candise Belmont October 27, 2010 at 6:46 am

i have so much i could say about this topic; this article was "good" compared to most that i have heard. most of what i hear is verbal abuse that grauates to much, much worse especially over the course of 30 yrs. i would have my doubts about whether this woman was indeed physically abused at some point but was just too ashamed to admit that or still too afraid of him

6 Kathy Perdue October 27, 2010 at 6:48 am

So true…..

7 Angela Brooks October 27, 2010 at 6:52 am

This is a tough subject – in this day and time it still makes people very uncomfortable to talk about –
The silents continues even in 2010

8 Brenda Able October 27, 2010 at 8:09 am

I too am passionate about domestic violence….so many people don't realize that it is not only physical but emotional, mental and psychological as well…I speak this from experience, and it is not a fun place to be. Thanks for sharing Angela…great article!

9 Richard Rose October 27, 2010 at 8:46 am

' Words. Just simple words. Cut deep like a knife – punched her in the gut like a fist – left bruises no one could see. The face she saw in the mirror was June Cleaver performing her job as a home engineer. The abused women – the silent shame. '
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Good article Angela, 

but it's not just men that can give verbal abuse, my brother-in-law committed suicide because of the continuous verbal abuse he got from his wife.  He was a real nice, gentle man and this was her second marriage. Her children loved him more than her.


What is sad is that the abuser in most cases have their own mental health problems that cause the way they treat people and I recognize that in my sister-in-law.  Now she lives with this grief of having driven her husband to his death.

Very very sad.

10 Liza Flores Wayne October 27, 2010 at 8:54 am

I, too, speak from experience. As Angela says in the article, her subject "Sue" was not your stereo-typical survivor of DV. My ex and I were both very educated and he had a very respectable position and he's also an attorney (I stayed at home and I, though not degreed, was certainly self-educated – both my parents were educators). And you're right, it affects you on every level. By the time I left him, he had told me on many occasions I was stupid, a lousy cook, unattractive, etc which was opposite of what everyone was telling me about myself. I can't even tell you the # of times the police came to our home (sometimes the neighbors reported). I took a look at my 4 young children, who were ultimately the reasons I left, and told myself I could do this, I could survive and win. It's been 13 years of severe adversity since I left (4 child custody hearings++ and I won them all – remember he's an attorney, so the emotional abuse continued even after I left) and I can happily say I beat the odds. I lost everything then. Now my kids are grown, 3 have graduated from college, two from the Wharton School, the #1 ranked business school ahead of Harvard even, and my youngest is a sophomore at U Penn. If you asked me 13 years ago, would I be able to give my kids the best education money can buy regardless of my financial circumstances? I would have told you you were dreaming, but dream big I did. I instilled in my kids that NOTHING was impossible and not let our, at the time, destitute circumstances stop them from pursuing their dreams, and that yes, we were going to rebuild our lives in a way that we couldn't imagine at the time. Coupled with my kids' hard work, my and their dreams have been realized. 3 did attend an Ivy League school. Most importantly, my kids are good kids who contribute to society. They adore and deeply respect their mother. I am a business partner of one of the most respected legendary NBA players, whom Coach John Wooden (ESPN's Coach of the Century) has dubbed his most ideal player, among a roster of players who are world-renowned. Thanks for your time reading this.

11 Lily October 27, 2010 at 9:07 am

I once was involved with a "man" like that for almost three years.  He was pathetic, and I let him make me that way too- for a while.  Somehow, after that ended, I had the presence of mind to seek therapy, and it was so incredibly helpful!  I got my derailed life back on a positive track and am now happily married to someone COMPLETELY different.  I can't imagine how hard it would be to recover from 30 years of abuse.

12 Susan Maldonado April 11, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Loved your blog about abuse. I was a victim of abuse, both physical and mental, for 13 years, until I got up enough courage to end it. My ex-husband was an alcoholic, which attributed for much of the physical abuse as that is when most of it happened, when he was drunk. However, the verbal abuse was constant whether he was drunk or not. although I don’t remember a time when he was without a drink in his hand. Therefore, he had levels of drunkenness, which made the abuse vary from verbal to physical. 

The physical scars have long since faded, however, the verbal abuse has left scars that 27 years later still haunt me. His words affected my self-esteem, my confidence, and my self-worth. And to this day, I still find myself needing to capture those thoughts and force myself to try to eliminate them from my mind. Sometimes it is just very difficult to do that. 

I am remarried since then, after 14 years of being a single parent. My husband today is nothing like my first. He is encouraging and tries to get me to be the best I can be, however, I am my worst enemy and listen to my negative thoughts. I must put in here that I was not a very confident person before I was married the first time, which is probably why I married him even though I had doubts about him. I felt that no one else would marry me, so why not…. NOT a good way to enter into a marriage. 

The point in my posting this is not for anyone to have pity on me…. I just would like to emphasis the fact of just how damaging verbal abuse can be. And not to ignore it just because the person is not hurting you physically, as if his words don’t mean anything. Many times the case is also that the person who is doing the verbal abuse, don’t even realize the damage they are causing. 

IT JUST NEEDS TO STOP!! 

13 Susan Maldonado April 11, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Loved your blog about abuse. I was a victim of abuse, both physical and mental, for 13 years, until I got up enough courage to end it. My ex-husband was an alcoholic, which attributed for much of the physical abuse as that is when most of it happened, when he was drunk. However, the verbal abuse was constant whether he was drunk or not. although I don’t remember a time when he was without a drink in his hand. Therefore, he had levels of drunkenness, which made the abuse vary from verbal to physical. 

The physical scars have long since faded, however, the verbal abuse has left scars that 27 years later still haunt me. His words affected my self-esteem, my confidence, and my self-worth. And to this day, I still find myself needing to capture those thoughts and force myself to try to eliminate them from my mind. Sometimes it is just very difficult to do that. 

I am remarried since then, after 14 years of being a single parent. My husband today is nothing like my first. He is encouraging and tries to get me to be the best I can be, however, I am my worst enemy and listen to my negative thoughts. I must put in here that I was not a very confident person before I was married the first time, which is probably why I married him even though I had doubts about him. I felt that no one else would marry me, so why not…. NOT a good way to enter into a marriage. 

The point in my posting this is not for anyone to have pity on me…. I just would like to emphasis the fact of just how damaging verbal abuse can be. And not to ignore it just because the person is not hurting you physically, as if his words don’t mean anything. Many times the case is also that the person who is doing the verbal abuse, don’t even realize the damage they are causing. 

IT JUST NEEDS TO STOP!! 

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