She could be your Neighbour.
When you see her in the street, she’s friendly. At home, she feels friendless.
She always takes the time to say hello, but he doesn’t think she spends enough time with him.
She goes for a run every morning, but the only time she gets to herself is before he wakes up.
She’s always laughing at his jokes at the block party, but you see her grimace just a little when the joke is at her expense.
So she hides, because what would he do if she left?
Prolonged exposure to domestic abuse can lead to drastic behaviour changes in victims that can seem unexplainable or even normal from the outside perspective. As the above character illustrates, those suffering from domestic abuse are often excellent at hiding their abuse and adjusting their behaviours in different settings to keep the pretense going.
The reasons and motivations for hiding situations of abuse by victims can vary. For example, feelings of embarrassment and humiliation are often present due to both societal pressures to keep the image of a happy marriage/relationship as well as the possible consequence of exposing their abusers in some way. These can all result in justifiable reasons that victims hide the abuse from their family, friends, and loved ones.
However, despite the difficulties of informing someone that you are suffering from domestic abuse, it is unbelievably harmful to continue suffering in silence. In addition to the continued emotional, psychological, and at times even physical suffering, continued exposure to domestic abuse can often lead to isolative, reserved, behaviours from those suffering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, social isolation—a common product of domestic abuse—is associated with a 50% increased risk of dementia and other serious medical conditions while also significantly increasing a person’s risk of premature death.
As a society, holding the perspective that Domestic Abuse is akin to “marital problems” and something that should be dealt with behind closed doors only further perpetuates the feelings of humiliation, embarrassment, and isolation that so many victims already feel. As a result, women and children will often pretend that everything is fine when it's not, never speaking their truth, and never seeking help.
And it is hidden in plain sight.
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