When we talk about abuse, we tend to let our minds navigate toward the physical abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, psychological abuse, and other “household” abuses that we’ve all heard of. But even within these monikers are deeper levels of abuse that exist beneath the surface, hammering away at victims just as hard as a fist.
Was your background or culture held against you? Then there is the less commonly talked about financial abuse. Or worst of all—your own forced self-neglect.
And it all needs to be addressed on your path to healing, because they all have left scars.
So, what are these exactly?
Cultural/Discriminatory Abuse This deserves its own category because it’s so much more than the verbal assault of racial slurs or derogatory comments about a person’s appearance or habits based on heritage differences. It can also be a source of control: holding beliefs against someone; withholding sacred holiday traditions and rituals; taunting about eating or fasting preferences (or denying them); threatening their psychological well-being by exposing them; purposefully talking in a language you don’t understand. These are all sources of “power” meant to bring you down for any cultural differences you may have, and it is important that you come to terms with this stripping of your identity as you heal. There was nothing wrong with your belief system, practices, race, or heritage—do not let your abuser take that away from you.
Financial Abuse Did you suffer from having no access to money, banned from purchasing anything for yourself, or forced to either work or not work? Then you were suffering from financial abuse, and this also has wreaked havoc on your psyche. (You can read more about it in my blog, Let’s Talk About Financial Abuse...Did You Know It’s a Thing? and Bethany’s story My Trip with Financial Abuse: An All-Expense Not Paid Vacation) Perhaps your dreams and identity were stripped away so that all your attention could be focused on him and him alone (or the house, children, etc.) Or maybe you were told repeatedly that because you didn’t work, you didn’t deserve that pretty outfit or something special for yourself. Or now you are stuck with no money and no way out; that is financial control, and it can wear you down intro believing you are worthless, incapable, and unworthy—but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You will need to learn your worth all over again once you are free from the abuse.
Self-Neglect You may think that this is something you can’t pin on your abuser, but self-neglect is not something we innately do; we are somehow coerced into putting ourselves last. Maybe a parent taught you from an early age to always put everyone else first, and that caring about yourself in any way is selfish. Bullshit. By not caring for your health—and that includes, nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, socialization, spiritual connection, and so much more—you are in fact, abusing yourself and giving someone else control over your life. It’s also a manifestation of being abused: it could be that you develop poor hygiene habits out of a depression, or a form of OCD as a coping mechanism to domestic violence. These habits and behaviors you established in response to abuse need to be addressed so that you can heal properly and care for yourself as a survivor.
Whether you are a victim of every kind of abuse imaginable, or one specific kind, there are many layer to consider as you move towards recovery. Walking away is only the first step; an empowering one, but it’s not where the real work begins. Healing from abuse will need to encompass the many layers of violence taken against you, but I promise, the road to recovery will be worth it.
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