Do you speak “Abuse”?

by Michelle B. Araneta

Click here: “PLEASE BE ADVISED!” before reading.

“Secrets …

… We learn to hide each one of them from the eyes of the world, burying them deep within us, hoping that they will arrive in the land of the forgotten. Unknowingly when we do that, we inevitably keep ourselves chained to the depths of the fog he has created. We struggle against the chains, trying desperately to free ourselves, but the more we lock up our secrets and bury them inside us, the tighter their grip on us becomes. So we learn to cope, learn to believe what he says, and learn to understand that he is right … but still we silently pray, we silently hope, we silently plead with life to give us that one moment of safety to unchain us from our secret.” (excerpt from “Secrets.”)


As luck would have it, there comes a day when we find that safe moment. We gather all our strength and courage to share our little secret … but, unfortunately, most of the time we are not faced with that loving parent mentioned in “Secrets.” We find we are not sharing our story with the person we thought would listen to every word and scoop us up immediately to hold us close. We are sharing our story with someone different, someone who doesn’t understand, someone who doesn’t believe us. Someone that begins to sound like him.

The truth is, over time, we learn his words. We learn the lies of the secrets we’ve kept, we begin to develop belief in them and as we share our story with others, our words are mixed together with his, our beliefs are mixed together with his. The excuses he gave have become our own. It’s hard to differentiate where our words end and his begin. We are speaking abuse. A foreign language. One not everyone understands because it is only taught to those in the fog.

We start with sharing something small, something concerning ourselves, something safe. We need to test the water, we need to avoid any spotlight that might be put on him, and we need to divert all attention to what people might suspect … simply because, it was the way we were trained.

“Can I borrow some money? I need to buy diapers and milk for the boys.”

“Sure, but don’t you have money?”

“I haven’t gotten my allowance yet. I promise I’ll pay you back.”

“Your allowance? Matthew keeps you on an allowance? He just bought a new phone, surely he can buy the children diapers and milk.”

“No, no … it’s okay. I’ll just ask someone else. Matthew works so hard, he deserves to buy what he wants. He never got to when he was a child, so he spends his money when he wants. Besides, it was about time I learned how to budget.”

“His money? You’re married, it’s YOUR money! He should be spending it on you and the children.”

“Never mind. It’s okay, you don’t understand. Matthew loves us, don’t judge him that way. I’ll find someone else.”

In a short conversation, so much is said but unfortunately, only a very few can read between the lines. Majority of people are left with more questions than answers, their own opinions of what took place and they ultimately conclude it to private marital problems. It barely crosses their mind that perhaps: the allowance is a form of control; the defensiveness is a reaction for one getting to close to the truth; the selfishness is a weapon to diminish self worth; the excuses are a validation of his beliefs and actions. It’s purely just an issue between husband and wife.

It’s a difficult situation. The abused has learnt how to disguise their fear and horror through the words and actions of their abuser. They no longer have the ability to speak clearly, recognize their own emotions, let alone share what they are going through. At the end of the day, it’s because they simply don’t know. There have been too many ups and downs, too many twists and turns, too many painful experiences, too many threats … just too much abuse that they are simply left in a fog.

In order to understand abuse, one must learn the words that are not being said and see the actions that are being hidden. When I think about the language of abuse, I often look back to when I was in high school, sitting quietly in English class while my teacher explained the concept of ‘reading between the lines’. She would read a poem out loud, verse by verse, and ask the room filled with students, “What do you think the author is trying to say or express?”

Most of us would go for the obvious, describe the poem as literally as possible because we didn’t understand why the author wouldn’t just say what he or she wanted to say. But then, there would be a brave soul or two that would hear something in the words that were not said. They found this meaning hidden in the obvious: through the tone, feeling and way the poem was written. Understanding poetry is not much different from understanding abuse. One has to see past the obvious, one must hear the tones, feel the feelings and see the forms of what is being said.

It takes a lot of deprogramming before the abused can state clearly everything they have gone through. It happens little by little, one piece at a time. What helps is, sharing the story, again and again. Not to relive the pain, but to gain the knowledge of where the abuser’s lies end, and where the abused’s truth begins. With understanding, patience and validation of one’s haunted story, the abused finds the path of the survivor.

So now, my question to you is, Do you speak “Abuse”?


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