“Overcoming abuse doesn’t just happen. It takes positive steps everyday. Let today be the day you start to move forward.”
So, the other day, I went grocery shopping for myself, along with a list of 19 items (it was really 25) to pick up for my mother. To say that it was an interesting time at the store would have been the understatement of the year.
It was also the one and only day since I started wearing hearing aids again that I had to take them off and stuff them in my coat pocket for the time being.
But I disgress.
As I just mentioned, it was just another normal shopping trip, just like any other day. My one and only constant companion, Anxiety, was ever present as he always is on days like this. Why, I don’t know, but I suppose that’s just how it is.
I was walking down the aisle when around the corner came a young woman with five screaming, hollering kids, all climbing and clamoring around the shopping cart. It was like a scene out of Kindergarten Cop, where Arnold was literally being climbed over by a million kids.
That was when I removed my hearing aids. It was just that loud!
Of course, my friend Anxiety played a brief visit. As the poor girl walked down the aisle, trying to control her flock, my blood pressure spiked up through the roof. But then, I noticed something different about her. I stared, and I continued to stare, (and thankfully she never noticed) at her face. Suddenly a voice whispered next to me.
“Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”, Anxiety whispered, as he stood next to me, fidgeting with his clothing. Luckily, I was the only one who could see him, or else I might have some explaining to do to certain people.
“Umm, yeah. Is that a bruise?”, I replied back.
“More like a black eye. Quite a shiner.”
I quietly walked past the rowdy family and took one last look at her ‘shiner’ as Anxiety so eloquently put it. It looked pretty nasty from where I was standing, and at that precise moment, she looked up. Her eyes widened. And she quickly looked away, as if she was hiding her shame.
“You don’t suppose someone hit her?” Anxiety whispered again, his high pitched voice going up another octave higher.
“Maybe.” I said noncommittally.
“I think we should say something!”, he replied back.
“No, leave it be.”, I muttered back.
“Fine.”, he huffed and disappeared once again as I fought down the rising panic from the loud noises behind me. My mind quickly went to a few conversations I had in the past; conversations that I have since put aside and ignored.
It’s a topic that I have long considered writing about, but has been put aside for other topics that are a little easier to tackle, and quite frankly, far less triggering for some readers.
I am thankful for the fact that I did not encounter any familial forms of abuse. My family bonds are strong. However…
As I think back, I do recall one sole incident of a form of abuse that I rather much forget. I would also have to say that I may have suffered some form of mental abuse during my formative years, but I can safely say that it was not done willfully on purpose. Rather, it was a lack of misunderstanding, on my part and theirs, as well as the fact that I allowed it to happen.
Because I thought it was a normal thing.
That’s just how strongly Abuse is ingrained in our society. Thinking that it’s okay to be abused in any way, shape or form. Thinking that it’s normal to be treated differently than you wanted to be treated.
Abuse is NOT OKAY.
Abuse is NOT NORMAL.
You deserve to be treated as the human being that you are.
There are so many websites out there, so many self-help books, so many talks on violence and abuse that it’s a simple matter of finding the specific help you need to fight your inner demons. I would merely be repeating everything we can find on the wonderful world of the internet here, so instead, I will share with you a very personal experience and what I have learned from that incident.
I was raised by loving parents. A loving family. They taught me everything a child should learn; Love, respect, kindness, etc etc etc. My mother, bless her heart, raised me not to be a child who had a profound hearing loss, to be shackled by my own disability, but to be raised as a child who had a very “normal” childhood. My days were filled with baseball, football, video games, Toys ‘R Us, Hide and Seek, Capture the Flag, etc with children of my own age. Who had normal upbringings, who didn’t suffer from any pronounced disability.
She didn’t wanted her son to have a normal life as a child growing up, and she succeeded. But against her better wishes, I started working at 16 at a local nursing home, and I learned different skills working in a kitchen. For the first few years there, I worked part-time, and I honestly enjoyed my job.
What I didn’t enjoy was the ignorance and the misunderstanding I encountered from my co-workers. As a child (and then an adult) with a profound hearing loss, I went up against many barriers in society. Because of my mother, I forged ahead to have a somewhat normal life living with a disability. I graduated from public school without the use of sign language, with the aid of a Tellex, hearing aids provided by the school board. I graduated with honors, and I did very well for myself in school.
I went to a place of work that most likely never once had an employee with a significant hearing loss. I worked with people who probably never once worked with a co-worker with a significant disability. I was new. I was different. I wasn’t…normal?
It certainly wasn’t what I would call a normal experience for me. After I soon started working full time there, I started dating a woman I worked with (and with whom I will always regret not sticking with her) and I also worked with a married couple.
Fast forward on the story. One day, I walked into the freezer to get a box of ice cream. As I was gathering the boxes of ice cream for dessert for the lunch meal, the freezer door behind me was shut quickly. I thought to myself, someone just shut the door to keep the food from getting too warm in the freezer, or something. I didn’t think nothing of it.
However, as I went to open the door, the door would not budge. I thought, damn, it’s stuck. So I tried to open it again. It wouldn’t budge. I started to panic, and I slammed the door open as hard as I could. It moved, but something was blocking the door from opening. I panicked even more, and I tried to open the door to no avail. Finally, the door opened by itself, and a co-worker, whose name I shall not mention now since he’s passed away, laughingly opened the door to let me out.
I was scared out of my wits. I was mortified. Everyone in the kitchen thought it was a grand practical joke. Everyone thought, Oh, haha, it was so funny. But it really wasn’t funny at all.
A lot of things happened afterwards. I knew back then, and I know now, that this would not have happened to anyone else. It only happened to me, and only me. Why it really happened, I truly don’t know, but I believe that because of who I am, they thought they could get away with it.
He didn’t. He got fired, and I suffered a nervous breakdown, severe depression, and was suicidal twice. Thankfully, I never followed through because of my family. The next few months, maybe even years, were really rough on me, as I was portrayed as the guy who allowed himself to be shut in a freezer; as the guy who got this popular co-worker fired, and a subject of derision.
Because my dad taught me how to be strong, or tried at least, he taught me to fight through things, and be stubborn. Be obstinate. That, coupled with the thought that I had nowhere else to go, made me stick at this job for a number of years after the incident, and I can safely say that staying there taught me so much of what I needed to know before I had started working there.
What I had just encountered, unbeknownst to me at the time, was a classic form of Abuse. I didn’t know it was abuse at the time, but I do now. And it also made me realize a few things to boot.
1.) If I was the man I am today back then, I wouldn’t have allowed it to happen. I wouldn’t have put up with that kind of shit. Things would have been much, much different, and I would have garnered respect, not derision. But it starts with R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Respect yourself.
2.) I cannot change what has happened in the past, but I can change how it would affect me in the future. Although it has taken me a long, long time to get to this point in my life. I have and did learn from what I have experienced in my life, both positive and negative. Because I wanted to be treated fairly and not negatively, I have treated others how I want to be treated. Respect others.
3.) I did not repeat the mistakes of others. I did not allow this incident to change who I am, and what I am. I didn’t allow it to consume me full of hate and anger; rage and revenge. I did not use that negative experience and channeled that onto someone else. I was not abusive to other people. Break the cycle of abuse.
As I mentioned before, there are hundreds of ways to get help with abuse. But as my blog focuses on Mental Health Awareness, I think it’s important to realize that you can make the changes you need by not repeating the cycle of abuse and project it onto others.
We can’t fix others. But we can fix ourselves. And we can do that by not repeating the same mistakes other people make.
There are ten different forms of abuse; some are obvious, some not so much. They are :
- Physical abuse
- Assault, hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, hair-pulling, biting, pushing
- Rough handling
- Scalding or burning
- Physical punishments
- Inappropriate or unlawful use of restraints
- Making someone purposely uncomfortable
- Involuntary isolation or confinement
- Misuse of medication
- Forcible feeding or withholding food
- Unauthorized restraint, restricting movement
- Domestic violence
- These are the types of abusive behaviors most often associated with being at home (Domestic Abuse)
- Sexual abuse
- Rape, attempted rape or sexual assault
- Inappropriate touch anywhere
- Non-consensual masturbation of either or both persons
- Non-consensual sexual penetration or attempted penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth
- Any sexual activity that the person lacks the capacity to consent to
- Inappropriate looking, sexual teasing or innuendo or sexual harassment
- Sexual photography or forced use of pornography or witnessing of sexual acts
- Indecent exposure
- Psychological or emotional abuse
- Enforced social isolation – preventing someone accessing services, educational and social opportunities and seeing friends
- Removing mobility or communication aids or intentionally leaving someone unattended when they need assistance
- Preventing someone from meeting their religious and cultural needs
- Preventing the expression of choice and opinion
- Failure to respect privacy
- Preventing stimulation, meaningful occupation or activities
- Intimidation, coercion, harassment, use of threats, humiliation, bullying, swearing or verbal abuse
- Addressing a person in a patronising or infantilising way
- Threats of harm or abandonment
- Cyber bullying
- Financial or material abuse
- Theft of money or possessions
- Fraud, scamming
- Preventing a person from accessing their own money, benefits or assets
- Employees taking a loan from a person using the service
- Undue pressure, duress, threat or undue influence put on the person in connection with loans, wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions
- Arranging less care than is needed to save money to maximise inheritance
- Denying assistance to manage/monitor financial affairs
- Denying assistance to access benefits
- Misuse of personal allowance in a care home
- Misuse of benefits or direct payments in a family home
- Someone moving into a person’s home and living rent free without agreement or under duress
- False representation, using another person’s bank account, cards or documents
- Exploitation of a person’s money or assets, e.g. unauthorised use of a car
- Misuse of a power of attorney, deputy, appointeeship or other legal authority
- Rogue trading – e.g. unnecessary or overpriced property repairs and failure to carry out agreed repairs or poor workmanship
- Modern slavery
- Human trafficking
- Forced labour
- Domestic servitude
- Sexual exploitation, such as escort work, prostitution and pornography
- Debt bondage – being forced to work to pay off debts that realistically they never will be able to
- Discriminatory abuse
- Unequal treatment based on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex or sexual orientation
- Verbal abuse, derogatory remarks or inappropriate use of language related to a protected characteristic
- Denying access to communication aids, not allowing access to an interpreter, signer or lip-reader
- Harassment or deliberate exclusion on the grounds of a protected characteristic
- Denying basic rights to healthcare, education, employment and criminal justice relating to a protected characteristic
- Substandard service provision relating to a protected characteristic
- Organizational or institutional abuse
- Discouraging visits or the involvement of relatives or friends
- Run-down or overcrowded establishment
- Authoritarian management or rigid regimes
- Lack of leadership and supervision
- Insufficient staff or high turnover resulting in poor quality care
- Abusive and disrespectful attitudes towards people using the service
- Inappropriate use of restraints
- Lack of respect for dignity and privacy
- Failure to manage residents with abusive behaviour
- Not providing adequate food and drink, or assistance with eating
- Not offering choice or promoting independence
- Misuse of medication
- Failure to provide care with dentures, spectacles or hearing aids
- Not taking account of individuals’ cultural, religious or ethnic needs
- Failure to respond to abuse appropriately
- Interference with personal correspondence or communication
- Failure to respond to complaints
- Neglect and acts of omission
- Failure to provide or allow access to food, shelter, clothing, heating, stimulation and activity, personal or medical care
- Providing care in a way that the person dislikes
- Failure to administer medication as prescribed
- Refusal of access to visitors
- Not taking account of individuals’ cultural, religious or ethnic needs
- Not taking account of educational, social and recreational needs
- Ignoring or isolating the person
- Preventing the person from making their own decisions
- Preventing access to glasses, hearing aids, dentures, etc.
- Failure to ensure privacy and dignity
- Lack of self-care to an extent that it threatens personal health and safety
- Neglecting to care for one’s personal hygiene, health or surroundings
- Inability to avoid self-harm
- Failure to seek help or access services to meet health and social care needs
- Inability or unwillingness to manage one’s personal affairs
All this, and much more, can be found at https://www.scie.org.uk/safeguarding/adults/introduction/types-and-indicators-of-abuse#physical