Dear Straight Talk: I grew up with my stepfather regularly knocking my mother around when he was drunk and being emotionally abusive to both her and me. She would never stand up to him or leave him and I hated both of them for participating in this sickness. In college, I joined a group dedicated to ending rape and abuse, but I find myself emotionally abusive to women who try to get close to me, especially when I drink. I am ashamed to talk to my friends about this. Please help. — Anonymous, San Francisco
Editor's Note: Ever noticed how much you learn when you blow an answer on a test? You never forget that concept again. Or when you screw up at work? That becomes the thing you lie awake at night figuring out how to master. When we get A’s or never make mistakes, our learning is shallower and less dedicated than when we fail at something.
Failure is the big teacher, not success. This is what makes me excited about this letter from “Anonymous.” He admits a failure that most people won’t admit.
Statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence indicate that one in four U.S. women experiences domestic violence in her lifetime. Each year, 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner. While some domestic abuse targets males, 85 percent of victims are women — in fact, it is the single largest killer of women. This epidemic crosses generations and stays alive like a disease. Witnessing it as a child is the biggest factor in repeating the pattern as an adult, thus infecting one’s own children.
While these NCADV statistics document physical abuse, the far-reaching ACE test and study demonstrates that emotional abuse, alone, without the physical component, can deliver equally damaging trauma to its victims — which then also repeats and infects the next generation.
How are you failing regarding domestic abuse? Are you co-dependent, as Ashley was brave enough to admit? Do you harm your partner to feel superior, as Justin caught himself doing? Is “lashing out” a reaction to past emotional pain as Katelyn shares? Or are you repeating a childhood pattern, like “Anonymous”?
We’re all damaged and affected by this disease. May today’s column lift the shutters on blame, shame, and denial. I invite you to admit your involvement and failings and start actively working on personal healing and positive change. It’s our biggest hope for ending this epidemic and creating a just and joyful world. —Lauren
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