I came up with my own list of myths that people believe about abuse and abuse survivors.  The more I write about the things I've gone through in my own life and the more I write poetry which is my way of healing, the more I begin to see that society really is in the dark about what goes on in the lives of those who have been abused.  I have heard many different assumptions that are not even true.  So I wanted to take the time to make up a list and try to dispel some of these myths I've heard about.  Maybe this way, those who have not been abused will understand more about what we abuse survivors go through.

Myth #1 Since the abuse happened long ago, survivors should be able to just forget about it for good and not have memories.

Well, it doesn't matter how long ago the abuse happened.  Abuse leaves behind memories that stick with us for a lifetime.  It's not something that we can just block out whenever we want to and completely forget about the traumatic events we went through in our lives.  We faced some pretty dark times and endured so much pain.  It's not that we want to remember what we went through and remember those horrible times, but those memories do replay themselves because it's a part of our past which makes up our history.  The best way to block out memories or not think about them as much is to hold onto the good memories we have in our lives and focus on those.

Myth #2 Emotional abuse is the worst kind of abuse there is.

I know that words are very powerful and can hurt someone, leaving wounds.  However, when it comes to the different types of abuse, you cannot compare them.  All forms of abuse have damaging after effects.  Everyone who has gone through abuse, whatever type it may be, feels pain from it.   I have been through physical, psychological, and emotional abuse in my life and I can tell you that they all leave damaging after effects.  If someone has only been through one type of abuse, then how can they possibly say that it is worse than another form of abuse when they haven't gone through it?  The forms of abuse are not comparable.  Abuse is abuse and it all brings pain with it.

Myth #3  Women who have been abused before in relationships or their childhood tend to go out looking to enter relationships with abusive men on purpose.

This one I have a problem with.  Women who have gone through domestic violence or have been abused in their childhoods do not go out looking for abusive relationships intentionally.   Although we know the signs to look for in a person, that does not mean that the signs are there where we can see them right away.  Not all abusers show their true colors right away.  Most of the time, they put up a front and hide that side that they have.  They won't show their abusive traits right away because that would drive the person away and they want to gain the person's trust first.  Why would women want to enter an abusive relationship on purpose when they know what it's like to go through abuse and how much it hurts?  We all want to be loved and cherished.  It's not like we women survivors go out saying, hmm, is this guy abusive because if so I would love to enter a relationship where I get beat all the time and feel pain all the time.   If anything, we women who have been in abusive relationships or been abused in our childhoods are more cautious when it comes to dating again.  I know I am.  

Myth #4 Since childhood is only a small portion of our lives, those who went through child abuse should be over it completely when they reach adulthood.

Okay childhood sets the way for our adulthood.  It's the stepping stone to our adulthood.  What happens in our childhood does affect us.   I think childhood is very important and not only a small portion of our lives because no portion of our lives is considered to be small.  Child abuse casts a shadow of a lifetime and even when we become adults, we don't forget what we went through as kids.  We were forced to grow up faster than other kids so if anything, we were the ones who did not get to enjoy being a kid and we're the ones who didn't have a happy childhood.  Even now as an adult, I still have flashbacks of things I suffered as a kid.  We're all healing from our past but that doesn't mean that when we are adults, we just get over what we went through as kids.  Sometimes, we carry things into our adulthoods that took place in our childhood.  So no, even though we went through abuse as kids does not mean we are going to be completely over it by the time we reach adulthood.

Myth #5  Survivors who have been through more abuse and pain in their lives have a more important story to tell.

This is not true.  Every story deserves to be told and every voice deserves to be heard.  We all have stories to tell and just because someone else may have gone through more than we have, the fact remains that every story is important.  Just like you can't compare the forms of abuse, you cannot compare survivor stories.  We all come from different backgrounds and not one of us has gone through exactly the same thing someone else has.  I know it's easy for survivors to compare their stories and think, well, this person had it so much worse than I did so my story is definitely not as important.  There are people who have had it worse than me but that doesn't keep me from sharing my story with others.  No matter where you have been in your life or what you have gone through, your story does matter.  We as survivors need to quit comparing stories and realize that when we share our stories with each other, we can actually learn from one another.  This is not a competition and should not be treated as one.  The more we sit there and compare stories, the more time we waste when we could be out there helping to save those who are still trapped in silence and are having their lives shattered apart by abuse going on.   When you share your story with someone else, you never know whose life you are making a difference in and whose heart you are touching with your story.  You could help someone by telling your story without even knowing it.  So never think that your story is less important than someone else's.   Survivors have gone through different situations and so the pain that we feel is not the same at all.  It all effected us in different ways and when we were suffering abuse, we were not thinking at the time who had it worse than us since for us, we were only focused on the pain we were going through.

Myth #6 Older survivors know more than younger survivors and have more wisdom.

No age has nothing to do with it!  I am so tired of some of these older survivors thinking they know everything and have all the answers to everything just because they have lived longer.  I have met some very smart, intelligent young survivors who act more mature than some of the older ones.  Yes, older survivors have lived longer, but that doesn't mean they have the answers to everything.   The young people who have gone through abuse have been greatly affected by it too.  Again, it all comes down to we all learn from each other no matter what our age is.  Leaders come in different ages.  But what makes a great leader is their character.  It's not really about age as much as it is about maturity.  No one holds all the answers to everything.  Older survivors can set the way for younger survivors but it doesn't help when people act superior.  Wisdom has no age to it; it can be found in any age.  A lot of people say that for 23, I tend to be wise beyond my years.   So see, if we seek it, wisdom can come to us at any age, regardless of how long we've been around, and also, you can be any age to make a difference in this world.  We should not act like we are better than others because of how long we have lived or how much we have gone through.  Older survivors can help the younger survivors so that they can lead the next generation.  If we all just work together, then things fall into place.  It's teamwork and survivors should not let differences in age divide them from carrying out the work that needs to be done in helping other victims and survivors.

Myth #7 Those who self inflict never get over it and don't understand why they do it.

I was a self inflictor for nearly 11 years.  I knew why I did it.  In fact, most people I have talked to who have self inflicted say that they do know why they do it.   For me, it was to rid myself of the emotional pain I felt.  I wanted to feel physical pain to keep my mind off the emotional pain.  So some self inflictors do understand why they do it.  As far as not ever getting over it, it took me years to overcome it and yes I admit, I still have urges sometimes to self inflict.  For those who self inflict and are trying to overcome it and break the habit, know that habits are hard to break and it takes a lot of work.  You are not a bad person if you slip up.  When I started to break my self infliction habit, I had those times where I did slip up.  I would go for months or days without doing it and then find myself backsliding and cutting again.  It takes a lot of hard work and effort to break the habit but it is possible.   If alcoholics can break their drinking habit and stop getting drunk all the time and drug addicts can stop taking drugs and get cleaned up, then I know that self inflictors are able to stop cutting.  It just takes a lot of hard work and determination is all.

Myth #8 Abuse only affects the one going through it and no one else.

When we think of abuse, we think of only the victim who is going through it at the time and how much it hurts them.  Yes, the victim is the one who is feeling the pain directly and is left with the damaging after effects and emotional scars left behind.  However, for those who know someone who has been abused, it does affect them too.  My brother didn't suffer physical abuse when we were growing up, but when he witnessed the way my dad treated me and my mom all the time, it did affect him.  It hurt him to see my father put us through that.  When we care about someone and love them, it always hurts us to think about the pain they suffered and it hurts us to see them go through it, too.  So even though you may not have been abused, you felt the pain when you heard about it or watched the person you love and care about go through it.  So abuse not only affects the victim, but it affects others involved in the victim's and survivor's life.   But it does help to be there for the person and let them know you understand and listen to them when they come to you to talk about what they went through.  Survivors get judged a lot so it's good for them to know there are those who won't judge them and will listen to them when they need to release those feelings.  Encourage them as they heal; don't make fun of them or question their stories.  Encourage them to keep talking about it.

Myth #9 When survivors write poetry or write blogs about their personal life and the experiences they went through, it means that they have not forgiven those who hurt them.

This is one that people love to assume about me when I write poetry since my poems are based on what I went through in my past.  They love to write me after reading my work making remarks such as "maybe one day you will learn to forgive, or maybe one day you will fully forgive those who hurt you."  While everyone may not forgive their abusers, it doesn't mean that those who write poetry and blogs about their experiences haven't forgiven them.  I have forgiven my abusers.  I don't harbor hate and bitterness in my heart towards them.  If I did, I wouldn't be able to do the work that I do in reaching out to victims and survivors.  I think forgiveness like healing is something that comes in your own time.  You can't rush it.  You have to do it when you are ready to do so.  Writing is therapy for survivors and it helps to release those locked up emotions and feelings that have been locked away.  Our writing doesn't necessarily say whether or not we have forgiven our abusers and as far as forgiving, well, no one can force anyone to forgive someone else; that is their own personal choice that they must make for themselves.

Myth #10  Counseling does not help survivors at all.

I know that some people are against counseling.  But every survivor has a different method for healing.  What works for some may not work for others.  When it comes to healing, we must find our own way to heal in our lives and see what works best for us.  I have never really been to counseling because I was forced to see psychologists when I was a kid due to my parents telling me everything was my fault and that I was a bad kid.  I prefer to talk to friends or write about what I am feeling.  I have heard different stories about counseling from my survivor friends.  For some it has helped them, and for others it hasn't.  I think that counseling really depends on the person.  I would never discourage someone from seeking counseling because I think that it helps to have a neutral person to talk to, someone who won't judge you on what you have gone through but will just listen.   I think it also depends on finding the right counselor as well and finding one that you are comfortable with.   Just because counseling is not the method I use in my journey of healing doesn't mean that I am against it.

Myth #11  Those who were abused did something to deserve it.

No one deserves to go through abuse.  I have been told before that I must have done something to deserve the abuse I went through from my father.   Our abusers take their anger out on us because they never got help for issues they had in their own lives.  My father had issues in his past that he never received help for and I don't think he ever acknowledged them either.  For him it was easier to blame me and take his anger out on me.  I know it was never my fault though and that I did nothing wrong.  Those who get abused do not ask for it and do not do anything to deserve it.  

Myth #12 It's better to just walk away and not intervene when seeing someone being abused or knowing someone who is being abused.

Some people don't want to get involved because they think it is not their place.  However, if you know or see someone who is being abused, the best thing to do is to intervene and get them help.  Scope the situation out first to see how dangerous it is and then find the right way to get help for the person which won't endanger their life.  Some situations you cannot just rush into or it could endanger the person's life.  So you have to be smart about how to deal with it and the proper way to get help.  I once watched an episode of Oprah where this lady was talking about the abuse her husband put her through.  She told her boss, but her boss had to be very careful about getting the lady help since the husband beat his wife when he found out his wife had gone to the boss.  The boss gave the woman tips and told her to document everything and she as well documented everything so that when the time was right, they could go to the police and turn all of it over.  Don't walk away though because a person's life may depend on you and you getting them help.  It is your business and your place to get help for someone you know who is getting abused.  If you turn your back on them, then they will continue to be imprisoned by the nightmares and silence.  The best thing you can do is intervene because by intervening and seeking help for them, you can end up saving their life.

There are many more myths to abuse but this is just a start.  These are the most common ones I hear so I wanted to write them down and share them with others.  I don't expect people to agree with me on any of them as these are just based on my opinions and things I have heard and seen.  

Copyright 2008 Jenna Kandyce Linch