One of the many myths surrounding abuse is that it can only come from those who you are close with. This is false. Abuse can come from people in power like teachers or bosses. It can come from people you see on a regular basis, like co-workers or classmates. It can basically come from just about anywhere, so it’s important to be able to spot the signs.

Bullying is a type of abuse. You don’t have to be shoved in your locker or pushed in the hallway to be a victim of bullying. Emotional bullying, which is a form of abuse, can come in many forms. Bullies can use name calling, threats, lying, and even excluding someone from a group as forms of abuse. The bully that constantly tells you that you smell bad or that you’re a freak. The girl who is always asking your friends to hang out, but refusing to let you come without ever giving a reason as to why she doesn’t want you around. The boy that’s going around lying to everyone who will listen that he slept with you and that you were horrible in bed, simply because you turned him down for a date last week. These are all forms of bullying and emotional abuse.

It can happen at work too. The co-worker who tried to get you fired last week, but then comes in with coffee for you to get on your good side. She’s just manipulating you to think that she is ok with you now. Chances are she’s just focused her claws on someone else and wants you to help. When that doesn’t work she’ll come back around to you. I’ve seen it first hand. I actually had a boss who was like this once. Each week it was a different person that she focused on. She made the department heads cry a lot. The next week she’d be on to a different department head, making his or her life miserable. When she couldn’t break that one, she’d step it up a notch. Pick at small details or dish out impossible tasks. She once yelled at me for helping another department head because I had 4 whole boxes (less than 10 minutes of work) that I hadn’t finished yet. She made the other department head do her work herself, which entailed climbing up and down the ladder several times (I had been handing her merchandise to help move things along).

I’ve had a co-worker yell at me because she felt I was lying on my time card. Actual yelling, telling me I was taking advantage of our boss. She even lied to our boss about driving behind me and knowing when I got to work. Luckily, he didn’t buy it, but stuff like that creates a hostile work environment. The worst part is, when you’re a survivor, you actually question yourself. It took a few days for me to convince myself that I was right. I even questioned my own memory, since I remembered seeing a car behind me that had a guy and no one else (she claimed she was behind me and that’s how she knew). Maybe I was wrong? Maybe that’s not what I saw? That’s the torment I put myself through. In the end I had another co-worker tell me he saw me at work when I said I was. He backed me up and that felt a million times better. Questioning yourself is never easy.

Then you get the abusers who are in a position of power. The teacher may constantly call you out in front of your classmates, “don’t be like Jimmy, he’s always failing.” One of the biggest forms of abuse, doesn’t even look like abuse. Jokes. Jokes can often times be mean and hurtful, and not really jokes at all. “Ha ha Jenny, you finally found something other than black in your closet. Did you finally forgive the rainbow for hurting you?” This is effective as abuse because it may make the other students laugh. by laughing, they are giving the abuser more power and can make it easier for him or her to say, “hey lighten up, it’s just a joke.”

As I stated before, bosses can do this too. In my situation it was a boss that was the bully. She’d give me 4 hours worth of work an hour before I was scheduled to go home and then remind me that I had to clock out on time because we weren’t allowed to have overtime. I went from one boss who had given me a merit raise for my outstanding performance to this boss who wrote me up for not doing my job properly (same exact job).

These are just a few examples of how abuse can come from someone you aren’t intimate with in any way, someone you aren’t even social with. Anyone you interact with on a regular basis can be manipulative or abusive toward you. Many times they will single someone out so that others don’t see it. Then, when you try to speak up, your co-workers or classmates (or whoever you are around) won’t believe you. They’ll think you’re imagining it or just taking that person that wrong way. That’s a favorite of abusers. The old “you’re misunderstanding me.” or “you’re taking it the wrong way, that’s not what I meant.”

Be careful out there folks, it’s a big scary world out there. Know the signs and if you find yourself in a toxic or abusive situation, know who you can turn to for help.

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