#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but says something that hurts you, and says it's a joke, don't you have a sense of humor?

#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but forbids you from going to Walmart, playgrounds, the grocery store near your home

#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but gaslights and pretends he never said/did something, and that you're the crazy one

This hashtag is trending on Twitter, and I hope it helps others who were like me, and didn't realize that stuff like this is also abuse.

I remember my mom saying, "At least he doesn't hit us." It was after one of his rages. I don't remember what it was about, but I remember being very angry and upset at him because it was incredibly unfair--something he thought happened, and assumed it was because one of us disrespected him, and therefore we need our spoiled britches punished. Maybe it was after someone got hurt at the playground--a dislocated elbow--and forbade us from going to playgrounds forevermore. I don't remember.

But I remember being in my early teen years, being upset, and trying to broach the subject with my mom. She was ironing. I remember that. I think I had an inkling dad's behavior was abusive. Something wasn't quite right,  and my mom said, "at least he doesn't hit us." I think she wanted me to calm down and put it in perspective. At least he doesn't hit us. We're not abused.

No. My dad is too smart to hit us. As an educator, he was trained to watch for signs of abuse. He knows to spank us on the butt, to grab us not too hard so it causes bruises. Open hands don't leave many bruises. He freaked out when I accidentally gave myself a hickey on my arm once, sucking on it while watching cartoons when I was 7 or 8, and made me wear long itchy flannel sleeves to school until it healed, so people wouldn't think he was abusing us. He knows what people look for.

#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but he knows exactly what to say to cut you to your core

I frequently fantasized about running down the street to the rectory at our parish and knocking on the door and asking for help, for comfort, but I feared my dad would catch me before I made it there. Could I leave the house via the back door or the front door more quietly? How long would it take for him to start the car and catch me? How fast would Father open the door and see me?

And mostly--would he realize it was abuse? I realized I didn't know how to talk about it. There were no visible bruises. Everything was psychological. I wanted the priest to tell me that yes, yelling and belittling people is abusive. I wanted help. Someone to tell my dad to stop yelling at us, to stop raging, to stop finding fault with every little thing. Dirt under the table doesn't mean that my brother has to be punished. But how do you say that? And would the priest believe me? dad was respected, and we all were talked about as the model family.

Then my dad installed a security alarm, because he felt like the neighborhood was going downhill because of occasional graffiti. He sets it for "STAY" at nights--so if a door or window opened after bedtime, an earsplitting screech would begin, and the security company would call us and ask us if everything was okay. I no longer had the option of possibly running away in the night.

#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but he limits your interactions with the outer world.

I had to ask permission to go to a college function that recognized leaders and scholars on campus. It was in a town an hour away, at one of the other campuses. He wouldn't let me drive there myself, so he had my brother drive me. And on that day, he almost didn't let me go until the last minute. I was dressed, waiting for permission, as he watched TV. Then he told my brother to drive me in my car. It was there I met my future husband. I wanted to see my future husband's grandmother since she ended up in the hospital again. Mom was in the same hospital too, after a complete hysterectomy. I wanted to see her, too. but he didn't let any of us go see her. And he almost didn't let me go, because he wanted me to take care of my siblings. Then at the last minute, he decided I could go. I left ASAP before he could change his mind again. Then he was angry I left him alone with the little ones, without help.

#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but if you want to do something, he will talk about it in such a way that makes you feel like you are stupid and it is a terrible idea

I wanted to go to a Catholic high school, because I wanted a way to get away from home for a while, during the day, and activities in the evening. I needed an excuse to get out. I wanted time away from dad. But I couldn't tell him that, and I had no other reasons to go to a Catholic high school. And my dad had all the reasons to have us stay at home and homeschool--his dissertation was on the subject. He was "just talking" but I ended up in tears because I felt so stupid and idiotic and why did I come up with this idea?

#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but you  feel afraid whenever he comes home. Is he in a good mood or bad mood?

#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but won't let you get help for severe mental illnesses.

#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou but he raged so ferociously you wonder if this is the time he will actually hit you. Then maybe you can actually get help.

Maybe he doesn't hit you, but psychological abuse is abuse, too.

And I hope this hashtag will open up the conversation about covert abuse--make more people aware of it. Make people braver to leave. Make people believe you, when you get the courage to seek help.

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