Types of Abuse

Abuse comes in many forms. There are different kinds of abusers who abuse in different ways.

Physical Abuse
Of course, physical abuse is the most well known and talked about. Abuse generally doesn’t start here though, it builds up in small ways until it escalates to physical. Once it gets to this point, there is usually years of more subtle types of abuse that lead up to it.

Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is getting a lot more talk than it used to. Emotional abuse is when the abuser manipulates the person experiencing abuse to feel a certain way in order to get a certain response from her.

Mental Abuse
Abusers will generally do anything to keep the woman in his life. This includes cutting her down verbally and telling her how worthless she is or how no one else would ever want her. The abuser uses this to guarantee his partner will stay with him.

Sexual Abuse
Even in a long term relationship, a healthy sex life involves both partners being willing participants. Sex is intended to build the relationship. When sex is good, it’s a 10% focus in the relationship. When there are sexual problems, sex is 90% of the focus.
You should never be forced to do something you don’t want to do when it comes to sex.

Spiritual Abuse
You should be able to experience the spiritual relationship you choose to pursue. An abuser making you believe one way or another or do one thing or another is not okay. You choose the spiritual path you wish to follow. Sometimes abusers will begin the relationship following the same spiritual path and once the relationship is established they slowly move away from that path and expect you to follow. Or even visa versa. Perhaps your spiritual path begins to change and your abuser does all he can to keep you from that path.

Financial Abuse
Money is a big experience for people right now. We need money for everything. To buy food and water, clothes and shelter, we need money to survive. Often abusers will restrict what his partner is allowed to spend. He won’t let her have a job or if she does, he monitors the money very closely, she is given an ‘allowance’ and spending any money beyond that leads to punishment of some kind.

Isolation
This is a tactic most abusers use. They keep their partner away from family, friends and even co-workers. The abuser will do all he can to keep his partner away from any support system because he knows if she becomes independent that she will most likely leave him.

Ghost
Abusers will do whatever they can to make their partner rely on them. Sometimes this includes ignoring his partner, pretending like she isn’t there or doesn’t exist. This often makes the woman more attentive to her abuser. And once again the abuser gets his way.

Be aware of what’s going on in your relationship. Look for these types of abuse.

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Love Yourself Because Someone Has To

So you made it. You left. You’ve been through the frightening experience of leaving your abuser and starting your own life. Now what? Here it is, step one to healing from abuse: love yourself. It may sound simple, but for someone who has spent years dedicating their life to someone else as a survival mechanism, it can be hard to know how.

Do Something For Yourself
Find a babysitter. Get some alone time. Buy yourself a cup of coffee or a bouquet of flowers. Take a bath with Epsom salts and lavender oil. Go for a walk. Pray. Write. Write your story, write your feelings, write it all, it’s very healing. It’s not selfish. It’s good for you. It’s good for your heart and your soul. Plus you’ll be a better mom as you cut down on stress and anxiety and you’ll be better prepared for all life throws at you.

Write and Recite Your Own Affirmations
Affirmations are powerful. The words you say to yourself are powerful. Chances are you just spent years being told who and what you are by someone else (and it probably wasn’t great). It’s your turn to tell yourself who and what you are. Don’t know how? Here’s where you start: Grab a peice of paper. Draw a line down the middle. On one side, write down your top ten negative thoughts. That’s right I said negative! Here’s where your work really begins. On the other side, write down the opposite of each negative plus one. So it’ll look like this: I am so stupid = I am smart and I am beautiful. Viola. Instant personal affirmation. Write down all ten and then say them every morning and night. I even recorded myself saying them and listen to them as I drive to work in the morning or drift off to sleep at night. Watch this video from the movie What the Bleep Do We Know. It gives great insight into the power of our words.

Take Yourself out on a Date
That’s right. You heard me. Go out to eat by yourself. Go to a movie by yourself. (I totally watched Disney’s Tangled in a theater filled with families by myself). Get to know yourself again. Who you are. Who you are not. What you like and don’t like. Chances are you spent so long trying to please your abuser that you don’t know who you are any more. I would even suggest waiting to date for at least a year while you get to know you. I know the thought may kind of suck and all you want is to feel what it feels to be loved in a healthy relationship. It’s possible. I promise. I know because I waited even longer to start dating again.

Take the time learn to love yourself and then you will be ready to teach and allow a man how to love you. Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks. Do what’s right for you.

Changing the Language of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Did you know 7% of your message is conveyed through words? That’s a tiny sliver. 38% is through tone and the other 55% is through body language. Since only 7% of your message is conveyed through words, do you think it’s important to be aware of the words you speak?

Choosing the right words when you speak is essential to create the environment and the world you want to experience.

A study has shown that when we think thoughts to ourself, they are more powerful when we think our own name, rather than thinking the pronoun ‘I’. Seriously. Find a time when you have thought to yourself using your name or the word you. I realized I naturally did this whenever I needed a little encouragement. I would think to myself Brandy, it’s okay baby girl, you got this. And I would instantly calm down and be able to easily accomplish the task at hand.

There are key words we can use to encourage other people to do things. Any idea what those key words are? Try ‘please’ ‘thank you’ ‘because’ and even nicknames or pet names for family and friends. These words soften a person’s natural defenses and help them to feel more open and loved. Try it sometime.

For me, working with domestic violence, the word I work to avoid the most, is the word ‘victim’, as long as we keep using that word when referring to these women, we will continue to send them the message that there was nothing they could do and that they were helpless.

Now while I know at times these women are physically unable to help themselves, a man is SO much stronger than a woman, I believe in giving the woman the power of thought that she is not a victim, that she can and will break free and survive. The term I prefer to use (even though I know it’s a bit longer) is ‘person who is experiencing abuse’. The abuse you’re facing does not define you. That is not all that you are and it is not who you are.

You are strong, beautiful, sexy and capable. You know what is best for yourself and you are making the choices that are best for you and your children. Every thing will be okay.

Find What You Want

I have lived in Utah for 19 years. I still don’t know all the roads and how to get places. I rely on GPS like so many other people do. Sometimes, GPS gets me where I’m going exactly how I expected it to, in exactly the way I expect it to, sometimes GPS takes me down strange roads I have never been, it takes me to my destination in ways I never would have chosen myself. In those moments when everything around me looks unfamiliar and I don’t know where I am, when everything in my mind tells me things don’t add up, and I’m going the wrong way, that I should turn around and start over again on my own, I remind myself that my GPS has this, my GPS has access to maps and satellites and whatever else makes a GPS work (I don’t know all the specifics) things that I don’t have access to, and I remind myself I can trust it. And so I do, and I always end up where I want to be and the quickest route to get there.

Life is a series of experiences and each experience has its own energy, it’s own essence. Some of them are difficult, painful, sorrow filled, deep, dark, heavy, the lowest of lows. Others are easy, happy, joy filled, beautiful, bright, light, the highest of highs. And the rest of the experiences liter the spaces in between.I know them. I know them all. You know them. You know them all. We have experienced them, we have lived them, we are all linked. You are not alone. You are not the only person out there in this world feeling your feelings and experiencing your experiences.

The trick is, sometimes we don’t have a good connection to that internal guidance system. Much like a GPS system on your phone won’t update or track where you are if you do not have a good connection, if we do not have a good connection to our higher power, the universe, our conscious, (whatever you choose to call it – go with what resonates for you), then we are unable to connect with up to date accurate information about where we should go.

Having a weak connection does not mean we should give up. It means we need to strengthen that signal and boost that connection. Check out the list below for some great ways to strengthen that connection and find where it is you want to go, and what it is you want to do.

  • Meditation (any Meditation will do).
  • Love yourself (seriously, look at yourself in the mirror and say I love you).
  • Energy healing (look into it, Chakra Healing, Reiki, Emotional Freedom Technique, Rapid Eye Technology, etc)
  • Exercise (yoga, aerobics, and/or strength training – connect with your body)
  • Praying (whatever it is you do to talk to your higher power, do it. be candid express all your feelings, dreams, and fears, ask for what you want and expect it).
  • Cry (crying is the body’s way of cleansing internally, let the tears flow).

Life is so much sweeter when we let it go. When we trust in the processes to bring us what we want. When we go on the journey and allow our internal GPS, the universe and our higher power to guide us. We will make it to our destination, after all we put our coordinates in before we started this journey, before we began this life we decided what lessons we wanted to learn here. Trust that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Find the lesson and the silver lining in everything and keep on moving forward.

5 Things You Can Do to Help Someone in a Domestic Violence Relationship

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I get message after message from family members and friends of people who are experiencing abuse, wondering what they can do for their loved one. (I know men and women experience abuse, and I also believe in choosing a different word than victim to label the person who is experiencing abuse, therefore, for this post, I will use ‘she’ to refer to the person experiencing abuse).

Being the concerned friend or family member who sits on the sidelines and watches is a tough place to be. I get it, you want to help, you want to swoop in, you want her pain to end, you want your friend or sister or daughter back.

The crazy thing is, the more you step in and try to help, the worse things actually can become for her.

Here are some things you actually can do to help.

1. Prepare
Prepare yourself before you talk to her. Maybe to some reading, I highly suggest Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft. It will help you understand abusers, and those who experience abuse and why the abuse happens.

Pray. Pray for her. Pray for her kids. Pray for her abuser and pray for you. I know there is power in prayers and I have seen miracles happen from bold prayers with trust in God and believing that He wants what is best for each of us.

I also have found a lot of power in letting go of your attachment to the outcome. I know you want the best for her, but coming in with too much passion will often times turn her off before you even begin. A great resource I have found to help in letting go, is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) surrogate tapping. Seriously it’s like magic.

2. Give Her Information
Often her abuser watches everything she does, checks her phone, texts, Facebook account, email, browser history, or doesn’t even allow her to have any of those things. Find out where her local shelter is, give her their number and address.

Make sure you also reassure her that shelters and police officers are her friends. She can stay in a shelter or safe house and truly be safe from him. He’s not allowed in. There are other people there including legal advocates who will help her file custody papers, divorce papers or restraining orders. She can kick him out of the family home and she can have police officers be present in the home while he moves his things out.

Here is the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) They are trained well and perfect for her to talk to. I know I called them before I left.

3. Talk to Her
Take her out to lunch. Be there for her. Start with small talk, ask about her kids, her life, just don’t push or pry. Trust that as you give her support and show her trust, she will open up to you when she is ready. Here’s a great tip, if the conversation starts to go deep, and she begins avoiding eye contact and looking down, be patient with her, be there for her, eyes looking down is a body language tip that she is searching down deep for answers and deciding whether or not she can trust you with what to her is her deepest darkest secret. Allow her this time. Let her look down. And most importantly, give her all your attention, don’t look away from her, don’t check a text, don’t sigh or move. Wait. Be still. And when she looks at you again, she will be more likely to trust you and open up.

4. Listen
When she does open up, just listen. Just hear what she’s telling you. It’s not your job to fix things or tell her what to do. She needs to make that choice for herself. She may be looking for someone to tell her what to do (after all she’s spent so much of her relationship being told just that) and it won’t work if someone else makes this choice for her. It will most likely be hard for her, but I promise making this choice will be the best thing for her. Leaving or staying has to be her choice.

5. Wait
This one might be the hardest for you, and it is also the most crucial. We have all heard, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. Same concept applies here. You can give her all the information and love and support she could need and still she’ll stay.

I promise leaving is much more complicated than you may think. Especially if there are kids involved. She may be afraid he will get custody of the kids or even keep her from seeing the kids. She will be scared and unsure. In fact the risk of violence dramatically increases when she leaves.

This is not the time for you to take matters into your own hands and tell her abuser to ‘shape up’ or stop treating her a certain way. Most likely he will take it out on her and punish her for it somehow.

Just let things flow and allow them to happen. Be ready to be there for her. She’ll need you whether she leaves or not to love her, support her and believe in her.

Why not?

People Who Experience Abuse
1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults. Every year, 1 in 3 women who is a victim of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner experiencing domestic violence. Why not start seeing it?

Children and Abuse
Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence also suffer abuse or neglect at high rates, are more likely to have health problems, including becoming sick more often, having frequent headaches or stomachaches, and being more tired and lethargic and children are more likely to intervene when they witness severe violence against a parent – which can place a child at great risk for injury or even death. Why not hear about it?

How Society is Affected
Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families. Survivors of domestic violence face high rates of depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, flashbacks, and other emotional distress.
Without help, girls who witness domestic violence are more vulnerable to abuse as teens and adults. Without help, boys who witness domestic violence are far more likely to become abusers of their partners and/or children as adults, thus continuing the cycle of violence in the next generation. Domestic violence costs more than $37 billion a year in law enforcement involvement, legal work, medical and mental health treatment, and lost productivity at companies. Why not talk about it?

#voiceshavepower
I think the best thing about the video that has come out involving Ray and Janay Rice and the birth of the hash tag #WhyIStayed is that we are talking about domestic violence as a society, we are hearing about it and we are seeing what domestic violence is.

What Can You Do?
Often times people seem to think if we bring something into the light like this and talk about it, because it is a negative thing, that it will bring more of it into existence. Or people are shamed into speaking because of the harsh judgement of ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ As we talk about it, we can learn about it, we can teach about it, we can heal those who have experienced it, and we can prevent it from happening. Talk to your kids about domestic violence. Be a shining example to them of what a healthy relationship is. Better yourself. Find resources, read books, take classes. Learn healthy ways to handle your emotions. Throughout the month of October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month) I am posting one blog post a day, and I will post books, tools, tips and resources to help Domestic Violence become a thing of the past.

*statistics taken from
http://www.safehorizon.org/page/domestic-violence-statistics–facts-52.html

What now?

It’s been seven and a half years. Seven and a half years since I walked into a women’s shelter. Seven and a half years since I began the divorce process. Seven and a half years since my life changed forever and seven and a half years since I last experienced the abuse that once was so common in my life.

As I continue to share my past experiences, what my life was like, talk about the abuse that happened in my marriage and the process and legal battles of leaving my ex husband while retaining custody of our one year old son, people ask me ‘So, what’s it like now?’ ‘Are you worried about your son when he’s with his dad?’ ‘Is he still abusive?’ The answers to those questions may surprise you and things may not be quite how you think.

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‘What’s it like now?’
A lot has changed mostly because I have changed. My one year old is now eight and was recently baptized in the Mormon church. (Mormons baptize the members born into the church at eight years old). It was the first event both sides of my sons family would be together since he was blessed at two months old. And while the families may not agree with each other or really want anything to do with the other, we put our differences aside for him and it was a beautiful and pleasant experience.

My ex is remarried to a woman who has been in my sons life since he was three and while I don’t agree with everything they teach my son, she is a great parent and loves my son and treats him very well. I couldn’t ask for much more than that.

I am dating an amazing man who lets me be me and helps me be a better person every day and I hope to be married one day soon (maybe with another baby or two).

I’m growing my business as a mentor, trainer and energy therapist while I still work my amazing government job and my son and I rent my parents basement while we look for a house of our own.

I have learned and healed so much in my life.

‘Are you worried about your son when he’s with his dad?’
In a word, no. My ex does the best job he can as a parent with what he knows. Sure he’s more strict than I like. Sure he teaches our son things that are different than what I teach him. Sure he does things that totally drive me crazy. I see those as good things. I see those as part of my sons plan here in this life.

My ex takes our son every time he’s supposed to and he always pays his child support on time. I get a chance to recharge my batteries while my son’s gone so I can be a better mom when he’s here. And my son is given the gift of seeing how different life can be and the beauty and love that still exists in that difference.

There are some negatives. There are things I don’t like about the situation. There are things my ex does that drive me crazy and that I don’t think are okay. (Teaching my son to call me by my name and his step mom as mommy for example). And I have chosen not to focus on those things (which is why I’m not naming more). I am choosing to hold a place for my ex being the amazing man I know he can be. I am choosing to believe my son is strong enough and smart enough to see the good and the bad in both his dad and myself and that he will be better for it.

‘Is he still abusive?’
Okay, I’m being honest here, you’re okay with that right? For some reason, this question is hard for me to answer.

Maybe it’s because this is a public blog and I know my ex and his entire family have found it and read it.

Maybe it’s because it’s just an emotional question for me.

Maybe it’s because it’s not a simple or cut and dry answer.

Abusive? Not so much. That’s more the wrong word. He’s still a little manipulative. He calls to talk to our son every day. (Which of course is fine). However when it’s his turn to have our son for long periods of time like summer vacation, he doesn’t always return the favor. I call to talk to our son and rarely get the opportunity. Certainly not every day.

He teaches our son to call me by my first name and his new wife ‘mommy’, my mom by her first name rather than grandma.

Which is all fine in the long run. Thankfully I’ve been able to learn my sons true nature and part of that for him, is his adaptability. When he’s with me he calls me mom, when he’s with his dad he calls me by my first name.

At one point the whole thing was a huge point of contention for me. And I let my ex know and his wife know and even our son know. I’ve learned this is a small thing and it’s better to let it go. Our son loves both his mom and dad very much and I don’t want to do anything that would make him think, hear or speak negatively about his dad.

My intention is that my son will see both the good and not so good traits of both parents, and that he will learn and decide what it is that he wants in his life. And take on the good traits we each possess and let go of the not so good. 

Journal Entry

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A few excerpts from the journal I kept while going through my 3 1/2 journey to divorce:

Nov 15, 2006 (six weeks before I left him the final time)

I’m sitting in the women’s shelter right now. I’m waiting to talk to someone to weigh my options. I think I’ve already mentally divorced my husband. It is just not in me anymore. I’m tired and if I don’t leave him soon I will break. I still have little doubts and thoughts and worries that pop up,  but I’m hoping this conversation will help. I know I’m not as in bad a situation as some of the women who come here, but I also know I’m not in as good a situation as my son and I deserve to be. I just want this to be over. And I am afraid to go through it all. But I know the Lord is with me.

January 14th 2007 (two weeks after leaving)

I have left my husband, and I have never been so scared and exhilarated at the same time. I’m ready to move on and start fresh, but there are several steps I have to take care of first.

I hurt. I want to scream and cry. I want to be held and comforted. I want to fast forward through time to a better, healthier place. But I know that going through all this is the better thing for me.

March 27, 2007 (the night before my first time in court)

I can’t sleep. I am on the verge of tears. I have gotten everything ready for mediation tomorrow. I am nervous and sick. I do feel the Lord with me and that all will be well, but I don’t know what to expect, and worry that I have not done enough or done it right. I can’t turn my mind off or bring myself to get ready for bed. It’s like if i don’t go to bed, tomorrow will never come and I won’t have to worry. I’m anxious to see what way this will go. My feelings are so jumbled they are like strings all knotted and tangled together. I don’t know how to begin explaining one without running into another.

May 24 2007 (my sons first extended weekend away from mommy)

I just sent my son off with his dad for Memorial Day weekend. It will be my first weekend away from my one year old son. My heart is slowly breaking. Is it right for a mother to be separated from her child in such a way? Everyday I ask myself if I’m making the right choice. Is leaving my husband really the best decision? And every day the answer is still yes. The only way my answer would change, is if he would change. Unfortunately he is being enabled and disillusioned into thinking he is right and I am wrong. Which really, that’s not even what this is about. If it were simply about who is making the correct choices in life or in our marriage, it would be something we could work through. It’s about the way a husband should treat his wife. It’s about the way a human being should treat another human being.

July 29, 2007 

I feel like I am floating down a river. Sometimes I flow easily and quietly along the way, others I am struggling just to keep my head above the surface.

Top 10 Songs That Have Touched My Life and Helped Me To Heal

I think we can all agree that music is the language of the soul. There are so many songs that have helped me heal and become a better person. Actually many many more than I could possibly list. I did decide to pick the first 10 songs that came to mind. The ones that I still pull up and listen to every once in while no matter how long it’s been.

1.Stupid Boy
Keith Urban

First, I want to apologize to my readers…. I am not a country fan (my extended family would cringe at those words). So it was my lawyer who introduced me to this one. And it was actually the first song I remember ever hearing about domest violence.

2. Face Down
Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

This one I heard on the radio driving home from work one day. It was reassuring to me that there are so many men who stand against abuse. This song gave me faith in humanity.

3. Over It
Katharine McPhee

Yeah sure, I know this song is about a break up, and just the lyrics alone was what I needed to hear.
“I’m over your lies,
and I’m over your games.”
“I’m over your hands,
and I’m over your mouth.
Trying to drag me down,
and fill me with self-doubt.”


4. Fly & Moment 4 Life
Niki Manaj

Fly (featuring Rhianna)
This one hit me in two ways. One it filled me with the belief that I would make it through the divorce and rebuild my life. And two it still gives me the fire to keep going and help others, no mattet what naysayers may say. (There will always be critics).

Moment 4 Life*
The lyrics in the first verse hit me the most (in fact that’s all I usually listen to. Over and over again).
” I fly with the stars in the skies
I am no longer trying to survive
I believe that life is a prize
But to live doesn’t mean you’re alive”

5. Russian Roulette 
Rhianna

I love going to the gym and doing classes. It’s what works for me. One of my favorite classes is Les Mils Body Combat . And my favorite track ever was to this song. It’s an older track, so it’s hardly ever done any more, but if you ever get the chance it’s super empowering. In fact, I would love to teach a 3 day class helping people to heal from abuse and have a Les Mils instructor come in and teach this one track to my entire class. It’s that good. It helped me to feel powerful and like I am in control of my life.

6. Titanium
David Guetta feat Sia

I was volunteering at 3 Key Elements Master Your Influence class and the instructor played this song and had the entire audience of 500 people walking up to each other, pretending their fingers were arrows and pointing them at each other, then bouncing off of an invisible shield really giving everyone the visual for ” I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose
Fire away, fire away
Ricochet, you take your aim
Fire away, fire away”. I listened to that song non stop for months after that.

7. If I Were A Boy
Beyoncé

How could I have a list of power songs without Beyoncé? I could actually choose a lot of her songs, but this one in particular describes so well how we sometimes feel as women. Powerful.

8. Guts Over Fear*
Eminem feat Sia

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The first few times I listened to this song, I listened to Eminem’s lyrics, I didn’t pay much attention to Sia. My sister text me a few days later asking me if I had heard it and I told I had and that I loved it. A few days later I heard it again, and this time I listened to Sia. I couldn’t hold back the tears, even 8 years after leaving him, I could feel the emotions of it all over again.

9. Be Still My Soul
Hymn sung by Vocal Point

I had this illusion that after my divorce relationships would be easy. I was so wrong. I still knew very little about what made a healthy relationship. I had my heart broken and broke other hearts along the way to learning what that healthy relationship looked like. I remember one day when my heart break was particularly deep this song was the only song I could listen to. It was like a healing balm and while it didn’t take the pain away completely , it did ease the sting.

10. I Wanna Get Better
The Bleachers

I don’t know what other people have done to heal from their trauma and abuse, but for me it’s been a journey spanning many years and actually a lot of hard work. I went to classes, I prayed, I journaled, I discovered energy healing, I even hired mentors. And this song reminds me of the first mentor I met. He taught the concept of expressing our emotions in a safe way rather than taking them out on someone else or holding them in. Both of which are extremely damaging.

11. Trouble
Never Shout Never

Okay, this one is a bonus. So I once hated love songs. I didn’t believe in them at all. I didn’t think that a man would ever really love a girl enough to write a song about it and sing it for her. I thought they were fake. When I started dating my now boyfriend, he made me two cd’s with nothing but love songs. So this one song actually represents both CD’s and it was right about the time he gave me those CD’s that I began believing in love songs, and so, believing in love.

*some of these songs contain explicit lyrics, veiwer discression is advised

Messages from Men

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I sat across from a complete stranger. A man. He was looking me straight in the eyes and telling me how amazing I am. Telling me I am strong and beautiful and a warrior. That I have a great mission to accomplish on this earth. My eyes were brimming with tears. I knew I was safe as 50 other couplings were doing the same thing. My job was to listen and not say a word. At the end of his minute, we all stood up and moved down the line to the next person. I looked at the person sitting across from me, and though the room was filled with men and women, again sitting across from me was a man and he began telling me all the good things about me. As that ended, there was a third rotation and even though it was slightly uncomfortable and scary I again sat across from a man with nothing but amazing things to say about me.

And that was part of my healing journey. I was taking a class designed to teach us all how to be trainers. I was on my path to becoming a trainer and speaker so I could teach others and help them overcome their experience with abuse. And I was healing along the way in unexpected ways.

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I cannot tell you fully the effect on me it was to sit across from these three strangers, all men who spoke so highly of me. And who were in awe of me. I know it was a gift from God to experience that. The best I can explain it was I could feel the broken and hurt pieces of my heart being stitched together.

Some people tend to think that when a woman is abused she just stands there and takes it. ‘Why doesn’t she just leave’ has been in the media a lot. It’s harder to leave than you might think and for reasons you may not even ever fathom.

There were times as my abuser sat on top of me pinning my 5 foot 10 inch frame to the floor and holding my arms down so I couldn’t move that I would say to him ‘You can’t treat me like this. It’s abuse.’

His reply? ‘No it’s not.’ Many abusers have an invisible line in their heads of what abuse is and isn’t or even what is not okay for others to do, but okay for them to do. His ‘line’? He wasn’t hitting me. But he frightened me and he terrorized me. Day in and day out.

And after living that way for so long, stuck in this world where I felt spider webs were being spun around me in every direction, constantly moving and breathing as if they were alive, where no matter what I did I would be caught, where men were only these forces in my life to be obeyed and to be feared. Where it was safer to conform than to be myself lest I be caught and eaten alive, I developed a fear of men.

I have been blessed to overcome that. And it’s taken some basic steps as well as time and patience and a little bit of work on my part.

1. Write a Note to God
This was the beginning of me healing my relationship with men. I wrote a letter to God. Telling him everything. All my worries and fears, my anger, resentment and bitterness. How I felt toward Him and felt I had been betrayed by Him. I wrote it all.
After pouring my heart out, I got another piece of paper and wrote a letter back to me from God. Words flowed to me and through me and I felt nothing but love, acceptance and understanding from God in return as the words filled the paper.

2. Forgive
I forgave my ex, I forgave his entire family. I forgave the person who sexually abused me when I was a little girl. I forgave my family. I forgave my friends. I forgave strangers. I forgave God and I forgave myself and on and on.
Anyone and everyone who had ever done anything big or small to hurt me. I forgave them. And I continue to forgive people as life goes on. This is one of the most freeing experiences of my life.

3. Be Vulnerable
I hate this one. I really do. Alright. Wait. I am learning to be aware of my words and that what I say creates my reality. I have struggled with this one. It’s like I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which actually is probably true and fairly common for people experienced any trauma including domestic violence.
I have had to work at this one. It’s been tough. And oh so worth it. Brene Brown gave an amazing talk on the power of vulnerability and as I have sacrificed the walls of security and safety I created for myself, I have opened up myself and my life to infinite possibilities. To a stronger connection with my son. To an amazing relationship with my boyfriend and to building my business to teach and mentor others to shift from surviving to thriving.