Do Your Domestic Violence Survival Skills Measure Up?

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I sat on the stadium bleachers next to my boyfriend of six months on my birthday in the cool early November afternoon sun.  I had just finished performing the half time show with the color guard and marching band at our college football game. The week prior to my birthday had been amazing, it all started with me walking to my car after class, I opened the door to find a small stuffed story book bear dressed in a princess costume on the seat, along with a bottle of scented hand sanitizer, a skirt, and a note that said: “It is has been said that a birthday should be a week long affair. When you were born, you had a birthday suit on and after 20 years it has seen some wear and tear but it is still very young and beautiful. On your birthday you should receive something new to wear. Plus something to disinfect your hands after you touch me!!! This is the start of a week long birthday.”

Each day after that I had been showered with three gifts and a note, jewelry, clothes, other members of the story book bear collection and even a beautiful crocheted blanket with my name stitched in all my favorite colors.  It had been beautiful.  My boyfriend and I were sitting holding hands, and I expected no other gifts from him that day when all of the sudden his best friend walked up to me, kissed me on the cheek, and handed me a huge colored bouquet of flowers with tickets to Disney on Ice tucked into the leaves and walked away. I was stunned. I had no words; I simply turned to my boyfriend with a goofy grin on my face, kissed him and reveled in the attention of such a spectacle as I thanked him and bounced up and down in my seat.

My boyfriend knew how to make me feel special, there was one time where he woke me with a kiss and a red rose and a sweet note tied to the stem, saying: “The red rose is to compare your beauty to. The rose is a weed compared to your beauty.” He left me in bed and when I opened the door and walked out, there was another rose of a different color with an accompanying note on the floor, I picked it up and read it, and as I walked down the hall, I found another, and then one on each stair as I walked downstairs, each rose a different color with a note relating that color to me.

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I still have those notes in a scrapbook and dozens of other hand written notes my boyfriend, turned husband had given me over the years we had been together. We used to lay in bed together and tell each other our dreams, the kinds of cars we wanted to drive, the kinds of jobs we wanted to have, how our home would look and the toys we would one day own. We became pregnant and prepared for the birth of our baby together, he would rub my feet and rush to fulfill my crazy pregnancy cravings.  He rubbed and talked to my belly and we looked forward to the day our son would be born.

*****One year later******

I pulled my small Ford Escort into the empty, frozen parking lot and slowed to a stop in the stall closest to the door. As I shifted into park, I looked behind me at my one year old son in the back seat. I sighed deeply as I turned off the car, and didn’t allow myself to think as I climbed out into the light snowfall and headed straight for the trunk. I pulled out my only possessions, a diaper bag and a duffel bag stuffed with three days worth of clothes for myself and my son. I slung the bags over my shoulder as I shut the trunk and opened the back door. With the bags not allowing me to fully enter the back seat, I strained to reach the clasps and unbuckle my son and lift him out from the car seat. I successfully got him out of the car seat, shut the door and, careful not to slip, headed toward the building. It was a late Friday evening and Christmas was just three days away, I wasn’t even sure the building would still be open.

I hugged my baby in close to my chest to keep him from the cold and opened the swinging glass door. I shook my head and stomped my feet in the entryway to clear the snow and opened the second set of doors. The building was old and poorly lit. I hardly paid attention to details as I walked up to the front desk. I couldn’t feel my feet touching the floor. My breath was suspended in my chest. My thoughts were frozen in my head. I felt like none of this was real. I felt like time had completely stopped. I couldn’t look the receptionist in the eye as I stammered. ‘I need shelter.’ Tears began pouring out of my eyes. I couldn’t hold them in any longer. I had no control over my sobbing. That’s when everything became a complete blur. I imagine she called for someone and asked me for details. A woman soon appeared to escort me into a locked down elevator with her key card. Four floors later the doors opened into a small reception area and I realized no one knew where I was.

I was all action. No thoughts. No emotions. The intake worker motioned for me to sit. I sat my son on the couch next to me and handed him the small elephant teething ring. I was handed paperwork and the receptionist ran down the rules of the shelter. Even though my thoughts were empty, my head felt full. I didn’t take in the words she was telling me. I just answered questions and signed papers. I had never operated from such a mechanical place before. I ignored my phone and tried my best to focus on what was going on. The receptionist showed me the small playroom, and offered to watch after my son while he played there. I spoke to the director. Answered more questions. I spoke to a male therapist. Filled out more paperwork. The receptionist gave me a tour of the small shelter and showed me my room. I was exhausted by this point. I put my son down in the strange crib, and crawled into the twin bed in my strange room.

And that’s how it started. That’s the story of the first few hours after I left my abuser. So many people ask all the time ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ My question for those people is are you willing and ready to walk away from everything in your life? Your home? All of your possessions? Your comfort zone? Your life as you know it? That’s what it takes. Not only do you have to walk away from the things (which of course are replaceable), you have to figure out how you’re going to make it on your own. This is perhaps the biggest reason women don’t leave. Trying to figure out how to afford a place to stay, how you’re going to take care of your children yourself. The divorce process. The courts. The visitation schedule. Trusting a court professional who you have never met and knows nothing about you or your family to make decisions about your life like how often you get to see your own children, what possessions you get to keep, and has the power to order things like custody evaluations and court ordered therapy. To them you are just another number, and just another case. They don’t know you or your life, and yet they make decisions that will affect the rest of it. And there is the abusers family to take into consideration as well.

Often times the abusers family stands behind the abuser. This is hard for a couple of reasons. Often times the abusers family does whatever they can to support and back up the abuser. For me, my ex husband’s family had much more money and social influence than myself or my family. This lead to fear of the unknown, and fear of their influence. It lead to standing up to people I once loved and doing what I felt was the right thing for my son even when they disagreed. I remember one of the first exchanges I had with my ex husband. Emotions were high and we agreed to exchange our son in a neutral location. This meant I had no support system. We met in the parking lot of the local Child Protective Services location. I pulled into the parking lot to find, not only my ex husband, but his father and brother. I found myself confronted by three men who were all much larger and more powerful than me. I kept my composure and exchanged our 13 month old son in the frozen parking lot. And on the other hand, I lost the relationships I had with his entire family. Over the past four years I had gotten to know and built up beautiful relationships with his family, and walking away from my ex, not only did I loose my home, my husband, and my possessions, but I also lost an entire family. Why doesn’t she just leave? The question is ridiculously simple as compared to the complexity of the actual situation.

Leaving is an act of faith.

 

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Hashtags to a Better World

I sat in the conference room with my peer managers. We had just finished discussing our workload and plans for the day and started talking about what was going on in our outside lives. This may seem like a waste of time to some, however it’s a great way to cultivate team building and creativity. Two of my peer managers had recently moved and were sharing similar stories of their moving experience. The old me would have sat in the corner and listened, saying nothing, afterall, my story isn’t just like ‘everyone else’.

When I moved into my home, I had practically nothing. I had a bed for my 10 year old, a dresser for myself, and our clothes. No other furniture, no kitchen supplies, no bed for myself, no couch, no kitchen table and chairs, no TV. All I had was a belief and hope that it would all work out. I posted on Facebook asking for things, and they came, some for free, and others at a cheap price, within a week, I had everything I needed for my house. For a full year after moving in to my home as I would walk around, I would feel an overwhelming gratitude and awe for all the things I now own. I have so much compared to what I had for the first seven years after I had left my abuser.

I spoke up. I shared my story. I shared it from a healed space. I wasn’t asking for pity or compliments. I was matter of fact and the conversation moved on. These are the stories those of us who have experienced abuse need to share. The more we share our stories of survival and perseverance, the more we stand up to stopping abuse.

#whyistayed

That is what is so beautiful about the hashtag movements that are happening in the domestic violence world. #whyistayed began in 2014 and it is still being used in tweets as recent as 3 days ago, #whyistayed is a way for those who have experienced abuse to help answer the most common question asked in the Domestic Violence world.

#metoo

The most recent domestic violence friendly hashtag #metoo has received a lot of attention. It is a simple and quick way for those of us who have experienced sexual abuse to stand together and speak up. It has reached 85 countries with over 1.7 million tweets (cbsnew.com).

#maybehedoesnthityou

This is a fantastic hashtag that brings to light other forms of abuse besides just physical. So many people think that just because they aren’t being hit, that it isn’t abuse. There are dozens of forms of abuse, and this hashtag which started in 2016 opens up the door to talk about it.

#likeagirl

This is a personal favorite of mine that started as an Always campaign in 2014. #likeagirl brings to light that we as a society have spoken down on the ability girls have to complete things, usual physical.  The more we use like a girl negatively, the more we continue to raise our daughters to see it as such. Changing the way we speak about ourselves, changes the way we view ourselves.

The more we speak out about domestic violence, the more light we shed on something that can only thrive so long as it stays hidden. Speak up and speak out. Change our conversations. Let’s end domestic violence together.

 

4 Responses to Fear and How to Overcome Triggers

“I’m not going to smile.” I teased. He just tried even harder.

“I like it when you smile.”

“Why?”

“Cause you’re beautiful when you smile.”

It had become a game now and I was choosing to be stubborn and not give in to letting him see me smile. It was not easy.

“I’m still pretty when I don’t smile.” I responded.

“Fine.” He said, switching tactics. “I didn’t want to see you smile anyway.” He playfully pulled his hand out of mine to illustrate his point. It was a fast and sudden movement.

I flinched. I glanced at him and hunched my shoulders as I looked away trying to hide my flinch.

“Do you flinch?” He asked.

Something in those words. In the fact that it was an obvious movement. I knew he had seen it, even though I had hoped he hadn’t.

“Are you okay?” He immediately inquired. “I’m worried because I have never seen you flinch like that.”

I felt the familiar feeling of anxiety and a panic attack as it began to flood through my body. I began breathing hard and tears rimmed my eyes.

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Fear and triggers. Not falling into the category myself, I don’t quite know for sure, but I would guess most people who say things like ‘Why doesn’t she just leave’ or ‘I would never let someone treat me like that’ have never been in an abusive situation and have no idea what it’s really like. So what it is really like? Why is leaving so hard? What is life like when you do finally leave?

In order to answer all those questions, it would take a lot of time and a lot more than one blog post. I’m just going to focus on two things for this post. Fear and triggers. Fear to explain why she doesn’t leave and triggers to explain what it’s like after.

Fear

Fear generally creates three responses in people, this dates back to cave men days when survival was our livelihood. Fight, flight or freeze. Most of us have heard of fight or flight.

Fight as a response in a domestic violence situation is least likely for a person experiencing abuse to react with, and if it is the reaction, it rarely turns out well. The man is generally the abuser and so generally the stronger of the two. Even then, when you are being physically attacked, fighting back when you are untrained proves to be difficult.

Flight is of course, when you run. Now running in the middle of a domestic violence explosion can be dangerous. It is in that moment that a person experiencing abuse is actually more likely to be killed. That response infuriates the abuser more, who is unwilling to give up his ‘property’.

Freeze is when you do nothing. And it is generally the safest response for the person being abused. The abuser doesn’t feel the threat of being left and doesn’t feel the tug to control the situation even more physically with someone who is fighting back.

Fix. When it comes to domestic violence I would like to add one more response to fear. And that is to fix. When your abuser is having their explosion sometimes doing all in your power to fix the situation is a great option. When an abuser is having their explosion they often are laser focused on whatever issue caused the explosion in the first place. The person who is experiencing abuse thinks if they can fix the situation, then it will diffuse their abuser.

In the middle of experiencing that fear, you’re one thought is survival. That’s all that matters. Present moment. Survival for you. Survival for your kids. The future does not even cross your mind. So often a person experiencing abuse lives from present moment to present moment just to survive.

Triggers

Even after leaving, it’s not an immediate release from your abuser. The memories of what they did can haunt you for years. Even when you do all you can to heal from the abuse. There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to this healing.

Be patient with yourself. When it comes to healing from domestic violence, there is a lot to heal from. Every single instance of abuse leaves behind a little piece that needs to be healed from. There can be hundreds, there can the thousands. It can take days to heal from each instance, it can take years to heal from each instance. You can heal from several at once, or one a time. Whatever the case is, there is no set formula and no set time frame. Everyone is going to heal at different rates and in different ways. Allow yourself your journey. Don’t compare yourself to others. Be patient with yourself.

Face your trigger. When you’re ready, I challenge you to work through your trigger. I know it’s hard, and I know it’s more scary than anything you have ever done. I also know that you will be faced with it again and again until you work through it. Once you work through it, it will no longer haunt you. There truly is nothing to fear but fear itself. Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Give yourself time. That said – facing your triggers, it’s okay to give yourself time before you face them. It’s okay to find that safe place, to create that safe haven around you, whether it be your own home, a job, a family, whatever that is. Feel that feeling of safe. Bask in safety’s glow. And when you’re ready, you will be granted the opportunities to heal and to be better. Just don’t let that safe haven become an excuse to never move foward. With every person who heals from a hurt, the propensity for others to also heal increases.

Search out tools. There are hundreds of tools out there you can search out and find that will help you to heal. Ask for help. There are free options. There are paid options. Here’s the thing. You can find these tools to either help you cope with situations as they come up, or to even help yourself heal from the situations before they ever pop up as triggers. You don’t always have to go through the discomfort of a trigger if you do the work yourself before hand. You may still have triggers pop up, but they will be fewer and further between.

The biggest message I want to get out there, is to stop asking ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ or saying ‘I would never let someone treat me like that.’ and instead ask what you can do to stop the cycle of abuse and say the words people don’t say. Talk about abuse. Talk about domestic violence. Teach each other a happier and healthier way to treat others and be treated.

10 Life-Changing Books Paving Your Path to Healing From Abuse

I began writing this post months ago and stopped. Probably mostly due to life getting in the way, and other blog posts taking precedence. Last weekend I was blessed to attend a Gala for an amazing organization, WOW Utah, helping women who have overcome domestic violence, substance abuse, polygamy, debilitating illness and simply not having a voice to build a better life for themselves and their children. Besides having the opportunity to support the seven women who were being celebrated that evening, I spent the evening talking to wonderful women who all had beautiful stories to tell, and I was inspired to complete and share this post.

Why Does He Do That By Lundy Bancroft

While I was staying in the women’s shelter, this book was mentioned more than once, I have the feeling that out of all the women who would attend the Domestic Violence classes with me I was a small percentage that actually bought and read the book. I am forever grateful I did, and it is always the first book I suggest to others who are or have experienced domestic violence. I took it with me everywhere I went, I read it on my breaks and during my lunch at work, I had a pen and highlighter in hand the entire time I read it so I could take notes. I called it my bible to healing from domestic violence. There were times it was hard to read because it brought back memories of the abuse, but it also helped me to understand the thinking behind an abuser and helped me feel empowered, something I hadn’t felt for a long time.

Left To Tell By Immaculee Ilibagiza

Before I left my ex, I hated my job. I was a seasonal data transcriber and spent 8 hours a day typing at a computer, as quickly and accurately as possible. Not the kind of job for my bubbly and humming bird like personality. I liked variety and a challenge. Once I found myself a single mom, no one thing changed about my job, except my attitude. I suddenly needed a good job. I applied for and got a permanent position and began using my time to listen to books on tape. My mom was in a book club, and suggested this book to me. I remember sitting at my desk typing as I was listening to this book, and the story and words ringing so true with me that at times I could feel my body tingle from head to foot. This was the first book that introduced the concept of visualization to me. Or choosing what you want, focusing on it and believing and trusting in God, the universe, a higher power (use what rings true with you) to bring your desires into your life as you do your best to work toward it.

The Gift of Fear By Gavin de Becker

When I left my abuser for the first time, I drove a state away and stayed with my aunt and uncle. My uncle was chief of police and I felt I had to get that far to feel safe. My uncle had been in law enforcement for years and had trained with the FBI. It was him who recommended this book. This book helps you to learn and recognize the difference between fear that helps you survive vs fear that keeps you from moving forward in life.

Remembering Wholeness By Carol Tuttle

This book opened a whole new door for me. I don’t even remember how I heard about it or what prompted me to read. It pretty much just materialized into my life. I can hardly think of the words to express my feelings on this book. It’s one I still listen to on occasion and learn from. There is so much content packed in and it’s a great book to really expand your healing journey.

The Child Whisperer By Carol Tuttle

Suddenly becoming a single parent can be overwhelming. So many thoughts rushed through my head, I wanted my son to have as normal a life as possible, be a successful, contributing member of society, and I wanted to guide him to still have a good relationship with his dad, while not taking on the abusive traits that had been passed on through the generations. Not to mention I had this little person who had his own personality that I wanted to learn and understand. This book revealed so much to me about my son and helped me understand him and parent him to the best of my ability and then some. I became a child whisperer. (It was also super helpful to me with all the other kids in my life).

Loving What Is By Byron Katie

This book is an absolute delight. I bought the audio version and since much of the book comes from excerpts of Byron Katie having one on one discussions with real people, I was able to listen to the original recording and hear the emotion behind the words that were spoken. This book completely changed the way I viewed people and myself. I have used the technique she teaches to improve my relationship with my boyfriend. He and I went from frustrated and hopeless to thriving and growing as a couple.

Women Who Love Too Much By Robin Norwood

If you’re looking for something that will help you break destructive patterns and truly look at yourself and your relationship and know without a doubt if it abuse or not, this is the book for you. I love this book, the stories it tells, the insights it provides and the tools it teaches to help you to truly heal and move beyond that pattern of abuse in relationships.

Creating Affluence By Deepak Chopra

These ‘A – Z Steps to Creating a Richer Life’ are simple and full of impact. This is another book I bought the audio version, and believe it or not, it is a book I re-listen to often. It is only an hour long, and besides Deepak Chopra having a pleasing and gentle voice to listen to, there are things I either learn every time I listen to it, or things I need to be reminded of. I am still on my journey to creating more affluence in my life, and I know this book continues to have that impact and I am loving watching what unfolds in my life as I learn, understand, and apply these practices.

Feeling is the Secret By Neville Goddard

In my life, I have had the pleasure of knowing and meeting several successful and self made millionaires. These are the people who have become my mentors in my life. These are the people who I follow and learn from. When teaching at a seminar I was attending, one of them challenged us to not only read this book, but spend ten minutes transcribing it every morning. I took the challenge, and even though at times I was tired and didn’t really feel up to it, I would get up and transcribe the book for ten minutes while I listened to it. The book is only about 30 minutes to listen to, but it is so jam-packed with content, that slowing down to transcribe it really helps the principles to sink into your head. This is also a book I listen to again and again and am still learning from.

Chakra Clearing By Doreen Virtue

Whether you believe in chakra’s or not, this is another great audio book. I has a 20 minute morning and a 20 minute evening meditation. I love listening to it to either start my day or as I drift off to sleep. If you have a hard time shutting down your brain at night and drifting off to sleep, this is  a great audio to play as you drift out of consciousness. This is one I listen to nearly daily and again, whether you believe in chakra’s or not, it has great trains of thought and uplifting messages thought out.

Re-wiring the Brain for Healing after Experiencing Domestic Violence

My heart was pumping and my mind was whirring even though my body was still. I was lying on the floor looking up into his eyes, he was straddling my waist and holding my wrists above my head, pinned to the floor. I was helpless. I couldn’t move, couldn’t escape. I had already learned from previous similar experiences that he was much stronger than me and no matter how hard I struggled, I had no power to move his body even the slightest. I felt the cold, hard linoleum kitchen floor pressing up against my back.

This was the moment that I would just listen to him, let him scream at me. Let him get all his frustration out. I would agree that I was in the wrong, that I was a horrible person, that everything I did was a mistake because I was too afraid of what would happen to me otherwise and I knew it was the only out of his physical trap.

People who experience domestic violence, have more effects on their lives than the abuse itself, whether physical, mental, emotional or other forms of abuse. Seldom talked about are the lasting effects of abuse, the chronic health conditions that can and do happen as a result of Domestic Violence.

Healing from Domestic Violence is a journey, and it actually takes a lot of work. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t instantaneous. People who experience Domestic Violence actually need help in this healing process, and they cannot do it all alone. I have explored many ways to heal and this post is about one of my favorites: affirmations.

Changing your thoughts and the way you think about yourself and your body actually can and does cause healing to occur and it’s not just woo woo stuff. It is backed up scientifically. Let’s look at the brain for just a second.

Inside our brains is the reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS is considered the brains attention center, is the key for switching on your brain, and is considered the main center of motivation. The RAS is connected to the spinal cord where it accepts information that travels to the mid brain and forms a complex neuron collection.

These neurons create thoughts and beliefs in the form of fibers called axons  which release chemicals called neurotransmitters to be released at junctions called synapses. The more and more we think a certain thought, the more we create the synapses, the more we build up neurons or new beliefs that begin to take over our core thinking. Conversely, the less we think a thought, those pathways disintegrate and no longer exist.

We do this, already, all the time, our negative thoughts and emotions actually create disease in our bodies because it is a dis-ease in the way we think of ourselves and thus care for our bodies.

This great infographic shows the link between domestic violence and chronic health conditions.
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Louise Hay, one of my great mentors and a pioneer in discovering the link between our thoughts and the effects they have on our bodies, has written several books, one of which, You Can Heal Your Body, reveals the hidden messages our bodies are telling us.

70 percent of women suffer from chronic health conditions. 44 percent of women admitted they have experienced domestic violence. I took the information from the infographic and from You Can Heal Your Body and linked them together, the result is fascinating.

Health Condition in bold

Probable Cause in standard text

Affirmation in italics

High Blood Pressure

Long standing emotional problem not solved.

I joyously release the past. I am at peace.

Lower Back Pain

Fear of money. Lack of financial support.

I trust the process of life. All I need is always taken care of

Headaches                        

Invalidating the self. Self-criticism. Fear.

I love and approve of myself. I see myself and what I do with eyes of love. I am safe.

Migraines

Dislike of being driven. Resisting the flow of  life. Sexual fears.

I relax into the flow of life and let life provide all that I need easily and comfortably. Life is for me.

Difficulty Sleeping          

Fear. Not trusting the process of life. Guilt.

I lovingly release the day and slip into peaceful sleep, knowing tomorrow will take care of itself. 

Depression                      

Anger you feel you do not have the right to have, Hopelessness.

I now go beyond other people’s fears and limitations. I create my life.

Anxiety                             

Not trusting the flow and the process of life.

I love and approve of myself. and I trust the process of life. I am safe. 

Yes, you can heal completely from domestic violence. Yes, you can have a better life than the one you did before. All you have to do is the work. You’re future is up to you.

Can we Remove Abuse from the World?

Abuse is in the media a lot. People who haven’t experienced it question it a lot. I’ve already written about it, and I have more to say. I want to help others understand what abuse is, and what abuse isn’t.

Abuse sneaks up on a woman
The first date isn’t wrought with emotionally or physically abusive jabs. The abuser doesn’t share stories about his abusive behavior in past relationships.

It’s fun and light and you talk about future plans and personal favorites. You try to impress each other a little bit. It’s a normal first date. And the relationship builds from there. You are courted and pursued and easily fall wonderfully in love. Yeah sure, maybe you have an argument or two. Maybe he yells at you and you yell back, after all we are all human, we all have emotions we are learning to process. We all have bad days.

So when does it become abuse?
You know, it’s interesting. As the abuser changes, he actually blames his partner for changing. And he’s usually pretty good at making his partner think they are the one who is changing. When you’re the one who is experiencing abuse, your world becomes so entangled in your own head, you don’t know up from down.

When the abuse happens
The very first time real abuse happens is usually a shock for the person experiencing abuse. After all you have already been together for months or sometimes years before something happens, and you have never seen this kind of behavior before. It’s easy to dismiss it as a one time thing, especially when the abuser is so apologetic.

When it happens again, you begin to wonder and right around the third time, you see the pattern setting in.

The Three Phases of Abuse

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Once abuse happens, the cycle starts. First, there’s the explosion: physical, emotional, psychological, financial, sexual, spiritual, etc abuse. This phase doesn’t last long and it is the most dangerous. Often times this is when the person experiencing abuse takes action, protecting themselves, the kids, the pets, calling police, or leaving.

Second is the honeymoon phase. The abuser fills his partner with apologies, gifts and promises of change, reform and counseling or church attendence. Anything he can do to get her to stay.

Third is the tension building phase. This is the longest phase and often the most frightening. The abuser starts to get moody and demanding. He often times starts falling back into old patterns, far away from the reform he promised. The person experiencing abuse can sense that an explosion is going to happen, so to avoid that, she does anything and everything she can to make him happy, often withdrawing from the outside world. This phase is a frightening waiting game. I don’t even know if I can explain how it feels. It’s terrifying, you feel like you are walking through a mine field, trying to pick your way through, but scared to death that one misstep will lead to that dangerous explosion. Every nerve on your body is on edge and it is exhausting.

And of course, after the explosion does happen, the honeymoon phase starts right back up again, and she thinks maybe, this is the time things will be different.

All of this centers around a pocket of denial. We buy into this denial as a society even, not really talking about abuse or believing it happens, especially if someone we love happens to be the abuser. What if we could change that? What if we started talking about abuse more? What if we helped the world realize this is something we no longer have to participate in? That we could perhaps teach people how to have healthy, loving relationships and how to get their needs met without resorting to abuse?

This is the world and the society I am working to create.

Say What You Want to Say

If I were to take my filter off and say what I really wanted to say about Domestic Violence and abuse, it would reach out and touch people I love and care about. It would maybe even come across as harsh and judging and possibly hypocritical, I’m not even perfect, after all I grew up in an imperfect world and I know how hard it is to change and break away from how we were raised. If I were to state what we needed to do to stop abuse and violence, it would go something like this:

Stop Shaming

We often times other people for not being like us, in our culture, our religion, our work, our schools and even our families. I had a friend who recently posted four words on her Facebook page that really hit me hard THIS IS NOT THAT. This person is not that person, this relationship is not that relationship, this situation is not that situation. It amazes me that we are living in a world where so much changes so quickly, and yet we expect others to be just like us. It’s okay if someone doesn’t worship the same religion the same way you do, or a different religion, or no religion at all. It’s okay if someone is gay or straight or anywhere under the rainbow of the sexual preference umbrella. It is okay if someone is a different culture or race than you. All of that is what makes us beautiful, and your Higher Power (whoever that may be for you) loves us all just the same, in fact, all the Higher Powers are on the same team, and why wouldn’t they be? The truth is, as we love and accept other people for who they are (which really is all we want other people to do with us), that’s when we see miracles happen and that’s what brings us closer to a world of no abuse.

What are the Messages You are Sending Your Kids?

I see parents yell at their kids all the time. You are affecting your kids on a daily basis of who they will become as adults and what they will do to seek out filling those needs you are pushing aside by yelling and degrading them. Kids are not doing things on purpose to bug or bother or hurt their parents. Kids are simply trying to get their needs met, if you choose to instead meet those needs and take the harder road of you by to meet those needs in healthier ways, you will raise healthier children and as a result, do your part to change the world for the better.

Give up the Porn. Really

Really I’ve heard so many excuses trying to rationalize porn. ‘It’s good for the relationship.’My significant other is okay with it.’ Stop. Just stop making excuses. Stop rationalizing. What does porn do? It puts up unrealistic expectations. It damages relationships. It and how the brain works. Would you want your daughter performing Porn? Then why do you watch other people do it? Do you want your significant other to feel wanted and loved? Do you want to feel wanted and loved? Then .

Figure Out Who You Are and What You Want First

Take time to really love you and know what you want. Spend time with you. Get to be your own best friend BEFORE you get into a relationship. It’s okay to be alone. Take yourself out. Spoil yourself. Buy yourself presents. This is especially true if you are coming out of an abusive relationship. Please, I know part of you will want to jump right into another relationship, and I also know taking time off of relationships is doable, it is affordable, it is a worth making.

Give Up Social Rules

A mother and daughter we preparing for a Holiday dinner together. The mother cut the ends off their holiday ham and placed it in the pan and then in the oven. Watching her mother the daughter asked ‘Mom, why do you cut the ends off the ham?’ ‘I don’t know, the mom replied, it’s the was Grandma always did it, let’s call her and ask her.’ They picked up the phone and made the call only to find out the reason Grandma always cut the ens off the ham was simply because the whole ham would not fit in the baking dish she had. Are there things we believe and say and do as a society that pattern this? Start being aware and paying attention of the things we could change and begin that change with you.

So My Dad Helped You?

“Mom, why did you leave my dad, why!” My eight year old demanded of me yet again. It was not uncommon for him to ask me such a question, and I knew whatever I said would go back to his dad. We were driving home from the gym, it was dark and rain sprinkled the windshield as the wipers sloshed back and forth. I pursed my lips.

“Why”?!? he repeated.

My mind flashed back across the things I had told him, ‘you’re not old enough, I’ll tell you when you’re older’ resulted in him pressing me over and over until one night I was tired enough to give in and tell him the basics, that his dad did not know how to treat mommy right, that he would hold me down and not let me up and a few other things, and I prayed and prayed about it and felt that leaving was the best choice for me and for him. Ever since then, my sons inquiries changed to include ‘dad wasn’t holding you down, not all of his weight was on you, you could have gotten up.’ which was one of my ex’s favorite things to tell me, so I knew my son was telling his dad these conversations. I knew I needed to tell him what he needed to know in a kind and loving way.

When my son first began asking me he would say ‘Mom, why did you take me and run?’ My mind flashed back to the months right after I had left my ex, he had filed a protective order on behalf of our son, against me, and the order started off with his statement that I had ‘taken our son and ran.’ I knew that’s how he perceived it. That I was suffering from postpartum depression and that my actions were a result of that and my mother telling me what to do. He didn’t understand that I had told him several times he could not and should not treat me the way he was treating me, that those actions were abuse. It’s so interesting to me that people who have never experienced abuse often say ‘I would never let someone treat me like that.” Yet, when you are in that situation, when you feel your well-being, and your life is in danger, you would do just about anything to get the other person to settle down, to calm their actions. I told him, what he was doing was abuse, I told him it was not okay, I went to his parents, I prayed, I did everything I knew how to do, and none of it mattered. I still lived my life in secrets and fear.

Nearly eight years after leaving my ex though, I have a different viewpoint on what that experience was for me, my ex, and even my son. I know my ex was raised in an abusive home. I know his parents were also raised in abusive homes. I know that his parents suffered from just wanting to be loved and to do what is right, they are normal people, they want to live normal lives and have normal things. They are all kind and good-hearted people who are actively involved in their community and church, who love to help and to serve their fellow-man. They are just living out cycles they don’t know how to fix. And for me, it was a cycle I refused to have continued in my home and with my son, and that is why I left. I used to think ‘it’s okay, I can handle this, I can love him and teach him what love and a happy home is really like.’ I would put up with the days of abuse with that thought running through my head until my son was born. Until the day I was standing in the kitchen cooking dinner with my infant son playing in the bouncer while my husband played video games in the front room, my son began crying as I was tending a boiling pot and my husband saying from the front room ‘I know, I know, mommy doesn’t love you…’ when my husband would smack our 5 month olds hand for taking a beanie off his head to teach him he needed to keep the beanie on his head and that ‘daddy knew what was best for him’. When those things began happening I knew I could no longer stay in that home. And how could I tell my son all that? He loved his dad very much, and his dad really did do his best to take care of our son, I didn’t want to start a war, I didn’t want our son to think badly of his father, after all, I had been told by adult friends who grew up in divorced homes, to never speak badly of the other parent, and that as children grow up, they learn the truth on their own. I believe childhood should be a world of wonderment, magic, and discovery, I did not want to ruin that for my son. I knew he wanted a good, solid answer, and that ‘I’ll tell you when you’re older’ wasn’t cutting it anymore. So I told him the truth.

I told my son that his dad was not always nice to me, and that he did not always treat me the way I deserved to be treated, so after lots of prayer and meditation, I left, and after leaving, I knew it was my calling to help others experiencing domestic violence to make it through and to heal. I knew it was my calling to help the women and the children who were affected, and there was no other way for me to know that’s what I wanted to do, or that’s what I would do had I not experienced it myself. I knew I would not be able to understand how to help these other women if I had not been through the challenge of leaving, of running, of fearing, of court and custody battles and single parenting had I not gone through it myself. I told my son, someone had to teach me what all that was like, someone had to play that role for me, and it was his dad, I told my son that I am grateful for his dad for teaching me what I learned and that I could not have done it without him. ‘So, my dad helped you?’ my son exclaimed. “Yes,” I replied. “You’re dad helped me. And I am grateful to him for it.” Which for me is true. There is always a silver lining in each and every experience we go through, finding that silver lining and living by it makes life worth living.

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.

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.