Broken Record

broken_record-wide

 

Laughter fills the air, people flood the shopping malls, couples frolic about hand in hand, and Salvation Army bells ring on almost every corner. The holidays bring families together and are the time of year that everyone strives to bring some type of meaning to the end of another year. The main focus of those around us has been to ensure that gifts were bought and wrapped and neatly placed under the tree for our loved ones. Unfortunately, not everyone experiences joy during the Christmas season. Domestic violence does not take a break for the holidays. Sometimes, the strain of the festivities can exacerbate an abusive relationship. There are many factors during this time of year that play a part in pushing abusers to their limits: financial stress, higher alcohol consumption, and tension between families. This is no excuse for their behavior, but rather a catalyst or justification for them to take out their frustrations on those closest to them. Many of us find that we question why the victim stays. Why do they subject themselves to the torture? Why don’t they just leave? We should be asking the question, why does the abuser put them through so much pain?

We are all guilty of questioning the victim’s motives in staying in a toxic relationship. I’m guilty of it, and I was a victim to verbal abuse for 12 years. I was one of the statistics that stayed and gave chance after chance, which left my family wondering why I wouldn’t just leave. Why is it that our society is automatically ready to place the blame on the victim?

“Well, she went back to him again, she should know better. I won’t feel sorry for her the next time he hits her.”

While family members can only handle so much pain, watching their sister/brother/cousin go through an abusive relationship, we also need to remember that abusers have an incredible hold on their victims.

He only viewed me as an object and not a person . . . It was not an easy revelation. It was devastating . . . at the time.

Their techniques of manipulation and control, with empty promises of change, allow them the ability to sink their talons into the victim and pull them back into their clutches, time and time again. When an abuser thinks they are going to lose the victim that they have spent so much time molding into their little puppet, they will bombard them with relentless phone calls and text messages of undying love. It’s up to us to help the victim become aware of what is happening to them, to help open their eyes to the reality of their situation and give them the confidence to cut themselves loose. This isn’t done easily, and they must be approached delicately. The main thing they need from their friends and family is support. Any attempt to heavily persuade or shame them into leaving their abuser will only drive them further away from you.

When looking back at my situation, I recalled a time when my sister brought to my attention the cycle of abuse wheel. When I first looked at it, I saw that I could relate to every single aspect on the wheel, but then something inside me flipped a switch. I had been manipulated for so long that I believed all of the issues in my marriage were my fault. I looked at my sister and said, “Maybe I’m the abuser.” She stopped immediately and didn’t mention any more of it. She simply requested that I do a little research for myself. After I left him, she later confessed to me about how terrifying that moment was for her. At first thinking she was finally opening my eyes to the reality of my situation to  then fearing she may have caused more damage, she was scared to press the matter any further.

We should never underestimate the harm that years of manipulation can cause. I have been tossing the memories back and forth, trying to find some way my family could have approached me early on that I would have been willing to listen openly. I have yet to come up with anything. In the mind of the victim they think they deserve the treatment, manipulated to believe that they are abused because of something they did. They will immediately defend their abuser, or become offended if anyone else points out the abuser’s bad behavior. We have often heard the response, “But you don’t know him like I do.” They will make excuses for the behavior of their abuser, they will believe wholeheartedly that he is going to change this time, that he loves them. After it was brought to my attention that I was in an abusive relationship, it took about a year before I realized nothing was ever going to change unless I made the change myself.

I couldn’t escape the hold my abuser had over me until I realized he never actually loved me. He only viewed me as an object and not as a person: something for him to vent his frustrations on, something to exert control over, something to mold and to shape. When I let myself realize this, I was  no longer persuaded by his empty promises and his declarations of unending love. I saw through the lies and was able to claim my life back. The cycle of abuse wheel planted the seed and I began recognizing the patterns of his behavior. I saw our dynamic as though it were a broken record, the constant repetition of abuse and promises, abuse and promises. It was not an easy revelation. It was devastating . . . at the time. But I am happier and healthier now than I ever was during those twelve years.

Now the holidays are a time for being around those I love and who truly love me.

~Christa G.

Force of Will

rey

 

FYI: There are no spoilers in this post (my sister would kill me).

Violence against women is a societal issue. While sexism and misogyny are still acceptable in certain circles, so are domestic and verbal abuse. Thankfully, we have slowly been progressing away from these behaviors, changing what constitutes social norms. And a major influence in changing our view of women or minorities lies in how they are portrayed in films. I’m not going to spend a lot of time listing a bunch of movies that showcase a woman as the hero, because there are quite a few. I’m just going to focus on one particular film franchise that has most of the world captivated right now . . . Star Wars.

Like giddy little school children on recess, my husband and I raced to the matinee showing of the new Star Wars yesterday. We plopped down with our popcorn and soda, silently clapping in excitement when the lights dimmed, announcing the start of the film. Now I’m not going to give a review of the film. Nor am I going to give away too much. I’m merely going to gush about the hero, the lead, the main character . . . Rey, played by Daisy Ridley . . . a woman. In the original Star Wars trilogy, episode four, five, and six, the lead character was Luke Skywalker. And in all subsequent Star Wars films, all the roles of Jedi Knights are dominated by men. There are a few female Jedi Knights in the prequels and in the animated episodic series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but no lead female. One of the things I always loved in the original movies was the role of Princess Leia, a strong female character that is able to fight alongside the men in battle and still maintain a level of believable femininity. She stands up against adversity and speaks her mind with no apologies. But she was not the lead character.

In the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the lead character is a lonely young woman in some distant desert planet. She has learned to take care of herself. She is strong, independent, and courageous. A series of events throws her into an epic adventure, leading her to her destiny. At no point in the film did I feel like her capabilities were a gimmick. I never once felt like she was some freak of nature. Let me explain. When minorities are cast as heroes, it usually is in some sort of David and Goliath scenario. The audience wants to root for the underdog because the underdog is relatable. And the victory is sweeter because all the odds were against them. So sometimes, when women do awesome heroic things in movies, it is played off as a phenomenon. Let me expound on this concept. We clearly see Rey take on some pretty intense fighting. Yet she does not exhibit overly masculine characteristics. She is a strong, capable woman who is still a woman. You may not think this is particularly noteworthy, but this is paramount in creating an influential female lead. Too often is it muddied with the misconception that strong women lose their desirability, making most girls feel as if they are strong and speak their mind then they will no longer be desirable to men. Women are better seen than heard.

Are we unknowingly being prepped for abuse?

Think about it. Subservience is giving in to abuse. A woman who speaks her mind and is forceful can be labeled as a “bitch.” Yet in the same scenario, a man who speaks his mind aggressively, is commended for his conviction and brevity. Women are plagued with the burden of showing niceties and common courtesies, trained to apologize and speak softly. It is almost as though we are trained in the ways of submissiveness. While simultaneously, men are “plagued” with the freedom to display bluntness and assertiveness, trained to lead and speak boldly. Are we unknowingly being prepped for abuse? Is this why we give in to the authority of men so easily? We are told from birth that as a woman we must be soft and sweet. We must pamper our men by pretending to like their jokes to indulge their egos. We must try and not show off, otherwise they will feel intimidated and therefore not like us. The development of our personalities seems to revolve around how to please men.

This is why I love the new Star Wars film so much. It is a movie that every young girl should watch. You can speak your mind. You can kick some ass. You can even be intimidating as hell and not be mistaken for some freak that will never get laid. So to all the mothers out there, take your daughters to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. She will thank you later.

~Lindsey V.

Blinded By Pain

Depressed Woman

Darkness, a deep oppressive darkness, had begun to creep in and envelop me in hopelessness and despair. The walls of what I intended to be the perfect marriage and family had crumbled away until there was nothing left to stand on. I had fallen into a depression so profound that I started contemplating hurting myself to escape the pain and reality of my situation.

“Maybe if I just drive my car into that steep ditch I will get the break that I need, then maybe he’ll change and realize that he needs me.  Maybe seeing me dying on a hospital bed will wake him up…” These were the thoughts that plagued me for months.

One afternoon, the desire to drive my car at high speeds into a tree was so strong it shook me. I realized at that moment that I needed help, something had to change or I would absolutely lose my will to continue living. I didn’t know about resources like Safe House for Women, or national hotlines for women in abusive relationships. I honestly didn’t even realize that the pain and despair I experienced was due to my verbally abusive relationship. I only knew I was miserable, and that most of the time I felt the urge to hurt myself was after some sort of heated dispute with my spouse. On occasion, I would spend countless hours driving around aimlessly because I felt I had nowhere to turn. I was too ashamed to go to my family or friends, mostly because I had been led to believe that talking about issues with your spouse was a huge no-no when trying to maintain a healthy relationship. In ordinary circumstances, I feel that is somewhat correct. However, if you are being abused, degraded, lied to, and cheated on, then you are not in a healthy relationship and need to tell someone in order to get help! I lost all hope in ever feeling happy again and was in dire need of putting an end to my pain. So I called the crisis number located on my health insurance card.

At first, I began to tell the woman on the phone that I had strong urges to hurt myself, but that I didn’t want to die. I had three children that needed me, but I was severely depressed due to issues with my marriage. She began asking me questions about my spouse, what was happening in the marriage, did he abuse us? Immediately after she began asking me these questions, I shut down. I felt it was a betrayal to accuse my spouse of being the reason behind my pain. He never hit me, so I didn’t think I was being abused. I withheld the truth and the severity of my situation, I began to downplay my condition, making it seem as though I was just overwhelmed that day and there really wasn’t anything to be worried about. I did have her schedule an appointment for me to meet with a family/marriage counselor. I agreed that for the first appointment I wanted to go alone, and then I would have my spouse accompany me for the following appointments.

In that first meeting with the counselor, she was dumbfounded at the information that I gave her. She was amazed that I hadn’t broken down sooner and told me that I most definitely needed help. She said I was trying to be superwoman, in taking care of everything on my own, and that I needed to ask my spouse to help more. That was the goal, to get him into a session with me and let him know why I was overwhelmed and that he needed to help. Only that wasn’t the main reason I sought psychiatric help, I didn’t disclose any information about how verbally abusive and controlling our relationship was, because at the time I believed it was my fault. I felt as though that was normal for relationships and didn’t relate it to the stress causing my depression and misery. After my spouse went with me and we met with the counselor, he agreed to be more helpful and of course, was incredibly polite and pleasant in front of the counselor. But immediately afterward he began to suggest that the counseling session was pointless and a waste of time. So, that was the one and only session we went to.

. . .something had to change or I would absolutely lose my will to continue living.

I can’t stress enough the importance of being completely honest with yourself about the things you are experiencing. If you are dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts, seek help! Most importantly, when seeking help, be completely open with the person on the crisis hotline. They are there to help, they won’t judge you for any of the information you tell them, and they need to know the extent of the situation. If we continually make excuses for the way our abusive partners treat us, we will never get the full amount of support that we need. It’s crucial to your mental and physical well-being to give all of the facts to those trying to help. Be completely honest with those around you, they deserve to know the whole truth so that they can effectively get you the assistance required to help or possibly save your life. If you are in a physically abusive relationship and are trying to get out, ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings. ALWAYS have someone else with you any time you may be around your abuser. ALWAYS understand that they could snap at any given moment. Please visit our Helpful Links section and find out how you can get yourself to safety. Know that there is help. Know that you are not worthless and you deserve happiness. Know that a better future starts by finding help.

 

~Christa G.

Unexpected Arsenal

hidden face

 

I read this article about digital abuse of women from a fellow blogger. I want to direct our readers to her site, Speaking From Experience. She survived a physically abusive marriage and is now speaking out against abuse by sharing her experiences with others and spreading awareness, as we are trying to do with our blog. She is extremely brave and strong, so please visit her page and read her posts. I was so inspired by her article that I obsessed over the subject in my head for days. It sickens me that so many women who are abused are controlled and puppeted in so many different ways. Their every move is tracked and their abuser holds all the cards. I mulled over this problem in my head for so long that I am sure it began to plague me, even while I slept.

The other night I had an anxiety nightmare. In my dream, my first abusive boyfriend had forced his way back into my life, despite my protests. He made himself known to all of my family and friends and he proceeded to turn them against me. He also took my phone, without my knowing, and projected my private information onto a large screen for all to see. I felt violated. I began to lecture all of my family and friends, telling them that they were supporting his abuse and that they should be ashamed of themselves. I remember feeling helpless and angry under his power and control, once again.

Our abusers have such an arsenal at their disposal for intimidating and controlling us . . . I say we use this arsenal against them.

In real life, shortly before leaving that manipulative relationship, this boyfriend had hacked into my cell phone account and looked up all the phone numbers I was texting. He then looked up information on all the people I sent messages to. He would accuse me of cheating, even though our relationship was open (at least, for him it was open, for me it was closed, I was supposed to have eyes only for him). After I left him, he stalked me physically, showing up outside of my work or randomly showing up to return books I had given him (slipping notes inside them). He threatened to go to my parents and disclose intimate and highly personal facts about our relationship if I didn’t talk to him. He would text me in the middle of the night and say he was in the ER, hoping for a response. He would leave a box of items I gave to him as gifts on my driveway. I felt like he was everywhere. I never knew if he might show up at my home or my work. I didn’t know if he would ever approach my parents about us. I dreaded leaving my house to go to the grocery store, in fear of running into him. He tried to constantly push his way back into my life. For years I had recurring nightmares that he had followed me to other states or cities to try and control me even more.

There are other women who have experienced even worse stalking or digital abuse. Our abusers have such an arsenal at their disposal for intimidating and controlling us. We are forced to change our phone numbers, our emails, our phone accounts, and our Facebook accounts. Sometimes we are forced to change our addresses. And most of the time this type of post-breakup stalking is not reported to the police, either because the victim is not comfortable with talking to the authorities or because they have mistakenly grown up with the assumption that stalking cannot be stopped. I have also witnessed a disturbing pattern in my previous abusive relationships. Both of my abusers had online anonymity. Beware of anyone who is concerned with not being easily tracked online! This is because they are adept at stalking others on the web.

I say we use this arsenal against them. It’s time we turn our Facebook accounts and our websites against these abusers. We must share our stories and experiences. Let others know the dangers of unhealthy relationships. Educate others on the signs. These abusers cannot hide anymore. We have so much information available at our fingertips and our tormenters have textbook techniques in manipulation. If we get the word out and share our own experiences as much as possible, others will become enlightened and hopefully follow. We will create a formidable army of educated and inspired warriors. We will win this battle.

 

*Image pulled from this page.

~Lindsey V.