There Is Hope

We are posting something a little different today.  I created a video for a Non-profit domestic violence shelter in St. Louis, MO. We thought we would share it with everyone in the hopes of raising an awareness for the need to help your local shelters. Let us know what you think, or share what you have done to help a shelter near you! Thank you and much love!

~Christa G.

Dangerous Innocence

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Every time I would contemplate leaving my abusive partner the first question that would come to my mind was “what will everyone think of me?” And it wasn’t simply that they would think I didn’t try hard enough, but that they would blame me for the failure of my relationship.  It was an irrational fear, most of my close friends and family could see past his charm and knew there was more going on than I admitted. But a fear none the less, and one that kept me from leaving multiple times.

Society is chomping at the bit to throw the blame on anyone that finds themselves in a threatening situation. Women are blamed for their rape because they were dressed too provocatively, or were giving off the wrong signals, or were too drunk to say no. Women and men are blamed for their physical abuse because they were being too strong-willed, or used the wrong tone of voice, or didn’t do as they were told. Children are blamed for their abuse because they were misbehaving, or didn’t clean their room, or didn’t follow the rules. The point is the victim is usually the first to be scrutinized, and this is why so many rape and domestic violence cases go unreported every year. Victim’s fear being blamed for their torture, and fear having to relive it with every statement they make to try and gain justice.

Why are we so quick to think that the victim asked to be assaulted?  Well, she was wearing such revealing clothing, so she was asking to be raped. Remarks like this are never okay! No one wants to be beaten, raped, or dehumanized. No one deserves to be shamed and made to feel guilty for the illegal acts that someone cruelly subjected them to. Regardless of your social status, financial stature, ethnicity, gender, etc. . .  you are not at fault for the illegal and unspeakable acts done to you.

It seems as though we are quick to blame the victim because no one wants to be held accountable for their actions, but victim blaming is not just about avoiding accountability. It’s also about avoiding vulnerability. The more innocent a victim, the more threatening they are. They threaten our sense that the world is a safe and moral place, where good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. But when good people fall victim to vicious acts, it implies that no one is safe and we are all vulnerable. The idea that misfortune can be random, striking anyone at any time, is a terrifying thought. A thought we are faced with every day. Therefore, blaming the victim makes us feel that they must have played a part in the tragedy that befell them. Giving us a little more sense of security in our own well being.

It has to stop. Everyone must realize that a victim is just that, a victim that will suffer mental trauma for the rest of their life due to the unforeseen circumstances that happened to them. No one asks for it. No one deserves it. No one. Stop blaming the victim and hold abusers accountable.

~Christa G.

 

 

Not Just a Statistic

 

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There I was again. Sitting. Alone. Crying. Over what? Most of the time I was left confused, and struggling to understand why I was being yelled at and degraded, yet again. What did I do to deserve this, was a question that constantly plagued my mind. This time was different. He had wrung out every last hope I had for us. I had been mistreated, disrespected, degraded, and neglected for so long I had no room to accept any more empty apologies. This time, I left for good.

As I sat across from a desk and listened intently to my lawyer, the severity of my situation quickly came to light. He strongly suggested that I get myself and my children into a Safe House until the situation died down. I had just explained to him the chain of events that had taken place over the last several years leading up to leaving my ex. My lawyer looked at my father and me with sincere concern. He stressed the fact that he had seen far less abusive situations, in which the estranged spouse had no history of domestic abuse, PTSD, or drug abuse, still end in tragedy. My ex possessed all of those histories. The realization of the possibility of becoming a statistic was chilling.

. . . 1 in 4 women will experience severe physical violence in their lifetime.

Against the suggestion of my lawyer, I opted to move two hours away from my ex, instead of staying in a Safe House. Besides, the Safe Houses near me were all full and I didn’t know about other organizations, such as ALIVE Inc. (Alternatives to Living In Violent Environments). So I moved in with my parents, and felt comfortable with the fact that we had some distance between us. After a year-long battle over debt, our divorce was finalized and I was able to get back to a normal life. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many victims of domestic violence. Too often, it ends in the death of an innocent person trying to break free from their abuser.

The CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention states that Intimate Partner Violence is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans and results in serious consequences for victims, families, and communities.

  • In an average minute, about 24 people are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.
  • In 2010, 241 males and 1095 females were murdered by an intimate partner.
  • In one year, more than 12 million women and men reported being a victim of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.
  • In their lifetime, 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) report experiencing severe physical violence (e.g., hit with a fist or something hard, beaten, slammed against something) by an intimate partner.

At first I was surprised to find that the Center for Disease Control would have a division dedicated to violence prevention. But as I began to think about all of the issues caused by abuse, it made perfect sense. Not only is domestic violence to blame for thousands of deaths and millions of injuries each year, it is also a main factor for mental health issues. Domestic violence leads to millions of people being diagnosed each year with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and other mental illnesses. Help spread awareness, support your local safe houses, and let’s find a cure to end domestic violence.

~Christa G.

Leaving

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Leaving.

To go away from.

To leave, what may have been, the majority of one’s life behind.

To step out, into the unknown.

The first time I contemplated leaving my abusive relationship, I was met with a wave of uncertainty. The what ifs of life came pouring in and stopped me in my tracks. I would outweigh the pros and cons of becoming a single mom on almost a daily basis. I was basically a single mom already, so it all boiled down to being able to afford living on my own. What would everyone think of me, though? Everyone will think I’m taking the easy way out. They’ll think I didn’t try hard enough to save my relationship. They’ll blame me. But I eventually came to the point that everyone else’s opinion of me no longer mattered. The safety and well-being of myself and my children became more important to me than anything else.  But leaving isn’t easy. Leaving requires inner-strength, support, and help from family and friends. The process is emotionally draining and becomes a psychological “tug-of-war.” My mind was being pulled in so many different directions. I knew my relationship was toxic and causing serious mental health issues for myself and my children. I knew that the most logical thing to do was to leave. And I knew that all of his promises were empty and nothing would ever change, but I was still hypnotized with his pleas for another chance.

After leaving, the psychological “tug-of-war” continued. I was inundated with text messages every day. The messages would start out with proclamations of his undying love, but they would quickly change to hostile threats, messages that would never come from someone that loves you. In one message, he would claim he missed me and couldn’t live without me, and in the very next message he would call me a cold hearted b*%#h. He would call me terrible names simply for the fact that I wouldn’t respond to his cries for me to come back. He would send messages threatening to make sure I couldn’t get full custody of the kids, and messages threatening to make my life a living hell. He would send messages telling me that I would never find anyone as good as him and so on. These messages would last several hours every day, and became so overwhelming that my father hid my phone on a few different occasions. I was in an unfortunate circumstance of not being able to cut all ties because we had children together, and he had visitation rights.

During this time, I maintained a focus on the end result. I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and knew that it was only a matter of time before the “hate mail” stopped. Soon, I would be free. I would no longer be stuck on that dreadful “roller coaster” of misery. After a couple of months away from that toxic relationship, my friends and family could see a physical change in my demeanor. My happy and carefree spirit started to resurface, and my ability to find joy was no longer hindered by belittlement and antagonism.

All abuse, whether it be verbal, emotional, sexual, or physical, present detrimentally damaging effects in all victims. So, when you decide to take the giant leap to leave, it’s best that you have a plan in mind. Have a support system available to offer strength and help during the healing period, you will need it! Look up other blogs on abuse and read other stories about overcoming an abusive relationship. It helps to know that you’re not the only one that’s been through this, you are not alone. If you haven’t left yet and are considering it, be sure to delete browser history after looking up blogs on abuse, help links, hotlines, and crisis centers.  The Emotionally Abused Woman: Overcoming Destructive Patterns and Reclaiming Yourself by Beverly Engel is a great book to help you leave an abusive relationship. Emotional abuse is often hard to detect and accept, it helps to have an objective perspective about what it is and how to deal with it. There are also crisis hotlines and abuse shelters everywhere. Search for one in your city if you need help getting away from an abusive relationship. In St. Louis, MO we have one organization in particular called A.L.I.V.E (Alternatives to Living In Violent Environments) that will go to whatever extent necessary to find a safe place for victims of violent abuse. Never be ashamed to reach out to them, they are here to help, no matter the extent of abuse.

Abuse is toxic to your mental and physical health. If you are in an abusive or violent environment, reach out to someone for help, come up with a plan to get to a safe place, and be prepared for the difficulties that will arise right after you leave. It’s best to completely cut all ties, but if you can’t, be sure to limit your conversation to only things that are necessary. And continuously remind yourself that it will get better! Eventually you will be free of their hold, you’ll feel liberated, whole, and happy again. Wait it out, don’t go back, you’ll thank yourself later…

~Christa G.

 

 

Shades of Insanity

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“You’re being completely crazy! Have you been taking your medication?!”

This was a regular occurrence for me in a past relationship. If I came across the hint that drug use was becoming an issue for my partner again, or that he was hiding something, I would raise questions about it only to be met with accusations of over-analyzing the situation. I just needed to calm down and make sure I was taking my anti-anxiety medication as prescribed. All those years I really thought I was overreacting, that I was the one with the problem. I was the one prescribed anti-anxiety medication to keep from having panic attacks when I would get upset. I was the one being treated for anxiety, not him, so then I really was crazy!

This was life with a psychopath.

They use their charm and manipulation to get what they want from everyone around them. They mold themselves into the person that they need to portray, in whatever situation they are in, in order to gain control. I had been manipulated to the point that I still question my intuition and sanity today, years after being out of that relationship.
The pain is still so vivid. I question myself daily. I question everyone daily. I question my gut feelings daily. Am I being overly analytical and crazy? Or are these fears normal? Do I have the right to question their activities? Do I have the right to question whether or not they’re telling me the truth? The struggle is real guys, and it’s extremely difficult to overcome. The constant strain on my mind, trying to overcome my own internal struggles, weighs me down and steals my joy. How do we overcome it? How do we take back our lives and the happiness that is so rightfully ours? We can’t depend on other people to make us happy, we have to look to ourselves. Dig deep and discover what makes us happy. Know that if in your gut you sense something is wrong, then your instinct is almost always right.

So, while it’s completely understandable that we suffer from a plethora of mental health issues after years of abuse, we also need to realize that we can’t use them as a crutch. Eventually we need to be able to move on with our lives. Build healthy relationships. Learn to trust again. Learn to live again. Learn to love again. And just in general, learn to be happy. It takes time to heal from emotional scars, sometimes years, and sometimes people never fully heal. Along the way to healing, we need to stay aware and keep in mind all of the red flags that let us know things aren’t healthy and we need to step back and analyze the situation. When looking at your relationship through a different lens, keep in mind these key signs that you could be dating a psychopath:

When you first meet them they shower you with flattery, displays of affection, and declarations of traits that make you both perfect for each other.

They prey on your emotions with stories to make you feel sorry for their past experiences. Whether with an ex, a co-worker, family member, or friend. They are always the victim in every situation of their life. You’ll quickly have a soft spot for them, they’ve used their charm so effectively that they have you hooked.

Now that you’re hooked they begin to create situations purposefully to make you jealous. They begin to surround themselves with people who provide them with added attention. They want you to know that they are wanted by everyone. So you better not slip up because they have plenty of admirers to fall back on.

Eventually you’ll come to the point that you begin to see through their behaviors. You’ll begin to question their activities, you’ll confront them about it and you’ll be met with accusations that you’re crazy. They are master manipulators and will rewrite reality in front of you, turning the situation around, making it appear to be your fault. They condition you to believe that the problem isn’t the abuse itself, but instead your reactions to their abuse.

They will accuse you of feeling emotions that they are intentionally instilling in you. They will call you jealous after blatantly flirting with an ex on social media, for the world to see. They’ll call you needy after ignoring you for days on end. They use your reactions to garner sympathy from other targets, trying to prove how irrational and crazy you are.
You notice that there is always an excuse for everything. They constantly blame others, it’s never their fault. They will spend more time justifying their behavior than improving it.

Eventually you won’t recognize your own feelings. Your natural tendencies for love and compassion have been replaced by uncontrollable panic and anxiety. You may even resort to taking anti-anxiety medication, as I did. You apologize on a regular basis for things you didn’t do and cry more than any other time in your life. After being broken down by an abuser, you will feel crazy, emotionally exhausted, empty, depressed, and worthless. Don’t let it come to that. Pay attention to the signs and get out before they drag you down the gutter.

 

We can’t depend on other people to make us happy, we have to look to ourselves.

 

The signs are there—in every situation, relationship, and circumstance in our lives. Pay attention, take notes, learn to trust your instincts, and know that no one has the right to belittle you, call you names, or beat you (men and women alike). Regardless of what you think your actions were that prompted their bad behavior, they are not a justification for them to hurt you. Abuse is real. Abuse is painful. Abuse is life-wrecking. There are options, there is help for you, and you can be saved. Please reach out to someone today if you can relate to anything in this post. Everyone deserves happiness!

~Christa G.

Hand-Me-Downs

ashamed1“You are such an idiot, I hate you!” my youngest spat angrily.

“Shut up, you jerk!” my son snapped in response.

Often, I find myself as the mediator to some showdown of verbal firepower between my three children. We try to focus on using kind words and not saying things that would hurt someone’s feelings. However, it’s as if the behavior is instilled in them and will be repeated no matter how hard I try to correct it. As a child, I remember bickering with my sister and at times raising our voices, but never with the amount of anger as my children display. Their behavior is most likely the effect of being exposed to the verbally abusive relationship that we recently left. Although I did my best to hide it from them, to keep them from hearing the profanities that most likely reverberated through the entirety of our house, they were exposed. Studies show that 90 percent of children in homes where there is domestic violence, know it is going on.

They are tiny sponges, absorbing everything around them, constantly learning through observation.

Domestic violence is a learned behavior. So for it to continue generation after generation, these abusers are exposed to it as children. They may grow up watching their father beat their mother, or vice versa. According to Safe Horizon, recent studies suggest that more than three million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year. The effect of witnessing parents verbally and physically abusing one another can be detrimental to the mental health and overall well-being of the children exposed. As mentioned in our post, Gang for Justice, these children are more likely to become abusive as adults or end up as victims of abuse. Thus it continues through the generations. Children that are exposed to domestic violence can also incur other adverse effects as adults, such as homelessness, poverty, depression, drug abuse, and poor physical and mental health. Giving children the best chance for success is one of the many reasons why we need to bring awareness to the impact of ALL types of domestic violence.

There is an unspoken pressure on us, in this Game of Life, to have a picture-perfect family with picture-perfect portraits plastered all over social media. I believe this is why most people stay in abusive relationships for so long. In most social circles, divorcing is greatly frowned upon, especially if there is no evidence that anything is wrong in the relationship. For the longest time, I was persuaded that divorce would have a terrible impact on my children, depriving them of an unbroken home. When in actuality, it was already broken. It is significantly more disastrous to their general health than divorce. Children need the stability of healthy relationships in order to thrive and become responsible and caring adults. Granted, there are some that overcome their circumstances, growing into the most incredible individuals you could ever meet. But it is rare, and they still must beat all odds, conquering obstacles that no child should ever face.

We try to focus on using kind words and not saying things that would hurt someone’s feelings.

Be wary of how a child interacts with siblings and peers. If they are constantly putting down their siblings, or refuse to accept responsibility for their own bad behavior, these indicate abusive tendencies. It is not too late to correct these behaviors. We can teach them compassion, love, and the appropriate way to treat others, but we first have to remove them from lifestyles that are abusive. I found that the most helpful outlet for my kids after the divorce was family counseling. They received a little one-on-one time with a licensed family therapist, allowing them an objective person to discuss all of their fears, feelings, and pains. Therapists can help them understand why decisions had to be made and help them understand their feelings about those decisions.

Parents set the foundation of the future for their children. They are tiny sponges, absorbing everything around them, constantly learning through observation. If they live in a dangerous home environment where the parents fight and argue and belittle one another, then they will grow up to believe that behavior is normal. As a child, we are greatly influenced by our parents. We look up to them. We watch them. We mimic them. And somewhere out there, there are three million children watching and mimicking abuse. One day they will abuse. One day they will perpetuate the cycle. We must stop this. Help us end the cycle. Children are our future, we need to instill in them love, tenacity, independence, and the ability to lead with compassion.

~Christa G.