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.

All You Need is Love

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I recently came across a post in which an actress had come under some fire and was bashed publicly for kissing her 4-year-old son on the lips. I was immediately dumbfounded at the fact that there are people out there that felt it was inappropriate! The very thought that a parent pouring out affection on their child could be seen as disgusting is highly disturbing. Love and affection are basic needs for a child to thrive.

A September 2013 study from UCLA, titled “Childhood Abuse, Parental Warmth, and Adult Multisystem Biological Risk in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study” suggests that a loving parental figure may alter neural circuits in children that could influence health throughout a lifespan. Inversely, the negative impact of childhood abuse or lack of parental affection may also take a mental and physical toll that could last a lifetime. Childhood neglect increases adult risk for mortality, morbidity, and poor health later in life.

Are we really so caught up in the hustle of making a living that we’re forgetting to ensure the most important people in our lives aren’t being deprived of the one thing they need most. . . love.

Our children want to be noticed. They want your attention. They need your hugs. A kiss on the cheek. Snuggles. These are the things that guide them, make them compassionate, and help them succeed.

Love and discipline go hand in hand. You cannot give discipline without displaying love in return or your child will begin to withdraw, and take on the mindset that they can never do anything right.

Kiss your child on their little cheeks or lips. Tell them how much you love them and how proud you are to be their parent. They need love like they need breath, shelter, food, and clothing.

~Christa G.

Lorelei

We are going to start breaking up our usual routine of posts with pieces from a book I just started writing. I don’t want to give anything away with a synopsis, so here it is. I hope you enjoy it.

Prologue

My sister’s thin frame lay motionless, sunken in a dirty mattress, the filth surrounding her blending with her soiled dress. I swallowed around the lump in my throat, my heart pounding in my chest. “Lorelei?” I lifted a shaky hand and pressed it gently on her shoulder, her skin cold as the frost outside. I tried not to think of the sharpness of her shoulder bone or the whiteness of her complexion or the way her clothes hung on her frame as though they didn’t belong. My heart sank as I glanced at her room, the floor seemed to move and I tried not to think of why that might be. I don’t even know how I managed to sneak in. But time was running out. Shaking her shoulder, I managed to loudly whisper, “Lorelei, wake up, I don’t have much time.”

A soft groan parted her chapped and peeling lips. Her brow crinkled into a frown as she squinted up at me, her red eyes widened and she opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out.

“What?” I asked, trying not to panic at the confused look on her pitiful face.

Her lips moved to the motion of a sentence, but still no sound.

Rage consumed me. She was worse off than I thought. I could not allow this to happen to her. “Get up, you’re coming with me. I’m getting you out of here.”

She remained motionless.

“Lorelei?”

She turned her head away from me.

“You’re coming with me, and you’ll thank me later.” I bent down to pull her up off the bed. A powerful wind punched me in the chest, knocking me clear across the room. I slid down the wall, landing with a painful thud. Bewildered, I stumbled to my feet, taking a step toward Lorelei. “Don’t you see what he’s done to you?” Adrenaline surged through me, I tried to control the quaking inside of me. “This isn’t you.” The same wind that threw me earlier, now circled around her bed, snatching up nearby debris. “Come with me!” I raised my voice over the howling of the wind. “You don’t know what’s best for you right now, let me take you away from here!” The walls around me creaked and moaned and bent inward as the ceiling expanded. I felt myself floating farther away from her. My time was up. “Lorelei! Please!”

to be continued . . .

~Lindsey V.

Defining Abuse

abuse-dictionary

Domestic Violence: violent or aggressive behavior within the home.

Physical Abuse: any intentional act causing injury or trauma to another person, by way of bodily contact.

Verbal Abuse: described as a negative defining statement told to the victim or about the victim, or by withholding any response, thereby defining the target as non-existent. If the abuser does not immediately apologize and retract the defining statement, the relationship may be a verbally abusive one.

Emotional/Psychological Abuse: is a form of abuse, characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another person to behavior that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Financial Abuse: a common tactic used by abusers to gain power and control in a relationship. Forms of financial abuse may be subtle or overt, but in general, include tactics to limit the partner’s access to assets or conceal information and accessibility to the family finances.

Sexual Abuse: also referred to as molestation, is usually undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another.

Abuse affects everyone. . .

Elderly

Women

Men

Children

Pets

Abuse is an attempt to control the behavior of another person. It is a misuse of power which uses the bonds of intimacy, trust, and dependency to make the victim vulnerable.

~Christa G.

Impressions

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When I was a little girl, I was described as a giggle box, deliriously happy, always smiling, and a bundle of joy. I was the little blonde thing bouncing around, skipping along, singing, playing, imagining, and creating. I couldn’t sit still, but I’m pretty sure I was a bucket of fun! Always mischievous and getting into something.

And then. . . I grew up. Growing up changes us. Through our teens and early twenties, we are the most impressionable. Soaking up the actions, words, and advice of others like sponges. It only takes one insult to bring in doubts. A few jabs at your looks, intellect, actions, or opinions and your self-esteem will drop fast. And sadly, in most cases, it’s only one person wreaking havoc on your self-worth.

My unhealthy relationship took its toll on me and left me stripped of the ability to find joy. I soaked up the degradation, name-calling, and misery. And it left me feeling worthless, depressed, and confused. I began believing all of the insults and twisted stories.

I lost myself in his version of me . . .

There was a time when I heard my mother say that I was like a zombie. I showed no emotion, and seemed to be walking through life aimlessly.

My father, at one point, told me he missed my care-free spirit and the girl that laughed at everything, even the things that weren’t that funny.

I had been molded into a woman with no confidence in myself or my abilities to overcome obstacles. I was quiet, compliant, never spoke my mind, looked at myself as plain, unattractive, and unable to achieve success.

This is what happens to people that are continuously put down, and made to believe their opinions don’t matter.

This is what happens when you’re told you would look like a guy with a short haircut.

This is what happens when you’re blamed for everything that goes wrong.

This is what happens when your life is dictated by your partner.

Today, three years free of that relationship, I have found that bubbly little girl that can laugh freely. My grandfather, rest his soul, recently told me that he was glad to see me so happy and successful. People that have only recently met me can’t believe I ever struggled with low self-esteem or confidence, and can’t even begin to imagine that I was ever depressed and suicidal.

Once I was free from the manipulation, I was able to find myself. I was able to see that I am smart, confident, and successful. I was able to be the mother that my children needed. I no longer allow the degrading criticism of others to dictate how I should feel about myself.

Don’t get lost in the opinions that other people have about you. Don’t let your abuser define you.

Find yourself. Find your inner-child. Find your happy ending. . . and free yourself from those that hold you back.

I decide who I am.

~Christa G.

 

 

Objects

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She lived in constant fear. Her husband claimed to protect her, to know what was best for her. But she couldn’t ever do anything right. It was so easy to anger him, the way she dressed, walked, and even moved. He could be incited to violent outbursts against her. It was always her fault, he was never accountable. And when she tried to stand up for herself, he minimized her suffering by brushing it aside. She exaggerated; he never hurt her as bad as she claimed.

He blamed her when he had to senselessly beat her into submission. If only she had sat where he told her to sit. He blamed her when he nearly strangled her to death. If only she hadn’t made a snide comment under her breath. He blamed her when he raped her. If only she put out as much as he liked, he wouldn’t have to take it by force. He isolated her from all of her friends and family. He spread nasty rumors about her throughout their entire neighborhood. She was a lying and adulterous slut who didn’t appreciate everything he did for her. He controlled her finances and prevented her from working a good job. She had nowhere to turn. No one in her community trusted her. In their opinions, she had brought this misfortune on herself.

 

We all are painfully familiar with this story, but not in the way you may realize. The abusive spouse in this story is “white privilege” and the victim is the black community. I could even compare this to the way other minorities are treated, but for this post I am going to focus on the black community due to recent events. Obviously, the racial strife which has been tearing apart our country for hundreds of years is the result of small-minded prejudice. But I couldn’t help noticing a correlation when the Black Lives Matter movement was met with an extremely dismissive “All Lives Matter” campaign. I couldn’t get the injustice out of my mind.

It reminded me of how when my abusive boyfriend got aggravated with me one morning and kicked me in the ankle. I flipped out and started yelling at him, telling him how much it hurt. He scoffed at my reaction, insisting he did not kick me and that it didn’t hurt. He mocked me and said incredulously, “So what now? You’re gonna tell your friends and family that your boyfriend abuses you?!” He was minimizing my pain and indignation, twisting it around to make me feel like I was overreacting. I feel like this is exactly what “All Lives Matter” is doing. They are completely dismissing the concerns of an entire race of people! They are ignoring the injustices that have occurred. They are silencing these victims’ voices with their stupidity, screaming back to those overcome with grief and hopelessness, “Oh, you’re hopeless? What about all the other people who have died? What makes you so special? It shouldn’t be all about you!”

We have entire communities living in constant fear of being pulled over for mere traffic violations and having to reach for their wallets. Mothers will now be afraid to let their children hold toy guns in a park. Kids in Jena, Louisiana will be scared to sit under the “whites only” tree for fear of death threats and if they decide to stand up for themselves, the law won’t see it that way. White judges with all white jurors will rule in favor of “white privilege” in order to destroy the lives of black petty criminals.

Yes, this is all very much an issue of racism and prejudice, but also very much a prime example of abuse. In an abusive relationship, the abuser does not view their victim as a human being, but rather as an object. Let that sink in. They do not relate to their “loved one” as another human being. Have you ever wondered how someone who claims they love and care for their partner, could be so cruel at the same time? It’s because they do not love them. The abuser views that person as a representation of what they can do for them. In most cases, that person acts as a “whipping boy” or a “punching bag.” They know that person has nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to and so they can take out their frustrations on them. They get a sort of thrill in dominating them. It’s about authority and power.

So ask yourself, when you hear about people like Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and many others, do you relate to them as a person or as an object? Let me be more specific, do you think of the lives they may have led? Of the children they served food to at school or even at home? Of the person they might have become when they grew up? Or do you think about how they represent something you fear?

Do you fear a cop pulling you over and panicking at the mere mention of how you have a license to carry? Do you fear being beaten to a pulp because you happen to have the bad luck of drawing the attention of a racist cop? I can’t imagine the fears that blacks and any other minority group experiences. But I can imagine the wound, the gaping infectious wound, that our country has caused and seemingly refuses to treat. How can we fix a system that does not relate to these people as fellow human beings but as objects to oppress and dominate? How do we stop cops from panicking and taking it upon themselves to be the judge, jury, and executioner for these people?

I always said that an abuser who does not take responsibility for his own actions will continue to abuse. We need to hold these cops that took it upon themselves to kill these people accountable for their crime. It is not their job to kill. It is their job to bring people to justice. We need to hold racist judges accountable for egregious sentences that ruin the future of young adults whose only crime was to refuse to let an entire student body of white racists intimidate them. We need to not let others dismiss the suffering and mourning of those whose family members have died at the hands of these cops. Do not allow others to dismiss fellow human beings.

I have been guilty of remaining silent in the face of blatant racism, because it was too infuriating to involve myself or I did not wish to alienate myself from those close to me. But from now on, I must speak out against this abuse and so must you.

~Lindsey V.

Stranger Danger

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Why do so many of us fall into a trap of being conned by those closest to us? Whether it be a sibling, a parent, a spouse, or a friend, we seem to be blinded by love or by their sweet words and promises. Yet from a young age, we are taught about “stranger danger” and to be wary of those trying to scam us out of our hard-earned savings or cheat us into buying a worthless car. We are told to never trust a TV evangelist or a door-to-door salesman. Our mothers are constantly warning us to never walk alone at night and always have mace handy. “Stranger Danger” is something that is preached to us at home and at school. In our mind, we are conditioned to believe that the most harm that can come to us is from a stranger. But the sad truth is, we can receive more harm from our “loved” ones.

Why is that? Why are we warned about the dangers of strangers over the dangers of those we think we know best? How long has society just accepted domestic abuse as a part of life? And how many of us have thought it would never happen to us or anyone we know?

For years, domestic abuse was a hush topic, even more so than it is today. Victims were blamed for the abuse or shamed for it. There were no laws or orders of protection that would help the victims. And there were no shelters. Hundreds of years ago, it was even legal for a man to beat his wife, just as he could beat his apprentices and children. In some areas of the world today, it is still a legal practice. This is because women and children were considered property. They had no individual rights and were solely dependent on the man who “owned” them. When women began to have more legal recognition and gained the right to vote or to own property themselves, then the law began to change its attitude toward domestic abuse. The first shelter for battered women was opened only as recently as 1973. And, even more recently, The Family Violence Prevention Services Act passed through Congress in 1984 (one year before I was born). So there’s probably many around my age or older whose parents never gave them a talk about domestic abuse.

I was never shown the Power and Control Wheel. Sure, I knew that domestic violence was totally a thing and definitely a danger to look out for. But I wasn’t told specifically what signs to watch for. I knew what attributes to look for in a man—responsible, caring, handsome, polite, and funny. The problem with that is, they all start out that way. They are charmers. They say and act exactly how they think you want them to and when they have you where they want, the truth seeps out. Little things, here and there. Little comments that begin to undermine your sanity. My ex, when we first started dating, claimed he loved to cook for those he cared about. He started out cooking all the time for us. Then it eventually morphed into him complaining that he always cooked for me. Then he tried to train me to cook for him. Then I could never cook right or cooked too loudly, waking him up while he was napping. In the beginning, he was on his best behavior.

In our mind, we are conditioned to believe that the most harm that can come to us is from a stranger.


My lack of education in regards to abuse was no fault of my parents, they also were not told of the dangers of verbal or physical abuse. And those that may have experienced abuse themselves, may have just assumed their abuser was a rotten egg. There was no information floating around in the cosmos, warning people of the pattern of abuse. There were no courses at school warning us of how damaging domestic abuse could be to ourselves and those around us. We were shown videos on how to say no to sex and drugs—don’t even get me started on my thoughts about the state of sex education in our schools. We were shown presentations on the dangers of drinking while under the influence. But there was never a presentation of domestic abuse, no questionnaire, no Cycle of Abuse diagram, no Power and Control Wheel, not even a pamphlet or brochure. I didn’t even know emotional abuse was a thing, until I googled it in an airport restaurant immediately after breaking up with my abusive ex-boyfriend. I had only ever heard of physical abuse. I did not realize emotional manipulation was something to watch out for in a relationship. I just thought some people could be shitty to one another. I had no idea that there was a name for it or that there was a clear pattern of behavior, or even the damaging effects it could cause both mentally and physically.

This needs to change. We have to educate our kids about abuse. The biggest danger out there can come from those we trust, those we let in to our lives. I don’t want our children to grow up fearing intimacy. I don’t want us to spread paranoia. The more information we give on abuse, the more informed our kids will be in making life-changing decisions. Let’s teach our children and the children in our communities that domestic abuse is no longer acceptable and we all have the power to stop it.

~Lindsey V.

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.

 

 

Break My Bones

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“You picked this gimpy shopping cart on purpose just to annoy me.”
“Why would you buy a car without me there to help you?”
“I take you out for lunch on your birthday and this is how you act?”
“Don’t be such a child.”
“You turn your back for one second and it burns!”
“You have anger issues.”
“If you gain weight, it’ll be in all the wrong places.”
“Can’t you just shut up and figure it out on your own?!”
“You’re wasting my time.”
“You’re boring me right now.”
“If you don’t do as I say, I will break up with you right now!”
“You’re incompetent and useless.”
“If you don’t like it, then stop reading my text messages.”
“That didn’t hurt! I nudged you, I didn’t kick you!”
“So what, now you’re gonna tell your family and friends that I abuse you?!”
“You asked for it!”
“It’s ALL your fault!”
“F&#K You!”
“You’re being a bitch right now!”
“You’re making me do this.”
“You’re just being a crazy c@nt!”
“Shut the f%#k up!”
“I’m not hurting you! How does this hurt?!”

Don’t let it get worse. End it . . . while you can.

~Lindsey V.