Recently I was thinking about the many roles a person plays in their day to day life. Myself I am a Christian, a partner, a mom, an advocate, a Mentor, a Supervisor, a friend, a sister, an aunt and a cousin to name a few roles. I have to admit though, the hardest role I have ever had to play is being my exes wife.
I went into my marriage naively. I believed that if I loved him enough it would all be ok. One day he would heal and he wouldn’t get so angry. He wouldn’t throw things, or scream at me, or call me names. I truly believed that if I was the best wife in the world he would one day see the error of his ways and it would all change. Thinking that way resulted in me taking on a number of additional roles. I was a protector to my children, a mediator between my ex and my kids, the perfect wife when all I wanted to do was cry. I would go into family gatherings, after being screamed at the whole drive there, with a smile on my face. I learned how to be fake in order to survive. I became a robot.
As a result my feelings were buried deep down within me. You see a robot does not have emotions. A robot just needs to make sure it can function and do the jobs that are asked of it. Day after day, year after year. Until the robot breaks.
One day I did break. I could no longer pretend. I could no longer paste that smile on my face and act like all was ok. I could no longer ignore what was happening right in front of me. I had to see my exes abuse for what it was and start over. When that happened all of the emotions came, the endless tears. I was devastated. A human again who needed support to rebuild.
Survivors of abuse will do what they have to do in order to survive. As a bystander you may think “well I would never do that” or you may say “what you did was wrong.” It’s important to not to be that way. It’s important to remember that your loved one did what they had to, to stay alive. It’s important not to judge them. Unless you have been there you really do not know what you would do in order to survive. Fully escaping an abusive relationship is like breaking free from a spiders web. You are entangled by the love you feel for that person (yes a victim of domestic violence did fall in love with their abuser at one point. People aren’t bad all the time.) or perhaps you feel obligated to stay for your kids sake, you have no money to leave, you have been shamed by family or friends to stay, or perhaps you are simply terrified to take the next step, not sure if you will make it out alive. You too are a robot and are not quite ready to breakdown and see things for what they are because it just would be too damn painful.
Survivors need understanding. They need positive reinforcement and guidance. They need to be given God’s grace as they untangle their web. As they become alive again there are ways you can help;
– Tell them that you are sorry this happened to them.
– It wasn’t their fault.
– Remind them that they survived; obviously they did the right things.
– Thank them for telling you. .
– Tell them that you are here if they want to talk.
– Ask if there is anything you can do for them?
Please, please, PLEASE do not say;
– It is their fault.
– You could have avoided it had you ____________.
– It’s been so long! Get over it!
– It’s not that big of a deal; it happens to lots of people.
– I don’t believe you. (that’s the very worst thing to say)
Be there for the Survivor in your life. Rebuilding oneself is hard work. A kind word or listening ear can do wonders. After being told by your abuser that you are worthless and no one will ever believe you, your support can do wonders in them rebuilding themselves. You do not have to solve all of their problems, you can refer them to professionals for things that are beyond what you can do. No one expects you to solve their problems. Extra support can be found at:
In USA and Canada you can call the National Domestic Hotline at 1 800 799-7233 (SAFE) for shelters visit www.domesticshelters.org
For Men 1 888 7HELPLINE (1 888-743-5754)
In the UK call Women’s Aid at 0808 2000 247
For Men ManKind Initiative 01823 334244
In Australia you can call the National Domestic Hotline 1800 200 526 and
One in Three Campaign has help for Male Survivors
Or visit www.hotpeachpages.net/a/countries.html to find help numbers for any other country.