It’s been two years. It’s been two years since I faced all of my fears and faced my ex in Criminal Court. He had been charged with continual sexual assault against me in the last nine months of our marriage. I am going to admit to you that this is hard to write about and so very hard to think about, but I will do my best to share my thoughts.
It’s been two years. It’s been two years since I faced all of my fears and faced my ex in Criminal Court. He had been charged with continual sexual assault against me in the last nine months of our marriage. I am going to admit to you that this is hard to write about and so very hard to think about, but I will do my best to share my thoughts.
In Canada only 6 out of every 100 sexual assault is reported to Police. Many victims either don’t want Police involvement, have dealt with the assault in another way or feel it is a private matter and they do not want it in the Courts. For myself it was two years after the assaults when I went to the RCMP. Why did I wait two years? Well the Defence in my trial wanted the Jury to believe that the rapes never happened and that I only came forward two years later with a fabricated story and that I was seeking revenge. This of course was not the case. The report was filed when it was because that was the point where I was ready. I was ready to talk about the worst nine months of my marriage. Sexual Assaults are extremely personal, hugely traumatic and full of shame. After my ex assaulted me he would call me horrible names; whore, bitch, idiot, slut and so on. He would sit at the end of our marriage bed spewing this horribleness at me while I could hear our toddler son in the next room. I started to think that perhaps I was those things. Was I asking for this? Was I doing something during the day that let him think I did want these rapes to happen? No. No I was telling him not to touch me, not to sleep in our bed and to leave me alone, I knew that. I was not asking for this yet he still somehow made it my fault, and so did the Defence.
I have never been involved in any other Criminal Court Cases, but I do know that the most used tactic, by Defence Lawyers, in Sexual Assault Trials is to put the victim on trial. Every move you have made before and after the assault is scrutinized. You are blamed for not fighting hard enough, for not locking that bedroom door, for not doing enough to stop the assaults. Victim blaming at it’s best and wow can that ever play with your head. Defense Lawyers are just like abusers. They implant ideas and motives as to why you did not fight the way they thought you should and make it all your fault. You can easily end up doubting yourself. Could I have done more? Was I wrong when I did this or that? and so on. It is abusive and it is horrible that the Judges let it happen. It was explained to me post trial that the Crown is held to a level of decorum because, well it is representing the Crown, but Defence Lawyers are not held to this standard. They can make cheap shots, they can laugh behind the Crowns back (yes that happened), they can throw temper tantrums (yes that happened too) and they can yell at victims (yup, it happened) and the Judge will not bat an eye. It is sickly accepted and guess what? The Crown is not allowed to warn you ahead of time of this behaviour, so please let my testimony be enough to tell you that games are definitely played in Sexual Assault Trials.
The Defence banks on an old text book idea of how a sexual assault victim will behave. They will outline to the Jury that a female victim should be able to physically stop a sexual assault (lets just say that is nearly impossible, most males are physically bigger and stronger than their victim) and that when it is all over she should be in the mind frame to get herself to a hospital, be checked by a doctor and file a Police report right away. After the assault they should behave in a certain way, not have future relationships, would never have contact with their rapist again and should not act out of character. The thing is, that’s not how trauma works. Majority of reported sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows and in most cases it is someone in their home. So lets play this out. Someone you love assaults you and probably threatens you to keep quiet. They may threaten to hurt your children or take them away from you. They may threaten to hurt or kill you or a family pet. They will say whatever horrible thing it is that they have to say to keep quiet because they do not want to be exposed. That is traumatizing and most victims will believe what their rapist says will happen if they speak up. This person has just used great physical force and hurt them in unbelievable ways so what proof is there that they will not follow through with the other threats they make? There is none. So most victims will stay quiet. Many may talk about it later. It could be years later when they are strong enough or something else in their life triggers them and pushes them to talk about it. Hence why we have no statute of limitations on Sexual Assaults in Canada. In fact the majority of reported Sexual Assaults are reported long after the fact. So the fact that the Defence still leads the jury to believe the “text book” way a victim should react is completely false. It is also important to know that the victim will probably feel tons of shame around the assault. They will worry that others will see them as tarnished, dirty or broken and they don’t want to be seen that way so they keep quiet. There are also many who black out or are not completely present during the assault so details are fuzzy. I know that as the assaults in my marriage continued the details became fuzzy. In order to cope with the ongoing assaults I often separated myself from them and was not present. It is an extremely common survival instinct in Survivors of sexual assault. Our brain is amazing and it will do whatever it has to, to help you survive.
The Majority of Sexual Assaults do not result in a conviction. That was the situation in my case. Most sexual assaults happen in private and become a “He said, She said” case. Even though my ex verbally admitted to me that he knew what he was doing to me I did not have any physical proof of that. Just my account of the incident. I had told his cousin about it shortly after the confession, but when questioned by the RCMP she lied and said she had no memory of me telling her that or about any of the many assaults. Without physical proof it is so hard to prove a sexual assault. As a result so many rapists, like my ex, get to walk away and probably hurt someone else in the future.
I have often asked myself if I regret coming forward. Despite the trauma from the trial I am still glad I came forward. Irregardless of the outcome I did hold my ex accountable for the horrible things he did. I shined a light on the darkness and exposed him for who he is. Something he used to scream at me to never do because we were married. I spoke up for simply that reason, because he told me to keep quiet and I refuse to do that. I refuse to enable his abusive behaviours. Should you come forward if you are assaulted? I cannot answer that. I know society tells us to speak up when we are sexually assaulted so that the rapist can be punished. I agree with that. We should not protect abusers. In saying that though our Legal System needs to change. It needs to stop putting victims on trial. It needs to start putting the perpetrator on trial. Examine their actions before and after the incident. Examine what they do and say. Put them under the micro scope. Maybe then we would get somewhere with this unspeakable crime. If you have suffered this unspeakable crime my heart cries out to you. My word of advice is to do what you feel is right. Do what you need to do to heal in a healthy way. It is not an easy road, I know that, but I do believe you can get through this. Reach out for support. Go to a Sexual Assault Centre or call a Hotline, tell a friend. You did nothing wrong and you most certainly did not deserve this. You are loved and you are beautiful, please remember that.
– On a side note I am proud to say that my blog has been featured in the Top 30 Domestic Violence Blogs on Feedspot! Please go to http://blog.feedspot.com/domestic_violence_blogs/ to check it out! My blog was also featured on Open Forest as one of five must read blogs about Domestic Abuse. Check it out at https://openforest.net/domestic-abuse-5-must-read-blogs/
What is it like to realize you are married to an abuser? Life changing. Life shattering is a better description, but realizing and acknowledging that the person you love is an abuser is the first step to breaking free.
I remember when I lived in my abusive marriage. For many years I did not want to admit to myself that my husband was abusive. It was painfully impossible. I hung on through the bad times and just prayed that in time things would get better. I survived watching him throw chairs across the dining room in a rage or throwing our recliner across the living room because our girls were playing “too loud.” I survived the two year affair and the pushing down the flight of stairs when I was seven months pregnant. I held on through all of it because…..well because I loved him and I was caught in the abuse cycle.
Part of seeing that the one you love is an abuser is learning the abuse cycle. There are three parts to the cycle; the Tension Building Stage, The Incident and The Honeymoon Stage.
The Tension Building Stage is when you feel like you are walking on egg shells, waiting for the other shoe to drop so to speak. You, as the victim, know the abuse is coming you just do not know when so you walk softly in your life hoping not to rock the boat. For the abuser the tension is building in him/her. They will actually create incidents in their mind to be angry about, incidents that are minor to anyone else but they will blow them up in their mind so that they have a reason to explode. The abuser will set the victim up in a situation where they tell themselves they have a rite to explode and they will do just that; explode. The incident in the Incident Stage is never the same thing twice. This unpredictability keeps the victim on edge and gives the abuser control over them. I will give you an example. One night, in my abusive marriage, I made Hamburger Helper for supper. I cooked the ground beef and drained off the grease, like I had so many times before. When my ex started eating he suddenly exploded, yelling at me that there was too much grease in the supper and he started throwing forks and knives at me. He then got up and stormed off to the basement leaving myself and our children in a stunned silence, shaking in fear. In his head he needed to explode. He needed to release the tension that had been building in him. He created an incident in his head (too much grease in the meal) that justified exploding and he did just that. A few weeks later I made the same dish again. This time I was shaking as I made it, worried that he would explode again. I was really thorough, almost too thorough when I drained the grease, I did not want their to be a spot of grease. We sat down for the meal and I held my breath as he took the first bite. This time….nothing. No explosion, no angry words, no throwing of knives, nothing, but the meal was exactly the same! Do you see what he did? He created fear in me by getting angry about the grease, he then controlled my feelings and actions the next time I made the meal as I was extra careful in how I made it out of fear of him exploding again. He had complete control over me.
Following the Incident Stage or Violence Stage is the Honeymoon Stage. The abuser will often show remorse during this period. Many apologize and make promises that they will change and it will never happen again. There is a period of calmness as the victim enjoys the peace and the abuser is feeling calm because he has released all of that tension. Sooner than later though that tension will build again and the cycle will start all over again. As the abuser gains strength and feels more powerful each stage of the cycle will happen quicker and quicker and in turn will become more dangerous.
Breaking the abuse cycle is not easy. In fact, given the dangers around abuse, I believe it is the hardest cycle to break, but breaking it can happen. With proper support and understanding of the cycle you can break free. If you find that you are stuck in this cycle I encourage you to study the dynamics in an abusive relationship. Read books, google it on the internet and seeking counselling or a support group can all be helpful things. Empower yourself with knowledge.
In the end I did break free from the abuse cycle. It took many attempts to finally be free, but I did it and I could not be more proud of myself. Be proud of you. Do it. I BELIEVE in you.
PS. If you are planning to leave your abusive relationship I encourage you to create a Safety Plan so that you can leave safely. Please follow this link to download a Safety Plan. Scroll to the bottom of the page that initially opens to download it for free
As I head into the New Year I am realizing there is a shift in my healing from my abusive marriage. What is the shift? I am laughing at my ex. Yes you read that correctly, I am laughing at my ex.
I used to live in a world that was full of fear. My ex enjoyed terrorizing me, raping me, physically abusing me and our son and abusing my daughters in ways that I cannot put into words. I feared him. A lot. He liked that I was afraid and that I was hurting. Even my Lawyer, from talking to him, noted that my ex really enjoyed knowing I was in pain over what he had done. As our family doctor put it in Court, my ex is mentally unwell and is an undiagnosed Sociopath. So yes I have had every right to fear him.
So why am I laughing? Well I am laughing because my ex can no longer hurt me. His only contact is his pathetic bashing of me online. I will admit when I first found out he was attacking me on-line my PTSD kicked in and I was……well unsettled. Knowing he reads my facebook page or this blog used to bug me. I did not want him to be able to touch any part of my life. Now though……well now I really do not care. I see what he says online and I see it as pathetic and extremely predictable. Abusers will do this when you leave. They will trash your name (see my blog The Smear Campaign) to deflect from what they have done and they will watch you online because they still think of you as their property and something they own. This is what they do. Now that you know that and I know that it almost makes what they are doing pathetic don’t you think? There is nothing special in their actions, they are simply like every other hum drum abuser (is that too crass??!!) It kind of takes away their power doesn’t it? Well it certainly has for me.
So to my ex, and all of his minions who also follow me online, read away. I hope you have fun going over what I write, how I share what he did and in turn empower other Survivors to break free. Please enjoy my work. I’ll just be over here in the corner laughing at your predictability.
My ex has never shown any remorse for what he has done. He has never taken any responsibility. In fact he is quick to blame me for what happened in our marriage. This is classic abusive behaviour. Waiting to forgive my ex till he says sorry is like sitting and watching paint dry. I know I will be waiting for a very long time. I don’t want that long. I want to be free.
Forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard especially when you are trying to forgive someone who has hurt you so deeply. I wrestle with forgiving my ex for what he did to me and our children. In fact this is an issue that I often pray about and have been working through with my family Priest. Let me tell you that this has not been easy. I loved this man purely and all he did was turn evil on me. How does one forgive that? How do you forgive someone who raped you, terrorized you, threatened you and hurt your children? How to do you forgive someone who doesn’t appear to take responsibility for what he has done, let alone be sorry for it? That is what I have been exploring because I do believe it is integral to my healing to forgive.
Forgiving my ex does not mean I have to let him back into my life. Forgiveness means that I no longer need to carry what he did to me. I can offer it up to God and ask God to deal with my ex in his Godly ways. In that I can find peace and I can move forward.
I am reminded of the Bible story about the prodigal son. He has left father with his inheritance and caused much destruction. Upon the sons return his father embraced him before he even knows if his son is sorry. He loves and forgives his son not because his son has earned his forgiveness, but because God asks us to love our neighbours as ourselves and in that love is forgiveness.
In following the Commandment; Love your neighbour as yourself, I am asked as a Christian to love my ex as I love myself. I have been working hard at loving myself. Let me say that loving myself has not been an easy idea or act for me to do. When you are in an abusive relationship your self worth will be attacked by your abuser in order to weaken you. The abuse will weaken your self esteem and you will start to believe all the horrible things your abuser says about you. My ex called me many horrible names, especially in the final years of our marriage. Whore, idiot, stupid, bitch and slut were among his favourites. Over time I believed I was those names. By the time I left the relationship I did not believe I was capable of anything worthwhile and it took a supportive group of family, friends and my faith in God to help me see that I was not any of the names he called me. In time I remembered that I am a child of God, that I am worthwhile and that I have so many beautiful qualities. I began to love myself. Now that I value me, now that I love me I find God asking me to follow His Commandment and love my ex. Not as a lover, but as a child of God and in that love there is forgiveness.
My ex has never shown any remorse for what he has done. He has never taken any responsibility. In fact he is quick to blame me for what happened in our marriage. This is classic abusive behaviour. Waiting to forgive my ex till he says sorry is like sitting and watching paint dry. I know I will be waiting for a very long time. I don’t want that long. I want to be free. So what is next? Well in the words of Matthew West’s song “Forgiveness” (that I will leave you with) I am learning to love the unlovable and asking God to help me with the impossible; forgiving my ex. May your journey bring you peace.
A victim of abuse will live in a level of denial. You fall in love, you think he or she is all you ever wanted and then you start to see a dark side. A side that snaps at you or yells at you. Maybe he or she breaks something when they are angry. All red flags if you look at any “Are you being abused?” documentation, but as a victim you just don’t want to see it. You want to live your fairy tale. You want to believe that he or she loves you and is just a troubled person who needs more understanding than most. You don’t want to go through a break up so you hold on through the bad times and cheer during the good times. Over time the bad times happen more and more and before you know it there is barely a good second in your life.
It was slow and insidious at first. I didn’t realize what he was setting me up for. I thought he loved me, but he didn’t. Instead, to him, I was something he owned. I became an extension of him, like his arm or his leg. He did not know how to deal with his own emotions so he set up a cycle where he released his feelings through abusing me. This was my life. This was my marriage.
At first his friends warned me that he had a temper. I told them that I could handle it. I figured that if I loved him enough his anger would go away. He had had so many people leave him, his dad had died, his mom ignored him and the rest of his family was distant too. I felt sorry for him. I resolved that I would love him like no one else. What I didn’t know was that they saw his temper. They saw his violence and they didn’t know what to do about it, so they kept him at an arms length. What I also didn’t know was his temper had put a kid in the hospital when he was 16. A fellow teen ended up in intensive care and he had a restraining order against him. He spent a lot of his time in and out of the police station. It was an issue. An issue I didn’t want to see. I only wanted to see the quiet, tall, dark and handsome man that I had fallen in love with.
A victim of abuse will live in a level of denial. You fall in love, you think he or she is all you ever wanted and then you start to see a dark side. A side that snaps at you or yells at you. Maybe he or she breaks something when they are angry. All red flags if you look at any “Are you being abused?” documentation, but as a victim you just don’t want to see it. You want to live your fairy tale. You want to believe that he or she loves you and is just a troubled person who needs more understanding than most. You don’t want to go through a break up so you hold on through the bad times and cheer during the good times. Over time the bad times happen more and more and before you know it there is barely a good second in your life. I lived in that denial. I lived in that denial for almost 15 years. Then I woke up.
A moment will happen in a victims life that will jolt them “awake”. They will no longer be able to live in denial and they will see what is happening in their life is abuse. They will see that the man or woman they love has abused them in many different ways. It will shatter them and they will not know, at first, how to pick up the pieces. Everything they thought they knew will be questioned. Many fall into depression or they may become suicidal. It can become a very scary time for a victim or as I like to call them, a Survivor. I know that when I “woke” up my world was rocked to the core. I no longer trusted the world around me. My waking moment was when I saw him physically abuse our toddler son. He thought I had turned my back but out of my peripheral vision I saw him push our toddler son on the stairs so that he fell forward and smacked his head on the laminate flooring. I screamed, “What are you doing?” and ran forward to grab my screaming son. My now exes response was, “I didn’t push him that hard.” No apology, no concern. It was in that moment that I saw who my husband was; a cold uncaring man who was out to hurt his family. I knew in that moment that I had to start protecting myself and my young children.
Every Survivor’s moment is different. You, as a bystander, may already know that their partner is abusing them. There realization may come as no surprise to you, but please understand that to them their world is falling apart. They need love, understanding, patience and just someone to “be” with. Someone who will listen as they sort our this mess. It won’t be easy as a bystander to watch any of this. You will worry about them, you will watch them cry and you may even watch them go back. It plan out sucks to watch. All I can say is please try to hang on. They need you. They are full of self doubt, little or no self worth and they need someone who is just there, loving them through it all.
If you are the Survivor having your “waking” moment let me say that I know it hurts. I know that this is horrible and is totally not what you wanted. I know you wanted what you see other people having, love and caring from a special person, but let me tell you abuse is NOT love. Never, ever is it love. You deserve so much more than they are giving you and you are not any of the worthless things they may have told you , you are. I know that breaking this denial, making these changes is hard, but I do believe that you can do them. I didn’t think I could. I figured I would be stuck in my abusive marriage forever. I would never be able to afford to leave and wouldn’t I be a horrible mother splitting up my family? Then I realized that he had already split up our family when he started abusing us. We were already broken. By leaving I was just doing what needed to be done to protect myself and my children from further pain. I was doing the right thing. Yes there have been hurdles, but I faced each one head on and was determined to survive. You too can survive. You too can do it! I truly believe in you. So break the denial, see the ugly for what it is, hold on, pray, reach out for support and reach for a better life where you are valued and loved.
PS. If you are thinking about leaving your abusive relationship please know that your priority needs to be your safety. Do not tell your abuser that you are planning to leave as the abuse will often escalate. The most dangerous time for a Survivor of abuse is when they plan to leave or have just left. To help you plan a safe escape I encourage you to create a Safety Plan. Please follow the link below and scroll to the bottom of the page that comes up to download a Safety Plan for free.
It’s Boxing Day and I don’t know about you, but I am Exhausted. Another Christmas Day has come and gone. For me the day was a busy and overall a good day. It was the first year that my 7am alarm was what woke my family up! I was surprised, but then again my youngest is now 10 years old so perhaps the 4 am – creeping – into – my -room -to -see -if -I -am -awake -and -can -we -open -presents moments have come to an end. Sigh. Anyways my day started with our little family opening our gifts, followed by prepping for Christmas supper, a nap, feeding my horse and then supper with my fiancé’s sister and family. It sounds pretty nice doesn’t it? It was, but then why did I end the day quietly crying in the dark in the quiet of my living room?
Recovery from abuse sucks and it’s suckiness can creep up on you at the most inopportune times. For me it was late on Christmas Day night. I find when holidays come memories of the past creep into my mind. This year they were not as powerful as they had been in the past. I did not have any full blown flashbacks or panic attacks. They were more like an annoying tap on my shoulder saying, “hey do you remember me?” My response was, “yes I remember, but you will not have a hold on me today” and I just kept swatting them away. I was pretty proud of myself, yet still I ended up in tears.
PTSD is not an easy road. You are constantly on high alert. Adrenaline is pumping through your body as your whole being prepares to fight or flee. Your heart is always racing, as are your thoughts and it is bloody exhausting. You are constantly on the lookout for danger. I need to remember that all of that was happening to me underneath the Christmas supper prepping and present opening. I often forget that in my recovery. I carry forward like I do not have PTSD and think that I should be able to function like I don’t have any disabilities, but I do have them. They are often unseen to the outside world but they are there. So really, is it any surprise that before my guests had left I had collapsed on my couch and was later crying in the dark? I think not. My nervous system had a lot to process yesterday; extra people in my house which would result in my whole being subconsciously assessing whether I was safe. I also had those annoying memories tapping me on the shoulder. I will be honest I was also trying really hard not to let anyone know I was going through all of this. So yes I do understand why in the end I ended up in tears.
I love my family, both extended and non extended. They are a huge part of my life and I would not change having these gatherings. I am glad I was able to see everyone yesterday. Upon reflection I just have to be mindful of my disabilities and perhaps be more open with my family as to what I am going through. Save myself from collapsing at the end of the night. Communication with loved ones is key as you recover from abuse and battle PTSD. You need a good support system to make it through the good and bad times. At the end of the night, as I cried, I was grateful for two people in my support system; my fiancé and my oldest daughter. My daughter heard me crying and came into the living room to see if I was ok. At that point I could not put it into words so we just sat together and then my fiancé joined us. They both held my hands and we chatted about everything and nothing all in one. It was a blessed moment. My fiancé reminded me that in this family we always have each others backs and that I am loved. I will get through this battle and my friends so will you.
Peace and Blessings to all of you during this Holiday Season.
The Smear Campaign. Ugh. If you are a Survivor of abuse expect your name to be smeared by your abuser. It’s an ugly part of the game that abusers play, but I have learned, a very expected one.
When you are being abused your abuser wants you to live in a world of silence. They, for obvious reasons, do not want anyone to know that they are hurting you. If anyone finds out they could be in a heap of trouble legally and would probably lose friends and family and possibly their job. They have a lot to lose so they will do whatever it takes to protect themselves and that includes smearing the name of their victim. It’s all about deflection.
Deflection is a move that many of us learn as children. For example your child breaks the heirloom gift Great Aunt Susie gave when they were born. As a parent you are upset and the child is afraid of what the consequences will be if they tell you the truth. Instead they make up a story and blame the dog. Suddenly the dog is being punished and being told it is a bad dog. Everyone is so busy scolding the dog that no one looks to the child anymore. They may even feel sorry for your child. Abusers are experts at deflection. Under no circumstance do they want anyone looking directly at them for what has gone wrong. It is always someone else`s fault, mainly yours and they will make sure everyone remembers how `bad`you are by smearing your name.
My ex has recently taken to social media to smear my name. He has started to publicly call me a liar, accuse me of parental alienation and that he is my victim. I have watched this from afar and I`ll be honest I do not expect anything less of him. He is an abuser and this is what abusers do. They smear their victims name so that others feel sorry for them and don`t look at the damage they have caused. It is classic textbook abuser behaviour. If anything his online behaviour proves once more that he is an abuser.
So, if your abuser starts to smear your name take a deep breath. Know that this is part of their abusive behaviour, but you are better than this childish behaviour. Remember that you know the truth and deep down so do they. They can deflect all they want, but in the quiet of the night I will guarantee they are the ones having trouble falling asleep. They know that they hurt you and your children in unspeakable ways and they have to live with that. You, on the other hand, can heal. You can and will rise above all of this. You can be happy and most importantly you CAN be free of their abuse.
As a woman who works with Survivors of Domestic Violence I often hear the Survivors ask, “Why do I want him back? He treats me horribly, but I still want to go back”? My answer to this is a bit long and complicated but I will try to explain my thoughts on this dilemma.
Leaving a Domestic Violent Relationship is extremely difficult. I often hear, within society, people saying ignorant statements like: “If it was me I would have left the first time he (or she) hurt me.” “Are you stupid? Why would you stick around for that kind of treatment?” “You must like it if you stay” “Just leave!” Just leave. If only it were that easy. On average a woman will try leaving her abusive relationship 7 times before she finally ends the relationship. Some of the roadblocks a woman runs into, when trying to leave, can be financial; 99% of all Survivors have suffered some form of financial abuse. It could be that they have limited access to funds. The bank account may be in his (or her) name and they may only be given a small allowance to live off of or their abuser may have racked up a lot of debt in their name. Financial abuse is a great way to have control over your victim. You can’t get far if you don’t have any money can you? At least that is what the abuser is counting on. Another thing that often holds a Survivor back from leaving is fear. Often a Survivor will have their life threatened while in the relationship. They may fear what their abuser is capable of if they do leave. Statistically the most dangerous time for a Survivor is when they are planning to leave or have just left. Why? Their abuser senses that they are losing control over their victim and they will often stop at nothing to keep them at their side. They will use fear and intimidation to keep their victim weak. Their abuser also may have threatened to hurt or kill their family, friends or pets if they leave. If their are children involved they may threaten to take the children away from them if they leave.
OK, so back to why a Survivor goes back to their abuser. You might think that once they get past all the hurdles listed above they would just stay away from their abuser, right? Wrong. Abusers are good. Really, really, really good at manipulation. I call them Master Manipulators. People often think abusers do not know what they are doing, that their rages are out of control anger (which is why many are ordered to go to anger management classes), but let me tell you they know EXACTLY what they are doing. Exactly. They know that they are hurting their victim. They know they are scarring them and they are OK with that. Abusers are not healthy people and many don’t have a conscience about hurting other people. Many abusers actually enjoy or “get off” on hurting others. My ex often had a smirk on his face when he hurt me so yes they know exactly what they are doing. They also know exactly what to do to get you back. If fear and intimidation doesn’t work then they will turn on the charm. They will promise that they will never hurt you again. They will profess their undying love to you and many will buy you a gift just to soften you heart. My ex manipulated me a few ways. He made promises that things would be different, he would become more attentive to the kids and would help me around the house, he would dote on me. He would suddenly be the father and husband I always asked him to be. He would sign up for counselling and would promise that this time it would be different.
So did I go back?
Yes. Yes I did. Time and time again I took him back, much to my families concern.
My ex also applied guilt and played on the fact that we were married and that we were a family. He played on the fact that I took my vows very seriously. I didn’t see until much later that he had already broken every vow we ever made so our vows were really a moot point, but while I was caught in the cycle of abuse he kept telling me that we had to honour our wedding vows. He also said that we had to stay together for our kids. Most abusers will use their children this way. For the longest time I thought I was the worst person ever to think about breaking up our family. It wasn’t until I realized that living in an abusive home is a form of child abuse and that my children actually feared their father, that I was able to break free from that guilt.
Another reason I went back was financial. I did not know how I could afford paying a mortgage and raise three kids without his income. You see the majority of abusers will not volunteer child support. My ex actually stopped, without telling me, the direct deposit of his paycheque, shortly after one of our separations, into our joint account. As a result I had loan and mortgage payments bouncing all over the place. It didn’t take long and I was contacting him again because…well I was struggling to feed our kids and keep a roof over our heads. Well played by him wasn’t it?
For some trauma bonding or Stockholm Syndrome happens making it hard for them to stay away. You might wonder what that is. It is a syndrome often suffered by kidnap victims with their kidnapper. Through the trauma they form a loving bond with their kidnapper, it helps them survive what is going on. This also happens to many abuse victims. In turn they have hard time separating themselves from their abuser.
Yes we love them. You might ask, “How can you love someone who hurts you?” Well let me explain. First off they are not Monsters all of the time and we sort of have a fantasy love with them. They also know how to be very loving, very attentive and be everything you would hope them to be. In those good moments you are grateful that you hung on during the rough times because the good times, well they are really good. Also when you are in a relationship where your self esteem has been taken apart and you feel worthless you jump all over the loving attention when it is given. Abusers know that too and they will use it to their advantage.
So these are the reason we return; money, fear, kids, guilt, homelessness, craving love and trauma bonding. It’s complex why we stay and it’s hard when we decide to leave. My advice, if you know a Survivor just listen and offer support. Be their sounding board as they try to figure all of this out. Please do not judge them. If you are a Survivor, build your support system, reach out for help and work on your self esteem. There are people and organizations waiting to help you. You are not alone. You can do it!
To all the Warrior Mums, I wanted you to know that I am with you. I am with you on this journey. Perhaps you are raising children while in an abusive relationship or perhaps you have left and now you are dealing with the aftermath. Either way I know it isn’t easy. I am with you because I am one of you.
I am a mum to three amazing children. Two girls and a boy. They are 15, 11 and 9 years old. They are the lights of my life and I love them very much. They have often been the reason I have gotten out of bed each day. Especially when I was in the chaos of my first marriage. My marriage was abusive. He not only abused me but he abused my children in various ways. For the longest time I thought staying in my marriage was the best decision for my children. I thought that it was better to have two parents, even if it was painful, than to be from a broken home. I figured the later would be a harder battle. How wrong I was.
It wasn’t until my oldest, who was 9 at the time, came to me and asked me why did I let daddy treat me so bad that I started to think my children were being affected by the abuse. When she also asked me to leave him, begged me in fact, I knew that it was hurting my children more if I stayed. So I broke through my fog of denial. I faced what was really happening in my home and I reported the abuse to the RCMP. This started a six year battle of going through the Domestic Violence Court (Criminal Court) and Family Law. It was painful. It was exhausting and it was traumatizing but in the end I was awarded sole custody and my ex was given no access to our children. You may be familiar with such a battle. Moments where you have to sit in the same Court room as them, walk past them and even look at them. Moments where it feels like your heart is going to leap our of your chest because it is beating so hard, but you do it. You face all of those battles because you are a Warrior Mum and you want your kids to be safe.
Perhaps you have had to send your child/children on a visit with their abusive father. If you have stayed awake at night wondering if they are safe or thrown up in the toilet because the anxiety of it all is just too much to bear, I have been there too. I know what it is like to pick up the pieces after such a visit. To have your children wetting their beds, soiling their pants, suffering nightmares and struggling in school, all because a Judge says equal time with each parent is best. I get that. I have been there too.
Like some of you I have had my children turn on me at times. I have been told that I am weak, that they NEVER want to be like me and that I have poor judgement. I too have cried by myself when they talk like that because you know that you aren’t weak. You have fought battles that they know nothing about. You have taken beatings for them. You have taken abuse that you would rather not talk about, for them. It was better if you took the pain, right? Yes I have been there. Please know that you are NOT weak. You are so STRONG. You have faced Lawyers and Judges, Police Officers and angry family members who don’t support you. You have done this to try and protect your children. To keep them safe. You and no one else. That makes you Amazing!
I know that the journey is not easy. I know that they get angry and take it out on you because you are safe. I know he’s probably left you little money, or isn’t paying child support so you make sure you feed them first and sometimes yes you go hungry for them. I know all of this because I have been there too.
Why? Why do we do it? We do it because we have loved them since before they were born. We have loved them since we saw that little line on the pregnancy test or their little heart beat on the ultrasound. We vowed at that moment to love and protect them always. We do it because we are mums.
So please do not give up hope. Hold on during the tough moments and cheer them on through their victories. Hug them and kiss them and do all you can for them. You can do it. You can do it because YOU my dear are a Warrior Mum.