Loving and the unlovable

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.

                                                    “Forgiveness”

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word…

Forgiveness
Forgiveness

It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it’s power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Peace,

Janet

Breaking free from the denial of abuse. You can do it!

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.

Peace,

Janet

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.

http://verbalabusejournals.com/how-to-stop-abuse/safety-planning/

 

 

Holidays, PTSD & …….tears?

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.

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  Peace and Blessings to all of you during this Holiday Season.

 

Janet

 

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The Smear Campaign.

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.

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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.

Peace,

Janet

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What having an Invisible Illness means to me.

Tomorrow, September 26th to October 2nd, is the start of  Invisible Awareness Week.  This week is to bring to light the many invisible illnesses out there, the mental illnesses that we do not see.  As a person who battles Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Deep Depressive Disorder I felt it might be right to for me to talk about what having an invisible illness is like for me.

I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression when I was 19 years old.  This was following the tragic death of my mother at age 11.  I was later diagnosed with Chronic PTSD and Deep Depressive Disorder after being in an abusive marriage for 15 years.

So what has living with an invisible illness been like? Let me explain.

Living with an invisible illness has meant, to me;

I can never assume someone will make an accommodation for me.  I have to be my own advocate for what I need.  If you can’t see the ailment often you may not know or will forget what someone is fighting.  As a result  I have to be really aware of what I need and tell others.

There are times when I have to back out of engagements.  I have to put my health first and sometimes that means turning down helping at the Christmas Tea or Bake Sale.  It also means there may be people who do not understand why I am not there, but I have to look after me.

I make less money.  Before my diagnosis of PTSD and Deep Depressive Disorder I worked in the Corporate World and made a good living for my family.  Since my diagnosis my doctors have taken me off of work permanently and I live on Disability.  This has meant a considerably lower income and ironically a loss in benefits (just when I needed them most).

It means my fiance is asked why  don’t I work? I am 43 years old and I don’t look like I am sick so why am I a useless bum (well maybe that is not exactly what they say, but it is how I feel when they inquire)?

It means having more heart to hearts with my kids in my bedroom, while I rest, than anywhere else in the house.

It means taking every single day one day or one moment at a time.

It means finding a strength within me, that I didn’t know I had, to face the many symptoms of PTSD and Deep Depressive Disorder.

It means sometimes I feel like a failure because sometimes that strength is just not there and I struggle to do the simplest of tasks.

It means praying harder on the tough days and trustin that God has got me.

It means wondering if my illness is shorting my kids of their mother or my fiance of his partner?

It also means I have met some of the most amazing people who also fight invisible illnesses and they give me hope.

At the end of the day these are the cards I have been dealt and so I deal with them.  It’s not completely the end of the world.  I have learned how to cope during the bad days and to speak up for what I need.  This battle is not how I envisioned my life to be at 43 years old, but I still have air in my lungs and a beat to my heart so there is a silver lining.

During this week I encourage you to join a worldwide event in support of Invisible Illness Awareness Week.  Look up your illness online. Each one has an awareness ribbon in a certain colour. Take your colour and paint or marker a happy face on your hand,wrist or arm.  Bring awareness to your invisible fight! #IIWK16 #InvisibleFight #InvisibleAwarenessWeek

Peace,

Janet

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Why do we go back?

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!

Peace,

Janet

 

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13 things I wish I knew before my rape trial.

It has now been 18 months since my rape trial against my ex.  There have been 18 months of sadness, frustration, confusion, shock, anger, fear and horror at the whole process.  Being raped is soul shattering.  To have someone reach into your soul, touch it and rip it to pieces, leaving you feeling empty and lost, is devastating.  To have that person be your husband and the father of your children is…..beyond heartbreaking.  Everything you have ever believed is tested and  shattered.  Who you are is questioned by you, late at night when all is quiet.  You wonder if you could ever let anyone touch you again?  Would they want to? Are you damaged now? Can you trust anyone ever again? These are the questions that mill around your head at night.  You can’t sleep, you can’t eat, you can’t focus, everything that was normal before seems like a lie.  Your whole life seems like one big lie.

You try to find peace.  You think that if you report what happened you will receive  justice and peace will come with that.  You go to your local RCMP Detachment and you tell a Constable what he did to you.  You sit in a room talking about your privates and his privates with a complete stranger, but you do it because there WILL be justice, right?

Wrong.

Sorry to say that, but sadly it is true. I was naively led to believe that there would be Justice.  I am here to tell you that that was a lie and for most Survivors of a sexual assault it is a lie for them  too.  Our Legal System (It is not a Justice System.  It is a system that  foll0ws the laws, not about vindicating someone) in Sexual Assault trials is not about focusing on what the perpetrator did.  Instead it is a system that looks at the victim, at their actions and in reality the victim is the one on trial.  Again I was completely naïve to this going into my trial.  Here are things that I wish I had been told.

  1. In Canada you are not the one charging your perpetrator (rapist) with rape.  You report your assault and an officer will relay your report to a Crown Prosecutor (usually while you are still in the detachment) and if the Prosecutor thinks they have a chance at winning a case against the perpetrator then they will be charged.  If they feel they cannot win then no charges will be laid.
  2. Your life will completely turn upside down once those charges are laid.  For me the RCMP needed to figure out where and how they would arrest my ex.  He lived in another city but came to a city near me, monthly, to see our children at a Supervised visit.  The RCMP decided that they would set my ex up for a visit.  Instead of my children going into the visitation room they were pulled into a side room and hidden from view.  The RCMP then walked into the visitation room instead and arrested my ex.  Once he was gone I was called to come and get my kids which I did.  I also moved towns right after that.  Given the level of violence in my marriage I was advised to move and temporarily go into hiding until they could get all of the proper restraining orders put into place by a Judge. Now for you it may not go that way.  I cannot predict that, but let me tell you I was not prepared for this  when I first went into the detachment.
  3. In Canada it will take a long time to get this through the legal system.  It will take at least two years on average. First there will be a hearing.
  4. At the hearing you and any other witnesses will be questioned by both the Prosecutor and the Defence Lawyer.  Your rapist will also be there.  Per Canadian Law everyone is given a fair trial and they are to be present to hear everything said about them.  Being in front of him  will probably through you off.  Prepare for that.  Know that you do not have to look at him.  Keep your eyes on whomever is asking the questions.  Trust me when I say that your rapist and his Lawyer are hoping that his presence will rattle you and cause you to stumble in your testimony,  Please don’t let them get to you.   Hold your head high!
  5. After the hearing the Judge will decide if there is enough evidence for a trial.  There does not have to be a lot of evidence for a trial to happen.  Most go to trial.
  6. Due to the overload in our Legal System it will probably be another year for your trial. Waiting will becoming draining.  You will want it all to be over.  Know that your day in Court will come. In the meantime try your best to look after you so you can  heal.
  7. Just when you think you are in a better place you will be called to trial and you will have to share your story again to a room full of strangers. This will rip open old wounds.  Make sure you have a good support system and that you look after yourself during this time.
  8.   Some trials are Judge only. Some are Jury trials.  Which way it will be is decided by the Defence Lawyer. The Prosecutor has no say in this.
  9. There will be games played in the Court Room.  The Prosecutor is held to a high level of decorum. This comes  from the Crown.  They must act respectful and keep their questions clean and above board.  The Defence, on the other hand, is not held to this same level.  Heck they are not held to any level.  They can make snide c0mments, yell at y0u, have temper tantrums, make up lies and no one will bat an eye, not even the Judge (well maybe some Judges do say something but they are very few and far between). The Prosecutor CANNOT warn you ab0ut this behaviour ahead of time.  They will probably tell you that the Defence Lawyer may not  be nice, but to just remember that he is representing his client and to be respectful.  In actuality they know and the Judge knows that the Defence will probably pull some bad punches but no one is allowed to prepare you for that.
  10. The Defence Lawyer will be ruthless and it will feel like you are on the one on trial not the perpetrator.  Your actions pre and post the rape will be scrutinised. What you wore, what you said and how you acted in the moments coming up to the rapes and definitely the ones after the rape will be examined.  You will need to justify everything you said and did.  Like I said you will feel like you are the one on trial.  You see, unfortunately, our Legal System has a premade image of how a rape victim is supposed to act and if you do not fall into that then you must be a liar.  It is terrible. It is wrong on so many levels and very traumatizing.  Please let me tell you that everyone acts differently after they have been raped.  No one can predict how you will react nor can they judge you on how you act.  The Defense Lawyer is doing this type of questioning to try and break you.  Be aware of that.  Answer each question honestly and do your best to not react to their games. Another game that they will do is ask you the same question three times, each time a little bit differently trying to get the answer that they want. Be aware of this and answer each question the same each time.
  11. Your rapist may not take the stand.  That is their legal rite in Canada. If they do, do not expect them to be treated like you were.  Remember the Prosecutor must act at a level of decorum and the Defence will have practised every question with your perp to make him look innocent. In my trial I was on the stand for two days.  My ex was on the stand for maybe 30 minutes.
  12. There may be back room deals. There was in my trial between the Prosecutor and the Defence and I was completely unaware of it. I watched it play out though and I saw the moment when the Prosecutor realized he had been played by the Defence. I saw him scramble when he realized their agreement was never real  and that it was highly unlikely  the Crown was going to win.
  13.  Lastly there is you.  You who has gone through unimaginable trauma.  You who has found the courage to come forward.  You who has answered personal questions that no one should have to answer publically.  Your whole life has been on display.  It hurts and you may wonder how you will survive this, but let me tell you that you WILL SURVIVE! Y0u will make it through this.  You might have a complete breakdown (I did) and that is ok.  It is ok to get all of your feelings out. Know that on the other side of the wailing and the anger you will come out of this stronger.  You will know that in the end, despite all of the games and all of the pain you did the right thing. You held him accountable for all to see and that, that is a victory all in itself.

Peace,

Janet

 

 

 

To all the Warrior Mums

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.

Yes YOU!

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.

Peace,

Janet

Why do Survivors of abuse revictimize themselves?

Often, in my work with Survivors of Domestic Violence, I hear  stories about how they are re-victimized or they try to be.  Sometimes I have even heard from their current partners (who are not abusive) who say, “She keeps poking at me.  Trying to start a fight and wanting me to hit her! Why? I have never hit a woman!” This got me thinking as to why some Survivors do this, more to the point why have I done it?

When you live in an abusive relationship you live in a constant world of chaos.  You “walk on egg shells” wondering when will the next explosion be? Your whole world revolves around your abuser.  You cater to his (or her) needs.  All simply because you want to keep the beast happy and not suffer more abuse.  The abuse does happen though, you never know when and over time this constant chaos attacks your self worth.  You start to believe your abuser when he (or she) says that you deserve the abuse.  That they wouldn’t have to treat you this way if you just behaved better.  You never give up trying to please them and your  internal compass is gauged by their behaviour.   You lose yourself.

At one time I lost myself. I married a man who abused me physically, sexually, financially, verbally and emotionally.  I lived in a world where I was paralyzed by fear. Every decision I made had my abuser in mind. Would this upset him? Will he yell at me (or worse)? I did not make decisions based on my own wants and needs.  They were based on what kept him happy.  That was how I survived.

After 15 years of abuse I finally broke free and separated from husband.  I was over the moon! I no longer lived with daily abuse.  I was free!  In time I started to date again and eventually became engaged to a wonderful man.  A man who would never intentionally hurt me. A man whom I felt safe with. We have a good relationship.  We are equal partners and neither of us try to have control over the other like in an abusive relationship.  So then why have I felt the need to create a situation where he might abuse me? Why would I want to go back there?  This question puzzled me for quite awhile.  Let me tell you what I realized.

I realized that I created situations with an unconscious desire to be abused.  I did this because one, deep down my low self esteem had me believing that abuse is what I deserve.  Two abuse was familiar.  I knew how to exist in the chaos of abuse.  After 15 years of abuse I no longer knew h0w to gauge my day to day life without abuse happening.  Here’s an example.

When I started dating my now fiancé we planned a birthday party for me.  Well more like he did with my kids.  I was excited, but a little nervous.  I had not had a nice birthday celebration (without abuse) in years.  “Did I deserve one?” was my internal question.  I woke the morning of my birthday to my house decorated with balloons and streamers.  Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to me and I even had breakfast in bed! It was a lovely morning.  Then my fiancé and I went out for lunch.  Now that was not as fun.  I basically chewed him out the whole time and every little thing that he said to calm me down made me even more angry.  After lunch we were driving to an appointment and I kept poking at him, pushing for a fight.  At one point I even jumped out of our car (at a red light) and walked to my appointment in a furry crying my eyes out.  Now you are probably wondering what my problem was. I know my fiancé was and to be honest so was I.  I did not understand what was going on inside of me.  This started to happen every holiday and birthday.  Then it started to happen on normal days. I would pick at him until we fought.  Guess what, once he yelled back I felt calm. What???? Yes I felt calm.

Chaos, fighting, abuse, whatever you want to call it is what I knew for 15 years.  It is what I thought I deserved so when he finally yelled back I felt calm because suddenly I was in a familiar world again.  I understood this world and I could function in it. Crazy uh? That is re-victimization and something so many Survivors do to themselves.  It’s not that we really want to be hurt again, but it is what we know and until we have a stronger self esteem it is what we think we are worthy of.  For me the holidays and birthdays were a huge trigger because my ex always abused me worse on those days.  So to have a birthday where balloons were hung for me and I was given breakfast in bed was, well it was completely foreign to me and it scared the hell out of me.

In time, as I healed,  I recognized the  unhealthy pattern and I started to re-victimize myself less.  It helps that my fiancé also recognizes when I am trying to re-victimize myself  and we name it.  I now know that I do not deserve to be abused.  I do deserve balloons on my birthday and so much more!! I am also learning to trust an abuse free life.

Recovery from abuse is a journey full of bumps and yes there are victories. Times where you heal and move forward.  If you recognize the re-victimization pattern in yourself or someone you love name it.  Acknowledge what is happening.  Talk it through with someone you trust. Change can happen once we see what needs to be done.

Peace,

Janet

 

 

My battle with PTSD

June is PTSD Awareness Month.  In November 2011 I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  I am not a soldier of war.   I am a Survivor of Domestic Violence.  My battle was 15 years of abuse at the hands of a man I loved. PTSD changed how my brain functions.  My amygdala (controls emotional response and our survival instinct) has increased in size and my hippocampus (controls memory moving from short term to long term) has shrunk. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not a Mental Illness (which it is often referred to as), but a Psychiatric Injury that happens after threatening experience.  It could be from being in combat, watching a family member die, a car or plane crash, a natural disaster or sexual assault and abuse. One in ten survivors of Domestic Violence will be diagnosed with PTSD.

I left my abusive marriage almost six years ago.   Wow….what a six years it has been! There have been pitfalls followed by many joys.  It has not been an easy journey but it has made me who I am today and for that I am grateful. Let me tell you how I have changed and grown. How I have healed.

When I walked away from my marriage I was so empty. So broken.  The night that ended my marriage  was Sept 26th 2010.  During the previous nine months my ex had been continually raping me.  We had not been sharing a room during that time, but he would come into my room during the early hours and sexually assault me.  In order to survive I convinced myself that he did not know what he was doing.  Like all of the forms of abuse he did to me; the verbal assaults, the emotional and mental games he played, I had believed he did not know what he was doing. That he was out of control when it happened.  It was easier to deal with the abuse if I believed he did not mean it.  To realize that he knew exactly what he was doing, that it was purposeful on his part was too much for me to acknowledge.  Then Sept 26th 2010 happened.

My now ex was standing at our kitchen sink doing the dishes. Understandably I was not coping well with these continual rapes.  Being assaulted in my own bed in the wee hours of the morning and then having to swallow it all down and get up and make breakfast for my children was becoming too much to bear. Something broke in me that night and I reached deep down inside of myself and confronted my ex.  I walked up to him, stood beside him and asked him point blank why was he raping me.  I expected him to deny it and to say that he had no idea he was doing that. That response would fit into the level of denial I was living in. I then somehow thought we could calmly sit down and talk this out as I explained his out of control behaviour and would then ask him one more time to get help, but it did not work out that way.  Instead……instead he admitted that he knew exactly what he was doing to me when he raped me. That he knew he was hurting me.  I remember watching his face as he stared out of the kitchen window.  There was no remorse in his voice, no sadness, no regret, there was just a sense of calm around him.

It was then that my world shattered.  It was then that I realized everything he had ever done to hurt me or our children had been intentional.  He was never out of control. Every lie that I had told myself to survive no longer had any standing power and I started to let out a blood curtailing scream.  I started to scream, “It’s Over! It’s Over!” (our marriage) and I started to walk around the house taking down every wedding photo or memento and I threw them into my bedroom closet sobbing uncontrollably. My “fairytale” was over.  Oddly enough my ex followed me around saying “No’.  Saying that it wasn’t over and begging me to stop taking our wedding things down.  Perhaps this was his own level of denial where he seemed to believe that no matter how bad he treated me I would stay.

The next day I texted him from work and told him to pack his things and be gone by 8pm or I would call the RCMP and have them remove him from the home.  He was gone when I came home.

So what happened after that? Did I skip off into the sunny horizon and live happily ever after? Nope.

At first things were ok.  I was happy and I was free.  I was no longer suffering daily abuse.  I no longer had a knot in my stomach wondering when the next explosion would be.  My children and I no longer walked on eggshells.  They ran around and played and made NOISE!!  It was wonderful.  No one had to worry that they were going to wake the monster and suffer as a result.  Life was good.  Then I fell into a darkness.

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I was not sleeping well at night.  I was starting to suffer horrible nightmares and I would wake at 4am unable to sleep anymore.  I struggled to focus on the simplest of tasks. I felt like I was losing my mind.  I was lost.  It was then that I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I was put on meds that made me very groggy and I spent a lot of time in bed.  I struggled to function, but I kept trying everyday to be a mom and to go to my job.  I tried to be human, but the flashbacks and night terrors were all too powerful.  Soon I was put on long term disability.  I still struggled.  I still spent a lot of time in bed as my whole system detoxed from 15 years of abuse.  I had uncontrollable outbursts and was living in a world of fear.  I was afraid to leave my home. A trip to the grocery store often sent me into a panic attack.

I was lucky that through darkness I had a great support system. My sister, my amazing fiancé and many professionals.  I reached out for support wherever I could find it. Slowly with that support I picked myself up off of the floor. Slowly I broke my isolation and made friends. Slowly I was able to function as a mum.  I could make meals and interact with my family.  God also became a driving force in my life.    I started to live again.

The battle with PTSD is a tough one. I admire anyone who battles it, no matter how they got it. Whether it be from  a war or a car crash they are all hero’s to me. We all face terror on a daily basis and that takes an amazing amount of strength to survive. We are warriors. Warriors who have good days and bad.  I am better than I was but I am still not healed.  I believe this battle will be a life long one for me so I take it all one moment at a time.  I trust that God has got me and I will survive.  I am also starting the journey of receiving a PTSD Service Dog.  I believe she will bring more peace to my life.

As June comes to an end I ask that your awareness of PTSD continues past June 30th 2016. If you have a loved one with PTSD learn the symptoms. Listen to what they need and support them.  It’s not an easy role to be in, but they do need you even if they say they can do it all on their own.  PTSD is scary and often you feel that isolating yourself is best, but let me tell you that it isn’t.  We need to know that we are loved. That we are safe and that the bad moments will led to good moments. We need to know that to survive this battle.

Peace,

Janet