I remember the first time

***Trigger Warning-Explicit***

I remember the first time. My world stopped when it happened and when it started to turn again  I wasn’t the same person.  My skin felt different, my hair didn’t feel like it was my own. My insides were on fire. My finger nails felt detached.  Nothing was my own anymore. All of it was his.  He owned me and I was screaming inside. I remember the first time he raped me.

Life had been so crazy leading up to it. At first he had been arrested.   I could no longer take the abuse.  I was so tired of crying day after day, year after year. I was so tired of begging him to stop and he never did.  I was so tired of my children being afraid. I just….I just wanted him to be nice. I wanted it all to stop. So I told the RCMP. I thought then maybe he would see. Maybe then he would stop hurting us.  I thought then maybe then I would be safe.

I just wanted to be free.

He left for a while. The RCMP removed him from our home and for a moment I was free.  I could breath again.  The knots in my stomach went away and I felt peace. Soon the phone calls started.  He wasn’t supposed to call me.  We weren’t supposed to talk,  but he called and I answered.  I thought it was his mom calling, but instead I heard his deep voice. He talked and I talked. He needed a Lawyer and I was supposed to find him one.

‘But you hurt me! Why am I supposed to find you a Lawyer?’, were my thoughts. I just want to be free!

I felt caught.

Ok. I will find you money for a Lawyer, but no one can know.

‘I want to be free. I want to be free.’ 

That’s all I heard in my head.  Somehow though I was finding him money for a Lawyer. It was crazy.

Then before I realized it he was back in my home.  I wanted to be free, but he was back.  The father of my children, the man I married, he was there even though the Courts said no.  So I carried on like nothing had happened.  I wanted to scream “He is back in my home! Take him AWAY!”, but I couldn’t open my mouth.  So I played along.  I let him back into my bed.  I pretended he had never hurt me.  I pretended we were a happy family.  I pretended I wasn’t dying inside.

My hair started to fall out.

Suddenly he WAS nice. He was what I always wanted him to be.  Maybe it would be ok? Maybe he did learn? Maybe just maybe we will make it?  Maybe. Maybe I won’t cry. So we carried on.  He went to Court appearances and I went to work. Kids went to school and daycare.  They will be ok, I thought, they have to be.  We just have to keep on carrying on.

So we carried on and soon the Court orders were lifted. We were allowed to be together.  No more hiding. No more lying to the outside world that he wasn’t at home.  We could be a real family again.  We were going to be ok.  There had been no hitting and no yelling.  He had been carrying and loving.  It was all going to be ok now.  I could breathe.

Breathe.

WHAM!!!

“YOU WILL PUT ON YOUR MITS!! YOU STUPID PIECE OF SHIT YOU WILL PUT ON YOUR MITS!!!”

Why is he screaming? Why is he holding my little boy up in the air? Why is this happening? Why isn’t he being nice? Make it STOP!!!

MAKE IT STOP!!

Hold onto your sons legs he can’t throw him that way.  Beg him to stop. Do it.  Take it for your son.  BEG HIM!! Ok he has stopped screaming, he tossed your son.  Your son is  in the closet now bawling.  It will all be ok now.  He has put him down.  Breath. Comfort your son.

“Shhhh baby. It’s ok,” you whisper.  You hold him and he cries.  Then you see your little girl.  She is in the corner crying and hiding her face.  How did this all start again? Why? What did we do? “Shhhh my boy, it’s ok.  Mommy is here.” Suddenly he grabs your daughter and tells you that he’s leaving and you are not coming.  You are shaking, trying so hard to hold it together, so you just nod your head ok.

They leave.

You breath and look at your little boy who is quietly sobbing now.  Then you hear his footsteps.  Dear God he is coming back! The door opens, he steps in and quietly crouches down next you and says steely, “Don’t even dream of going to the cops this time.  If you do you will never see me or anyone again!” “Ok”, I quietly answer,” I won’t say anything.”

Then he leaves.

You don’t really know what to do after that.  Your head is spinning and all you can hear is your heart pounding in your ears. You pick up your  son and you cry.  How could he do this again? He promised that he had changed!!! Why? How?

Suddenly there is a knock at the door and his mom, sister and brother-in-law are there, “Hi, how are you?”  You can’t tell them the truth. Swallow it.  They can’t know it happened again.  Smile.  Hug them and for bloody sake stop shaking!! So you smile, tell them you are fine and you stop shaking.  Soon he is home and he gives you  a kiss and hugs his sister.  Is everything ok now? Am I ok now? What just happened? My head is spinning.

No. NO! He lied.  He hasn’t changed.  He DID do it again.  I can’t do this.  I can’t breathe anymore.  Oh dear Lord please make this stop.

I just want to be free. I just want to be free.

“Yes, let’s go out for supper,” you hear. What, we are going out for supper? Ok,  pull it together, you’re all going out for supper.  So we go out and I pretend to be happy and we keep carrying on.

As the month passes we get closer and closer to Christmas.  Instead of calling our son his name he is calling him asshole.  I don’t want my husband near me. I feel disgusted when I looked at him. I  just wanted him to go away, but I can’t ask that now.  I can’t go to the RCMP again.  He warned me. He threatened me. I just need all of his family to go away.  I need the Holidays to be over.  I just need  it all to be over.

I just want to be free. I just want to be free.

“I can’t do this.”

“What?”, he asks.

I take a deep breath.  He is sitting on our bedroom floor, his back leaning up against the wall.  I feel the warmth of the blankets around me, but I am cold inside.  I can do this.  I can tell him.

“I can’t live with you anymore,” I say.

“What?” he asks again.

“I can’t live with you anymore,” I repeat. Don’t look at him. Just don’t look him in the eye.  You can do this.

“Why?” he asks.

“Why? You know why.  You PROMISED and you hurt us again!  ASSHOLE? Really? You are calling our toddler son asshole instead of his name!” I say strongly.

Just keep talking.  Don’t look at him.

Silence.

I shift my eyes and look at him.  His eyes are downcast and he looks so sad. Was I wrong?

“I know. Where am I supposed to go?” he asks quietly.

I look at him for a moment.  This is my husband, the father of my children, but he is hurting us and I need to protect us.

“To your moms,” I say.  “You stayed there last time.”

“No I can’t stay there.  She doesn’t want me there.  I guess….I guess I could live in the van…. but it’s winter”, he says softly and sadly looks down.

Don’t relent.  Don’t give in. The van? In the winter? Can I agree to that? He IS my kids father….

“Ok. You can stay BUT you are NOT allowed in our room.  This is MY room now.  I don’t want you touching me or kissing me.  You can move your things downstairs and sleep in the family room.”

He agrees.

Whew!!! I did it!!

So he moves his things downstairs and sets up the blow up bed.  Could it really be this easy?

I sit  in my room, in MY bed and for once in a long time I feel safe.

————-

“Ok girls, it’s time to get up.  I have to get to work soon!” I say as I make my way through the basement to the girls room. I open my younger daughters bedroom door and there he is, in her bed. “What are you doing here?” I ask.

“I just fell asleep here last night reading her a story,” he answers as he jumps up out of the bed.  He is only wearing his jockey underwear.

Hmmm ok, I think. Something inside of me says no this isn’t right, but I don’t have time to think about this right now.  I have to get ready for work. So I go to work and the kids go to daycare and school and we keep carrying on day in and day out.  He and I barely speak now, but he stays downstairs and I stay upstairs and we exist.  My oldest daughter starts to get upset at bedtime.  She starts to insist that she be allowed to sleep with her younger sister. “I have to keep her safe mum!” she tells me.  “What do you mean?” I ask.  She answers me with tears.  I tell her that enough is enough and to get to bed.  I tell her that her sister is fine.

She is, isn’t she? Yes. Yes she is, I tell myself.

I keep finding him there though. Morning after morning. He tells me now that he is there because his air mattress got a hole in it so we buy him a new one, but he is still in her bed and my oldest is still crying.

“This has to stop!” I insist one morning. “You can’t sleep in her bed anymore, it’s not right,” I tell him.

“WHAT?! NO!!,” he yells, “I NEED my children to be happy!!”

“You can still be with your kids, but you can no longer sleep in her bed!” I yell back, “This has to stop! No More!! It’s WRONG!!” and I turn and walk away. My heart is pounding.  My counsellor has been teaching me to trust my gut, to listen to my inner voice, to stand up. It is so scary to do, but I do it! I stood up!

I just want to be free. I just want to be free.

The next morning I woke early.  I hear him running up the stairs.  I think that he is going on a medical call with the Fire Department, but he comes into my room instead.

———————

I see him standing in my door way.  He is only wearing his underwear.  They are green, a semi light green.  He has had them forever. Why is he in my room? Why is he only wearing his underwear? What is going on? He  closes the door, locks it and walks over to my bed. What is going on? He says nothing. I don’t understand.  He is suddenly over me pulling back the blankets. I am in a t-shirt and panties. What is he doing? I told him not to touch me, why is he here? He reaches down and strokes my leg.  I freeze. He won’t look at me. He won’t talk to me. I try to speak, but nothing comes out.  I want him to go away!! He lies on top of me. NO!!!, my head screams.He is so heavy, I can’t move.  I try to pull free. I try to wriggle out from under him. He is like a dead weight.  He holds me down and pulls my panties down.  I feel him hard against my leg. NO!!! I scream inside my head. I try to roll away, I whisper no, he pulls me back, he is in me now and I am dying inside.  I don’t know where I went, but I wasn’t there.

I just want to be free. I just want to be free.

I hear him moan as he cums in me and rolls away. I lay there not moving, too terrified to speak. He pulls up his underwear and sits on the edge of the bed. I look at him in silence. Too scared to breathe.

What is that I hear?

My head is spinning, but I hear something. It’s my son, he is awake across the hall, I whisper my boy’s name. He looks at me then and tells me that I am a whore, a slut and a bitch. Then he stares straight ahead and walks out the door. I bite my lip.  I cannot cry. I will not cry.  The door is open. I could run. I could be free, but I can’t move.  I hear my boy coming into my room so I manage to pull up some blankets. He’s asking mommy to get up, he is hungry. Yes. Yes my boy I will get up. He hears daddy  in the kitchen and leaves my room. I pull up my panties and find some pants. I head out to make breakfast.

I remember. I remember the first time he raped me.

 

Epilogue

In the months following this assault my now ex raped me at least once a week.  I stopped eating, drastically lost weight, my hair fell out in clumps and I developed a rash all over my body.  I was so stressed. My right eye twitched constantly and I could not focus at work. My weight dropped to 108 lbs (I am 5’10”) and Icould no longer regulate my own body heat.  I was freezing in the middle of a hot summer.  I was slowly dying and he was the one slowly killing me.  One evening, as we were getting ready for his aunt and uncle to come over, I felt the strength to confront him.  I didn’t want to die, but if I was going to die I needed to understand why.  He was standing at our kitchen sink doing the dishes.  I walked up to him and asked him why was he forcing me to have sex? Part of me hoped that  he would tell me he had never raped me and that this had all been a terrible nightmare.  I looked at him and I waited. He stared straight ahead and looked out the kitchen window. He never said why he was raping me, but he did say, “I know. I know what I was doing. I know that I was hurting you.” He was so calm and detached. I stared at him and then something broke deep inside of me. I started to scream a blood curdeling scream, “It’s over!! It’s over!!” and I started walking around the house taking down all of our wedding photos, I was sobbing.  He was following me saying, “No!” as if he was shocked that I was ending it, but I just kept gathering everything up, saying that it was over.  Soon my arms were full of what I had thought were precious memories.  I took all those memories, all those pictures and I threw them into my bedroom closet. I was done. My heart was shattered. It was over.

Then. Then there was a knock at the door. It was his aunt and uncle and once again I had to push it all down, pretend it was all ok and I joined them to play cards.

The next day, while at work, I texted my husband.  I knew I was safe this way.  I told him that we were over.  I told him that I would stay out after work with the kids and that he had till 8:00pm to get his things out of the house and be gone.  I told him that if he wasn’t gone when I got home I WOULD call the RCMP.

He was gone when I went home.

I crashed after that.  My whole world fell apart. I was taken off of work and put on sick leave.  I could barely get out of bed. A friend had to come in to care for my kids.  I was really sick for two years and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It took medication and had tons of counselling to get me functioning again. In all of that, somewhere in me, I found the strength and clarity to come forward and report what he had done to the RCMP. He was arrested again and charged with Continual Sexual Assault. We were stuck in the Legal system for four years after that.  There was a Criminal Trial and a Divorce/Custody Trial. Both grueling in their own ways.  Things that I will write about at a separate time. They have their own trauma that I am not ready to share.

Finally, though, after all of that, I was free.

Peace,

Janet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking the Abuse Cycle 

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.

abusewheelThe 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.

Peace,

Janet

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

 

I’ll just be over here laughing

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.

Peace,

Janet

 

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