How do you trust after abuse? 

Trust. Trust is something most of us have when we are in a relationship with someone. Whether it’s family, friendship or a romantic relationship there is an understanding that you trust the other person. It’s almost a given. What happens though if you have been abused? How do you trust after someone you trusted and possibly loved hurt you in undescribable ways? Let me tell you, it’s not easy. 

Trust. Trust is something most of us have when we are in a relationship with someone. Whether it’s family, friendship or a romantic relationship there is an understanding that you trust the other person. It’s almost a given. Trust starts when we are a helpless newborn. We trust that our parents will care for us. That they will feed us and keep us warm. What happens though if you have been abused? How do you trust after someone you trusted and possibly loved hurt you in undescribable ways? Let me tell you, it’s not easy. 

  Twenty two years ago I met a man whom I fell in love with. We eventually married and had a family. Under the grace of God I should have been able to trust him. I should have been able to trust him with our children’s lives and my own. We were married,  we were one flesh under the eyes of God, so of all the people out there I should have been able to trust him with my life. I did give him that trust, I handed my life and my care over to him, but what did he do? 

He abused me and our children. 

He threatened my life. 

To top it all off, he enjoyed hurting me! (which was apparent when he smirked when I cried). 

It was a sick marriage and one that I left just over six years ago. 

How do I trust after that? How does any Survivor of abuse trust again? It’s a pretty tall order, but believe it or not it can be done. What do you have to do? 

Baby steps. 

When I first ended my marriage my world closed in around me. I struggled to focus, to get out of bed and I was scared of everything. I “hid” from the world in my bed. After suffering this way for a year, I was diagnosed with PTSD and Deep Depressive Disorder.  Medication helped my moods, but they didn’t build my trust in others. In my head, my husband had hurt me in unbelievable ways, what was stopping some stranger from hurting me too? I barely trusted anyone. 

During this time I started a new relationship.  It was a new relationship with someone from my past, my Highschool sweetheart. We had  a history that had been built on trust. I knew that in many ways I could still trust him, but there were also parts of me that made him earn my trust. It took time for me to learn that if we had an argument it didn’t mean he would beat me. It took time for me to know that if he carried my son to his room it didn’t mean he was going to hurt him, it just meant that my young son was being put on a time out. With each incident that happened that was free of abuse I relearned that I could trust him. In time I realized he was there to protect me and care for me and the same for my children. He gave me what I never had before; safety. 

Once I trusted my new/old Beau he became the person I felt most safe with in my day to day life. If I went out I was calm if he was there. If he wasn’t there I was soon feeling panicky and running home to hide. It took another two years for me to be comfortable on my own outside of our home. At one point we moved to a new town and home. Next door we had a lovely single, retired woman and soon she became a family friend. I was ok if I went over there with my boyfriend, but the thought of going without him brought sheer panic upon me. My heart pounded and my legs shook. I wanted to visit with her.  I wanted to be friends and logically I knew she wouldn’t hurt me, but I couldn’t seem to set my foot outside my front door to see her on my own. 

Trust. It was all about trust. The world had become a scary place, a place where I now expected to get hurt everyone. 

Then one day I did it. One day I gave myself  serious talking to and asked myself if my neighbour had ever shown that she would purposely hurt me or had she been kind and caring at every visit? I realized it had always been the later. I also realized that my life was going to be pretty lonely if I didn’t at least try to put my foot out that front door on my own. 

So I did it! I went to my neighbours on my own and we have developed a lovely friendship. With that friendship and others I have made I have become stronger and now I can go to the grocery store on my own without having a panic attack. I can visit with others and make friends. Looking back over these last two years I see how I have started to trust the world around me a little bit more. Yes I still get overwhelmed at times. Yes I still have times I want to hide and yes there are times when I still do, but I am here to tell you that there can be trust after abuse.  Just take it one baby step at a time. Watch peoples actions over their words and most importantly listen to your gut. Your gut will tell you the truth about a person. 

Peace, 

Janet 

– On a side note I am proud to say that my blog has been featured in the Top 30 Domestic Violence Blogs on Feedspot! Please go to http://blog.feedspot.com/domestic_violence_blogs/ to check it out! 

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

 

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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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

 

 

 

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

 

 

Boundaries: drawing a firm line in the sand in abusive relationships.

Boundaries. We make them. We sometimes break them or perhaps someone we know breaks ours.  What is a boundary? According to Google it is “a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.”That could be a fence or wall if we were talking about property lines or it could be a border line for a country. In a relationship a boundary tells the other person what you will and will not accept in the relationship.  When I think of boundaries in relationships I think of the saying, “I am drawing  a line in the sand.” We say that when we reach our limit on something and will not accept it anymore.  Having boundaries is healthy in a relationship and they should be respected.

In abusive relationships boundaries are not respected.  A basic human right to live a life free of abuse is a boundary and it is broken continually in abusive relationships. An abuser can break a boundary by calling you a terrible name,  scream at you or  physically or sexually hurt you. Abusers do not respect boundaries because they want to have all of the control in the relationship and if they respect their victims boundaries then they cannot continue to abuse them.  Also the continual trampling of your boundaries weakens you as a person and that in turn makes it easier for the abuser to control you.

I have run into a lack of respect for my boundaries many times in my life. I continually had my boundaries trampled in my abusive marriage. I have also had them trampled in other relationships.  As a young adult I had to set boundaries with a family member who had abusive tendencies.  Their behaviour was causing me anxiety.  We did not live together, but because the relationship was difficult for me I asked that this person call me before they came over to my house, just so I was not caught off guard.  I felt safer that way.  Unfortunately this person did not respect my request. In the end I had to cut contact with them. We did not renew our relationship until they realised what they were doing to me and made a conscious effort to change their behaviour.

Sometimes a lack of respect for your boundaries is huge as in physical abuse or sometimes it may be small as in a Birthday card.  I have another relative that is very toxic for me.  I have recognised the dysfunction, named it to this person and told them what I need in order to have a relationship with them.  I told them my boundaries.  I also told them that until I can see that they actively respect what I need for a healthy relationship that we are to have no contact.  I blocked them on all social media and they do not know my phone number.  I drew a firm line in the sand.  Since that line was made this person has started to mail me and my family Christmas and Birthday cards.  You may say, “Well is that really so bad?” Yes it is.  You see this person in the 40 odd years I have known them has never sent me or my family Birthday or Christmas cards. Yet when I said no contact until you work on yourself and look at why you are abusive to me, the cards started.  It is one small way that they are still not respecting my boundaries and are trying to trample them.  This is what abusive people do though.  The trampling of boundaries is often not a big event like a slap across the face. It is often done in small acts and you barely even notice that your boundaries are being trampled until they are “slapping you in the face”.  It is a way to slowly break you down so that they can abuse you some more. It’s important to recognise even the little trampling’s on your boundaries and respect yourself by speaking up.   I have started doing a “Return to Sender” on the cards.

As I end this blog I encourage you to set your boundaries and stick to them.  They tell the world what you will and will not accept in your life and that is important.  I know it can be hard to set boundaries after an abusive relationship.  It may even feel foreign to set a boundary since you have lived in a world where boundaries are non existent, but in a healthy relationship they are so important.  Not only for you, but for the people in your life. If someone does something that you cannot accept, I encourage you to tell them. It can be as straight forward as saying, “I don’t like it when you speak that way to me, please stop.” Go for it. You can do it. I believe in you!

Peace

 

 

 

The overwhelming effects of verbal abuse

Recently I was reminded about the lasting effects of verbal abuse. My fiancé and I were visiting friends in another city.  We have not been to their place too much and got a bit lost on our way home.  It was late, we were all tired and somehow ended up in some industrial area. Wrong turns were made and tensions rose.  No name calling happened between us but suddenly I was being verbally abused. I could hear my ex in my head telling me how stupid I was, that I was an idiot. I had flashbacks to times he would give me a map and tell me to navigate (usually in a strange city while we sped down some freeway)  and I would fail at it.  This is of course what he wanted to happen so then he could justify yelling at me for a 1/2 hour or more. It was horrible and damaging to my self worth. Last night, as I quietly cried, I  was a reminded of the damage done.

Many verbal abuse Survivors will tell you that they would take getting hit over one more minute of being verbally abused.  I remember saying to my ex more than once, “just hit me already!” My thinking was that if I was hit then the abuse was over and I could heal from a bruise whereas verbal abuse  cuts you to your soul. Verbal abuse changes how you think of yourself. Verbal abuse is crazy making.  Often the victim feels like it is all just in their head, maybe they aren’t being abused, maybe they are just going crazy. If this is how you feel after suffering verbal abuse let me tell you that you are NOT crazy. You have been abused.

So what is verbal abuse? It is just name calling? No it is not.

Verbal abuse includes the following:[4]

How do you heal from verbal abuse?

Well I am still working that, its a journey of ups and downs. If you have to remain in contact with your verbal abuser it is important to set boundaries with them. Telling them to “Stop it!” or saying, “You aren’t allowed to talk to me that way!” are two statements you can use to bring your abuser up  short. If possible cut all ties with your abuser.  I know this is not always easy to do. Some verbal abusers are family members, a boss or your spouse, but you are worth more than what they are giving you.  You cannot properly heal until there is closure.  Another important point is that most verbal abuse will escalate over time and it WILL lead to physical abuse.  No one deserves that.

It’s important to seek support as  you recover from the abuse. A counsellor can be a great confident who can give you insight as a third party. Unlike a family member or close friend they are able to give you  professional advice without the overshadowing of family dynamics or friendships. This does not mean support from family and friends is not valid, it defiantly is. You might even find yourself reconnecting with family and friends once you leave the relationship.  Abusers often isolate their victim from family and friends as it is then easier to control them. So reach out to them.  They can help you remember who you are rather than what the abuser tells you, you are.  Social support is also another support system.  There are many groups on facebook, twitter or domestic violence hotlines that can help you. It is easier to move forward when you have a positive support system around you.

As for me, well we did find our way home.  Today my fiancé and I sorted through what the effects of my verbally abusive past had on me last night.  It is a two steps forward, one step back sort of journey.  I am just glad that I keep moving forward.

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Intimacy after rape. How do you go on?

***Trigger Warning***

Intimacy after rape, let me tell you it is not easy. I was raped at least once a week in the last nine months of my marriage.  For my ex it was his one last attempt to regain control over me.  We had been caught in an abusive marriage for over a decade.  At the time the rapes started I was “waking up.” I was seeing him for who he was, an abusive man who enjoyed hurting me. I was going to counselling and learning that I did not deserve this abuse, that I deserved a life free of abuse and I was starting to stand up to him. When he started to verbally abuse me I asked him firmly to stop talking to me that way.  I was calling him on his abuse and was standing up to him.  I was getting stronger and he did not like that.  An abusive relationship is all about one person (my ex) wanting power and control over another person (me) and for a very long time he had that control.  My world revolved around him and his moods.  I tailored my behaviour in hopes that I would not rock the boat and wake the monster in him.  I walked on eggshells and our kids did too. He had gained his power through fear and intimidation.

Then one day, as I said before, I “woke up.” I could no longer swallow the abuse. I could no longer deny what was happening to myself or my children.  As I said earlier I started to see a counsellor and I learned about the abuse cycle.  I started to unisolate myself (he, like most abusers had isolated me from family and friends to be able to control me better), I went out with friends and started to have outside interests, interests that did not involve him. I no longer let my life revolve around him.  Now let me just say I was careful.  I was still living with this man and I knew what he was capable of if pushed too far.  He could see though that he was losing control of me and it drove him mad.  He yelled more often, screamed at me that he would Never Stop Abusing Me, criticized my friends and outside interests all in an attempt to deter me from having  a life away from him and his control.  It didn’t work. I kept rebuilding myself.

Then the unthinkable happened. From January 2010 to September 2010 my husband came into my room (we were sleeping in separate rooms) and he exerted all of his power over me, stripping me of my power, and he raped me over and over.

At the time I felt nothing.  I couldn’t let myself feel anything. I still lived with this man, a man I had tried kicking out, but he kept coming back and now he had  suddenly upped  the danger level in our house.  I simply existed. I was numb.

We did end up separating and I started to live a life free of abuse. Eventually I dated again. Yes I did date after being raped.  I started to date a man that I had dated in high school. He was my first love and I was very happy that we were back together.  I felt safe with him. Intimacy was easy.  I, despite what I had gone through, felt no fear.  I was honestly surprised by that, but did not question it.

Unfortunately as time passed intimacy became harder.  I started to have panic attacks when we were close, fear would run through my body and I would freeze.  Let me state that my boyfriend never hurt me when we were intimate.  My reactions were not due to something he had done. My reactions were trauma reactions. I was getting stronger in my day to day life so my unconscious self decided it was time to deal with the trauma memories.  You see my cells, my nervous system, my muscles and layers of my brain all held memories of the trauma. Per Wikipedia;

Traumatic experiences include natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis; violent events such as kidnapping, terrorist attacks, war, domestic abuse and rape.[1] Traumatic memories are naturally stressful in nature and emotionally overwhelm people’s existing coping mechanisms.[2] When simple objects such as a photograph, or events such as a birthday party, bring traumatic memories to mind people often try to bar the unwanted experience from their minds so as to proceed with life, with varying degrees of success. The frequency of these reminders diminish over time for most people. There are strong individual differences in the rate at which the adjustment occurs.[3] For some the number of intrusive memories diminish rapidly as the person adjusts to the situation, whereas for others intrusive memories may continue for decades with significant interference to their mental, physical and social well being.

Ok so I was trying to proceed with life, but the trauma memories were getting in the way.  As a result I had to do more counselling and I have learned new coping skills.  My boyfriend and I will often just cuddle with no pressure of anything more.  It’s not always easy for him or I, but we do our best to be patient and understanding of each others feelings. There are days where I skirt affection all together.  When the fear takes over, I feel like I am screaming from the inside and any kind of touching stresses me out.  We try to talk through those days and reassure my whole being that I am safe. It’s not an easy journey actually some days it really sucks, but I am glad we love each other enough to get through it together. One step at a time.

If you have been raped practise these acts of self care;

-Be gentle with yourself. You may be recovering from physical injuries plus mentally and emotionally you have been hurt. It takes time to heal.

-Reach out to loved ones, friends or family for support.

-You may notice that your appetite has diminished due to stress.  Eat small, frequent nutritional meals. Try to avoid large amounts of sugar or caffeine.

-Get outside. Feel the sunshine, breath in the fresh air, get out for a walk.

-Keep a journal about your thoughts and feelings.

-You may have trouble sleeping and feel extra jumpy.  These are normal reactions to trauma.  If these symptoms last longer than a month please see your doctor for extra support.

-There are many forms of counselling to help with trauma. Your local Sexual Assault Centre can offer extra support or your family doctor can refer you to a therapist.

-Check out RAINN’s website rainn.org for helpful information.

-Please know you are not alone, you did NOTHING wrong and you did NOT deserve this happening.

 

 

 

 

Let me tell you what it is like to live with PTSD.

PTSD came into my life in 2011.  My youngest daughter was referred to a child Psychiatrist.  She was wetting her bed, peeing in hampers and garbage cans, having panic attacks, sucking on her hair and more and more disappearing into a world I did not understand.  She was 5 years old.

As a concerned parent I sat in that Psychiatrists office hoping this Doctor  would shed some light on what was happening to my little girl. That she would tell me how I could help her.  I nervously told her about what had been happening at home.  You see my husband, and my girls father, had been abusing us. Just six months prior we had left him.  I thought that maybe her actions were just a reaction to what we had been through and she just needed a child therapist.  The doctor told me that I was right, this was a reaction to what my daughter had gone through, that she had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from all of the trauma she had endured.

“What?”

“What do you mean?” I asked, “Isn’t this something only soldiers get?” “How could my 5 year old daughter have this?”

The Psychiatrist proceeded to explain to me that PTSD is a common diagnosis in abused children.  She explained that we naturally have a fight or flight instinct in us when we sense danger.  Naturally we will freeze, extra blood and adrenaline will pump to our extremities preparing for us to either fight or flee the situation.  This is normal.  Sometimes though a person goes through something so traumatic, usually life threatening that causes your brain to be stuck in this mode. This causes symptoms like;

Hypervigilance

Nightmares/terrors

Bedwetting (in children)

Panic attacks

Flashbacks

High Startle Response

Triggers

Avoidance (of the place where the trauma happened or similar situations)

Anxiety

I left that doctors office clinging to my little girl. Wanting to protect her from the hell going on in her mind.

Six months later I was diagnosed with the same.

So what is it like to live with PTSD?

Well it is never dull.  Our whole being lives on high alert.  I am often woken in the night by my mind, wide awake, not able to sleep.  I learned that this is because my brain is worried that danger will strike at any moment so I need to be awake and alert.  When I do sleep it is a restless sleep due to night terrors. 24/7 my brain is trying to understand what happened to me, it is trying to process the trauma.  My dreams are where a lot of that happens. I also have  days where I cannot fall asleep.  The adrenaline is running through my body preparing me to fight or flee keeping me wide awake. PTSD can be very debilitating.

I am tired.

I have dark circles under my eyes.

I often struggle to focus, as does my daughter, because my brain wants to be prepared for danger. It is not worried about the daily tasks I am trying to achieve or the homework my daughter is trying to finish.

We do have good days.  We laugh and life feels safe again, but then someone may say something, or we may smell his cologne on a passer by or be making a meal where we were abused right after and we spiral back. Back to the past where we are getting hurt again. More than once I have suddenly broken into overpowering sobs. Fearing for my life when really there is no one there wanting to hurt me. It’s a sick cycle.

I quickly learned that management of your symptoms is key with PTSD.  We both learned relaxation exercises to calm our racing hearts. We learned grounding exercises to stay in the present. We take medication to help us sleep, to ease anxiety, to fight nightmares and help with focusing. We do therapy. Lots of it. We have learned, mostly, what our triggers are and we avoid them. Triggers are things in our day to day that remind us of the trauma. We tell our loved ones what they are so that they can possibly avoid doing them, but it’s not fool proof. There are still outside events, like a movie at school or a van that drives by looking like his, that causes a panic attack. So we balance.

We balance the good days with the bad. We love ourselves extra more. We ask for understanding from others. We seek out support, receive it and in turn support others. PTSD can make you feel so alone, so different from those around you, you think hiding away is the best way to go. Let me tell you that it isn’t. So we go out for that walk, meet that friend for coffee, tell ourselves 50 times a day that we are safe and make our way through another day.

We survived the trauma.

It’s  been the hardest fight of my life, but I promise with God’s help we WILL survive the recovery.

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