I’m Free

This is a journey that changed me on every level. I am stronger now, wiser and confidence is abounding from me every day. I have found peace.

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“This is a disturbing case of violence against a woman and her children occurring over the course of a 13 year relationship.  The three children of the relationship witnessed being physically assaulted and humiliated by there father. The youngest child was subjected to physical abuse starting at the age of 16 months. The father desires access with the children.  He will have no access”

– Judge J. Wilson

31 days ago I received the best Mothers Day present ever! I received the Judgement on my Divorce & Custody Trial.  Just over a year ago I went back to Court for the final time.  It was to have my divorce granted and for the Judge to decide on the custody of my three beautiful children.  My now ex husband decided not to participate in the trial.  We waited over an hour for him to appear, called what contact numbers the Court had  with no answer. So the Court proceeded.   At the end of the first day he called the Court room and spoke to the clerk.  He said he would not be attending the trial, that he had to work and he was refusing to participate in this trial. The Clerk told him that we would then proceed without him.  Over three days Expert Witnesses were brought forward; our long time Family Doctor, my children’s Counsellor and the Custody & Access Assessor. All testified to the mental health of the children, what they had endured while with their father and since as they have been recovering.  I also testified, giving light to what it was like in our abusive home. How I was abused when pregnant, physically assaulted  & humiliated in front of the children. I told her how my son had been physically abused by my ex starting at the young age of 16 months. The Judge heard how most of us have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the abuse.  Judge J Wilson concluded that due to the extreme level of violence in my marriage that having the children in the presence of their father again would be damaging to their health and well being. She feared for their safety.    In a country where Joint Custody is normally granted , even when there has been abuse, the best we have had to hope for was supervised visits, but Judge J Wilson broke new ground.  I was awarded sole custody and he will not be granted any access and I have been granted a lifetime restraining order against him. We. Are. Finally. Safe. ❤

Yesterday was my last day as Mrs G. My ex had also received the Judgement and had contested nothing so it was the end and a day of reflection for me.  I married him with so much love, but there was also so much denial.  There were red flags that I ignored.  I believed we would love each other enough and it would be ok.  Every one said I was so amazing for him, that I was the best thing that ever happened to him so how could we not be ok? But we weren’t. Past blogs will tell you that. It was a marriage full of violence, fear and pain. These are all things that I can now leave behind me.  I can finally close that door and live a new peaceful life with my children and my fiancé.

I have had some amazing people support me on this journey. Family, friends and many Professionals. People who supported me when I wanted to give up, who listened and cheered me on whenever I faced another Court date.  I am so grateful for each and everyone of them.

This is a journey that changed me on every level.  I am stronger now, wiser and confidence is abounding from me every day.  I have found peace.  A friend shared a song with me yesterday called “Free” by Jann Arden  It is so fitting.  I am finally free. I leave you with this song.  Peace be with you.

Janet

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If you are thinking of leaving your abusive relationship I encourage you to create a Safety Plan.  A Safety Plan helps you safely leave an abusive relationship.  Please check out this link;  http://verbalabusejournals.com/how-stop-abuse/safety-planning/  Scroll down the page it opens to download it for free.

Are you a Survivor needing  support? You can sign up for a Mentor, someone who has been there, and receive free support and guidance all via email, at :http://verbalabusejournals.com/mentoring-program-for-domestic-violence-survivors/mentor-request/

I love writing for free, but with three kids it can get tight.  So if you like what I write feel free to make a donation towards my work.  Please click on this Paypal link; PayPal.Me/JanetBrownlee to make your donation. Thanks!

 

 

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/

 

 

To all the Warrior Mums

To all the Warrior Mums, I wanted you to know that I am with you.  I am with you on this journey. Perhaps you are raising children while in an abusive relationship or perhaps you have left and now you are dealing with the aftermath. Either way I know it isn’t easy.   I am with you because I am one of you.

I am a mum to three amazing children.  Two girls and a boy.  They are 15, 11 and 9 years old. They are the lights of my life and I love them very much.  They have often been the reason I have gotten out of bed each day.  Especially when I was in the chaos of my first marriage.  My marriage was abusive.  He not only abused me but he abused my children in various ways.  For the longest time I thought staying in my marriage was the best decision for my children.  I thought that it was better to have two parents, even if it was painful, than to be from a broken home.  I figured the later would be a harder battle.  How wrong I was.

It wasn’t until my oldest, who was 9 at the time, came to me and asked me why did I let daddy treat me so bad that I started to think my children were being affected by the abuse.  When she also asked me to leave him, begged me in fact, I knew that it was hurting my children more if I stayed.  So I broke through my fog of denial.  I faced what was really happening in my home and I reported the abuse to the RCMP.  This started a six year battle of going through the Domestic Violence Court (Criminal Court) and Family Law.  It was painful. It was exhausting and it was traumatizing but in the end I was awarded sole custody and my ex was given no access to our children.  You may be familiar with such a battle.  Moments where you have to sit in the same Court room as them, walk past them and even look at them.  Moments where it feels like your heart is going to leap our of your chest because it is beating so hard, but you do it.  You face all of those battles because you are a Warrior Mum and you want your kids to be safe.

Yes YOU!

Perhaps you have had to send your child/children on a visit with their abusive father.  If you have stayed awake at night wondering if they are safe or thrown up in the toilet because the anxiety of it all is just too much to bear, I have been there too.  I know what it is like to pick up the pieces after such a visit.  To have your children wetting their beds, soiling their pants, suffering nightmares and struggling in school, all because a Judge says equal time with each parent is best.  I get that.  I have been there too.

Like some of you I have had my children turn on me at times.  I have been told that I am weak, that they NEVER want to be like me and that I have poor judgement.  I too have cried by myself when they talk like that because you know that you aren’t weak.  You have fought battles that they know nothing about.  You have taken beatings for them.  You have taken abuse that you would rather not talk about, for them.  It was better if you took the pain, right?  Yes I have been there.  Please know that you are NOT weak.  You are so STRONG.  You have faced Lawyers and Judges, Police Officers and angry family members who don’t support you.  You have done this to try and protect your children.  To keep them safe.  You and no one else.  That makes you Amazing!

I know that the journey is not easy.  I know that they get angry and take it out on you because you are safe.  I know he’s probably left you little money, or isn’t paying child support so you make sure you feed them first and sometimes yes you go hungry for them.  I know all of this because  I have been there too.

Why? Why do we do it? We do it because we have loved them since before they were born.  We have loved them since we saw that little line on the pregnancy test or their little heart beat on the ultrasound.  We vowed at that moment to love and protect them always.  We do it because we are mums.

So please do not give up hope.  Hold on during the tough moments and cheer them on through their victories. Hug them and kiss them and do all you can for them.  You can do it.  You can do it because YOU my dear are a Warrior Mum.

Peace,

Janet

Five years free!

Soon it will be five years since I ended my abusive marriage.  I wanted to take a moment to reflect on where I was and where I am now.  It is always good to look back when such a milestone are reached, not to stay there, but to see how far one has come.

Five years ago I was living with daily abuse.  My ex screaming at me was a daily event, name calling and telling me how worthless I was, mixed in with a push or slam into a wall were his daily pleasure. If he was wasn’t hurting me then I was watching him hit and shake my toddler son. He was in the all powerful role of being in charge. Achieved by instilling fear and tons of intimidation.  The kids and I walked on eggshells wondering when would “dad” snap next and we did our best not rock the boat.

I knew we needed out, but how? How could I escape with three kids? I weighed a mere 108lbs (at 5’10’), my hair was falling out in clumps, a stress rash had taken over my body, I struggled to eat and sleep was barely ever granted to me.  With nights of forced sex and worrying  it was amazing that I got any sleep at all.  How could I afford to be a single mom, pay a mortgage, daycare and groceries ? Could I do it safely? I knew that the most dangerous time for a woman in a domestic abuse relationship is when they are planning to leave or have just left. If it was bad now, what would it be when I left?

When I finally did end my marriage I really didn’t have all the answers to my questions. I just knew I could not carry on one more day in the hell my ex had created. I took a giant leap forward, praying that God would get me through this, and sent my ex a text telling him it was over.  For safety I did not dare tell him this in person. I told him to be gone by 8:00pm or I would report him to the RCMP.  The text was followed by me breaking down simply out of relief.   I went home that night and he was gone. It was over.

 Many Survivors of Domestic Violence, and those who work to support them, will tell you that the journey is not over when you leave. It just changes.   I had to deal with stalking’s, harassment, and my kids were further abused on visits with him. Nightmares set in for all of us (often I had all three of my kids in bed with me), bedwetting from my younger two and my youngest daughter was diagnosed with PTSD, followed by my same diagnosis five months later. Despite all of these hurdles we learned to laugh again, we started to reconnect with my family and friends (that had long been shut out by my ex). I also began to eat and that stress rash disappeared within weeks. My kids relaxed and started to just be kids. We were free.386844_2170052251634_514982225_n

  I did face many financial difficulties, I lost my house, was put on permanent disability for PTSD and had to move. I moved  to be far away from his family.  Family that were yelling at me in public, about how it was all my fault. It was something my kids and I did not deserve. We looked for a fresh start.

A fresh start is what we found. My kids found their interests and I encouraged them to reach for the stars.  I also reconnected with my own interests. For so many years everything had revolved around my ex, his likes and his dislikes. I lost myself in the process.  It has been fun finding me again. I also started a new relationship, one built on trust and mutual respect.

  It hasn’t been the easiest five years.  We’ve faced many challenges and will continue to do so. Recovery from abuse is a life long journey, but  now at least we are safe. I thank God everyday for that. Every step forward takes us away from a very dark time and brings us to days filled with light and love.

Alright, I think it is time to celebrate! 🙂

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The effects of Domestic Violence on the family

 Recently I was asked to talk to a group of women about the effects of Domestic Violencethe family.  After much thought and reflection on how Domestic Violence affected my family along with so many others I wrote the below speech which is now a new blog. 🙂

  Advocating to end Domestic Violence has become a very important issue for me. You may ask, “why”? Why would you speak so loudly about ending something that so many still want to sweep under the carpet and look the other way?  Well it could be because it affects 1 in 4 women in our Country. Or it could be that 1 billion women world wide will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime or perhaps it is because every 6 days a woman is killed in our Country by her partner or former partner. Or simply it could be because it happened to me.

I never thought  I would end up in an abusive marriage. I was raised in a Christian home where nothing was solved with violence.  We talked out our issues and I remember only being spanked once as a child. Family violence was an unknown to me.

I met my ex in the mid 90’s. He was quiet, sweet, attentive, good looking and he swept me off of my feet the first time I met him.  I knew then and there that I was going to marry him one day. I was in love. We talked on the phone for hours, spent all of our free time together and for me my whole world started to revolve around him.  I never knew that underneath all of the niceness was a man who was quietly listening to me, observing me and figuring out my weaknesses so that he could one day use them against me. I had no idea the trap he was setting for me.

In 2002 we were married. We had three beautiful children, two girls and a son, owned a home, lived in a small town and both of us were involved in the Community. He was a volunteer firefighter, I was a Sunday school teacher. We faithfully attended Church and planned to raise our children in a Christian upbringing. We both worked, had pensions and savings. To the outside world we looked like we had it all, but we didn’t. Behind closed doors it was a whole different story.  Behind closed doors there was screaming that was gradually increasing to a point where it was happening daily.  I was being called horrible degrading names and the physical abuse was increasing. For example my fingers were crushed in a door one day because in  his eyes I wasn’t listening and I needed to be punished.  There were chairs, tools, steel toed boots and cutlery thrown at me if I “stepped out of line.” I was slammed into walls if I defied him in anyway and near the end, my life was threatened more than once. My life became, what I call, a giant “Cat and Mouse” game of survival. I was always trying to stay 10 steps ahead of him to survive. My head was constantly spinning and I struggled to focus. As each year passed I felt myself drowning just a little bit more. We separated in 2010.

Let us not forget that in amongst all of this chaos there were three little people who were trying to understand what was going on.  They witnessed the name calling, they heard their father tell them that their mum was stupid and that they should never listen to her. They had images (2)their security shaken daily.  They saw dad hit mom. They saw mom hiding in the pantry crying hoping no one would hear her. They saw mom not eating and losing weight at a dangerous level. They saw moms hair falling out in clumps. They saw the woman that always saved them slipping away. As a child they did not understand what was happening, but they knew how it made them feel. They couldn’t put it all into words, but they could wet their beds and have nightmares. They could struggle at school due to a lack of focus. Who can focus on learning their ABC’s when they are worried about what dad will do next? Would he be scary daddy today and hit their little brother. Or would he be fun daddy who took them swimming and out for supper? Every day was a throw of the dice, never quite knowing what you would get.

For optimal development, children and young people need to grow up in a secure and loving environment. Where domestic or family violence exists, the home is not safe or secure and children are scared about what might happen to them and the people they love.

Studies show that children who have witnessed domestic violence are more likely to:

  • show aggressive behaviour
  • develop phobias and insomnia                                                   images (1)
  • experience anxiety
  • show symptoms of depression
  • have diminished self esteem
  • demonstrate poor academic performance and problem solving skills
  • have reduced social competence skills, including low levels of empathy
  • show emotional distress
  • have physical complaints.

For my oldest, who is now 14 yrs old, she built walls around her feelings and has struggled to express them and have empathy for others.  You see she was my exes favourite. He took her everywhere with him, bought her extra gifts and as some said to me later, he treated her more like his wife than he did me. She was put on a pedestal and I was at the bottom.  He took her to events and left me at home. Always having an excuse as to why I had to stay home with the younger two and we could not get a babysitter.  Later I learned all about grooming a victim and that this is what he was doing with her. Child grooming is befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, to lower the child’s inhibitions for further abuse.  She admitted to me later that she played her part well just to keep herself safe. She went along with him and did all he asked to save herself from his wrath. In doing that she learned how to hide her true feelings and now she struggles to express them.

My daughter remained his favourite until one day she stood up for me. After witnessing me receiving a verbal lashing she asked her dad why he treated me so bad? Up to that point no one had ever stood up to him in his life. He had been a bully through school, caused many fights and his family enabled his behaviour, as had I.  He did not know what to make of her question. His face turned white and he has barely acknowledged her since. You see abuse is all about one person wanting power and control over another person.  In this moment his control over her and over me was being challenged. To avoid having to take responsibility or deal with his need for control it was easier for him to just toss her to the way side.

This changed my daughter.  For many years she kept many people at arms length. It was only last year that her walls started to crack. I believe the love of my family and having God so strongly in her life has helped her heal. For that I am grateful.

For my middle child, my second daughter, the journey has been difficult in a different way.  When she was six years old she was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is common in children aged 5-12 yrs old who have experienced violence in their home.  Prior to her diagnosis I vaguely knew what PTSD was. I knew it was something soldiers could get after being at war, but beyond that I really had no clue. I learned that PTSD  is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening event such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, domestic violence or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. 50% of abused children will be diagnosed with PTSD, 45% of abused women will also share this diagnosis,  compared to 30% of soldiers after being in combat. I believe the higher rate in children and battered women is due to the fact that they are often defenseless and the one hurting them is someone they love and are supposed to trust.  They  do not have weapons to fight with and they do not get down time away from combat like a soldier does. They have to be on alert for danger 24/7.

  My youngest daughter was diagnosed with PTSD  after experiencing nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, a severe lack of focus, memory loss, noise sensitivity and she was acting out. Her acting out included bed-wetting, peeing in garbage cans and laundry hampers. She was images (1)screaming out for help. Help was given to her. My second daughter now has a child Psychiatrist, sees the school counselor and has a Mental Health worker for more intense counselling, She is also on medication that eases her anxiety and helps her sleep while fighting the nightmares.  I have to say it has been a heartbreaking road as a mother to watch. To see my little girl struggle to remember a sentence at school, needing to sit right next to her teacher  just to feel safe because she fears her dad coming to school to kill her. To watch her go catatonic when her father was mentioned in passing and to know that there is probably abuse that I still  do not know about is hard to bear. I pray though.  A lot. I and her professionals know that she caries secrets that only time, strength and maturity will reveal. We patiently wait as this tangled ball of yarn unravels and all of us will be there to help her sort it out as it comes.  There have been some break through’s where she has come out of her cocoon. I have watched her take Karate, make friends at Girl Guides and find her love for God at Bible Camp. It has been amazing to watch her blossom.

  My  daughter is now 10 years old, Her PTSD still flares from time to time. Something will trigger a memory and the nightmares will come back full blast, She will start coming into my room at night crying because she is so afraid, or I will get a call from school that she is scared and they need me to come and calm her.  With her I live a life of reassuring her every day that she is safe.  I have become safety to her which is very common in young children who are abused. They will attach themselves to the non abusive parent. They will be extra clingy which is something I deal with daily with both her and her younger brother.  Patience and love is how I deal with that. Reassuring both that they are safe, that I love them and that nothing bad is going to happen to them or to me. My second daughter still needs a nightlight to feel safe as pure darkness will send her into a panic attack and her sister and her both struggle when they have rooms apart from each other. Security and safety is their concern in every situation of their life. They are healing though. Every day is a step forward. It may be a life time of healing but they have learned that abuse from a man is unacceptable and they will not accept it in their future relationships. I have worked hard to empower my daughters and build their self esteem so that they will not accept anything but the best from a future spouse.  I am determined to break the cycle.

My son was three when my ex and I separated. He is now 8 years old. He was physically abused by my ex from the age of 16 mths to 4 years old.  Being that his abuse was during most of the “preverbal years” it has been hard for him to express his thoughts and feelings about it all.  Often he would physically attack me if he was scared or if something happened that triggered a memory. At the age of 7 he would physically attack all of us almost daily. His mind was releasing the memories since he had matured, but because they happened before he could really speak he acted his feelings out physically like a toddler would,. He too saw the school counselor and a Mental Health Worker. There we learned that you can never go back to preverbal times and put words to those memories, but he has learned how to manage his emotions, how to put words to the feelings he has now and we learned how to deal with his OCD tendencies, also common in someone who is experiencing abuse. Due to the stress of the old memories surfacing he was trying to find control in his day to day by having OCD tendencies. He needed to kiss me goodbye with a certain amount of kisses and in a specific pattern. If he did not do this he would become hysterical.  Through therapy he learned that no matter how many kisses he gives me I will still come home at the end of the day and neither he nor I will get hurt.  It was a difficult year, but with the proper support we did get through it as a family and he is an amazing little boy who is truly loving life now.

I am so proud of all of my children. They had a hard start to their life, but I had promised them that I would get them away from the abuse and I did just that. There have been many counselling sessions, support from family, friends and our Priest that have helped us on our journey. Somehow we have made it through the last five years and I am starting to see three amazing children laugh and just be kids having normal kids problems.   It is so wonderful to see. I still praise God when I hear them laugh. It is a true blessing after so much darkness.

Now without breaking the cycle of abuse, my daughters would have had a high chance of picking an abusive partner.  My son would have had a high chance of becoming an abuser himself.  That risk is still there being they saw abusive behaviour in their formative years, but with each new coping skill that is taught, with each counselling session they attend, with each day passing of not seeing their father their chances of being abused or being an abuser decreases.

For me, as a woman and as their mother, being a victim of Domestic Violence has changed everything about me. As I said before I did not grow up with violence.  I did have a low self esteem when I met my ex and he knew that. I was an easy victim.  He listened and learned about my weaknesses and he learned what I wanted out of life.  He became the man I always wanted. At first.  He was a great manipulator and had me snowed for many years.  Abusers will do that. They will wear a “nice” mask for all to see. To the outside world he was a boyfriend who was completely taken with me, but as the years passed  “the mask” started to slip.  Imagine for a moment how exhausting it is to pretend being someone that  you are not. It is not so hard when you are dating someone because there are times when you are apart and you can be who you truly are. When you live together though you have to pretend 24/7.  In time that gets tiring and annoying. So the mask slips.  The odd outburst of anger is quickly put down to him having a bad day, but slowly those bad days turn into bad weeks and then one day you realize it has been a bad year or decade. By then you are married, have three children, a mortgage and are so focused on trying to make him happy that you have lost yourself.  Your world revolves around his moods, watching his body language, you become an expert on predicting his next move because you just want to survive another day. You no longer live. You simply exist. Slowly he isolates you from your family and friends. Slowly he is the only person you have and you start to think you must deserve this abuse. You believe him when he says, “well if you weren’t so stupid I wouldn’t have to treat you this way.”  You believe that if you just listen better tomorrow and love him just a little bit more it will all get better one day.wpid-images-25.jpeg

Then are good days when you are so glad you made it through the bad days. There are moments where he makes you laugh and you remember that nice guy you first met years ago. Little do you realize though that those good days are just there to pull you back in. To manipulate back into staying committed to your relationship.  You remember how seriously you took your marriage vows. You promised till death do you part, but then one day you realize death may come at the hands of the one you promised to love. You also realize that he has broken every marriage vow he ever made so in the eyes of God are you really married anymore?  You spin and try to figure out how to break free safely because you learn that the threat to a woman’s life goes up 75% when she is leaving or has left the relationship. You have been under his control for so long that you no longer know how to make a decision on your own. You believe him when he calls you an idiot  so how could you possibly escape and raise three children on your own? How would you afford it? What would your family think? Or his family? Will they stand by you? Life becomes one great big unknown.  And then one day when you finally collapse, and as your knees hit the floor, you call out to God asking him to save you. It’s then that you realize He has been there all along.  He has seen you cry. He has seen you shake in fear. He has seen you paste a smile on your face so that no one suspects the abuse. He has seen you step in and take a beating over your son. He reminds you of your strength, He wraps you in His Holy Spirit and somehow you find the strength to end it. With God by your side you end your marriage and take steps towards freedom.

You start rebuilding yourself.wpid-images-233.jpeg

On average a woman will leave 7 times before she finally ends the abusive relationship. Some never get the chance to end it, their partner or former partner ends it for them. Permanently. Their children are often left with their abuser or are put into foster care. Often their futures are not bright and they are faced with a high chance of fighting a drug or alcohol addiction, being a runaway and possibly falling into prostitution.

The number one group of homeless people is women and children fleeing Domestic Violence. Many have no where to go because their abuser has isolated them from family and friends and often finances are tight. Many return to their abuser or live on the streets. Shelters are often too violent or there are no available beds.  On April 15th 2010 Statistics Canada asked all shelters in Canada to note how many women they had to turn away. In total 426 women across our Country were turned away. The number one reason was due to overcapacity. Other reasons noted were mental health concerns, drugs and alcohol abuse.  The number one reason women gave for being in the shelter was that they wanted to protect their children. Finding housing, after being a shelter, is hard to do in our Province. Some shelters offer transitional housing, but for many women that option is not available, CMHC reports that, in October 2013, the rental vacancy rate in Regina was just 1.8 per cent, and the average rent on a two-bedroom apartment in the Queen City is now $1,018. The rental vacancy rate in Saskatoon was slightly better, at 2.7 per cent — but unfortunately, rents were higher as well, at $1,041. And women looking for accommodation in Estevan was doubly messed with average rents of $1,175 and an effective 0 per cent vacancy rate on two-bedroom apartments, the minimum apartment size for women with children (Prairie Dog).

  Lack of finances is the number one reason many women stay. For many the finances have been completely controlled by their abuser. Many are not allowed to work and their names are not put on the land titles or bank accounts.  Myself, I did work. I worked for SaskTel for 15 years and I made a comfortable living. My ex did abuse me financially despite my job.  Over time he came up with excuses as to why he couldn’t work and many times out of fear I said nothing. I went along with his excuses. This left things very tight financially. During one 1619773607_5518755_man_stealing_money_from_piggybank_xlargematernity leave he refused to work so we only lived on my maternity leave payments. This left me sneaking food from our Churches food-bank just so I could feed my girls. He also created a lot of credit card debt in my name which has completely ruined my credit. This has changed my plans for retirement and how I am paying for my kids continuing education. I am no longer able to work at SaskTel. In 2011 I too was diagnosed with PTSD. Suddenly I fit into another statistic, one where 1 in 5 women who are abused by a partner will be diagnosed with PTSD. I was suffering terrifying night terrors, I had zero task for the simplest job, I was falling asleep at my desk at work and when a customer called me from the time they said their name and why they were calling I had no memory of what they said.  I was terrified.  The diagnosis was hard to accept, but I do my best now to manage it with medication and my own counselling.  Due to my PTSD my doctors had to remove me from work permanently. At 41yrs of age I was accepted to receive Long Term Disability. By no means was this where I planned to be in my 40’s, but it is what it is.

  Fear, intimidation, and manipulation kept me in this cycle far longer than I should have, but being I am a good person I wanted to believe that he too would one day be a good person. That he would get help. I also believed my kids would be worse off being from a broken family due to divorce. Not realizing at the time that our home was already broken.

You can’t make a person change when they do not want to.  My ex has been arrested twice for assaulting me and once for my son.  We have been on an exhausting journey within our Court system.   Since 2009 I have been seeking justice and safety.  It has been a hard and very long journey but I do not regret one step of it.  Yes I have been re victimized by the Court and yes my kids were ordered on visits with my ex that never should have happened.  All simply because the Courts wanted to see if this time my ex would behave.  I soon learned this is very  common when dealing with Domestic Violence in our Courts.  The abusers are often given far too many chances and the victims are blamed. I have never stopped fighting though and I still have some fighting ahead of me. I am happy to report that there have been some victories.  My kids live with me full time and at this time they have no contact with their father.  I also have a restraining order against him.  For all of these things I am relieved.

As a family we are healing.  The stats may sound grim, but we are a family who is determined to prove those stats wrong,  My kids are not going to be run aways living on the streets or the school yard bully. We are all learning ways to manage our anxiety, to calm our fears and to talk about our feelings rather than act them out violently.  We have also been becoming a new family.  I have a wonderful new partner in my life.  We were high school sweethearts who reconnected and in many ways saved each other.  He has taught my children and retaught me that not all men are violent.  He has built us up rather than tearing us down and he has loved us all unconditionally.  It is not easy to come into a family that has been abused. There are memories and triggers that you do not know or understand. There are fears that make no sense, but with ongoing communication, prayer and guidance from others we are becoming a loving family. I am so glad to have this second chance and to give my kids a healthy family to grow up in.wpid-17fe8b6fed4556aa2eaef2062ab46cf1.jpeg

I strongly feel Domestic Violence can end, but we all have to play a part in ending it. If we see it we need to report it. If we suspect it we need to reach out to the victims. During the last year of my marriage I had a coworker suspecting something was not right. She asked me one day if I was ok. I do not know why but for some reason that was the moment where I broke my silence. I started to tell her what was happening at home. She remained my daily confident for over a year. Without her and  other friends who just listened I do believe I may not have been able to leave when I did. Knowing that others see the abuse, hearing from them that it is wrong, having your pain validated by another gives a victim strength and helps them become a Survivor.  We need to help the victim who desperately wants out. Help them regain some of their power and control and please do not turn a blind eye. Domestic Violence is not a private marriage problem. Domestic Violence is an epidemic in our society and trust me the victims do want out. Many just do not know how to do it. I challenge you  to reach out and be that hand offering hand.

God Bless

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Praying for the one who abused you……Really???

Yes really. I prayed for my ex today. Whew that felt weird even to type.  Let me explain. Prayer-Training-Day-pic In my previous blog I wrote about seeing my “husband” in a few weeks. We were going to be in Court for him sexually assaulting me in the last nine months of our marriage.  To say it was a trying experience is a HUGE understatement.  There were so many emotions during the trial and since.  It has been a journey all in itself.  One that I have struggled to put into words, let alone write about. Yet here I am today. Writing. I soon learned, throughout the trial, that our Justice system is not built on focusing on the facts and proving them right or wrong. It is not about the Defense actually defending their client for what they have done.  It is about someone being charged, being presumed innocent until proven beyond a reasonable doubt that they are guilty. And anyone who is called as a witness, like myself, is guilty. Guilty of remembering facts wrong, of lying, of over exaggerating, of being vindictive and yes of being mentally unbalanced. Yes those were the things I had to try and prove I was not. Those were the things both the Defense and the Crown asked me to do.  It was horrible.  Beyond horrible.  And in the end to see my ex be enabled by the Courts that yes he can get away with this was sickening. I truly worry for his next victim.  I can only imagine the journey she will have. Now I’ll be honest, I absolutely fell apart after the trial was done.  I had watched my ex lie one the stand and say he never abused me or our children and I saw his mother support him.  It was too much.

On some level I always knew there was denial on his part and his families. Many of them knew, saw or heard my ex abuse us.  And by many I would say at least 20 family members.  Logically I knew that. Heck my mother in law  lied in an affidavit saying she had never seen my ex abuse us so yes logically I understood this. That night though,  after the trial, my heart finally got it and it broke.  This led to me wailing in the arms of my fiancé knowing that the family I had loved, supported, let into my home and my heart would never see past their fear and help me, my kids or even my ex (he truly needs someone other than me to tell him that his behavior is WRONG and that it cannot continue). I realized then that there was nothing more I could do to help any of them see the light.

Ahhhh the light. Yes the light, or shall I say God, is what guided me to the next part of my journey. God has been with me the whole time. He was with me when I literally fell to knees bawling. I had finally realized that my ex had abused me for over a decade (as a victim you often deny what is happening just so you can survive). I remember begging Him to save me. I remember saying quietly to myself. “Please Lord make it stop.”

My Prayers were answered in the end. It was not instant, and there was a lot of pain along the way, but He did show me that I was strong enough to save myself and my children. I didn’t need his family to finally see the Light and swoop in and stop the abuse.  I could do it. With God’s help, many friends and loved ones I could carefully escape and start a new life. That is what I did, with God by my side.

As I said I prayed for my ex today.  You may ask how did all of that come about? I mean this is a man who cheated on me, lied, deceived and abused me every way possible. Not only to myself, BUT TO MY CHILDREN! How do you pray for the man who has abused your children??

God told me to.

I was at a Bible study and afterwards everyone was allowed to pray either allowed or silently. I was sitting there with my head bowed when suddenly my ex came into my mind and I heard a voice telling me to pray for him. So I did, out loud. With tears in my eyes I prayed that one day my ex will see the error of his ways. That he will stop lying and denying what he has done. That the horribleness that he must feel inside will finally become too much for him to carry and he will turn to God, ask for forgiveness and will repent.

I do not know if my ex will ever turn to God, but I can pray for him. I can let him go knowing this is a journey I will not be making with him. It is now between him, God and yes that other place.

Peace

About Janet B

I am a Domestic Violence Survivor, who battles PTSD. I share what I know to help others on their journey and to help educate society. I also Supervise a Mentoring Program at Verbal Abuse Journals (http://verbalabusejournals.com/). This program matches Survivors who have been out of the abusive relationship for a few years, and are now Mentors,  with Survivors who are either still in an abusive relationship or have just left. A mentoring relationship is set up via email where the Mentor offers guidance and support to the Survivor for as long as they need. Please feel free to sign up for this free service at  http://ow.ly/LSii8

Verbal Abuse Journals facebook https://www.facebook.com/VerbalAbuseJournals

My facebook page: Freedom Within: My Journey through Domestic Violence and PTSD https://facebook.com/fw.dvptsd

I have been working/volunteering at Verbal Abuse Journals as a Mentor to other Survivors of Abuse.

LinkedIn Profile: <a href=”http://ca.linkedin.com/in/janetbrownleedvptsd“> <a>
Pinterest: Freedom Within

A Review of the children’s book “A Secret Safe to Tell” by Naomi Hunter

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Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to read a newly released children’s book; “A Secret Safe to Tell.” “A Secret Safe to Tell” is written by Naomi Hunter, illustrated by Karen Erasmus and published by publisher Jo Jo Publishing.

Hunter writes the heartbreaking story of a little girl who is sexually abused by a man she trusts. The reader is taken on the painful journey of a little girl who struggles with fear, guilt and confusion. Thankfully in the end the little girl finds someone she trusts, shares her secret and is set free.

I found that this book tackled a difficult issue in a calming and symplistic fashion. Easy for a child to understand. The book left me with the feeling that if I had a terrible secret to tell I could do so now, I would be safe.

“A Secret Safe to Tell” is told from the viewpoint of the child. In the beginning the little girl talks about how she feels special with her friend. Karen Erasmus does a wonderful job of showing this feeling through bright colours in her illustrations, including colourful butterflies and flowers. As the little girl becomes uncomfortable with this attention and she told to keep it a secret the illustrations change. The bright colours disappear and dark colours envelope the illustrations, even the butterflies become black. I really liked this visual technique as it should the pain and the prison the little girl is held in with feelings of confusion, guilt and fear. It was beautiful to see the butterflies turn back to colour once the girl tells her secret, symbolising her freedom.

I also like Hunter’s writing technique. It was symplistic and calming for a child. I also really liked that throughout the book certain words are fully capitalised. The reader is able to pick out these important words  easily and get the essence of each page.  The Emergency contact information at the end of the book is also a great resource. It is a  reminder that no one has to be alone on this journey.

In conclusion I highly recommend “A Secret Safe To Tell” to anyone who works with or raises children. This book can open the doors of discussion if you suspect abuse. It can also start a conversation with children who have not been abused, but you want them to be aware of what could happen and how best to deal with it. Abuse, especially sexual abuse, is a difficult topic to approach a child about. With Naomi Hunters talented writing though you are given a helpful tool to empower all children and start breaking down the walls abuse builds.

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There are four ways to purchase your very own copy of “A Secret Safe to Tell” as per Naomi Hunters facebook page http://www.facebook.com/naomihunterauthor

1. Send her a message with your order, to the facebook page, and she can send you a personally signed copy.
2. Go to http://classic-jojo.com/shop/picture-stories/a-secret-safe-to-tell/ and purchase through the publisher, but this will be un-signed.
3. Go to your local bookstore (if in Australia) and have them order it in, if it isn’t already on the shelf.
4. Check out online bookstores, such as booktopia.com.au or vipabooks.com.au

Hardcovers are $25 (AUD) and Softcovers are $17 (AUD).

Naomi Hunter is located in Melbourne, Australia but she says she is definitely happy to post internationally.

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About Janet B

I am a Domestic Violence Survivor, who battles PTSD. I share what I know to help others on their journey and to help educate society. I also Supervise a Mentoring Program at Verbal Abuse Journals (http://verbalabusejournals.com/). This program matches Survivors who have been out of the abusive relationship for a few years, and are now Mentors,  with Survivors who are either still in an abusive relationship or have just left. A mentoring relationship is set up via email where the Mentor offers guidance and support to the Survivor for as long as they need. Please feel free to sign up for this free service at  http://ow.ly/LSii8

Verbal Abuse Journals facebook https://www.facebook.com/VerbalAbuseJournals

I have been working/volunteering at Verbal Abuse Journals as a Mentor to other Survivors of Abuse.

My facebook page: Freedom Within: My Journey through Domestic Violence and PTSD https://facebook.com/fw.dvptsd

twitter: https://www.twitter.com/within_freedom

LinkedIn Profile: <a href=”http://ca.linkedin.com/in/janetbrownleedvptsd“> <a>
Pinterest: Freedom Within