I remember the first time

***Trigger Warning-Explicit***

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

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

I just wanted to be free.

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

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

I felt caught.

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

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

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

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

My hair started to fall out.

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

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

Breathe.

WHAM!!!

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

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

MAKE IT STOP!!

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

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

They leave.

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

Then he leaves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can’t do this.”

“What?”, he asks.

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

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

“What?” he asks again.

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

“Why?” he asks.

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

Just keep talking.  Don’t look at him.

Silence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He agrees.

Whew!!! I did it!!

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

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

————-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

———————

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

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

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

What is that I hear?

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

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

 

Epilogue

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

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

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

He was gone when I went home.

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

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

Peace,

Janet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loving and the unlovable

My ex has never shown any remorse for what he has done. He has never taken any responsibility. In fact he is quick to blame me for what happened in our marriage. This is classic abusive behaviour. Waiting to forgive my ex till he says sorry is like sitting and watching paint dry. I know I will be waiting for a very long time. I don’t want that long. I want to be free.

Forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard especially when you are trying to forgive someone who has hurt you so deeply.  I wrestle with forgiving my ex for what he did to me and our children.  In fact this is an issue that I often pray about and have been working through with my family Priest. Let me tell you that this has not been easy.  I loved this man purely and all he did was turn evil on me. How does one forgive that?  How do you forgive someone who raped you, terrorized you, threatened you and hurt your children? How to do you forgive someone who doesn’t appear to take responsibility for what he has done, let alone be sorry for it? That is what I have been exploring because I do believe it is integral to my healing to forgive.

Forgiving my ex does not mean I have to let him back into my life. Forgiveness means that I no longer need to carry what he did to me.  I can offer it up to God and ask God to deal with my ex in his Godly ways.  In that I can find peace and I can move forward.

I am reminded of the Bible story about the prodigal son.  He has left father with his inheritance and caused much destruction.  Upon the sons  return his father embraced him before he even knows if his son is sorry. He loves and forgives his son not because his son has earned his forgiveness, but because God asks us to love our neighbours as ourselves and in that love is forgiveness.

In following the Commandment; Love your neighbour as  yourself,  I am asked as a Christian to love my ex as I love myself.  I have been working hard at loving myself. Let me say that loving myself has not been an easy idea or act for me to do.   When you are in an abusive relationship your self worth will be attacked by your abuser in order to weaken you. The abuse will weaken your self esteem and  you will start to believe all the horrible things your abuser says about you.    My ex called me many horrible names, especially in the final years of our marriage.  Whore, idiot, stupid, bitch and slut were among his favourites.  Over time I believed  I was those names.  By the time I left the relationship I did not believe I was capable of anything worthwhile and it took a supportive group of family, friends and my faith in God to help me see that I was not any of the names he called me.  In time I remembered that I am a child of God, that I am worthwhile and that I have so many beautiful qualities. I began to love myself.  Now that I value me, now that I love me I find God asking me to follow His Commandment and love my ex.  Not as a lover, but as a child of God and in that love there is  forgiveness.

My ex has never shown any remorse for what he has done.  He has never taken any responsibility. In fact he is quick to blame me for what happened in our marriage. This is classic abusive behaviour. Waiting to forgive my ex till he says sorry is like sitting and watching paint dry.  I know I will be waiting for a very long time.  I don’t want that long.  I want to be free.  So what is next? Well in the words of Matthew West’s song “Forgiveness” (that I will leave you with) I am learning to love the unlovable and asking God to help me with the impossible; forgiving my ex.  May your journey bring you peace.

                                                    “Forgiveness”

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

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

Forgiveness
Forgiveness

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

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

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

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

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

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

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

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

Peace,

Janet

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

A victim of abuse will live in a level of denial. You fall in love, you think he or she is all you ever wanted and then you start to see a dark side. A side that snaps at you or yells at you. Maybe he or she breaks something when they are angry. All red flags if you look at any “Are you being abused?” documentation, but as a victim you just don’t want to see it. You want to live your fairy tale. You want to believe that he or she loves you and is just a troubled person who needs more understanding than most. You don’t want to go through a break up so you hold on through the bad times and cheer during the good times. Over time the bad times happen more and more and before you know it there is barely a good second in your life.

It was slow and insidious at first.  I didn’t realize what he was setting me up for.  I thought he loved me, but he didn’t.  Instead, to him, I was something he owned.  I became an extension of him, like his arm or his leg.  He did not know how to deal with his own emotions so he set up a cycle where he released his feelings through abusing me.  This was my life.  This was my marriage.

At first his friends warned me that he had a temper.  I told them that I could handle it.  I figured that if I loved him enough his anger would go away.  He had had so many people leave him, his dad had died, his mom ignored him and the rest of his family was distant too.  I felt sorry for him.  I resolved that I would love him like no one else.  What I didn’t know was that they saw his temper.  They saw his violence and they didn’t know what to do about it, so they kept him at an arms length.  What I also didn’t know was his temper had put a kid in the hospital when he was 16.  A fellow teen ended up in intensive care and he had a restraining order against him.  He spent a lot of his time in and out of the police station.  It was an issue.  An issue I didn’t want to see.  I only wanted to see the quiet, tall, dark and handsome man that I had fallen in love with.

A victim of abuse will live in a level of denial.  You fall in love, you think he or she is all you ever wanted and then you start to see a dark side.  A side that snaps at you or yells at you.  Maybe he or she breaks something when they are angry.  All red flags if you look at any “Are you being abused?” documentation, but as a victim you just don’t want to see it.  You want to live your fairy tale.  You want to believe that he or she loves you and is just a troubled person who needs more understanding than most.  You don’t want to go through a break up so you hold on through the bad times and cheer during the good times. Over time the bad times happen more and more and before you know it there is barely a good second in your life.  I lived in that denial.  I lived in that denial for almost 15 years.  Then I woke up.

A moment will happen in a victims life that will jolt them “awake”. They will no longer be able to live in denial and they will see what is happening in their life is abuse.  They will see that the man or woman they love has abused them in many different ways.  It will shatter them and they will not know, at first, how to pick up the pieces. Everything they thought they knew will be questioned.  Many fall into depression or they may become suicidal.  It can become a very scary time for a victim or as I like to call them, a Survivor.  I know that when I “woke” up my world was rocked to the core.  I no longer trusted the world around me.  My waking moment was when I saw him physically abuse our toddler son.  He thought I had turned my back but out of my peripheral vision I saw him push our toddler son on the stairs so that he fell forward and smacked his head on the laminate flooring.  I screamed, “What are you doing?” and ran forward to grab my screaming son. My now exes response was, “I didn’t push him that hard.” No apology, no concern. It was in that moment that I saw who my husband was; a cold uncaring man who was out to hurt his family.  I knew in that moment that I had to start protecting myself and my young children.

Every Survivor’s moment is different.  You, as a bystander, may already know that their partner is abusing them.  There realization may come as no surprise to you, but please understand that to them their world is falling apart. They need love, understanding, patience and just someone to “be” with.  Someone who will listen as they sort our this mess.  It won’t be easy as a bystander to watch any of this.  You will worry about them, you will watch them cry and you may even watch them go back.  It plan out sucks to watch.  All I can say is please try to hang on.  They need you.  They are full of self doubt, little or no self worth and they need someone who is just there, loving them through it all.

If you are the Survivor having your “waking” moment let me say that I know it hurts.  I know that this is horrible and is totally not what you wanted.  I know you wanted what you see other people having, love and caring from a special person, but let me tell you abuse is NOT love. Never, ever is it love.  You deserve so much more than they are giving you and you are not any of the worthless things they may have told you , you are.  I know that breaking this denial, making these changes is hard, but I do believe that you can do them.  I didn’t think I could.  I figured I would be stuck in my abusive marriage forever.  I would never be able to afford to leave and wouldn’t I be a horrible mother splitting up my family? Then I realized that he had already split up our family when he started abusing us.  We were already broken. By leaving I was just doing what needed to be done to protect myself and my children from further pain.  I was doing the right thing. Yes there have been hurdles, but I faced each one head on and was determined to survive.  You too can survive.  You too can do it! I truly believe in you.  So break the denial, see the ugly for what it is, hold on, pray, reach out for support and reach for a better life where you are valued and loved.

Peace,

Janet

PS. If you are thinking about leaving your abusive relationship please know that your priority needs to be your safety.  Do not tell your abuser that you are planning to leave as the abuse will often escalate.  The most dangerous time for a Survivor of abuse is when they plan to leave or have just left.  To help you plan a safe escape I encourage you to create a Safety Plan.  Please follow the link below and scroll to the bottom of the page that comes up to download a Safety Plan for free.

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

 

 

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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To all the Warrior Mums

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

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

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

Yes YOU!

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

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

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

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

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

Peace,

Janet

Why do Survivors of abuse revictimize themselves?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace,

Janet

 

 

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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To the Man I love; I am sorry I have PTSD

Today has been rough. Who am I kidding; the last six years have been rough. I am sure none of it is what you expected. Sure you thought there would be rough spots, but I don’t think you banked on days, weeks and months.

We reconnected six years ago, you and I. We were high school sweethearts who drifted apart only to reconnect 20 years later. I had called you for help. I was in a horrible marriage and he was abusing me. I asked you to help me get out and you did just that. You stood by me and supported me while I safely got away. You listened and held me while I cried. You were amazing.11863435_462333397281293_2724322980692880015_n.jpg

Then one day we realized we were in love again and our love flourished!! We were so happy. Life was wonderful!

Then…..

Strange things started to happen. You know what I mean. I couldn’t sleep through the night. I had horrible night terrors and woke screaming with tears running down my face. I was scared to leave my house. I couldn’t work. I had flashbacks that made me yell. I couldn’t seem to get away from the memories of what my ex had done. I could no longer function. We went to the doctor and found out I had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) with Deep Depressive Disorder.

As PTSD and Depression took over I lived in a fog of terrible memories, a lack of focus and fear. Deep shadows formed under my eyes, I was edgy. Every sound made me jump. We vowed to stay by each other’s side. We would get through this. We knew what it was like to live without each other, we did not want to let go now.

So I saw more doctors and was put on medication to help me cope. They were the wrong ones at first so we suffered through the side effects and kept marching on. We were a team.

I know you were scared; scared to leave me alone so you started to miss work. You said that I came first. My health needed to be number one. I told you that I would be fine, go to work, I will make it through. So you did, only to come to see me still in my pajamas, the dishes weren’t done and the laundry was piling up. I told you I was sorry and you told me not to worry.

I am sorry though.

I am sorry that you have to deal with my anxiety and how irrational it can be.

I am sorry you hear me yell in fear.

I am sorry you have had to pull double duty; run the house plus your job. Please know that I see how burnt out you are. Please know how much I love you.

I never know what each day will bring. If I will get triggered by a smell or sound and end up hiding in our room or perhaps that day it will be like old days. I will get out for a walk and we will smile and laugh. I do not know and neither do you, for that I am sorry.

Thank you for riding this journey with me. Thank you for holding me when I cry or wake at night in fear. Thank you for pushing me to try new therapies and to never give up. PTSD and Depression may be debilitating, but with you by my side I can fight this battle. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.