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.

“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

11231745_419431004904866_6508030370851813685_n

 

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!

 

 

It’s tough out there, so please support Survivors

Often, as I work with Survivors of Domestic Abuse, I hear how the life after abuse is much harder than living with the abuse. It’s sort of ironic to say that, but as a Survivor myself I do agree with that statement. For someone who has never lived with abuse you may ask, “How is that possible?” “Wouldn’t a life free of abuse be easier as you wouldn’t be abused?” Good question and you would think that would be the case, but in many ways it is not. Let me explain.

When you are in an abusive relationship, over time the abuse becomes familiar. Yes it is horrible but it is what you know. When I was in my abusive marriage the abuse was a terrible thing to endure, but it had become my normal. When someone would suggest leaving I became scared. I had lived so long in an abusive world that the healthy world outside of that was scary and unknown. Would I have financial security if I left? Would my kids be ok without their father? Would I lose the family home? Could I be a single mom? So many questions like that flooded my mind and after years of being told by my ex, through actions and words, that I was worthless I truly believed I could not achieve a good life if I left my marriage. I believed everything would fall completely apart.

There is a line that I have heard that is true; “A victim of domestic abuse will not leave until the idea of staying is scarier than the idea of leaving.” That is exactly how it was for me. It was not until that fateful night when my ex admitted to me that he knew he was raping me and hurting me (up to that point I had lived in a world of denial to survive, thinking that he must not realize what he was doing because how could my husband consciously hurt me this way?) that I fully realized who I was dealing with. I was dealing with a dangerous man who was ok brutally hurting me and I knew at that moment that if I did not figure a way out of my marriage I may not survive it. Suddenly I no longer cared what my obstacles to leaving would be I wanted to live and I was going to figure out how to do just that.

For every Survivor their moment is different. For some it is being brutally attacked that ends everything for them, for others it may be seeing their children get hurt, for each one it is different and it is powerful. They will reach that moment where suddenly they are done and they have nothing left to give and they will decide to leave no matter what it costs them. It becomes a matter of life or death spiritually, emotionally, mentally and for many physically.

It is at the point of leaving, and the time following leaving, that a Survivor needs the most support. This is the time when new and often difficult obstacles come their way. For many they are unsure how to make decisions on their own. They have lived a life where every thought, every move has revolved around their abuser. As a result the Survivor has lost their internal compass. The simplest task can be confusing and overwhelming.  It is then that family and friends need to be with the Survivor. To listen to them, to hear their stories, to be there when they cry, help them with errands as focusing on day to day can be overwhelming. I, thankfully, had a great support system including family and friends. Once I realized that I needed to leave my abusive marriage I knew I could not do it on my own. I knew I needed support. Most of it was emotional support and some financial. I created a network involving friends, family and professionals. I reached out to whatever support I could get to help myself and my kids through this transition. That support system helped me during my weak times. The times when the obstacles became too much; paying my mortgage on my own, dealing with a child’s meltdown on my own or even dealing with my own pain, I thought it would be easier to return to my marriage. My support system was key to keeping me going. They listened, they encouraged and they consoled me. They reminded me how strong I am and that I could do this journey on my own without returning to abuse.

For many life following abuse is an up and down journey. After living in trauma many struggle to sleep, have night mares, struggle to eat healthy, suffer a lack of focus and for a child their grades may drop. Often both the Survivor and their children battle with depression and PTSD. There abuser may stalk or harass them. It is a hard road. Counselling is always a good option during this time and or connecting with other Survivors in support groups can help. Knowing there are others out there facing the same battle can help a Survivor realize that they are not alone.

There will probably be times on that road where the Survivor may think it is just easier to go back to what they know and they may return to their abuser. Please do not give up on the Survivor during those times. On average a Survivor will leave 7 times before the relationship is truly over. For me it was four times. For others it could be ten. It’s during those times though that they need your support, your voice of reason to remind them what they are worth and to not give up on them. They already have an abuser telling them that they are worthless so it is important to still be there for them, if even at a distance, so they know that someone out there does believe they are worth it. I know for friends and family it can be extremely hard to see your loved one return, but try to hold on, they do need you.

Leaving an abusive relationship is often noted as one of the harder cycles in life to break. It is so intricately tied to a person’s self worth, self esteem, how they think and feel that it feels like you have to break through a 1000 spider webs. It can be done though. It has been six and a half years since I left and I am finally feeling like I am over the worst of it. My life is feeling more balanced from day to day. The night terrors have diminished, the flashbacks have mostly drifted away and I feel a sense of peace. I know that what happened is always going to be a part of me but it no longer dominates my day to day. I feel blessed to be where I am. It took a lot of hard work and perseverance to get where I am. There were times where I wanted to throw in the towel and just crawl under my blankets and disappear, but deep down I refused to let him win. I refused to let his abuse destroy my life. I relearned and accepted that I am worth more than his abuse and once I accepted that there seemed to be no turning back.

If you are a Survivor of abuse please know that you are not alone and you are so worth a life free of abuse. I know that the idea of leaving is daunting, but please know there are supports out there waiting to help you. Check your phone book for local supports or Google on line, reach out to a friend or loved one and know that there is a better life out there just waiting for you to grab it.

 

Peace,

Janet

 

If you are thinking of leaving your abusive relationship I encourage you to create a Safety Plan.  Like a how a fire drill helps you safely escape a fire, 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!

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

13 things I wish I knew before my rape trial.

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

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

Wrong.

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

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

Peace,

Janet

 

 

 

Why do Survivors of abuse revictimize themselves?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace,

Janet

 

 

My battle with PTSD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

59758

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

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

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

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

Peace,

Janet

 

 

 

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.

Peacenational-domestic-violence-hotline-biguntitled

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

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

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

“What?”

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

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

Hypervigilance

Nightmares/terrors

Bedwetting (in children)

Panic attacks

Flashbacks

High Startle Response

Triggers

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

Anxiety

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

Six months later I was diagnosed with the same.

So what is it like to live with PTSD?

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

I am tired.

I have dark circles under my eyes.

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

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

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

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

We survived the trauma.

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

4aa50571ecdc42cc8bb2a4a35e6868d0

 

 

 

 

 

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! 🙂

11836806_462970083884291_1518468524011056714_n

I am only Human

Recently I was thinking about the many roles a person plays in their day to day life.  Myself I am a Christian, a partner, a mom, an advocate, a Mentor, a Supervisor, a friend, a sister, an aunt and a cousin to name a few roles.  I have to admit though,  the hardest role I have ever had to play is being my exes wife.

I went into my marriage naively.  I believed that if I loved him enough it would all be ok.  One day he would heal and he wouldn’t get so angry.  He wouldn’t throw things, or scream at me, or call me names.  I truly believed that if I was the best wife in the world he would one day see the error of his ways and it would all change. Thinking that way resulted in me taking on a number of additional roles.  I was a protector to my children,  a mediator between my ex and my kids, the perfect wife when all I wanted to do was cry. I would go into family gatherings, after being screamed at the whole drive there, with a smile on my face.   I learned how to be fake in order to survive. I became a robot.

As a result my feelings were buried deep down within me.  You see a robot does not have emotions.  A robot just needs to make sure it can function and do the jobs that are asked of it.   Day after day, year after year. Until the robot breaks.

  One day I did break.  I could no longer pretend. I could no longer paste that smile on my face and act like all was ok.  I could no longer ignore what was happening right in front of me.  I had to see my exes abuse for what it was and start over. When that happened all of the emotions came, the endless tears. I was devastated.  A human again who  needed support to rebuild. thOP3RNWEW

  Survivors of abuse will do what they have to do in order to survive.  As a bystander you may think “well I would never do that” or you may say “what you did was wrong.” It’s important to not to be that way.  It’s important to remember that your loved one did what they had to, to stay alive.  It’s important not to judge them.  Unless you have been there you really do not know what you would do in order to survive.  Fully escaping an abusive relationship is like breaking free from a spiders web.  You are entangled by the love you feel for that person (yes a victim of domestic violence did fall in love with their abuser at one point. People aren’t bad all the time.) or perhaps you feel obligated to stay for your kids sake, you have no money to leave, you have been shamed by family or friends to stay, or perhaps you are simply terrified to take the next step, not sure if you will make it out alive. You too are a robot and are not quite ready to breakdown and see things for what they are because it just would be too damn painful.

Survivors need understanding.   They need positive reinforcement and guidance. They need to be given God’s grace as they untangle their web. As they become alive again there are ways you can help;

– Tell them that you are sorry this happened to them.
– It wasn’t their fault.
– Remind them that they survived; obviously they did the right things.
– Thank them for telling you. .
– Tell them that you are here if they want to talk.
– Ask if there is anything you can do for them?
– Listen

Please, please, PLEASE do not say;

– It is their fault.
– You could have avoided it had you ____________.
– It’s been so long! Get over it!
– It’s not that big of a deal; it happens to lots of people.
– I don’t believe you. (that’s the very worst thing to say)

Be there for the Survivor in your life. Rebuilding oneself is hard work.   A kind word or listening ear can do wonders.  After being told by your abuser that you are worthless and no one will ever believe you,  your support can do wonders in them rebuilding themselves.  You do not have to solve all of their problems, you can refer them to professionals for things that are beyond what you can do. No one expects you to solve their problems. Extra support can be found at:

In USA and Canada you can call the National Domestic Hotline at 1 800 799-7233 (SAFE) for shelters visit  www.domesticshelters.org

For Men 1 888 7HELPLINE (1 888-743-5754)

In the UK call Women’s Aid at 0808 2000 247

For Men ManKind Initiative 01823 334244

In Australia you can call the National Domestic Hotline 1800 200 526  and

One in Three Campaign has help for Male Survivors

Or visit www.hotpeachpages.net/a/countries.html to find help numbers for any other country.