Are you always going to pick an abuser?

As a newly remarried woman I have definitely had this question cross my mind; just because my first marriage was abusive does that mean my second one will be too? It’s a heavy question and an important question for anyone to ask, especially if they have already been in an abusive relationship.

Abusive relationships are usually classified as co dependent relationships. Co dependency is defined as excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner. They are usually with someone who has a drug addiction, alcohol problem, mental health issues or a gambling addiction to name a few. Co dependent relationships are not healthy because you find yourself dependent on this unhealthy person for approval. My first marriage was a co dependent relationship. Everything revolved around him and his needs and I was only happy if he was happy. I lost myself.

When I met my present husband I know that others around me worried that maybe I had picked another abusive man. Could they trust my judgment? Had I healed enough to recognize when I was being abused  and would I be strong enough to walk away if I was. Those around me “held their breath” for awhile.

I held my breath too. Would I be blind to the abuse if it happened again? Was I destined to only pick abusers? I no longer trusted my judgement after years of seeing my ex be nice in public and abusive behind closed doors. I found I had to ask myself, “did I want to be alone or should I take a deep breath and trust this new man in my life?” I decided to trust. It was not easy, but I am glad I put myself out there and trusted him and myself. It was a huge step forward for me.

I am happy to report that my second marriage is not abusive. We communicate well, we respect each others feelings and I do not have that “knot of dread” in my stomach that I had in my first marriage; walking on eggshells waiting for the abuse to happen. Instead I am calm and I feel safe. I will tell you though that we have analyzed our relationship to death to make sure we are not abusing each other. I have PTSD from the abuse in my first marriage so there are times I get triggered by a word or a gesture he does. I end up reacting how I wished I had in my first marriage. I get angry.  It’s not fair to anyone, not myself, my husband or the kids if they see it. We are quick though, once I am grounded, to explain what has happened, to talk about it and I apologize. We work through it. That would not happen in an abusive relationship.  Sometimes he gets triggered by me. He was abused in his childhood and was in an emotionally abusive first marriage so he too has his demons. His reaction is to yell. Again we have recognized that and we talk through it and he takes responsibility. Abusers never take responsibility. In fact they blame everyone else, especially their victim and they never talk about their feelings or want to hear about yours.   We have also recently made a rule in our house that there is no yelling and if you do yell you get to go outside and run/walk a lap around our farm yard to cool off. This is working well. This is not abuse. This is two people who came from abuse who are recognizing their triggers and working around them. Our younger kids are understanding this as well.

Perhaps it is good to point out what is an abusive relationship in case you are questioning your relationship. Some key signs of an abusive relationship are;

1. Your partner ignores and minimizes your feelings.

2. Constantly criticizing, insulting and calling you names.

3. Humiliating you in public and/or private.

4. Refusing to help you when you are sick or hurt.

5. Controlling all the money or creating debts in your name.

6. Isolating you from your family or friends.

7. Controlling where you are and what you do.

8. Checking up on you constantly.

9. Blaming you for the abuse that happens.

10. Playing mind games.

11. Threatening to hurt you, take your children, harm your family or hurt you with a weapon.

12. Pushing, shoving, throwing objects at you.

13. Hitting, choking, punching, biting, slapping or kicking you.

14. Forcing you to have sex or making you do something sexual you are not comfortable with.

If you are experiencing any of these in your relationship I urge you to tell someone and start building your support system. I know that it is scary to speak up but you do deserve a life free of abuse. No one has the right to abuse you. No one.

My word of advice; if you are in a relationship after being abused and you wonder, will I be abused again? Take a look at the above list. Is that happening? There will be arguments in your relationship, that is normal, but is there violence? Also listen to you inner voice, your gut instinct. What is it saying? You know best what type of relationship you are in, listen to that voice. Trust yourself.

There is a long road of recovery following any abusive relationship. I am sure my husband and I will battle our past relationships for some time to come, but the important thing is we do not give up. We are committed to work through each hurdle, to apologize, to listen, to respect each other and above all else to love each other. I am here to say it is possible to have a healthy relationship following abuse. I am grateful for the opportunity to have one.

If you are being abused please know there is help available. If needed you can always call 911 or your local police department. In the USA you can also call the National Domestic Hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233 (SAFE) for support. In Canada you can find a local hotline number by looking through the Hot Peach Pages at http://www.hotpeachpages.net/canada or Internationally at http://www.hotpeachpages.net

Be safe and be well,

Janet

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My Monster

PTSD is a monster. It is my monster.
A couple of days ago I had a rough day. My PTSD flared.

PTSD is a monster. It is my monster.

A couple of days ago I had a rough day. My PTSD flared.

We are in the middle of renovating our farmhouse so there are tools and other renovating mess laying around. A workable mess, but still a mess. My husband became overwhelmed by it all. He is a person who functions best when there is order. Everything should have its place and a mess, to him, equals chaos. He started to complain, not in a mean way, more in a frustrated way.

This complaining triggered me.

Normally I can read my husbands anxiety and counter it with calmness, but at this particular moment that was not the case. I became triggered and started to yell.

In my first marriage, my abusive ex would nit pic about how clean the house was. In his eyes it was never clean enough. Often he would mumble how we lived in a dumb. This hurt me. I worked hard with three young kids and working full time outside of the home, to keep our home clean. It was lived in, but not a dump. The insanity around it all climaxed in the last year of our marriage where I was thinking I should clean 24/7 just to keep him happy. When he was not happy abuse happened. Names were called, hits happened and I did everything in my power to prevent that. I would avoid joining my family for an evening in front of the TV because I felt I should be taking that time to make sure everything was clean. I became obsessive about it.

I didn’t understand it at the time, but my ex’s constant complaining kept me under his control. My days revolved around keeping the house in order to keep him happy in fear of being abused. I did not go out with friends, I did not allow myself time with my children or any time for me. I lost myself and it was all about keeping him happy. The thing is I could have stayed up cleaning 24/7 and it still would not have been enough. It was never about the cleaning. It was all about controlling me. Control is what every abusive relationship is about. One person is wanting control over another.

Back to the present day. Hearing my new husband complain about the renovation chaos in our house triggered me. I fell back into my old way of thinking and took total responsibility for the mess, I felt that somehow I had to solve this to keep him happy. My head began to swim and I started to yell. I freaked out and said I would never be anyone’s slave again! Flashbacks of past abuse hit me and I cried uncontrollably.

It took many tears and a long talk with my husband to come back to the present. It was hard on us both. He did not understand why I was yelling and I felt like I was trapped in the past. Thankfully we worked through this bump. We always do. I am so grateful for that. It’s hard though and so exhausting.

PTSD is my monster. It often sleeps for me now. Sometimes it wakes and when it does it roars. I dread it. What helps? Self care, tons and tons of self care, reminding myself that I am loved and that I am safe now. Talk with someone you love, talk through those flashbacks, meditate and if needed seek professional help to learn more coping skills. Healing is possible, but it takes time. Time, love and patience not only from yourself, but from those around you. Till next time

Peace,

Janet

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

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

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

 

Finding my Happily Ever After

Recently I married my first love. It was a beautiful day. One I will cherish forever. Yet after such a lovely event I find the ghosts of the past are still whispering in my house.

Recently I married my first love, my high school sweetheart, my soul mate. It was beautiful day. More than I could have dreamed! We were surrounded by those we love while we exchanged those precious vows before God. It was a blessed day and one I will never forget.  After such a wonderful event though I find there are still whispers in our house. Whispers from my previous life. Whispers from my abusive marriage. Whispers that say, “You aren’t good enough”, “You will fail” and “I am hurting.” Some are things I hear, some are struggles my youngest daughter is having.

My youngest daughter was diagnosed with PTSD almost seven years ago, she was six years old at the time. At that time I was just leaving her father who had abused her and the rest of our family. She struggled as a little mite with nightmares, anxiety, detaching and going catatonic, wetting her bed and terrified that her father was going to come and kill her. It was a horrible time in our life, but we got through it. We did counselling with some amazing Child Counsellors and Child Psychiatrists. My daughter was put on medication to calm her at night and some to help her focus during the day. We talked and talked about her feelings and turned many positive corners. After awhile her PTSD went into remission and life for her was peaceful. Now though, PTSD has reared it’s ugly head again and her pain is reoccurring. Night terrors grip her and sadness has overtaken her. It breaks my heart as her mum.

I have learned, with PTSD and abuse, that the effects are long lasting. Just when you think you have PTSD licked it will reappear. A sight, a sound or a smell may trigger you and the past comes back. It overpowers you and cripples you and you have to fight all over again to get your feet back under you. Over time I have learned coping mechanisms to help with these set backs; self care, gentleness, self love, meditation, quiet time of self reflection, writing and just being around those I love are all things that have helped me. At this time, I am trying to share those coping skills with my daughter. Letting her know that she is loved, she is safe and that we will get through this together. It’s definitely not easy to watch her go through this. Watching any of my children struggle with what my ex did has been difficult. I keep fighting though, for them and for me because……well because we are all worth it.

As I find my happily ever after I am reminded that the “ghosts” of the past will pop up.  The blessing is, is that I have my new husband is beside me fighting them. Fighting for me and for my, our daughter now. All we can do is keep fighting. We will get through this difficult time like we always have with love, patience and understanding. Until next time….

Peace,

Janet

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!

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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.

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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.

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