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

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

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

“What?”

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

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

Hypervigilance

Nightmares/terrors

Bedwetting (in children)

Panic attacks

Flashbacks

High Startle Response

Triggers

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

Anxiety

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

Six months later I was diagnosed with the same.

So what is it like to live with PTSD?

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

I am tired.

I have dark circles under my eyes.

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

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

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

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

We survived the trauma.

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

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Five years free!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alright, I think it is time to celebrate! 🙂

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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.

The effects of Domestic Violence on the family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless

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