Is that child just “acting up” or is it trauma?

I believe that every child is a gift. I especially agree with my own three children. They have been an amazing blessing in my life and I am so proud to be their mum.

Nothing in life really prepares you to be a parent. Sure when you are pregnant you can read all of the parenting help books or talk to health nurses, but really you are never quite prepared when that little baby is placed in your arms. Suddenly you realize that no one, but you is responsible for this living and breathing little person. It’s life depends on you. Wow what a profound moment that was for me.

As a parent I have always wanted the best for my children. It is hard when life and what you want doesn’t always match up. My oldest was born in 2001 and for the first 9 years of her life we lived with her father. Unfortunately for her, her younger siblings and myself their father was an abuser. Abuse of many forms was prevalent throughout our house and this affected each of my children in different ways. We have dealt with PTSD diagnoses, OCD tendencies, nightmares, wetting of beds, soiling of pants, disassociation, violent outbursts and yes some substance abuse. None of this is what I wanted for them. It has been heartbreaking as a mum to watch my children struggle and it has been debilitating to them at various times of their life. This is definitely not the life I wanted for my children.

Despite all of the trials my children and I have always been a team. I have let them know from the moment that they were born that I will always be there for them. With every cry in the night  to cheering them on at their band concert at school I have been there.  I have worked hard to be their safety and their constant despite the turbulent beginning years of their life. When my ex and I finally separated, my kids and I shared my Queen size bed for months. We all had our spot on the bed and perhaps it was not the most comfortable of sleeps as we all crammed in, but we were together, we were safe and that was the most important thing.

Kids experience trauma in different ways than an adult. For one their brains are still developing so trauma affects their brain development. Children also have different ways then adults on how they express their trauma. If you have an infant, toddler or a preschooler you may observe;

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Disturbances in feeding
  • Feelings of helplessness and passivity
  • Generalized fearfulness
  • Specific new fears
  • Loss of or regression in recently acquired skills like walking, talking or potty training.
  • Clinginess and separation anxiety.
  • Inhibited play
  • Thinking or talking about the event
  • Upset at reminders or avoiding reminders of the event.
  • Irritability
  • Agressiveness
  • Scanning for danger
  • Easily startled

If you have school age children you might observe;

  • Posttraumatic play. This kind of play is a repetitive reenactment of the event
  • Thinking and talking about trauma outside of play
  • Being upset about reminders of the event.
  • Specific fears triggered by the event
  • Fantasies of revenge
  • Feeling guilty about the trauma and feeling responsible for it
  • Impaired concentration and difficulty learning
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches, stomach aches and other physical symptoms
  • Concerns about theirs and others safety
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Anxiety
  • Withdrawn behaviour

If you have an adolescent you might observe;

  • Detachment, shame guilt
  • Self conscious about their fears and intense feelings
  • Abrupt shifts in relationships
  • Desire for and plans to take revenge
  • Premature entrance into adulthood or reluctant to leave home
  • Being upset at reminders of the trauma and doing their best to avoid reminders
  • Coping behaviours that may include self-endangering behaviours such as substance abuse and/or cutting

I am sure you have observed these behaviours in children or teens. They may not be your own children and often when this behaviour is observed most being ask “what is wrong with that kid?” and the school system usually wants to label the child with a learning disability, but that is not helping the child. This is not a case of “what is wrong with that child?” it is a case of “what happened to that child?” We need to start changing the conversation around “troubled” children and start looking at what has happened in the past. What are they trying to tell us?

There are ways to help a traumatized child. For our infants, toddlers and preschoolers it is important for parents to stay close to their child. Kids of all ages need security, especially after trauma, but for our younger ones they will struggle to verbalize their trauma (if they can at all) and what they need. So staying close to your child gives them a sense of security. Help the child anticipate what will happen, give them choices. When trauma happens our sense of control in our life is rocked to the core. It is important to give that feeling of control back to the child. I will give you an example. Let’s say you ask your youngster to put away their toys and they refuse too. Instead of getting angry at them it is important to offer them a choice like, “Sarah you can put your toys away or you can go to your room for a time out.” This gives the child a choice without anger or a threat and they are then in control of what happens next. It is also important to name the child’s feelings and letting them know that feelings are good to feel. It is also important to give them reassurance as they need it and expect to do this over and over again. It is normal for children to need repeated reassurance.

For a school aged child it is important to listen to a child’s concerns and to answer questions truthfully and simply. Also let your child be close to you if they need you. They too will look to you for security. Reassure the child that they are safe. Also name their feelings and encourage them to express them through play or art. It is also important to help the child anticipate what will happen next in their life to help them feel in control and to give them choices. Like our younger children expect to do these things over and over.

For teens it is very similar to the younger children. With teen you will also want to give them choices, be close to you if they need to, encourage them to express their feelings through journaling, art, dance or writing poems and songs. Help them anticipate what happens next and provide an environment where your teen can talk about their concerns. Also expect to do these things over and over. Healing from trauma takes time, patience and hard work. There is no straight time line for healing trauma so basically it will take as long as it takes. Over time, as your child heals you will notice that the effects of trauma will lessen and the trauma will become a part of them. If  there are symptoms that you feel incapable of handling on your own it is always best to seek professional help. It is also important as a parent that you are supported. It is not easy to watch your child struggle and all of this can be a heavy load to carry so reach out to family and friends. If needed seek professional help for yourself to help you cope in healthy ways.

I have to say that my children have come a long way in the last eight years.  We no longer need to share a bed together. Outbursts and clingyness has been replaced with children who are getting to know who they are, are enjoying being with friends and can sleep without nightlights. I am extremely proud of each of them for all they have achieved in their recovery.  The good days happen more often than the bad now, but yes we still have struggling moments. Which is why last night when I held one of my children, as they sat on the bathroom floor and cried, I was not surprised that this was happening. I held them knowing that their pain still needs to come out and that is OK. I know that I do not have to solve this for them I just need to be there, to listen, hold them and let them know that they are safe and loved. I know that over time the impact of their trauma is lessening, one day at a time.

If you or your child needs extra help dealing with trauma I encourage you to speak to your doctor or seek out a therapist trained in trauma to help you through it. Until we meet again….

Peace,

Janet

PS. Kids Help Phone is available for any child in need. They can be reached at  1-800-668-6868

 

 

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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

Battling a Battle I was never prepared for

When my PTSD flares it is scary for me. It is a raw, gut wrenching all empowering fear. Fear that drives me to attack because I fear I will be attacked.

When my PTSD flares it is scary for me. It is a raw, gut wrenching all empowering fear. Fear that drives me to attack because I fear I will be attacked.
I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in 2011 after  a violent marriage. Since then I have faced a battle that I was never prepared for. I was never given any armor or taught any skills, I was just dropped into the middle of the war.

(Originally this blog was posted on Vocal. To read more please follow this link; https://psyche.media/battling-a-battle-i-was-never-prepared-for?_ga=2.152373625.1368995283.1512085571-1334676866.1512085571

My Journey through Domestic Violence

Life is a journey. We are born small and helpless and grow up to adults. Along the way we learn to walk and then run. We have pit falls and victories. All are a part of our journey through life and each experience shapes us into the person we are today.

My journey started like many others. I was born to a mother and father. I went to school, made friends and lost friends. I had my first date and graduated from high school. All normal steps in this journey called life.   One day I stepped out into the world on my own. I was eager to take on new adventures as a young adult. The world was my oyster.

While I explored who I was as a young woman I met a young man. He was tall, dark and handsome and I fell for him immediately. We started to date and soon fell in love. Life was good.

Then one day I noticed something. I noticed that sometimes he talked to me differently than he did others. He was short with his words, cold in his demeanour and none of it made me feel good.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was going on so I put it down to him having a bad day.

Time went on and we moved in together. I was ecstatic! Our journey together had taken a new turn. We were committed and I wondered if one day wedding bells would be a part of our journey.

Then I hit a roadblock. Suddenly he yelled at me more, he threw things and glared at me for no reason. I tried to make things better. I thought if I loved him more his anger would go away, but that didn’t work. One day he crushed my fingers in a door. He said it was because I wasn’t listening.

But I was listening. I just didn’t want onions in my omelet. I didn’t understand.

I cried.

Secretly.

I lied when people saw my injury.

I felt so much shame.

This wasn’t what love was supposed to be like.

I believed him when he said it wouldn’t happen again.

It wouldn’t, right?

Soon we bought a house and then our journey did bring those wedding bells and babies soon followed. I loved him. I believed in him and thought it would all be ok.

But it wasn’t.

I was pushed into walls, horrible names were screamed at me, I was forced to have sex, had chairs and tools thrown at me and pushed down a flight of stairs when I was pregnant.  My hair was falling out and my weight was dropping at an alarming rate. I was dying inside.  My breaking point was when he started to hurt my children.  My girls were emotionally, verbally and mentally abused.  My son was physically abused from 16months old on.

I knew I had to get out. I tried many times to kick him out, but he kept coming back.  I was drowning. I, like a billion women before me, did not know how to break free.

Breaking free from Domestic Violence is not easy to do.  I found it to be the hardest part of my journey.   Abusive people are not abusive from the beginning of a relationship. They are often charming and attentive.   The abuse is slow and insidious and you don’t even really know it is happening until you are in the thick of a beating. Your self esteem is battered and you fell so much shame by the time you realise you need to leave. Abusers have you believing the abuse is your fault.  You think no one will believe you because he or she is nice in public.  It’s behind closed doors when they hurt you. They isolate you from family and friends so you feel you have no one to turn to for help.  Over 90% of Survivors face financial hurdles when trying to leave.  Either funds are withheld from them, or debts are created in their name.  Often a Survivor faces homelessness if they leave.  Abusers are also very manipulative and will make promises to change.  Survivors believe their abuser and wishfully think that this time it will be different. This time they will have the partner they had in the beginning of the relationship.  The thing is that person was just wearing a mask.  They are not really charming and sweet.  They only wear that mask to keep you in the cycle. That mask will always slip and the abuse will start again. On average a woman will leave 7 times before the relationship is finally over.  It takes strength and a good support system to break free from an abusive relationship. It took time and careful planning, but I did break free in the end.   I built a support system of friends, family and Professionals and I created a Safety Plan (scroll to the bottom of this link http://verbalabusejournals.com/how-to-stop-abuse/safety-planning for a plan).

I now live a life free of abuse which is such a blessing. I can laugh again. I have gained my weight back and my hair no longer falling out.  There are  still tough days but I no longer fear for my life on a daily basis.  A few years ago I started working with other Survivors of Domestic Violence.  I realized that the specifics may be different for each of us, but we are all on the same journey.  Having someone else walking with you, someone who can validate what you are going through, is so important to healing.  I  supervise a Survivor Mentor Program through an online organization called Verbal Abuse Journals (verbalabusejournals.com).  I match Mentors (women who have been there) with male or female Survivors of abuse who are either still in the relationship or have just left.  It is a free service and they communicate via email for as long as the Survivor needs.  It is rewarding work and I am happy to reach out to every Survivor I meet.  Abusers isolate you and make you feel worthless. You think no one cares.  Through my work I want all Survivors to know they are not alone, that someone does care and support is available.

About Janet

Survivor Mentor Supervisor at Verbal Abuse Journals https://www.verbalabusejournals.com

facebook, where I share my journey: Freedom Within: My Journey through Domestic Violence & PTSD https://facebook.com/fw.dvptsd.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/within_freedom

Pinterest: Freedom Within

Linkedln: Janet Rhodes

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!

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!

I want more!!!

The past 22 years have been one heck of a journey.  In that time I met my ex, got married, had babies, was abused,  broke free, only to be followed by years in recovery.  

The beginning of my recovery was full of numbness. All I wanted to do was sleep. Everything in me was shot; my nervous system, my focus, my emotions, my whole being just fell apart. I lay in bed for hours. Sometimes sleeping and sometimes just staring at the wall in silence.  I was in shock for two years. 

 Thankfully I had loved ones who cared for my children and I. My now fiance picked me up more than once and my sister listened to me tell story after story of my exes abuse. They were and are my rocks. 

Slowly I started to live again. I started to get out of bed and interact with my family. I started to be an active mom again! I felt the sunshine on my face, the air in my lungs and that “zombie” feeling,I felt for so many years, started to slip away.  I was finding me again. 

Recently I bought a horse. She has given me so much in the last six months. A positive focus, a friendship and a desire to be more. Yes more. I want more than just being in recovery! 

Many move through trauma recovery wanting who they were before their trauma back. I admit at one time I did too,  but not anymore.  If I went back to her I wouldn’t have the life lessons my exes abuse taught me or have found the amazing  strength within me to survive it or the skills to help my children heal and grow. I wouldn’t be me and I like the me I am post trauma. 

  Recently I registered to go back to school and I am excited! I am excited about what the future will bring. I will admit that  a part of me is nervous. Nervous that I will relapse in my recovery by adding school to my schedule, but I am doing my best  to quiet that voice. I am trusting the survivor in me and continuing to move forward. All we can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and make positive life choices. That is how we survive the uglies that life throws at us and learn to live again. 

Peace, 

Janet 

It’s been two years….

It’s been two years.  It’s been two years since I faced all of my fears and faced my ex in Criminal Court. He had been charged with continual sexual assault against me  in the last nine months of our marriage. I am going to admit to you that this is hard to write about and so very hard to think about, but I will do my best to share my thoughts.

It’s been two years.  It’s been two years since I faced all of my fears and faced my ex in Criminal Court. He had been charged with continual sexual assault against me  in the last nine months of our marriage. I am going to admit to you that this is hard to write about and so very hard to think about, but I will do my best to share my thoughts.

In Canada only 6 out of every 100 sexual assault is reported to Police.  Many victims either don’t want Police involvement, have dealt with the assault in another way or feel it is a private matter and they do not want it in the Courts.  For myself it was two years after the assaults when I went to the RCMP.  Why did I wait two years? Well the Defence in my trial wanted the Jury to believe that the rapes never happened and that I only came forward two years later with a fabricated story and that I was seeking revenge. This of course was not the case.  The report was filed when it was because that was the  point where I was ready.  I was ready to talk about the worst nine months of my marriage. Sexual Assaults are extremely personal, hugely traumatic and full of shame.  After my ex assaulted me he would call me horrible names; whore, bitch, idiot, slut and so on. He would sit at the end of our marriage bed spewing this horribleness at me while I could hear our toddler son in the next room. I started to think that perhaps I was those things. Was I asking for this? Was I doing something during the day that let him think I did want these rapes to happen? No. No I was telling him not to touch me, not to sleep in our bed and to leave me alone, I knew that.  I was not asking for this yet he still somehow made it my fault, and so did the Defence.

I have never been involved in any other Criminal Court Cases, but I do know that the most used tactic, by Defence Lawyers, in Sexual Assault Trials is to put the victim on trial.  Every move you have made before and after the assault is scrutinized. You are blamed for not fighting hard enough, for not locking that bedroom door, for not doing enough to stop the assaults.  Victim blaming at it’s best and wow can that ever play with your head.  Defense Lawyers are just like abusers.  They implant ideas and motives as to why you did not fight the way they thought you should and make it all your fault.  You can  easily end up doubting yourself. Could I have done more? Was I wrong when I did this or that? and so on. It is abusive and it is horrible that the Judges let it happen.  It was explained to me post trial that the Crown is held to a level of decorum because, well it is representing the Crown, but Defence Lawyers are not held to this standard.  They can make cheap shots, they can laugh behind the Crowns back (yes that happened), they can throw temper tantrums (yes that happened too) and they can yell at victims (yup, it happened) and the Judge will not bat an eye.  It is sickly accepted and guess what? The Crown is not allowed to warn you ahead of time of this behaviour, so please let my testimony be enough to tell you that games are definitely played in Sexual Assault Trials.

The Defence  banks on an old text book idea of how a sexual assault victim will behave.  They will outline to the Jury that a female victim should be able to physically stop a sexual assault (lets just say that is nearly impossible, most males are physically bigger and stronger than their victim) and that when it is all over she should be in the mind frame to get herself to a hospital, be checked by a doctor and file a Police report right away.  After the assault they should behave in a certain way, not have future relationships, would never have contact with their rapist again and should not act out of character. The thing is, that’s not how trauma works. Majority of reported sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows and in most cases it is someone in their home.  So lets play this out.  Someone you love assaults you and probably threatens you to keep quiet.  They may threaten to hurt your children or take them away from you.  They may threaten to hurt  or kill you or a family pet. They will say whatever horrible thing it is that they have to say to keep quiet because they do not want to be exposed. That is traumatizing and most victims will believe what their rapist says will happen if they speak up. This person has just used great physical force and hurt them in unbelievable ways so what proof is there that they will not follow through with the other threats they make? There is none.  So most victims will stay quiet.  Many may talk about it later. It could be years later when they are strong enough or something else in their life triggers them and pushes them to talk about it. Hence why we have no statute of limitations on Sexual Assaults in Canada.  In fact the majority of reported Sexual Assaults are reported long after the fact.  So the fact that the Defence still leads the jury to believe the “text book” way a victim should react is completely false. It is also important to know that the victim will probably feel tons of shame around the assault.  They will worry that others will see them as tarnished, dirty or broken and they don’t want to be seen that way so they keep quiet.  There are also many who black out or are not completely present during the assault so details are fuzzy.  I know that as the assaults in my marriage continued the details became fuzzy.  In order to cope with the ongoing assaults I often separated myself from them and was not present.  It is an extremely common survival instinct in Survivors of sexual assault.  Our brain is amazing and it will do whatever it has to, to help you survive.

The Majority of Sexual Assaults do not result in a conviction.  That was the situation in my case.  Most sexual assaults happen in private and become a “He said, She said” case. Even though my ex verbally admitted to me that he knew what he was doing to me I did not have any physical proof of that.  Just my account of the incident. I had told his cousin about it shortly after the confession, but when questioned by the RCMP she lied and said she had no memory of me telling her that or about any of the many assaults. Without physical proof it is so hard to prove a sexual assault. As a result so many rapists, like my ex, get to walk away and probably hurt someone else in the future.

I have often asked myself if I regret coming forward. Despite the trauma from the trial I am still glad I came forward.  Irregardless of the outcome I did hold my ex accountable for the horrible things he did.  I shined a light on the darkness and exposed him for who he is.  Something he used to scream at me to never do because we were married.  I spoke up for simply that reason, because he told me to keep quiet and I refuse to do that.  I refuse to enable his abusive behaviours. Should you come forward if you are assaulted? I cannot answer that.  I know society tells us to speak up when we are sexually assaulted so that the rapist can be punished. I agree with that.  We should not protect abusers. In saying that though our Legal System needs to change.  It needs to stop putting victims on trial.  It needs to start putting the perpetrator on trial.  Examine their actions before and after the incident.  Examine what they do and say. Put them under the micro scope.  Maybe then we would get somewhere with this unspeakable crime. If you have suffered this unspeakable crime my heart cries out to you.  My word of advice is to do what you feel is right.  Do what you need to do to  heal in a healthy way.    It is not an easy road, I know that, but I do believe you can get through this.  Reach out for support. Go to a Sexual Assault Centre or call a Hotline, tell a friend. You did nothing wrong and you most certainly did not deserve this.  You are loved and you are beautiful, please remember that.

 

Peace,

Janet

– On a side note I am proud to say that my blog has been featured in the Top 30 Domestic Violence Blogs on Feedspot! Please go to http://blog.feedspot.com/domestic_violence_blogs/ to check it out! My blog was also featured on Open Forest as one of five must read blogs about Domestic Abuse.  Check it out at https://openforest.net/domestic-abuse-5-must-read-blogs/