By An Anonymous Guest Blogger
“Babe, would you like to use my credit card for that?”
These were the words that constantly left my mouth during my previous relationship with my abuser. It’s quite interesting the way I first learned about credit cards…actually, my abuser, the person who constantly worried about my financial position, particularly in terms of acquiring debt while I was in college, suggested that I apply for a credit card in order to make a large purchase for him. At the time, I was still relatively naïve, being an older teenager in college, but I knew that his family lacked the financial resources he truly needed to be a successful student. Since I constantly wanted him to be happy, I obliged to his request.
The understanding we had was that he would pay me back immediately after he received his refund check for school in order to pay off the debt, approximately $1500 or so if I remember correctly, which he did. However, in the months and years to come after this initial purchase, I would find myself using my own financial resources to continue keeping him happy, even if he never directly asked me to.
To provide a little more detail, I don’t recall many times after his initial request that my abuser directly asked me to cover various expenses. However, given the power and control dynamics of our relationship, I was constantly striving to keep him happy…whether that was through purchasing gifts for him that I thought he would like, covering meals and trips, paying his cell phone bill, and even making purchases that we discussed he would eventually pay back. I found that I was attempting to please someone that could never be pleased. I remember one specific time where I spent nearly $500 for a special Valentine’s Day outing on a small yacht in the city where I lived at the time towards the end of our relationship. Despite the nearly perfect date and the most romantic time we had shared in a while, the day still resulted in a violent altercation by the end of the night, evidently because I made him “feel stupid” at some point on our way home.
Sometimes I still get angry with myself for all of the things I did for him financially – paying his bills, buying him gifts, and covering larger expenses that I thought he would eventually back me back for. When I think back to my intention in risking my own financial position as a young adult who had just graduated from college at the time, all I can think about is the subtle way that my abuser would manipulate me into financially abusive situations knowing that I could not truly afford to do so. I also believe he consciously knew that he would never repay me or contribute to the relationship financially in any way as long as I “volunteered” to cover everything.
Needless to say, I was never reimbursed for the debt I accumulated through my credit card purchases I made for him either during or after I left the relationship. Ultimately, it took nearly 2 years for me to pay off my outstanding credit card debt, which mostly consisted of larger purchases I had made for him over the years I presumed he would help me pay back. While this was a discouraging process to go through, I have to stop myself sometimes and remember to not blame myself for past actions given the power and control dynamics that were at play.
To current victims and survivors of financial abuse with an intimate partner or other trusted individual – be gentle on yourself and on your heart when thinking about these issues. Remember that no one deserves to be abused in any form or fashion. It is possible to seek help and recover from the aftermath of an abusive relationship from a financial standpoint. Despite the grim outlook at first, with confidence, discipline, support, and self-compassion, one can overcome the aftermath of financial abuse.
By Allison Crowe, See the Triumph Co-Founder
This month, we are focusing on “Seeing Triumph Around the World” and spotlighting some of our very important international ambassadors who make up our newest See the Triumph initiative, the International Ambassadors Program. We will pay special attention to international issues this month because we firmly believe that violence is a global issue, and that learning from each other will only help all of us as we work together to end domestic and intimate partner violence around the world.
According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced some form of intimate partner violence. This statistic is upsetting. We also know that the stigma that surrounds intimate violence in so many cultures is a large part of why these numbers are so high.
Stigma because some believe that domestic violence is something that occurs “behind closed doors.” Or stigma because a victim believes that she or he somehow deserved to be abused. Or stigma because a victim feels embarrassed or ashamed that he or she did not leave the relationship sooner.
Given these sorts of facts and complexities, how do we maintain the belief that we can work together to end the stigma of intimate partner violence? The answer is, through you.
All of you out there have a story to tell. A story about how you struggled. A story of how you still might be struggling. A story of how you made it out alive, or how you have since helped someone else. The way we can continue to overcome intimate partner violence, and stamp out the stigma that surrounds it is by hearing from you.
We encourage you to tell us your story. We have heard from nearly 500 of you who have wanted to share your story – we invite anyone else who wants to participate to do so here: http://www.seethetriumph.org/participate-in-our-research.html
Help us continue to talk about not only surviving but triumphing over intimate partner violence and the stigma that surrounds it! These are global issues, and this month, we want to hear from all of you. Remember, it’s you who can make the difference for someone else – in your own community or around the world
By S. Wild, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
I was in an emotionally abusive relationship several years ago. It still shocks me to think that I had that experience. At the time of the relationship, I did not understand that his behavior was abusive. I made excuses for him, such as he was drunk when he said or did that, I said something that set him off, he grew up experiencing sibling abuse, etc. I got to the point where I had been convinced that I was not good enough and that if I simply gave him what he wanted, I would be a good girlfriend and he could be happy. Eventually, I believed something was fundamentally wrong with me.
I was not aware I was in an abusive situation until the relationship ended. My best friend told me my boyfriend’s behavior was abusive and suddenly everything clicked. It seemed so obvious after she told me and, yet, when the relationship was ongoing I was completely unaware I was experiencing emotional abuse. After all, the relationship had started off so well and only became bad because I was a bad girlfriend. Or so I was told. After my realization I found a quote regarding abusive relationships that helped me make sense of why I stayed with my boyfriend for as long as I had.
“If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water it will immediately jump out. If you put a frog in a pot of cold water and slowly turn up the temperature to boiling the frog will stay in the water until it dies.”
This quote was reassuring to find because I knew others out there experienced something similar to me and I started to believe that it was not my fault for staying in such a terrible relationship. Though I knew many people would empathize with or support me I hesitated to share my newfound knowledge of my relationship with my parents and other family members. I was afraid they would not believe me.
It has been almost four years since my abusive relationship ended, and I have yet to disclose any details to my parents and most members of my family have no idea that anything out of the ordinary took place. Because I am fearful of how my family will react if I tell them about my abuse I decided to interview some of the males in my family to understand their general assumptions and thoughts regarding domestic violence. I was curious if their answers would convince me to disclose my experiences to them or not.
Among my few family members I interviewed there was a general assumption that most victims are individuals with low self-esteem who come from an abusive past and lack a support system from family or friends, though they acknowledge that domestic violence can happen to anyone. All my family members stated believing domestic violence is likely more common than they understand it to be. They believed perpetrators of domestic violence are not specific to a race, background, or socioeconomic status, and they recognized verbal abuse as part of domestic violence.
This information was uplifting to learn. I feel more confident that if I disclose my past to my family, they would believe and support me. What was more concerning to learn was that none of my family members were able to indicate warning signs a victim can use to identify abuse. As I stated before, I was unable to identify my relationship as abusive. So, several highly educated individuals could not indicate red flags. This demonstrates the importance of implementing domestic violence education in a way that can reach many and preferably at younger ages.
If I had been educated on warning signs and types of abuse, I would not have spent two years of my life in a relationship that tore me down, layer by layer. I would have known it was not okay for him to convince me that I’m not good enough and listen to how he wished I were different. I would have known it was not okay for him to call me names in private and in public. It was not okay for him to put me down constantly and insult my intelligence. It was not okay for him to push me, scream in my face, and call me a bitch in front of all our friends. It was not okay for him to unexpectedly show up to places I was, belligerently drunk, demanding to be let in and becoming aggressive when I, or others, refused. It was not okay for him to throw chairs across the room in my direction screaming at the top of his lungs to eventually be escorted from the premises by the police. None of it was okay, and I wish I would have known that.
The positive from my experience is that I now know what abuse is and I will never let myself be in that situation again. However, being in an abusive relationship should not be the only means of education. If we teach the warning signs, unhealthy dating behaviors, and types of abuse earlier in life, we could prevent women and men from ever experiencing an abusive relationship.
By An Anonymous Guest Blogger
“Don’t make me pay for what he did…”
Nearly 4 years passed before beginning another committed, intimate relationship since my previous abusive relationship ended. Given my long history with my ex, a large part of my recovery from the abuse involved me getting to know myself in an intimate way without the “burden” of a relationship. As I reflect even more now as I write this piece, I am reminded of how free I felt after leaving the abusive relationship. Even during those difficult healing moments, I was always possessed by such an overwhelming relief that the abuse was finally over.
For a while after my previous relationship ended, I was psychologically broken in my perception of relationships in that I equated an intimate relationship to pain and suffering. I can say that I was not opposed to casually dating and “keeping things light,” but I was opposed to entering another committed relationship again because my trusting nature had been nearly broken and fear of being hurt again paralyzed my heart.
That was until an unexpected someone came along nearly 4 years later and changed all of that…
Approximately 6 months passed between meeting my current partner and making our relationship official. During those months and even now, almost 2 years into our relationship, my partner continues to treat me with a type of love, support, and understanding I have never experienced. For a long time, even at times now to be honest, it scares me because my abuser was also loving, supportive and understanding…in the beginning. The abuse started nearly 2 years into our 8-year relationship.
Despite the overwhelming amount of patience my current partner has displayed, he has said on several occasions, “I’m not him…don’t make me pay for what he did.”
Sometimes I struggle not to compare my current partner to my previous abuser. Sometimes fear does get in the way of our ability to move forward in our relationship because I’m afraid that eventually, things will go south no doubt, because that’s just how relationships work, right?
What I had to learn and am still learning is that healthy relationships do have their challenges as well. Given my history of trauma, we were bound to encounter difficulties as it relates to trust issues, on my part especially. However, with a loving, supporting, and patient partner, a corrective emotional experience can take place and over time, I can say that gradually, I’ve learned to rebuild that trust again.
I can speak for myself and for others that have experienced abusive relationships that the healing process is intentional. I still continue to seek counseling now. Even though things are going great in my relationship, I know that keeping in touch with my feelings as they come up is crucial not only to my own mental health, but to the success of my relationship.
I know firsthand that trusting again is much easier said than done. Even now, it is difficult sometimes to move to the next step in my own relationship when pondering commitments such as marriage and having children. However, experiencing new people and new things have a way of changing one’s mind about the world and the people in it. So, to those reading this post – there is hope out there.
Believe me, I was very cynical for a while, for good reasons I must say! Protecting your heart is important and sometimes necessary to prevent pain and suffering. I would say to be intentional on your healing process because it is critical to your health on an individual and relational level.
Don’t let your heart grow cold and don’t give up on love because if you do, your abuser has won.
"I Didn't Know Things Could Get Worse AFTER Leaving": The Use of Technology in the Aftermath of an Abusive Relationship
By An Anonymous Guest Blogger
Everyone has their breaking point and when mine came, I was at the point in my previous relationship with my abuser that I did not think things could get any worse. I had been strangled for the final time and so emotionally torn down that I seriously considered ending my own life just to escape the turmoil I had experienced for so long. At the time of our break-up, which almost involved me calling the police for the first time in our relationship in order to get him to leave my apartment for good, I believed my abuser “took the break-up well,” almost as if he truly understood that it was no longer a healthy relationship for either of us to be in.
Given our nearly 8-year history in the relationship, I knew that truly disconnecting from him would be a highly difficult task for both of us; however, I also knew that a “clean separation” involving little to no communication would be necessary for us both to move on with our lives. My abuser, however, had other plans in mind…plans to make my life even more of a living hell now that we were no longer together.
In short, the role that technology in the events that took place AFTER my relationship ended led to an even more dire set of events that I never could have imagined. In the months after our break-up, my abuser began a calculated plan of stalking behaviors via Facebook, which involved myself and my roommate at the time. His creation of fake profiles of other men on Facebook combined with my vulnerability at the time led to my abuser learning my whereabouts in another state, followed by in-person stalking. His stalking behavior ultimately led up to the final physical assault after the protective/restraining order was served. This was the first and only time I ever received medical attention as a result of a physically violent altercation and the last time I have seen or spoken to my abuser.
As I’ve learned more about abusive relationships in the nearly 5 years since that final attack, I agree 100% with what the research says - when it comes to abusive relationships, the most dangerous time is when the victim ends the relationship and leaves. That was certainly the case with me. Thus, it makes sense why victims can be so reluctant to leave and/or delay the process of leaving because it could literally mean risking their lives!
To this very day, I am extremely weary of my activity online. I don’t currently maintain any social media accounts and am constantly skeptical of others who may take pictures of me and post them online. While I don’t believe I am not in any immediate danger as it relates to my abuser given the time that has passed with no issues, other professionals have advised that I continue to minimize and/or discontinue my social media presence online.
I never thought things could get worse AFTER leaving my abuser. Leaving was supposed to be the hardest part, but as I reflect, life was even harder there for a while AFTER leaving. Fortunately, the help and support that victims need to survive the aftermath of the relationship is available.
To victims and survivors of intimate partner violence: Understand that the process of ending the relationship itself is NOT the end. In fact, it may just be the beginning to a whole new set of circumstances that will be difficult to face. However, at the end of the day, your life is worth saving despite some of sacrifices you may have to make to continue keeping yourself safe. DON’T EVER FORGET – YOU ARE WORTH IT!
By Anonymous Survivor
I’m writing this anonymously, so you have no idea who I am. I wish that I could tell you who I am. I wish that I could speak openly about my experiences with abuse. I’m proud of what I’ve overcome and all that I’ve learned from those experiences. I wish that I could stand openly in solidarity with the many courageous other survivors who do speak publicly about their experiences. Oh, how I wish that I could finally tell my story out loud for all who are interested to hear.
But, I can’t be open about my story and my identity as a survivor. It has nothing to do with shame. At times in the past, I admit that I was ashamed to have “gotten myself into” an abusive relationship. When I was first grappling with my experiences of abuse, I was embarrassed that I had been abused. Fortunately, it didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t need to feel any shame about those experiences. Instead, my abuser is the one who should carry all of the shame for what he did to me. Today, I don’t carry any shame about being a survivor of an abusive relationship. I’m proud of myself because I walked away from that relationship and because I’ve worked really hard to become a better version of myself since then.
As much as I wish that I could be open about being a survivor of abuse, I simply can’t do it. The truth is that it’s not safe to do so. My former abuser still has it out for me. If I were to speak publicly about what he did to me, it would almost certainly set him off, and this wouldn’t be safe for me and other people who I care about. As much as I want to be able to publicly share my story, I just can’t risk the danger it could create if I do so.
And so, I’m an “anonymous survivor,” and only a handful of people who are close to me know the full extent of what I went through. Because of this, I know that there are many other people out there who are just like me. There are many other people who are survivors of past abuse who’ve never told others or spoken publicly about abuse they faced. We all need to remember this: Many people who we meet every day have faced abuse and other traumas in their lives, but for one reason or another, they keep those experiences private. And, it’s their right to do so.
Being open and public about being a survivor does give people more opportunities to help others by sharing their stories and by being a role model to other survivors. However, being public about one’s story of abuse isn’t a requirement for successfully recovering from abuse. Let’s continue to work toward a world that provides more support and validation to all survivors of abuse - whether we know who they are, or not.
By Allison Crowe, See the Triumph Co-Founder
When we started the See the Triumph campaign, I had no idea how many powerful, painful, triumphant stories I would hear from survivors of intimate partner violence. When we have heard from our research participants about their experiences with leaving an abusive relationship, how they did it, what challenges they had to overcome, what messages they’d like to share with others, I am blown away by the strength and perseverance it takes to triumph over abuse.
One metaphor we have heard over and over is the notion of the uphill battle. Not just in leaving the abusive relationship but also after the person has left and begins the process of rebuilding his or her life after the abuse. Take “Barbara,” for example, who had been married for some time to her husband, “Steve,” whose abusive behavior only grew worse the longer they were married. (Note: these are not their real names.) Years into their marriage, he was diagnosed with two major mental health disorders, and soon became so paranoid that she was cheating on her that he would insist that he tangle his fingers in her hair while they slept so that she could not leave in the middle of the night without him knowing. Steve was in charge of their finances, drove Barbara to work and all other functions, started listening to her phone conversations, and checking her belongings every day before and after she came home. Any sort of refusals on Barbara’s part resulted in brutal beatings.
Ultimately, Barbara was able to leave Steve and end the marriage, but only after many months of careful planning with Steve’s mother who knew of the abuse and wanted desperately to help.
One of the biggest takeaways from Barbara’s story is not only the uphill battle she faced in order to get out of the abuse, but also the uphill battles she faced after leaving Steve and rebuilding her life. She described these uphill battles that she had to fight everyday as she established her new life, free from abuse. From negative attitudes from attorneys to unfair and dangerous custody arrangements to blame from her friends and family, to having to quit her job and find a new one when her boss was unsupportive of her needing a new schedule. Barbara faced a new challenge almost every day. And all at a time when she felt the most fragile after suffering from years of abuse.
Today, Barbara is triumphant, strong, and resourceful. She had years of therapy to repair the damage Steve had done and enjoys reaching out to other people who are still struggling in abusive relationships. Even though most days are good ones, she still has those challenging days when it might feel like an uphill battle. She recently met a man who is kind, patient, and empowering. She had this to say when we asked her what message she’d like to share with other survivors who might be struggling, “You will get there. Little by little, just keep on fighting the uphill battle – even if there is a new hill every day.”
Triumphing over abuse means not only ending the relationship, but then facing more challenges and uphill battles. Barbara is one of many of the courageous survivors whose strength and courage inspire us every day. We're thankful to Barbara and so many others who have shared these courageous stories with us.
By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
When we first started See the Triumph nearly three years ago, we often were asked about the name of the campaign, and people wondered if the name would be clear enough for our audience to understand the purpose of the campaign. We knew we could have selected another name that made more clear that the focus of our work was on intimate partner violence, but we also felt strongly that the name “See the Triumph” was the best way to capture our mission of ending the stigma surrounding intimate partner violence and supporting survivors.
As we’ve shared before, the name “See the Triumph” came from a quote from a participant in our earliest research study. This woman had been horrifically beaten and verbally abused by her former boyfriend and the father of her child. She told us how people have asked her if she is embarrassed by her history of having been abused, and here’s how she responded to that question:
As part of our “No Stigma/Only Triumph” series for 2015 Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I wanted to highlight this woman’s story, as it’s an example of the many stories of survivors that drive our work with See the Triumph. I had the honor of interviewing her, and her story stays with me to this day as a reminder to keep our focus on promoting the view of survivors of past abuse as strong, resilient, and, yes, triumphant.
To protect her privacy, I’ve altered several potentially identifying details about this participant, including her name (i.e., Sheila is not her real name). However, the key details are presented as she described them to me. This is “Sheila’s” story, and the story behind the name, See the Triumph:
When we met for our interview, Sheila was flustered and running a bit late. She was facing a number of challenges in her life at the time, including a health condition and romantic relationship transitions, as well as ongoing responsibilities to care for her children.
Sheila began by sharing her reasons for wanting to be a part of our study. She said, “A lot of things have gone on in my life have to do with…trying to straighten out things from your past, when they were already kind of thrown up and messed up in the area in the first place…Sometimes it takes a lot longer than you would want it to. Sometimes you don’t realize how long things are going to be affecting you in how many different ways, too.”
Before her current marriage, Sheila was in an abusive relationship with the father of one of her children. Having grown up in a family in which abuse was prevalent, “It was normal. So, getting in the relationship with him was just, it was just normal.”
The abuse didn’t start right away, but rather grew gradually over time. She describes the progression of abuse as building over a time period of a couple years. The physical abuse began gradually, and sexual abuse also became part of their relationship. She said, “He would have sex with me rough. But I was sexually abused growing up. So, to me a man treating me bad like that or using me in any way, it seemed normal.”
After about two years had passed, and she told me of a night when her partner got drunk and beat her badly, verbally abused her, and forced himself upon her sexually. Even after such a violent incident, Sheila stayed with her ex-boyfriend. As she said, “I excused it away. He apologized. He was so sweet…He also said it was because of how I was with him when he was drunken, and that I needed to, that something I had done or said had, you know triggered. So, all I kept thinking was, ‘OK, I’ll just try not to do that again.’”
After that, the abuse continued and got progressively worse. Sheila said, “After that, it just seemed like eventually it just became a habit. It became, it just, it would happen more often. He drank more. I mean, it just progressively got worse and scarier.”
Eventually, a particularly scary incident led Sheila to file a police report. She describes the beating as so bad that it led her to feel “like either I was blacking out or something, because I couldn’t even feel it even more.” Her abuser blamed her for that beating, saying, “Look at what you made me do.” The damage from this incident was extensive--Her face was so badly swollen and disfigured that she was practically unrecognizable. The incident also left Sheila with multiple concussions.
After that incident, Sheila did leave the relationship and went to live with a family member. However, it wasn’t long before he pursued her again. She initially resisted the idea of reconciling with him, but even her family members encouraged her to get back together with him. So, she decided to give the relationship another chance. But, it wasn’t long before the abusive and controlling behaviors re-appeared. At this point, Sheila didn’t believe that leaving the relationship was a safe option. He had threatened that he would kill her if she left him.
Eventually, though, the final straw incident finally came. It was during an especially violent incident that, fearing for her own and her child’s safety, she called the police, and she was able to leave, not even wearing shoes and carrying only her baby and the baby’s diaper bag. From there, Sheila took up residence at the local shelter and began reading to learn about abusive relationships. She took out a protective order, which he violated and was arrested as a result. Shortly after that, she decided, “No more. I was over it…And he knew I was serious.”
Sheila shared that, after the relationship ended, she “went through a lot of therapy and counseling and stuff like that just to make sure I didn’t get back in another one.” She found great validation after a meeting with a mental health professional, who helped her realize that she wasn't "crazy" and who helped Sheila get on the path to recovery.
Sheila shared the sentiment that she wanted to help others, and that was one of the reasons why she came in for our interview. She said, “That’s why I come here was just so important. It was just – it was just so important to do this...Because I know that I couldn’t have been the only – I’m sure I’m not the only one. It felt that way. And went through that stuff. I was in a shelter. I saw other women. But I want them to know that on the other side there is happiness, and that you can be fulfilled, and you can be – and that it doesn’t take a man.”
Far from being hopeless as a result of the difficult experiences in her life, Sheila remained hopeful and excited about the future. She said, “I’m excited. I’m excited about just the new stuff. And even just thinking about new things. It used to scare me…It used to scare me so bad. I remember – I was thinking about that today on the way here. I was thinking about there was a time when I wouldn’t have done this [interview]. Because it would have been just too scary.”
I don’t know if Sheila knows that her story has inspired the name of a campaign that has grown to thousands of followers across numerous social media channels. I don’t know if she knows that her important reminder about keeping our focus on the triumph in survivors’ lives has inspired and motivated so many other people to re-focus on the triumphs in their own lives. But I do know this: Sheila wanted to share her story in hopes that it would help others facing similar abuse-related challenges in their own lives. For as long as we continue to grow and build the See the Triumph campaign, we are committed to honoring Sheila and the countless other survivors who have shared their stories with us. It is in their stories that we find the keys to ending the stigma that far too many survivors face.
By Claire Cappetta, See the Triumph Contributor
It is that time of year again when everyone wishes people a “Happy New Year.” We start to think about the next twelve months as they stretch out before us, wondering if by the time the New Year rolls around again, any big changes may have happened in our lives. Our thoughts drift to resolutions, most of which are quickly broken within hours, even minutes. If we are really strong we can sometimes, make them last a few days.
What changes can we make? What difference, however small, can we bring to this world we live in, our world? Some changes can seem so small, like snowflakes. But those small snowflakes all add up, turning into a pure, white blanket covering the ground. Beautiful, fun, and sometimes difficult.
When we become involved in social media it can seem overwhelming to have our voices heard. There are so many people now, all looking to make a difference, which is a good thing, but we can get drowned out in the noise. It is akin to walking into a room, and everyone is talking and few are listening. We need to remember, though, that just like snowflakes, it all adds up. If we keep pushing, talking, singing and dancing, people do stop to listen.
January for me is a very special month. It is Stalking Awareness Month. There are too many times when an abused person leaves an abuser, and the abuser then turns to stalking. One in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have experienced stalking in some way, that’s 6.6 million people in the United States alone, according to the Stalking Resource Center’s Statistics for 2014.
It’s terrifying to be stalked. There’s a knock at your door, constant phone calls. Your house is under constant surveillance, as are you. A car follows you wherever and whenever you go anywhere. Now with social media, your sites become constantly monitored, and if you are completely unlucky, like I was, there is always the one aspect we dread… The break in or being held hostage. I was lucky I escaped with a lot of emotional baggage, bruises. My PTSD has escalated now, as I was paranoid, as well. The panic attacks, mind crashes, startling at any small noise were all part of my daily life of survival. I owe my life to one best friend, one policeman, and my own efforts to keep my wits about me, while I organized and made changes in my life to escape, to move many miles away. I was told he would kill me if I stayed, and I believed it.
Now, I am safe. I have lost a lot, but I have also gained. I lost being able to see my children grow into wonderful people, and I have lost family members. For a long while, I lost trust, friendship, and love. These I have gained back over time. I learned how and who to trust, love and become friends with. I am left feeling that I owe something, and sometimes it’s an overwhelming desire to give back because I am alive. Who do I owe something to? My best friend, of course, but I feel something much deeper too.
My stalker was there before the Internet, before emails and social media, with its knowledge and support groups. It was a lonely time, but we can raise our voices on it now. We may not become viral, like fluffy kittens playing on Facebook, but we can be beautiful like snowflakes, collecting together and making a blanket of awareness that people start to notice.
January is a busy time for me now. I’m organizing a Stalking Awareness Event in my local area. There will be speakers talking about awareness and safety. A friend will be there teaching line-dancing, and there will be amazing indie-rock songs from another. A local store has already collected two large bags of clothes to donate to survivors to help them get back into the workplace.
Our collective need to help people feel safe is now extending more online, with webinars filled with song, dance, talks about survival and what “Finding Our Inner Happiness” is all about.
Christmas is when we always think about giving, New Year is for new starts, but maybe if we think about starting anew and giving throughout the year, we can be like snowflakes, amalgamating slowly into something much bigger and more diverse. A Snowball of Abuse Awareness…. Because that’s just how we roll!
By Maxine Browne, See the Triumph Contributor
Healing is a journey. When you’re on the road to healing, it doesn’t feel like you’re getting anywhere. You may feel stuck. But you are moving forward. Trust me.
My ex took everything from me. He stripped me of my friends and my family. Then, he separated me from my children. He took my money, my career. He took my sense of self. He told me I was fat, ugly and stupid. He said it, and I believed it.
I was brainwashed. Controlled. Silenced. Erased. I became so depressed, I planned my suicide to escape my mental anguish.
When I left I was mad. Mad at God. Mad at my ex. But most of all, I was mad at myself. How did I get here? How could I have allowed this to happen? How could I have been so naïve? These questions repeated themselves inside my head during the day and kept me awake at night.
If anyone mentioned religion, look out! As a minister’s wife, I blamed God for my suffering. Why hadn’t He protected me? After all the prayer and fasting, begging God to save my marriage, I thought He would part the Red Sea, come into our living room and rescue me. Instead, the minister I was married to cursed me in the name of God, used the congregation to pressure me, quoted Scripture in twisted ways to force outcomes in his favor. He used my faith as a weapon of control.
Friends and family asked, “How can you leave the church? How can you blame God?” My answer today would be that this was one phase of my healing journey. It was like a town I passed through on a road trip. I hadn’t moved there.
For a season, I cursed like a sailor. I spoke with a sharp tone of voice. I was sarcastic and skeptical of everyone and everything. I had castle walls around me for protection. I rebelled against my supervisors. I struggled, but I kept moving forward.
I sought therapy and rebuilt relationships. I created a new life. And with each step forward, I softened.
There are many points of view when it comes to forgiveness. Some believe that if you forgive someone who wronged you, it’s as though you’re saying the pain they caused wasn’t that bad. I’ve heard some say that the abusers don’t deserve such kindness and generosity.
In my view, forgiveness has nothing to do with the person who hurt you. Forgiveness is about you. I like what Buddha said, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Unforgiveness poisons you, not them. It traps you in the ugly past. Forgiveness sets you free and allows you to walk away and begin anew.
I have forgiven my ex. That doesn’t mean we’re buddies. We don’t hang out together. I have no contact with him, unless I must attend a graduation, wedding or funeral. Trust me, that’s more than enough contact for me. I avoid him, but I’m not angry anymore.
I’m not mad at God nor do I blame God for those years. I now understand that He created us all with free will. My ex chose to abuse his authority and not even God could stop him from doing what he wanted to do.
I may cuss from time to time, but it’s not the same. I’m at peace. My problems with authority figures have dissolved, and I even married again, something that was unthinkable a few years ago. It’s been a journey.
So, you may feel a certain way today. Don’t be hard on yourself. Keep taking steps forward. You’ll be amazed in a few years just how far you’ve come!
Maxine Browne Maxine Browne uses her inspirational story as a keynote. She facilitates workshops on domestic violence and healthy relationships. Other workshop topics deal with life after divorce, co-parenting and spiritual abuse. Maxine co-authored the International Best Sellers, The Missing Piece and The Missing Piece in Business. She is the author of Years of Tears, the story of her family’s journey through domestic violence and recovery. Contact Maxine to speak at your next event at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at www.maxinebrowne.com. Years of Tears is available on Amazon by following this link: http://tinyurl.com/mljqmyn