In Retrospect…

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine got beat up by her husband. He smashed a bottle over her head, hit her multiple times and ended up putting her in the hospital for a few days. He also threatened to harm himself.

She had no plans to call the police – but the police were called as per hospital policy. She has now put a restraining order on him and is in process of divorcing him.

What frustrates me is that it was that long ago – a month or two – that I came to her rescue. She had gotten into a terrible fight with her husband and she stayed with me for five days while I tried to support her and urged her to make arrangements to get out of what was already an explosive and bad situation. She refused, saying she loved him.

This situation makes me look back and see where I was when I was in my abusive relationship. I cried for days straight when I left him, and I didn’t tell social media about it. I didn’t really tell anyone about it, except my sister and a couple of close friends. My family had had no idea of the abuse until I told them. My friends were shocked.

It took me years of rebuilding to get past it, and to this day, I still struggle with the after-effects. I still respond in certain ways because of it. I like to think that I am a survivor and I am healed and have moved on. But then something happens and I am reminded that no, I’ve not completely moved on. And honestly, maybe I never will.

It’s easy to get frustrated and angry with people who are still in abusive situations and who don’t leave. It’s easy to get angry when they refuse to see what is so clearly seen from the outside. It’s easy to lose our empathy and understanding.

Be kind to each other. Support. Be honest, be blunt, but be kind.

For those of you who have left – what are your thoughts? For those of you who have not – what are yours?

 

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Behind Closed Doors

I’m visiting a friend out of town this weekend. This friend of mine has been in my life since I was 18 years old – so we are talking 16 years of friendship. She has seen all of my relationship, the good, the bad and the ugly. She has been in some bad relationships herself.

When I left my abuser at 25, she had no idea what had been going on. C – that’s what we will call him – was charming, funny, hospitable, sociable and never gave away a single hint about what was going on behind closed doors. When I told her what happened, she was shocked. She knew that our fights could be explosive, but she had no idea he was beating me or talking to me the way he was.

We never know what really goes on behind closed doors. We only know what people tell us or what people show us. This is really the problem with domestic violence. The people that I know that have told me about their stories and experiences have always said that their friends and family had no idea. The abuse was discreet; it was in looks, snide comments; touches that weren’t quite right. The abuse typically happened right under peoples’ noses because it was so discreet.

The real abuse always happened later – when they got home. Their words or actions of the day came back to get them.

Instead of being the dynamic person that they are, they became a shadow of themselves constantly hiding and worrying about what the end result of their actions or words would be. I remember the feeling of constantly feeling like I was walking on glass and not wanting one step to shatter it.

Navigating support for people who are in these situations is a game of odds. How can you support someone who is in a domestic violence situation? There are no clear answers.

Tell them about the resources available (I have some on the resources tab of this blog). Let them know that you are willing to support them any way you can – whether that be to listen or to help them leave. Recognize the danger that they are in.

But don’t end up being a volatile part of the relationship. Be supportive and kind, but don’t end up being something the abuser cuts the victim off from; don’t be something that ends up affecting the abuse. This is a tight rope walk of the most important kind. Domestic violence situations are inherently dangerous for the victim – their lives are at stake.

My friend V that I am visiting this weekend has been there though it all. She was an amazing support system for me. I remember when I told her about it all, sobbing as I did because I was so ashamed. She hugged me, she listened and she told me that we were going to get through this.

If I hadn’t broken the silence, I could still be in that situation. Speak up. Don’t let what happens behind closed doors be the thing that breaks you.

My Story

When I was 7 years old, my mother passed away after having lung transplant surgery. Her body ended up rejecting the organ. Only 2 years later, my father remarried my step mother after only dating for 3 months. She seemed okay at first.

But that quickly changed.

It didn’t’ take long for the fighting to begin between my father and my step mother. My older sister and I took the brunt of that, as well. Her anger at my father was taken out on us…and the majority was taken out on me.

The abuse was psychological and emotional, mostly. There were a few times when she put her hands on me. I went from being a child who was carefree to one that was constantly assessing situations, was fearful and was cautious. My father knew what was going on, but did nothing except tell my sister and me to “pick our battles” which essentially meant don’t fight back at all.

I grew up in a household where everything from the way I dressed to how I chewed my food to how I did my hair was critiqued. I was constantly fat, ugly, stupid, useless, worthless…the list goes on and on.

Its no wonder to me, then, that in college, when I was 21, I got into a physically and emotionally abusive man. I stayed with him for 4 1/2 years, eventually getting out thanks to my sister’s support and love. But the mental and emotional scars have been slow to heal.

My goal in this blog is to help others by being open and honest about my past experiences, what I’ve learned through therapy, and to offer support and resources to those who are currently in and have been in domestic violence situations – either growing up as a child or as an adult in marriage or dating relationships.

I don’t know if my story will help, but I do know that once we start talking about it, we take away the power of domestic violence. These things are done in private, behind closed doors, often with outsiders believing how “wonderful” the abuser is. Let’s break the silence and talk about this issue openly and honestly.