1:4 #16, In a healing place

By the water

(Editors note: This survivor took me to a wonderful area she finds much peace in for her shoot)

Please share what happened to you:

He somehow convinced me it was a good idea to marry him after 6 months of dating, but not tell anyone. He slowly started cutting me off from my friends and family, to the point where I realized I hadn’t even seen my mom in almost a year. The emotional abuse started subtly – any idea I came up with was stupid, he “didn’t like” comforting touch so I had to sit on the opposite end of the sofa from him, he would grab my phone out of my hand unprompted and look through it, accusing me of cheating, any time I would go to run an errand he’d “jokingly” say “try not to cheat on me while you’re out” – almost every time I went out for any reason. This escalated to him making me call him from my work line in the store I was employed before I left to be sure I was there, then immediately making me call him on my cell and stay on the phone with him so he could time how long it took me to get home and “make sure I wasn’t stopping to cheat on him with anyone”.

In the last year of our marriage, I has a string of really awful events happen, the biggest of which was my dearest friend shooting himself in the head due to PTSD. I went into a depression and was having a hard time dealing. He would tell me that I was being stupid and weak. I stated that I really wanted to get back into therapy, but he forbid it because he said that it was bullshit and all they’d do was tell me to leave him and that wouldn’t help me at all. I was in the mood for sex less often, and he started to guilt me into it, saying things like “a good wife would have sex with me” and “just let me do it, it’s not a big deal”.
I was so beaten down mentally and depressed that i would just lay there and silently cry and mentally wish not to wake up, he would ignore it and just keep going. sometimes he’d try to justify it by rubbing my back and saying “see? I’m doing what you like and i don’t even want to”. Another favorite line of his whenever I worked up the courage to talk about something I wasn’t happy with was “It’s not like I’m hitting you, Jesus. No one is gonna say you’re some abused housewife”.
One day I had a mentally ill ex employee of mine find where we lived and left a long letter at our door addressed to him, detailing an entirely fabricated affair that he and i had apparently had. My ex dragged me out of bed and started screaming in my face, not listening to what I was trying to say at all, not believing a word i said even though I’d previously spoken about my concern for this employee being not well and maybe dangerous. He was getting so violent with his tone that I started to fear physical violence, so I grabbed my purse and a blanket and ran out in my pajamas, never came back. That was in 2012.

How are you now?

Naturally

I’m doing a lot better now, but I still have trained behaviors I’m trying to shed. I apologize *all* the time, and my young stepdaughter has started to pick up the habit which breaks my heart, especially since I’ve   been trying so hard to break my own habit. I get defensive and shrink back very quickly. I feel guilty if I do anything for myself, if I go anywhere without my now fiance (who is a great guy). I’m miles better than I was though. I think the hardest part is that he never admitted to any of it after, when we were going through the divorce. He’d insist that it was all in my head and he never said any of that, never did any of that, and that i just wanted to be “treated like a queen and that’s not how he’s ever going to treat a woman”. It made me feel like I was crazy, but eventually I just had to work past it and remember that he’s a very hurt, damaged individual that doesn’t understand how to heal.

What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence?

Talking

I guess I would tell the world to stop coming down on women who are slow to get out of relationships like that, or go back to them. Emotional abusers are like parasites…they slowly dig their claws deeper and deeper in, without you even realizing what’s going on. Then suddenly one day you feel the pain of those claws deep inside, so deep that you’re now afraid that ripping them out would be even worse, so you feel like you’re choosing the lesser of two evils. Don’t blame the woman for staying in a place she’s been psychologically conditioned to feel the need to stay in.

Upcoming Show at the Dover Art League

The front of the card for the joint show starting October 7, 2016.

I’m pleased to announce I’ll be doing my first show with the photos and stories from this site at the Dover Art League in Dover, Delaware. Dover is my home town and I want to try a few things and see how it goes. The show is a joint show with Natasha Rodriguez that we’ve chosen to call “Still Waters”. In part, the name is a reference to the idea you don’t know what’s going on under the surface. I’ve come to know just how true that is, and it’s one of the themes of this site and the project as a whole. The show starts Friday, October 7th and will have all of the stories and a photo from each of them in a special display I’m very excited about. It’s more of an installation than the standard hang the photos on the wall thing. Natasha will be showing some of her new paintings for the very first time at this show. Some are autobiographical and others of her work are metaphorical. At least one is about other survivors too. All her paintings are very powerful. We will be hosting a reception on Friday from 6-8 p.m. and an Artist’s talk on Saturday the 8th from 3:30-5 p.m. We are planning to do another artist’s talk near the end of the month of October, though that date has not been determined yet. As part of the show, I’m planning on having some anonymous surveys about experience with sexual aggression and assault for folks to fill out if they choose. There are some other things happening that should make it an interesting show. I hope you can come. The Dover Art League is in Historic Downtown Dover Delaware at 21 West Loockerman Street. If you’d like a postcard like the one above, email me dave.wolanski@gmail.com with your mailing address or contact me on social media. Some will also be at the show.

I have to thank a lot of people for the support they’ve shown for this show! Gallerist Laura Mancuso from the Art League for roping me in and making me move forward from “someday” to October 2016 as a part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Natasha for getting roped in too, and making some new paintings just for the show on a short deadline with her job and family responsibilities too. My friend Lowry Wilson will be flying up from Mississippi to lend moral support. My friend Cort Anderson in Kansas is printing the photos and applying all his skills to do so. It hasn’t been a point and click exercise at all! We’ve been in close contact and had multiple phone calls, texts and emails to move from “Dave, how can I help?” to “Dave, how’s this?” to “I think we’re good, I’ll get them out for you this week”.  Nations Photo Lab offered to do the prints and framing at a significant discount for the show, and though I’ve chosen another display method for this show, it meant a lot for them to make the offer. My family has also shown immense support and allowed me the time and funds to make this stuff happen.

Saving the most important thanks for last, I have to thank the Survivors who’ve stepped forward, shared their stories and bared their souls for this site. I had to re-read each and everyone of their stories to prep the show. I felt beat up after reading all 15 in a row, at one sitting. To go through such a brutal, unforgiving course in their lives and then share it to help others is truly humbling. I, and they, think it’s worth it to help others. I’m humbled they’ve put their trust in me to do it to the best of my ability. (Darn it, I think there’s some dust in my eyes again!)

Speaking of funds… The costs to do the show have been kept as low as possible and are still in the several hundred dollar range. I have not tried to do any fundraising as I’m in my typical Ready, Fire, Aim mode and don’t know exactly how to do it to be honest. If you’d like to support the show in any way, please contact me. If not, Natasha and I have been able to self fund it. If donations exceed the actual costs to do the show, the excess will be donated to a local domestic violence group or home.

Photos from this show will not be for sale, and it will be evident why at the show. Some of Natasha’s paintings will be for sale though.

Hope to see you at the show, the reception and the artist talks!

 

1:4#15, The Comeback Kid

( Trigger warning: This story involves sexual abuse of a child. While I suppose every story on the site could have trigger warnings, this one seemed to justify me notifying readers in advance. This is the second story that made me cry publishing it.)

 

Please share what happened to you:

I’m the Comeback Kid and so begins my story.  I was born Jan. 1976, to two young parents. My mother was 15 and my father was 19 when I came into the world. They both dropped out of high school and were forced to get married, (“shotgun marriage”), because they were so young and had me.  My father immediately stepped up, got a good job, and took care of my mother and I. Everything was perfect…or was it?

The first 5 years of my childhood were absolutely perfect. When I turned 6 my world completely turned upside-down. I was a happy child, not scared of anyone or anything, until one night, very late into the night my father came into my room to “check on me and tuck me in”!  It began as just that, then the tucking in became pulling the covers back a little and him telling me, “everything is ok but he needed to make sure my chest and belly were ok”, and “don’t tell mommy or she will get mad at you”. It started with the fondling and caressing from top of my head, to breasts, to stomach. Each night was the same, he would come in,  I would be scared and pull the blanket over my head, because I knew something wasn’t right, but I was only 6 and I thought that’s what daddy’s were supposed to do. He would make sure my mom was asleep, come into my room, and push toys in front of my door in case my mom did wake up, to give him a chance to stop what he was doing. The fondling changed, over time, to intense groping, and so forth and so on, until it got much worse! I never told my mother because daddy made me promise not to and said it was our secret and that mommy would be made at me if I told on daddy.

1:4 #15 window

Then one day, at the age of 7 ½, when my baby brother was born, it all stopped. That was a blessing, but my dad then began ignoring me, not coming into my room anymore, and spending all his time with his first born son. I, being 7 ½ and not understanding why my daddy wasn’t showing me love anymore or wasn’t coming into my room anymore, was hard for me to comprehend. He never molested any of my other siblings, I made sure of that, as I was their protector. I would always follow him around when he would go to their rooms without my mom and 95% of the time I would sleep in their rooms, or have them sleep in mine.

As, I got older and older, I continued to bury and hide what happened to me as a child. My mother never found out until a few months ago, when I told her what he did. The only person to know is my husband. What happened to me as a child, caused many different negative effects in my life such as, low self-esteem, which I still have today, promiscuity as a teen, trying to find love in all different types of men, most of which were older. I was always trying to find that daddy figure. I had no luck with older men so I started dating younger men to “protect and take care of”. I was then used and emotionally abused by a lot of them. I was told I would never be able to find anyone else; I was ugly, stupid and dumb. Then one day I met a young man who would forever change my life and the life of my baby girl I had out of wedlock. My husband!! An amazing man, who picked me up and showed me what it was like to be treated by a man!!  He is still, to this day, helping me open up and get the past out, building my self-esteem, and helped encourage me to rebuild my life and go back to school!!  After 13 years of being out of school, with his encouragement and support, I did just that.  I graduated tech school and became an LPN, which was a big accomplishment for me; because whenever things got tough, I would usually quit everything I set out to do for fear of rejection and disapproval.

How are you now?

Today, I am slowly getting better, my self-esteem is higher than before and I am able to share my story and help others, whom may not be quite able to speak for themselves yet. I am a lover and I love to help others. I now have 2 children…a 14 year old son and a 20 year old daughter. I am able to love them and be a better mother to them now, due to therapy and a loving and supportive husband. I am back in school for my business degree, so that I might soon be able to open my own business. The stuff I went through in my life has not gone away or been forgotten, but each day gets easier and easier to cope with and I don’t hate myself and feel as ugly as I used to when I kept everything bottled in.

1:4 #15

What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence?

What my message to others regarding domestic violence would be is to never be afraid to share with others what is, or has happened to you physically, emotionally, or sexually, because you may help someone else. You don’t deserve what has or is happening to you, male or female!! You are a beautiful and strong person, who deserves the best and fine things in life. Never let anyone tell you otherwise!! You have the power to change your life and the life of others!! God Bless You!

Love,

The Comeback Kid

1:4 # 14, The Model

 

Please share what happened to you:

 

You love me don’t you? He says

The constant reminder that I need permission, what to wear, what we eat, when I get to sleep, if he wants to be high or not.

I come straight home from work everyday

Somehow I’m still wrong when I get home.

He smacks me

 

Give me your phone he demands. It’s useless to tell him, try to explain anything.

His fist hits my face this time.

I refuse to take the pill in his hand. Forces it into my mouth..

If you love me you will. He snarls at me

My face just hurts

He tells me I was good last night

I dont want to know what he did It makes me sick to my stomach

He grabs me and I try to pull away

He throws me to the ground and hits me

I knew he would …

he just keeps hitting me

 

If you love me is all I hear him say..

But he doesn’t love me ..

and right now neither do i..

 

Domestic Violence Survivor 14 the Model #1

 

How are you now?

I am functional. I have issues taking new partners,  but I can get up and move through life and I can share my story with other people who can’t say the words without breaking down.

 

Domestic Violence Survivor 14 the Model #3

What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence?

You have never earned it, you did nothing to deserve to be abused. You are beautiful, you are kind, you are important

Domestic Violence Survivor 14 the Model #4

A guest blog post by Rachel Grant: Believing that Change is Possible

(Editor’s Note: Bouncing around on the net looking at some domestic violence web sites and resources, I came across Rachel Grant’s website. Rachel has some free resources on her site and some that aren’t. I don’t get any kind of affiliate kick back if you do purchase anything. I thought her free checklist of things to help deal with childhood sex abuse recovery could be a good conceptual model for other recovery paths too. Her blog has a lot of stories related to overcoming some serious adversities. I reached out to her and asked if she’d like to do a guest post, and here we are. I think one of the themes of my site is that if you’re in a mess, there is hope. Others have gone through what you have, and made it to the other side. It’s often not pretty and almost never easy, but, finally they’ve broken through. In that vein, I’m posting Rachel’s guest blog post. I hope to have other guest blog posts in the future too. Without further ado then… )

Believing That Change Is Possible

But I’ve tried to get over this before!! Shouldn’t I be better already!? I know other people have healed, why can’t I?

Often the first hurdle to jump over in this journey is to put to rest (or a least put on mute for awhile) your inner critic and doubter. I know you’ve been to therapy, I know you’ve read books, I know you’ve tried just about everything under the sun and you’re still running in circles. Don’t worry, I did, too! Or maybe you’re just for the first time ever admitting to yourself that the abuse happened and that you need to deal with it. Either way, there is likely a part of you that is wondering if you can get better! I invite you to allow yourself to embrace recovery as an adventure, an exploration. Be curious, check things out – and try to leave off stressing about end results. We each have to walk our own path of recovery. Sometimes, it takes just one thing to make things fall into place. Sometimes, it’s a variety of things.

For me, I tried all sorts of things before finally coming upon the ideas that I’ll share here that made the difference for me. I hope you can be open to the journey and remember there’s a lot to learn from turtles.

Lessons from a Turtle

“Adults are always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up, because they are looking for ideas.”
~Paula Poundstone

How fabulous is that! I know I’m still certainly wondering about what I’ll be when I grow up, and I know many of the folks around me are thinking about this, too.

For me, though, there are the added questions of, “Is it too late?” & “Shouldn’t I have accomplished more by now?” I took a bit more time to finish my undergraduate studies than usual; then I spent some time roaming the halls of an elementary school trying my hand at teaching and learning a lot about myself.

When I came to California, I focused on child development (and napping) as I nanny before turning my attention to psychology & coaching. Seems a bit schizophrenic, but each stage has in some way built upon the previous one. Now, most days, I appreciate my wiggly journey. Still, I do sometimes agonize about this, because I am many paces behind those who followed the straight and narrow.

When we feel the pressure to make our mark, crave the pride of achievement, desire to experience ourselves at our best, or want more than anything to be fully recovered, our first point of reference for measuring where we stand is often what others are doing or have done. Is there real value in this exercise of comparison? Well, I suppose it depends on what your ultimate goal is.

To my mind, I see two possible outcomes from engaging in this sort of reflection (to be sure, there may be others). If your goal (though possibly an unconscious one) is to reinforce negative ideas you have about yourself as being less than, incapable, flawed, etc. – comparing oneself to others is like a gateway drug to self-deprecation. There can be real value in seeing how you measure up to others, but if you can’t compare yourself to others without becoming depressed, self-critical, exasperated, defeated, pitiful, and chagrined then this is not a healthy choice for you.
However, if your goal is to do something about your current situation and to move forward despite time, age, circumstances then it might be possible to become inspired, motivated, encouraged, and educated as a result of comparing where you are with others who have acquired the same things you now desire but don’t have. In other words, through curiosity and studying their very straight journey, you may add some arrow-like qualities to your own path.

My point is, I can look to a coach who is my age, has my education but is much further along in building her business and making a living and think to myself, “Damn it, see, if only I hadn’t…” or I can look to see how this person got to where she is and learn – and, perhaps, learn fast! Likewise, we can keep ourselves in a loop of comparing where we are in our journey of recovery to others or lamenting that we aren’t there yet, or we can set about doing the work and learning from those who have gone before us.

We only have one life journey. Whether it be a wiggly one or a straight & narrow one – it’s ours. So, for all of my wiggly friends out there – move, be active, learn and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by self-deprecating thoughts.

Just as we might discover who we want to be when we grow up from kids, we also do well to remember the age old Aesop fable The Tortoise and the HareIt’s not how quickly you can get to where you want to be – it’s whether you get there at all.

 

(Editor’s note: I hope that you,my readers,  found some of these insights useful on your journeys. You are not alone. Thanks again Rachel for this great article and the work you’re doing to help others! )

1:4 #13, The Art Teacher

Art Teacher

Please Share What Happened to You:

Domestic violence is no joke. It is a disease that is fatal and destructive. It is a darkness that is plaguing our country. It is a generational curse that kills the spirit of dreams and passions and takes away the richness of what life can bring to the human race.

I live with the fact that my father, who was the breadwinner and passionate artist, was killed at the age of 28, while working as a postman in New York City, on his way from work. His death was the start of my abandonment issues. My mother was a widow left rearing two daughters ages four and three. My mother missed the love and respect she received from my Dad. She dated weak men, lived with an alcoholic, and remarried a womanizer and had two more children. My mother came from a Latino background and always worked two jobs because she kept her children in Catholic school. She had a house note and having men who never provided enough money to support us took so much from her. She was so beautiful the men usually were jealous and insecure.  These men would beat and yell at her and after losing our home we moved occasionally to escape the madness.

I was shy and had low self-esteem as a child.  My friends and boyfriends abused me so much that my mother sent me to private High School down south.  After graduating out of High School I shacked up with a drug dealer in Harlem while going to community college.

My boyfriends and husbands were always on drugs. My mother always gave us spiritual guidance so I never used drugs and hated the taste of alcohol. The yelling, hitting and ignorant thinking from my boyfriends took such a toll on me that I was in the hospital.  I returned back to the Bronx to live with my aunt and back down south to complete my college education.  Education saved me.

I was getting physically and verbally harassed and physiologically manipulated and abused. I had married one husband twice (who had died from AIDS) and the other husband was a crack addict. I had one man arrested after he beat me so bad I could not see. I found out later he would also beat his 65-year-old mother. He served a three year sentence.

My oldest son beat the crap out of his crackhead stepfather. My co dependence issues led to bad credit, homelessness and lots of lies. My false pride caused me to be in poverty while sending my son to Teen challenge in West Virginia.

painting

How are you doing now?

Today I am an advocate against domestic violence who has worked in great companies like Merrill Lynch, Lockheed Martin and Johnson and Johnson. I have a BFA degree in fine Arts and a Business Degree. I own a small art business working my passion of visual arts. I have traveled domestically and internationally and tried to engage with people of purpose who changed my whole view point for life. My past will never define me. My children are healthy men who are great fathers and husbands who are making their way respecting woman and being encouraged to give, not take, from their community.  I have a great life and thank God everyday.

Today I have clarity; I have been fortunate enough to learn some great lessons early in life. The strength and endurance of my mothers prayers and learning the importance of a good education helped me not title myself a victim, but a survivor. A lot of forgiveness seems to help me to get out of the circle of domestic violence.

happy now

What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence?

You can get out of this! You got this! There’s help if you ask for it!

 

 

1:4 # 12, The face in the crowd

Woman in a Crowd(Editors note: This survivor has asked to have her photos be done anonymously to protect her kids from being embarrassed. As this wasn’t the first time I’d heard that idea, I was glad to do so. This lady is the first to ask for anonymity and be assured that was doable, and be willing to push through and do the project. Others have asked but decided not to push forward. She doesn’t want anyone else to feel as alone as she did. It has taken her many months and several discussions to come into the light. )

Please Share What Happened to You:

I have been abused in a couple ways, physically and sexually, by people I trusted and knew and by neighbors I thought I could trust too. I guess after a while and hiding all those little secrets you cannot even comprehend what is real or right especially when nobody even taught you about sex or your body and how it functions. Not back then anyway. There is always that gut instinct and my gut told me it wasn’t right, but how did I really know?

I was about ten years old when a neighbor and coworker of my fathers, I’ll call him Mr. 1 had me sit next to him on the couch. He was probably in his early fifties. He asked me to sit closer to him, but I didn’t and my parents, who were in the room, prompted me to sit closer. So, I scooted over closer to him. As my mom and dad sat there talking with him, he slowly put his hand down the back of my pants. I sat straight up, eyes wide open as if to say, “um, hello!! Are you seeing this?” Nobody said a word. I got up and excused myself. Whenever he would come around, I would leave or go outside although he always begged me to come sit next to him. He always drove slow around the neighborhood looking at all the girls. We all called him a pervert. My mom would do ironing for his wife to earn some extra cash and one day she sent me down there to take her some shirts my mom ironed. I prayed the whole walk there that she would be home. My younger sister went with me. I knocked on the door and he answered. I asked if his wife was home and that I came to deliver the shirts my mom had ironed. He insisted we come in. I told him no that we had to get right back home. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and insisted we come in. My sister was not afraid because nothing had happened to her so she was fine with going in and went in. The house was poorly lit and he went in and sat in his chair and asked me to come closer. I wouldn’t. He kept trying to tell me not to be afraid and to come sit on his lap. I still said no. Then he asked my sister who is four years younger than I to come over and sit on his lap. She started to go towards him and I grabbed her arm and told him we had to go and I ran out of the door with her. I wouldn’t allow that perv to touch my sister!!! I avoided him at all costs from then on out. I finally told my mom and dad five years later about what he did, right in front of them and how all the girls got the creeps from him and my father was ready to go to his house and kill him. My mom stopped him, thank goodness.

His next door neighbor was no better. I will call him Mr. 2. I babysat for Mr. & Mrs. 2 a few times and on this one night (I was 14) Mrs. 2 was still upstairs getting ready. So, I waited downstairs with Mr. 2. I was at the back door watching their daughter play outside when Mr. 2 asked me if I would like a beer. (Wait….what?) I told him I was only 14 and not old enough to drink alcohol. He put the beer back and started walking up behind me. I stood with my back turned to him. The next thing I know, he wraps his arms around me and starts to raise his hands up to grab my breasts. I pushed on that door handle so hard and fast and flew out the door!! I didn’t go back in until Mrs. 2 yelled to me that they were leaving. I never babysat for them again.

I was just about seventeen years old when a good friend introduced me to my first husband. He was the oldest of five children to a well-known doctor where we lived. Shortly after meeting him, he was involved in an accident. My friend asked me to go along with him to visit him in the hospital and told me he really liked me and wanted to take me out on a date. He really wasn’t my type and I really didn’t want to go out with him. Going against my gut instincts, I agreed. We dated for about a year when he slapped me across the face because I didn’t want to leave a party we were at and he did. I was shocked. I was stunned. He apologized. Same scenario as most situations like that. I forgave him. He didn’t want me to wear make up. He would make me go back in the house and remove it immediately if I had it on. I would do what he said out of fear. We broke up for a while.

After the breakup, I shared an apartment with my best friend. Eighteen years old, out on my own, doing what I want, nobody telling me what to do, taking care of myself. We didn’t have a lot of furniture. What we did have were hand me downs from our parents. We had lived in our apartment for a couple months and were just starting to get to know our neighbors. There were two guys who also shared an apartment in our building. One day, one of the guys was working on his car. I talked to him for a while through my apartment window as he worked on his car and then I invited him to come up for a beer when he finished. We sat on the floor, drinking our beer, talking about jobs, friends, roomies, etc. when he leaned over to kiss me. I allowed that, but said “hey….I didn’t invite you here for any more than a beer”. He said “come on….we both know why you invited me here and pushed me back the whole time I was telling him no. He held me down and forced my pants off and then he forced himself inside me. My roommate was in the next room and didn’t hear anything!!! How could she not hear my cries?? How could she not me my struggle? When he was finished raping me, I laid there in a ball crying and he said, ” oh come on…you know you wanted it too!!” I felt so dirty. So inhuman. So disgusting. Emotionally paralyzed. I moved out of the building a few months later.

I ended up making up with my boyfriend and moved in with him. Everything was fine. No more abuse. He was nice to me. Treated and spoke to me fine. A year later, we married. I was nineteen. He was 22. A month after we married, I got pregnant. I was so excited!!! I always wanted my own baby. My own little person to love. Who would love me….. That is when the regular abuse started. Especially when he drank. Nobody ever called the police or came to my aid. I was alone. Physically, emotionally alone.I would play dead so he would stop. He would slap, punch, kick and choke me to almost unconsiousness. I couldn’t go out into public because of my bruises and black eyes. How could I explain them? Everyone knew who he was. Who his dad was. He always apologized and swore it would never happen again.

I avoided arguing with him because I knew…..I could tell by the look in his eyes when he was in the mood to beat me. He told me once that the reason he hit me was because I reminded him of his mother. (I thought, well go beat her then, but I never said it out loud.) I was nothing like his mother. Nothing at all! I had two children with him. I did use birth control to avoid having another child with him, but it failed and I ended up pregnant a second time. I love both of my children with all my heart!! I don’t regret having either one of them, but I do regret not making the right decision when I had the chance the very first time he hit me when we were dating.

I tolerated his abuse for six and a half years until he told me he would kill me and I knew then I had to get away. I couldn’t bear to allow my children to see any more violence. I couldn’t allow him to kill their mother and leave them parent-less. He would be in jail and I would be dead. I hated the idea of a divorce because I was a child of divorce and I didn’t want to put my children through that, but exposing them to the beatings, the name calling, the degrading, hateful comments would have been worse. (He told me I was the laziest white woman he ever saw. I had the body of an eighty year old woman. I was fat. Ugly….you name it, he called me it.) He left without incident, but my neighbor would see him parked up the street in the early am hours (like 3am). Just sitting there…staring at the house. My neighbor finally told him to go home. That he was only tormenting himself and it wasn’t doing anyone any good. I was petrified for my life!!!

After we split, my friends and neighbors would tell me things he would do to my children when I wasn’t there. He would pick my daughter up by the hair on the top of her head and carry her across the street when she wouldn’t come home when called; he stepped on her belly when she was three years old because she would not stop crying. I was so upset nobody told me when it happened and their response was they didn’t want to get involved. THEY WERE DEFENSELESS CHILDREN!!! I did see a couple times how he would grab their noses by his two fingers at the knuckle, pinch hard and pull them to where he wanted them. It would bruise their little noses. I told him to stop that and to stop hurting them, but he did it anyway. I deal with a lot of guilt because of that and the fact that they were exposed to his violence. His degradation of us. His bullying.

So, I stayed and tolerated the abuse. The physical and the emotional abuse for six and a half years. Exposing my poor babies to this monster, to the screams, the crying, the bruises, the pounding….. What a horrible mother I was to do that to them. I can never forgive myself for that. And I won’t put them through anymore and that is why I am remaining anonymous to save them the hurt and heartache. They love their dad. They have a relationship with their dad. I just don’t need to put them through the embarrassment of poor decisions I made.

Woman's Hand

How are you doing now?

A few months after our separation, I met a wonderful, hard working, caring, trustful and trusting dependable man that was great with my kids. They loved him and visa versa. He loves me and I him. Has it been easy? NO! We both brought baggage to this relationship, but we were determined not to let that baggage interfere with what we had. He has taken great care of us for thirty years and has been a wonderful supporter, provider, partner and friend. We have taught each other that you can trust. You can love unconditionally. You can depend on the other one without doubt. And above all, you can love without fear of hurt or pain. (A little background also…..I was abused by my mother as a child. I was the one she took it out on. She never believed me even though I told the truth. She slapped me, punched me, back handed me, pushed me against the wall, screamed at me, punished me for things she thought I did, but I didn’t. So, maybe that is why I allowed the behavior from my ex. I used to think that was my reason for being born. My ex told me that he had a talk with her and asked her why she treated me like that and he said her response was she got pregnant with me to save her marriage. Her marriage failed, so she blamed me for it and so, the abuse. She denies having that conversation with him, but it kinda makes sense. I have forgiven both of them, but I have not forgotten.) I feel sad for me sometimes because I so desperately wanted to have a close relationship with my mom but, she didn’t. Years after my second marriage, my parents disowned me and cut off communications for ten years after I shared my feelings and confronted them with a certain situation that happened between us. We are just now working towards reconnecting. Everyone only has one life on this earth. There are no do-overs. This is not a dress rehearsal. She cannot give what she took away from me and neither can my ex. But, I was lucky to have survived. I was lucky to be given another chance. I was lucky to find someone who truly loves me and gives me the life I deserve. One without violence. One with love, support, care and friendship. And for that I am truly grateful!!

What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence

This project helps let women know they are not alone. I felt so alone. Like I was going through it in silence but I was screaming inside. They need to know they are not alone!! Even in anonymity, I am hopeful that I can help just one person find the strength to tell themselves that they can do it!!! That they can leave, that they can survive and that they can be truly happy. This is not a dress rehearsal. Go….be happy

 

1:4 #11, the Warrior

Domestic Violence Survivor #11( Editors Note: The usual format for these posts is for the survivors to answer the three questions. In this case, the Warrior went with a little different format. I think you can pick out the answers from the story)

As humans, we all experience the pain of abuse, at one point or another in our lives.  Whether it be physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, spiritual abuse or even abandonment.  Unfortunately, it’s almost inevitable.  It’s the nature of the beast…us.  The human “beast” if you will.  As for me, I can only speak of my own experiences- which by the way- I am ready to share.  I state that I’m ready to share these experiences because the majority of my life I held them in.  Held the memories of these shameful, embarrassing happenings that I would let fester within me..which would only , ( as I see now), dim my inner light.  I know now that it’s not healthy to withhold things like this in…and also..it’s equally important to let it ‘all out’ for the process of healing to be able to begin.  In sharing my abuse, I also realize that I am speaking out for those who cannot…I’m helping to put a voice into the atmosphere for those individuals and I am possibly giving them inspiration..to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel…and that they too, can grow from this.  Lastly, it’s damn time to share.

    I was born in 1980.  Culver City (a city in western  Los Angeles County).  My parents are both from the East Coast.  The BX (The Bronx) and The Bricks (Newark, New Jersey).  My father and mother both left the east coast at different times- both with the intentions of starting a new life and making a fresh start for themselves.  At the time my father was struggling with addiction and figured the change of scenery from New York City could help get him cleaned up.  My mother was running from a severely abusive past in New Jersey. When my mother and father met by chance in Los Angeles, they fell in love for their own reasons with one another.  It goes without saying: this is when yours truly, was conceived.

    According to my mother, she was extremely naive to the world- being that she was raised in a controlling and abusive house- so she wasn’t “hip” to all the things that my father was at that time.  She states that the first time she realized my father was an addict was when she was 8 months pregnant with me and she caught my father shooting up in the bedroom.  This is where my story begins…..

    I was born into a household where there was a lot of anger, angst, resentment, abuse, deception, abandonment, and poverty.  I’ve heard the stories about my father being gone for weeks with no call.  I’ve heard about how we had a mattress in a studio apartment with no food and just the clothes on our backs because my father was taking the little items we did own and was selling them to support his habit.  My mother had her second child with my father in 1982.  By then we had moved back to the East coast and was living in the Bronx; of course for another “fresh start”.

     I was also told about how my mother didn’t have diapers for my sister, and was wrapping her up in my father’s boxers.  My mother didn’t have money for milk to feed my infant sister, so she would give her rice water, and because of this my sister suffered from diarrhea and diaper rash.  And because my mom wasn’t eating properly she couldn’t produce the milk to breastfeed my sister.  I heard about the stories how my mom would  have to walk blocks through the snow to the nearest church to beg for money from the priest so she can feed us.  I also heard how, as a 3 year old, I would never complain about how hungry I was, or how cold I was, or how tired I was from having to walk all that way.

    Somewhere around this time, my mother grew very angry and threatened my father with a divorce.  So this is when we made another move …yep, you guessed it, for another fresh start.  We moved to sunny Naples, Florida.  Promises of sobriety from Daddy and a better life for all of us.  This is when I started having my own memories of our life.  When things were good…they were amazing!  I remember as a child hearing my mother and father laugh together, and I remember thinking in my little 5 year old mind, how beautiful my mother looked when she smiled. I felt happy, I felt safe, I felt LOVED.

    But…like they say..all good things must come to an end..and surely they did.  I noticed that Daddy wasn’t home as much.  I noticed the familiar look of worry on my mom’s face.  And when my mom was worried…or sad…I felt it was my responsibility to be worried and sad with her.  Though, I didn’t completely understand what was going on, I knew it had something to do with my Daddy.  My mom was so wrapped up in the whereabouts of my father that she didn’t know, nor would I dare bother her with it, that at 5 years old, my older half brother- who was also a recovering addict ( briefly staying with my mom and dad until he could get back on his feet) was molesting me almost everyday.  He was 19/20 years old around that time. I remember it feeling wrong, but I remember being told that this was my fault and if I told anyone, they would know that it was my fault.  Not his. At one point, my half brother had held a gun to my head – this I actually don’t remember.  I know I was being babysat on this particular day and he held a gun to my sitter and to my head.  This is probably one of those repressed memories that I’m waiting to come out at some point.   So, all in all,  I kept the sexual abuse I endured inward until I reached my 20’s.    As far as with my mom and dad,  things became worse (again)- the fighting started.  Screaming, banging, crying.

    I remember this one instance where my mom put my sister and I into her Toyota.  I could tell she was on a mission.  I asked where we were going and she said: “I am going to find your father!”.  I remember we drove to a very sketchy neighborhood in Naples called George Washington Carver Apartments.  I knew from overhearing my mom, that this is where Daddy spent a lot of his time.  When we arrived, before exiting the car, my mom told my sister and I to lay down in the backseat and not to get up for anything!  I will never forget what I saw when she exited the car.  In my child’s mind it looked like something out of a zombie movie.  As soon as my mom had closed the car door behind her and locked us in, there were many people that looked like literal zombies that walked up to my mom’s car and looked in the windows down at us.  I sat up slightly, because I was worried for my Mom.  I saw her standing there with a gun in her hand pointing it at the “zombies”, “Where is LOUIS!!??  Get Louis here NOWWWW!!”

   Domestic Violence Survivor Looking Away Moving forward, about a year later, my mom came to her senses and finally left my father.  I was in the first grade.  I worried for my father because he was alone, and because I knew he was very sad.  I failed the first grade because all I did was cry and refuse to partake in school work.  My mom struggled.  She worked 3 jobs and was in and out of relationships with men that I hated.  And in between relationships my mom was miserable, angry and would direct her blame on me.  Yes, this wasn’t how I perceived it at the time.  This is exactly what it was.  Just about everything was Natasha’s fault.  I was always screamed at, cussed at. I was beat, thrown and punched.  I was called a whore before I even knew what the fucking word meant!

 There was this one instance where I was playing outside our apartments, and my mom told me to stay within yelling distance.  I was always and imaginative child.  I loved being outdoors and looking at the clouds and trees, and imagining all the far away places I wanted to visit.  I had seen a few beautiful peacocks outside- and I remember following them- anxiously waiting to see their tails open up into that beautiful display of colors I so much loved.  I guess time had caught away with me- because when I finally made it back home I was greeted with an ass whooping of my life.  Remember that game: Airplane?  Some parents would lovingly play it with their children?  For those that don’t know: You grab a hand and a foot…and the parent would turn round and round until the centrifugal force would build up enough to make a child’s body go upward in a flying motion..like an airplane.  Well..in my mom’s rage- she played her own version.  She grabbed me by my foot…and a fistful of hair…swung me around and around to build up that good ol’ centrifugal force…but she let me go airborne.  I remember hitting the ground with such force…and the severe pain of all the air in my body being knocked out of me.  This was common place when it came to punishing me.  Especially on her bad days.  Let me not excuse this behavior…it was horrific- but my mom was not healthy mentally.  She grew up with abuse beyond most human comprehension.  I’ll leave that up to her to tell her own story on that one.  I believe in her mind, I was lucky I wasn’t getting beat like she use to.

    My mom was so wrapped up on trying to find a boyfriend/husband that my sister and my emotional health were not priority.  As much as that may sting, that is the truth.  When you bring many men in and out of your children’s lives, only worrying to fulfill your own needs- despite how your daughters (children) may feel, it’s a selfish act.  Many times, we witnessed full out fist fights between my mom and her boyfriends.  When this would happen, I felt it was my duty to protect my mom and my little sister.  I have kicked in doors, I have jumped on grown men’s backs and clawed at their faces and pulled their hair- all to protect my mother.  Later in life, I was even arrested trying to stick up for her.  For the majority of my life growing up, I had felt the need to Protect- despite how I may have been treated.  Despite who I may have been exposed to.  Despite how my feelings always seemed to be irrelevant.  This treatment is what I grew to know as “normal”.  And sadly, I took this into adulthood- but later retrained my brain and way of thinking.

    Going back to my father, he on the other hand finally got his life together.  We would spend weekends with him.  It was like heaven!  My father clean and he was absolutely amazing in so many ways.  The memories were amazing…and we connected with him like daughters should with their father.  We got to know him…and he got to know us.  Three years of being clean and then he finds out he has Full Blown AIDS.  He lived for 3 more years with Full Blown Aids, remained clean from using and made the most out of his time with us.  He died in 1993.

    My mom did remarry to a man that provided a good life for my sister and I.  He fulfilled his promise to my father to protect and take care of my sister and I. But of course, that didn’t last too long either.   Still, growing up into a woman without my father was excruciatingly hard.  I had a rough start in life and not much self confidence or self love was instilled in me.  I became deeply depressed because all that kept replaying in my mind was the unconditional love and affection from my father that only lasted a few short years.  I wanted and needed that in my life so badly I started to seek it in men.  My first marriage ended in physical violence.  My second marriage, I stuck through the shitty times even more because I thought that is what you are supposed to do instead of just running.  There was a lot of emotional abuse that I saw was affecting my first born from my first marriage.  I had my second child in my second marriage, but things increasingly became worse, so I left that one after 5 years.  Then years later finding out that my 2nd husband, while married to him, had been raping my first born child.

    Our justice system is terrible, and he got away with it.  I had to fight him in court for custody of our daughter…they gave us joint custody, but thank God he hasn’t tried to even see our daughter.  My last relationship is where I had my last child.  He couldn’t be monogamous and we physically fought.  I did have a moment where I looked at myself in the mirror and I started to see my mother.  I was repeating her life.  I knew I loved my children more than life itself.  I knew things had to change.  I sought   counseling on and off.  Read many self help books, and started to learn to be thankful for the blessings in front of me.  My three beautiful children.  My three rainbows in my storm of life.  I decided that they were more important than my want to be loved…or my want to have a husband to have that house and white picket fence fairy tale.  I saw that I was enough for them…and that they were enough for me…and mostly…I was enough for myself.

    I took you on a brief magic carpet ride through the hurricane of my life.  All this shared to say this:  The abuse that people endure have nothing to do with the abusee and everything to do with the abuser.  Just like with my mother.  She loved my sister and I , in her own way.  But she was a damaged individual who never got proper help nor was able to have the insight enough to make her life better/ parenting skills better, (to put it lightly).  She never had the self love to know she deserved better…and so did her children.  I had taught myself, with the help of some great loving friends and some good counseling…and books…that I have the POWER!  The power to make my life something GREAT or something SHITTY!  And the so- called power we may think our abuser has…is given to them by US.  I will repeat.  We give the abuser the power…so when you take the power away…you GAIN CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE!  Now, with innocent children in mind, such as myself and my own child- we were too young and didn’t understand what was happening.  We were vulnerable to the abuse.  Thank God we survived it.  And in survival- as I taught myself- and am teaching my son as well…you do NOT claim the name of VICTIM!!  NEVER THAT!!  You claim the name of: KICK ASS SURVIVOR!!!!!  And you take the pain…and you don’t EVER hide from it.  You speak about it…until it becomes easier…until it doesn’t hurt as bad…and you turn it into a story of survival…and a story that could bring LIGHT into other’s lives…a story that could potentially SAVE THEIR LIFE!

Domestic Violence Survivor #11 final

1:4 #10, the Student

1:4 # 10

Please share what happened to you:

My story started when I was just a baby. Around the time I was six months old and I was very sick. No one could figure out what was wrong with me, and I almost died. My mom took me to the hospital, where all these different doctors looked at me and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Until one, finally figured out that I had an abscess in my throat. He saved my life. That’s when I started going to him. I don’t remember much from the earlier years of going to him because I was to little, but I do remember that every time I went for a visit, he would pick me up and give me a huge hug, shake my mouth up and down and then I would get to pick out a toy.
I loved going because I knew that I would be able to get to pick out a toy. Little did I know that was the beginning of the abuse. That was the grooming process. At the young age of 5, I understood what good touch and bad touch was, but that meant from strangers. This was someone we were taught to trust and that other then mom and dad was allowed to touch us. I didn’t realize at the time what was going on. The next couple of visits are blank holes in my memory. I remember the rooms and can describe in detail what they looked like but I don’t remember what happened in them. My mind has blocked them from my memory. But as I got older it got worse. I remember the main abuse, or at least what I think is the main abuse but your mind has a funny way of protecting you and that’s to cut out the bad memories so you don’t have to relive them. I remember every time I would go for a visit, I was molested. Every time he would do it, he gave the excuse of trying to figure out when my period was coming. Mind you, this started when I was 7 or 8. My period did not come any where close to that. I remember being that little girl wanted to scream and yell because I knew something was not right. But I couldn’t because this was someone we are taught to trust from a young age and I thought no one would believe me. This was someone who saved my life. It was something that happened every single time I went to him. Even if I went for a cold. He would always end it with that hug and moving my mouth up and down. I began to cringe and hated going. The molestation went on until the time I was 13. When I was 13 I stopped going because I went to high school and it was easier to just go to the wellness center. I was thrilled that I didn’t have to go there any more but I still didn’t fully understand what happened until the day he got arrested and the day I broke down in class. I showed signs through out the years that I was being molested but no one ever thought anything of them. When I was in elementary school, I used to wear my belt so tight that it would dig in to my skin. I was sent to the counselor but I refused to loosen it. But no one knew what was going on and so it got brushed off. I finally told someone when I was sitting in my high school Spanish class and my teacher was talking about the news story and his arrest. I had a panic attack and my teacher pulled me out of class. I told her what had happened and she took me to the counselor. Finally my torture was over.

(ed note: The perpetrator is serving 14 life terms, plus 165 years, without parole,  for the 529 charges he was convicted of.)

1:4 # 10 2

How are you doing now?

I’m doing a lot better then that junior in high school who had a panic attack in the middle of class. But its been a process. I have had more panic attacks than I can count. The biggest issue I face is with change. When something changes I don’t feel in control and all I want to do is feel in control. When my routine is different I feel as though something bad is going to happen. It throws me of for the day and it could be the littlest thing. But I have gotten a lot better with change and routines in the past year. I started counseling and Ive become a much stronger person. I also have a hard problem with trust and opening up to people which has affected my relationships. I am terrified to tell potential boyfriends about the abuse because I’m afraid that they will think I come with to much baggage, and they wont see me they will just see the abuse. It takes a while for me to trust them and this puts a strain on the relationship. I need to be reminded that they do love me even when I am not being lovable. If they do take the chance, I learn to trust them and I give them my all but it hurts 10x’s worse when they eventually leave, and they do because the attacks become to much for them. But if you look at me now compared to where I was a year ago, I am a much better person. Thanks to counseling and listening to survivors I realize I am more then my abuse and that I’m not going to let it affect my whole life.Ive worked through the memories and have processed them. Now I know how to turn them off or move on from them when they do appear. I don’t get stuck in this cycle of remembering the memories. I am now a junior at Delaware State where I major in Communications. I plan on working in radio but I eventually want to become a spokesperson for sexual abuse. I am also competing in Miss Delaware this year which I have competed in for multiple years. But this year is different. I have changed my platform to “Victims to Victor, Helping Sexual Abuse Victims Find Their Voice” I am helping others find their voices by sharing my story. I also want to make sure that victims know that they can survive the abuse and not let it affect their whole lives. I have also partnered with Senator Lopez to co write a bill called Erin’s Law. If passed, it will require schools to teach students K through 6th about sexual abuse, things like good touch, bad touch. It will also teach them to tell an adult if they are being abused even if it is by someone they know. It also will give teachers the tools to know what to look for in a victim. I’m done being silent on an issue that affected my life for 10 years. I’ve become a much stronger person since the abuse started, yes I still get a panic attack every once in a while but now I have the tools to cope and get through them.

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Is there anything about domestic violence you’d like to tell the world?

I first want to tell the victims that they aren’t alone and they don’t have to face it alone. I promise you there is someone out there they can talk to and will understand what they are going through. I also want people to know that we are more than our abuse. We are people. We have baggage yes, but we are more then that and we want to be accepted as people. Lastly, if there was anything I learned from the abuse is that you choose how you react to the situation. You can chose to let the abuse control your life for the rest of your life, you can let the perpetrator win. Or you can chose to let it make you a strong person. You can chose to take back your life and take back the control. You chose if you are going to win or lose. Even after something bad has happened to you, you can still do everything you set your mind to. You can survive it and move forward. It’s going to be tough and it’s going to be a long road but you can and will do it. Have faith that you can do anything you set out to do.

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