domestic violence

1:4 #25, the true Survivor

Editors Note This survivor preferred to remain anonymous in her photos. From her story, you can see she has survived nearly a lifetime of human trafficking and domestic violence.

Survivor looking out a barred window

Please share what happened to you.

My story and my life have been hell for 25 years. If it weren’t for my adoptive mother, I wouldn’t be here today to tell my story at all. It wasn’t law enforcement or an advocate that saved me it was the person I call mom and she deserves all the credit in the world.

My story started at a really young age; it was more than domestic violence; it was child sex trafficking. I did not know that then, I thought it was normal after a while. Multiple guys a day – starting as a child – being sold for years. There was drugs and beatings and a world of threats. I never fought back; my traffickers were supposed to be my family. This went on my whole life until the age of 15 when I met my ex-husband. I thought I was getting away from the abuse, but it was far from the truth. My original trafficker and he were best friends, it only got worse, I married him when he was 24, and me just a kid. The trafficking and the abuse continued for years. My ex-husband tried to murder me five years ago, leaving for dead on the side of the road.

I lost my daughter that day, I was 39 weeks pregnant. The crazy part even after that happened, I stayed with them because I had nowhere to go and the threat to be killed was very valid. I never thought in a million years I was ever going to get out. I honestly felt I was just better off dead, or I was just good at being a slave. When I finally got the courage to tell someone I was terrified, but she believed me. She took me in as her own and taught me that someone cares. Even though the threats are still there, and I will never forget. I am a year out, have an amazing family and even going to school to help others. After all the trauma I am excited for my new life. 

Walking out

How are you now? 

After a year of being out it is honestly one of the hardest things. I am so blessed to get this second chance but being traumatized for so long takes a toll on you. I have complex PTSD and every day I just strive to survive. One thing that has been the hardest is dealing with law enforcement who are not helpful and scary. Also, housing is a major concern. When you come out of something so severe as my story. There is nowhere safe for you to go. Which then makes it hard to get a job. One thing about my story, I never had to worry about never having a place to go and now I do. It is terrifying not knowing where you are going to be. I am still very blessed and honored to have my support system they make me stronger every day. 

Telling a story

What would you tell the world about Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking?

I will start off by saying that Domestic Violence and Human trafficking happens more than people realize. 

It can happen if you are a child, woman, or a man. As much as people know about domestic violence, human trafficking is rarely talked about. A lot of times when people think about human trafficking, they assume that we’re prostitutes and willing participants but, in all actuality, we are forced into this lifestyle. As a survivor of both human trafficking and domestic violence I believe that awareness is a major key. There needs to be more training for those who work with us victims on complex trauma and willingness to understand that all our cases are different circumstances and dangers. There is also very good advocates and case managers out here, you have to be willing to drop everything to save your life to be free. In the mind of a survivor that is very hard to understand the word free. Domestic Violence and Human trafficking change the lives of everyone involved, the danger never leaves you, but you can decide on your own how you want to live with the trauma. You finally make your own choices. That is where I am, I am so glad I made the stand and now standing up for other victims as well. I am willing to stand up for those who do not have a voice. I will use mine to be the voice of domestic violence and Human trafficking. I am not a victim anymore; I am a survivor. 

1:4 #21, The Alternative Model

Survivor at Waters Edge

Please Share What Happened to You:

I was in a physically and mentally abusive relationship for the better half of 8 years. At first things were great and loving but over time I was worn down by his controlling behavior. Through his hand I was introduced to pain killers and we became addicted. This made it easier for him to control me. I shut out all my friends and family at its worst because I knew I wasn’t strong enough to walk away. It began with verbal threats and mockery and turned into me getting slapped, choked, dragged across the floor and stomped on. When I fought back he hit harder. I became suicidal and self harmed. He once put a knife in my hand and told me to kill myself. He had me convinced no one loved me. This continued until the day he left me.

Survivor showing her cutting scars

 

How are you now?

Survivor talking about her experience

These days I am doing much better! It took me a while to heal and move on but I am now in a very loving and supportive relationship. I will always have hurt in my heart but I also have much more room left for love.

I’m happy also to announce that I have been drug free since getting out of said toxic relationship. I am healthy and look forward to a more positive future. You can’t change the past but you can grow from it.

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

If you are in a domestic violence situation, speak up. You have to be heard to get help. I was cowardly and ignored the signs. Looking back, hindsight is 20/20, I know I should have left before it even began. You are not at fault, and you are not alone. You are loved! (Editor’s note: I told this survivor I didn’t think she was cowardly, rather she had been broken, which is part of the process many abusers use to get their way… )

Survivor with light in her hair

1:4 # 19, “Yeya”

(ed note: This survivor’s first language is Spanish. “Yeya” is a loving term for “grandmother” in Spanish, a role this survivor enjoys more than any other!)

Please Share What Happened to You:

I grew up thinking that being beaten almost every day was a “normal acceptable thing”

I wasn’t a “daddy’s girl” like some of my school friends or these beautiful family movies I used to watch. I often ask myself “Why?”

The earliest beating I remember I was five years old. I can’t remember what was the reason why my father beat me up but I do remember is how he did it.
He came in from work drunk, he picked me up by the hair, started shaking me from side to side and threw me against the concrete wall. I also remember my mother’s face, she was terrified, pale, with her hands on her face standing in the corner .
Once my father finished beating me up, she picked me up, took me to my bedroom and put ice in a wash cloth and held it on the back on my head. it was so cold and I was so confused.
This kind of beatings, savage beatings,  were so often that I considered normal for years, if it wasn’t me, was my oldest brother or my middle brother, but more often was me.

One day I asked my mother why my father hated me so much.. she said “you are a female, the last name dies with you” – I didn’t understand at the moment if my mother also blamed me from not being a “boy.

My father used to hit me with his fists or kick me with steel toe boots,  or use belts or any other object he could find. Time out? Oh yeah he used those too, he made me kneel on tin lids that he specially customized for my time out sessions by poking holes and making me kneel on the side where you could honestly grate anything, and the minimum was an hour. I still have the scars.

He would often say ” Don’t ever think that I have any love for you” quite often.

After 15 years of his abuse, I decided to report him to social services, the employee was livid and terrified by the statement.
She did her part, I didn’t have a full understanding on what was supposed to happen, I was just hoping they will remove him from home.
Suddenly, 3 police cars arrived at my house, my father was reading the news paper on the porch as he often did, one of the officers got out of the car and explained the reason why they were there , then he said to my father “take care of that situation so we don’t have to go any further”. See my father was well known and had a lot of influence not only in our town but within the whole Island.

Knowing that I had 3 younger siblings, I confronted my father and I even threatened him with death if he ever laid a hand on any of my 3 younger siblings.

That was the last time my father beat me. He never touched my younger brother again  and the two younger siblings were never beaten.

I felt like I always had to protect not only my younger siblings, but also my mother.

When I reached 19 years old I met the father of my two sons. I never married him. I continued to be a victim, accepting not only beatings from him but also sexual abuse. When my first son was 9 months and I was pregnant with my second child, my mother’s sister sent me to Delaware … she was tired of seeing me with bruises.

How did I get out of it and went from a victim to a survivor? My father’s younger sister, aunt and godmother played a big role in my life. She was always very loving and supportive of me, she helped me to understand that my father and my mother were wrong and that it wasn’t my fault, but the strength, that one came on May 25th 1992 .. the day I had my first son.  I was born the same day he was born. He gave me a reason to fight, he gave me the strength, that day I decided to survive and not to take abuse from anyone ever again.

How are you now?

I also faced suicide, I lived for my sons, this will make sense to you as I tell you my story.
My sons gave me a reason to fight and to put all my fears, bad memories and pain on the back burner.
They are 18 months apart so it was like raising twins.
When they became teens, they needed me less and less, so I thought during that time. My mind found time to remember the awful things I went through an depression settled in. During the same time my work laid off everyone, the severance package wasn’t enough and finding a job in the financing industry was difficult because of the mortgage bubble.  Desperation and anxiety,  added to my depression,  drove me to over dose with anxiety medication. I felt my sons were better off without me. I wanted to stop the pain and I wanted my sons to have a better future. That’s the problem when you have been physically and emotionally abused by the man that is supposed to protect you. My oldest son found me and called 911, I was in the hospital for a while. It is still very difficult for me to talk about this.
I Regret what happened, I wasn’t in control at that time. That’s all I can say about that at this moment.

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

It is important to seek for professional help, but it’s also more important to have support from your love ones. Unfortunately, mental health and Domestic Violence are a big hush hush in this society and even more in the Hispanic or Latino culture.

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 #9, The Photographer

DSCF9381  Please share what happened to you:

He was (of course) unlike anyone I had ever met. He was also quite charming and good-looking, and he was paying attention to me. He gave me an awareness of the connectivity running through everything…a love of coincidences that has reappeared in sobriety. I felt we were brought together by magic…he told me so and I believed him. It was fate that had brought us together; we were soul mates.

I wanted all these things so badly…had wanted them for as long as I could remember. I turned all this need into worship. Any power I might have had before was given over to this man…and I was lost: Immediately, hopelessly, and dizzyingly lost.

And this was only the beginning.

“Tell me everything,” he said, and I told him.

“Tell me about your past relationships,” he said, and I told him more.

He wanted to know everything about me, and I wanted to give it to him. I felt safe—loved. He wanted to watch over me, and I craved it. He placed himself in the role of savior, and I believed I needed one.

I showed him excerpts from my journals, hoping to give him understanding. I carried a weight, too, and wanted him to lift it. I kept only small pieces, tucked into myself unseen, not wanting to hurt him—not wanting him to think less of me.

He took it upon himself to find them anyway, reading my journals without permission, and when he had armed himself with my complete story; when he knew everything, he began to break me down.

“Who was that?” he asked after we ran into Sam as we were out walking. “How do you know him?”

I told him the truth. I thought it was safe. He knew my history, he knew I slept around a lot before I met him, but it was my past—it was behind me, I thought, forever.

“Did you fuck him?”

In the bar I watch him drink shot after shot of whiskey while beers slide down his throat like water. There is a moment—if I could slow down time to show each second lingering like a hummingbird, you could see it—the twist inside him; a snapping of a twig. I can see it in his face, and I get to know this moment well.

Before this moment he loves me, caresses me, kisses me. He is kind. I am happy.

After this moment he is someone else, someone new to me the first time it happens, but one who eventually replaces the boyfriend I thought I had. He despises me, suspects me, yells at me.

“Who are you checking out?” he hisses into my ear. “Do you want to fuck that guy? Is that what you want? You are a fucking whore, you fucking bitch.”

I sob. I cry and protest and beg forgiveness for things I haven’t done. I am begging forgiveness for things I have done. Please love me again, please love me again, please love me.

We end up in screaming matches in the bars, out on the street. Friends are helpless to stop it. He leaves, I curl into myself even further, sobbing, drunk, alone. I often find myself in doorways or in alleys, holding onto the pavement to remind me of this world.

I try to keep my eyes to the ground; to only look at the drinks in front of me, the bartender, him. I only stare directly at the person reading on stage. I am shell-shocked. I don’t want to give him reason to hate me. It doesn’t matter, of course.  He can’t stop that twisting inside from happening unless he stops drinking. We both know that he will not.

He flirts. It is a different woman every few weeks, it seems, and he leads them on. They each fall for it as I have, thinking he will stay with them, but he keeps coming back to me. He loves me, I think.

But no, he owns me. I let him.

I lived in fear of these moments, moments that repeated and repeated; my heart too big for me as I shrunk further into myself.

 

            A definition of insanity:

            Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

 

If I could just be what he wanted; who he wanted. If I could just figure out what that was. If I could only; if he would only…I held on to the magic of those first few months, when I had been swept up into love like dandelion pollen blown to bits.

His birthday one year…our housemates are at a hotel to celebrate their anniversary. I make a special dinner. I wrap gifts with loving hands. I open the wine, light the candles and wait.

I wait while the dinner gets cold. Is this what I have become? Have I been reduced to a caricature of the put-upon female? I am afraid now. He will be drunk when he comes home—if he comes home.

He stumbles in the door reeking of whiskey and cigarettes and laughs at me for being mad. I tuck it away, again, and say a silent prayer for salvation. We sit to eat; we drink wine. He opens his present of books (of course). I am terrified. I know that he reached that turning point long before he came into the house. This is not the man I love, yet over and over again I pretend he is.

I don’t know what set him off this time, but it was only a matter of time for it to happen: hissing insults, hurls of accusations and then chaos—screaming, crying, violent turmoil. He lights the book on fire and throws it at me. My crying and pleading only make things worse, enrage him further. He is upstairs now, destroying my things. He smashes my stereo with his foot. I scream for him to stop, please stop, and he throws two chairs, one after the other, down the stairs at me. Old needle pointed cushion chairs from my parents, chairs from my childhood, turn end over end down the staircase, smashing into the kitchen. My rage begins to surface and I run upstairs to fight him, to stop him. I pull on him, hit him, shout in his face and he only laughs at me and curses me.

These fights blur together in my memory, pock-marked with holes left by drugs never to be filled in:

A door slammed so hard the full-length mirror shattered in pieces onto the floor.

Standing on the side of the street in a shoving match, crumbling to my knees because I just don’t have the energy anymore and cops stop their vehicle. They don’t get out. He convinces them I’m fine, just dramatic and a woman. I think they laugh. I know they drive away.

A wish to escape. A bottle of valium left behind. Swallowing one after the other. He’s passed out now upstairs in our room. The silence envelops me as I sit on the couch, holding the empty bottle. He’ll see, I think. He’ll be sorry. There will be no more of this.

Waking up to my friend shaking me, my housemates have home to a war zone; their poor dog cowering in the basement, the cats all scattered.

I am alive, and I am disappointed.

He left me but came back to torture me often (I let him). I was an addict. Then I was a pregnant drug addict who finally hit bottom. I went into rehab, pregnant with his child. I still wasn’t away from him for a long long time after that. He told me in rehab that he should bring me a razor blade so I could kill myself. This, after bringing me Chinese food and worrying over me.

I had so much guilt over keeping the pregnancy a secret, I still allowed him to dictate terms. I bent over backwards to let him have a relationship with our daughter. I didn’t tap his checks for child support. I was flexible and kind even when he constantly tried to push my buttons. I was a fucking doormat, in other words. It wasn’t until many years later when our daughter stood up to him for the first time for me to finally see him more clearly than I ever had. A narcissist. A misogynist. An asshole. Things I knew, but constantly made excuses for. My daughter is the strong one.

DSCF9411How are you doing now?

I am ok, mostly. I still don’t know what a good relationship looks like (though I got closer than ever with my marriage). I still catch myself being submissive with men once there is romantic or sexual attraction. I defer. I stay quiet. Not as badly as I once did, but it is there. At least I have some awareness of it now. Being under that kind of control with that much intensity leaves a mark, even without punches being thrown.

DSCF9405Is there anything about domestic violence you’d like to tell the world?

I want people to understand that anybody can find themselves caught up in a bad relationship before they realize what is happening. None of these relationships start out horrible. They change subtly at first and once you get into making excuses and start believing that the problems are your own fault, the pattern gets locked in. If it escalates, then you are terrified to do anything different. The abuser has you right where he wants you. It is all about power and control.

1:4 #8, The Artist

DV#8 artist1

Please share what happened to you:

Well, I guess it started somewhat in childhood. I was a Daddy’s girl and my mother preferred my brother to me. My father died the week after I turned 14 on his own 58th birthday. My mother told me his death was my fault (I’d had the flu, Daddy got it, it turned to pneumonia which added to his issues with congestive heart failure).
At the time I didn’t know my mother suffered severe depression and she was taking it out on me. My only thought was to get away from her as soon as possible.
At 22 I married Mr. Wrong, a man nearly 10 years my senior who was jealous of all my friends and even my family. I was naive and thought it was “cute” that he “loved” me so much to be jealous.
I honored that marriage for nearly 11 years. 11 years of being forced to take jobs that no men worked, jobs that paid next to nothing and hide a recording device so in the event a man did come near me I had to record his every word. I was brainwashed. Convinced that I was lucky that he loved me, only HE would have me…. ALL men were like him. I was convinced I was so horrid that even the devil wouldn’t have me… I was truly lucky that mr. wrong would stoop so low as to keep me around.
He was convinced I was cheating on him (I’m sure he was the one doing the cheating). He would time how long it “should” take me to get from work home and if I was more than 1 minute late I would get a beating. Or he would sit and watch my workplace from the parking lot till someone noticed and I got fired. It was hard to get a job with a work history like this, much less trying to explain why I couldn’t keep a job.
He would beat me if he had a dream and it woke him up… he’d wake me to fight, then beat me if I “argued” (I called it defending myself, he called it lying). He broke my nose and choked me so severely my eyeballs bulged out of my head, he nearly killed me twice.
In 1997 I’d had a belly full. He was slamming my head on a concrete block wall so hard I nearly blacked out. I hit him so hard he spun on his heels and pass out on the floor. That was my wake up call. After he came toand he took off to his mother’s, I called a friend to come get me. I spent the next few months in hiding… got a good job in a plant ­ behind locked doors where I thought I’d be safe. He found me. He got into the plant, but was chased out before he found me inside by some muscle that worked the same shift as me who didn’t care for wife beaters.
This was the plant I met the wonderful man I’m married to now.

 

DV#8 artist 4

How are you doing now?

I’m doing better. I no longer have the night terrors. It took years to stop having them or not jump at every noise or have the fight or flight feeling every time I smelled the same fragrance he wore.
I married a man I met at that plant I went to seeking refuge. He was my boss, and put up with my man hating moods. I did everything I could to get rid of him, but he was persistent and saw something in me, we now have two beautiful children together. I’m able to express who “I” am now, be me…. not pretend, not worry if I’ll say the wrong thing or worry that he’ll be jealous because someone spoke to me or shook my hand or hugged me. I have a marriage full of TRUST and LOVE. I’m Blessed and so very thankful.
I have forgiven Mr. Wrong. I am sad he’s alone. I’m still close to my nephew, niece and sister in law and oddly enough… his brother. You don’t stop loving a family just because of a divorce, but not everyone has this type of situation. Had his brothers known, I believe things would have been different (at least that’s what his brother has told me). I don’t care if Mr. Wrong knows where or what I’m doing, I live states away and I’m no longer in hiding. I’m no longer afraid of him and I think that once I stood up and decided that, I was no longer as attractive as a victim to him.
Abusers don’t like strong people.

DV#8 artist3

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

Be strong, you are NOT alone. An abuser will try their best to make you feel like you are. This is how they maintain their control. Had I not run, I could very well ended up dead in one of his blind rages. Regardless of what they tell you, THAT is not love. Love does not hurt, Love builds up.

There is help out there, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to seek it out. I left with my purse and the clothes on my back, literally… I started over from the ground up, from NOTHING. I should have been smarter and planned better, but the opportunity to leave presented itself and I had to move fast and right then. It was the action that saved me. I’m very happy now. I don’t want to even think of what my life would be like if I’d stayed… I may not have even been alive now.

DV#8 artist2

1:4 #7, The Psych Nurse

Psych Nurse in DC 1

Please share what happened to you:

What happened to me?  My mother.

I was born to an 18 year old girl who had recently endured the unexpected death of her father and who had been raised a witness to and victim of domestic abuse herself.  Unlike my father, who was essentially tortured by his father but had a good mother, my mother was not able to empathize with those she would now be in a position to abuse.  So, she carried on the multi-generational legacy of physical and emotional family violence.
She told me once that she pulled my hair then smacked my face when I was less than 2 years old, because I didn’t get her a towel fast enough.  When I was 12 and sad that I didn’t have a boyfriend, she said, “Fat girls can’t have boyfriends.”  I mentioned two overweight girls who had boyfriends, and mom responded, “Fat girls only have boyfriends if they have sex.”
When I was 14, she could tell somehow that I’d been kissed by a boy and she wheedled it out of me.  She wanted to ‘share.’  Two days later, I came home a few minutes late because of torrential rains.  She greeted me at the door screaming at me that I was a whore and a slut.  She slapped me repeatedly and in the process scratched my forehead deeply.  She threw me to the ground and kicked me repeatedly in the stomach screaming that I was a whore.  My sister finally got mom to stop and I was told to go to my room.  The next morning, mom asked where I got the long scab on my face, and when I said ‘From you,’ she denied any violence or name calling.
Many years later, when I was telling my mom about a group on self-forgiveness that I was teaching at the time, mom asked me to suggest an event she could use to go through the self-forgiveness process.   I reminded her of that beating and verbal abuse because frankly I’d never forgotten it.  Her enraged response: “Your [now deceased] dad just sat there.  Why aren’t you mad at him?”  Then she wrote me a long email which I did not finish, but which began by telling me how awful I am.
In fact, my brain had decided dad must have been at work, but my sister confirmed he had been there and done nothing.   It was later that same year, when she ordered him to beat me with a belt, that he came into my room, sat down, and cried, telling me he could not hit me anymore.    He went on to do much better at protecting me, but she is a narcissistic whirlwind of anxiety and abuse that cannot really be contained.
Before his death, he had told her he wouldn’t bring her to my house anymore if she criticized my housekeeping while visiting.  After his death, I hosted her, in her grief, for weeks at a time.  Once, when she was pointing out my lack of housekeeping skills, I mentioned dad told me about not wanting her to do that anymore.  She replied, “Well, your father’s dead now, isn’t he?”
He died while I was performing CPR on him and while she was repeatedly punching me on the back as I was doing the CPR.
She continued to hit me when it suited her well into my adult years, and only when she hit my kids did I call her out on her abuse.  Her response was to hit me, laugh, say it was nothing and I should loosen up.  She continued to blend verbal abuse with sexual guilt;  six years ago, when I told her about a man I was dating, she grabbed my stomach and said, “Do you think he could love you with a stomach like that?  Do you think any man could love you with a stomach like that?”
She took my oldest son to Italy and got him drunk when he was 14.  She then proceeded to tell him for hours what horrible parents he had.  He never had a relationship with her again, as he is very very good at drawing boundaries.  I’ve learned a lot from him about that.  One day, during her grief travels, she was again at my house and I heard her saying the same horrible stuff to my youngest son.  He was 11.  I laid in bed and cried, waiting until she went to bed and then I got my son and we went to 7-11 and bought kettle chips and coca cola, and ate them at the FDR Memorial, (which is quite gorgeous at night.)  We talked about what she had done, and that I had failed to protect him, because I didn’t feel strong enough to confront her.
I told the man who liked me well enough despite my stomach  of that event.  He said, “How long are you going to let your mother abuse you and your children?”  I was stunned.  He’d listened to me complain for 18 months, and thank goodness he finally told me the truth:  I was responsible for what happened from this point on.   I  started setting limits on the number of days she could stay on visits.  She can’t keep herself together long enough to not be verbally abusive during her stays.  Finally, last February, when she asked why I was not answering her daily emailed question about whether the gent who likes me despite my stomach was calling, I said, “I don’t think at my age, I need to tell my mom every time my boyfriend calls me.”  To which she responded, “You are low.” Maybe I’m wrong about my responses here, but it feels dangerous to let her anywhere near my relationships.  I’ve tried to share  a few things with her about this man, and it never goes well.
After she told me I was low, she kept writing, and  I didn’t answer her emails, but I posted something cute to her on Facebook.  I chose that because every single email was a manipulation of drama, feigned concern, and even talk of (false) money woes designed to get me to answer the emails.
Two days after the post, she sent police to my house telling them to check on me because she hadn’t heard from me in so long.  She warned me in a text that she would do this unless I called her immediately.   I could not tolerate the manipulation another moment and allowed the police to arrive.  I’ve not answered any of her calls, texts,  or emails since.
It is probably not surprising that I rarely dated.  When I was 19, I was living with a man who beat me so severely I had two black eyes and pain all over my body when he was done.  He beat me at a concert while dozens of people looked on.  When he got off my stomach, which he was sitting on in order to better punch my face and chest, people then asked if I wanted help.  They disgusted me more than he did, I think.
I got back in the car with him because the concert was in a very bad part of town and I was in danger regardless of where I went and who I was with.  The boyfriend only wanted to know, day after day afterwards, if I would leave him.  I did eventually, because I found a man who was very smart, made me laugh, could earn a living, and wouldn’t beat me, cheat on me, or live off me as the violent boyfriend did.  I married this second man, and he was terrifyingly emotionally abusive and extraordinarily manipulative.  Within a month of our marriage, we were walking over a creek on a footbridge.  He pushed me over the low wall and then grabbed me back.  He denied what he had done and, perhaps in keeping with mom always denying what she had done,  I convinced myself I was wrong.  But I was afraid of him after that.  Once, when I said I wanted to vote for Jesse Jackson for president, he screamed at me for so many hours, I finally locked myself in the bathroom and slept in the tub.
When I wanted to go to a show (with him, but he would never go) or out with friends after we married, he would say “I guess I’ll have to get used to being without you.” or “Why don’t you just divorce me if you don’t want to be with me?”  He would become so enraged while driving, and always blamed that on me, that he would make left turns into oncoming traffic – left turns, you see, puts me closest to that oncoming traffic.  Once, he ran a woman off the road he was so angry.  I did stop driving with him, and do  not, to this day, allow him to drive our children anywhere.  When we were first married, he told me he knew how to kill people without getting caught.  When I was leaving him, he said at the dinner table that he had read a story in a magazine.  It was a horrifying tale of a woman leaving her husband and he broke her fingers so she couldn’t open the car door to get away. I screamed at him to shut the fuck up.  And my kids said – mom, it’s just a story.  calm down.  He pulled a butcher knife out of a drawer, held it up, and said, “Hey, wanna be in a carnival?  All you have to do is stand still.”
He only hit me one time, very early on – and again it was my fault; he had to slam his fist into my knee making me limp for a week because I had emphasized a point I was making by hitting the back of my palm against his shoulder.  I did learn not to do that again!  And I also learned to make my life very narrow to avoid enraging him.  I think many people do not understand how abusive a home can be if they don’t see bruises.  I lost a lot of friends when I made the decision to leave him, but then again, I lost out on a lot of friends by staying with him all those years.
He  threatened suicide off and on during the marriage.  I wanted to save him, help him heal, show him life was worth living.  And in doing so, threw so much of my own life away.  He threatened suicide in front of our children two years before I left.  That night, I prayed that he would do it, then knowing awful for my kids it would be, I  tried once again to get him to accept help.  He told the doctor he was under stress.  I told the doctor how he screamed at us all the time and the doctor put him on medication for bipolar disorder. When I moved out, he said he didn’t need it anymore because I was the only person who upset him.
I would wake up in the morning and there would be rage in the air.  Rage that I hadn’t initiated sex with him.  He could have initiated sex with me but never did.  So, I would do it under fear of his rage.  This to me was rape, coerced sex.    Or sometimes I would just not do it and our house would seethe with his rage all day.  He would sleep with his arm pushing down on my diaphragm, and when I  complained that I couldn’t breathe, he told me I didn’t love him.  Which eventually, of course, became quite true.  He monitored my clothing, my makeup, my jewelry, all my comings and goings.  He would make my young son run errands with me, even on snowy or rainy days.  When I would say – he should stay home, my husband would say, “No, I worry about you.  I want someone with you.”
I decided to leave when four events spread over about 4 years happened.  No doubt, my father’s death at a young age alerted me to the fact that time could be running out for me.   The other events included intense public verbal abuse in front of our kids and dozens of hikers.  That was the last straw, I think, but I was also profoundly touched by the realization that strangers were nicer to me than my husband was.  I especially saw this when he was yelling at me on the phone when I said I had a flat tire, yelling because he said he just knew I’d save the tire changing for him.  As I was reassuring him I would never do that, two men knocked on my door, said they’d noticed I had a flat, and could they please repair it for me.  Angels, perhaps they were.

psychnurse by Washington Monument

How are you doing now?

I am doing very well.  I am out of my abusive marriage more than 7 years now.  I used to always say – “I just want peace.”  About four years ago, I realized I was starting to feel it, to feel at peace.
I was lucky to be born with a very optimistic, sunny nature.  I laugh a lot.  I hope.  Spending time outdoors is very important to me and it’s a commitment to myself I rarely forgo.  I must walk.  I must be outside.
Finances are a huge struggle for me, and a big source of stress since I ended things with my mom, because there’s no one to call if I need, say,  four new tires, except the landlord to tell him I’m gonna be late on the rent.  There’s no margin for error and no savings.  The peace is worth this stress and my daily walks help.
I get immense satisfaction from my work as a psychiatric nurse, but I struggle with the authority figures.  I keep expecting if I am good at my job, hard working and honest and manage to have a profound and positive impact on my patients’ struggles, then I will be treated with respect.  This is not the case.  Co-workers tell me it’s not personal, tell me how they struggle with abuse from our bosses, too.  I can see my brain is different from theirs, my response to difficult people is to personalize it.  Sometimes, I feel scared.  I wonder too much about fairness.  Fortunately, after years of therapy, I don’t really think there’s something wrong with me.  I just can’t shake my futile expectation that things should be fair, people should be nice.
One other co-worker is a product of a violent, abusive parent.  She struggles like I do with worry about treatment from the bosses, worries in a way our co-workers who weren’t raised this way just don’t.
My sons are good young men, and are smart and funny and enjoy spending (at least some) time with me.  It makes me very happy to hang out with them and they always inspire and teach me.  I try to do the same.
The man who doesn’t mind my stomach is still in my life.  He has a troubled background too, and we continue to teach each other about vulnerability and trust and love – and most days, I think we’ll make it to happily ever after.  In the meantime, we are smart and funny and loving and supportive for each other, and that is very good.
(My foster sister thinks I chose a long-distance relationship to stay safe.  I say I hate that aspect of things, and just happened, because of a chance meeting in a game, run into the man I should’ve met so many years ago.  There’s probably something to what she says…)

DSCF7848-2

 

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

I know now, as a psychiatric nurse, which I became when I left  after 25 years of marriage, that my husband’s suicide threats were more about a personality disorder than depression.  I cannot possibly explain to you how I could leave my children at home with a man who I really believed might kill himself.  In the end, he never has, so I suppose my tormented decisions were correct, but I opened my front door with trepidation hundreds of times.
Why do I say this?  The precarious juggling of decisions about how to survive abuse, how to make it moment by moment, how to choose between all bad options is made even more challenging because abuse fills you with self-doubt.   If it’s a parent that does this abuse, it’s a struggle to believe one has a right to happiness.  And abuse is very isolating.
Don’t expect your friends who are or were abused to look at things the way you do.  It changes us.  We are by no means monolithic in response or opinions, but our calculus could be very different from yours.  You can judge us, but it’s better if you walk beside us.  Tell us hard truths, but don’t expect us to follow your advice right now.  We may already know what we should do and are working on the strength to do it.
Kaiser Permanente did a study called the ACE study.  ACE stands for adverse childhood events.  The study proves that domestic violence is a public health issue.  Experiencing domestic violence in its many forms increases exponentially the odds that one will be an addict, that one will die young, that one will have multiple illnesses of a psychiatric and non-psychiatric nature.  Do what you can, do what makes sense to you, to fight this public health emergency.
AND! Speak up when you see a child abused.  Speak up at least to the child when you can – whisper – “this isn’t normal and you don’t deserve to be treated like this.”  I wish to God one person had said that to me when I was a child, and I’ve said it to a few children since becoming an adult.  “How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk” is a wonderful child-rearing manual, especially for people who want to parent differently than their own parents did, but haven’t a clue how.  I love this book and it made all the difference in the world for me and my children.
I think of this poem a lot.  I’m not as cynical as Larkin.  Domestic violence is undoubtedly a generational sickness, but every generation can do better than the last.  You owe it to your children to try.

Philip Larkin – This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

 

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1:4 #3, The Production Assistant

The production assistant, or "office schmuck" as she said, LOL.
The production assistant, or “office schmuck” as she said, LOL.

Please share what happened to you:

When did it start?
How did it start?
Why?! Why did it happen?!
I find myself constantly asking these questions. I don’t know why it happened. Or when it started, or why. My abuser was sick, twisted, and depraved. I hope he doesn’t have kids. Did I do something to deserve this? NO! No one does. EVER!
How did it start and when? I don’t have an exact date. Trauma will do that to you; it will make you block certain things and memories to protect you and your brain. Your mind and memories will only let go as much as you can handle. I can tell you this: He wore a white men’s undershirt with a round collar.  It happened in his bedroom. That was one memory I have; one of the places the abuse happened. He inappropriately touched me. I believe I was around 10 when this started and may have stopped mid to late teens.
During one of his visits home, I went through his things because I knew he had a gun. I held the cold steel in my hands;  cold as the person who abused me. Cold as the people who allowed this to happen and Would. Not. Defend. Me. I held the gun up to the mirror and I saw his face in the mirror. I pictured me shooting him. However, I didn’t. I’m not sure I could have.
I was sexually abused, verbally abused and physically abused. He raped my innocence. He took away my trust in people. He killed my being and my self-worth. In addition, if that wasn’t enough, my abuser accused me of telling on him. It was really an excuse to be his punching bag. He hit me on more than one occasion. I could never defend myself. I felt helpless and hopeless. How do you do that to a child?! How do you live with yourself?
I had other people verbally abuse me. They wouldn’t be there for me, wouldn’t have my back. Would not protect me. One only cared for her social status. The other two turned a blind eye but made sure to let me know I was worthless in their eyes.
My “brother” was my main abuser. My “mother”, my “father”,  and “step mother”, were the co-writers in this terrible play that was my childhood.

Fences and barriers
Fences and barriers

How are you doing now?

How am I doing now? That’s the six million dollar question isn’t it? I think that when you are sexually or mentally abused it is always with you….stored in the filing cabinet in the dark corner of your subconscious. There are days when your subconscious is light as a beautiful summer day…then there are days where it is a dark like the deepest coldest meanest winter night. It will always be with you. Some say get over it..Unless you are in my shoes or other abuse survivors shoes, don’t say that. You get on with your life as much as you can. Keep moving forward…keep smiling on the outside when sometimes you don’t want to on the inside. I have great sunny days where that filing cabinet drawer is locked tight. Then I have triggers. It took me a long time not to curl up inside when I saw a man wearing a white undershirt. I couldn’t stand them. And sometimes I still can’t. Because of my “brother”, I will never have a family. I am being blamed for not stopping the abuse and for not getting help. My “brother” robbed me of my family. He can do right by the world and would never have done this to me according to my “family.” I couldn’t do right by them. I have wondered in the past if the stress from the mental and physical abuse caused my Cancer. I think of my immediate “family” as Cancer. Evil. Destructive. Toxic. How am I doing now? I try to embrace life and to have a positive perspective. I have been in counseling off and on for years. It is tough to do, but oh so worth it.

Production Assistant

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

What do I want to say about Domestic Abuse? Don’t. Just don’t! Don’t hurt your wife, your girlfriend, your husband, your partner, your family or you siblings. We don’t deserve it. If you love us, don’t hit us or take away our spirit. Don’t strip us of our self worth & don’t rob us of our joy.

If you are being abused talk to someone, make a report and file charges. please do what you can to GET OUT NOW! It will only get worse, not better. If he or she loves you, they will not beat you mentally or physically. EVER. Love is NOT abusive.

Do NOT give us backlash when we tell our stories. Do not blame us. Help us. Guide us. Don’t brush us under the rug. Be our voice when we can’t use ours. Be our positive light when we are lost in the dark.

The Past
The Past