All domestic violence can be boiled down to power and control.
Power and control is the use of tactics and ways to gain power and control over people.  No matter what tactis and ways are used…they are all forms of abuse.
This is the third part of this series….please see the others.
Domestic Violence Part 3: My Prayers To God

Depression. Anxiety. Fear. Guilt.

These are words to describe domestic violence. Guilt is one that isn’t spoken about often. When you look at the emotions associated with domestic violence most people can agree that depression, fear, and anxiety are normal. Most people don’t understand the guilt part. Logic tells you that no one should feel guilty for being abused, but I’m here to tell you that it is a naturally emotion and it is a strong one. Guilt for a lot of people is the reason they stay in the relationship even when they know they need to go. When you talk to victims of any type of violence, guilt is often an emotion described.
Often times the victims try to find the fault within themselves by making statements like, “I just don’t know what I’ve done wrong.” You hear bullying victims, molestation victims, rape victims, and domestic violence victims say it often. It’s a common thread that flows through victims of violence.

This is the third part of a story of a woman.

She is a woman that over the course of three relationships and 15 years had lost her voice, her self esteem, and her hope. This story is one that speaks of the loss of identity in the hopes for emotional safety. This person is strong, independent, and what she would ultimately find…resilient. She is incredibly resilient. Let me explain what emotional violence does to a person.

Emotional violence is like a silent killer of your soul and your self esteem. Recovery from emotional violence will take a journey of spirituality that will lead you down the road of self discovery and ultimate forgiveness of not just the abuser, but of yourself.

This story will not be easy to read and it isn’t easy to write. This story is about a marriage filled with manipulation, lies, affairs, more lies, two very disconnected people, a child, verbal abuse, fear, and the potential of a story you could one day read about in the paper. I’m going to start somewhere in the middle.
The line he said was this, “I would rather you be dead than divorced from me.” The reason why the line was said is unnecessary to the story. What is important is that a line like that is to do nothing but instill fear. In this marriage, the wife had learned to start fighting back. She would ask for him to hurt her so she could call the police. He was too smart for that and say, “You aren’t worth jail.” She wasn’t afraid to use her words. She wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself. What she was however, was afraid of leaving. She was also afraid of fighting in front of the child. When he started in on her she would just sit and take it. She would be silent or say, “I’m sorry.” She would beg him to lower his voice. She would beg him to stop cursing in front of the child. She would beg him to stop calling her names like, “worthless bitch.” She put up with him, because breaking up in her past always made her out to be the bad guy and the break ups were beyond brutal. She often times found herself sitting in the corner of the kitchen while he stood over her just screaming insults and obscenities. He threatened to come to her work and call her boss to ruin her career. He used her friends as pawns as well as the child. He knew one thing, that she wanted no one to know and that one threat of exposure is what kept her in fear.
She was never good enough. He tried to diminish her professional accomplishments and did everything in his power to make her stop doing the one true thing she loved…which was teaching dance. She taught on the weekends and would be gone all weekend and when she came home on Sunday night, she knew what was coming. Sunday was always a bad night.
There were things she had started to learn. She learned to not pull her car up so close to the house so she could get out if she had to. She learned to not tell him who all her friends were. She asked for keys to her friends houses in case she needed them. She had a spare car key in her glove box. Her cell phone was always charged. She never kept her Facbook page up or email and not because anything on her computer was bad. It was because she didn’t want him to have access to her friends. Over the course of the years she had learn how to leave if she had to. She learned to tread lightly on subjects such as money. She learned to never offer him advice on his career. She learned to never tell him how to parent. She learned this, because any conversation that made her seem smarter would always lead to a fight.
Here are some other things she learned. She learned to make sure the house was always clean. She learned to endure emotional violence and go to work the next day with a smile on her face. One important lesson she learned more than any other. She learned to not cry. Never cry. Never give them the satisfaction is what she learned.  The one things she didn’t learn in all the years of abuse. She didn’t learn how to ask for help. Her pride was still too great.

Before they got married he lied to her about his debt. He lied to her about his past. She came to find out that he had PTSD from being in Iraq.

PTSD is a common indicator of domestic violence, so if you know a woman married to a vet, please keep an eye on her.

He drank a lot. This was a very dysfunctional home.

So, why would any rational woman with any level of confidence and intelligence stay? It wasn’t money. She made more. It wasn’t a lack of friends. She had a lot of them. She had a loving family. So I ask again. Why would any rational woman with any level of confidence and intelligence stay? Two words…guilt/fear.

“If you leave me I will have nothing.”

“So you are going to do to me what everyone else has.”

“So you would tear your son away from his father.”

“You never loved me.”

“Without you I might as well kill myself.”

For some reason, the messages of guilt were harder to hear than the messages of fear. I can’t explain it and I don’t understand it. All I know is that guilt is a powerful emotion.

So, as in the other two posts I’m going to tell you a story. This story as hard as it was to endure, was the beginning to my way out and my personal salvaton. One Sunday night, I had gotten home from a weekend of dance in Orlando. It had been a great weekend. Lots of friends. Lots of dance and lots of hard work. On this particuliar Sunday night, a very close friend was staying with me until he left for his flight back to Wisconsin the next day. My husband knew he was staying. He knew him well. He was probably my best friend. He was also gay. That part is important. When we got home, we all chatted a bit, until he went to bed and my child. My friend and I stayed up very late talking. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time and had a lot to talk about from the weekend and just life in general. We went outside to talk, because my house echos. At some point in the night, my husband got up and realized we were still out back talking. He came outside and asked one simple question, “Why aren’t you in bed?” I knew where this was headed, but my friend didn’t and I didn’t want a scene. I told my husband that we just got caught up talking and we were going to bed soon. (This is called justifying your actions to keep the peace.) He went back into the house. About 5 minutes later he came outside and asked again when I was going to bed. I said, “In a minute.’ So here it starts. “So you have time for your “gay” friends and not me.”  Are you guys f****?” “You don’t care about me.” “Where were you all weekend?” This went on for a while and I started fighting back. My friend, kept telling me to just go to bed. He begged me to not fight back and to let him basically wear himself out. So I took his advice and went inside and went to bed. I found out something the next morning that I didn’t know was happening.

While this fight was going on, my friend was texting all of my close friends. He was texting them almost word for word what my husband was saying. He was describing the body language and behavior. He was describing my actions and my body language. The next morning, right before I left to drop of my child at school, my friend…my really good friend…told me to call in sick to work and he told me that he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He had been spending the night getting my friends together and coming up with a plan. We all met for breakfast and I basically did very little talking, while they did a lot of talking. Here is what the general gist of the conversation was:

  • Stop hiding from us and keeping secrets
  • Stop minimizing and basically lying to us
  • Stop trying to be so strong
  • We are going to make a safety plan and YOU are going to follow it

When I was finally allowed to talk, I countered everything they had said. It isn’t as bad as you think. It was just one bad night. I even tried to blame them a little bit. Well let me tell you that none of that worked. The best friends a person can have in life are tough friends. They don’t let you get away with your own crap and they last forever. Somehow over the course of the next couple of hours, I found myself crying and telling them everything. I told them about a night a long time ago in a past relationship when my first husband had an affair with a student of mine, all to get back at me. I told them about the time I did fight back by grabbing a knife off the kitchen table for protection, but he overpowered me and cornered me to the back of a wall while he held the knife. I told them about attempts that men did to destroy my career and my friendships. For this first time in my life I talked and as hard as it was, it ultimately brought me peace. Theer were no more secrets and no more lies. They took turns reassuring me of my worth. Because they were my lifelong friends and they knew who I really was. We made a pact that day that none of us were to ever feel alone again. We reaffirmed our friendship and our love.

When a person feels love, true love, they can survive anything and they can begin to find their voice again. I want to leave you with some very short take aways about the three posts about violence that isn’t often spoken of…emotional violence.

  • Any person can find themselves in an abusive relationship…anyone.
  • Abuse is not about the physical. The physical is just the end result. When you look at the statistcis of women who are abused, ask one question of that data. Who is not represented here? Emotional violence is hard to quanitfy and hard to recognize.
  • Emotional violence is just as scary and is a spiritual death of your soul and your self-esteem
  • Sex, money, friends, and children are used as pawns in this deadly gameof emotional violence
  • A person in a mentally abusive relationship can lose their sense of self to the point that is unrecognizable to anyone around them. A person facing this will find ways to blame themselves. They will often times think they deserve it.
  • Abuse is not always the Burning Bed or What’s Love Got To Do With It. We have to stop telling our young women that abuse is only physical violence. Physical violence is the end result. The emotional and mental abuse is the true damage and the real signs of violence.
  • Many women don’t speak to anyone about their emotionally abusive relationships. I was a master at cover up. I could even speak to a crowd of people about abuse and no one would ever know I was in it. I was that good.
  • Domestic Violence is not about the bruises on the outside, they are about the bruises on the inside

In this country, we sanitize violence. I’ve said this before. We are so use to it we don’t even see it when we are in it. We don’t recognize violence when our friends and family are in it. Violence has turned into a media sound bite on our way to the next reality television show filled with misogyny and female anger.

I would like to end this way. I would like to go back to the title of this article. When a person is emotionally beaten down, they pray. Their prayers are as silent as their tears. My prayers to God were many and what I felt as unheard. I prayed to him to let me stay calm and take it. I prayed for a way out. I prayed for the abuser to die. I prayed for me to die. I prayed for an answer on what to do. Once the words of violence started, I prayed to let it end fast. I begged for forgiveness from what, I don’t know.Over time and after the silence was broken my prayers changed. They weren’t prayers anymore. They were an inner strength that was coming from somewhere deep and I started to find my self-esteem again. I started to find my dreams again and those dreams I found had changed. I decided that there are reasons we go through things in life and as painful as those things are sometimes, it’s up to survivors to tell the story and stop the violence and make the world a better place. I stopped begging for forgiveness and started my journey toward freedom. In one six month period I looked at everyone in my life and cut out anyone who had done me harm. I just cut them out and I didn’t look back through the eyes of guilt and regret. I surrounded myself by only positive people and when they would turn negative, I would ask them to stop and use peace in their words. I’m happier and things aren’t perfect yet, but I’ve got friends who have my back and I’ve learned to let them.

I encourage you to talk to your friends and family. Ask them how they are doing. Look into their eyes when they talk. Listen to see if they describe their relationship with words of love or what I call the hidden words of fear. Make sure they know they can trust you. I have found that most people have a hard time reaching out for help and the stronger you think that person is, the harder it is for them to show that side of vulnerability.

I have a very twisted obsession. I love Broadway music. I love to torture my kid in the car while singing loudly out of tune to Broadway hit songs. I love how musicals can bring a story to life. In my last post I talked about how at one point I identified with the song from Les Mis, “I Dreamed a Dream.” Today I end with my new favorite from the play, “Wicked.” It’s the song, “Defying Gravity.” It speaks to me and hopefully speaks to all people looking for their voice.

 

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules Of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes: and leap!
It’s time to try Defying gravity 
I think I’ll try Defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down!
I’m through accepting limits ”cause someone says they’re so”
Some things I cannot change But till I try, I’ll never know!
Too long I’ve been afraid of losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love It comes at much too high a cost!
I’d sooner buy Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye I’m defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down

So if you care to find me look to the western sky! As someone told me lately: “Ev’ryone deserves the chance to fly!”
And if I’m flying solo at least I’m flying free To those who’d ground me take a message back from me
Tell them how I am Defying gravity
 I’m flying high Defying gravity
And soon I’ll match them in renown

And nobody in all of Oz no Wizard that there is or was is ever gonna bring me down!

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