Books, family, Life, Maybehedoesnthityou, Motherhood, speaking up, Women

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

Time and Time Again

Ben Elton’s book ‘Time and Time Again’ details travel backwards in time, to correct an event that had world-wide catastrophic events. At book club, someone asked the rest of us: ‘If you could go back in time, what would you change about your life?’ A personal twist on the novel’s societal concern.

My immediate reaction was ‘Nothing’. I made the decisions I did, the choices I enacted, based upon who I was at the time, with the information then available. How could I change that? Indeed, to change those decisions would mean to change me, to change my family of seven sons.

Does this mean that all my choices and decisions have been good?

Far from it.

They are, however, mine. They make me whom I am today, both the good and bad. They form the substance of my relationships – with family, with God, with others – and the essence of my theological, philosophical, and personal understanding.

I have written before of domestic abuse. Surely, I am not ‘owning’ that?

Well, I am. I am not a victim or even a survivor. I am not an over-comer. I am a woman who has experienced abuse and, in decrying the abuse of myself and my sons and the abuse of other women, I am strong. I am not broken and no, my sons do not come from a broken home. We are well, thank you very much. Our home has peace. We grow in virtue and compassion. We have a radar or sixth sense for abuse and control in and of others. We can see through the bullshit (excuse the language, but we can).

I made a choice to marry young, to continue to be a rescuer, because that is who I was at age nineteen. I didn’t deserve the abuse. But, be sure, my seven sons from that abusive relationship are beings I would never wish away.

I have made many mistakes in my life. But having seven children and homeschooling are not any of the mistakes. To erase or to manipulate my history in one swift time machine trip would be to erase the good with the bad.

I am who I am. I fight for others. I own my choices and stand firm against abuse. I am not a victim. I am whole.

In a life well lived. In a life that I plan to continue to live well.

In fact, there may just be truth in the old adage ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.

family, Life, Maybehedoesnthityou, religion, speaking up, Women

What happens when women speak up.

What happens when women speak up, speak up about abuse and control, start afresh, move on, create a happy life for themselves and their children?

I will tell you what happens. The abusive partner fears losing control and takes steps to punish the woman for moving on and for daring to speak up for other women, against abuse. He threatens. He tries to manipulate the children. he generates fear in the woman, he implies possible legal action, so much so that she almost stops speaking up. For herself, and for others.

Why can’t he move on? She ponders.

And – Maybe I should stop speaking about women and abuse because, you know, he is  causing trouble. Again.

Let me start with the first question. Why can’t he move on? To understand this one has to understand the mind of those who manipulate and control and abuse.

Step one involves the angry partner refuting the claim of abuse. ‘I wasn’t violent’ is a common refrain. But, as Lundy Bancroft writes in Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men:

“Physical aggression by a man toward his partner is abuse, even if it happens only once. If he raises a fist; punches a hole in the wall; throws things at you; blocks your way; restrains you; grabs, pushes, or pokes you; or threatens to hurt you, that’s physical abuse. He is creating fear and using your need for physical freedom and safety as a way to control you.”

Step two reminds the woman of why, exactly, he can’t let go. They, the abusers, see their partners (yes, even ex-partners) and their children (especially their children) a16266029_10212021609395491_5537952951364669240_ns possessions.The abuser become almost crazy at the thought of losing control over the woman – or, if it seems that they have lost control, they become almost crazy at the thought of losing control over their children. (Although, who am I fooling with the ‘almost’. Seriously.). Children become a weapon in the fight against the woman, a fight always couched in terms of ‘justice’ and ‘charity’.

The third step allows the woman to separate the rhetoric from the truth. She comes to see that he never lets go because (in some families) he uses religious language, and the misguided support of some in the church, as a weapon. It is a misuse of such religious language, of course.

An understanding of the initial question (Why can’t he let go?) does not always help with the next question the woman asks. Should she stop speaking up about abuse, since he may use the speaking up in retribution?

The choice is hers, and hers alone. But I am reminded of a history of silencing  people and groups who have suffered, the don’t-rock-the-boat mentality,  and how, in the end, that doesn’t serve to help women like me. Or the woman of this narrative.

To speak up is to raise awareness. To name abuse, for those who are able, for those who are safe (for safety of women and children is of prime importance)  is to give it less power.

And to continue to speak up, even when threatened or when someone tries to silence you, takes courage.

It, the speaking up, is not for everyone. There are concerns for mental and physical health and protection.  But for some (for me) it is both a necessity and a virtue
.

 

Books, Life, Maybehedoesnthityou, Women

I am strong. I am safe. I am brave. But….

Cheryl Strayed, in her book Wild,  describes her journey, hiking across one side of the U.S. while facing her ‘demons’. She wrote that she told herself that she would change the script that many women are told. She told herself that she was strong, safe, brave.

I liked that. It fit my script, that dialogue of ‘I’ve got this. I can do this’.

But.

But what? There comes a time when you think, no, you know, you have recovered from abuse. That #Maybehedoesnthityou except when he does abuse. You feel safe . You feel strong. You know life is good, mostly.

But then someone who knows your partner or husband that was, who has known no abuse, who perhaps mistrusts other women (we are taught as young girls to see each other as competition, to be mean girls), who is charmed by the manipulative narcissist, makes a comment. One that throws the abuser into the casual conversation, as though the abuse never happened.

He is validated yet again. His opinions are considered as valid as yours. But they can’t  be, you want to cry. He doesn’t  get to abuse me, and inflict emotional, verbal and mental abuse on  our children, and get off,  scot free.

Yet he does. Statistics show that, time and time again. You wonder if you will ever feel safe. Or free.

Then you remember. You have changed that narrative. The abuser can’t hurt you any more. You are not a victim. And it’s okay to feel these surges of panic every now and then. They make you remember.

Remembering is good. It ensures you will never be go back there. And it ensures that you will help others, that you have not forgotten what it feels like to be unsafe, so that you can empathise and not judge, and help others to safety.

Even with your (occasional) writing.

Like Cheryl Strayedinstagramcapture_c33d1863-1f14-4cb9-9f68-abd11155e98a.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catholicism, Life, Maybehedoesnthityou, Motherhood, Women

We don’t talk about it. But we should.

The #Maybehedoesnthityou campaign has taken hold on social media. And rightly so. It describes emotional  and mental abuse that may or may not be coupled with sexual and physical abuse. It opens up the door, that door behind which we silently cry, too afraid or ashamed to share.

I know. I suffered this abuse. For more than thirty years.

I have never talked about it. How could I? I took the blame and shame on myself. I protected my sons.

And I am a survivor not a victim. I have moved on, with the grace of God.

So I do not dwell.

And yet.

And yet.

Every time I read a tweet from another person, especially another woman, in the #Maybehedoesnthityou campaign, I gasp. I know it describes me. The me that was. It seems all abusers are alike. I know that, somewhere deep inside the woman who is a mother, a friend, a teacher, a student, a writer, a capable and competent, happy, flourishing person, there lies that woman who was victimised. And to forget that woman, even as I move on, is to refuse to give her a voice.

She needs a voice. The other women in similar situations need a voice.

This is something not to dwell upon, I’ve been told. Sure. I get that. But it is something that must be talked about. Aired. Awareness raised. So our sons and daughters can learn and grow. So those still being abused can know, too, that others have experienced the same, have made changes, have moved to happier places. It is possible.

So this is why I take the first, few, tenative tiptoes to share. Beginning now. For me, in one sense, but mostly for you. You know who you are. You know who needs to hear this.

Hear what? Let me  explain a tweet, that I retweeted.

but he’s ruined your ability for trust in future relationships..

He does. He makes fun of your weaknesses, he critiicses you, you are too friendly or not friendly enough, too fat, too involved with the kids or not involved enough. Should work outisde of the home. Should not. Too Catholic. Not Catholic enough.

He takes your vulnerabilities and twists them, uses them against you, all the while showing his public face as a moral, caring, hard working husband and father. So that others believe, too, that you are the one with issues. They believe his ‘press’ and you, you are too tired and hurt and confused and scared to counteract. He lies and cheats. He manipulates. He turns others against you. And now, your trust has been betrayed. Your trust in him and in those ‘friends’ who gave him sympathy and tell you, you are a strong woman, work on your marriage, be better.  They don’t know your silent screams and tears, as you curl into a ball each night.

You learn to mistrust. Yourself and others.

Sound familiar? You are not alone.

#Maybehedoesnthityou gives you a voice. As does the virtue of hope.

InstagramCapture_8ac1fcdf-a0d2-4a8a-9ec8-02a109d92aa2