Inside Domestic Abuse

The 112th Congress has refused to reauthorize the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, significant in the original passage it opened the door to what had previously been viewed as private family matters and provided both education and funding to help victims and law enforcement. Never, since its original passage has it been the subject of a partisan fight on the floor of either house of Congress, yet this year it is. The overall tone of the Right, women are of no particular value unless they are in the kitchen, pregnant and silent. The objection to the Bill, is the expansion of services, the boogie man of ‘other’; Gay, Transgender, Native Tribes and Immigrant Women are included in this years re-authorization, we all know none of us are part of humanity and should be served, right?

I wrote this several years ago. At the time, it was wrenching to write. Today it remains wrenching for me to read. To answer the question, I know first hand what it is to be a survivor of Domestic Abuse. I also know how very important this Bill is to all those Women and Men who are now and will be in the future Victims. I ran from an extremely volatile, horribly violent relationship after having been hospitalized multiple times with multiple broken bones, I knew I would not see my eighteenth birthday if I stayed. I had nowhere to go, no money and no support structure; still I ran as far and as fast as I could go.

I survived.

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Why we stay, pitiful in our bruised bodies and our excuses, our fear palatable yet even before we are healed we return to the hell that is home. Why do we stay? The question is asked repeatedly, often with a tone of derision. Our answer, sometimes that we love him, sometimes worse that he doesn’t mean to hurt us he loves us. The truth though is harder for us to admit to you when you ask and ourselves; this is all we deserve and we have nowhere else to go.

How did we get here?

Is it because we seek what we believe that we deserve? Do we have a neon sign swinging over our head that says “I am here and vulnerable”; I will take it, whatever you dish out. I will take it and even be grateful to you for staying one more day, one more month, one more year.

Have we been so convinced by our mothers, our fathers, or society that we must conform, not speak out; not fight back that we will take the slaps, the closed fists, the kicks and on our knees begging for it to end still be thinking that he loves us and if only we do better it will not happen again?

Why is it that we stay? 

Why do we make excuses, transparent excuses for the broken teeth, the black eyes, the bruised arms? Why do others believe our excuses? Do they really think that we are so incapable of walking from our beds to our baths that we run into doors once a month or once a week? Is it easier to believe that we are so clumsy that we cannot walk up or down a flight of stairs? Do those who claim to care for us find it easier to ignore the truth than acknowledge that we are in danger?

Why is it that we allow ourselves to be so brutalized? What happens to us that our flight or fight instinct is entirely broken? We find no comfort, realizing even those to whom we reach out for help find us incomprehensible in our pain. Even if we finally find it in our spirits to run, to escape we are broken by the prison of our shame. Our defeat is what we carry with us; our inability to explain our willingness to take what our abuser gave; his love in closed fists, slaps, kicks, hate filled words that tore down the walls of our humanity and convinced us that we had no value in our homes or in the world.

Run, with Nothing but You

The telephone, our greatest enemy each time it rings we jump through our skin; we know it might be him. We know we are still weak and frail; that we have no defenses against his apologies and his protestations of his own weakness. Even through our nightmares; those screaming, cold sweat nightmares; we know that if we hear his sugar coated voice telling us that it will never happen again; we might believe him because we need. Who else will love us now? He has destroyed all that was ever lovable in us. We know that in our heart and soul; in whatever humanity we have left we know that we might listen and might return. It will be good for a while; as good as it was in the beginning. Then it will start again, we know that too; even knowing these absolute truths; we are weak and fearful and lonely.

Our frailty during our initial freedom, so tenuous, unreal to us because there is no one to confirm our existence and we don’t know where to begin. The slightest sound behind us is no longer the precursor to pain. The footsteps on the stairs, not a reason to fear but maybe a friend come to call instead. Bumps in the night no longer herald a rape by the person who promised to love and care for us. Still all those sounds send us into a paroxysm of fear, self-doubt and finally anger that our lives will never be without our abuser because he is inside of us; he has replaced everything  that was good with his vileness. We may have escaped him physically but we will never escape him fully, we think this now and in our hearts know this as a truth. We have lost ourselves to his definition of us, weak and of no value.

Nightmares

Our minds work in miraculous ways. If we can stay gone long enough we begin to heal and rebuild. We can begin to take the abuse he called love and place it in appropriate boxes sealing them tightly and marking them as our hated history. When the boxes are full of our past we can stack them in a room within our mind padlock the door; knowing that some day we might return to examine them to try to understand what led us there; but not today. Today just stack the boxes tightly, shut the door and turn the key. Face each day knowing that the door exists and all the boxes exist waiting for us to be strong and come back to learn; but not today. That we might revisit them in our nightmares and run screaming down the corridors of our sleeping mind; waking in cold sweats and shaking in fear; this we can escape. This will happen for some of us it will happen forever, when we least expect it sometimes at the end of what we thought was a great day. In our nightmares the maniacal horrors of our past will sneak through the cracks of that door we locked to terrorize us; to remind us of what was or what might have been.

Future Glory

Our history does not have to hold us hostage; we can shape our future we can redefine ourselves. We were somebody before they arrived to tear us down. Somewhere else in our mind we have a room with a locked door that contains the “us” before them, before the abuse. We have the key to that door also, even if it is lost in the trash that our abuser has piled on us. We have the ability to unlock that door and find the “me” that was before them. Perhaps we will find there were reasons we let them in, the neon sign that was lifted above our heads inviting them in; we can fix this. Possibly we will only find ourselves in the here and now that we are stronger now, more able to face today because of our past. Perhaps we will only find only that we can let go, say no more and look forward without fear.

Whatever we find we will ultimately know that we are precious, worth more than the blows, the slaps, the kicks, the venom that dripped from the lips of our abuser. We will know no amount of pain masked as love is the truth and abuse is not the reality that we deserve in our lives. We will roar our anger and our frustration at the waste of our days in agony rather than joy. We will cry out our pain. We will whisper our validations of self and finally scream our truths in the wind if no one else will hear us.

We will most certainly stand free of what was told to us as the truth knowing finally it was a lie.   

Comments

  1. Reblogged this on MrMilitantNegro™.

  2. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel.

  3. I used to work in the prison system. One of the inmates on my caseload had lured his wife back to their home with the ruse of getting some of her belongings. While their child sat outdoors in the car, he stabbed her repeatedly with such force the handle of knife broke. He left her for dead and went to the bathroom to wash the blood up. She wasn’t dead, and managed to pull herself to the front door. He saw her, picked her up and repeatedly thrust her head into the wall.

    Even after that, she lived, so instead of a murder charge, he was pled down to aggravated assault, even though she eventually died as a result of the attack. When I came along this man had a job working outside the prison fence.

    At the same time there was a woman sitting on death row for hiring a man to kill her violent husband who had terrorized her and her son. Eventually her sentence was commuted and she was released, but only after her execution date neared and the public outcry was ear-splitting.

    Where’s the justice?

    • Justice is a funny thing isn’t it? I have an entire series on Crime & Punishment, I suspect I am not done with it yet. I volunteer as part of Victim Impact behind the walls in Federal, State and City including the Juvenile system. I have heard some pretty horrific stories from both Victims and Offenders over the years.

      I don’t know that Justice is something we can find in the stories we tell. It is a bar that moves constantly. Each story is different and that those weights seem to be stacked sometimes don’t they?

      Thank you for reading, adding your stories as well. Given your experience I hope if you get time you will read some of the stories in Crime and Punishment.

      Val

  4. This is such an excellent article and I agree with every word written.. I can add nothing more of worthy note..Except It pains my heart that violence against women in domestic violence still goes on and lets not forget the men too who from time to time get the same treatment.. From my own turbulent childhood of witnessing arguments which would turn violent.. I abhor violence of any kind. Thank you for highlighting and I am only sorry that you experienced this first hand… No wonder you have become the woman you are.. a remarkable achievement. Thank you Valentine ..~Sue

    • Thank you Sue, for visiting and for commenting. It is so critical that all of us stand up and say enough and no more. I also reject violence, though I am still struggling with a temper more and more I am learning to offer peace instead.

      Val

  5. I am so sorry you went through that and am so happy to hear you managed to get out. I’ve never been through a physically abusive relationship, but a very verbally and emotionally abusive one and I can understand why it is hard to leave, despite it being so obvious to everyone else that I should. Now to celebrate the rest of your life. Thank you for sharing this.

    • It has been many years, but still thank you. Abuse is abuse, no matter the form it takes in the end it leaves scars. We cannot hold a measuring stick up and say this is worse than this. As survivors we have to say any abuse, no matter the form is wrong and we owe it to those within abusive relationships to offer a door that is open so they can walk through. We owe our stories, as hard as they might be to tell, so others can hear them and say to themselves; I also have a story to tell and I also am strong enough and valuable enough, I also am going to run before it is to late, I also am going to save myself. The truth is no one will save us and now with Congress making this a partisan fight, victims of Domestic violence are at even more risk. Now more than ever we, that is survivors must stand up and say we are here and we deserve better.

      • Thank you, Valentine. I definitely plan to share some of my story on my blog. I agree it is important to let others know they aren’t alone, and that it is not okay.

  6. I am quiet, thankful, supportive. You survived because you have a purpose as yet unfulfilled. You are doing a good job.
    Love you,
    Red.

    • Thank you, Red. Even today all these years later I remember that person who ran and she makes me weep. Weep in rage and even sometimes in fear. But what makes me even madder is that we could go back, to that time when there were no protections.

  7. Those who voted against the bill should definitely be voted out of office. I don’t understand how this was rejected. I’m in a place that a woman has to be tolerable of men’s behaviors because she has no rights. This should be a non-issue in America in this century.

  8. A beautifully written post. You have a gift for sharing and helping others heal, I believe.

    This post made me realize two things:

    (1) that I am incredibly lucky to be happily married. My husband is a good man, has never abused me physically or psychologically. He rarely laughs at my jokes but, well, I can live with that; and

    (2) that I am going to work myself hoarse for candidates who will work to help be sure that the 113th Congress is a lucky one for women, family and sanity.

    We need to get rid of the Neanderthals.

    • Thank you Elyse.

      I have had a strange life I think. Sometimes not believable, except that I lived it, survived it and learned some hard lessons. It it sometimes hard to pull out my history, I have tendency to want to write in the third person, not acknowledge or own my history. It is why I have been quite lately, as I struggle to come to terms with what I am willing to expose.

      But as they say, in for a penny. I will work through it. If it helps, touches and brings awareness. Then it it is worth it.

      • Strange doesn’t begin to cover it. But you are a testament to survival in so many ways. Elegant, complete, victorious survival.
        Perhaps a book is in order. Because that can be in the third person with as much of your story as you want to mix into the one you create. (I just finished re-reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, a brilliant tale of the oppression of women in the Taliban’s Afghanistan.)

        • I have read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini also. I don’t cry that easy, not really, but when it comes to abuse of women, I lose it. I know I am no longer a child, but where is the justice?

          • You know, I think that the Republican war on women, which is real, and really happening is a wake up call. Folks who don’t believe in going forward should not be in charge. Period!

          • I don’t cry except at the injustice of a world that forgets we exist and nurture the world. I think I am just angry and my tears are those of fury.

      • You write beautifully, Valentine. I’m in awe of your courage and persistence in overcoming the unfairness life has indelicately strewn in your path.

        • That is a great way of saying it, indelicately strewn in my path! One of my sisters once said to me that these things happened because I had the strength to endure them, where others did not. I had the strength to learn and then teach where others did not. She is very religious, where I am not. I think she was trying to convert me that day, it didn’t work 🙂

  9. This has been a terrible week about abused women and children. I’m overwhelmed.

    • I think part of what brings so much to the surface is what is happening in this country and across the world.

      • I also think it is being brought out into the open for all eyes to see whether they are paying attention or not. I always believe in rep by pop. Can we indeed make a difference by denoucing the abuse?

  10. Very real and scary I forgot what it was like. I hated him so much He used to tell me I was a fat pig. 30 years later, I’m looking good and he is the fat pig. ha ha ha ha ha ha
    xxx

    • I know, it is our fondest wish to forget. I haven’t seen my abuser in 30+ years except in my nightmares. I sometimes hope he is dead and other times hope he is alive and sorry, I am a great believer in remorse and redemption. Holding hate, that is hard it corrupts our life and our future. I just wanted to get to indifference, I am not sure I ever did entirely. Living well, having a wonderful life as Deb has said is in the end the very best revenge.

      Thank you for reading Dolores I hope all is well.

      Val

  11. This is a very powerful post, Val. I too am a survivor of of abuse. Been in the hospital more times than I can remember for stitches and concussions. I did like you. I ran out and as fast and as far as I could get. But he found me anyway, and it was horrible. The law would do nothing. They’d put him in jail over night, send him to classes for anger management, but did nothing to help me so he would not do it again. One time while I was standing on the Golden Gate bridge with him and while he was leaning over looking down into the bay I had actually put my hands up as to push him. That’s when I stopped. No, I didn’t push him off, he was not worth my life. I’d do time for that. But he is the one all along that should have been doing it…many times over. I got away finally, but it took a longer way with a name change to get away from the jerk.
    My heart goes out to all those that suffer from this sort of abuse. I can only hope that first they can get away from it, and secondly, very important to take a good look at themselves to understand how they draw people like that into their lives.
    Hugs, xx

    • I was 15 when it started, early enough in life to accept the words and thus accept they were true. Someday maybe I will tell the rest of the story. Back then there was no protections, it was a “family matter”; all he had to say was ‘that is my wife’ they let him go, stopped restraint even let him ride to the hospital in the ambulance. He literally would have had to kill me to ever have been brought into the justice system. That was the 1970’s.

      We cannot, as a nation as a society, go back to that. We cannot all ourselves to forget what that time was like. It is already so hard for women and men to get out from under the fear and shame of being a victim of domestic violence. There is already so much people don’t understand. To have this become another brick in the political fight is simply horrific.

      I am sorry you went through this. I am glad you survived, I hope you did more than survived I hope you found glory.

      • I remember when there was no help for for the abused spouse. I had a girlfriend in the early 80’s that was being abused by her husband, but the law would do nothing.
        No, we can’t go back to that…primitive, disgraceful!

        Yes, I did find glory! I have a wonderful life, which is actually the best revenge. And you, I hope you found glory as well, Val, and believe that you did!
        Have a good evening.
        xo

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