Revelations: Find The Beauty In Who You Are!

If you let someone else define your beauty and self worth, they will. Be brave, don’t just stand in your beauty, acknowledge, and proudly own it.

One of the defining characteristics of victim thinking is looking for self-definition and self-worth from the outside in. One would think that this thinking is relegated only to victims of domestic violence and abuse but, that is just a myth. The truth is, anyone who seeks acknowledgement from outside sources in an effort to define and confirm who they are, is guilty of and aspect of victim thinking. This leaves an individual extremely vulnerable to emotional and psychological manipulation and exploitation.

Not defined by society as beautiful

Not defined by society as beautiful

I love Rick Guidotti’s exploration of what has been socially rejected as beautiful. The rejection of being albino is not a trend, it is something that has persisted for centuries and has been cross cultural. What started out as a whim for the photographer, turned into a mission of discovery and an active stance for the beauty of a person.

The repercussions of being rejected by a society are so deep and profound that it is life changing. Imagine what it would be like to be poked fun at for having a misunderstood characteristic your entire life. One of our most basic needs is love and acceptance. One would think that we would get plenty of that from birth from our parents but, that is not always the case. One can never know why, but parents, who are supposed to love unconditionally, can reject their young on one level or another. Sometimes it just a poor communication that is interpreted as rejection. Either way, rejection takes its toll.

It leaves a person searching and asking why they are not valued. It leaves a person looking for someone to give them value where they feel they have none. Unfortunately, this is the vulnerability. This is where anyone can step in and tell you what your value is and all of the hoops you must jump through to achieve it. This can be a lifetime cycle and endless search with no attainability. Or…

Walked into the photo shoot insecure...walked out proud

Walked into the photo shoot insecure…walked out proud

Like many of the albinos who sat for the photo shoot, one can look within themselves to find their inner beauty and shine on against all odds. Beauty is subjective. We have a specific name for the study of what is beautiful. Aesthetics. Even a light exploration of this philosophical topic reveals that for centuries, all that can be concluded about beauty is a social definition vs an individual preference. Sometimes they overlap.

With such a broad definition and debate, it would be folly to give the power of self-definition to anyone but ourselves. My challenge to anyone who watches TV, looks at magazines, delves into movies, and looks to others to define whether or not they are beautiful is to stop. Read, look, observe, and have the courage to get introspective about what resonates with your personal definition of beauty. Define what you find beautiful about yourself and give it your voice. Stand for it and protect it from those who would wish to make you feel less than. I guarantee it is a worth while adventure.

~ Shannon

Live your life. Don’t just survive it.

For more information on Rick Guidotti’s project:

http://positiveexposure.org/about-the-program-2/

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Support: Burning Bridges

http%3A%2F%2F40.media.tumblr.com%2F8ffc1457c9361f93eac2656bb6441e3e%2Ftumblr_na04foqb2I1rsbgmuo1_1280“Don’t burn your bridges.”The footnote is, “Unless it needs to be burned so you don’t return.”

 

Not many people enjoy going to court…except maybe attorneys. The average person doesn’t even like showing up for jury duty. One of the greatest challenges, is to get a victim to show up for court. It is one of the most uncomfortable and vulnerable venues for a victim because, it is a coin toss as to whether they will be re-victimized by the judicial system, their abuser, or both.

I have been struggling for almost four years trying to get sole custody of my youngest son. His father was my abuser. Initially, when I was granted my five year no contact restraining order, the judge overseeing my case wanted me to pursue something more permanent. This was in response to my quarry as to how to protect my son after the restraining order expired. Unfortunately, the judge who saw me for my permanent custody order did not grant it at the time, deferring to the restraining order that was already in place which gave me complete decision making over my son until expiration.

domestic_violence_shelter_ap_imgAt that time, I was still in a 60 day emergency shelter for battered women preparing to go into their 2 year rehabilitation program. I was exhausted on multiple levels. As much as I didn’t want to have to deal with my case in the future, rehashing old events, I simply didn’t have it in me to argue the judge’s position. I let go of it.

Last September, as I anticipated, life presented an opportunity that would require a major move. I had some loose ends to tie up. Back to court. Our judicial system is not very “pro-per” friendly. It is even less friendly for Victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse who are “pro-per”. I spent several days at the courthouse just trying to figure out what papers I needed, how to fill them out, several trips to file, make corrections, and file again.

The first filing process alone was intimidating. Then there was a matter of posting and mailing because the whereabouts of my abuser were unknown. In order to be approved for posting and mailing, one must do their due diligence. For victims who have violent abusers, this can very easily put them in harms way. More fear to overcome. I finished and was approved.

Then came the court date. Another intimidating moment. Will the judicial system be my friend or foe? Will I be scrutinized as whiner trying to take advantage of an “absent” father or will I be viewed as a victim of Domestic Violence trying to protect her child and herself? I wouldn’t know that day…there was not enough time between the filing and the court date to satisfy my abusers rights. Continuance. Proof of service not filed properly. Continuance.

Today I sat in court, thick file in one hand, the other across my stomach. I couldn’t help but think this was almost as bad as having to retell a rape story over and over again. Explain myself and my choices through humiliation, hoping it would just end. Then it did. Quickly. The judge looked over my case, announced the day, time, and situation of the case…then granted me everything I ask for.

burning-bridge

I now have sole legal custody, with no visitation, of my son. He legally goes by an entirely different name now. My changes were drastic but, so was the nature of the abuse. This was one bridge that had earned the task of being burned. By firelight or starlight…I am walking into a protected future and not looking back.

 Live your life…don’t just survive it.

I Became The Walking Dead To Survive Abuse

Healing from abuse is a journey. Everyone who escapes abuse looks back on the road they traveled and, unless they have the support of a compassionate other to help them keep perspective, they often criticize themselves heavily for where they have been. You must remember that what you did to survive abuse was successful. You survived!

Healing comes from identifying choice-points and really understanding the available choices and having a sense of forgiveness for ourselves for the decisions made. Healing begins with deep understanding.

I am in the process of deep exploration of my own abuse history. Along the way, I am discovering truths about what that experience was for me. I am sharing a little piece of what I discovered with you today because when we can see into each others’ journeys and find commonality we feel just a bit less alone with where we have been.

All along the way in my journey to freedom from abuse in my life, I shut myself down the way you do when you decide to swim across a pool on just one breath. You decide to give up oxygen in trade for the accomplishment of being able to say you can do it and you take one big breath and start swimming as hard as you can after a forceful push off the wall. Under water, moments of truth confront you as your lungs scream for air and your initial momentum from pushing off the wall has given way to your power to use your arms and legs to save your life. You feel the pain in your lungs and you have the choice to give up your goal or to move forward with your decision that breath and life are less important than this one goal. You risk in favor of victory over your life and your need for survival and you strain against the growing pressure and pain in your lungs to be able to say that you made it to the other side without breathing. There is an end and, victoriously, you take in a great gasp of air on the other side. Breathing in life, you revel in your victory.

How much are you willing to give up as you struggle to survive abuse?

How much are you willing to give up as you struggle to survive abuse?

Abusive relationships are like that because pushing against our lungs is the pressure to continue to hold our breath just a minute longer in hopes that holding our breath will change how another person treats us. For me, living with my first husband (13 years) and the next man (5 years) and in the Mormon Church (40 years) was a marathon of holding my breath long enough to swim to the other side of the pool of being pleasing enough to others. The problem was that the other side of the pool – reaching the goal and filling my lungs with air and then relaxing and being myself – kept being extended. And I continued to make the choice to hold my breath. The wall at the other end of the pool: love and acceptance and self-esteem and confidence and freedom from anxiety. But I never reached the other side while I was still in the pool.Every time a choice point came for me, I chose to strain against the pressure to take a breath and continued moving forward, trying to reach the other side of the pool. I did this for a long, long time.

When you hold your breath long enough, you become the walking dead.

Becoming the walking dead to survive abuse is too high a cost

Becoming the walking dead to survive abuse is too high a cost

I took my first steps out of my Walking Dead status when I realized that trying to please this man or that man or the Church were never going to bring me the relief, acceptance, self-esteem and love that I so desperately needed. No. Those things had to come from me. I had to stop looking outside of me to fix what was broken. I started with me.

I had to stop running away from what was inside of me. Once I began moving toward me, healing began. Healing continues.

 

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2015 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited. Tamara’s website where she provides podcasts and posts dealing with all aspects of healing from domestic violence can be found at http://www.2btru2you.com.

For Better Or For Worse, ‘Til Death Do Us Part

Click here to listen and be redirected to corresponding podcast

Click here to listen and be redirected to corresponding podcast

Most of us would like to believe “‘Til death do us part…” means love everlasting into old age.

For some of us, that means until an unhealthy relationship ends in the worst case scenario. For a great deal of us, it means an incredibly slow spiritual death with no parting in any near future.

I am NOT against marriage. Let me be very clear about that. I do however, have great reservation about traditional wedding vows. I scoured several wedding sites for wedding vows with an emphasis on traditional. Being raised with traditional notions of the white picket fence and dressing for church each Sunday, these were the vows I took to bind my marriage(s).

No matter how unconventional and forward thinking others may find me or I may think of myself, the vows I took for marriage were not only traditional, but a very serious matter for me. Words like “for better or for worse”, “… so I too happily give you my life, and in confidence submit myself to your headship as to the Lord…”, “..to have and to hold, ’til death do us part…” would play in my mind as I went about my business of being married.

It will be my turn once their needs are met

It will be my turn once their needs are met

In both of my marriages I loved as best I knew how. After a while, I felt like my partners were enjoying more patience, love, compassion, support, understanding, and being cherished more than they were willing to give. In short, I would do my level best to meet their needs, thinking, that once their needs were satisfied, I would have mine met. Except, I never could seem to satisfy them for long before they were upset, unhappy, emotionally wanting, or simply in a place where they couldn’t give.

In the first couple of years this was only confusing for me. I concluded that if my partner was not going to meet my needs they way I met his, then I would just meet my own needs. I have never been one to sit around and wait for long. Yet, as time went on, between the constant need for care and attention, as well as having children who rightfully also needed time and attention, I was left with no time to attend to my self. Slowly, what started out as a fulfilled woman brimming with optimism, love, and dreams became a slow draining vessel. This love thing was turning out to be a one way street and I was growing deficient in what was being demanded of me.

I can not give what I do not have.

694e3b3f3281eec6c51e5339afe8b2e9

But I hung in there longer still. I was dying that slow personal spiritual death and no one seemed to notice because withdraws were being made with no sense of consequence to the source from which they were drawing. It was mine to suffer, “for better or for worse…’til death do us part”. Does spiritual death count? Or, must my I be deader than that with no hope of recouping the soul?

Is adultery the only breach of contract that allows us to leave an unhealthy relationship?

Is adultery the only breach of contract that allows us to leave an unhealthy relationship?

There is not just one thing that keeps us in unhealthy relationships. Often times, some of the ties that bind are not just unhealthy habits, which are often at the core of a poor choice in partner. Those ties that bind us can be particularly strong because they are socially acceptable and well intended beliefs and values. It is up to each of us to determine when these values and beliefs are being exploited at our expense for the benefit of someone else. At what point do we use our values and beliefs as justification to maintain an addiction to an unhealthy relationship? At what point should the words “But you promised! For better or for worse! ‘Til death do us part! You can’t leave me, you’re obligated!”, have no effect on survival.

At what point is spiritual survival just as important as physical survival? What do we have to offer anyone; children, family, friends, or your spouse…if there is nothing left to give?

Live Your Life…Don’t Just Survive It

(click here to listen to Part III of the four part Addictive Love series by Tamara Bess LMFT)

How Can Love Be Confused With Addiction?

Addiction is defined by Psychology Today like this:

Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health.

I’m currently posting a 4-part series on Addictive vs. Healthy Love and it occurred to me that I should explain a bit about why love would ever be compared to addiction. In the current discussion of domestic violence, I am not saying that a woman stays in her relationship because of addiction to being abused. Quite the contrary.

At the very base of addiction is the user’s tendency to return to the substance or the compulsive activity in an effort to separate themselves from something. Quite often, the effort is to separate from pain.

After escaping a relationship where there is abuse, the pain comes from doing the work required to change your perspective from this:

  enmeshed deer

to this:

believe in yourself

When it all comes down to it honest, healthy love is empowering and helps you become a better version of yourself.

Addictive love is exhausting.

This is because the addictive type of love seeks to find something else to fill up empty spaces. Do you feel alone, empty and like you need someone else to fulfill you? Then you are an excellent candidate for finding a partner with whom you can create an addictive love relationship.

In my work with victims, this becomes most evident after leaving the relationship. It is away from the relationship that you need to grieve the loss of what you dreamed could have been. It’s time to let go of the compulsive need to have someone give something to you that they don’t have to give.

Can't live without you

Think about this . . . .

Would you ask this person for money? homeless

 

 

 

 

Remaining in or returning to relationship with someone who does not have the emotional tools to nurture a healthy love relationship is like asking an indigent for financial support. It isn’t there to give.

How do you know if the person you are with doesn’t have the emotional tools to support a nurturing, healthy love relationship?

Ask yourself these question:

  • Does the relationship exhaust you?
  • Is loving this person hard work?
  • Are you learning how to endure and keep loving through the hard times in hopes that someday your love will be returned in the way you need it?

Have you successfully left an abusive relationship only to find you cannot stop thinking about your former partner?

All of these things are indicators that you would do yourself a favor by turning your attention away from trying to figure out how to get someone to love you and turning toward healing.

© Tamara Bess, LMFT 2015 All Rights Reserved. Any use of this article without Tamara’s express written permission is prohibited.

 

Support: Crushing Debt In The Wake Of Leaving

Two-Ladies-having-lunch-copy“…they’re just so lazy. All they do is just sit there with their hands out for our tax dollars. They won’t get a job, even when they do, they hardly work. Such a drain on society. They are just as capable of earning a living as I am…” says a lady sitting at a table close by.

Casually changing the subject to other grave social matters her friend leans in,”Did you see the new ads for women of Domestic Violence? I don’t know how a woman can stay in a relationship like that. If you’re being beaten, it just makes sense to leave. I don’t understand why they don’t just leave.” The ladies continue their lunch in a popular restaurant, purses dangling from their chairs, without a second thought about their socially conscious cars in the parking lot. They may leave whenever they wish.

As often as I hear conversations like this I never cease to emotionally cringe. Depending on the level of ignorance, I can feel my jaw tighten in quiet rebellion and respect for the difficulty it takes to “just leave.” Most of us aspire to have a roof over our head, be able to make the bills of basic living, have reliable transportation, and if we have children, be able to meet their needs. If we are particularly honest with ourselves, most of us would like to be able to do this comfortably. I have yet to hold a conversations with someone who enjoys being the subject of our welfare systems.

We justify being victims in more than just our homes.

We justify being victims in more than just our homes.

Many of us find ways of justifying emotional and psychological abuse. We shrug of comments made by bosses, co-workers, “friends”, and family members. The same is true of someone who comes home to it in the form of Domestic Abuse. In the same way that we tolerate the boss who blows up every so often with illogical and unreasonable demands, Domestic Violence victims also learn to tolerate the occasional violent outburst of their abuser because often times, that is not the day to day (unless it is an advanced case). In the same way that most people do not want to do or say the “wrong thing” at work so as not to lose their job, let alone quit, a victim of violence and abuse does not want to lose their ability to survive and provide either.

Tereance P. Jefferey recently wrote an article for cnsnews.com statistically reporting the desperate welfare situation in our country based on the last report published by the Census Bureau in 2012. The number of people recorded dependent on state assistance was 109,631,000. This is excluding veteran’s benefits. With resources stretched thin, benefits being less than what they were, who would like to take the first leap into that reality?

The National Network to End Domestic Violence recently featured a superlative example of what victims of financial abuse, within their Domestic Abuse, are facing. Amy Kukec (read her story) found the courage to leave her abusive relationship only to ” hit one debilitating financial roadblock after another.” Her abusive husband overdrew their Chase account ultimately landing her in ChexSystems. That was just the beginning of the downward spiral.

I wonder if either of the two ladies having the earlier conversation has tried to get a bank account while in ChexSystems? How would they feel if they were unable to pay for lunch with a credit card because they could no longer obtain one. Would they be sitting having a nice lunch if they could only obtain a part time minimum wage job as so many employers are cutting hours because they can’t afford benefits?

financial-abuse

Before one casually sits back in the comfort of their own life, looking down their nose at the “parasites” of society and comments, “I don’t understand why they don’t just leave?” consider what one is telling them. Victims that have been financial crushed and crippled by their abuser not only fear for their ability to provide for their basic needs, as well as children if they are present, but they also fear the horrible social stigma of being relegated to a class people known as lazy beggars. They fear being social outcasts. They fear visiting that social sin on their children.

I am hopeful when I see articles as highlighted by NNEDV. If we can identify the obstacles of leaving, if they can be brought to a social awareness, then we can begin to do something about it. Kukec (read about Kukec) is doing her part by starting “a petition on Change.org calling for the bank to overhaul its procedures when dealing with the accounts of victims of domestic violence.” That is they key.

If society would like to see more victims leave abusive and violent relationships, we need to create a system that will support their rehabilitation. Without entities doing their part in the face of such human injustice, to assist in a persons ability in becoming economically viable and independent, they are by default contributing to the problem. Victims will be driven to chose between the “safety” of staying in abuse, or throw themselves at the mercy of a disinterested system that by default re-victimizes the victim.

transparent_background__small_Here is the grave reality. When companies, banks, and organizations hide behind policy in lieu of creating protective policy for victims of domestic abuse and violence, are they really acting in their best interest? If victims can’t get out from under the crushing damage visited on them by an abuser, who can they turn to to survive? State assistance. By helping victims financially rehabilitate we add to the pool of viable and producing citizens. By stubbornly hiding behind disinterest, we only add to an economic crisis, as well as the social stigma of the “lazy beggar”.

Live your life, don’t just survive it.

http://www.channel3000.com/money/stuck-in-cycle-of-debt-domestic-violence-victims-battle-banks/29466648

http://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/terence-p-jeffrey/354-percent-109631000-welfare

Revelations: Dangerously Losing Yourself To Your Dream

“…Do not join his world. First, see what he is willing to do for you…”

We should never allow our personal light be blocked by the shadow of another.

We should never allow our personal light be blocked by the shadow of another.

This was the last bit of sage advice that a dear friend had for me before I fully committed to the relationship I was in. I had learned so much in the last three years. I knew myself so well now. So what did I do? Completely the opposite. I would discover, personal growth isn’t entirely about understanding my motivations. It is also about learning to recognize the motivations of others.

I packed my bags and set off for the other side of the country. I was being brave. We had a plan. I would arrive, get a job, an apartment, then move the rest of my family out. We would then take the time to introduce our families to each other; him, as a single father, me, as a single mother.

Once our two families were comfortable with each other, we would find a beautiful piece of property so that we could design and build a home together that would reflect our values and beliefs. We would teach our children about the cycle of life by planting herb an butterfly gardens. We would contribute to our planet starting with bee keeping. Our children would learn about sustainability through our efforts to be ecologically aware by using solar power, recycled rainwater, recycling in general, composting, and other “Earth friendly” techniques. We talked of introducing them to culture through music, fine arts, TED Talks, and other socially conscious publications. We would raise independent children who would learn to trust themselves, be aware of how to protect their own values and beliefs, and be confident individuals able to withstand social pressures that might otherwise ask them to compromise themselves.

The disillusionment of trying to conform ourselves to a dream.

The disillusionment of trying to conform ourselves to a dream.

Within 72 hours of my arrival in this new land, the tangibility of that dream dissolved into elusive vapors. I had no hope of grasping the delusional wisps of what was left to pull them back into reality. I had left my world to join his. The most important concept is that it was his world, not ours. Suddenly, I found myself confronted by a man who controlled not out of malice, of which I was so accustomed, but out of fear that we could not be happy unless circumstance and environment fit his exact picture of what “happy” looks like. In the spirit of everyone’s best interest, I was to conform a bit at a time, to integrate into his vision.

This is the trouble with pre-conceived ideas that we build our “happiness” around. We get the idea of what love, family, success, and relationships should look like to meet our definition of happy. This is a vulnerable state of mind to build and make life choices from. It brings to mind the movie ‘Under The Tuscan Sun’. The lead character had a preconceived idea of what happiness looked like but within the first 15mn, the cornerstone of creating that happiness was dissolved. Her ex-husband married another woman, bought the house from the first marriage, and had a baby with his new wife in that home. It took our heroin the entire movie to let go of her original vision of happiness and have gratitude for the unusual way that her dreams and desires were met.

Life can meet our needs in the most unexpected ways if we are open to it.

Life can meet our needs in the most unexpected ways if we are open to it.

One of the biggest challenges for victims, survivors, or anyone with prefabricated ideas of what their life should look like is, to let go of those expectations. Those ideas can be exploitable or even binding to unhealthy relationships. We want so much to have that home to raise our family in. Many of us want so much to have that partner to raise our family with. Those concepts tend to be reinforced by a society that has a general feeling that one’s family is not complete or happy without these components.

The challenge for all of us is discovering that we can have fulfillment in being a single parent. We are capable of acquiring that home to raise our family in. Family doesn’t always mean children. Our “partner” may come in the form of friends and family who support us in our journey as individuals. True, it is more difficult to thrive as a single parent and find balance between nurturing our family and being the sole provider, but it’s worth it.

As proven through life experience, literature, and film, one finds a happier existence, more confidence in one’s self, and deeper meaning in being true to who we are. When we sacrifice ourselves to live in another person’s paradigm of happiness, when we change ourselves to fit a dream instead of changing the dream to fit who we are, the result is often hollow. What is the point of living when you give your life to someone else to live?

mastercard_logo.03Healthy relationships should resemble the symbol of a Master Card. They should represent two healthy individuals who’s values, beliefs, and dreams overlap in mutual respect for each other. Too often, sometimes out of exploiting malice, sometimes out of insecurity, we allow our significant other to slowly enmesh us out of the fear that we cannot realize our dreams any other way. With that concept in mind, I said my goodbyes, and let go.

It would be wonderful if I come across that person who will enjoy sharing their dream of happiness with respect for my dream. I couldn’t be happier to find the mutual overlap of our world. Until then, I will accept happiness, family, and success as it presents itself, not conforming to what I think it should look like. Love yourself first.

Live your life, don’t just survive it.

Revelations: #Victims Being Re-Victimized By Our Judicial System: Part I

familylawI didn’t want to hurt him. I didn’t want to prevent him from being able to work a job in security.

It was one of the few things he felt good at and seemed to be able to find employment in. If I filed a Restraining Order against him, he wouldn’t be able to pass the background check for a guard card. All I wanted was to get out, not destroy my abuser.

That was how I felt even as I sat in a 60 day emergency shelter for battered women. I was still healing from strangulation marks around my neck, PTSD, and a few other post stress manifestations. Even though I was in a desperate situation because of his abuse, I was still concerned about his well being. I was still putting my welfare and that of my children second to him.

I went as long as could without filing against him. I was told that if I didn’t file for a permanent restraining order and have it in place by the time I timed out, I would not qualify for the transitional rehabilitation program. If that happened I would lose custody of my two girls, I would have visitation with them, and I would owe child support while trying to recover from being economically, emotionally, and physically damaged by my abuser. The only child I would have left with any contributing say with would be my youngest son. I didn’t feel like I justified in filing.

Haskellle2It was difficult for me to wrap my head around how bad things were with my abuser. It was also difficult to come to terms with just how afraid of him I was. Filing a restraining order seemed more like an invitation for more trouble. It seemed like a challenge of his authority over authority. A restraining order was an opportunity to for him to demonstrate that the law could not protect me and that it was just a piece of paper to him. But it had to be done. It was him or my children. I refused to live in any more fear of him.

So I filed my temporary restraining order, which was granted, and waited for my hearing date. Each day I waited stories would be passed around the shelter of restraining orders that failed to protect. I watched women come back denied their permanent order. There were others that were granted only a minimum amount of time and there was a minimum of two years needed for the transitional program. Fear was mounting.

Every now and then the shelter staff would ask if I needed an advocate to come with me to the hearing. I would continually turn them down sure of my own confidence. Well, that and, he would have to be transported in by the sheriff’s department because he was in custody. What could he do to me anyway? Yet, two days before the hearing I could feel panic start to well in me.

I was more afraid of my abuser than I realized. That advocated that I needed was not available so I had to face a judge and my abuser on my own. I had to explain in front of both parties why I felt I needed a permanent restraining order, my abuser only a few feet from me, with no attorney in between. I was sick to my stomach.

Courtroom detailFortunately, my abuser was not transported in from where he was being held. That was helpful. Instead of being nauseous and dizzy I was predominately just nauseous. Another fortunate outcome for me was that on October 24th, 2011, I was granted my permanent order with the maximum amount of time. Although I was quite happy with the outcome, I had a question.

“Your honor? How can I can protect the best interests and safety of my son in the form of sole custody once the restraining order expires?”

He responded by giving me instruction, acquiring some needed paper work to follow through with, and having the bailiff hand it to me. His instructions were for me to open another case to establish parental rights. It would run concurrent with my restraining order until the order expired, remaining effective until my son turned 18. Seemed simple. As far as I knew this was going to be open and shut. This had come down from a judge.

I was wrong. This was going to be an ongoing struggle.

To be continued….

Revelations: Who Am I Kidding? They Were Afraid.

girl-under-bedOut of sight, out of mind right? Wrong.

Out of sight only allows for the mind to sharpen the hearing. Oh, and the things my children heard from the other room. I would often try to tell myself that it was just this one argument and they wouldn’t hear it. Or, they would only hear it this one time…except that it happened over and over.

imagesI would feel bad because I considered what it might feel like for them to hear their mother scream and cry, sometimes lose control and shout obscenities at the man that supposedly loved her. I considered that the older two would probably be able to comprehend that my abuser was being unreasonable yet, ultimately, I would do nothing about it. I did not consider how vulnerable all of them might feel because I was powerless which meant they were powerless. We all had to comply to unreasonable “reasoning” and demands. I had to imagine what this might be like for them because I had never actually experienced it myself as a child.

I always thought that I would have a peaceful home, a loving home. I never thought I would have one of “those” homes, I would be a part of one of “those” couples. I thought I was strong enough to weather the storm and create a happy and stable place for my children, especially after dragging them through a divorce. It’s just that the storm didn’t get better. It didn’t level out. The storm only got worse. It didn’t just get worse for me, it got worse for the children as well.

tips-on-helping-children-cope-with-divorceThey learned to keep quiet and navigate the same fragile eggshells I walked on. They learned unreasonable punishment like standing still against a wall for two hours if necessary. My then three year old learned the same discipline my abuser had experienced, three days in bed no books or communication. My abuser figured if he could survive his childhood, they could survive theirs. This sort of “conditioning” would make them strong. I tried to rationalize it as learning to be “tough” so they could handle anything that life threw at them.

Let’s be real. Let’s keep this 100%. I was justifying, excusing, and facilitating child abuse. How can doing the “right thing” be the wrong thing? I felt like I was constantly at odds with myself when trying to answer this question.

I was raised to believe that once one is married one stays married no matter what. Someone might argue that I had already defied that directive two times before. Someone could Old_Bibles-1also legitimately add to that argument by stating that I was not legally married to my abuser. However it was exactly this belief that my abuser preyed on. He would constantly remind me of how I had already failed twice. He would reinforce that failure, with the potential failure for a third time, as we were “married without papers”. He made a point to live as if we were married until he was able to make it legal. It was just paperwork to him. What was important, he would say, is the commitment. Being an overachiever and perfectionist at heart, failure for a third time was unacceptable. No matter how violent and risky the relationship became, I stayed.

The night I left for the fourth and final time. It was brought to my attention by Child Protective Services, that if I didn’t “stay gone”, I would be brought up on charges of child abuse. That spun my reality. How on earth did I become the criminal when I was just trying to “follow the rules”? At that moment how didn’t matter. The reality is, my children were being abused, they were afraid, and I was facilitating it.

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Everything in me would like to deny it, but the truth is, staying in a violent or abusive relationship with children is child abuse.

 

 

Support: Aspire…It’s Not Over When You Click For Help

 

With the push of a button the abuse ends. The victim is free. A healthy life can begin.

NOPE. NOT EXACTLY.

Before you bust open the champagne, what about the virus? The default program? How many people know about the first 24 to 72hrs of instability.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, friends and family, before you get excited about the advent of the Aspire App, we must first address the virus. The app is genius. It is a much needed and fantastic tool for both victims and their support team. That said, having been a victim, I have some serious concerns.

I am concerned about the virus, the default program hidden deep within the carrier. The carrier is the victim NOT the Aspire App.

stakeholder analysis workHow many of you are aware that after all of the careful planning and success of leaving an abuser, a victim will most likely go back? According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline a victim will leave their abuser seven times before leaving for good. What does this mean for an uninformed general public? Frustration, resentment, discouragement, and indifference can result in what might be perceived as a failed attempt at freeing a victim for a healthier life. Whatever faith a support system had in the Aspire App may be diminished. Again, the problem is not the app.

The problem is the lack of education, support, and local resources. If you are part of a victim’s support team buckle up and be prepared to commit to the long haul. Educate yourself on what you are in for. Is it possible for a victim to leave and stay out of abuse on a first try? Yes. Under our current social conditions and available local resources is probable? No.

I showed a few ex-victims the Dr. Phil clip on the Aspire App. At first they were all enthusiastic. When it got to the part where Dr. Phil talks about being able to access resources available to victims not only did I get a response but, it was the same response. What resources?

educating-togetherCurrently the resources that one links to through the Aspire App are national and limited. There is some education for victims as well but the type of education available is difficult for a victim to relate to at that stage of abuse. It is almost more beneficial to the victim’s support system than the victim. This is not the fault of the Aspire App. This is simply where our resources are at. It is difficult to link to resources that don’t exist or are so obscure that ferreting them out takes tenacity.

The first 24 to 72 hours are the most critical and the most dangerous when a victim leaves an abuser. It is essential that they feel safe, make sense of their new freedom, be educated as to why they wound up in domestic violence in the first place, and local resources to start the rehabilitating process. Without an infusion of these elements right away, the probability of a victim going back to her abuser is painfully high.

Victims are not the only ones that need to be educated. Their support system does too. As the victim’s lifeline to a healthy new beginning, the people in the emergency contact list of the Aspire App should be aware that the App does not fix a victims thinking. Once the victim leaves they are still very vulnerable and susceptible to the influence of their abuser. To minimize the odds of a victim returning, start educating before the time of exodus. Sites like 2bSisters and 2btru2you will help educate both the support teams and the victims about what they are up against. They also contain links to national Domestic Violence help sites for further education.

Good Luck!

We are in the duration with you.