So here i am. An 'abuse' survivor. When people say 'abuse' it conjures images & reenactments of disturbing popular movies I've seen. They all have a context, relevant dialogue that all makes sense as to why somebody may behave so badly, they have a purposeful & 'life lesson learned' ending.
But that's not my story. That's not my experience. That's not my abuse.
I never knew the cycle of abuse started for me pre-birth. I'm an 'inter-generational' victim. My Mother is emotionally void & instilled in me the greatest sense of people-pleasing she possibly could. My Father gave me wonderful gifts of believing i am UN-worthy of anything good, i must be submissive at all times to a patriarchal society and, above all, i must not talk back. I must never have a voice unless i am saying 'please' or 'thank-you' or more importantly, 'sorry.'
There were times of trouble during my childhood when i wasn't silent when the news was on, or on Saturday morning i was a bit too loud, or even times of not being thankful for the church i was supposed to be controlled by and the men sexually abusing me within it.
As time passed it was ingrained in me to just keep silent and put up with what you get. Which i did, and landed myself a husband that enjoyed making my life hell. Not only did he bruise me with tv remotes, his shoes (gee, he loved throwing those things!) one time a hair gel container... anything in his reach really. But he also specialized in the 'words' that all abusers use.... "you're just lucky i'm here. nobody else would stay around"; "you should be grateful i tell you how to improve yourself"; "nobody will ever love you as much as i do"; "you're a liar- that never happened"; "you've got a bloody good imagination... always making things up"; "well if you didn't do that i wouldn't have reacted like that"; "it's because of you that i act like this.. you make me so mad".
I also endured the relentless hawk's eye... i couldn't go to the toilet without him saying "where are you going"; the phone rings "who is it?.... okay you can talk to your sister but only for 5 minutes, but she's not coming over".
I also had the relentless task of oral stimulation & hideously painful 3 minute penetration to relieve this man of his 'natural urges' and always being told "it doesn't matter where i get my appetite- as long as i eat at home" at the end.
domestic violence doesn't make sense. It can be small and quiet. It can be a look, a deep sigh, a turn of the head, it can be loud smashing noises, booming voices, fists thrown, heads bashed.
I finally left his grasp when he punched me in the middle of a city street when i revealed the news that i was having our second child, a girl. I was 4 months already..... he physically hurt me so deliberately to end this pregnancy and he walked away when he was satisfied he had completed his mission. He left me in the street, empty..... emptied.
I still have to see him on sporadic times because he threatens legal action if i don't permit access to our first child. These are small amounts of supervised times in public places in which he still argues with me about how crazy i am, how unfair i am being, how unwarranted it is to supervise him because he would never hurt our son- it was me that was the problem in our marriage.
I've been to the police, I've been to healing centers, I've secured ADVO's, i've been to psychologists, i know the language, I know the literature, i know the process of the cycle of DV.
I too can say the words that i believe in love, i believe that one day i might find somebody worthy that treats me well and will help me heal small pieces of my soul.
But at the moment, it's all words.
I want my daughter. I wanted a good husband & partner in life. I didn't want to be hit. I don't want to shudder if there is a loud bang in a shopping mall; i don't want to feel scared if my voice is too loud or i laugh out loud and people might hear me. I don't want my memories to be 'oh that's the place he hit me one time because...' or, ' he killed my baby there....'
Nobody has ever looked at me and told me they know me and love me, every part of me, and I'm not in trouble for any part of it.
I want new words in my life. Words that mean something real to me. I don't want to hear "one day he'll get what's coming to him" or "that's sad... you're so brave. have you found a new love in your life yet? you have to move on and stop living in the past", "why did you stay with him? i would have left the second he did anything".
I am so damaged from these events. I am so broken from these events. I am so much stronger from these events. But why is everybody talking at me? Words..... just words. When will they mean something? When will they help me feel valued & loved?
To me, that's DV.... it hasn't ended just because i suddenly understand the words.
Not more than two ago, I escaped an abusive marriage. I fled over the miles to find peace, refuge and security. It is by far the bravest thing I have done, besides not giving up on life in the midst of the turmoil of the unrelenting darkness that surrounded me all those years.
Growing up in an environment where abuse was seen as a norm, I pushed away the warning signs that this relationship was no good for me. In fact, I blamed myself and thought I deserved to be treated badly; to be punished for my mistakes. Most often, I shut out the still small voice in my heart that yearned to bring me comfort in saying that I was not alone.
To deal with the pain of abuse and rejection, I turned into an addict of sorts. It seemed like this was my only escape from reality. It was the only way to ease the pain of emotional hurt, negligence and crazy games. For me, it seemed like the only way to survive and get through another night. Kept away from the counsel of my family and friends, I had no one I could freely open to with the assurance of receiving help. I woke up each day with a sense of fear from the nightmares that stole my sleep almost each night. Sitting in fear all day of what would happen next, I could hardly ever eat. Even more, I withdrew from people, kept to myself and drowned in a deep sea of depression accompanied most often by fantasies of death.
A month after my second attempt to kill myself, I met two wonderful people who became life-changing friends. With their help, I was able to get away from the abuse and danger and I soon found solace in a Non-Profit in New Delhi, India called Maitri (www.maitriindia.org). Maitri is a humanitarian and developmental organization that is committed to facilitating citizenship rights, basic services, dignity and respect for most vulnerable populations. I was lucky to find them since the support they have given me is beyond what they even promise to do. Today, not only do I have their help as a domestic violence survivor but am also given the opportunity to creatively be part of the work they do in bringing care and support to those in need.
I still struggle with depression and pangs of anxiety each time I am in a new situation that I was never allowed to experience before. However, with support from new friends, community and God, I am able to overcome. It was never easy being in the trauma of abuse, feeling like my heart weighed so much so that I couldn’t even find the strength to get out of bed and put my feet on the floor. But even now that I am far from such pain, it still isn't easy cause my mind is so used to believing that there is always something to be afraid or hyper vigilant about. It is still so easy to think that nothing is ever going to be okay after all that has happened.
However, today I choose to believe differently. With help and hard work life is hopeful. I urge you today to be that friend who believes in the story of the one who needs you to count on. Perhaps, if you don't know what to do, find someone who does. And if you are the one hiding behind the pain of fear and abuse today, I urge you to never give up because help is possible.
One in three women worldwide has been physically or sexually assaulted by a former or current intimate partner? "Violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions", says World Health Organization (WHO) Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan. Recognizing the urgent need to create safe spaces for women in the public and private spheres, Maitri has taken a leadership role in launching a Million Signature Campaign called Count On Me." Maitri’s goal is to motivate and inspire people to become part of the movement and the solution to End Violence Against Women. Ending violence against women is necessary to the well-being and mental health of women/girls and their families, but this cannot materialize without changing the mindsets that accept violence.
The movement begins with you and me.
For more on the movement Anna mentions, visit: http://www.change.org/en-IN/petitions/count-on-me-my-pledge-to-end-violence-against-women.
As best I can remember, the abuse started when I was around 5. My memories are still very unreliable, I believe that’s common in people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I didn’t fit in at school, because I grew up dirt poor, so the kids who lived next door to my grandmother were all I had to play with. I stayed at my granny’s house often because my parents both worked overtime. She had two jobs as well, so I was often sent to the neighbors during the day. They had a lot of kids, I don’t really remember how many. My little brother didn’t have to go because he was in an after school program.
It started out fairly innocently. They had a son around my age and one a few years older. There was a shed in their backyard that we converted into our clubhouse. We defended it against invading forces, sailed it to deserted islands in search of buried treasure, flew it to mars, and held clandestine meetings in deep subterranean chambers beneath it. For the younger brother Alan and I, though, it eventually became Hell on Earth. The older brother, Michael, was the “boss” of our club. He decided where the ship sailed and what planets we flew to. We had to do what he said, otherwise there was beatings for insubordination.
Sometimes we had to take off our clothes. If we were injured in battle, we had to go to the doctor. If we required space suits, we had to change. It wasn’t a big deal at first. Some examinations required that he masturbate us. Eventually sexual activity became a major component of our games, but it was mutual and probably harmless at the beginning. One day, however, he penetrated me anally with his finger. I told him to stop because it hurt, but he kept going, insisting I would “die” if he didn’t. I told him I didn’t want to play anymore, and he became angry. He beat me up and forced me to allow him to continue.
The next day, at some point, he told me in so many words that he was going to have anal sex with me. I told him no because it would hurt. He got angry and laid me out with a single punch. I was dazed and on the concrete floor. He picked me up (he was much larger than I) and bent me over a tractor lawnmower. I felt his hand undo the front of my shorts, and all at once he was inside me. All I remember is that it hurt at first, and then it’s like this black cloud descends over my vision and I don’t remember anything except telling my mom that I was sick and being sent to my room for the night. I spent the next day home sick from school, sleeping at their house (Gran had to work). He attacked me while I was asleep and raped me in his little brother’s bed. His mother walked in on it. She just left and didn’t say anything.
My grandmother was no prize herself. She wasn’t a horrible person, she genuinely cared for my brother and I and typically would spoil us with presents every now and then. But she was also a very harsh woman. We had hours of chores before and after school, and we frequently took lashings for insolence. I was locked in the basement more than once as a punishment. One time, after being raped next door a few hours before, I was examining myself in my bedroom when my grandmother walked in. She accused me of masturbating and bent me over the bed. When she was really angry, she wouldn’t stop hitting you until you stopped crying. I think at some point I just shut down and stopped. My teacher laughed at me the next day when I asked to be allowed to stand during class.
I was also forced to do things with his younger brother, a few times I was even forced to rape him. I think the whole family was tied up in it. I have vague recollections of seeing their father with their younger sister, they were all afraid of him. I try not to dig at the memories, because they’re just going to upset me and it’s more problems than it’s worth.
It went on like that until I was about 12. Around that time, my mother found a new job that allowed her to be home in the mornings and I was judged old enough to be home by myself for a few hours a day. I didn’t tell anyone about any of it until I was about 19, and I still haven’t told my parents about my grandmother. I’m sure my parents saw some things that should have made them wonder. I’ve had nightmares and woken up screaming for as long as I can remember, but my parents never did anything about it. I’ve chalked it up to my father never really being there until I was 20, and my mother probably just didn’t want to face it. The family moved out of the house when I was 12 or 13 or so. I never saw them again. That was it.
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Most importantly I believe that my mind is free and that I will never be a psychic slave again.
Perhaps for some this last point is the most shocking of all. That anyone can be free. Free from their present physical circumstances and free from their past pain too. Showing others how they too can be free became my purpose too.
Dr. Lisa Turner is the author of I loved a paedophile: the seduction, abduction and liberation of a life
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