Remembering from a Distance

I have a girlfriend that’s through the worst part of domestic violence and into empowering herself and others at this point. I remember this well. When I needed to tell the world that I had enduring this constant assault to my being on every front for the longest time and I survived! I didn’t just survive, I came back stronger than ever thriving in a life I didn’t know I could have.

As I watch her grow and share her story, I am reminded of the growth along with the pain of living like that in the destruction of being torn down day after day. Now, I don’t remember in vivid 3D like it was yesterday. The memories are still there with all the details, I just don’t have to experience the pain all over again. The gift of hard work and time.

Domestic violence is insidious. It sneaks up on you with a series of small boundary violations with excuses that seem to makes sense. You want to believe them. Each boundary crossed takes a small step further into the insanity of what could be a life threatening situation. It’s not like the person beats on you the first day. Oh no!!! It’s a string of things which preclude that happening. It’s called the cycle of abuse.

Like every other woman I’ve met who was in a DV situation, it’s difficult to leave on a multitude of levels. The abuser works to smash your self-esteem so that you’re dependent on them for everything. They attack every part of who you are until there is little left and you feel worthless. They create a true isolation for you. Restricted relationships with friends, family, jealousy… they work very hard to make them the only person in you life. Poor, dependent on the abuser in all ways, broken down emotionally, hopeless…. how do you leave when this is what’s happen? How often do we hear the words in some variation, “Who else would want you?” or “Nobody will love you like I do.”?

I reached a point where I was almost dead inside. I was a shell of a human being. There was no vibrancy. I’d stopped laughing. My creativity gone. I was a sad, pathetic woman that believed that I truly couldn’t survive without him to be there for me. Even after I got out and the divorce was final, I was still drawn to go back! What insanity is that?!

The final straw for me was having him intentionally speed up the car while I was getting out. I was thrown from the car and he proceeded to not just run over my foot, but park the car on it. When he finally moved off my foot, he screamed at me in the loud, violent, cruel, non-stop way he did so many times before telling me I was lying, I was fine. When the ambulance came, he continued in front of them. I was very fortunate in my injuries. My foot was crushed, but not broken. I hobbled around for about 2 weeks before I could walk normally again. It took 3 months for the swelling to go down enough that I could get anything except a slipper or a loose fitting slip-on on that foot. In all honesty, I had some pain and discomfort in that foot for many months. Going to the hospital in an ambulance because he had actually hurt me was the ultimate end for me.

I was finally ready for Domestic Violence counseling. I called the YWCA the next day. There was a group starting the very next day and I was slotted in. This group of women gave me more than I ever imagined possible.

I hesitated a little to go. I didn’t think I really fit in. After all, mine was mostly emotional and financial abuse I told myself. Mine isn’t as bad as theirs. I shouldn’t go. Each week, we went over a topic related to DV. Signs, examples of abuse in that category. Each week I realized that I had been abused more than I thought!

Several weeks in, I started crying and told the women I didn’t think I belonged there. Mine was bad, but not as bad as theirs. Every eye in the room was wet. They told me they remember when they went through all the things I talked about. Some more than others. A young woman started crying and told me it was hard for her to listen to me talk sometimes because it was so close to what she went through… and that all those things happened whether there was physical violence or not. Every woman in the room nodded her head in agreement. We sat and cried together.

I’m tearing up at the moment. Not from the pain I endured, but from the outpouring of love and support from other women who walked before me and validated my experience as real and not less than. For the first time in my entire life, I shared my pain and was embraced rather than judged or had a value placed on the severity of my situation.

As I respond to my friend this is the love and encouragement I want her to feel. She’s not alone! Emotional abuse isn’t any less horrible than physical violence. Abuse is abuse. Pain is pain. It gets better only when we are loved so we can begin to love ourselves again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s