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An Open Letter To Those Who Love Domestic Abuse Victims
I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, and a friend. I think that covers it, maybe I forgot some label but that really isn’t the point. I wanted to take a break in the story, you know the one of how I got from THERE to HERE, and wherever ELSE this crazy journey will take me.
But it occurs to me, I have something that many of you don’t have. I have lived it, I have survived it; and I am OK. I am not convinced that you know this though–more than one of you has told me that some of the postings are hard to read. That feedback has made me take a step back and pray, think some more, cry a whole lot and then think some more. You see, it’s hard for you to read because you love me; and how can I put you through this? Those closest to me know I am okay; and I think those people have an even more difficult time reading the postings, because some of you walked the steps with me; breathed the air with me and had more than one meeting with each other to figure out how you were going to keep me alive.
This BLOG, never intended to achieve anything, is still evolving. I started it out of anger of how the world views and treats victims of domestic violence. Then all of you kept asking questions and suddenly I am telling not only my domestic violence story, but also the story of so much pain, neglect and abuse that it is even hard for me to read back. And, yet, here we are.
I have thought about stopping. There is a whole lot more to write. I thought about spending the hours I spend trying to craft these postings on my business, or at the beach, or I don’t know, sleeping. And, yet, here we are.
I have landed at the exact same place—this is a story to be told. I am to be a good steward of the pain. It will continue to be hard to read for some; and for that I apologize. But, if it is hard for you to read because you are sad about the things I experienced, the chances are my phone number is in your phone and if you need to know if I am ok, just ask. So, for now, I will obey. I will keep writing, and we will see where it takes us, fair enough?
“Sad, broken-hearted at an alter I’ve knelt, until I found God’s Peace so serene. All that it takes is child-like faith and a heart that is learning to lean. Learning to lean, learning to lean, learning to lean on Jesus, finding more power than I’ve ever dreamed and a heart that is learning to lean.” Learning to Lean on Jesus
We sang this song when we traveled around and sang at churches when I was at the children’s home. It was the alter call. If you weren’t brought up in church this may not be a term you recognize. But it is an opportunity for the congregation to respond to a message by walking down an aisle, kneeling at the alter and praying—some alter calls could last 2 minutes but if people were still coming 30 minutes later– we would keep singing, while people did business with God. People were responding to a message of redemption from a man who started the children’s homes, we call him “Dad”—and folks all over the country knew that if a bunch of orphans could be so relatively “normal”—that they too could learn to lean. I write this because I believe it was these days that got me through 12 years of getting beat up and beat down. At some point, I knew “finding more power than I’d ever dreamed” was the only way I was going to stay alive.
I have no desire to be an expert on domestic violence, but I want all of you to know where and why it starts and how and when to stop it. So, here is my open letter to you, who love me, and probably somebody else getting beat up too.
Dear Loved One:
I know you know something. I know some of you have never even met my husband. We don’t do things together, I can rarely make plans with you, because my time is not my own. I know I strategically return your phone calls when I am in the car—riding home from work, when there is nobody around and/or before I have had a chance to pick my substance of choice that would slur my speech if I called you later in the day. You won’t ask, and I don’t think it’s because you are worried about being nosey, I think it is because you really don’t want to know. You love me too much.
But then the signs become increasingly more difficult to ignore and for whatever reason, you have gotten it out of me. Then you just sit down on the beach that we were walking together and stare out at the vast ocean; and neither of us knows what to say, or to do. So, there is silence. We finish our walk and then I don’t return your phone calls or texts for long periods of times, because I am embarrassed, I am ashamed and most of all I am in no position to do anything about it.
Domestic violence is a combination of two things, and it is important for you to understand them. The first, everyone knows. Domestic violence, in any form, verbal, physical, or emotional is about power. With each opportunity to beat you down he feels more powerful. And if you cry, well now he knows he has the key to the window of your heart and your soul. He will make 10,000 copies of that key and will use it every single time he doesn’t get what he wants from you. He knows, however, that you have friends with the master key to the ENTIRE window to your soul and he will do everything in his power to keep you away from those people. This is where the second ingredient of domestic violence comes into play. This is where family members and friends get so incredibly frustrated with you for staying. When you are being punched, slapped, pushed or controlled by another being, something is taken from you every single time. It is your value. It is your self worth. You believe the lies, you believe you can’t do anything, be anything, or even breathe air without this person who holds 10,000 keys to your soul.
So, for whatever reason, people begin to figure it out and perhaps you start telling more and more people. You may even leave, call the cops, move and start a new life, only to go back. This frustrates the people that love you; they do not understand. You need people that, absent of him, will build value in you. Value separate from him, or what you do for a living or what car you drive or a bank account balance. Incidentally, for me, my life looked perfect. I am grateful that the people who loved me weren’t pushy—trying to do some great intervention to get me to leave. I think, in that situation, this approach would have backfired on them. I was doing a good job of keeping the episodes at bay while they were building value and it worked out for me that we didn’t have to have a traumatic intervention. Some situations need this type of intervention, but my crew and me took a strategic approach that worked out.
With that being said, I carried the burden that more and more people were getting specifics of the level of violence. And it broke my heart that they were hurting because of me. I will never forget Mitzi telling me that she was talking to her mom one day on the phone about how scared she was that he was going to kill me. Then what happened next I didn’t know until much later, but Mitzi’s mom said “what would be worse is if he tries and fails and she lives disabled or on machines for the rest of her life”. Mitzi didn’t tell me that story until much later. How she knew when to push and when to just watch will be a question only she can answer.
But slowly, and without me even noticing, my friends began to build value in me. My church life-group leader asked me to teach a Bible study, on Daniel—which if you know me I am a New Testament girl, so that meant I had to actually prepare! But, she knew that teaching was a sweet spot for me. It made me remember that teaching was and is a gift and every Sunday I got to lead women older than I, she was building value. Viv called me everyday for 2 years to check on me; she never missed a day, not one single day. On those phone calls, she would ask questions and catch me off-guard, and I would tell her the truth. The time he put my head through a wall she made me send her pictures of it. My cousin Emily talked to me one time for 5 hours on the phone; seriously about everything but the obvious. She is a smart cookie and she was taking the temperature of the situation. She lives in Canada and all of this was before social networking, but I am pretty sure she or somebody she contacted would have been at the door if she heard something that made her fear for my imminent safety.
My story is my story, and for me, those who loved me built value all the while watching out for my safety—and this was exactly what I needed. None of them were afraid to stage a forced exit if they ever thought that was absolutely necessary. It may be a different version of the same for others, but I think it is fair to say, when she is not shamed, when she is not invisible, when she understands her value, she stands a much greater chance of escape. Victims of domestic violence don’t stay because it’s a fantastic life, they stay because they don’t think they could do life outside this person who has wielded away her self-worth. I could go on and on, but I hope those of you who love victims of domestic abuse are seeing a pattern here. You watch carefully; you pray diligently; you speak cautiously, but you build value with fury. And then, then she will figure it out, she will leave and she will stay gone. Because she knows then, that the locks have been changed and the key that he has doesn’t work anymore because suddenly she has stepped into who God made her to be, a Precious Daughter of the Most High God.