Today, I write this post to say NO MORE.
No more fear. No more silence. No more shame.
No more bruises. No more intimidation. No more cowering.
No more excuses for his behavior.
I will speak up for myself.
I will speak up for those who have not yet found their voice.
I will speak for the women who don’t even think they are allowed to have a voice.
I will speak for those women, reading now, who may be wondering...
How is it that I know what you're going through?
How do I understand your story; your pain, your fears, your secrets, your lives?
Because, my dear sweet woman, I was you. For almost 10 years of my life, I lived where you are today.
Until about two weeks ago, I had kept specific parts of my life and marriage secret. Hidden from view. I was ashamed of the dark places my heart, mind and body had been exposed to. I protected my abuser from the stares, the glances, and the judgment because he was the one who took me into the deep abyss of a darkness I knew I would never escape. I protected myself from the shame, the guilt, and the literal hell I lived in. For his comfort. For your comfort. Sometimes even for my own comfort, I kept my secrets. But no more.
Almost two weeks ago, outrage was sparked in my heart. Nightmares were plaguing my sleep. His voice was suddenly waking me up, when that voice had been silent for months. Memories were being triggered by movie trailers (50 Shades of Grey), excited talk among friends and strangers of this incredible “love” story, and the buzz of controversy it was creating. And I knew I had finally had enough.
I reached out to an incredible advocate for women and children who have been harmed by abusive relationships. She offered me an amazing opportunity. She presented a platform (her blog) in which to anonymously take a stand. And I suddenly had a way to speak out against this abuser, without having to fear him knowing these were my words. If I wrote anonymously, I could prevent him from finding out I had exposed those shameful, humiliating secrets, and as always, he’d figure out how to make me pay for the obvious disrespect.
Well, this incredible thing happened when I found the courage to share my story on her blog. People actually supported me. Readers encouraged me. They prayed for me. They didn’t defend or protect him, but stood beside me. Possibly, for the first time, they realized abuse happens in so many marriages, in so many different forms and degrees.
For many readers, this post, my story, opened their eyes and hearts -- maybe for the first time -- to something they didn’t know happened in marriage. They shared, they cried, they talked.
To those readers, thank you. From the very bottom of my heart, thank you. Your words were powerful. You empowered me. You encouraged me. You supported me. You gave me courage to write this post today. For the first time in my history with him, my abuser no longer seems in control, powerful, or someone to be feared.
So many years of my life were spent waiting, watching, worrying. I feared what would happen if I spoke up; knowing what would happen if I didn’t. Living each moment of my life as though I could change the outcome, if only I loved enough.... If I cleaned enough.... If I cooked enough.... If I weighed just enough.... If I could keep the kids quiet enough.... If only dinner was perfect enough.... If I could just be enough.
My abuser and I separated, then divorced, exactly four years, one month, and twelve days ago. Some days, this feels like a vast amount of time has passed. Other days, it feels like only yesterday. My journey has not been what I thought it would be. Actually, it has been infinitely more difficult. Many days, I have even wondered if I made the right choice because, even now, I am tired of fighting. Oh, certainly I feel weary of fighting him; but more than that is the internal war of trying to convince myself I am worth fighting for. Each day, I have to look at my face in the mirror and see the invisible emotional scars left inside. Knowing that the person I was for so many years doesn’t have to be the person I am today encourages me to never give up. Because my past is just my past. It is not today. Thank God, it will never again be my tomorrow.
Abuse is not solely physical. Thank God, people are beginning to realize that it is also emotional and verbal; with the abuser using his words to terrify you, keep you under his control, and make you afraid to stand up to him. Affection, tender touches, conversation (the silent treatment) and his attention can be withheld, making you cautious as to what you do or say. Your own emotions are used against you, making you feel as though you are absolutely insane. These forms of abuse leave no physical scars, but, in my experience, have the longest lasting effect. Physical abuse is the most recognized abuse, leaving marks, bruises or wounds. The pain is real. You feel it over and over again until the evidence leaves your body. Then, there is the hidden secret of sexual abuse.... Where “No” doesn’t mean no.... Where you are manipulated, coerced, and even forced to do things you would never have imagined doing. Sex is used against you. It's another weapon in the abuser’s bag of tricks.
Whether withheld, coerced, or forced; sexual abuse is real. And no one wants to think about any of it. It hurts. And the hurt continues for survivors even after they escape the abuse because healing is a painful process made even more difficult by silence, shame, and the fear that you will be viewed by anyone as ... disgusting. Oh, how we hate to be associated with that word!
My beautiful friend, please hear me when I tell you that you can love him and still walk away. Your love will never be enough to fix him. You can try. You can give it every single part of your being. You can try harder. Do more. Be better. And, you still can’t fix him.
Strong, mighty warrior, the journey ahead isn’t an easy one. You will have to fight. You will fight when you feel weak. You will fight when you feel strong. You will fight harder than you have ever fought in your entire life.
And you will speak!
By speaking you will be empowered, supported, encouraged. But, sweet, sweet girl, you will have to speak. And you, brave soul, will overcome.
You may be wondering.... How do I know this? How can I be so sure? I must not understand…. I don’t fully understand the hurt.... The fear.... Just how far he’s gone. I don’t understand how his family stands behind him.... Allows him to make excuses for the bruises, manipulate his way out of trouble, convince you not to go to the police again.... But, the reality is, I do understand.
The words I am speaking to you in this post have been spoken to me by other survivors. And as I write these words to you, my readers, I speak them into my own life -- again and again -- as well.
You will overcome. Today can be the day. Today can be the day you say NO MORE. No more name calling. No more manipulating. No more “accidental” black eyes. No more intimidating texts. No more walking on egg shells. No more make-up to cover the bruises. No more long sleeves or pants in the summer. No more. Because, today, you will find you have someone in your corner.
You aren’t alone, because there are SO many of us who are in this with you. We want you to know we stand behind you - not him. We believe you - not him. We fight with you, so you don’t fight alone. When you are ready, we are here.
Through the process of these recent days (since I anonymously shared more of my story), the years I spent in hell suddenly seemed like they could be so much more. They could be a platform of hope. Of courage. Of freedom. Of change.
Maybe you are one of the women I walked through this for. So that in my story, you can find the courage to take your first steps to freedom. Life doesn’t have to be this way. You can not only be a survivor, but you can thrive in the midst of it.
I can never thank the owner of "Miss Oblivious thinks out loud...." enough. Not only did Shari help me gain enough confidence to leave my abuser and not go back all those years ago, she gave me the courage to speak out presently. I am no longer afraid of what will happen. I am no longer fearful of saying I am the survivor who wrote this post or the woman who lived this pain.... Or the once oppressed soul who survived to claim freedom!
Please, take another ten minutes to read my story if you haven't read it yet. Clicking above will take you to Shari's blog, where my story was first shared anonymously. After reading, please read this post, written on this blog last week. It discusses the power your words hold and how a victim feels when she hears them. There's power in your support. There's empowerment in your love and compassion. The power you can give a victim by simply listening....
Hear her story. Help her reveal the darkness and yet not be ashamed.
Thank you from the very bottom of my heart for reading this post. I would appreciate your support in sharing it, as abusers don’t stop until they can no longer find someone to abuse.
Speak up. Take a stand. Please, don’t look away. For so many today, this is reality. There is no escape, no exiting the browser window to get away.
Respect her enough to help her escape. Give her your voice until she finds her own.
******If you, or someone you know, are the victim of domestic abuse, you can get out. There are many resources available to you, regardless of what you have been told. This site shows you of safe places you can call or go to to receive help, especially if you are in immediate danger. There are hotlines you can call for advice, support and information. This is another site that shows companies that will help you, or offer you a safe place. You are not in this alone. If I can leave, you can, too.