Sunday, March 8, 2015

Overcoming the Darkness

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. 


  1. Ugh, I had you a long eloquent comment saved and it disappeared when I signed in. Hopefully, I can do it again, lol.

    I love you! You are such an amazing woman of God that inspires me every day. I am so incredibly proud of you. Because you stood up and said no more your girls will know how a man should treat a woman when God sends you the one meant for you all. You will never know how much you helped me during my own battles and you hardly knew me. Keep speaking out for the ones afraid to. Love you! Becki

    1. Becki,

      Kinda made me giggle... I often type up responses, then lose them. I am less patient, because rarely do I go back and type it up a second time. So, thanks for that!

      I love you, too, my friend. My girls are a vital part of who I am, and they do need to understand a person should NEVER put his/her hands on another person negatively. I am thankful I was able to help you. You are incredibly amazing yourself!! <3

  2. Cil, you know how I feel about you and how proud I am of you because we have been in constant communication about all of this privately. But I still need to leave a comment on your blog to state publicly that I absolutely applaud your courage and desire to help other women who are either trapped in abuse or trying to overcome an abusive past. I am so thankful for you and the inspiration you are to other victims and survivors. I feel blessed and honored to have had the privilege of standing beside you on your journey into complete freedom! How and when each of us shares our story is a personal decision. I wanted only to support whatever choices were right for you. Writing that anonymous post was brave even if you had never chosen to reveal it as your story. But I know from experience how liberating it is to walk fully into the light. And I know you are lighting a path of escape and healing for other victims with your courage. As you already know, I think you are amazing and I love you so much! <3

    1. Shari...

      Is there even a way to respond to you? You knew me, and never once did you show judgment or condemnation. When I wanted to go back, because it would be easier than fighting, you spoke words of experience that brought understanding, not questioning my lack of judgment. When the panic attacks, anxiety and triggers were occurring so often, you taught me how to cope, instead of telling me you thought I was crazy. What to think about (the faces of my kids and our bright future of a life without abuse). What to focus on instead. I cannot even begin to express how thankful I am that you stepped out and saved my life. Because, that is EXACTLY what you did. While I may never have died, my soul was dead. I was an empty shell, trying to find me again, with nothing to start with. Yet, somehow, here I am... Free. Empowered. Safe. Confident. Ready to move forward. Not fearing my past. There is just NO way of saying thank you adequately enough.

      I pray my journey can compel others to not live in fear, and move out of unsafe situations, as well. That I can help them in their toughest days, and be with them when they hit this mountaintop. You are a priceless gem, my friend. Love you...

    2. Just seeing this. I can't begin to express what these words -- from your heart -- mean to me. I'm in tears. So thankful for you, for our friendship, and thankful that my own past is given such tremendous meaning and the reward of having been equipped to reach out to you and offer my understanding. I love you so much.

  3. I am a friend of your sister. At first I thought- I've never experienced this in my life, how can I comment on her situation- I don't have the words. But, I realized, I do have the words and so I have shared YOUR story and YOUR words on FB, to my friends and to my family and to my daughters. Because only by shining a light on these situations and letting women know that this is unacceptable and letting women know that they are not alone and that they can be free- will we ever help other victims. And so to each person who told me that 50 Shades of Grey was a romance, I have sent your story. You and all the other brave women and men who tell their stories and dare to help others are truly lights shining in the darkness--and the darkness is right to fear such lights.

    1. Thank you, dear friend of my sister. It takes courage to read. To hear. And to want to do something. People like you are world changers. Shining a light on "shameful" situations like abuse allows so many opportunities. As people gain awareness of the red flags, they are empowered to walk away from a relationship that doesn't "feel" right before it gets abusive. Second, talking about it openly allows someone who might be in that situation the ability to feel safe talking to you. We, as humans (men and women alike) deserve safe and loving relationships, definitely not coercion and manipulation.

      Thank you for helping to share a different perspective on the 50 Shades controversy. While I understand some who have never experienced my situation do not see the similarity, I love that you are not afraid of challenging their opinions to see that, maybe, possibly, the storyline could be seen as abusive and scary. For me, it was reality for longer than I can even believe. I am thankful for the support and encouragement to take a stand.

  4. I still find myself struggling with what my abuser's family will think of me when I share certain details, or just in general, refer to ours as an abusive relationship. I have to tell myself over and over it is MY story!!

    While reading this I could see you, that beautiful bird, sitting in you cage, silent. A drape had been placed over that cage to ensure you stayed silent. I could see the drape being lifted and you beginning to sing; softly at first as you found your voice and then stronger. I could see the moment the cage door was opened for you, but you stayed because your cage was familiar. Today, I see you taking flight for the first time in a long time. Spread your wings and fly beautiful bird, because you were created for greatness!

    1. I, too, find myself struggling with what people in general will think of me. It took months to say the words, "Your son, nephew, grandson, friend, (fill in the blank) hurt me. He was abusive." The deep depths of hell I walked through with him have not all been spoken, nor will they be. Sharing everything keeps me buried in my past, constantly allowing triggers to take me back. That is NOT how I want to spend my future. But, little by little, when necessary or appropriate, my heart is to share those places with those who need to hear them.

      That is a beautiful, vivid picture you painted for me. I absolutely love thinking about that. Thank you so much!

  5. I read your post on Shari's blog and was moved. You have done many things, and will continue to find strength you may doubt you possess. Your story may help one person, but I would wager it will help more. Please keep going, one day at a time. The world needs your voice to help understand why this is important.

    1. Denise,

      Thank you for your support. The more I realize it is okay to speak out, the more strength I find. I pray that this experience changes hundreds or thousands. But, I am one. I may not have that ability. It will be worth the fear, the pain, the anxiety if only the woman who genuinely needs to read this post can find it. Thank you so much for your kind words and support!

  6. to say "no one" cares is a vast error in thinking, for there are many thousands upon thousands -perhaps half a million individuals in this country alone who daily fight for the veil of oppression to be lifted from women and children, AND men and boys. Many of us do this for a living, many more do this as volunteers, and many do so who are not victims themselves. People do care. There are agencies, organizations, laws, and regulations to protect victims and to provide treatment and other needs. These resources are there for the taking. These outlets want to hear your voices and want to help. Blogs are a great venue for self expression and it is great this medium worked for you to anonymously post your story, but lets be sure to let victims know this will not be an opportunity for most and lead them to resources where they can express their voice, share their story and have a coordinated response and resources provided. There are a multitude of shelters, churches, and public services available. DO NOT WAIT for a chance to anonymously post your story or hope for things to get better. Take action before the abuse escalates and you no longer have a voice, because abuse ALWAYS escalates.

  7. Miss/Mr. Anonymous, this seems like such an inappropriate time and place for you to chastise, correct, or ridicule a survivor! I could be completely off base, but this just feels personal to me -- like you might be someone who knows Cil and doesn't approve of her speaking out. I work with many who advocate for women both professionally and as volunteers and I don't know of a single person who would respond to a victim/survivor the way you just did. Everyone I know would applaud the strength Cil has shown with her posts -- both the anonymous one and these. I know of women she has already inspired in a very short time by doing this. There is strength in knowing you are not alone whether it's through an agency or a blog post. It's not your place to tell any of us as survivors how we should or should not share our stories. It's not your place to tell us we aren't sending the right message. You do not feel like the kind of person a victim could reach out to in the way you responded to Cil. I'm so disappointed you would choose to use her blog this way and discourage her in any way from owning her story however she sees to do so. Everything in me (the protective advocate parts of me) want to shout, "Shame on you for doing this!" But that would be so wrong. And I apologize for wanting to. But I see nothing good in what you just posted. What you've stated is no secret that you needed to uncover for us. But make no mistake about this fact: No matter how many agencies and volunteers are out there, victims and survivors STILL often feel alone and like no one really cares. YOU should know that if you really do work on behalf of victims as you've stated. You just don't sound very compassionate to me. You sound critical and judgmental and needlessly defensive. Please notice I said you SOUND this way to me. I'm not saying you ARE any of these things. But I have to wonder why you would feel anonymously defensive of agencies when addressing such a personal post and story of survival and triumph. Something is just not right here and I had to speak up for my friend. I admire her courage and so should you.

  8. I am glad you have given voice for those working to end abusive relationships. If I implied “no one” cares, that was never my intent, and those were never my words. However, when one lives in an abusive relationship, her (and I use the female pronoun solely because it is easier for me, as I am female - it is how I relate) abuser isolates her, constantly telling her that no one will believe her, she deserved what she got, and that he will never let her leave. Because of the constant mindgames, it is often difficult to understand how supportive people can actually be. 

You are right. There are thousands upon thousands of people who do in fact fight for these victims. But, prior to leaving and educating myself, I was unaware of a single soul. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until after my separation that I found Shari, the advocate I mentioned in my post. Until she sought me out, I was completely alone. 

And, I filed two police reports. What I was told as a victim is pathetic. A restraining order cannot be issued with the first report. So yes, file the report, but we can’t really help you was basically what I was told. When I left him the first time, I went to a shelter. They were full. With no resources to help me. They suggested changing the locks. I had no money. They sent me to a food bank to allow me to feed my child, but could offer no protection.

    I never suggested to stay in an abusive situation. I did that for far too many years to suggest someone else do that. In fact, I blatantly said you can love him enough and still leave. I provided resources at the bottom of this post. You are absolutely right. Abuse ALWAYS escalates. Always. And NO ONE needs to stay in a situation they aren’t safe. 

I have had far more people respond in messages that they were unaware than those that knew and applauded me standing up. Most people thanked me for educating them. Proves there are so many that aren’t mean, they just don’t know. And that was the purpose of this post.

    1. Cil, you are definitely educating and making other victims/survivors feel less alone with your words. I have received messages from people I don't even known saying they appreciate your courage and that they relate to you but have never been strong enough to share their stories with anyone. You obviously never suggested no one cares and you clearly communicated that abusers don't change and can't be fixed by staying. I am one who knows and applauds. I didn't know what you were going through while you were going through it. And I didn't know all the details of what you'd been through even as I tried to be an emotional support to you after you left. But I know what it feels like to be abused and how much it helps to read that someone else "out there" understands, whether you know them personally or you don't. And because I can relate, I will always be one of those who are applauding you for your bravery. Do not let anyone discourage you. You have done a good thing, a brave thing, and you have helped more women than you will probably ever know. I can say this because I continue to hear from women who tell me I've helped them. And all I've done is speak out.