domestic violence

Everything I Learned about Dating and Love, I Learned from Cinderella

cinderellaWhere did you learn about love?  Who taught you about dating?  If you had to answer this question, could you?  Maybe you don’t even realize where your concept of dating came from.  Perhaps you learned from your parents, family or friends.  Maybe you learned from watching Twilight or listening to Pink on the radio?  Commonsensemedia.org reports that for teens the main source of information about sex, dating and sexual health comes from what they see and hear in the media.  Quite possibly, your concept of love started at even a much earlier age.  For so many young girls, the first idea of a romantic relationship comes from fairy tales.

“Once upon a time” is a wistful, nostalgic phrase repeated countless times in the bedrooms of little girls around the world.  It sweeps children away into a fantasy land of imagination that helps foster creativity.  Fairy tales impart important morals and valuable life lessons.  They teach right from wrong and the consequences of making bad choices.  They demonstrate that bad things happen to good people, but through hope and perseverance, good will triumph over evil. Albert Einstein once said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”  But what do they teach children about love and relationships?

In Disney’s version of Cinderella, the heroine is possibly the sweetest creature that ever lived.  She works as a house servant for her mean stepmother and her nasty step sisters, Anastasia and Drizella.  Cinderella sings and dances her way through her daily chores, despite the constant demands of the household.  Yet, she dreams for her wish of the heart to come true.  Cinderella’s wishes are of course answered in the form of her fairy godmother.  With the wave of a magic wand, Cinderella is transformed.  She is no longer the servant in rags; she is now the belle of the ball.  Cue the prince to enter stage left.  He lifts his eyes to see Cinderella and falls in love at the sight of her beauty. A little dancing, a lost glass slipper and a little drama later, they go on to live happily ever after.

So what does this version of Cinderella potentially teach young girls about falling in love?

  • You are not worthy of love. But if you can magically transform; if you wear the right dress, the right shoes, you too can be loved.
  • You are not complete without your prince. The longing of your heart can only be filled if he loves you.
  • Without love, you are nothing. You are only a servant in rags.  But with his love you can become a princess.  All your troubles will be gone, and you will live happily ever after.

Here’s the truth about love.

  • You are already loved. You are rooted and established in the love of Christ. (Ephesians 3:17)  The only transformation you need to make is to accept Christ as your Lord and Savior.
  • The true longing of your heart can only be filled by the love of Christ. If only you could grasp how wide and long and high and deep is His love, and know that it is this love that completes you.  Then you will be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)
  • You are already a princess, a child able to do immeasurably more than you can ever imagine through your father, the one true King. (Ephesians 3:20)  This birthright, that you have only to accept, promises life ever after.

The parallels are so similar; one can’t help but wonder if Christ’s love was Disney’s intended message.  Yet, without the Christian context, it’s easy to be misled by the themes expressed in the story.  There is danger in continuing to seek fulfillment from another human being, instead of from the one who can truly provide it.  The danger is a life filled with disappointment and loneliness.   Constantly trying to transform into someone worthy of love in the eyes of world, leaves you incapable of loving yourself.  There is no true fulfillment apart from Christ’s love.

Originally posted in the FOCUS Ministries, Inc. Newsletter, Fall 2014.

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It Can’t Happen to Me

I am quite simply the poster child for “This Can’t Happen to Me.”  I was raised in a stable Christian home.  My mom and dad just recently celebrated 50 years of marriage.  Both of my parents were raised in loving Christian homes, and so on and so forth for generations.  I am the baby of the family, the only girl.  I have two older brothers.  One was my partner in crime, while the other was more like a father figure.  In high school, I was the president of the debate team and floor captain of the volleyball team.  I was in all honors courses and got pretty much straight A’s.

Can you see the picture of the perfect middle class upbringing?  Of course, my childhood was far from perfect, but it definitely doesn’t fit most people’s picture of where an abuse victim would come from.  Yet, it did happen to me.

In college, I began dating a Christian guy, from a good Christian home.  After just two dates he wanted a commitment.  It was every girl’s dream, right?!  He was so attentive and made an effort to listen to the music I liked, study with me, take me dancing, and hang out with my friends.  We spent every possible free moment together.  When he felt we didn’t get to spend enough time together between school and both of us having part time jobs, I quit my job.  He kept his.  We’d see another girl walking down the street, and he’d suggest I wear an outfit like hers.  Suddenly he didn’t like to dance, and he didn’t like me dancing with anyone else.  I stopped going to the places I had gone before I met him.  I spent less and less time with my friends.

Over time things escalated even more.  My internal warning bells would start to go off.  But he said he loved me, so I would ignore them.  No one had ever paid this much attention to me before.  I was caught between feeling loved by him and being suffocated by him.  I desperately wanted him to love me, and I found myself willing to do what I had to do to keep him loving me.

The name calling got worse.  He called me things I wouldn’t call my worst enemy.  He constantly insisted that I wasn’t a normal girl.  A normal girl would do this or that, especially if it related to sex.  When he’d get extremely frustrated, he’d put his fist through the wall.  His jealousy became all consuming.

After 2 years of dating, he asked me to marry him, and I said yes.  A year later, we were married.  A month later, he hit me for the first time.

It didn’t matter that I had come from a Christian home or not.  It didn’t matter whether I came from a stable home environment or not.  It didn’t matter that I came from a middle class family in a good community or not.  It still happened to me.  It didn’t matter that I managed to complete 2 Bachelor’s degrees and a Master’s degree.  It didn’t matter that I was the bread winner for our family.  It didn’t matter that we had the perfect house in the perfect suburban neighborhood and 2 kids.  It still happened to me.

It happened to me because I did not know any better.  Dating violence was not something that happened to someone like me.  If it didn’t happen to girls like me, then why should I be aware of it?  Why should I know what the warning signs were?  Why should I be taught what constituted a healthy relationship versus an unhealthy one?  I went to Sunday school.  I went to youth group every Sunday.  Didn’t I understand just how much God loved me?  Didn’t I find myself worthy of that love?  Why would I let someone abuse me if I did?

If I had known all of these things, this wouldn’t have happened to me. 

Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves.

Ezekiel 33:5

Hindsight is truly 20/20.  So let me give you the benefit of my 20/20 vision.  You do need to worry about dating violence.  Intimate partner violence can affect you, your child, your friend, your neighbor or your parent.

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His Glory is Revealed

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When Christians gather, the devil goes to work.  When we gather in the name of Christ, the power of Christ of present.  The Kingdom of God grows in strength and numbers, and the constant battle of good and evil is claimed for the side of good.
So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present.  1 Corinthians 5:4
The devil reigns where Christ does not, so he works hard to destroy those that gather in the name of Christ.  He launches attacks  to weaken our faith in Christ by turning us on each other.  If we allow the devil to be successful in undermining our efforts to grow the Kingdom, the constant battle will be claimed for evil.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.   1 Peter 5:8 
I experienced an attack while preparing for a gathering in Nashville a few years ago.  I had been asked to share my story and rejoice in the works of God in the stories of others.   In the week leading up to the event, my anxiety and stress began to overwhelm me.  I was unable to truly pinpoint what had me worried.  Retaliation from ex was definitely a concern.  Although I’ve been very open about my story, this event offered a much larger platform.  I felt the immense pressure the impact my story could have.  I had the opportunity to reach thousands of women in abusive situations.  I shuddered under the weight of being the one called to deliver Christ’s message of hope and healing to these women.  But I had to let them know that they were not alone,  I could show them there was a way out.  My mind swirled with self doubt and worry.  I reached out for support as the negative tape of self loathing tried to play over and over in my head.
My stress level was escalated as this full time working single mom struggled to find care for my boys who were not yet back in school.  Our district had (and still does have) the latest start date in our area.  This meant all the day camps had closed for the summer.   The inevitable answer was  me to work from home, while walking the tightrope of trying to make my boss, my client, and my children happy.
As the tightening in my throat increased, I continued to take one step at a time… right into a size 7 high top.  The aftermath was a very large, dark purple and black toe that the doctor insisted required x-rays.  Hours of waiting room waiting with two rambunctious boys later, much to the orthopedic’s surprise, there was no fracture.  Surely my week was looking up!
By Wednesday though, it appeared to not be the case.  My daycare dilemma for the boys had not been resolved and arrangements for a sitter that evening fell through.  Unwilling to miss an opportunity to enjoy dinner, dancing and fireworks while sailing around Lake Michigan with my co-workers, I brought the boys along.  As spouses and families had been invited to attend, they were not the only children on board and soon they had made fast friends and were off enjoying themselves.  The ever distracted mommy in me did my best to keep tabs on them.  While peering through a window into the lower cabin to check on them, I slipped and hit the deck hard.  Praise God there was really no one around to see; just my friend and the boat staff.  Despite a wicked bruise on my arm and a blow to my pride, I was fine.  At this point I should probably allow that I can’t really give the devil credit for the bruised toe and arm.  Anyone who knows me in the least bit, knows I’m an accident waiting to happen.  But these clumsy moments definitely weren’t helping my overall state of mind.
 As the boat docked at Navy Pier, and we all were saying our good-byes, my world stood still for a minute or two.  A highly intoxicated co-worker began to verbally assault my oldest son.  After threatening him multiple times that he would throw him overboard, he insisted on a hug.  So frightened by what was happening,  my son refused the hug.  At which point, I intervened and asked the boys to head down the stairs to exit the boat.  However, before they could make it down the stairs, my co-worker ran after them and started cursing at my oldest son, specifically calling him by name.
I just stood there.  I didn’t do a thing.  I didn’t stop it.  I didn’t say anything.  I simply watched in silence.
When his tirade was finally over, I ran down the stairs after the boys, and we left.
I don’t know what hurts most.  The fact that I stood there and let it happen, or the fact that it happened at all.  No attack could have been deeper, more sliced to the bone than watching my son be assaulted.  No shame more relentless than facing the reality that I had not stopped it.
Do you see the lengths the devil will go to?  He tried to break me, but he did not succeed.  He tried to silence me once again through the fear of abuse. but I was not silenced.
My first day in Nashville, I sat down on a bus beside a man whose story is no easier than mine.  He looked straight into my heart and spoke this verse.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.    1 Peter 4:12-13 12
The DVD made that weekend is powerful, and my story is right there exactly as God scripted it.
I’m chalking this battle up to good.
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They cried out to the Lord, and He saved them…

This past weekend, I had the honor of presenting two workshops on God’s Design for Healthy Relationships at the Ignite Shout youth conference in Des Moines, Iowa.  Encouraged by my story, one by one, others came forward and shared their stories with me.  One of those brave enough to step into the light shared the following story with me.

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I am the oldest of four kids. My family home life was awesome.  My mom and dad didn’t have a lot, but we had a great family.  Mom and dad were always in love and showing us how love should be.  We never, ever saw them fight, just love each other. It was great.

But there was always tension between my mom and I.  I was the result of a teen pregnancy.  My parents married a week after graduating high school.  Maybe my mom felt that I had taken away her youth.

I was always happy as a child, always smiling – you would never see me sad.  But when it came to boys – I was scared to death.  I dated in high school but was a “goody”.  Out of all the boys I dated in high school, I only kissed one.  I remember in high school I said “I would never get a divorce”.  I have now been divorced 3 times.  It kills me to even see that number. It leaves a huge pit in my stomach.  Here is my story..

After my first kiss broke my heart in college, I met husband number 1.  It was destined to be a disaster from the very start.  He was the first person that I gave myself to.  Even then I wasn’t sure if he was the one I should marry, we graduated from college and got engaged on my 20th birthday.

The day after we were married a letter came in the mail for him from a woman that he had been seeing – I had NO IDEA!!!! My stomach was just in knots, but I kept smiling and looking to God for help. I got pregnant about 4 months into marriage.  After I miscarried, I got pregnant again immediately.  When my daughter was born, he and his mother bought boy clothes and boy diapers.  He already knew we had a girl, but really wanted a boy. The first few months of my daughter’s life were hell.  She and I slept on the couch because he didn’t want her to hear her screaming.  She was born in January, and he was gone by August.  Despite having left us, he continued to insert himself in our lives.  He would threaten me, sometimes with a gun.  He hit me, just for trying to clean out his closet.  Over the years, he quit coming around, and my daughter refuses to have contact with him.

I knew my second husband for a few years before we started dating.  He moved in right away.  I didn’t ask him to, he just did.  I really loved him.  We were married for 8 years, and had 2 children. He was a military guy.  The first years were pretty good, but we frequently fought about money.  When I was pregnant with my second daughter, he needed help becoming aroused as he wasn’t attracted to me.  He turned to pornography.  As the years went by, he withdrew further from me and more and more “magazines” showed up.  Eventually, I discovered other women’s phone numbers and naked pictures.  He would frequent strip clubs with his buddies.  I felt so dirty.   That year for Valentines Day, he bought me porn.  I turned to God for refuge.  I started spending a lot of time at my church.  I would just go there and play the piano for hours.  However, I began to doubt God during this time as my second marriage was falling apart.  I yelled at God.  But he stayed with me, and I continued to pray.

While I was still married to my second husband, I met husband number 3 while out with a friend.  He pursued me against my wishes and despite knowing I was married.  It felt good to have someone want me.  I filed for divorce and started seeing him.  I felt so low for moving so fast into a relationship with him, but I felt as though I had too. After a few months, my kids and I moved in with him.  We were married a year later after I became pregnant.  I miscarried the day before the wedding.  He was good to me and the kids at first, although we fought constantly.  I got pregnant again.  The day I had my fourth child, he said I needed to get pregnant again.  I said no.  My doctor said no. He kept after me.

That year I lost my job due to cuts at the company.  He was angry at me for losing my job, and everything started to turn bad, really, really bad.  The kids and I started attending church again even though he hated it.  I loved it and so did the kids.  I felt God’s presence every time I walked through the doors.  I started playing the piano and then started singing.  I spent a lot of time in church. But things at home just got worse.  He constantly criticized and belittled me.  I continued to take it.  I thought that I deserved it.  When I started working with the youth group, he would accuse me of having an affair.  Then he began accusing me of having affairs with every guy I saw or ever talked about.  He called me a preacher woman that was a hypocrite. I started to believe it.  I hated myself so much.

He started abusing the children.  He took their Christmas presents and broke each one in front of them.  He broke so many things.  He would be remorseful but find a way to put the blame on me. We were married 12 years.  The kids were afraid of him.  Anything that brought me happiness he tried to ruin, and when that didn’t work, he would try and hurt them. When my oldest daughter graduated from high school, she informed me she had saved up $2000 for us to leave.  She had started saving when she was 16, by working 3 jobs.  And yet I stayed.  I didn’t want to fail another marriage.

I eventually hit bottom and I lay down on the floor of my church and cried out for God to help me.  My husband always reminded me he had a gun, so I hid it and the shells leaving only the case and left.  My last straw was watching him hold my son against the wall by placing his hands around my son’s throat.

We moved out the week of Easter, into a one bedroom across the street from the church.  I felt safe for the first time.  When the kids fell asleep I would run across the street and pray – for love – for peace – for happiness.

I have since found and married my best friend.  Our kids, all six of them, love each other like they were all meant to be brothers and sisters.  We will have been married a year in April.  He is a man of faith, a man who loves God before his family and me.  We pray together, worship together, and the day we were married, the whole world felt like it was at peace.  I know that God is blessing me.

I try hard to look at my past, but it burns my eyes.  I have to remember that it is part of what has shaped me into the woman that I have become. I know that God has amazing plans for me and for my husband. We are both led to help serve.  I want my story to help others.  I want to use my voice to make a difference.

Then they cried out to the Lord because of their problems.
And he saved them from their troubles.
He brought them out of the deepest darkness.
He broke their chains off.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love.
Let them give thanks for the miracles he does for his people.

Psalm 107:13-15 (NIRV)

It was not for you that I mourned

While in in the shelter my case worker told me I needed to grieve.  That was the last think I wanted to do at that point in time.  I definitely felt an immense sense of loss, but it was overwhelmed by the freedom I felt.  I’m not sure I ever took time to mourn the loss of marriage.  Until last night.

 

I cried myself to sleep last night

I allowed myself to grieve

The space inside won the fight

That which was suppressed broke free

 

Do not find glee or joy from this fact

It was not for you that I mourned

But the loss of that onto which I held

For way to long

 

Any love once there died long ago

What it actually looked like

I don’t really know

 

But such a large part of my life

At one time even hopes and dreams

Were tangled up involving you

And that just doesn’t go away it seems

 

Your life moved on and yet here I sit

Not once having regretted my choice

For it was when I stepped out of your darkness

That I discovered my voice

 

When I awoke this morning

It seemed hope had bled through

I’m blessed and grateful for all I’ve been given

I need not shed another tear for you

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Domestic Violence Awareness Month – What Can You Do?

In honor of October being Domestic Violence Awareness month, here is what you can do to help raise awareness and make a difference in your community.

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  • Become a prayer warrior to intercede for women in crisis and for the needs of FOCUS Ministries. You will receive a regular update of prayer requests from women worldwide who need to know someone is praying for them, and a list of specific needs relating to the operation of FOCUS Ministries.
  • Partner with us financially. We are supported by individual and church donations solely depending on the Lord’s provision to carry our work forward. Funding is needed to help us meet the physical needs of families, to continue free counseling and support groups, and to provide Homes of Refuge. As a 501(c)(3) organization, your gifts are tax-deductible.
  • Start a FOCUS Support Group in your area. Our Train the Trainer seminar will help you with the tools you need and a leader’s manual is available for purchase. Leaders are able to connect with FOCUS representatives to assist them in this process.
  • Represent FOCUS Ministries in your area. Partner with us in distributing information about the newsletter, support groups, and seminars. Help us with creative fundraising through garage sales, walkathons, etc.
  • Support our Homes of Refuge. Big needs require big dreams and FOCUS Ministries has some. Perhaps you can become an integral part to providing a safe place to a family who desperately needs one.
  • Contribute by clicking. Check out simple ways that you can to earn donations to FOCUS Ministries in conjunction with your regular Internet activity. Every click counts!
  • Purchase the Teen FOCUS Curriculum.  Whether you are a school counselor, youth pastor, educator, or volunteer who works with young people, this tool is a “don’t miss” resource in helping prevent today’s youth from experiencing destructive relationships that will destroy their spirit.
  • Support Teen FOCUS.  Show your support by wearing one of our buttons or ribbons.  Give them to your daughters and friends.

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Domestic Violence Awareness is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I have been thinking about blogging about this topic for days. Upon stumbling across this amazing post from the Mary Byron Project, I knew I could not say anything better than what has already been said here.

It is my wish that someday men and women will understand the true devastation and the widespread effects of domestic violence.

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  It’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Ask anyone the color of breast cancer awareness and they will tell you pink.  Pink is everywhere this month.  There are breast cancer walks in nearly every community with survivors, friends, family members all wearing pink.  The American Institute for Cancer Research has a website dedicated to getting “pink on purpose.”  There’s a pink store that sells pink items and even a collection of pink recipes. 

October is a month awash in pink, and, rightly so.  Everyone knows someone, a friend, relative, co-worker, or acquaintance, which has battled breast cancer.  That is why we care so much, why we walk to raise awareness and why we fund prevention and treatment.  Breast cancer is a horrific disease, affecting one in eight women.  Hopefully, awareness, funding, and research will eliminate this monster before the next generation suffers.

 Domestic violence affects…

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Physical Constraint

Merriam Webster gives three definitions for constraint:

  1. The checking on one’s true feelings and impulses when dealing with others.
  2. Something that limits one’s freedom of action or choice.
  3. The use of power to impose one’s will on another.

Any woman who has been in an abusive relationship knows firsthand at least one of these definitions if not all of them.

In the beginning when we would fight and things would start to get out of control, I would leave.  I would get in the car and just leave.  Having already moved 1000+ miles from home, I didn’t have anywhere to go.   I did not have anyone to turn to, so I would drive around for an hour, maybe two, before giving up and going back to the house.  I don’t remember what would push me over the edge to get in the car and leave, and I probably wasn’t always right in walking away when things got heated.  But I do remember being afraid of what he would do while I was gone, especially to my cat.  He would threaten to hurt her if I left her with him.  He would pick her up and throw her at me and yell at me to take her with me.  So I would pack her up in her carrier, and she and I would take refuge in the car.

Eventually, I wasn’t allowed to leave the house when things got too intense.  The days of driving around in the car with no place to go soon became a distance memory, a luxury of freedom I would long for.  If we were having an argument, no matter how heated it got, there was no walking away.  He considered my walking away to be extremely disrespectful, and it meant either I didn’t really love him, or that I was sleeping with someone else.  I remember the sheer frustration and anger it would generate, to be confined to a room when you wanted to leave.  I pushed, shoved, screamed; I didn’t go down without a fight.  The first time he restrained me in a doorway, when nothing else worked I pinched him when he wouldn’t let me through.  It was the first time he hit me.  He slapped me hard across the face and then just stepped aside.

In the rare event I actually made it out of the room before he could stop me, he would take the car keys or stand in front of the outside door so I couldn’t leave the house.  I would try and remove myself to the couch or the guest room.  But that was not permitted either.  If I didn’t return to the bedroom in a reasonable period of time, I would be physically brought back to the bedroom.  This meant being picked up and carried.

On one occasion, I managed to grab the car keys before he could stop me.  I barely made it outside and into the car before he bore down on me.  With the doors locked and him unable to get to me, he went berserk.  There was an old tire in the yard, and he used that to start attacking the car.  Terrified, I sat in the car too scared to even drive away, while he pounded and screamed and threw that tire at the car over and over.  Once he had worn himself out from throwing the tire or was sure I wouldn’t drive away, or both, he went inside and locked me out of the house.

Eventually my anger and frustration at being restrained started to fade, and as it faded, so did my attempts to fight back against the restraint.  The anger gave way to a feeling of defeat and worthlessness and ultimately to acceptance.  In the end, I quit trying to leave.  I’m not exactly sure of the point in which I crossed over from believing I couldn’t leave, to not even thinking about trying at all.  It was probably around the time I had my oldest son.  There was no way I was going to leave that house without him, and my husband made it clear there was no way I would leave the house WITH him.

By the time my youngest came, I honestly believed there was no option of my leaving.  It saw absolutely no way of being able to leave of my own accord.  Instead I would daydream of ways I would finally be free.  I would fantasize of my husband dying in a car crash.  I would dream of him having an affair and leaving me for another woman.  I would often tell him that some other woman would make him happier, that clearly I was the wrong woman for him.  Silently I prayed that he would somehow leave me.

They say the average woman in an abusive relationship tries to leave 10 times before she is successful.  After the first couple of years we were married, I never tried to physically leave, and I was so trapped mentally by his abuse that I never even imagined a scenario in which I left.  But I probably fantasized of him leaving me more than a 1000 times.

Years later, my now ex-husband still does not recognize his actions as abusive.  He even recounts events as humorous anecdotes to tell while with friends.   One particular story, of my cat sailing through the air and landing in a clothes basket continues to be a party favorite.  Once I even laughed along when he told this story, desensitized by his violent behavior.  But I am no longer in that dark place of acceptance.   The other night while laying in bed with my oldest son, he referenced a story daddy told him of throwing our cat.  I am grateful that I am now in a place where I can openly discuss this story with my son and demonstrate to him that violent behavior is not the way to solve his problems as he grows up.

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To the Next One

On my way home from being a Matthew West groupie this weekend, I found my ex-husband’s new fiancee on my heart.  Over the past year or so that they have been together, I have struggled with the desire to warn her.  But I have resigned myself to the fact that she needs to be the one to figure it out, as did I.  She may enlist my help or someone else’s at some point in time, and she may not.   I have done my best to let go of any responsibility I feel for her.  However, as I thought of her on my drive back to Chicago-land, I wondered what I would say to her if ever given the opportunity.  Never did I dream that the opportunity would come much closer to being reality as I learned of the events that transpired over the weekend while I was away.

It took less than 2 minutes in the car with the boys after picking them up from their father on Sunday to know that something was wrong.  I will not go in to details as they are not necessary, but I find myself with a stronger desire than ever to reach out to the fiancee.  This is my letter to her.


Dear <Fiancee>,

I know you do not want to hear anything I might have to say.  But this is not about me or you.  It is about those two beautiful boys, that I hope you have come to care about over the past year or so.  What they went through on Saturday night is not something any child should have to go through.  The worst part is it’s not the first time they have been subjected to such an event, and that is a burden I get to live with everyday.

Hearing the commotion and certainly seeing their father in that state was most certainly frightening  But what truly scared them was the thought that their father might be taken away that night.  They did not know what was happening; whether they would simply be left alone; or if they too would be taken by the police.  I cannot imagine how scary that was for them to go through.

The following day brought about all the uncertainty their father’s actions had created.  They didn’t know if daddy was still getting married.  They didn’t know if daddy still had a place to live.  Furthermore, they were asked to withhold the events of the prior night from their mother, a burden a child should not be expected to bear.

I have been through this.  I have been where you are standing.  I do not fault you for wanting to defend him or for choosing to stay with him.  I stayed for 13 years; 10 after the first time he hit me; 3 after he struck me in the head with a lamp and was arrested for battery.  Even though I was terrified enough to call for help, I didn’t press charges.  In fact, I begged the police not to take him.  I did not appear in court for the hearing, allowing the state filed charges to be dropped.

They see their therapist tomorrow.  If he recommends what I believe he will recommend, then I will file a motion to modify the custody agreement.  You don’t have to support my decision. But I am asking you to be stronger than I was.  I need you to be honest; to tell the truth when asked about what happened Saturday night; to be willing to tell that to whoever it may be when the time comes.  If you don’t, the boys will be forced to testify.

Most likely you do not think what happened was domestic violence, but it was.

Any person who physically assaults (which includes but is not limited to; hitting, choking, kicking, shoving, raping, destruction of personal property), threatens, harasses, exploits, neglects, deprives, intimidates dependents, stalks, or interferes with the personal liberty of another family or household member has broken Illinois Domestic Violence law.

Illinois also recognizes the impact to children who witness acts of domestic violence.

The witnessing of domestic violence can be auditory, visual, or inferred, including cases in which the child perceives the aftermath of violence, such as physical injuries to family members or damage to property. Children who witness domestic violence can suffer severe emotional and developmental difficulties that are similar to those of children who are direct victims of abuse.

I left <my ex> not for me, but for the boys.  I need you to do this for them.  They can not continue to be subjected to such trauma.  As easy as it might be to dismiss, it truly has a detrimental effect on them.  No child should live in fear of their father.

That is all I ask.

Sincerely,

sig

Your Wife is Abusive

To Anonymous,

Your wife is abusive.  There is not a doubt in my mind.   She might not deliver cuts or bruises (or maybe she does), but the injuries she inflicts do leave scars.

I do not know what it is like to be a man living with an abusive wife.  But I do know what it is like to live with an abuser.  I do know the effect it can have on you and especially on your children.  I know the feelings of confusion, of hurt and despair.  I know what it is like to constantly have to walk on egg shells, afraid that something you might say or do or even not say or do could set them off.  I know what it’s like to question your own sanity; to question or even believe that you are truly at fault; to wish you could just do exactly what they expect of you so that you can make them happy.  I know the fear of what they might say or do to your children.  You hold your breath or even get angry with your children when they do something that you know might set your spouse off.

I know it goes against all social norms.  I can imagine how it might make you feel to admit that you are being abused by your wife.  I am an extremely successful independent woman who made twice as much as my husband, was raised in a Christian household with parents who are still together and have no history of domestic abuse… and I yet still allowed it to happen to me.  You are not alone.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you feel afraid of your wifes reaction so much so that you cannot discuss whatever is bothering you?
  2. Does she frequently humiliate you, criticize you or undermine your self- esteem?
  3. Does she try to isolate you from friends and family?
  4. Has she stolen from you (or your children) or run you into debt?
  5. Does your relationship swing from extremes of distance and closeness, as manipulated by her?  Such as walking out one day followed by weekends away the next?
  6. Has she damaged or destroyed anything that belongs to you (or other members or your family)?
  7. Do you feel that she controls your life?
  8. Does she act possessive and accuse you of being unfaithful and involved in affairs?
  9. Does she belittle your ideas, thoughts and feelings?
  10. Is any emotional response to her behavior unacceptable?
  11. Do you have to account to her every moment of your time?
  12. Do you have to account for every penny you spend?
  13. Does she threaten or intimidate you to win an argument?
  14. Does she blame you for every problem, even her behaviour towards you?
  15. Does she regularly threaten to leave you or the kids?
  16. Does she make you feel that you are alone and unwanted?
  17. Does she ridicule or insult your beliefs, gender, sexuality or ability?
  18. Does she withdraw approval, appreciation and affection to you or your children?
  19. Does she call you names and shout at you in public? Does she humiliate you in private or in public?
  20. Does she manipulate you with lies and high drama?
  21. Does she manipulate your sexual relationship based on her moods? Seeks sex to make up after an argument?
  22. In sum, she generally makes you feel that you are not good for anything, unwanted, and  a burden to everyone.

This list is the same list applied to help a woman realize she is being emotionally abused by a man.  I just changed all the he’s to she’s.  You don’t have to answer yes to every question either.

When most people think of domestic abuse, they picture a woman who has been physically assaulted. But not all abusive relationships involve violence. Just because you’re not battered and bruised doesn’t mean you’re not being abused.  You may think that physical abuse is far worse than emotional abuse, since physical violence can send you to the hospital and leave you with scars.  But, the scars of emotional abuse are very real, and they run deep.  In fact, emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse—sometimes even more so, especially on a child.  Verbal and psychological wounds leave a child forever changed.

  • Emotional abuse attacks a child’s self-concept. The child comes to see him or herself as unworthy of love and affection.
  • Children who witness abuse in relationships or emotional spousal abuse demonstrate higher rates of physical aggressiveness, delinquency and interpersonal problems than other children.
  • The consequences of emotional abuse on a child can be serious and long-term.
    • Emotionally abused children may experience a lifelong pattern of depression, estrangement, anxiety, low self-esteem, inappropriate or troubled relationships, or a lack of empathy.
    • As teenagers, they find it difficult to trust, participate in and achieve happiness in relationships, and resolve the complex feelings left over from their childhoods.
    • As adults, they may have trouble recognizing and appreciating the needs and feelings of their own children and emotionally abuse them as well.
  • Emotional abuse can result in serious psychological and/or behavioral problems. These include depression, lack of attachment or emotional bond to a parent or guardian, low cognitive ability and educational achievement and poor social skills.

You do not have to live this way.   No one should have to live this way.  You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.  Her behavior is not your fault.  Nothing you have done results in her abusive actions.  You can not fix her.  I know you have tried.  Only she can make the change, and it will take more than talking to a counselor a few times.

By staying in the relationship in its current state you are enabling her abusive behavior, while continuing to put yourself and your chidren at risk.

Love,

sig

 

 

 

 

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