By Isabella @TheWandCarver
I am taking a step away from magick today to bring forward some information about Domestic Violence/Abuse. A very close acquaintance has written something which I think must be printed. Of course, there is no name to be given as it is in strictest confidence. All information by the abused will be in quotes whilst facts I have found online, and my own words will be in plain type. I hope this will help others.
“You know what they say about when a man is perfect until he gets the ring on your finger and then the honeymoon is over? It was just like that. The wedding day was all sweetness and light… a civil service followed by a handfasting and a short honeymoon. Once home, he said, ‘maybe we jumped into this too soon.’ He only said what I had been thinking but he had been the persistent one. I did try to give it more time before the final commitment, but he would have none of it. I should have taken his insistence as a warning sign. It wasn’t like I was pregnant and ‘had to’ get married… not that anybody does that anymore. But I was in love, so it only seemed more romantic to me. If only I had listened to my gut. I knew I should have done; I have rarely failed by doing so. Still, I went along with it all.”
“We muddled along with our so-called marriage and it always had a pall of gloom enveloping it. What was worse is, I had children from my previous marriage and I was desperate to keep them from knowing how I was being treated. I would be ignored for days by him and then a shouting match would end the silence. I would, of course, be blamed for all and sundry. If things weren’t clean enough, I was to blame. If the sex wasn’t good enough, I was to blame. His gaining weight… Yes, I was to blame for that. And, certainly not because I was a good cook by any means… at least to hear him tell it… but for his penchant to eat junk food morning, noon, and night. But that was my fault, too. Next, I knew, he was ‘cheating’ on me. Not playing away, exactly, with another woman, but online. He had himself a wide network of places to chat up other women and to get sex shows from. It might have not been the worst thing, but he stupidly did this at work as well. So, before I had gotten my head around that, he got the sack at work… how embarrassing is that? Not for him, of course, because it wasn’t his fault! It was mine! But the embarrassing thing is, I knew the people he worked for for years! I could only imagine the things being said and thought and worse still, the pitying looks. I became unable to leave the house in due time. But what worried me most was the effect it would have on my children…”
Statistics vary from article to article about this, so I want to be careful not to include them. However, the major consensus is that there is no way to completely keep children out of the loop in domestic situations, no matter how hard the abused parent is trying to. They WILL be affected. How they handle it and turn out in the long term is anybody’s guess unless they are given counselling and excellent post-domestic abuse care. According to Parents.com: “Dr. Clark says some kids may feel rage at the abusive parent, anger at the victim [-ised parent] for not being able to avoid the abuse or protect herself, or pity for the abused parent. These feelings could cause the child to withdraw or lash out at one or both parents, be disobedient, become excessively clingy, or take on a parental role towards the abused parent.”
“As time went on, I had my children live with their father to keep them safe as possible from being around this beast my husband had become. I didn’t know what else to do because of the threats. He was bigger than me and a lot stronger… funnily enough, whatever he told me made more sense than the way I would see it otherwise. I don’t know how to explain that except now I guess I was in some kind of Svengali-like hold. When he berated me, I could see how terrible I was from his words. I hated myself so much. I tried to get up the courage to overdose [commit suicide] but couldn’t do it because I would see my children’s faces and feared they would hate me. In fact, I already feared they hated me. The thing is, I couldn’t talk to anyone about my situation. I had nobody I could talk to! I no longer could work outside the home, I had no friends, I was only surrounded by him and his family. I was terrified to stay there and terrified to go anywhere. All I did was dream of just dying a natural death, so I wouldn’t be an embarrassing suicide to my family. “
“I did try journalling my feelings. I would sit and re-read what I had written after a time and be appalled at what dark things had come from my mind. I have never had an easy life, but I was in such a kind of hell now I had never really imagined existed. One day he had found my journal and began shouting about what I had said and such a carry on ensued about ‘how good you have it’ and ‘your head is f**ked!’ I was laying in a foetal position on our bed with my back to him and he suddenly punched me in my cervical spine so hard I flew off the bed and hit the wall opposite. I’m not exaggerating that at all. I don’t bruise very easily but the size of the black fist print didn’t leave for weeks. This was not the first time he had ever hit me, but it was the worst. I was so thankful the children weren’t there to witness this!”
Children exposed to domestic violence are at increased risk of being abused themselves, either by the abuser, by the victim lashing out at the kids, or by both parents being so entangled in the abuse that they don’t care for the children properly. Research shows that 30 to 60 percent of domestic violence cases also include child abuse or neglect. Apologies for the statistical percentage but it is fair enough. What I don’t find much about is what happens to children who don’t witness these attacks but do know about them from seeing the bruising and hearing one or the other parent talk about it.
“In the course of our nearly four-year marriage, he choked me until I fainted twice. He punched me numerous times, but never quite so hard as that one time. He also like to pretend to be holding my hand but instead twisting my fingers until I thought they might break. And the verbal abuse was nearly non-stop. And the threatening… I was threatened with death or the death of my children on so many occasions I lost count. Oh yes, there were occasional witnesses. His family had witnessed some of his verbal and physical violence but swore blind if I called the police they would lie about what they saw or heard. Why? Because they were just about as afraid of him as I was, I should think. I simply felt I had no recourse but to stay and put up with everything he dished out because I was not worthy of being saved. Hadn’t I prayed so hard for help? And none came! I was a disgrace.”
“Of course, I missed my children terribly. And, it got where I couldn’t not see them anymore. I would try having them over for a night and try to supervise their visits as best I could, so they wouldn’t see how he acted but he was so sly. He did and said things to my children that I didn’t see or hear about until it was all done. Yes, I did see and hear some things – he would be very hateful and shouty toward them if they did anything ‘wrong’ in his eyes… in anybody else’s it would only be a little mistake, if that. And, to punish them he would make them stand in a corner for hours. All I wanted to do was get my hands on a phone, ring up their father and tell him to come pick them up. But we would have all suffered far worse had I done that.”
Whilst children exposed to domestic violence are at increased risk of being abused themselves, this is not 100% down to the abused parent not caring but it is not easy to try to balance the thin line between protecting the children and protecting yourself. The abused parent knows she or he must stay safe as possible for the children and they also know they must protect the children. When the abused parent knows of nowhere to go or how to get help without being found out by the abusing partner, then being battered for their troubles, it is often felt that to be safe is to be void of emotion on any level around the abuser, ie, abused parent acts as if she or he is not concerned.
“There were times I asked my eldest child if any personal abuse had happened and during the time it was all going on for me, the answer was always no. However, after I finally got free of the situation, the things I heard turned my stomach. All I could ask myself was, ‘where have I been?’, ‘how did I not know?’, ‘what kind of mother am I?’.”
Children who have been maltreated are often afraid to tell anyone, … and symptoms of abuse, because they don’t want to face the truth. Just like the abused parent, they either don’t think anyone will take them seriously, they are ashamed and embarrassed, or if someone does take them seriously they are afraid of what it might mean to their family situation. Why doesn’t the abused parent know? One thing people must remember is that the abused parent has been mentally and physically drained of most of their senses, oftentimes. They exist in a zombie-state and are barely functioning. One woman told me ‘it’s like you are reduced to the most basic animal and have no thoughts anymore, you act entirely on instinct…and some days if your body and brain didn’t take over your ability to breathe, you might just stop breathing altogether and die…and when you can think, you wish you could.’
“Eventually he hit me in the right place at the wrong time – for him. Police were called in and he was arrested. The entire situation around the arrest was like the Universe opened and smiled and said, ‘alright, you’ve suffered enough, he’s leaving’. I would like to say the world was all sunshine and roses afterwards, but it took a long time for me to knit myself back together. And, you would think I would be dancing around, happy and safe feeling, but in a sense, I was more fearful than ever. I was afraid of my own shadow… I sat most days on my sofa with the telly on, not watching it, mind, but just staring and crying. I could not really muster the ability to go anywhere. Eventually, upon advice of counsel, I did make it to the courts to get a restraining order against him. It still worried me that he would pitch up anyway and no one would get to me on time. After all, his parting words were, ‘you’ll die for this’.”
Leaving an abusive relationship can be one of the hardest things a person does. But even after your ex is out of your life, sometimes the emotional and mental affects from experiencing abuse can linger on. You may experience feelings of depression, guilt, anger, loss and even symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]:
Being easily frightened or scared
Avoiding of stressful triggers that remind you of abuse
Difficulty maintaining relationships
Feeling emotionally numb
“Eventually, I did seek help. I didn’t find it easy to do and had to make myself search out the help I needed but because of my children, I knew I needed to get myself back. I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and given counselling and medication to help. I could see now how much this whole business had affected not only me but my children as well. They were full of hatred for this man and I couldn’t blame them. But hard as it was to tell them, I would say to them that they must forgive him because he is a sick person and if he weren’t so sick he would be a good person. I explained that the ‘forgiveness’ was NOT to let him off for any of the horrible things he did but it was for us personally… so we could lay the nightmare to rest and move on. Because one thing I had learned many years prior is, if I don’t forgive the person hurting me then I become the one with a problem. I allow myself to think bad things about the person and let it take over my thoughts. I explained to them when they forgive such a person that it takes their power over you away. It was very important that we regain our personal power and let no one take it again.”
“They did seem better for a while, but I have watched over the years the symptoms of what had happened play out through them. Skipping school for weeks at a time, spending money to the point where it put their own families at risk, risky sexual behaviour, reclusiveness, self-harming, suicidal thoughts, in and out of jobs, drinking too much, the list could go on…but anyone who has been here knows what I mean. And when I see these scenarios play out of course I blame myself. But then, I do need to remind myself that they are now old enough to make wiser decisions… and I have given them the advice – it is up to them to use it as they will, or not to. One child did receive counselling for several years but is now a recluse, afraid to go out into the world. My others did not and have decided through choice and lack of money for proper counselling to take the hard road. Still, they are all very lovely, sweet young adults and have managed to do alright despite me. Therefore, I must forgive myself now and move on. That is the hardest part. That, and not feeling like they will ever forgive me for bringing this beast into our lives.”
If you’ve recently gotten out of an abusive relationship, your sense of self has likely been altered — or even destroyed. So, too, have your feelings of safety and your ability to trust others.
You can and will regain these things, but it will take time. This is likely one of the hardest things you will ever do, so be patient with yourself. You can move on with your life and feel happy again, even if it doesn’t seem that way right now.
Remember that what you went through is not who you are. Healing is a process and through it, you will remember how strong, capable and extraordinary you really are. You will have good and bad times, but every day free from abuse is another piece of yourself that you get back and, eventually, those pieces will come together. The same can be said for the child or children from an abusive relationship. How you respond can help your child overcome these worries and generally feel better.
- Talk about what has happened in a mature and open manner with your children.
- Together with your children re-establish your sense of security. Plan and put into place ways of protecting yourselves which will help the children to feel secure again. Do whatever it legally and safely takes [this DOES NOT mean bringing weapons into the home].
- Give yourselves time to grieve. Take time with each other when one of you are feeling sad to talk and hug.
- Seek family counselling.
- Re-connect with the world. Don’t hide away. Do everything possible together in the early days after. Visit parks, go shopping, visit friends and family. Eventually, if possible, get the children into after-school projects or sports if they fancy something like this.
Whatever you do, be strong together. Don’t assume one is doing alright if they are smiling and happy looking. Children can hide their feelings just like adults do. If you keep a close watch on the family dynamics after such an upheaval you should be able to stop things from becoming worse with any luck – such as the way things happened with the children of the acquaintance telling her story. Still, even if the worst comes from it, always let them know you love them. Good luck and warm blessings.
Wherever you live, there are crisis lines in place to help you. Many times, they can offer a place for you and your children to go until you can establish your own residence away from your abuser. Domestic violence does not only happen to women! If you are a man being abused by a partner, male or female, please call and get help. There is NO shame in admitting that you are being hurt. Seek help immediately and be safe.
Hotlines by country:
Australia: 1800 RESPECT
Ontario 1-866-863-0511 or TTY 1-866-863-7868.
Manitoba 1-877-977-0007 or TTY 1-888-987-2829
New Zealand: 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843
Taiwan: 113 Hotline – in any language necessary
United Kingdom: 0808 2000 247 [freephone] – in immediate danger, dial 999
United States: 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 [TTY] – in immediate danger, dial 911