“I hope you are blessed with the heart of a wildflower. Strong enough to rise again after being trampled upon, tough enough to weather the worst of summer storms, and able to grow and flourish even in the most broken places.”~Nikita Gill.
The above quote is to this day still one of my favorites, as it not only speaks to me as a survivor, but also the beauty I see around me every day in the Rocky Mountains. This subject is not an easy one for me to express, as I’ve been a victim of verbal and emotional abuse, domestic violence, assault, and battery in more than one relationship in my life. What I’ve been seeing these last few months is numerous reports of abuse, especially with stay at home orders in place and it breaks me heart. Many women are trapped in their homes with abusers, isolated from people and resources that could help. They can’t go to work, rely on friends, are scared for their health, and worried about their finances. Brad Garrett, former FBI agent recently stated to ABC News, “The shelter in place forces couples to remain home and the victim is scared to leave for fear of catching the virus. With typically ten million domestic violence reports a year, the longevity of the virus will certainly drive up domestic violence.” Those are just the ones reported. “It’s a crisis within a crisis, truly disturbing, if we don’t do anything about it, talk about it, ring the alarm, there will be millions of more cases globally,” says UNFPA deputy director Ramiz Alakbarov to CBS. NBC News also noted, “there has been a twenty percent increase in domestic violence calls since the pandemic started.” If sharing my knowledge can help just one woman get out of an abusive situation, then I’m willing to go to this dark place and share my experience. For professional sake, I won’t go into details, but I do want every single woman to know that it can happen to ANYONE. Never in a million years did I think it would happen to me. There is no race, age, country, financial status, education level, background or demographic that is not impacted. It is not alright and it is not your fault.
While my daughter and I were driving home from the store last week, an amber alert came on the radio. It described a woman who had “stolen” her husband’s truck and “abducted” her children. Instantly I was in tears, mostly thinking of possibly what environment that woman and her children were in to have to flee like that. While I don’t know the details and am in no way saying that it’s always the man’s fault, what I do know is that when a woman reaches her breaking point, her mother bear instincts will kick in and she will do anything to keep her children safe. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do to leave, but you can survive it and find peace.
The scariest part of this whole situation is that, is no woman ever goes into a relationship seeing someone she loves as a possible abuser. What I’ve sadly learned the hard way is that so many men who are narcissist’s, sociopaths, manipulators, and liars know how to hide it so well that the nightmare that unfolds almost doesn’t seem real. You feel stupid and humiliated that you didn’t see it coming. Many men start relationships with over-the-top generosity, flattery, and seem almost too good to be true. It all starts with what is called the Wheel of Power and Control. I’d never heard of this until I was shown it by a victim’s advocate. I’ve included it in this blog, because if you see these patterns in a relationship, you need to get out. It might start with small things like criticizing you, disrespect you needing alone time, not encourage your goals, trying to control who your friends are, pulling you away from family, bring up your past mistakes, make you explain everything and so forth, but it will escalate and will almost always lead to emotional and eventually physical abuse. Another term that I was educated on was gaslighting. When your partner refuses to admit any wrongdoing and tries to convince the other person they are paranoid, too sensitive or imaging things. Domestic violence is rooted in power and control. Without a partner acknowledging there’s a problem, and getting professional help, things will never improve. Partners with personality disorders have mastered the art of using their words as weapons. If you keep hoping for change, don’t feel understood, drained, hide your partner’s issues and conflict is constant, it’s time to move on.
Walking away from someone you love is never easy. There is pain, frustration, guilt, hopes of what you thought it was, sadness, but living with someone who doesn’t respect you is no way to live. The best thing you can do is cut off all contact, let go of the fantasy of change, make peace with your past, and learn you deserve better. It might be lonely some days, but it’s better to be safe than feel lonely in a bad relationship. You might not ever get the closure you need, but dig deep for the strength in knowing you are enough. There is so much help available and you are not alone. Confide in a trusted friend or family member. Call a helpline. See a therapist for help navigating emotions. Even when there are children involved, staying is not always the best decision. Children learn dysfunction by what they experience, so you have to break the cycle and teach them abuse in any form is not acceptable. No amount of money, lifestyle, judgment from others, or fear should keep you in an abusive relationship. So many who care about you would be happy to help, but you must take the first step of being honest with yourself and admitting you need out. The World Health Organization states that one out of three women in the world experience abuse in their lifetime. While this fact is so intense, its a reminder that no woman is immune. If you see a friend struggling, be there to help and support them. It does take time and scars will always be there, but you are can recover and rebuild your life. You have a voice and you are strong.