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Domestic Violence : Victim or Survivor ?

The Choice is Ours....Not His To Make

This page is for Survivors of Domestic Violence, his addiction to Control and Power. I have found that the more I write, work toward making it possible for EACH of us to leave, the more I heal. And you too have skills you can use, to help others leave. But first we must each begin the real work of healing. And to do that means nothing short of the old adage, the Only Way Out Is Through.

I know that my counseling training was a big help. But first I had to work through the "This couldn't be happening to me" syndrome which any Social Worker type would experience. If you are going through those sensations, try reading some of the numerous webpages on The Myths surrounding DV, because DV can happen to anyone, anyone at all.

Because DV is no more selective than alcoholism, gambling or any other kind of addiction you can think of. As Blain Nelson writes: It happens to lawyers, doctors, social workers, daycare providers, office workers, psychologists, writers, readers, factory workers, ministers, rabbi's and anyone else you can think of. The compulsion within our society is so strong, to succeed, to have power, to be in control, that it takes over life itself, the will to live. For we are currently confused about what "a life" is. And as long as we see self worth as status, the problem will only grow exponentially. Addictions flourish where compulsions live. And we are a compulsive society. Have have, take take, me-me-me, more-more.

But you found YOURSELF just as soon as you began seeking help. Congratulations. You are worth it. And we need you. Because society needs to hear your voice, reminding folks that just because shelters exist does NOT mean they are empty when we need them, that the staff is working out well, that ALL Americans are treated equally in them, that they will work for you. I have seen the worst and the best there. But you are taking care of YOU and that is the most important thing in the world right now.

One thing that helped me was taking a long hard look at what I was afraid of: Losses. And I knew from my disabilities that grieving those losses would not be easy, but worth it in the end. I knew that I had to re-acquaint myself with the Five Stages of Grieving. And take them in what ever stages they came.

There is always a huge fear of what one "might" lose if one leaves the relationship. Intimacy, the sense of failing at relationships comes to mind, and friends. Because when a relationship of long-standing fails, some friends can't handle the change. Yes, these things just might happen. The friends have their own agenda, and you may no longer fit into it. But guess what? IF YOU REMAIN YOU MAY NOT BE ALIVE TO SHARE ANY OF IT. One third of all murders of women, are at the hand of their partner, their lover. Now what kind of "love" is this? If you are not here, there is simply nothing to participate in, is there?

The stages of Grief include:

  • Denial-This isn't happening, It was a one time deal, I must be imagining things, Must be MY fault.
  • Bargaining-If I act differently, maybe I am not keeping the house clean, it must be his work
  • Anger-How Can THIS Be Happening to Me? WHY is this being allowed to go on? How Does society?
  • Depression-A deep sense of discouragement, sense of failure as a person which seems permenant.
  • Acceptance-Realizing that you have a gift to offer others, and that nothing you did could change him.

And each of these is well explained on numerous other online webpages. But when I applied them to my Domestic Violence situation, once I got past the guilt, were these. When we are first confronted with the possibility that others are seeing the changes and calling it DV, we don't want to believe it could be happening, or that it is his fault, do we? Well, it is his responsibility to love you, not hurt you. Besides we all know now of the term Denial Is NOT the Name of a River in Egypt. And it fits here. Denial is part of Grieving and Loss. We know that eventually it will become time to see the truth. We just don't want it to be today.

Bargaining takes its shape as "Working On the Relationship". Now granted his version will be that You needed to work on Your stuff, not him. But the truth is that we are to them as a palatte, and on it they paint their life. But that is not truth. In fact each of us has a life, and life is a palatte on which we draw, paint or do nothing. The choice is ours, well, yours....and his. Bargaining includes trying to change things, counseling if he will, and self blame altogether too often. But it is not your fault he is unhappy, and nothing you can ever do, or wil do, takes away his unhappiness. Only he can.

Anger. Now anger is actually a very very very very very very good emotion for you, when your life is in danger, and it motivates you TO LEAVE the abuse. Anger tells us that we are in danger, just like fight/flight protects animals in the wilds. And if you have ever been through Domestic Violence, ask yourself if this felt civilized, or were you dealing with an animal ? This is not a complicated math problem. Anger motivates us to work through emotions too. When someone abuses, anger is a healthy reaction. Of course, it's a secondary emotion. What we're really feeling is Hurt and Fright. They say anger is either fear or pain. I say in DV it's both. Any survivor will tell you this.

Depression is a pretty natural thing too. When you run and run and run, all your energy goes into supporting his ego and needs, right? Then you leave, and it may not be supportive as you had hoped. Happened to me. I left and was shamed by society for being disabled, by the fact that shelters won't deal with it. Then our van burned and we lost everything. No one would help us replace it because we "Weren't From" the area. Gee ..... Go Figure.... You leave to relocate..... Whadda Expect? And for me it meant losing my medical equipment. Now if ya think that Blue Cross et. al. are gonna replace that...think again. It just WON'T HAPPEN. In fact, it destroyed our very lives. But I am here today to write this, and to tell you that IT IS WORTH leaving. It really, truly is. I would leave again in a heartbeat. But did I have to wade through periods of sloggish discouragement and depression? You bet. It's all a part of healing. And it means that the relationship meant something to begin with. Life is hard sometimes. But it's worth doing something about because YOU are worth something!

Acceptance. Hmm. Does this mean we accept what he did ? NEVER ! It means to me, accepting and cherishing what I did, what it took TO LEAVE. The how I did it, when, what day/year, where, none of that matters much......later. And it wasn't worth beating myself up over even at the time. While I was at the one shelter which cost me any further use of my legs for walking....EVER....I was bemoaning having stayed a few months. They were elated, and in near shock that anyone LEFT in under A Year, of marriage. I wasn't going to bother to wait around. After all, he knew that he was going to kill me. He told me so, "I am going to push your wheelchair out on the porch and watch you freeze to death. It's 20 below, and it would take approximately......" As full of unbelief as I was, and listening to his alleged "remorse", it is that truth of his that I hang onto today. Had I remained. I would now be dead. And as much as shelters don't care about disABLEd individuals. I know that I have something to give society. If you get one thing from this page or this lifestory, then it was worth it for me to live, I mean leave, wasn't it?

So to accept means to accept yourself, your timing, and your choices. You made the best ones you could given the situation. And that comes, eventually. But it comes. The support I received from others who had left is now a part of me. Without their assistance I would never have made it.

And you will help another too, pulling them out of what quickly becomes a cesspool, the cesspool called abuse. Now ask yourself, when someone gets into quicksand, are you going to sit there blaming them for not seeing something which doesn't even look dangerous? Batterers can be quite charming UNTIL they know they 'have' us. It's not as if batterers go around wearing a sign which says "I ABUSE" is it? And quicksand in the woods doesn't have a billboard saying "Don't Step Here".

Because stuff happens. The man you marry may not be the man he becomes....over time. But you must be YOU. And you must leave, if only for a time, for him to get back to being that man he wants to be, not the man he has become. It won't happen if you allow him to remain circumstancially the same. Leaving allows him to grow.

Some folks say "Stuff happens". Ok, they say the natural by-product of eating food happens. But I say life is what you make of it. Stuff also makes good garden fertilizer with time. I say Grow A Garden. Your life, your children't life, the life you save one day may not be your own, all of this is Your Garden. And we women, are nurtures by nature. Not all, but most. So allow yourself to be nurtured by other women right now. Allow yourself to grow. Allow your once beloved to grow, by leaving, and giving him space....taking some for yourself, your kids, right now. Be good to yourself. You are WORTH IT.

I know. Because I was once close to where you might be right now. Full of emotions and confusion, mostly of keeping the secrets, his secrets which he wants to put on you. Think of it. What is all that worth? Is it worth your life? Is he ? The choice my friend is yours. You can make it. Thank you for reaching out....and Getting Help NOW.

Love yourself into safety. I did and you not only can...YOU MUST. Cuz you're not a victim. You are a Survivor !

Copyright November 4, 1999

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