Thursday, March 3, 2011

Have You Ever Experienced Domestic Violence? by D. Brown, Guest Blogger

Today’s post is from our first guest blogger in the brief history of The Upbeat Dad. Last week, I wrote Domestic Violence and Its Impact on Families. Many of you shared with me just how enlightening and encouraging that post was. Some of you have experienced the painful realities of domestic violence. Others of you have loved ones who have experienced it.
I like to give all who read our blog great insight into the different subject matters that I write about so I thought that hearing from one who was abused would help others – whether or not they are in abusive situations. If nothing else, when we are educated on a particular subject matter, we become empowered with that knowledge.
Our guest blogger, Ms. D. Brown, is a victim and survivor of spousal abuse. She now empowers others who find themselves dealing with domestic violence and its effects.
I encourage you to not only read this post, but to share it with others who you believe would benefit from the message. And if you’re in an abusive situation, just know that you’re never alone. I trust that wherever this message finds you, it would give you hope for a brighter tomorrow. As the expression goes, tough times don’t last – only tough people do.
Enjoy reading and enjoy your day,
The Upbeat Dad

Have You Ever Experienced Domestic Violence?
By D. Brown

Have you or someone you care about ever experienced domestic violence?  If you answered yes, you are certainly not alone.  If you haven’t, please do not go looking around at others believing you may be able to see tell-tale signs.  Chances are you might, but it is a distinct possibility that you may be hanging out with someone who is an abuser, victim, or a survivor, and never even know it.
You see, domestic violence does not come with a specific ID or a particular “look.” A  man or woman may be abused in a number of ways and become such an expert at hiding it, that you may know them very well and never know it.  Let me talk to you from the point of view of a survivor of domestic violence and abuse.  Yes, a real honest to goodness survivor, who had seen some very dark days, and survived some brutal physical battering and assaults.  A woman who has taken her life back, and is using every resource she can to empower the lives of others.
So, you want to know who I am?  Let’s put it this way, I am not an average Jane.  I am a professional woman, trained in several careers, but I enjoy being a nurse.  I am a mom, who protects her child fiercely.  I am one of the lucky ones who made it out alive, thanks to my strong maternal instinct.   I had to get my child out of that abusive environment.  
I count my many blessings every day.  When I look in the mirror and a black eye or bruised cheek, or gashed brow does not stare back at me, or I walk or move, and don’t feel pain in every muscle, I know that I am blessed. My faith is what sustained me through the whole messy ordeal that was my life for years, as a victim of domestic violence and abuse.
I used to wonder sometimes why I, an extroverted, rather assertive, intelligent woman, never got help sooner.  The answer is no different from many others – I was too embarrassed to let anyone find out that my life that looked so normal on the outside, was such a living nightmare behind our closed doors.  If you’re in an abusive situation, just know that you’re not alone, and there are many just like you and exactly how I used to be. 
Some people never get it, even when you confide in them because while you walk with a limp, or find it difficult to chew, you manage to exhibit the biggest smiles on cue. Meanwhile, on the inside, you may be dying a very slow death – the death of your self-esteem, the death of all your aspirations and dreams that you have for you and your children. 
Some people refuse to believe you could be the victim of domestic violence and abuse.  So a friend or neighbor becomes crippled, or dies before they get help.  Yes, some people reach out for help, but no one believes them.  Sometimes even worse, they believe but do not take it seriously enough because it’s something that’s the norm in some cultures.
Do you ever wish that you could run away and leave everything behind, but check yourself because you have no money to feed yourself or your children if you do run?  My situation was a little different.  I was the one who had the higher income.  I was made to believe that I had control of my money but it brought me no joy, as I was stuck in a new country with no family except my husband. 
My idea of marriage was ‘until death do us part,’ so I was always forgiving and believing that things would change.  Do you see yourself doing that too?  Take it from someone who has, like the saying goes, “been there, done that.’ It will never change unless YOU change.  Oh yes, you can bring about change in your own life. 
“How,” you ask?  Get Help! Start confiding in someone else. Yes, it is embarrassing and degrading, but it is better to be embarrassed and lose face than end up dead. You don’t have to do anything drastic or dangerous.  Just make a resolve to change your life and reach out for help.  There are lots of resources for all victims of domestic violence and abuse, especially if you live in the USA.  Even in your neck of the woods, you can do some discreet research to find support for your situation.  You have to want it badly enough to help yourself.
If you leave your abusive situation, try not to think about going back.  It will be very, very difficult especially if you still love the person who was abusing you.  Let’s note something here: Being a survivor of domestic violence brings on feelings that are really sometimes not much different from being a prisoner who has been released after a long period of incarceration.   You may feel lost and not know how to function.  Some prisoners feel that it is better for them to just go right back to prison, and they find ways to land themselves back there.  People, more often than not, gravitate to the life they have grown accustomed to – even if it is a life filled with pain and suffering from domestic violence.
Some people for years were never able to think for themselves.  They were always told what to do, how to do it and when to do it.  Some were even told when to go to bed and when to get up, just like prisoners. They got punished even if they did the right things, so they become unsure of how to operate, how to function independently.   Were you so brainwashed that even though you are out of the abusive situation, you find yourself missing your abuser? You are not alone.  
I have spoken to so many people, men and women, who felt like that after they got out of the abusive situation. Many of them returned and left again several times before they were able to finally make a complete break. I was tempted a few times to let my spouse come back, but I had to protect my child. My ego or my needs were secondary to her needs.  I had to keep her safe at all cost and keeping him out of my life was the only sure way to keep her safe. I also did not want her to grow up believing that living like that, was ok, or worse, normal.
So, don’t feel badly if you feel like going back or did go back. If that happened with you, just get your support system in place discretely, so that you can leave for good next time.  That is one reason why you are encouraged to get help as soon as you can, so you do not begin to feel lost and return to the only familiar thing you know, the abuse.
Talk to someone understanding.  The counselors at domestic violence shelters in the USA are usually pretty understanding.  In the USA you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline   1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224. There are local shelters in communities throughout the USA and around the world that have trained counselors and advocates who will guide you to self-empowerment.
Do not continue to suffer alone in silence.  Remember your kids if you have children.  They are watching and waiting for you to make your move.  Believe me, they will be your cheerleader if you decide to get help, and stay away from danger.
Children learn what they live.  You did not cause your abuse; you could not change your abuser. Your kids will eventually learn that, but they can certainly learn from you, that you do not have to suffer through abuse.  They should learn from you that they can leave and go to safety.  Show them that you have some resolve left.  Give them some hope. Take your life back.

Be blessed.
D. Brown
(Ms. Brown is a former high school teacher, a nurse with the Veterans Administration, Web Designer and public relations officer for a community non-profit organization, Family & Friends Connection, Inc, http://www.famfc.orgShe is also a community outreach volunteer who founded South Florida Connects - She is an advocate for those affected by domestic violence.) 

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