If it hurts, it isn’t Love.

I wonder sometimes, if he hadn’t been arrested, if I hadn’t survived those harrowing years of his abuse, where would my daughters be today? Would their lives, already turned upside down by that relationship, ever have righted themselves? Would my disappearance have left them exposed to creating their own history of abusive relationships and other crises too scary to imagine?

It was May 2003. They were 16 and 17 and I had been missing for 3 months. For the almost five years leading up to my disappearance, they had watched me slowly disappear before their eyes. And then, in February I disappeared completely.

He was trying to flee the country, or so he said. I had no choice but to go with him, he told me.

I didn’t argue. I knew my life was over. Leaving with him was the only way I believed I could save my daughters. And so, I did what he said. It was what I had grown accustomed to doing. I did not question. I did not fight back. Fighting back was too scary.

That’s how abuse works.

A simple question. A piece of toast too dark. A coffee not hot enough and suddenly, you are the villain, the perpetrator and the reasons why his world is crumbling and you are cowering.

For the abuser in this story, his world had fallen apart because of his lies and manipulations. But I couldn’t see nor think about that. To think that the story he’d told me, the one about my daughters being at risk of abduction and forced into the sex trade by evil men, to think it was a lie was unthinkable. Only a monster would lie about something like that. And he wasn’t a monster. He loved me. He didn’t lie. He promised. And when he showed me the three bullets he’d received and told me about the photos the evil men had sent him of a young girl, who looked a lot like my eldest daughter, doing unthinkable things, I had to believe him. Who would make up a lie like that? Why?

He would. Because he could. Because it served his purpose. Because it was his way. To do whatever he had to to keep me in his web of lies and deceit.

If he’d hit me on our first date or second or third or even fourth date, I’d never have stayed.

But abusers set their traps with care. They prime and preen their victims, waiting until they’re sure you’re under their spell. And then the Prince of Darkness rears up and pounces. Of course, in his wake, Prince Charming rides in on waves of contrition, smoothing over your confusion and pain with his apologies and gifts. And the cycle begins again.

It’s called, ‘intermittent reinforcement.’  With the abuser who was in my life, he sowed seeds of terror first before letting out his anger. The consequences were always the same, confused, frightened, I’d threaten to leave and he would remind me of the ‘evil men’ lurking.

Terrified, and believing him when he said it was all my fault, I froze. I stayed silent. I stayed.

When we first met, I embraced his lies as if they were the truth because he was so charming and convincing, and I wasn’t looking for lies. I was expecting love.

By the end, I knew he was the lie, but I didn’t have anything left within me to fight back. I was his shill, his object. Me, the woman I’d known, the mother who loved her daughters deeply, had a career she loved, a vibrant circle of friends and loving family, no longer existed.

In her stead stood the woman who believed if she could just unhook gravity’s hold on her body, she could fall into the ocean and be washed away. And in that one final act, all memory of her presence would vanish from her daughters’ minds. Erased. Without me, they could go on with their lives forgetting they ever had a mother who had loved them deeply and disappeared.

And then, one day he was arrested and I was given the gift of getting my life back. It was a long journey home, to myself, to my daughters, to my family and friends. It was a long journey. And it was worth every step.

Today, I am a grandmother to two beautiful children. Seven years ago when I married a kind and caring man, my daughters walked me down the aisle. Together.  Just as I walked my eldest daughter down the aisle a year later.

And while sometimes I might wonder what might have happened if the police hadn’t walked in that day and arrested him, I do not have to worry about where they are, or what happened to them.

They have taken this journey back into life with me, blessing me with their unfaltering love and support.

Too many women are not so fortunate. Too many women stay trapped in relationships that are killing them because they believe there is no way out. Nowhere to go.

There is always a way out. Always somewhere to go. To get there, you must reach out for help. You must take that first step into naming his hitting you, his calling you names and locking you outside in sub-zero temperatures with no coat or shoes to protect you, what it is. Not Love. Not anger. Not his having a bad day. Not ‘he didn’t mean it’. It’s ABUSE.

And the fact is, you can heal from abuse with every step you take away from the abuser.

If you are in a relationship that feels like it is killing you, there are resources and people who will walk with you as you take those steps back into life without abuse. Please reach out.

__________________________

This LINK provides a list of resources for every province and territory.

__________________________

I don’t often write about those days of darkness and terror. Today, in honour of the women and girls who face sexual and physical abuse every day, to support efforts to end family violence, I do.

I believe when we tell our stories of coming through darkness into the light, we shine a light for others to see, there is hope.

That story, the one about me who was so lost and frightened and ashamed of what had become of her she wanted to end her own life, it is no longer my story.

My story today is rich and full of life and love, laughter and joy, creativity and the freedom to be me and to love me, all of me, including the woman who was once so lost, she believed she had to desert her children to save them.

I came home. You can too.

Namaste.

It Is My Choice

#ShePersisted Series – No. 30 https://louisegallagher.ca/shepersisted/

Like many, conflict is not my comfort zone. In fact, I sometimes feel that getting a tooth pulled without anesthesia is preferable to wading into a conflict zone.

The challenge is, when I avoid conflict, I create discord within myself and the world around me.

Like a sickly sweet cotton candy ball, conflict cloys and clings, wrapping everything it comes in contact with in almost invisible threads of sticky nothingness that is bad for your health and everything it touches.

Which is why, to find resolution, we must choose to wade through the murky waters of conflict to swim in the waters of harmony on the other side.

Ask my beloved. I might not like conflict but I dislike enduring inappropriate behaviour, injustice, and inequity even more.

It’s a simple equation in my mind. I can choose to carry the discomfort of what someone else has done and let it fester inside while also polluting the waters between us, or I can choose to be accountable for my part of the equation.

For me, that choice isn’t always easy, but it is important. So, even when I’m feeling uncomfortable, intimidated, or like I’d rather just stay silent and pretend like it’s okay, even when it’s not, I must choose to do the right thing to create better.

And staying silent, standing stuck in confusion and fear, does not create better. For anyone.

For me, movements like #MeToo have highlighted the need and imperative for women, and allies, to speak our truth in the face of racism, discrimination, injustice, and all forms of harassment, bullying, gender inequity and patriarchial concepts designed to keep us feeling less than, in our place and silent.

It’s about turning up, paying attention, speaking our truth, and staying unattached to the outcome.

It’s about drawing a line and saying, it is not okay for me that you have chosen to cross that line.

It is not okay for anyone that this behaviour continue, unchallenged.

When we know better, we do better.

And because some people, some men, in particular, have not yet learned it is not okay to charge a conversation with uninvited sexual innuendo or make unsolicited advances, ignoring a woman’s right to choice, or a host of other advances that impair a woman’s ability to work, play and be safe in this world, we must draw hard lines where no man dare to cross. We must stake out boundaries and push back against advances that would pull us back into times past when women’s rights meant having the choice between moving to the parlour or the sunroom after dinner, to do needlepoint and chat of babies and the latest fashions while the menfolk sat around the table drinking port and smoking cigars as they discussed the heady matters of which the womenfolk had no ken.

And yes, I know there are men out there who stand with women and minorities in wanting to change the status quo, who want our world to become a more parity-based reflection of the make-up of our society where women represent 49.6% of the world’s population. (In Canada, women are 50.37% of the total population. In the US, 51.1%.)

And yes, I know change takes time and behavioural change is daunting but what is even more daunting are the challenges women continue to face in 2021 to gain equal pay for equal work. To eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace and a host of other malpractices that limit women’s advancement in their careers and their safety at home, on the streets and where ever they go.

So, while conflict is not my comfort zone, I will not back down. I will challenge injustice. I will confront discrimination, harassment, and bullying and I will not be silent.

It is my choice.

Did They Search For The Children?

A 1931 photo of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. PHOTO BY NATIONAL CENTRE FOR TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION

I am haunted. Haunted by the image of a mother desperately trying to find her child.

I am burdened. Burdened by the stories buried beneath generations of denial.

I am bewildered. Bewildered by the truth that we are not standing up as a nation, standing with the Indigenous community, decrying these acts of genocide and demanding we start listening, deeply, to the stories so that we stop repeating history, again and again and again.

And I am saddened. Saddened by so much loss. So much abuse. So much.

____________

I awoke this morning with a question on my mind. “Did they search for the children?”

Because I know, if it had been one of my children who had gone missing, run away, taken, the police, the community, my family and friends would have banded together and never stopped looking until she was found.

And sadly, I know, that didn’t happen. Sadly, I know, no one listened when the mother of one of the 215 undocumented deaths cried out, “Help me. My child is missing!” Sadly, I know this is true.

Calgary Herald Article, May 21, 2021 – Why so many children died at Indian Residential Schools

______________________

Did They Search For The Children?
by Louise Gallagher

When they discovered
they were gone,
when they realized
their bed was empty
did they search
for the children?

Did they send out a call
for volunteers
to come
band together
with the police and school administrators
and community members
and the parents whose tears 
could not stop falling
as they searched 
desperately
the long tall grasses
that surrounded the school
in a frantic attempt
to find their child
gone missing in the night.

Did they search
or did they already know
it was too late
the child was gone
forever
buried
beneath the black
earth covering
their tiny, fragile body
still
forever more.

And when the mother came
knocking, knocking, knocking
at the door
her body awash in a river of pain
did they bring her inside
and wrap their arms around her
and tell her how
how this had happened
what had gone wrong
how sorry and ashamed and horrified
they were that her child
was lost
and that they too
would never stop
searching 
for answers
never stop searching 
for her child
forever more.

Or did they slam the door
on her dirty Indian face
leaving her to wander
inconsolably
in the rain and the sleet and the snow
under a hot burning sun 
along the long dusty road
leading away from the last known place
where she had seen her child
enter
that dark day
the police and the Indian Agent
had come
to steal her child away.

Did they slam the door in her face?
Did they turn their backs on the mother
and whisper amongst themselves
how they would never tell
anyone
what had happened
to the child.

These questions
these remains
these stories
of two hundred and fifteen children
found
buried
deep
beneath the black soil
surrounding a school
where children were taken
from their loving families
so the ‘Indian’ could be beaten out of them,
these questions
these remains
these stories
they haunt me.

And I imagine a mother
grasping for her child
as the police tear the wee one out of her arms
and I see Auschwitz and Buchenwald
but I do not see
my Canada

Oh my Canada
we have lived with these stories
burning
deep
buried beneath
the dark soils
of this land
eating away at our nationhood
and still 
we do little.

And I imagine it happening to me
while my daughters were young
or my daughter’s children 
and the children of her friends
right now
being forcibly taken
so the Canadian can be beaten out of them
and I wonder
would we ever recover?
Would we ever 
get 
over 
it
as so many suggest
those who lost their children
and their culture
and their language
and their land
must do
now?

And I wonder
can we ever recover
from our past?
Can we ever wash away
our shame
when we know now,
as they knew then,
we cannot bring
these children back.
They are gone
forever.

Forgive And Grow. Forgive and Grow.

We are, once again in the season of the long shadows. The sun’s light dims and shadows reach far across the earth like a memory that will not die in yesterday.

“How do you forget the awful things someone did to you?” a friend asked me awhile ago.

“I don’t strive to forget,” I replied. “I seek to forgive.”

When we forgive someone, or ourselves, it is not that we are saying the deeds that hurt us do not matter, or that it was right for those things to happen, or that the other is not accountable for what they have done.

Forgiveness isn’t about righting wrongs. It’s about accepting the wrong happened and letting go of the pain of reliving the wrongs day after day after day. In letting go, we become freed of the past. Freed of the past, we are free to walk in the light of today savouring its beauty, wonder and awe without carrying the burden of the past into our tomorrows.

To forget we must be able to wipe the slate of time and our memory banks clean. I’ve never found the magic wand that will do that.

What I have found is the power of forgiveness to take out ‘the sting’ of remembering. Just as when stung by a wasp, it’s critical to take out the stinger so that you can heal more quickly, removing the stinger from the past frees you to embrace this moment without the pain and trauma of what was in the there and then casting long shadows over your journey in the here and now.

Forgiveness takes conscious practice.

I remember when I was in the depths of healing from a relationship gone really, really bad, well-meaning people told me that to heal I needed to write a list of all the awful things he’d done so that I would remember how awful he was.

I didn’t need reminders of how awful those days were. The evidence was all around me. His transgressions were many. My brokenness profound.

I was not powerful enough to make him change or even be accountable for what he’d done. I could be accountable for my role in the debacle and aftermath of that relationship. I could make amends in my life. To do that, I needed to focus on sifting through my brokenness to find myself in peace, joy, harmony, love.

And it all began with forgiveness.

Forgiveness was my path to setting myself free of him. It meant, whenever a thought of what he’d done and what had happened arose in my mind, I repeated to myself the simple phrase, “I forgive you.”

No listing of the countless ways he’d ‘wronged’ me. No remembering of all that had happened. I did not need to recite the litany of his sins. Recitation wouldn’t change them. Repeating “I forgive you,” could and did change me.

“I forgive you” had nothing to do with him. It was all about me. And after almost five tumultuous and devastating years of his abuse, I deserved and needed to make my life all about me.

It also meant I had to forgive myself. To write a litany of all my sins in those first heady months of healing, to force myself into ‘the remembering’ of all I’d done to cause pain to those I love would also have forced me to relive the trauma. And in those early days of healing, I was not strong enough to withstand my desire to whip myself with the lashes of all my transgressions.

I had to rest beneath the soothing blanket of being free of his abuse, until the cold, harsh winds of the self-destructive voices inside my head that wanted to ensure I never forgot how much pain I had caused in the lives of so many, abated.

Just as every spring’s arrival awakens new life, forgiveness awakens gratitude for the beautiful dawning of each new day.

In gratitude, there is no need to remember, there is only the call to forgive and grow. In gratitude. Joy. Beauty. Harmony. Love.

Forgive and grow.

And slowly, like snow melting under spring’s lengthening days, memory will release its hold on dark days and cold nights. As shadows shorten and the sun’s warmth awakens the earth, buds will once again appear and beauty will grow brighter day by day by day.

The Future Is Not Now

Years ago, when I got out of a relationship that was killing me, my future was pretty grim. I was broken. The ‘me’ I thought I was had devolved into the puppet of his command. I had no voice. No sense of ‘I’. No future worth living for.

I had two choices. Stay traumatized. Heal.

Going through that relationship was hard. It almost killed me. Getting out of it, I had PTSD. I had no money. No job. No home. No belongings. Nothing.

What I did have was a miracle. He had been arrested and I knew deep within me, that was the miracle that saved my life.

I could not waste my miracle. I had to choose to heal. How was up to me.

Armed with my miracle and the belief I didn’t get it to live in pain and sorrow, I had to decide to heal. Me. Broken relationships. My life.

My number one priority was to heal my relationship with my daughters. By the time of his arrest, we were estranged. I wanted to be part of their lives again. To feel and share the love that had flowed so strongly between us, before I got lost in an abusive relationship.

To heal that relationship, I had to heal myself first.

To heal myself, I had to choose to let go of the things that did not serve me on my healing journey. Bitterness. Regret. Resentment. Hatred. Anger. Fear. None of them moved me closer to healing. Giving into regrets and bitterness only made me feel worse.

There were so many questions for which I had no answers. How could he have done the things he’d done. How could I have been so blind? So selfish? How could I do the things I did to cause my daughters so much pain?

I had to choose to let those questions and all the heavy, life-sucking emotions that went with them, go. Those questions could not be answered from a place of weakness. I had to grow strong enough to face them without losing myself in their seductive, self-annihilating web of pain.

I could not go searching for answers in the past if I was to build a bridge to a future where I could be myself in all my darkness and light, beauty and the beast, warts and wounds, wonder and wisdom.

The past was too painful a place to tread without the light of love to guide me and the future could not be conceived without Love being my constant companion in the now.

The only place I could find myself was in the now. And, the only thing that could sustain me in the now was Love.

So I chose Love.

Every moment of every day.

No matter how broken and helpless I felt, no matter how lost and afraid, confused or tentative. Whatever I did, I had to do it in Love – with me, myself and I. All of me. The broken down, beat up, worthless feeling me. The shattered me who included the mother who deserted her daughters in the final throes of that relationship because the only way she could conceive of getting him out of their lives was to give up her right to live free of his abuse.

May 21st is approaching. It has been many years since that day in 2003 when a blue and white police car drove up and gave me the miracle of my life.

Time has deepened and enriched my gratitude.

I am grateful for my family and friends who loved me through it all.

Grateful for my daughters whose love, even in their pain and anger, never deserted me.

Grateful for the beauty and joy and Love in my life today. For the wonder and awe I experience with every breath.

And I am grateful I chose to heal In Love.

My life today is a beautiful tapestry of light and love, beauty and shadows that shimmer in the dark corners of my life as well as the wide-open expanses of possibilities unravelling with each new dawn. It is woven through with threads of fierce courage, gratitude and grace, joy and soul defining oases of calm.

It is my life lived In Love.

I still have down days and dark moments. I still experience cloudy skies and murky waters. This is life. Beautiful. Complex. Complicated. Messy.

But, no matter the times or the weather, one thing never fades. The Love that instills this moment right now with such beauty it takes my breath away.

Living now doesn’t mean giving up on the future. It means choosing to fill this moment, right now, with so much Love, the future becomes all that is now.

Namaste

May 21. A day like any other. A day like no other.

Last night, as I was out walking with Beaumont, it struck me what day today is. May 21.

It was on this morning in 2003 that I got the miracle that set me free.

For the final 3 and a half months of an almost five year relationship that had been killing me, I was missing. My daughters, family, friends, even the police didn’t know where I was. And I was too afraid to let anyone know.

I only had one job in those dark days, and that was to be the person he told me I had to be. To do the things he told me I had to do. Say the things he told me I must.

And so I did.

I was lost.

To myself. To those I loved and who loved me. To the world. I was lost.

And then, at 9:14am, on this day in 2003 a police car drove up and arrested the man who’d promised to love me ’til death do us part and was taking the death part into his own hands.

And I let him.

I didn’t want to live. Didn’t believe I deserved to live. I only believed what he told me. I was worthless. Nothing. Garbage. I didn’t deserve to live.

I write those words this morning and I embrace that woman who was so lost. I embrace her and love her and remind her, she is so worthy. Of love. Of joy. Of LIFE.

And my heart knows it’s true. I am worthy.

Recently someone asked me about what they should do about someone they know, not well, but whom they believe is in an abusive relationship. Should I intervene they asked?

I remember my friends who tried to intervene. Their care and concern, their love hurt. How could they still love me when he told me every day how worthless I was? Could they not see their love was wasted on me?

It isn’t just our sense of direction, our knowing of self and our worth that is lost when we are in the darkness of an abusive relatiopship, I told this person. It is our hearing and our capacity to understand that what is happening to us is not happening because we deserve it, or caused it. It’s because the abuser is choosing to use violence and emotional blackmail to ensnare us and keep us trapped in the web of their lies and manipulation and fear.

And in our deafness, even when someone who loves us tells us we deserve a life without the abuser, we cannot hear them because to hear them would mean the love we imagined in those first fairy-tale days of our romance is not true.

It wasn’t until I was released from that living hell that I realized the truth. I wasn’t healing from a love gone wrong. I was healing from abuse.

I was very, very fortunate. Because of friends who did not give up on making sure the police kept looking for me, the police found me and I was set free.

That is not the case for other women. Every 2.5 days one woman or girl is killed in Canada. The majority by someone they know intimtely or well, which is the opposite for men, the majority of whom, the data shows, are killed by casual acquaintances. Source

Today is May 21. It is a day like any other. A day to laugh and smile. To spend time with friends and family. To work. To play. To be free.

And for me, it is a day to embrace the woman within me who once upon a time was so lost she didn’t believe she deserved to live. And in that embrace, to tell myself the truth. I am so loveable and deserving of joy. I am a woman of worth. A woman of integrity. A woman who didn’t just survive an abuser but who has gone on to live her life fearlessly in love with everyone and everything in it, daring boldly to live brave, love fiercely, and dance joyfully in each new day dawning.

I am so blessed.

 

 

How Do You Grieve When Abuse Masquerades As Love?

When love ends, we grieve. We grieve the passing of what could have been, should have been, might have been, if only.

We search for ways to give meaning to our pain, to explain the sometimes inexplicable causes leading to loves demise. Sometimes, we talk it out. We make arrangements on how to separate, how to divide love’s spoils, how to survive love’s loss. We draw up agreements, outline custody and visitation arrangements. We divvy up assets and liabilities, arrange for payment. We divorce and move on with our lives, sometimes poorer but always richer in experience.

When we have loved an abuser, love cannot die. Love never existed.

With an abuser, there was no mutual agreement to love honestly, truthfully, respectfully. There was only the abuser’s mask hiding his or her intent to deceive. There was only the lie posing as truth. Blinded by love, we could not see the difference.

In the lie we thought was love vanishing out the door, we hang our hopes on one more chance to say, ‘good-bye’. On one more time to see their face, hear their voice, be in the presence of the love we believed to be true.

In our grief we plead for one last time. We pray, he will return. We pray, he or she, the one we loved, will come back if only to give us a chance to secure the elusive closure our empty arms yearn for. We want to say good-bye on our terms. We want to have the last word, to make them hear us, see us, feel our pain, witness our anguish. We want to know they understand the harm their passing through our lives has caused. We want them to ‘see’ how much we love in the hopes that the one we loved, the one we believed to be true, will return. We want one more chance. One more good-bye.

And so we plead with time to give us this one last chance so that we can come to terms with their good-bye. So that we can steal the time to learn to grieve on our terms.

And that is the lie we tell time. Give us a chance and we will make them hear us, just this once, so we can grieve freely.

It never happens. It can’t.

Loving a lie is not possible.

With our empty arms and broken dreams, we must give into grief and mourn for the one who was lost. The woman who was abused. The one who was lost. The one who fell. The one who was betrayed. We must mourn for the one we must love the most. Ourselves.

Once upon a time I loved a man who was untrue. He never really existed, though I searched for him between the lines he spoke, seeking truth in all his lies. Between the pages of my journal where I wrote of love ever lasting and promises of happily-ever after. I searched in every nook and cranny of my mind, desperately trying to make real the unreal. To make sense of the nonsense that was his passing through my life. I searched and held onto the hope that the pain, the turmoil, the sorrow was all a lie and he would turn up and be true.

It never happened. It couldn’t.

He was the lie.

Instead of grieving ‘love gone wrong’ I had to learn to grieve the dream that could never be, the love that never was. I had to learn to grieve for the woman who lost herself in the arms of an abuser. To grieve for the pain she endured, the pain she caused. I grieved and cried and wished and hoped and prayed upon every star that the pain would cease, the tears would dry up and my heart would be healed. I prayed for the past to be erased. The lies to be vanished. The horror to be undone.

Nothing can undo the past. There is nothing that can be changed in yesterday.

Grieving a love that never was is part of the illusion of loving an abuser. We look for meaning in our memories and come up empty.

On the other side of grieving a lie is love.

Grieving for the woman who lost herself in the arms of an abuser, set me free to fall into the arms of love.

In grieving for all that was lost, all that was forgotten on the stormy waters of his lies, I embraced all that was possible when I set myself free to sail upon the sea of love that surrounds me, sustains me, lifts me up.

Love has no limits. Love knows no bounds. Love is my answer.

Stand in love. Grow in love. Be love.

In mourning for the one who lost herself in the arms of a man who was untrue, I found myself. I found myself and fell in love with all that I can be when I set myself free to live this one wild and precious life free to be all I am when I let go of grief and fall… in love.

______________________________________________________________________________

Awhile ago, I met a woman who pulled a piece of paper out of her wallet and showed me what it was.  It was the above piece which I wrote in 2008 and posted on my original blog, Recover Your Joy, 5 years after the abuser who was in my life was arrested. “Thank you for this,” she said. “You really helped me understand.”

As we near the end of Family Violence Prevention Month, I am sharing it in honour of those who struggle to escape, to those trying to make sense of abuse masquerading as love, to those who never found release, and those taking their first steps in freedom from abuse.

Abuse hurts. Stop it.

Black to blue and fade – November is Family Violence Prevention Month

I am driving in my car towards downtown. Work. A family homeless shelter. A family housing agency.

My tires hiss along the pavement. November is unusually warm. What snow there was has disappeared.

I hear a line in a song, ‘from black to blue’. I do not know the song. I do not know the artist. I know the story.

An image flashes through my mind. Fast. Like a comet falling. A hand raised. A slap. A bruise. Sallow yellow. Just forming. Black to blue and fade. Back to black. Sallow yellow.

A woman. Black to blue and fade. Fading into sallow yellow. Fading into nothing.

A man. A woman. Anger. Flash. Black to blue and fade. Nothing.

It goes on. And on.

The cycle.

A man. A woman. Anger. Flash. Hand. Slap. Sallow yellow. Black to blue and fade. And nothing.

The woman falls. She rises up. Smiles. Cajoling. Encouraging.

Anger flashes.

The man rises up. Hand raised. Pain. Cry. Sallow yellow heating up to orange. Red. Black to blue and back again. Fade to black.

A siren.

Screaming.

A body. Lying. Cold. Still breathing.

She smiles through the pain. The ambulance jolts into gear. She is carried away. Away from black to blue.

He loves me, she says.

Love doesn’t hurt like this, someone answers in the darkness.

She cannot hear.

He didn’t mean to do it. It was an accident. She insists.

And their voices fade from black to blue into nothing.

She grows silent.

And goes back.

Not for more. Never for more.

He won’t do it again.

Never more.

He promised.

There’s always the promise of never again after black fades to blue to sallow yellow into nothing. Always the promise of never more fading away at the edge of happily ever after.

It is promise of what could be without black fading to blue to sallow yellow to nothing.

And the cycle turns and the pain continues and the fear rises and black to blue fades deeper and deeper into unending black. Deeper into that dark space where blackness lives in memory blocked of any colour beyond black to blue. Beyond that place where truth lies. Where life fades
from black to blue
to constant sallow yellow
rising once again
to red
black and blue
all over
before
she fades,
away
forever
into nothing.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

November is Family Violence Prevention month.

This piece wrote itself after hearing the line, “from black to blue” in a song playing on my car radio.

I share it today in honour of those who have/ have not/ cannot/ did not/ will never / get away / from black to blue.

Domestic violence is a family affair. We can all help end it. It begins with not staying silent. It begins with education. It begins with you and me.

Some Resources

Calgary Domestic Violence Collective

Family Violence Prevention Resources

Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters

YW Calgary

Calgary Counselling

Why does he choose to hit her? #MyActionsMatters

It is a question almost always asked of a woman living in the perils of an abusive relationship. “Why does she stay?”

The question not often asked is, “Why does he choose to hit her?”

The first question suggests, in some way, that she has options, that she is in control of the situation.

For the woman, the question of ‘why does she stay’ is a reflection of our belief that she knows how to get out of the situation she’s in. That she feels in control and powerful enough to make a different choice. Yet, abuse, by its very nature, is designed to undermine, to tear away an individual’s sense of self-efficacy, to destroy their belief in their power to change what is happening in their life and the options they have to do so.

In not asking the question, “Why does he choose to hit her?” we are placing the responsibility for the abuse solely on the woman. We are suggesting the relationship and all that is happening in it are of her doing. He is just being who he is. He is just doing what he does.

In not asking the second question we make abuse a woman’s issue. Solely.

It’s not.

Yes, she knows abuse hurts. She knows it destroys self-esteem, drives you crazy with its crazy nonsense, its brutal reality, its ugly existence.

She knows abuse is wrong. So does he.

She knows he could kill her. So does he.

The responsibility for abuse is 100% the responsibility of the person choosing to use violence as a tool to get what they want, to control another through using their physical size and other measures such as control of money to exert power over another.

Why does she stay?

She stays because after years of living in the confusing, terrifying, reality-shifting, crazy-making world he creates with his abuse, she’s learned to take it, to not stand up to it but instead, to lie down to it. She’s learned to believe him when he says, she cannot leave, she’ll be nothing without him. She’ll have nothing without him. He’ll kill her if she leaves.

She’s believed everything else he’s told her. Why wouldn’t she believe he’d kill her if she left him?

Why does she stay?

She stays because of the children. Because she has no money and no control or access to their finances. She stays because he tells her to. Because she believes all the lies he’s told her about why it’s her fault, how she’s the bad one, she’s the crazy one, the one who doesn’t deserve anything other than what she’s getting.

She does not stay because he hits her or because she likes his abuse.

She stays because she believes no one can stop him. He’s told her that often enough. It must be true.

She stays because she not only feels worthless, undeserving, like he is all she deserves, she believes it. He’s told her so many times that she is worthless, a piece of garbage, stupid, ugly, and every other horrible word he can think that will make her believe it’s true. She does. Believe it.

The real questions, the ones we don’t ask, the ones we shy away from, the ones we don’t yell out and insist he answer?

Why does he do it?

Why does he lie and manipulate and scream and yell and hit and do everything he can to convince her she is unworthy of anything other than what he gives her?

Why does he choose to hit her?

 

________________________

This is a repost from August 17, 2015. I am honouring the 16 Days of Activism by making my voice and my actions matter in the vision to End Gender Based Violence. #MyVoiceMatters #MyActionsMatter @WomenCanada #EndViolence #GBV

You Do Not Own Me

I wrote this poem last year after dinner with my eldest daughter in Vancouver. She had shared the details of an incident where some men had been cat-calling her as she walked by their construction site.

In our conversation, I shared with her the numerous times I had simply ‘walked on by’ or stood still while some man felt he had the right to overthrow decency with his innuendos and suggestions of sexual possibilities.

I remember when my daughters were little girls and some of the boys in their school (a private school btw) had started reaching up under girls skirts and pulling down their panties — My daughters refused to wear skirts. I refused to stay silent. I went to the school and spoke to the Administrator. After hearing my concerns she replied, “Boys will be boys.”

She got to hear my outrage.

Allowing statements like ‘boys will be boys’ to explain away bad behavior is how boys grow up to be men who think it’s okay to continue the behaviours that denigrate and objectify women — nobody ever taught them better.

Eventually, a group of us pulled our children from that school.

I was reminded of this poem after reading an article about Taylor Swift’s courage to speak out against a man who thought he had the right to treat her body as if he owned it.

She won the case. And my admiration along with the admiration of millions of young girls across the country.

We need to all stand up. To not stay silent. To not just keep walking on by.

Namaste.