Category Archives: Ending Abuse

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.

Just because it’s the oldest profession doesn’t make it right for anyone.

“To understand what prostitution’s really like, you need to go eyeball to eyeball with a John.”

I listened to the words spoken by a vice-sergeant in the police force I’d been working with for several months as I researched street teens and found myself nodding my head yes.

“Good idea.”

Which is how, a forty-something woman found herself standing in the night along a downtown street, trying to lure the men who drove slowly by in their cars to stop and negotiate sex-for-hire.

I had rules. At no time was I to get in the car with a man and if I felt in danger, I was to use the get-out-of-danger line the two cops who were watching over me had provided.

Easy. Peasy, I thought and headed out to the street one night, dressed in my fishnet stockings, short skirt and top specifically designed to reveal the most cleavage. I thought I would gain understanding of what it was like for the young, and not so young women, who stood out, night after night, trying to entice men to pay them to have sex with them.

I had no idea what I was in for.

I knew many of the other women lining the street. I’d chatted over coffee with most of them during the weeks leanding up to that night. They’d answered my questions with grace. They’d shared their stories and thoughts and ideas on life, children, helping one another, and of course, sex.

I had empathy, compassion, admiration for the girls. They were strong. Courageous. Funny. Kind.

I had way more judgements of the johns.

They were the predators. The men who preyed upon women, enticing them with money-for-sex while they relieved their tensions and sexual frustrations in cars parked in dark alleys and out-of-the-view-of-prying-eyes-corners of the city.

And then I went eyeball to eyeball with a john.

He was young. Good looking. Blonde. In his twenties. When his little blue car pulled to a stop in front of me I was scared. My mind went blank and I forgot every carefully coached word the vice cops and the girls had given me to help me through the night.

After a hasty, “Hi. You want to party?” as I approached the open window of his car, I immediately played my ‘get out of danger’ card ithout uttering another word. “There’s too many cops around out here. I’ll meet you down the back alley behind the hotel.”

I had borrowed a girlfriends fur coat for the night and was holding it tightly closed with one hand at my neck as I leaned into the open window.

As I stepped back and before he pulled away, he leaned over towards the window and said. “Hey. Maybe save you a walk for nothing. Let me see what you’ve got under your coat.”

Really?

I opened my coat and showed him my wares.

He nodded his head and pulled away.

I didn’t know if I should say thank you or F*u. I stepped back onto the curb and started to shake. My first encounter with a john and I send him away with alacrity.

I knew I couldn’t stay out and walked back to one of the unmarked police cars where Ron, my police guide and watchman for the night was howling with laughter.

“I wondered how long before you’d have to open your coat,” he said before adding. “Give it ten minutes. He’ll be back.”

And he was. A few minutes later, joining the stream of cars, circling the block, again and again, looking for just the right girl.

I lost my innocence that night. I lost my blindness. My ability to ignore what sex-for-hire does to the self-worth, heart and soul of everyone engaged in its dark underbelly.

When I stepped out onto the street that night I carried my judgements with me. I had no compassion, no sense of empathy, or even pity for the men called john who abused these young women and made them pay for their failings by getting them to do unspeakable acts just so they could feel better about their lives.

In one night I discovered all my thinking of them as perps, as evil, as scum could not change the fact, they were not there on the street because everything was great in their lives.

They were there because they too are broken, damaged, hurting.

Holding my judgements against them, holding my condemnation, my blaming and shaming does not change anything, other than leaving me standing in the darkness of my own mind.

I cannot change or heal what I do not acknowledge. Condemning the johns only made the night darker. No matter how much I wanted to hate the johns, to carry my condemnation into the night and not feel empathy for those who in my mind, were the cause of prostitution’s presence in our world, did not change the fact, they are there because they don’t know where else to go to relieve their pain.

It doesn’t make it ‘right’. It does make it easier to understand why we can’t just stand by, do nothing and use the excuse, “they’re not hurting anyone.”

Prostitution, say some, is the oldest profession.

Longevity does not make it right.

It does not make it safe.

And it doesn’t make it a career we want our daughters, and sons, to engage in.

Standing on the street that night, I came up against my own humanity, my frailty, and my judgements. Standing in the dark, I could see clearly that until we see all people through the light of compassion, we will continue to hurt one another to relieve our pain because our pain is even older than prostitution.

Namaste.