Wednesday, September 10, 2014

#WhyIStayed

I had a totally different post that I was going to put up today but after reading several articles about Janay Rice and the trending hashtags on Twitter #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft, I realized that I should share my story too.

I'm sure many of you would never guess that I'd been abused during the first years of my marriage.  I don't appear to lack self confidence and if you've met me in person, you know that I'm pretty vocal and don't put up with much ish. I came from a family of two working class parents, reared in middle class suburbia and my father never touched my mother.

So how did I end up in a situation where I was abused?  The amazing thing is that it never happened while we were dating or engaged but it happened frequently and often after we were married.  

My ex-husband and I met at church after I'd been to college and had a 4 year old daughter. I was friends with his older brothers and I thought he was mouthy. We use to hang out as a group because we didn't believe in sex before marriage.  This group of friends went to a concert at Carnegie Hall and I was seated next to a man that I really liked.  He'd acted like he really liked me too, so much so that the other males in our group left me alone, but that night he was just rude...seriously downright rude and nasty.  So my ex-husband changed seats with him, made me laugh and was extremely kind to me.  We started to date after that.  Three months later we decided to get married, oh yeah and somewhere in there I got pregnant.  So much for that no sex before marriage rule!  *LOL*

Anyway, we married, moved with my daughter to our first apartment and about six months in, he started to hit me.  At first it was just a slap here or there. Then it became punches and once he even punched me in the stomach while I was pregnant. Of course, my obstetrician told me to leave.  Thankfully the baby was unhurt.  He didn't touch me again for the rest of my pregnancy so I thought it was over...just a phase.

Fast forward a couple of months after my second daughter was born and I was slapped, punched, kicked or whatever almost weekly.  So why didn't I leave?  I did several times, but I came back because where was I going to go with two small children?  Home to my parents?  Nope, too ashamed to do that.  The police put him out several times, but he always came back...and all the time we were going to church every Sunday...regular God-fearing folks.

My relief came in two ways.  One I went to work one day with a short sleeve dress on and didn't realize that I had fingerprint bruises on my arm. A co-worker saw them and reported me to Human Resources.  The woman in Human Resources was very kind and offered assistance.  But I went home kinda ashamed that day and with plans to look for a different job.

However, the following Sunday the Pastor of my church stopped my husband & I and told us he needed to see us.  My bruises had been noticed at church too. Guess I had gotten so use to them that I wasn't good at covering them up any more.  Anyway, long story short we got counseling which the church provided and the beatings stopped.  Seriously, he never hit me again.

But everyone doesn't get that lucky/blessed/helped.  Too many times I would be in a circle of women and they would talk about what they would do if someone hit them.  None of the replies made me feel free to share what was happening to me...actually they made me feel even more inferior and filled with self-loathing because I couldn't/wouldn't fight back.  Well that's not exactly true, I did fight back once and ended up unconscious on the floor sort of like Janay.

What I'm saying by sharing my story and what the other women on Twitter and on the internet are saying is that if you feel that someone near you is being abused, be a source of help.  Offer kindness, a place to stay, the ability to watch their children, money...anything that will help them get out of that terrible situation...not words that will shame them or make them feel inferior.  Or baring that, like our mothers use to say, "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all!"

I was lucky.  I was helped.  I was no longer beat but my children do bear the scars from that situation and for that I have many regrets. I'm no longer married but that was not the reason for our divorce.  One of the things that I admired about him and still do is the fact that he went to counseling, got help and used the tools he learned in counseling to change his behavior.

I'm going to leave the comments open but if there is nothing constructive shared, I will shut them down.  It's been over 15 years since I was in this situation so there is no need to pat me on the back ~ however, if my story can help one woman break free then it was worth sharing....

96 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. It's also inspiring to learn that people can change their behaviour with the right help and commitment.
    Thank you also for the reminder not to go round saying 'I'd never put up with it'. Anyone who has parented a teenager knows there are times when you end up accepting behaviour you never thought you would stand for. I totally get what you mean about those words making you feel like there is something wrong with you.
    I am so happy for you that your pastor intervened. It shows that we can do things to help other people, and that we shouldn't shirk from reaching out.

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  2. Carolyn,
    I always appreciate your posts, and this one is no exception. Thanks for bringing this up.
    A small group of us were talking about Janay Rice at lunch today. We were trying to understand why she married her abuser after being beat senseless,and also how her husband's punishment and publicity affects her. We work with battered women and children sometimes, but I have to say, I'm not sure exactly what I could be saying in private conversations to be supportive of women who might be present who are being abused. Do you have any specific suggestions?

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  3. No back patting. Just saying this makes me so fucking mad. It blows my mind that it happens in the first place and so many people think it's justifiable in any way.

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  4. I started writing a long post but it sounded a bit too radically feminist but that is probably me just having a rant. Sorry to hear of your troubles and I can really empathise as I have once trodden a similar path. Maybe things like this should be more openly discussed. Perhaps then people might be a bit more supportive, life is never black and white and can be pretty complicated at times, especially when children are involved. Don't think that this is ever going to change though, especially with the rise of social media In perpetuating the demonization of women re: things like slut-shaming, etc. Gosh, that does sound a bit ranty and I am not even like that! Best wishes to you & yours. Xx

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  5. Sorry to hear this was a part of your life. The fact that his behavior left marks on you, that others could see, actually worked to your benefit! Many abusers are careful not to leave marks of any kind, and so it becomes their word against your word. Too many women stay because they think he will change or he will stop... and they end up dead. Our culture has a real problem! Thanks be to God that you were churched! Unbelievers don't have a church, a Pastor, and Elder leadership to protect them. Or, worse... are trapped in a cult that actually encourages suppression of females. Your church obviously practices true biblical submission for it's members, both male and female, and that is a great blessing.

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    1. Oh, and I do know from my personal experiences. I had to leave, and my church actually helped me do so! The ex was a member... but when pushed by the elders...he balked at submitting to them.

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  6. Thanks for sharing your story. I think that it is important that people understand that no situation is black and white. No one can understand what it is like to be in a specific situation and they shouldn't make judgements on others choices. This is a dialogue that should be discussed more openly. I agree with you, many women who stay are vilified as weak when they are just as strong for staying in abusive situations.

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  7. I grew up surrounded by verbal and physical abuse in my family and neighbors. I have a son who was the victim of abuse from a former girlfriend. I understand very, very well the scars that it leaves on all of the victims. People forget that the victims are not just the person being battered but also the children, family members and friends standing on the sidelines. Relationships are changed and sometimes destroyed by the presence of abuse. I think people forget that verbal abuse is just as destructive as physical abuse. Fear is a huge motivator of inaction. Anger is one of the most destructive emotions present.

    It is so easy for people to sit and talk about what they would and would not do. Some victims will not seek help because they are scared and embarrassed that this is happening to them. They are afraid of people judging them "for being so stupid or weak" by allowing someone to beat on them. People need to think before they speak, you never know who is listening.

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  8. Thank you. It is very tough to be on the outside looking in. I have never been in an abusive relationship but have had loved ones who were. I am so glad that you were able to get out and to heal yourself and help your children.

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  9. eso ayuda a mucha gente, fuiste muy valiente.
    Besos
    P.D. Te leo con el traductor de google, mr gusta mucho tu blog

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    1. Translation: this will help many people. You were very brave. Kisses. ( common way to end posts, letters in Spanish). I read you with the help of Google translate. I like your blog very much.

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    2. Bunny - thanks for translating it here. I google translated and never thought that I should add the translation so thank you for that!

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  10. I'm with Cidell on this one. Thinking that this does happen more frequently than most people are aware of and just imagining someone being a victim of abuse makes me feel really nauseous. Thanks for sharing your story; if it helps one single victim of abuse to get help it's a story worthy of being shared.

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  11. Carolyn, I am going to college and was in class with a young lady and her mother. They came to my house one evening to study and it came out that she was being abused by her boyfriend (she was pregnant). My husband came out of the room and heard us talking about it. He instantly offered her a place to stay. We let her stay in our home to help her get her life back together for a week. But unfortunately, she went back to him. I have not seen her in a long time and I still think about her and her baby to this day. Sew'l Sista

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  12. Carolyn, Im usually a silent admirer of your blog, I read blogs on my commute normally so dont often comment (signing in and writing comments without eleventy typos on the move is a skill that escapes me) but I wanted to make I said thank you for speaking your truth, its really important that we do speak about this issue so again thank you!

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  13. I am so glad you felt the need to tell your story and do pray that it helps someone reading it. My best friend was severely abused by her husband who is a main-stream religion minister. She was abused so much that she has had brain damage. He did it in front of her children which were under 3 years old at the time and both of them have issues from it. Luckily, when he almost killed her, she was able to escape. Why did a college educated woman who had a good job and a great support network "allow" this to happen to her? Because she was raised to be "the good little girl" in her family and she thought no one would believe her and it would embarrass her family if she told because he was from a prominent family. He is still preaching 35 years later... in fact, in the very town in which I live now. I run into him every once in awhile and I won't tell you the thoughts that go through my head when I see him. Oh how I wish my friend had let me know so I could have helped her. I only found out when she was in the hospital from the final attack on her. Please: if you need help, reach out to someone who loves you. They will feel honored to help you. If you can't do that, call a hotline.

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  14. you are amazing. not a back patting...just simple truth. i have no doubt this post will help someone, if not many, out there.

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  15. It takes a lot of courage to share stories of past abuse with everyone. Why do we stay? Sounds crazy but sometimes we don't even know the answer to that question. I commend you and hope that this helps some woman who might be in a similar situation.

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  16. Thank you for sharing this - your non-sewing posts are always so on point. People have this Lifetime Movie Channel black and white perspective of abusive relationships but the truth is that there is good and bad in every relationship and the abuser isn't usually some scary psycho murderer. They're just a person you fell in love with who probably still has those traits you admired in the first place.

    In a better world there would be more resources for women in these situations, but you're a grown ass woman making the best decision you can in the world you live in, and nobody should shame you for that. Way too much shame that gets heaped on victims. Oh, and there are plenty of women in emotionally abusive relationships but that gets downplayed because it can't be that bad if he never hits you. And pretty much no anger management resources to help abusers change, which you attested can happen. Too much shame and no support all around.

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  17. You are amazing for inspiring other women to help, Carolyn.

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  18. Thank you so much for sharing how the kindness of others and their concern allowed you to get out of an abusive situation. So many times we feel that we are not strong enough or able to help our friends, coworkers, or neighbors out of bad situations. Your story proves otherwise. I hope it emboldens someone who reads it to take a stand and offer to help. You were brave to accept that help when it was offered.

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  19. Thank you for sharing this, and for showing better ways to help someone than berating them for being in a bad situation. Over the years my family has had relatives and friends in horrible relationships. While they stayed with us for awhile, almost always they went back.

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  20. Thank you for sharing your story!

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  21. I think people blame the victim because they want to tell themselves "it will never happen to me because I am different — I am not like her." But it can happen to anybody. And none of us know what we will do in any given situation until we are in it. Glad you are no longer in it.

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  22. Why do people stay in abusive relationships...it's very difficult to say. I stayed in one for a couple years. Then one day I found out he was also cheating on me. I realized my relationship was not good enough to work on and any hope I had was gone. I stayed in another relationship that was not abusive but was not good for many years. In contemplating it afterwards, I realized that the 'dream' and hopes for the future that we have for a relationship are very difficult to let go of.

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  23. Thank you for speaking up. I grew up in household with some physical and a LOT of verbal abuse. I never understood why my mom stayed and I didn't have a lot of respect for her. My dad did change as he got older, but the damage was done. When he was near the end of his life, he told me that he and my mom were "pretty well matched in the area of temper". He said it with such sadness, it was heartbreaking. I realized that I had NO IDEA what it was like for either one of them. They were both in pain. Not that it excused any of his behavior. It didn't.

    I believe that it is VERY important to talk about this openly. Bring it out of the shadows and into the light. Look how much recent progress has been made in LGBT rights and suicide prevention by simply TALKING about it and making an effort to remove the shame.

    Taivahalla: This has come up in conversation at work and I usually say that I don't know what I'd do. I know what I'd like to THINK I'd do, but I really don't know. I would tell my best and closest friend and we'd figure out my options and go from there. I think this makes me more approachable if there is someone listening that is going through this and struggling to find a way out.

    I'm going to stray a bit here now lest I sound like I've got my act together, because I don't. I grew into this. I can't count the number of times I've shot off my mouth about someone with addiction, infidelity, matters of "disobedience" in their family. It's entirely different when it's YOUR son or daughter, YOUR spouse or partner, YOUR "dog or cat". You learn fast when it is: Practice kindness and compassion, not judgment. In short, you often do now know what pile of poo your foot is hovering over until you step in it. It's a lot easier to get help when your aren't standing on a soapbox telling everyone else how to handle their crisis. AAAAAAAAAAnd now I sound like I'm on my own soapbox. So I'll get off :)

    Thank you again for opening the door to healthy conversation on this topic!

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  24. Thank you for sharing. I too have come out the other side of an abusive relationship, although many years ago now. Sometimes I think that most people don't understand the true extent of the abuse. It usually goes much farther than physical and the emotional damage can be more debilitating and becomes the reason we feel so trapped/afraid/worthless and powerless to change things. I have been married to a wonderful man now for 40 years, have raised 2 children, (no children from first marriage) have grandies & great-grandies, a pretty wonderful life, but I can still be transported back to that earlier time and remember it vividly. I wonder if we ever truly get over it.

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  25. Carolyn, you are to be commended for sharing this. As someone else posted, you may have touched someone with your story who needs to get out of a bad abusive situation. It just may be the push they need. Sometimes abused spouses/significant others stay because they have seen this type behavior with their parents and many times the abuser has learned this from their parents. Does not make it okay, it is learned behavior. The most important thing as you have said is to offer support and suggest places where they can go and get support. There is more support I think for individuals of abuse, but fear keeps them in a bad relationship as well as getting help.

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  26. What appears to be a nice relationship outside the home may be very different from what you see. You never know what goes on in someone's home. And as an outsider you can never truly know all the circumstances.
    Jodi- I really like what you said about remaining approachable.
    Thanks for the post Carolyn.

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  27. You are so brave to share your story.

    I am guilty of being one of those women who talked about what we would do if someone hit us. Never again will I say those words, because I don't want any woman to feel additional shame because of me. Thank you.

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  28. Thanks for sharing this story, Carolyn. My husband hit me a few times and tried to best me down emotionally quite a bit. I did eventually attempt to get out, but he passed away before that happened. After his death I finally heard the truth about his first marriage - he had beaten her frequently. I guess I was lucky that I didn't have it as bad as her. In the end, I feel sad and sorry that he was a very sick man who had a wonderful side to him and he never got the help he needed to fix the broken parts.

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  29. What you say is so true. We can't play God and pass judgement on others so flippantly. No one knows a person's heart and their reasons for the "choices" they make or don't make. Kindness and assistance can go a lot further in helping a person in need rather than condemnation for not acting the way we feel would be best.

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  30. Carolyn, thank you for your post. It certainly proves that you never know who has been abused or has been in pain, or who might be right now and is ashamedly or bravely covering it up.

    I was abused as a kid and have never gotten over it. My Mom was quite a frustrated woman -- with a magnificent education and three little kids derailing her, and our new neighbors in a different state flaunting their wealth, jewels, designer clothing, golfing, and European travels at every opportunity. She took it out on us, and me she belted me right across the mouth as she was screaming at me with distorted features. It was never fair, she expected me to come running when she yelled from across the house, and the first I knew of it was when she kicked open my bedroom door as I leaned on it with one of those old fasioned hair dryer hoods on and the noise in my ears, oblivious to her summoning me. Then WHAM! One day, she started to belt me across the mouth again and I just grabbed her wrist, pushed back strongly, and said "DO. NOT. EVER. HIT. ME. AGAIN." As I held her arm strongly, she literally vibrated with anger and sheer fury, and I saw a painful shame briefly pass in her eyes, then anger again, and I didn't let go until I made her actualy SAY the words that she agreed never to hit me again. As she was also stubborn as a mule, it took three tries to get her to say the words to me. And she didn't hit me every again, but we were estranged as a result for the rest of her life, except for the few weeks she was the caring Mom I remembered as a toddler, right after my husband died. I never trusted her to value the confidence of my precious moments and happy experiences and to refrain from recasting them in her own small reactions to other people's good fortune, and kept her at a distance for my own mental health. She's dead now, and I will mourn the loss of my childhood loving Mom and the loss of a child's trust in her mother to the end of my days.

    Because of this experience, I've always watched other people's interactions for hints that things are not right, to be the best friend and caring ear I can possibly be to those who need it. I am fine with being a rock of strength for others when they need it. And it turns out that even the best marriages on the outside can have such incidents on the inside, and women just push it down deep and never tell anybody or, if they do, may try to characterize it as a past experience in an otherwise accepted and acceptable situation. For some, that is undoubtedly true. But others can live in pain and fear as they try to cover it up to maintain their social status. I found that especially true when I lived in a very wealthy town where everybody put a premium on outward appearances. Please do look out for others. The hints may not be obvious, but you do get them. Somebody who becomes silent and withdrawn, somebody who hesitates when greeted before arranging their face in an outward show of normalcy. Or those who just withdraw and stop coming to church, for example.

    My advice to everybody is not to write off a person who isn't especially friendly, or acts weirdly sometimesm as not worth the emotional investment of trying to be friendly back. These could be the very people secretly crying out inside for somebody to listen to them, or for help. Especially kids, who understand their entire world will shatter if their parents get into trouble, and who stay silent for that reason. And it's not enough to realize they have it bad and just sympathize from the sidelines. That's just baloney. Find the words to speak with them, and be that friend and rock they need right then and there. Disturb your own comfortable world and exert yourself to help someone in pain.

    Find the words.

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  31. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate that you are pointing out that you cannot tell who may or may not be a victim to domestic violence. I too am an strong, outspoken woman. I think I came out of the womb that way. However, I also had a first husband who thought that hitting me was okay. It also continued when I wasn't pregnant.

    One thing that helped me was a boss who realized what was going on and was just available to talk or be of any type of help I needed--without judgment or lectures.

    I try to be the same way. My own daughter recently experienced abuse from her boyfriend and kept going back. She is finally free because he found another girl friend. I pray that he is not hitting her.

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  32. You are one tough survivor, Carolyn. I hope your children aren't haunted by this and can learn from your strength.

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  33. Thank you for this brave and honest post

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  34. I have admired you for so much, and now I admire you for this. Thanks for your post, Carolyn. I've been in your shoes.

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  35. Thank you for so bravely sharing your story. I am sure you have helped many women with this post.

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  36. Wow, this post took some serious guts Carolyn. I'm so glad for you that your story ended up ok, and am really touched that you would write this in the hopes of educating others...

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  37. I'm sorry that you and your family experienced this.. I'm glad that you are out of the situation. I'm glad that you shared your story, which (sadly) is very similar to many other women's stories. Hopefully I ever encounter another person in a simiar situation, I will reach out and help them. Domestic violence is sad when it occurs in one relationship and it make me angry that it occurs so frequently.

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  38. Thank you Carolyn. My entire working life has been in working against child abuse, sexual and domestic violence--and I've seen many friends abused by a partner or other loved one. It's so easy to judge and to avoid. And so very painful to the one who is already hurt. But what a difference each one of us can make: by noticing, by speaking up, by listening without judgment, by offering a hand. And yes, some will stay with an abuser, or return, or cover up for them. They have their reasons! Keep being a friend. (Sorry for the soapbox. It means a lot.)

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  39. Thankyou for telling us your story - it is very brave of you but this will help many other women in the same situation and hopefully empower them.In Australia the most common cause of death in women aged 18 to 45 is from violence and the majority of it is from people they know - an incredibly sobering fact. Again I think you telling us your story will help others. Glad you are in a better place now.

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  40. What a powerful and moving post. Many blessings to you.

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  41. Thank you for sharing your story. It's easy to go and tell people what they think someone should to when they are in an abusive situation and judge the people who aren't doing what they think they should be when they have never been in a situation like that themselves. What they don't understand is that there are many forms of abuse and while they aren't actually hitting anyone, their judgmental words are verbal slaps to the people who are in need of help.

    And there is never a "right" solution. I don't share this about me often but I had a troubled childhood. My dad used to drink. A lot. And when he drank, his temper got the best of him and he got violent. So me and my brother have received our fair share of slaps and punches in our childhood. But our mom didn't leave our dad. Because underneath the drinking he was a good man. He was just sick. So when things got really bad, she threatened to leave him and he would promise to quit drinking and he did. For a month or two and then it all repeated again. But my mom knew that if she really left him, his last anchor would be gone and he would spin out of control and would end up homeless or worse. So while we hated our situation and our father, me and my brother stuck together, had each others backs and suffered through it. When my brother left home for uni, I left with him. I was 16. Our parents provided the money we needed for food and a place to stay. We lived 100km away from home and we felt better. We knew that mom would be ok because in all the years my dad had never hit my mom.

    Now my dad has been sober for a bit more than 6 years. It took me one year to start speaking to him again and two to forgive him. And now I understand why my mom stuck by my dad. They made vows. For better and worse, for sickness and health. My father was sick and he needed to really understand that he needed help. Now we have all moved on from our past and we are a happy family and I've turned into a daddy's girl.

    So I guess what I'm trying to say is that there are no black and white situations. Sure. my mom could have left my dad but would it have been a better solution as by now I'm sure my father would have been six feet under instead of ten minute walk away. All situations are different and all we can do is try to pick the best solution. And offer help to those who are in difficult situations. Be that a place to stay or just a shoulder to cry on.

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  42. What a very insightful post. Thanks for sharing it.

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  43. Thank you for sharing your story.


    My mother was abused by her second husband (not my father) and I never understood why she didn't just pick up and walk out. I still don't. I don't speak with my half-sister (his daughter) so I don't know what lasting effects it had on her but I know that I still have anxiety attacks whenever there are loud voices or shouting or someone is displaying anger in any way.

    My mother did eventually leave, but he found us, tormented us for a few days then miraculously stopped.

    They are both gone now. I still search for peace.

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    1. Beckie - I, too, grew up in an abusive home. My brother and I deal with it in different ways, but we are both still carrying the scars. As a result, I swore that no one would ever abuse me. Instead, I was verbally and emotionally abusive to two husbands... a 5'4" 120 pound bully. I am now in my 60s and on husband number 3. Although I've occasionally been tempted to repeat those old behavior patterns, I am grateful that through counseling I have learned to control my mouth and my temper.

      The scars will never go away but peace is possible. I was haunted by memories of yelling, screaming and fights for many years... not only my parents, but myself as well. It takes time and counseling, but we can learn and grow from our pasts and our own mistakes.

      Eventually, I made peace with my two former husbands. #1 passed away last year. I will be forever grateful that we were on good terms the last few years of his life. #2 and I are now platonic friends. We see each other once or twice a year and communicate via social media, text message and e-mail.

      Thank God, #3 is the kind of person whose self-confidence is in no way threatened by this friendship.

      I pray that you will one day find the peace that I have, release the ghosts of your upbringing and have a beautiful life. You deserve it. What happened is not your fault. You don't say how old you are, but now that you are an adult, you owe it to yourself to take whatever steps necessary to have true peace in your life.

      May God bless you.

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    2. I meant to add that domestic violence is not only an offense that is perpetrated by men. The violence I witnessed as a child was not instigated by my dad, but by my mother.

      I mirrored her behavior and was shamed by it. Thank God I made up my mind to do whatever was necessary to break that cycle.

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  44. I think it's so easy for a person to say what they *think* you'd do if they were in the situation - but once you're actually involved in it, things are not so easy and clear cut. It can even be hard to get help - sometimes people will blame YOU for it (I'm SO glad that your office & church were nosy enough to do something about it!)

    Thank you for sharing your story, Carolyn. It chilled me to the bone (some of what you said hit a little close to home), and I know that other women will find it helpful and know that they do NOT need to be ashamed or too afraid to seek help. You're an amazing and strong woman. Love you ♥

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  45. The question should be "why is he abusive?" not "why does she stay?". There are so many reasons women stay in abusive relationships. Your story shows some of them in a very poignant way. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  46. Thank you for sharing your story. That was very brave of you.

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  47. Thank you Carolyn, just thank you. And bless you and yours.

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  48. You are very courageous and I am glad you are okay. I am also very happy to hear about your ex's courage in facing his behavior and changing it. That took a lot of bravery on his part too. Thank you for sharing.

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  49. Carolyn, thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and experience. I really look up to you and I'm so grateful for your friendship. I have a close family member who's exiting an abusive, volatile relationship, and it's been so difficult being there for her as she's left, gone back to him, left, gone back to him, over and over. But a relationship is never as black and white when you're in it as it seems from the outside. Thanks for sharing your story. I know it will help someone.

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  50. I wrote out a long reply and when I tried to preview it, it disappeared.

    I did not realize that I was an abused wife throughout my 22 year marriage. My marriage ended 3 months ago when he left me.

    How did this happen? I did not recognize the non physical forms of abuse I experienced.

    I knew what physical abuse was, I had been physically abused once, and left in a previous relationship.

    He is telling family and friends that I was abusive, basically reflecting what he did to me.

    It hurts, but truth be told I would run back into his arms if he would have me.

    I am seeing three wonderful counselors who are helping me develop a sense of self, then we will work on self worth.

    It is so hard to have one of your children turned against you. My mother, who has been abusive to me my entire life is on his 'side'.

    It helps me beyond measure to see and hear the stories of women who have survived abuse and come out the other side.

    I am crying as I write this because I the shame of admitting I am an abused woman, that I did not realize it was happening to me hurts.

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    1. First can I tell you that I've stood in your shoes. I felt like no one would understand but darling I so understand...and I'm sure that other women here understand too. Please send me a note at cnorman underscore 98 at yahoo dot com. We can continue this discussion then. I'm sending you many hugs and much love too!

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  51. Oh, my dear. I am so sorry for what happened to you. You are very brave to tell your story! I hope that it might be the final push out the door to any woman who is teetering on the edge of leaving an abusive relationship.

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  52. Blogger ate my comment last night...

    Anyone who comes forward and speaks about the violence/abuse done to them is incredibly brave. Shame is one of the hardest emotions to admit and overcome.

    During my childhood - before I really understood - I actually saw more than one example of those in need not receiving help from their neighbors/friends/church - not just domestic violence, but also addiction and illness. I hope that if I am ever in a position to help someone, I will do it without hesitation. That much I hope I've learned.

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  53. My father used to beat my mom. They were not married. I don't know why she allowed it. I was young. From that abuse I was afraid of him. Unhealthy fear. She passed away long ago, not from her beatings though. I understand the struggle. From my experiences I always said I would not put up with it. Thankful to God that I have never been in the situation to have it happen to me. I have been married 16 years and have a loving husband who understands the struggle as his mom faced the abuse as well. Glad you are ok and thanks from sharing your story. Lord I pray that this testimony helps many sisters in the struggle.

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  54. Thank you for bravely sharing your story.

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  55. Such a brave post Carolyn. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  56. I admire you for so many reasons. Truly a breath of fresh air when so many times we feel we must only reveal our "public" selves. I thank you sincerely.

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  57. Your words are encouraging. I grew up in a violent house. When I was 18 I put my Dad in jail. He never hit my mother again. I still remember the "wink, wink..nod, nod" between my Dad and the cops over the years. My relationship with my parents never recovered. My father angry with me and my mother for making the issue public. I would do it over again. I am 55 and still have ptsd. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  58. Thank you, Carolyn. You've made a tone of really good points that we don't hear that often in this discussion. I never talk about what happened to me because it is so difficult to explain. My experience happened as a child and a teenager and it took me years to accept it and work through things. Whenever I tried to talk about it I was never believed and told I was exaggerating. This led me to internalized a lot of issues and.....well let's just say that led to some problems.

    But you are very right. Fighting back is a wonderful thing to say but often the reality is it leads to a more dangerous situation. Most of us do want to fight back and do want it to stop. But when push comes to shove it is typically a fight we can't win unless we have a weapon.....and then you have to harm someone you love to the point where they can't retaliate. That's not easy.

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  59. Thank you so much for this post. Especially your insight about how to help in these situations. I'm so glad you are Ok.

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  60. Carolyn, you were truly brave to post this. I would never have guessed. And yet, the take away I get from this is what you had to say about being kind, accepting and helpful. Many of us bear early scars from abusive upbringing, and carry all sorts of baggage forward. Like Renee and Tany, reading this makes me mad, and makes me cry inside. ((hugs my friend))

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  61. Thank you so much for sharing your story, and thanks to all the commentors who have shared their experiences too. I have seen the power of one person speaking out, and how it can help encourage others in abusive relationships. Your post also reminds us that being a silent bystander is just not acceptable.

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  62. The only thing I can add is emotional abuse is also abuse, but so hard to recognize. That's what I was a victim of, and it's still hard for me to admit I suffered for years without recognizing what was going on. The years of not being there for my son or for me...one year I realized I had sat home alone watching "The Love Boat" for 51 consecutive Saturday nights...the time he set me up for a fabulous birthday outing and then stood me up...how could I have not known? I'm a smart woman, but I now understand why women stay....

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  63. Thank-you for posting this Carolyn - and to everyone who has commented. It is impossible to understand or to know what one would do in these circumstances, what you wrote has made me understand so much more why women stay. God Bless to you and yours.

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  64. Thank you for sharing your story and for inspiring others to share theirs.

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  65. You are brave. Thank you for sharing this.

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  66. Thank you for your post. I'd like to pick up on one thing you mentioned: When women say "I would NEVER (fill in the blank)", you often shut up friends who want or need to share something. I know that's not your intention, but it's something to think about. The truth is, you really don't know what you would do. Or when.

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  67. Thank you. It is hard for a strong woman to admit she was once in that place, but it takes a stronger woman to share it so someone else can be strong. Again thank you.

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  68. Thank you for this. Your perspective is an important one in this discussion.

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  69. Carolyn - You are very brave to share your very personal and obviously painful story. I applaud you for stepping up. I pray that your story is helpful to the countless women and men out there who are suffering in silence. As a minister, my own eyes have been opened by you. Although we are trained to look for the signs, this has made me more acutely aware of how important it is to step up when/if abuse of any kind is suspected.

    As a result of your courageous revelation, I will definitely be more alert and proactive. Seriously considering making this issue a sermon topic. This is something that should be discussed from the pulpit on a regular basis. Thank you for opening my eyes. God bless you.

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  70. I think its important to talk about too, because I was ashamed. I wanted to be tough and strong and independent. But sometimes being strong is actually asking for help. thanks for sharing. Its really hard to do. I shared a little on twitter the other night and then almost had an anxiety attack wondering what people would say. But my friends were supportive. One stranger was bullying me, but I have the resources to deal with that now. Glad you're doing well now.

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  71. Along with everything else that everyone has mentioned, what I appreciate about your story is that your husband got counselling and took the help on board. I think this is important to hear too. It's not often you hear the positive results of counselling in these situations.

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  72. Many words ring a bell with me but a door opened and I walked through it to a different life. Many women see the open door but cannot walk through, they are trapped by invisible chains. We must pray for them for they are our sisters. Thank you, Carolyn for being a strong woman.

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  73. It is very brave to share such a history. Thank you.

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  74. Thank you for posting your experience Carolyn. As a long time reader of your blog I never would have guessed at what you have gone through. I am currently in an emotionally abusive relationship. It has improved but I continue to be affected and I continue to feel ashamed. Reading your post and the comments below have made me feel less alone and that its okay to get help.

    Thank you,
    Melissa

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  75. Carolyn, I think it's so important to share your story. I have never been in a similar situation but know others who have, and you have given me considerable food for thought on what I can do to support them whether they decide to leave or to stay. Thank you.

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  76. I think we, everyone, is lucky that people like you are here with us. I'm not sure that makes sense or expresses how I feel correctly, but it's true at least.

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  77. Thanks for sharing Carolyn. I believe our story is a talent, meant to be invested in others, because life is about relationship and about supporting and encouraging each other. You've shown us tools that can make a difference. Your ex's side of the story, while not pretty, is inspirational of the fact that we can - indeed - change.

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  78. Your'e right I never would have guessed. But, that's true of many women. Thank you for sharing your story and I hope that it helps give hope to other abused women. Your suggestions on how to help are constructive and useful.

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  79. I think one of the most misunderstood aspects to abuse (physical or verbal) is how the abuser makes you feel about yourself!! Its so terribly destructive...but as more people speak up, the stronger we all become. God Bless you, God Bless anyone in this situation.

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  80. Carolyn, the only thing possibly more amazing than your post is the response you've brought out in so many people. I'm fortunate never to have been in a physically abusive relationship, but I was a in a very "happy" relationship in my 20s and I would have stayed in it if he hadn't gone back to his prior girlfriend. I thought I was happy despite the fact that he tore me down every day, compared me unfavorably to other women, belittled me in front of people, etc. It didn't seem like abuse because I only thought of abuse as being physical. People would tell me he was abusive and I would just shake my head no, because he didn't hit me. And when it really started to dawn on me how bad it was, I still couldn't walk away. I thought, "if he hit me, THEN I could say this is wrong." Thankfully he left before that ever happened, but I still think about it and remember how hard it was to actually believe I was being abused.

    I'm glad you're okay, glad the counseling worked at the time, and that you're happy now. We all have to live with scars from our pasts; it's just sad and surprising to realize how many scarred souls are out there.

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  81. Carolyn, I can't wait to see this dress! You are one of my favorite sewing Sheros! You have totally peaked my interest and now I find that I am drawing inspiration from the St. John line myself. So much so that you got a mention on my latest blog.

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  82. Thank you for sharing your story Carolyn. Many years ago I too was in an abusive relationship. What many people don't realize is the emotional abuse that women suffer from in most of these relationships. Often this is the pull that keeps the abused in the relationship and puts them in the mindset that they somehow DESERVE the physical abuse.

    This is why, when I hear strong (and sometimes very rude) comments questioning why the woman stays in the relationship, I get sad and upset. The physical abuse is visible but the unseen, emotional abuse is the harder of the two to crack. This, I suspect, is the main reason Janay still married, and stays with, the man.

    The best thing anyone can do, as you said, is to offer help in a place to stay, etc. Offer a real, tangible way to get AWAY from the relationship. On the surface, the woman usually understands the physical abuse is wrong and they should distance themselves from it, but time away from the relationship is what will help the person realize the anchor holding them their is the emotional abuse.

    I take every opportunity to tell people my story and emphasize the emotional abuse aspect in the hopes it helps someone help an abused person sometime in the future and is why I so appreciate your post. Education on this topic is so important.

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  83. Wow, thank you so much for this honest and real post. The more stories women hear, the more it becomes clear that none of us are ever alone--there is always someone who has been there. I am so glad you were able to heal in your marriage, and that you are the strong woman you are today!

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  84. Thank you for sharing. The abuse dealt me was mostly emotional, with one physical attack that has changed my vision forever. Did I leave? No. I was too afraid he would kill me if I did. I so, so wish I had come away with your strength and courage. I have been reduced to a shell of who I once was, and feel I will never recover from those 28 years. I am so proud of you and heartened to hear that the church counseling truly helped your ex. God bless.

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  85. It takes alot to stand up and admit that you've suffered abuse by the hands of someone you loved. I use to be one of those saying what I would do BUT maturity teaches you until you're in the situation you don't have a clue what you would really do. Thanks so much for sharing and thank God for your Ex having the courage to address his behavior and make the changes.

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