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Myself in You

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You called me this morning asking for guidance. You shared with me your most recent experience in a women’s shelter, how you and your children had no choice but to leave. You didn’t feel safe any more. You looked to the system to help you get out. They failed you. Two weeks later you went back. “He’s better now,” you said.

You called me to ask what I thought you should do. I wanted to scream and stomp my feet like a little child to show you the pain your being there inflicted on me. I wanted to hold up a mirror and ask you if the person staring back at you was truly happy and if having a father for your children was worth those same children living in fear and seeing you experience the same. But this wasn’t about me, I am not a child and though we share a similar history, this was your journey. It is not for me to judge. Instead, I offered you some insight into the world of a little girl that to this day, still exists inside of a grown woman. Watching her mother being abused everyday changed her and caused her to draw inward, enveloped by her anger and pain.

It’s not easy for the abused to leave. People may judge you for staying or feed you lines that they deem as supportive and helpful, leaving you to question yourself even more. A few open their doors and invite you in. I knew one such angel, but we left too soon, only to return back home. Should I stay and “work it out”? Are they right in that “this too shall pass?” My experiences have shown that this advice is not always the best. Abuse is fueled by secrecy and shame. It’s a dance of power and control where words and thoughts are twisted, leading to a bouquet line of broken promises. Is that to say that people never change or that actions can’t be revised? Not at all. But we must listen to our head as well as our heart. We must pay attention to the signs that have been there all along. Hear the familiar little voice inside of our head, which often goes unanswered.

People frequently ask, “Am I wearing a sign?” My answer is always the same. We wear a sign of sorts. As survivors, it is ingrained in us to believe what we have been told. It’s often subtle and easily rationalized. If you were told that you were worthless, deserving of abuse or any number of disempowering things, you will carry that with you into adulthood. Such words can manifest into choices that are made that continue the cycle of abuse, both in the way we treat ourselves and how we let others treat us. We give away our power and, in a sense, endorse others to treat us without the respect and dignity that we are so rightly are entitled to.

Abuse survivors are never to blame for the abuse inflicted upon them. As adults, we must learn to love ourselves enough to ensure that we do not invite it in. If we find ourselves in situations where abuse exists, we must not blame ourselves for its existence but recognize that we deserve better and reach out to others, who may be able to help. We must create a community in which abuse is no longer tolerated.  Where men and women can come forward and admit to what is happening and not be shamed.  They must be comforted in the knowing that they no longer have to endure the pain of abusive relationships in silence.

You called me this morning and I listened. I offered insight and options on leaving. I also talked to you about your choice to stay, even though I wanted you to leave. You need to make the decision on your own and I want to support you. I needed you to know that you are loved, that I am not here to judge, guilt or shame you into doing what I want you to do. Hopefully what I shared will influence you to choose a path that will lead you safely home, wherever that may be.

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