To Be or Not to Be Quiet About Abuse

We’ve talked about it before, about how we are shamed and scared into silence by our abusers and our attorneys and the family courts system.

We’ve also talked about how being too bold with what we share, especially if we’re involved with family court, can work against us—even though we are just being brave enough to share the truth no one wants to hear, and that few people will recognize.

Our abusers twist and use it against us,
opposing council makes it a weapon,
some of our friends and family shrug and sweep it all under the rug, because it makes them uncomfortable,
passersby won’t take a moment to consider the ugliness of something they aren’t touched by and don’t want to be touched by,
all of which enables our abusers
and ensures our own silence — if we let it.

If you choose to be silent, do it because it’s what is best for you, and because it’s best for the children you “co-parent” with your abuser. Not because you are protecting someone who doesn’t deserve protection. The day will come when you CAN open up and be honest about the truth of your abuse with little to no risk. You don’t have to rush it. Honor your current season of life.

If you choose not to be silent, claim that empowerment. Put your need to share the truth and help others first. Let go of some underlying and forced obligation (by others, no less) to live in silence just because that’s best for everyone else.

F*ck everyone else.

Your understanding, your empowerment, your healing matter more than the comfort level of other people [save your kids if they’re still little], and you owe your abuser nothing.

Especially not silence for their benefit.

What Does It Mean If I Miss My Abuser?

The truth is, you don’t miss your abuser. Not really. It just feels like it because your hurt over being treated so grossly is so big.

You miss who they initially pretended to be and hooked you with, and/or the person you wanted them to be and totally deserve — which is someone they are incapable of.

Another possibility to consider is that we are forced and conditioned into codependency through the abuse, then when we’re suddenly without that relationship — even by our own choice — we don’t know how to be alone.

This void hurts.

It’s also why too many of us rush into the next relationship, in an effort to fill that void without fully understanding why it exists, or that there are healthier ways to move forward.

But the void, the missing, is something we have to sit with, challenge, dissect, face head on, and get to the other side of so that we can break the cycle of codependency.

Are single men and dads financially abused?

There’s a pattern.

Some will read this as broad generalization, but the patterns exist because of the patriarchy, because of domestic and financial abuse, and because of how family courts cater to the men who lie about their income and ability to provide for their children.

It’s the women who stress about making ends meet.
It’s the women who sacrifice.It’s the women who don’t get child support.
It’s the women who make less in wages.
It’s the women who have to prove themselves over and beyond, and even that doesn’t guarantee next-level attainment.
It’s the women who work their asses offer for fewer rewards.

No, not all women, just like “not all men.”

But the patterns are real, and women — survivors — are living with these patterns every day.

Throw Meatloaf, Not Axes

You know those ax throwing places? Hear me out.

It’s like that except only for DV survivors, and it’s a three-parter…

Room 1 is filled with quiet, kind chefs who walk you through a recipe, from selection to completion. You take pictures of your masterpiece then savor a few bites before you enter…

Room 2, where a blown up photo of your abuser’s face is plastered to the target. After some deep breathing and (optional) yelling, you start slinging chunks of your perfect meatloaf at that face until it’s all gone, all smeared, all used up and unrecognizable. That’s when you visit the final part…

Room 3 is occupied by a group of warm grandparents who coo soft words about what you just experienced, praise your recipe, and embrace you until you don’t need embraced anymore.

And this is my proposal for how we start to build kitchen confidence in domestic abuse survivors.

One meatloaf at a time.

When Bystanders Think You Gave Your Abuser Permission

More victim blaming and shaming. Bystanders love that sh*t, because they think they have it all figured out, and also because they don’t know any better.

Survivors do know better.

We know that we are in control of very little during the abuse.

This list could include:

> who our friends are
> how our time is spent
> spending money
> how and when we’re physically intimate
> household responsibilities
> religious involvement
> employment
> sleep patterns
> thinking independently
> our own autonomy

It takes leaving.

It takes distance and time.

It takes learning and healing and a new sense of self-preserving perspective to understand why and how we were hurt, that our early engagement was part of it (though not to blame, never to blame), and that moving forward we CAN take and retain control over how we allow others to affect us.

About that Thing Abusers (and Enablers) Like to Call “Parental Alienation”

Originally posted on Breaking the Silence for Women 11/6/21.

This morning I woke to notification of a comment that has since been deleted by its writer.

That’s okay. Either they decided not to risk a public comment that the wrong people might see, or changed their mind about what they said. But I want to address it. It’s an excellent discussion point.

I often write about the challenges of “coparenting” with a narcissist and sociopath, and how the abuse continues for us in still-traumatic and damaging ways even after we’ve left the relationship, while also overlapping onto the kids we’re working so hard, so thoroughly, to raise well.

The way I read the comment — quoted in this text graphic — was to spin the narrative as if the survivor of the scenario is somehow behaving inappropriately, somehow making a victim of the real abuser.

“She just wants her kids to hate him. She’s trying to break down their opinion of him, and ruin their relationship.”

But no, that’s not true. Let’s be clear.

A domestic abuse victim who was brave enough to leave, and who is brave and responsible enough to raise her child(ren) alone and despite her abusive other parent’s counter-attempts, isn’t doing anything wrong. No, she’s not alienating anyone. The abuser’s own behavior is laying the groundwork for that. Read: They are responsible for their own eventual alienation.

Our survivor, meanwhile, is doing everything she can to heal herself, and make sense of a new life, while also trying to mitigate the effects of abuse on her kids. She herself is working to counter — not contribute to — all that toxicity she has no control over. And let’s be clear about this, too: Her abuser is the one who will, in subtle, coercive ways, sow seeds against her.

To accuse her of “parental alienation” is to pour on more victim blaming and shaming, and that’s unacceptable. This is one factor of the many which have enabled our epidemic of domestic abuse.

Must we survivors be careful about how we discuss the abusive parent with our kids? Yes.

Family court makes that all too clear.Are we to toe that line and protect our kids from knowing how misguided and delusional their abusive parent is? Early on, yes. When they’re young, yes.

It’s an urgent matter of preservation (and legal requirement) — as long as possible — until they become old enough and wise enough to recognize and internalize these realities all on their own. THEN it becomes our obligation to help them navigate this world of their abusive parent’s design, so they don’t grow up with a belief that the damage done is their own fault. So they themselves become as least toxic as possible.

This isn’t alienating our kids’ other parent. This is proactively avoiding complicity in our kids’ trauma, and the long-term effects of the abuse they themselves are victim to.

This, for the record, is the hill I will die on.

But You’re Over It, Right?

If you haven’t experienced this yet, you will.

Someone you’re getting to know, and starting to feel comfortable telling The Story of You to, will interrupt and say, “But you’re over it, right?”

“It” being the abuse you endured for months, possible years.

And this person you think you’re connecting with — whether it’s platonic or romantic — ruins it. Five words is all it takes to break the connection, to tell you they aren’t worth your time.

Why?

Because, clearly, they aren’t interested in knowing the real you. They aren’t strong or wise or mature enough to handle the less-than-perfect experiences that have grown you into who you are today. They only want the perfectly-packaged you, the unmessy you, whoever it is that meets their superficial expectation, and so the raw and real Story of You isn’t allowed.

It could also be someone you’ve known for years, they just don’t want to listen. They don’t have the empathetic capacity to process the details of your journey, or are too self-absorbed to offer such deep grace, or just can’t hear about abuse because your story means it really does exist… when they’d rather keep pretending it does not. So, they divert the conversation by dismissing your reality, and minimizing the worst of what you’ve ever been through.

“But you’re over it, right?”

Consider that phrase — or any variation of it — a red flag.

Makes you feel pretty small. As if you’re selfish for wanting to share, or own power in your own survival. Like all you’re doing is holding a grudge, unable to “move on.” Or, worse yet, like you’re wrong for carrying this around as part of your past. How dare you not be perfectly healed and present without any scars for their benefit.

You don’t have to be “over it,” friend.
You don’t have to justify why you aren’t.
And you don’t have to bend over backwards to make anyone — new connection or not — feel more comfortable about Your Story.

Lessons from a Wispy Spider

This short essay originally appeared on Breaking the Silence for Women a year ago today.

“Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

This morning while I was in my workplace bathroom, I noticed a small and wispy spider climbing the wall.

Her mission was clear: To rise. And she was determined, I could tell by her speed.

Every inch or so she lost her footing, and with that, a small bit of her progress. She would not be discouraged, however. I was witness as she regained her grip, never slowing, and pushed onward many times over.

That’s what healing after abuse is like.

We are challenged by the process, just like our leggy friend, and affected by factors we have no control over. We also get to choose, as she did, whether we’ll give up when triggered, or hunker down and keep going despite what tries to deter us.

Our friend tells us this, too:

*Pay no attention to your audience. I was three feet from her and she didn’t care. She was on a journey for herself and didn’t let me stop her.
*Big-picture progress is more powerful than any individual measure. She may have slipped countless times, but guess what? She still made it up the wall.
*It’s okay to rest. I’ve been back to the bathroom since our encounter and there’s no sign of her. She’s found herself somewhere to hide out and take a break. You’re allowed breaks, too.
*Only we can define what our healing looks like. Maybe she didn’t yet know her ultimate goal, just that she needed to move forward; that she couldn’t remain immobile or stagnant. Maybe she’s figuring it out as she goes.
*Our potential—where we’re headed and why we’re going—is bigger than our fears. I have arachnophobia, and yet I chose to watch and learn from this little spider, nothing more.

She was fierce.

You are fierce. You are brave, no matter what your healing journey and progress look like.

I’m with you,
Janna

Abortion and Bananas

I was thinking this morning about how a banana is not banana bread.

A banana will never be banana bread unless a perfect sequence of events happens,

from removing its peel and mashing it in a bowl

to dumping in flour and adding the just-right ingredients

to mixing the batter and baking it, for some time, in a hot oven.

Only then does a banana become banana bread.

But all of that’s even after a feasible bulb — placed and nurtured in proper soil with good drainage, yada yada, for 9 to 12 months — results in what we know of as bananas.

And, of course, we have to choose to turn our bananas into banana bread, too.

Still with me?

I keep seeing folks who are pro-life say (in print and on the news) that every “child with a heartbeat” deserves to live.

Yes, every <child> does. Every <baby> does. No one who is pro-choice will ever argue that.

BUT.

The multicellular organism found in utero during pregnancy is not the same thing as a “child.”

What exists during prenatal development is not the same as the newborns into babies into toddlers into children into young adults, and so on, that we birth and raise and love and hold dearer than ourselves.

Projection is skewing the argument. Semantics are misrepresenting the truth of science. Hyperbole is robbing women of their personal decisions and reproductive rights.

And a banana is not banana bread.

Author’s note: I realize this is a deviation from my standard content here, but it fits my greater desire of sharing about women, for women and their empowerment, so yes, I hit “publish.”

Though I’ve never experienced abortion, I share for the women who have — whether only in theory or consideration based on so-tough dynamics, or in reality. Because of domestic abuse. Rape. Incest. Nonviable pregnancy. <insert your situation here>

I’d never dare tell a victim — or survivor — or any other woman — what to do with her body, with her life, with her future, with her very personal key to survival, healing, and path forward.

Janna

Even Advocates (like me) Don’t Have Our Sh*t Together 100% of the Time

Please don’t set your sights on some too-high, impossibly unattainable perception of post-abuse perfection.

What you’re doing is enough.
How you’re learning and adapting is enough.
Who you are <right now> is enough.

We are human — something our abusers couldn’t allow, what with all the emotions and authenticity and reasonable expectation — and we deserve to embrace all the moving parts and stages of our human condition. I repeat: We deserve it.

Honestly, I need this reminder, too.

I’m still learning every day. Sometimes I still struggle with triggers. My feelings or anxiety, some days, get the best of me. There are times I wish someone would just swoop in and “fix it all” for me, or, at the very least, share the load I’ve carried for so long. I get down and need a hug, a pat on the back, an “I’m proud of you.” I sometimes feel lonely and vulnerable. I still make mistakes and doubt myself and piss people off and feel too tiny to be. Just be.

I’ve been exactly where each of you finds yourself — on most if not all parallel paths (even if the details vary) — and trust me, the universe often reminds me.

Healing and transition aren’t supposed to be easy.

Survival comes through and after the fight, then remains ongoing. (Think of it in the same context as sobriety.)

The point is that we keep going, keep growing, keep knowing who we are + who we want to be, and defining — even redefining! — health and happiness for ourselves. It’s all an evolution.

And remember not to compare your journey with another survivor’s. Every step you take, no matter the speed, no matter the length of stride, is valid and valuable.

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