What DV Survivors Need

It’s probably not your advice

Can we stop averting our eyes

and pretending that survivors don’t really have it all that bad

and asking women to “just get over it” and “move on”

when the truth is that the conditioning and consequences from emotional, psychological, spiritual, and financial abuse, et al

<<< the bumps and bruises from physical violence heal so much quicker >>>

take literal years to process, understand, and counter the effects of.

And that’s just for the woman who gets a clean break from her abuser, who she never has to see or talk to again.

The woman trapped with her abuser in a custody agreement, no matter how much freedom implied because of the canceled relationship, is still shackled by coparenting

and lives a different kind of abused existence wherein the kids are pawns and she herself is still at high risk of manipulation and control.

This survivor, try as she might, much as she personally heals, cannot “just get over it” or “move on,”

nor can, as a reminder, she who gets the clean break.

Let’s stop making assumptions without knowing.

Let’s trust that each survivor is working her path, and that she does not need your advice, dismissal, or preconceived (and wrong) notions.

What she needs is your empathy, and room to do what she needs to do in her own terms, whatever that timeline requires.

For the Women Who

This post is for the women who learned the hard way that Plan A was never meant to be,

and for the women who’ve found themselves through the lessons of Plan B

and maybe Plan C

photo is author’s

or as many “plans” as it’s taken

to see the truth

learn healing

and embrace life on their own terms.

You’re incredible.

#InternationalWomensDay2022

Spring Lessons from Long Ago

The weather is beautiful where I live today. Spring is on its way.

It reminds me of a time, years ago, when I was still married and my firstborn was around two. My then-husband and I flew with her to Florida for an extended family thing.

Having left Missouri and its bitter winter behind, we were overjoyed by the Floridian sun and warmer temps. While it was still only spring, and on the cool side for natives of the panhandle state, it felt like summer to Midwesterners like us.

So much so that when we went to the local mall one afternoon, none of us wore a jacket. I’d guess we were in short sleeves, too.

As we crossed the lot to a main entrance, two women on their way out snidely commented to one another about my daughter — just loud enough, on purpose, for us to overhear.

“THAT little girl needs to have a COAT on.”

I wasn’t thinking fast enough to spit back any kind of reply, to explain or justify why we weren’t wearing an outer layer the way they were.

That their truth did not match ours.

I still feel myself fire up when I think about it, wishing I’d been more on the ball to defend myself as the caring and aware mother that I am.

Until, when I come back to my grounding, I remember it’s okay that I didn’t waste my breath,

because their truth didn’t affect or change ours.

The experience for survivors of domestic abuse is similar.

Bystanders are plentiful, even overwhelming in numbers. And they *think* they know what everything’s about, that they’ve got it all figured out, to the point they offer lots of hearty, unsolicited — often wrong — advice.

Just like the mall ladies, these bystanders lack context. Their view of our world is infinitesimally limited. Perhaps even superficial.

The majority of bystanders do not know the fullness of where survivors come from, why we settle on our decisions, and what prompts/triggers/conditions us to operate the way we do.

Guess what this means?

It means their truth does not match ours, nor are our truths affected or changed because of their deficit in context.

And we often get fired up, don’t we? We want to spit and justify and explain. We want to defend ourselves. Make people understand everything about what we’ve been through, and about our season of survival.

We’re not wrong to want this. The root is claiming reality, because we’re grasping it for the first time ourselves, and a need for validation, which has long been withheld from us.

Sometimes we must defend ourselves. Privately. Publicly. The fight is ours to determine.

But maybe sometimes we can save our breath, too, and find a certain release in that.

Part of the healing journey is learning we don’t have to explain or justify ourselves to anyone, least of all the simple bystanders who are not invested in or crucial to our daily living and long-term happiness. (And that is most people.)

We begin to find peace when we embrace our truth around learning not to care what others think about it—

our real truth, or their misunderstanding of it.

So…

I’ll guess I’ll wrap by saying:

Thanks, mall ladies. You and your example have been a big help today, on this beautiful day, in this survival season, where I live and you do not.

(Photo is author’s from 2017.)

Why I Made PB Bread

I’ve read that during the Great Depression, women made peanut butter bread because, when so many baking supplies were lacking, they usually had the few needed and shelf-stable ingredients on hand.

Tonight I’ve made peanut butter bread because the whim hit,

and I had the few needed ingredients on hand,

my son said, “Yes, please, that sounds good,”

and

because I have built a home of my own, a safe space, both cozy and peace-filled, where no one tells me what to do or who I am… or criticizes my efforts in the kitchen.

Tonight I’ve made peanut butter bread because, simply, I wanted to

and no one can stop me.

Everything hits different when you’re a survivor of domestic abuse, doesn’t it?

What you do

when you do it

why you do it

and not only how you do it, but how you feel because you do it

in freedom.

I wish you freedom tonight, in whatever form that takes for you.

Because you deserve it.

Janna 💜

I used this recipe from Sprinkle Bakes.

You’re Doing Great, Survivor Mama

This coparenting-with-your-abuser thing is probably the gnarliest, most all-consuming challenge of your life.

But I want you to know it’s not a competition. Your abuser is behaving as though it is, but it’s not.

Let them carry on in such a way. You can back down, mama. You don’t have to answer their call by engaging and participating, and you have nothing to prove to them. Zero. Especially when it comes to empty materialism—likely their only effort toward “parenting.”

Your job, since you can’t control what they do or don’t do, even if/when there’s a court order, is to keep your eye on the long game.

Your abuser, conversely, lives in the moment and craves immediate leverage and instant gratification. Don’t get caught up in that. It’s not what builds long-term stability or a successful, authentic bond with our youth.

No, the long game — the ultimate goal — is educating and healing yourself, cultivating peace and happiness in your new life, and growing your kids up right despite and around the tests this life serves you.

Plus, guess what you DO control?

> how your household operates
> what love and stability look like
> whether or not you put your kids first
> your boundaries and standards
> how you let others (including your abuser) make you feel
> creating a safe space for your kids
> helping them navigate their other parent’s world, and learn boss coping skills
> showing them what a real, loving, selfless parent does and says and provides
> providing a solid foundation and true bond with them

Try not to get caught up in the smoke and mirrors your ex displays.

The kids may in the short-term… it’s a natural flow of the dynamic.

Try to shake that shit off. Focus on you. Love and prioritize your kids and their overall well-being.

They will figure the truth out over time, and when they do, guess who they’ll fully understand was there for them, in the right ways, all along?

***

Pictured: A note my now-19yo daughter left out for me to find some years back. I don’t remember what specifically was happening in our days then, what prompted her encouragement, but she was already aware.

Even when they’re sifting through their own triggers and traumas, and even when they don’t understand all that’s at work in the coparenting dynamic, they know our hearts, our priorities, and our love.

Don’t for a second think you’re not doing or being enough. You’ve got this, mama.

And you’re doing better than you think.

Where is the Good When You Need It?

It’s okay to set aside suffering and relish simple happiness.

Right now so many things feel torn apart and it’s a burden on the feelers among us.

Where I am, in the United States, conservative leaders are attacking our LGBTQ youth, especially those who are transgender. The hate and refusal to affirm our precious kids enrages me, and it equally hurts my heart.

Then, of course, we’ve got what’s happening in Ukraine. 😓

There’s still so much divide over the pandemic, worldwide,

and humans everywhere carry overflowing hostility.

It’s too much to deal with, beyond the already heavy scope of hurting and healing from abuse.

That’s why we need the reminder that it’s okay to lay down the burden(s) and find whatever happiness abounds.

I’m a simple woman. Easy to please, too.

I’m downright GIDDY that it’s Friday, and another week at my day job is ending.

I’ll be riding solo tonight, sans kids, and my plans include comfy pants, hibernating with my special needs chihuahua, THREE new Law & Order episodes from last night’s broadcasts, Mexican food for dinner, and possibly some margaritas, too.

It feels guilty to be this contented, you know?

But what the hell is all our suffering for if we can’t find the good when we need it, when it’s right here in front of us?

One MUST balance the other. That’s what this whole existence is about.

What happiness abounds for you today?

For Less Than a Combo Meal

You’re going to think I’m sharing this for a pat on the back, but I promise I’m not.

I’m sharing so that you know how close to home it hits, and that if it’s where you are, I know right along with you — and from my being — how low it hits. And how long it can reverberate.

This afternoon I went into one of the local discount shops for some household supplies. I’m a regular there, as their products are cheap but excellent, and there is always some kind of neato treat (usually a book or snack) I didn’t know I needed but wind up getting. Plus it’s never as busy as the big department store here. Extra bonus.

(It’s Dollar Tree. I’m totally talking about Dollar Tree.)

Anyway, as I fell in line to check out, thinking about weekend plans with my kids, I heard the cashier tell the woman in front of me that her payment method was declined.

My heart took a dive but I tried to play it cool. Busied myself with the junk hanging next to the register.

I tried to discreetly listen (and calculate) as the shopper, somewhere in her 30s or so, said to staff that she would need to take a few things off the transaction. She started picking through the already bagged items to remove some of her goodies, which looked like mostly food.

My heart reversed and soared as I realized not just that I should help, but that I actually could. Today I could.

I haven’t always been in a position to help another. As one who still feels effects from long-term and post-separation financial abuse, which is layered and complicated, I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. To have to figure out how you can stretch $40 through a week that needs food and gas and the common incidentals just like every other week of life. To run out of money before payday and have to borrow against yourself. (If you’ve written a check a couple days before you got paid and prayed it would be slow to clear, you know what I’m talking about.)

So I took what I intentionally meant as a gentle step toward her and whispered, “Would it be okay if I covered what you’re not able to?”

Without making eye contact she said, “Yes, please. That would help a lot.”

I don’t know her story. It doesn’t matter what it was.

The three of us — me, her, and our cashier — handled this whole thing like pros. Smooth. Quiet. No fanfare. Exactly as it should be. I marveled as she collected her bags and exited the store.

$8. I helped her with less than $8. Less than a combo meal at any drive-thru franchise.

Oh, it’s not enough. So many giving people and lovely souls have helped me through my own years of struggles. I can never repay them. But I try to pay it forward, and that was definitely what happened today.

I won’t pretend it changed her life, that would be silly. I know better.

I also know how high even a small, unexpected gesture can fill a person who doesn’t know how things are gonna happen.

I’m so thankful I was in that spot and open to that moment today.

I hope that if you’re struggling right now, the universe places a helper in your life.

And that if you’re a little past struggling, you’re able to be the helper.

It’s important to be open either way.

Love to all of you, wherever you fall.

Janna

Single Survivor, I See You

A note for Valentine’s Day

Whether you’re newly solo, or it’s already been a long journey on your own.

Whether you still hurt more than you’ve healed, or if the healing finally makes it hurt less.

Whether you’ve sworn off romantic relationships, or look forward to the day you can participate in a happy, healthy one.

Whether you’ve never cared about Valentine’s Day, or wish it could feel more significant.

I see you.

Whether you embrace self-love, or not quite so much (not yet).

Whether you’re happy in your own company, or wish for a companion. Or both. Because these truths can coexist.

Whatever your dating after domestic abuse experiences have been

and whether or not you have hope.

Whatever your attachment style, triggers, hangups, or biases and heartaches.

I see you but I won’t patronize you.

I won’t act like it’s wrong for you to want something you don’t have. Or like it’s wrong *not* to want something.

I won’t condescend you with advice you don’t need to hear. Not in this post.

I won’t tell you that you have to work on yourself before someone can want you.

I won’t make it seem like you have to meet some undefined milestone or personal breakthrough before love will reveal itself.

Because that would make it seem like you’re not enough just as you are right now,

or that you’re irretrievably broken unless X and Y or Z happen.

I will not suggest that you listen to partnered people who think they can help you understand how you should feel about being single.

I will not shame you, wherever you fall. Whatever you want, hope, see, believe.

I see you.

That’s all.

Janna

*divorced and single 10 years

*some dating, lots of disappointment, many lessons

*fulfilled on my own, but also looking forward to eventual partnership and interdependence

*sometimes jaded but not hopeless

*tired of the people who automatically assume every single woman is broken, and that her “vision” needs to be fixed, or that she just doesn’t love herself enough to have “earned” love from someone else, because they’re wrong

Why Your Abuser Isn’t Moving On

They’re running from the truth

I was chatting with two survivor friends this morning, and I mentioned that what we (usually) get right after abusive relationships is actually taking the time to process and learn and heal. Conversely, the ones who did the damage simply “move on” like nothing happened, and blast through to the next victim they can damage without attempting reflection or personal growth.

One of these friends said, “I remember being in therapy after my separation/divorce and practically screaming in rage about how he was able to move on, and about how he just kept going from person to person, leaving all this damage in his wake. And my therapist very calmly said, ‘Isn’t it sad the lengths people like this have to go through to hide from themselves?'”

Read that a second time if you need to…

What this “moving on” is about is that your abuser is incapable of sitting with reality, accountability, failure, or any sense of imperfection they might actually be responsible for. Their ego simply will not tolerate any such consideration.

What’s more, and because of this ego, your abuser doesn’t know how to be single. They will never try to be single.

When your abuser replaces you — whether it’s before you’re out the door, immediately after you left, or after they discarded you — it’s not because they found someone they truly care about, or someone they will invest in or treat better.

No, they have merely found new supply, maybe an infatuation, and replaced you with their latest victim.

They want you to believe they now have someone worthy of love from them, that they’re happy and kind and loving and romantic and perfectly partnered. But that’s just more false narrative. Please don’t fall for it.

If they truly cared about having another relationship, they’d reflect like you’re doing, figure out what went wrong, and find some accountability for the role they played in what happened with you. Maybe do a little self-work and correction.

But I repeat, they aren’t capable of this. Because they didn’t do anything wrong, after all. And they are perfect and lovable. And they have no problem finding another partner who will fall and fawn at their feet. Blah blah blah.

They seek instant gratification, plain and simple. It’s all smoke and mirrors to hurt you any way they still can, and also to satisfy all those shallow, unhealthy needs they have themselves. There’s a deep void. They must fill it superficially. Get it?

Don’t for a moment let yourself think they’ve changed to become the person you always wanted them to be. It just isn’t possible.

How Guardians Ad Litem Contribute to Our Failing Family Courts System

My story

I can’t prove it, but our court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem lied to my kids. For literal months he met with them, listened to their plight, and validated their concerns. He promised he’d do what they asked, to speak out in their defense, to protect them. But then he didn’t.

I can’t prove it, but our court-appointed GAL stopped doing his job. Just weeks before our family court trial, he quit answering my kids’ phone calls, and started ignoring their emails. That day in court, then, he did absolutely nothing. Raised no questions. Never fought on their behalf. Behaved toward the judge as if he had not a care in the world, and was simply along for the ride.

I can’t prove it, but our GAL was intimidated by opposing counsel. He confessed as much during a vulnerable moment, day of the trial, to my kids’ court-approved therapist.

I can’t prove it, but opposing counsel also (probably) threatened our GAL. If I cared enough, I could prove she did the same, in writing, to the therapist.

Our GAL should never have been a GAL at all.

It’s time for him to retire. Our children deserve better.

Corrupt and inept Guardians Ad Litem are another way our family courts system fails us on a regular basis.

***

What I can prove is that I have fought for my kids every step of the way.

What I can prove is that while they’ve experienced their share of trauma, they’ve learned how to overcome it.

What I can prove is that it doesn’t matter who has failed us, because we have each other.