I Am a Domestic Violence Survivor.
Rhina’s Evolution Revolution…
Reflections on Transformation
It is said we are the sum of our choices. I am a Domestic Violence Survivor. I did not choose to be a victim but by default of the experience I survived. My message is not targeted solely towards those who are currently in the midst of a domestic violence situation, nor is it aimed at those who have survived. Domestic violence affects everyone.
When it comes to domestic violence, sadly many are misinformed. Sure, many are aware of the overt forms of abuse such as the physical or blatant verbal abuse; however, there are other stealth forms of domestic violence that many are not aware of. I have overcome the more subtler forms of abuse such as emotional (manipulation) psychological (gas lighting), and financial abuse (controlling of money, financial sabotage and creation of chaos negatively affecting finances). The aforementioned are just a few of the many tactics abusers use as tools in order to control their victims.
Along my journey towards recovery, I recognized a pattern. I realized that what left me vulnerable to abuse was that abuse was part of my blueprint. Abuse was something I was familiar with. Unaware of the many negative messages received in childhood, I did not have a point of reference for what healthy interpersonal relationships entailed. I was not even aware of the impact my feeling unloved and neglected had on how I chose to interact with others – and therin lies the rub. I am not certain that domestic violence or staying in an abusive relationship is a ‘choice’ when one does not know better. When one does not know what they don’t know.
It took me hitting rock bottom in order to realize that it was necessary for me to take inventory. Like many, I started out sharing my story in support groups with the typical “Why I stayed.” Earlier today, I happened upon a post a FB friend who is also a Domestic Violence advocate shared:
Many begin the journey with a statement…an answer to an ‘implied’ question…”Why I stayed.” This is an important statement as it is generally attached to one telling their story; however, before one gets to the place of “Why I stayed” in a futile unspoken effort to convince others of the legitimacy attached to being a victim…perhaps more awareness could be raised by answering a more important question…”Why did I not know better?” If we’re going to speak of responsibility and accountability and shining the light…”Why did I not know better?” (assuming you’ve connected some dots and have located a pattern) precedes “Why I stayed.” Most who have done the work would most likely agree…the recovery comes from digging at the root…
As a society, many of us unwittingly have subscribed to the ‘blame the victim’ script. It works because it allows for a certain lack of awareness and inaction to take place under the guise of “tuff love”.
Needless to say, while in some circumstances “tuff love” might be the only way to reach someone determined to engage in a campaign of self destruction, not every victim is created equal. “Tuff Love” is not the answer, especially when dealing with someone who has sustained the injury of trauma behind a lifetime of abuse, neglect, and lacking the nurturing that was/is needed in order to develop a healthy sense of self esteem.
Surviving abuse whether it’s roots lie in childhood, through interpersonal relationships (which for the purposes of raising awareness I will not hold to the strict definition of romantic relationships because abuse does not discriminate), it is essential for any victim to first address the realization that in fact they are a victim. There cannot be any shame attached to the admission. Abuse is a violation, akin to rape of which many victims find once they replay the tapes, they were sexually violated as well; simply because sex is not consensual under false pretenses. You cannot survive anything you do not acknowledge.
See: Pandora’s Project – Revictimization
Many who help others along the journey of recovery from Domestic Violence share forgiveness is key; however, I caution anyone who is new to the realization the importance of feeling your feelings, including the anger and the rage which is a legitimate and typical response along with the sadness, pain and depression that accompanies such an assault – whether the abuse was physical, sexual, emotional and/or psychological. Recovering is a grief process. There are many stages that do not always progress in an ascending order. Some days you may feel you can conquer it, other days you might find yourself three steps behind, sometimes all the energy you can muster might leave you lying on the floor in a fetal position. Domestic Violence is an assault to the mind, body and soul. It will take time to recover. Be patient, loving and kind with yourself, the process brings a lot to contend with.
After I got to the proverbial fork in the road, I was left with a choice in terms of how I might best resolve the ordeal for my own peace of mind. After doing a great deal of soul searching and ‘inside’ work, I chose forgiveness as my path. While I refuse to subscribe to the notion that somehow I asked for this or deserved it, I recognized my lack of awareness of the blueprint unfortunate early childhood experiences left in my psyche contributed to my seeking out unhealthy relationships because my understanding or baseline for ‘normal’ was skewed. Subtle forms of abuse did not raise a red flag for me, it was ‘normal’.
Today I am much stronger, wiser and in-tune with the various methods of control and abuse seen and unseen as a result of the experience I survived. Once I was able to pull myself up off the floor, I began to try to find the lesson. I traveled many paths in my journey towards self-awareness. Forgiveness did not come easy. I found I was most angry at myself. I still had these tapes playing in my mind, the echos of society…”You should have known better” “Why did you stay” “You are not a victim, you choose to be a victim” “You are accountable for your misery” I felt shame. It took years for me to be able to forgive myself, then I realized that is what was stopping me from realizing my breakthrough. I was standing in my own way and blocking my own empowerment. The abuser was gone, I was now in complete control. Sure, the scars were there, and the memory was there but once I had gone through all the stages, I realized the one thing stopping me from getting over the mountain was me. It was then I had to decide whether I would choose to let the experience define me or whether I would choose to thrive in spite of the experience. I found my place of empowerment in choosing to use my experience as a tool to help educate others and shine the light on Domestic Violence. I chose life. I chose love. I chose light.
It is said “Hurt people hurt people.” While it took me some time to get to a place of compassion, with time and a lot of support, the burden, the stress and the pain lifted. I was able to step back a bit and allow myself a small window of objectivity. In that moment I was able to see how the abusers in my life’s journey more than likely at some point in their lives were also victims, they simply responded to abuse by acting out their pain and inflicting it upon others. That does not mean my compassion would lead me to attempt to ‘rescue’ them from their pain. Abusers must be fully accountable for the damage they inflict upon others and that is a journey only they and they alone can take.
From a distance however, I found I was ultimately able to tap into a place of compassion, love and light and forgive. The forgiveness wasn’t necessarily for those who have offended, it was for me, so that I could be set free of the prison that was my mind, one that had been built so long ago without me so much as even realizing the bars which held me hostage and blocked me from recognizing my true potential. The journey was also very much a spiritual walk. I encourage anyone and everyone touched by this type of experience to seek out some form of spiritual nurturing as it will carry you in the quiet dark moments of desperation during the more challenging paths along your journey.
Today because of my awareness, I am able to consciously choose the path of happiness. For me the key was forgiveness after a very long difficult process.
Today I strive to forgive those who have done harm, but most importantly I forgive myself. When we mentally beat ourselves up, it’s an open invitation for someone else to do the same.
Today I choose to communicate with self in a loving and forgiving manner. Today I consciously choose happiness regardless of the circumstances.
Let LOVE in…the rest WILL follow.
May this lead you to a continued path of SELF-LOVE.
Con Mucho Amor y Miel,