Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On second thought...

A few weeks ago an ex contacted me on Facebook. I've blocked him several times, but Facebook resets these settings often. (I don't know why they do something so stupid.) You probably noticed, I panicked. I am still in the process of removing all pics of my son from the site. It is better to not display his childhood publicly on a site that provides zero privacy. I was also going to stop blogging and remove myself from most social media sites, until I realized: If I remove myself from the grid, this person is still controlling me through fear.

At first, I decided to share my story, but after weeks of writing and deleting it, or just being unable to bring myself to put some of what I went through into words, I decided that it might be better to keep it simple.

I always felt that if anyone knew my past, they would treat me differently. In truth, I was treating myself differently. I lived my life as though he would appear any second and I would disappear. Always guarded, weary of new people...what if they are spies for him? It wouldn't be the first time...or the second. What if I can't trust myself to judge a new friends character? If I didn't see red flags the first time, will I miss them in the future? The questions and the doubts go on. I spent 3 years trying to leave an abuser. Each time, the situation escalated. It wasn't until I gave up living, caring, that I found strength. I realized that I could try to escape and either die in the process or succeed, and the other option was to stay there, and eventually die. The hardest part about reading stories of women who lost their lives to domestic violence is knowing that feeling of hopelessness.

It's not often that those who survived step forward and we certainly don't make the news. This lack of social awareness given to survivors can leave someone in the middle of an abusive relationship feeling helpless. It gives the impression that death is the only way out. We need to do more as a society to step in and help. America seems to be largely pro life, but only in the case of the unborn. What about abused women and the children they will leave behind? If this nation believes it can stick its business into all womens vaginas then it is a must that this way of thinking carries into other pro life situations. Don't ignore it when you see a woman in an abusive relationship. Don't turn a blind eye because its none of your business. Step in, give hope, give help. We can start by better educating ourselves on the signs and speaking up when we think someone is in need.

While I wont go into the physical side, I want to point something out: the emotional manipulation involved. I want you to understand, it rarely begins with physical abuse. If someone just walks up to you and hits you, you will do something about it because, emotionally, you can. Most abusers have a method of hanging on to you. They create this world and trap you in it. You will slowly become convinced that you have no where to go, no one to turn to. He used previous sexual assault to control me. From a young age, the church always taught us that without your virginity, you are worthless. You have to preserve yourself for your future husband or he may not want you. Our victim blaming society tells us that if we were sexually assaulted, it was our fault (e.g. how was she dressed? was she drinking? was she a tease?). We failed to take proper measures preserve ourselves for our poor future husbands who will have to deal with second hand goods. Having grown up in a similar environment, he was well versed on how to use that to control me.

You are lucky you have me.

No one else will ever love you.

Your own family can't even love you.

You have nothing to offer.

You are worthless.

You are hopeless.

You are so ugly, makeup only makes it worse.

You are so lucky I love you.

After hearing these lies over and over, I began to believe I wasn't even worth loving myself.

During these years of pain, I job hopped and moved often. Doing my best to stay one step ahead. Still, he always found me. Out of fear, I always went back to him thinking, hoping, I was buying myself more time until I could find a way out. When someone stabs themselves because you don't want a relationship, it's intensely terrifying to think about what is in store for you if you continue refusing. You should never judge/blame a victim for staying. You can never even comprehend what is happening on the other side. The emotional and physical abuse escalated to the point that I had nothing to lose. I almost wanted to die. Leaving him for good meant freedom, either in death or life.

It's a weird feeling, pushing an abuser to their limits. Challenging them to make good on their death threats. Don't get me wrong, I didn't hand him a weapon or anything. I still hid. In fact, I spent many nights sleeping on the floors of strangers homes, guarded by a very close and special friend. A friend who I owe my life. He was brave enough to stand up for me in the face of danger. He was willing to take me along couch surfing and ensure no harm ever came to me. He did all of it out of kindness. We should all be willing to do that for others. Abusers are cowards and when you stand up to them, they turn tail and run. The tricky part is recognizing and overcoming the emotional manipulation. An acquaintance spoke up to me. Without her willingness to tell me she thought he was manipulative, I never would have seen it. If you notice signs of emotional abuse, please say something. Let that person know they are not alone. The message will give them strength and hope.

I don't know if this is easy to follow. It's not easy to tell. The message that I want to send is that escape and recovery are long roads to travel. It wont be easy. After 9 years, I still struggle. When he contacted me, I temporarily fell apart. Realizing the reaction I had was of someone still in an abusive relationship means I have a long way to go. One step forward is refusing to give in. So he can stalk me here. He can find me on Facebook. He can't change the fact that never again will he control me. While I will continue to keep Baby Huu offline, I am standing up to the remnants of fear and continuing to do something I love.