#DomesticViolenceAwareness, #WhyIDidntReport, Domestic Violence, Grief and Loss, Rape, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Nancy’s Story

I’ll have to just focus on one traumatic incident of domestic abuse, because there have been many situations in my life. This one incident involves my cousin and his family. It happened when we were all young, in our 20’s. I had grown up close to this cousin and was Matron of Honor at his wedding. The day of this incident, my then husband, Peter, and I showed up at their apartment to help them with a move, as planned. When the door opened to let us in I saw my cousin’s wife holding a bunch of tissues to her nose. Their little boy, age 3, stood with his arms wrapped tightly across his chest, as if to hug himself. His mouth was turned down at the corners and his eyes averted mine……..I had to use the bathroom and in that room I saw a bathtub half-filled with bloody red water and soaking clothes….the move didn’t happen that day.

I once had a dream that my cousin was a silver airplane that slowly slipped out of the sky and crashed silently to the earth. That’s about the way it went.

Having written a brief account of a day in the distant past when my husband and I showed up to help my cousin and his wife with a move to a new apartment, only to have the moving plans cancelled after finding the wife incapacitated due to the broken bloody nose my cousin had caused earlier in the morning, I decided to write a little more about the violence that enveloped the life of this family member and the lives of many of the other family members whose lives intersected with his.

I’ve been wondering how it all started but analyzing the family, with its history of both wonderful and horrible stories of failures and sadness, joy and accomplishment, is too large a task, so for this project I will focus on telling a little of the story of my cousin.

I grew up with him and shared amazing childhood memories of fun, adventure, competition, love and brutality with this cousin, two years older than I. I can’t begin to encompass our lives in a write-up but his life impacted mine deeply and does to this day. He passed away a few months ago and when I got to the church, before the service, and saw the urn containing his ashes I choked up, in tears. Unlike a lot of others in the family I loved him and didn’t suffer violence at his hands, other than a few ice-balls to the head thrown between our snow forts and a few wicked “Indian sunburns” he gave me, twisting his strong hands around my arms. He did put me in some precariously dangerous situations, climbing trees, crashing into woodpiles on our sled, piled up, one on the other, and daring me to walk across the beams high above the concrete barn floor. We also rolled down a sandpit but avoided suffocating and we capsized while out fishing in a little boat on a pond, but didn’t drown. We went hunting but he was the one who fell into a hole out there in the woods and screamed for me to help because, he said, he’d spotted a bobcat. I left him and ran for my own hide.

When he stayed overnight in our house my mother had to put plastic on the bed to cover the mattress because he wet the bed ‘til he was 11 or 12. He had troublesome signs, including his propensity for torturing the family cat. One day, at his family home, he stuck his jackknife into the snout of the pig in the pen. The last time I saw him, within a year before his death, I recounted that memory but with the expectation of his laughing ruefully, remorsefully, at that outrageous act of cruelty. However, he just said, “I always hated that pig.” He was in his late 70”s when last we met up, he and his wife, and I, at McD’s for breakfast. His treat. I said next time would be on me. There was no next time. I took a picture of the two of them in their beat-up truck that day. I thought, when seeing the photo, that he looked like a hurt little boy in an old man’s body.

That day, he’d told me something I have had a very hard time believing. That he’d been molested growing up, by a family member. Now I wonder. His sister had told me that their father hated him and often beat him with a belt. Far worse, and something she later tried to rescind as maybe not true, was an account that the father’s friend had raped her brother when he was five years old. She had been told that. We will never know.

She also told me that her brother raped her when she was eight years old. I know that he molested several of the cousins, including myself, and one couldn’t bear to come to his funeral service because she was still dealing with things he had done.

In preparation for the funeral reception I contacted one of his daughters. In the planning conversation she casually mentioned that her father had raped her, before asking if she should bring a pasta salad. Apparently he raped both his daughters.

A granddaughter, who did attend the services, had told me some time before his passing that her grandfather had done “unspeakable things” to her during her childhood. Another granddaughter still misses both him and her grandmother and is sad at losing the best friends of her lifetime. She did say that he wasn’t really a nice man and had once punched her mother and had even punched her once.

I look back on our earliest childhood immortalized in black and white photographs. He and I in Florida when the sisters lived and worked there while the fathers were in the service, WW2. He and I playing in the park on stone monuments; sitting on the wooden stoop of an apartment building; later, he and I on the porch of the duplex in Enfield, he in ragged pants and I in my little wool coat.

We were in Germany together, he stationed in one area, my husband in another. He visited one week-end and fell asleep in a chair. When I woke him, he shot up straight, swinging his fists. He was drinking heavily by that point and had been since his teen-age years, during which time he once came to my house, woke me up and wanted me to go with him, which I did. I always did. “Little Cousin” he called me. He was very drunk and we just rode around. My mother never knew.

His life went by in a relatively quick period of successive violent incidents. I remember his holding off the police at gunpoint from an apartment when he was younger, ‘til he waved a white flag of truce. Violence is kind of a ridiculous waste of time.

Photo Courtesy of: Jourdan Buck Photography

Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your story. You are strong. You are brave. Your voice matters.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness

#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Domestic Violence, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Amy R’s Story

“So I met my husband after the death of my children’s father he came at the perfect time or so I thought. We dated and eventually married. I became pregnant shortly after we started dating it resulted in a miscarriage at 4 1/2 months along due to a fight between us. From there the man I knew and had loved turned into a life of abuse and living hell. I had 2 beautiful daughters we wanted and needed to fit somewhere after losing their father. I spent over 10 years with this man married I can remember every argument that lead to cops being called that lead to emergency room visits that made my kids afraid. We moved several times to get away from the area where he would become well known for his abuse. Taking me from family and friends every time. My children became witness to everything. I had 2 children eventually with my husband hoping to make him happy hoping the abuse would stop where it only became worse and more frequent. My husband was facing 41 years at one point. He served 8 months and got out his sweet talking and pleas made me go back. It was only when he came to my apartment one night even with a restraining order in effect that the final night of abuse and torture happened. He came in cut all phone lines broke computers took batteries in cell phones and kept me and our then 5 year old hostage all night was beaten abused and sexually assaulted all with her made to watch it happen it felt like days for those long 12 hours. Our son came home to find me on the floor covered in blood head to toe and called the police on his father. He was arrested finally held without bail I suffered many severe injuries I have broken bones in my forehead nerve damage in my eyes but I am alive I have raised my children we have healed. He served 5 years after pleading guilty even in the time in jail he violated restraining orders with letters I didn’t give up this was it. I was out of a terrible marriage. If not for my son coming home and finding me I don’t believe I’d be here today. 10 years later I’m living life with my 4 amazing children and my 3 beautiful grandchildren life is absolutely wonderful he didn’t break me he made me who I am today. I’m so happy I love my life now.

I am a survivor.”

Photo Courtesy of: Jourdan Buck Photography

Thank you, Amy, for sharing your story. I am so happy to hear you are enjoying your life.

You are brave.

You strong.

You are important.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness

Depression, EMDR, Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, Uncategorized

Where to Start?

I met with my therapist again this week, and we talked about how I handled Good Friday and Easter. Days that for the last ten years have brought pain and suffering for me. This year, sandwiched in between the days was the third anniversary of my mom’s death.

I didn’t flinch. I didn’t shed a tear. The pain was gone. I didn’t reminisce over what could have, should have or would have been. I didn’t put my thoughts into the dark hole of grief. The days came and went without the heaviness they usually carry. I told her I was amazed at how effective the EMDR therapy had been in such a short amount of time. Two sessions took ten years of pain, possibly more. She said we hold memories in networks, and related thoughts can be healed, even without focusing on them. So, being able to work through my mom’s anniversary was an added bonus of the work we did on the loss of my gram. As she told me that, I thought about the possibilities that are in front of me. There is so much work to be done, but where to start? We talked about where to go next, about the top issues that cause me distress. My mind went in circles. How could I pick the top issues? What was really causing me distress now? My healing journey has been pretty complete. Most days are OK, with days of OK with a side of sadness. Knowing that memories are stored in networks, and connected in a web, woven together by similarities, I thought about the root of my suffering. My mom. I always feel a little guilty or cliche about blaming my mom. That’s the joke of all counseling sessions. “What did your mom do to screw you up?” For the longest time, I wouldn’t let my thoughts take me there. I didn’t want to be one of them that blamed all of my problems on my mom. I was so adamant that she was not my problem that I brushed off the first notion of it. It was only after acknowledging it, and working through it that I was able to start the true healing. When I told her I wanted to work on some memories of my mom, she asked me which one? I didn’t really know. There were so many. She suggested I close my eyes and see what image comes to me. It was fitting, that the title of my book was the image projected on my mental movie screen. I pictured my three-year-old self, pleading with the monster to give me back my mommy. The terror from that moment flooded me. When I was asked what thoughts this image brought to mind, I responded, “that I am annoying, an inconvenience, not worth people’s time, not good enough.” And there we have it. The root of my self-sabotaging behavior and thoughts, the feeling that my presence is not worth any one’s time, the feeling of being inadequate, of never being enough was programmed into my tiny, little, 3-year-old brain. All of the healing in the world would not work if this block was not removed. For close to thirty-five years I have held this block in my mind, stopping short of true healing. Each and every time I get close to tackling these thoughts my brakes instantly go one, and I am stuck in tar, unable to move forward, or to shake these thoughts out of my mind. I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what. All I knew was the same terror that came as that 3-year-old filled me when I came close to working on these thoughts. Frozen. Through the process of the EMDR therapy so much happened, in such a short amount of time. As we worked through the memories, a vision of my gram came in. Her smiling face, and a bright, yellow light surrounding her. The anxiety and terror I had been feeling was lifted, and in it’s place warmth and love filled me. I saw my gram take the hand of my child-self and take her out of that bedroom with the monster. We walked away, and slowly my mom disappeared. The bed was empty, the blankets pulled up and straightened. When I was asked what I saw, I said that my gram was going to protect the little girl, and keep her safe. Visions of my child-self and my gram playing together came, and my whole body shifted. In the past I had been told to take care of my child-self. The idea of it sounded far fetched, and honestly, a little crazy. I was told to give that little girl the love and support she was longing for. Let her be little. I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. A burden was lifted when I saw my child-self was in my gram’s hands now. I wouldn’t have to care for her, but I knew she would be safe, and happy. When I was asked to do a scan of my body from head to toe after the session, I felt something I had never felt before. A clear flow of energy. No blocks. No tension. Nothing in the way of the energy circulating throughout my body. A notable thing to mention is that as I was doing the scan of my body, I said that I felt like I was finally inside my body. With the damaged little girl in the way, I was never fully able to experience life as me. I had never thought of it in those terms before, but as I finished up the scan, I noticed that I could actually feel my feet on the floor. As in, I have never noticed that sensation before. When I shared this with my therapist, she smiled at me, and said how exciting it will be to get to know myself. The thought brought tears to my ears. I never expected to get to a place in my life where the pain and thoughts were not overwhelming. To think that this can happen for all of the areas of trauma in my life is beyond exciting, I don’t even have the words to describe how this all feels. As we talked at the end of our hour together I told her how interesting it was that we had worked on the loss of my gram first, because without that work being done, seeing her come to take my child-self would have been crushing. It would not have worked, because the emotions tied to that loss were so intense. Also, the timing of this all worked out well. The groundwork for the foundation of my healing had been laid. I was ready. There is nothing left to do now, except heal. Who am I to question how all this works? Be kind to yourself. We are all healing from something.
Domestic Violence, healing, Hope, Uncategorized

The Well Read New Englander: The Monster That Ate My Mommy By Jessica Aiken-Hall

Source: The Well Read New Englander: The Monster That Ate My Mommy By Jessica Aiken-Hall 

Monster Ate Mommy_Front Cover_090217

 

Review by Carla Charter

What I first noticed about this book was the main character, Jessica.  She struck me as a Phoenix. Despite the horrific physical, emotional, and sexual abuse she survived as a child, with each negative she still rose again, like the fabled bird determined to rise above her circumstances.

An important theme of the book which is highlighted again and again is the importance of having an anchor. A family member, a grandmother, a friend, who will stand up and say no more. Even if the abuse continues despite the pleas and the lies of survival, these anchors provided a respite of sanity, when the childhood world around was nothing but chaos for her.

The repercussions of Jessica’s childhood abuse can be seen clearly as she grows, feeling unloved and unwelcome, she enters her adult world looking for the love she never received, through whomever will give it. Thus her abusive childhood ripples and transforms into abusive relationships and eventually even affects her children.

Still despite it all, despite her mother’s drinking and depression, despite her horrific life of abuse and neglect she still finds her way to peace and a resolution with her mother and thus becoming a shining beacon to survival.   Her life while fractured by others, in the end Jessica herself builds into a beautiful mosaic of hope for the future.

The book is a must read for those looking to understand the complexities of abuse and the long-term effects abuse can have.

For anyone who may leaving or reporting abuse, the following agencies may be able to help

Domestic Violence Hotline

www.thehotline.org

1-800-799-7233

Child Abuse Hotline

1-800-4-A-CHILD

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Domestic Violence, Hope, Uncategorized

Why I Didn’t Leave

Why I didn’t leave. That is the question that haunts me, and increases the anxiety that was left behind. Why didn’t I just go? I didn’t even love him, so why would I stay? I wrestle with these thoughts, some days more than others. And, recently, I learned that it wasn’t my fault.  

I did try to leave on a couple of occasions, and each time ended with some of the worst physical violence that I had ever experienced. And my children witnessed it. As babies, and with eyes of innocence. They saw and heard as their mommy was beaten. They heard their daddy threaten to kill mommy, while he told me they didn’t love me. At two and four years old they had to defend me. They had to save me. lrg_dsc00994

When I replay those times in my mind, I wish I had the strength to call his bluff. I wish that I would have taken my babies, and saved them, instead of them saving me. I wish that I could have made their memories happy, and not be haunted with the thoughts that not even adults should have to carry.

Knowing what they went through and what they saw make it hard not to blame myself.  Those thoughts made me feel like a bad mother. They made it hard to see that I was not part of the problem. We were all surviving, and I truly believed that if I left, I would have been killed.

Before my first child was even born, he told me he would take my baby from me, and never allow me to see him. I believed him. He told me his family had money, and they would take me to court to prove I was unfit. I believed him. I did not have family to turn to. I did not have money to hire a lawyer. I believed him. I believed him when he said he was going to kill me. I believed him when he said no one would miss me. I believed him when he said I was worthless. I believed he would kill me, and my children would be left in his care.

It was all part of the power and control that abusers use. I didn’t know it was all a part of his plan, to make me so weak that I couldn’t fight back. I didn’t know that with every hateful, hurtful word, he was crushing my spirit. I didn’t know how much power the fear held over me. It was just life. It was all I knew, in turn, becoming all my children knew.

I apologized to my children for not leaving sooner. They told me it wasn’t my fault. Each one of them, at different times. I didn’t want them to save me any longer. I didn’t want them to take the guilt away.  They told me, each in their own way, that it wasn’t my fault. That they didn’t blame me for what happened, or for staying longer than we should have. They blame him.

“Mom, he was the one that hurt us.”

“Mommy, he was the one that was so mean.”

“He hurt you. And us. He was bigger, and stronger.”

“Mom, you got us out. You are the reason we are safe now.”

“You are my protector.”

“Thank you for never leaving us.”

“Thank you for loving us.”

Their words bring me comfort. Hearing how they are able to process the past, and learn from the fear, and pain lets me see I am doing something right. I am a good mom. They love me, and trust me. And, I am their protector. I will have their backs no matter what. Day by day, we each heal a little more. The broken parts become smoothed over, and we are stronger for it.

lrg_dsc00983 The next time you say, “Why won’t she just leave?” Please remember you don’t know the whole story. You do not know all of the details. If she leaves, he might kill her. If she leaves, he may hurt her children, or pets, or family. If she leaves, she may not have anywhere to go. If she leaves him, she may not have any money for the things she or the children need. If she leaves him, she still may not be safe. You cannot judge a person when you have not been in their situation.

Please remember, she is doing her best. She is trying harder than most, just to survive. Every. Single. Day.

Be patient.

Be kind.

She is stronger than she knows.

 

 

Child abuse, Depression, Domestic Violence, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Although, I am aware every single day. I am on edge from the PTSD at times I least expect it. A loud noise, people yelling, an angry expression can be the trigger. A feeling comes over me, and I fear for my safety. I scan parking lots as I walk to my car, waiting for death that was promised.

It is not something that just goes away. Good days can be stolen in an instant when a memory pops up. Anxiety creeps in, and there is nothing that can quiet the mind. My heart races, as I wonder why I wasn’t one of the statistics…but I know there is still time. When an unpredictable abuser, who was never held accountable for his actions roams the streets, his death wish for me could be a when, and not if.

Thoughts like this, make Domestic Violence part of what shaped me into who I am. Fear from childhood, wondering when my dad was going to kill my mom, and I continued to be fed by threats from my ex husband. I have expected my murder since I was four years old. Before I even knew what death was. It is a miracle that I am still alive, and I am determined to be the change. The change for my children. The change for others who want to be free. The change for me.

Alone, the world is a scary place. Together, we can get through anything.

You are not alone.

From The Monster That Ate My Mommy:

Chapter 29

A couple of years into the job, I found out I was pregnant with baby number three. Chuck and I continued to fight, but that was the norm now. We couldn’t have a conversation without calling each other names or yelling. Ian was four and Emerson was two. Chuck only occasionally put his hands on me now. Most of the abuse was emotional.

Until I was nine months pregnant. Chuck spent the day belittling me. “You’re a fat whore. No one has ever loved you. Your own mother hates you. You’re just a piece of shit.”

After hours of listening, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had the cordless phone in my hand from my daily call to Gram, and without thinking, I threw it at Chuck’s bare back. I wanted him to stop talking. I was nine months pregnant, my husband was verbally abusing me, and my hormones were raging. I wanted him to leave me alone.

He spun around and yelled, “You’re gonna pay for that, you stupid, fat whore!”

Ian and Emerson were in the living room, and they stopped playing as he ran to me. I ran past him into the living room to get the kids to a safe spot, but as I got into the living room, Chuck pushed me into the changing table. When I didn’t fall, he pushed me again, harder. I stumbled and landed on the floor in the kids’ playroom as Ian yelled, “Daddy, no! Stop, Daddy!”

On the floor, I held my stomach. Chuck came over and kicked me over and over again in the back. He kicked me harder each time his foot made contact. Ian ran over to try to make him stop. I fought back the tears because I didn’t want Ian to be afraid. Emerson stood in the corner of the living room, crying as she watched her father continue to yell at me. I needed help. I managed to get to my feet and walked to the phone. When Chuck saw what I was doing, he ripped the phone out of the wall and threw it. “What the fuck do you think you are doing? You’re not calling anyone.” He pushed me into the doorway to the upstairs, pushing me so hard my body broke the door. The kids both watched and cried. We were all at his mercy.

Chuck pulled me up out from the broken door and dragged me into the kitchen by my hair. He tried to smash my head onto the hot wood stove. I couldn’t let my face hit the stove. I somehow managed to brace myself in the door frame of the bathroom that was in front of the wood stove. He took my head, bounced it off the door jam, and yelled, “I am going to kill you!”

The kids followed us into the kitchen. Their screams filled the house. Ian yelled, “Let her go! Let Mommy go!”

Chuck didn’t let me go. He grabbed me by the neck and pushed me into the wall as he yelled, “You are dead! I am going to kill you and hide your body.”

“Daddy! Please don’t kill Mommy. Please, Daddy, please.” Ian’s pleas didn’t stop him.

Chuck continued to yell, “You are dead, you fucking whore. You are dead! The kids won’t care if you’re dead. They don’t even love you.”

“Daddy, no! Daddy, we love Mommy. Daddy, no.” Ian pleaded with him.

Chuck finally let go of me, and the kids ran over to me. Emerson hugged my legs, and Ian stood guard. Chuck was angry they were so upset. “Stop your fuckin’ crying. God damn it…make the little fuckers stop.”

I held them close to keep Chuck away from them. Chuck paced the kitchen as they continued to cry. “Get the fuck over it!”

My whole body hurt. The baby stopped moving. I was scared he had killed the baby inside of me. I sat in the living room with Ian and Emerson in my lap, and I cried with them. Chuck sat on the couch to watch us. “I need to go to the hospital…the baby isn’t moving.”

“You’re not going anywhere. You just want to get me in trouble.”

“No…I’m scared the baby’s hurt.”

“You’re fine, the baby’s fine.”

 My body was covered in bruises. It hurt to sit down. After a while, the baby did move, and Chuck reminded me he was right, there was nothing wrong. He told me again if I told anyone what happened he’d kill me and take the kids. He said he would cut the baby out of me and take it too. I couldn’t leave them. I couldn’t let him kill me and leave them with him.

At my doctor’s appointment, a nurse asked about the bruises. I said I had fallen down the stairs. I hoped they wouldn’t believe me, but they didn’t ask again. She told me it was selfish of me not to come in right after the fall. I felt like I’d failed this baby too, just like I failed at everything.

After that day, my dislike for Chuck grew to hate. I hated him for all he had done to me. I hated him for all he did to my kids. I hated him for all he pretended to be. I hated him for all the hope he stole from me. I hated him for everything. We’d been together for six years, and I still hadn’t told him I loved him. Now there was no way he’d ever hear me speak those words.

Depression, Hope, Love, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

True Happiness

img_3133-1True happiness. That is what is in this picture. I started this blog on July 1st, the year anniversary of when this photo was taken, but could not find the words. Any of them. This was the night Tom Petty helped make a twenty year old wish come true. This was the night that everything was perfect. This was the night that the pain faded, and pure happiness took over.

This was the night I decided to live, and not wait. I went with my gut, and upgraded my tickets to front row. I had always talked myself out of them in the past, telling myself that I didn’t deserve them, or the money was better used for something else. That voice exited long enough to purchase them, and quickly returned as guilt came crashing in.

Because of my experience of life never going as planned, I could not get excited before the tickets were in my hand, and I was in my seat. It couldn’t be real. I didn’t want to work up the excitement, only to be let down. I was stressed out and anxious as I waited to receive the tickets as the rain poured out of the sky.

As they scanned the tickets, and we made our way to our seats, my anxiety changed to pure bliss. If only for a moment, I would have my chance to see Tom, and maybe, be seen by him. The magic from the night outweighed anything I could have wished for.

Still, a year later, I have a hard time believing it happened the way it did. Darkness turned to light in the moments on that night. I mattered in the sea of insignificance, if only for a second. Everything lined up, and my wish was granted. It could not have been more perfect.

There are very few moments in my life that play out this way. Or, very few that I allow myself to accept. When I went to write this a few weeks ago, I wanted more than anything to feel that happiness again. To find that smile and see the sparkle. The harder I looked, the more distant I became from that night.

For the moment, it was perfect. A dream. An everlasting memory. I didn’t want to taint it with the pain that this year brought. The pain of outliving most everyone I love. Sadly, Tom has been added to the list. But, for the moment, only a year ago, the lifetime of pain left my body.

I long for that feeling. A feeling I did not know I was lacking. The most important thing I had forgotten was to live. To live in the moment. To appreciate the little things, and the big ones. To let the love in. To let the love out. To be. To just be.

Searching for perfection will always lead to failure. To find happiness, the kind that is in my eyes from this night, I need to remember how simple it really is. Expect nothing, and be grateful for what is.

Tom always has a song to get me through. A perfect one for tonight, and every night after, Wildflowers, because I belong somewhere I feel free.

Thank you Tom, for the memories, the magic, and the words that reach my soul. ❤️