I used to hate New Year’s Eve. We’re talking a deep burning hatred, like the kind I feel for puppy-kickers. (And yes, Darkness, I mean you.)
See, New Year’s is a milestone; it presents us with an opportunity to reflect on the year that’s passed and look forward to the promise of the one ahead.
And let’s just say you don’t exactly get all warm and fuzzy when fear pervades your every waking moment—and you believe it always will.
No, there was no toasting for me, no clinking of champagne glasses. There was just the expectation of another restless night’s sleep on a tear-stained pillow.
Things were different this year, though.
There was singing and funny hats, confetti and noisemakers. And, with the harassment and divorce finally behind me (knocks wood), I was really “present” as we rang in the new year; no worries about how his cutting remarks would suck the oxygen from the room or how he’d drink, but absolutely refuse to let anyone else drive.
Now that I’m finally “out” and free from abuse, I can embrace celebrations with a depth of gratitude I can’t quite put into words. That said, as lovely as my New Year’s Eve was, my joy was—and always will be—tempered by the knowledge that many women in my community are living in fear.
And I wonder, how many of them fail to recognize that they’re victims of domestic violence, as I once did?
You know the cliché: denial ain’t no river in Egypt…
Just a few days ago, Turningpoint posted a Harriet Tubman quote to their Facebook page, and her words struck home.
While I was “in,” I was fearful and deeply, deeply sad almost all of the time, but:
1) I couldn’t wrap my brain around how bad things really were (even when I would calculate the number of free years I’d have remaining if male/female life expectancies held true), and;
2) I’d convinced myself that staying was my choice (when looking back, I can see how I felt so hopelessly trapped).
No, back then, when someone suggested I was being abused and offered support, I shrugged off their remarks with the abuse victim’s pat assurance: “I’m fine.”
I guess I just wasn’t ready to take a hard look at myself; I didn’t like being characterized as a victim, and so I brushed the notion aside and deluded myself into thinking that things weren’t so terrible.
(Does some of this ring true for you?)
The thing is, no one should live a shell of a life like that. No one.
Life is short and it’s meant to be lived authentically and with purpose. And that’s just not possible when you share your life with an abuser.
Coming to terms with the abuse
You may not be ready to admit to others that you’re being abused, but you can make a gigantic leap forward by first admitting it to yourself.
So, take a long look at these questions and be brutally honest with yourself. Does he:
- Frighten you with his looks and actions?
- Control what you do, who you see, and where you go?
- Make you feel guilty for spending time away from him?
- Keep you from spending time with your friends or family members?
- Control the money or make you ask for money?
- Control the decision-making in your relationship?
- Tell you you’re an incompetent parent or threaten to take away or harm your kids?
- Keep you from working or attending school?
- Minimize the abuse or suggest it’s your fault? (It’s not!)
- Damage your property?
- Hurt or threaten to kill your pets?
- Intimidate you with guns, knives or other weapons?
- Drive erratically or at high speed to frighten you?
- Shove, slap, choke, or hit you?
- Force you to drop charges?
- Threaten to commit suicide?
- Threaten to kill you?
If you answered yes to even one of these questions, your partner may be abusive.
And just getting to a place where you can really “see” that opens all sorts of doors. Because, now you can begin to consider what your life might (and should) be like, and where you might reach out for help. Let the idea of a walking-on-eggshells-free life percolate, as you begin to steel your resolve.
See, when your eyes begin to open to the abuse and you start to see his behavior, not as a loss of control, but as a manipulation, you’ll begin to take those first baby steps toward your freedom.
I certainly hope you will, and that you’ll join me on the other side. (It’s a crazy good time over here!)
Wishing you peace, hope, and love in 2013.
If you need help call or text: