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There's your trigger warning. I'm not holding back on my own experiences, so please take care of your own needs before reading. I do have at the end some links and helpful tips for those who may find themselves in a similar situation. SCROLL UNTIL YOU HIT BOLDED TEXT IF YOU NEED TO SKIP THINGS FOR YOUR OWN MENTAL WELL BEING.

Learning that [not stating how I know this person] has been hiding an abusive relationship for years has put today in a combination of overdrive with accompanying tail spin. My first reaction is to gather all the information needed, supplies, etc., and rocket launch that to the woman in need. Now that I've done as much as I can for the moment, everything in my past is hitting like a ton of bricks. Good thing I have therapy tomorrow. =/



It's been 18 years and three months since a man first hit me. I remember every single time he hit me after that, too. It came out of nowhere, was terrifying and awful, but more than any of the pain I felt from all the times he hurt me, I remember the overwhelming shame that followed.

I was ashamed that I let it happen. Ashamed that I didn't do anything more than look away after it had happened. Ashamed that I didn't find a way to make it stop. I was too smart to be in an abusive relationship, and yet there I was towards the end, cowering in the bathroom knowing that it was going to be really awful this time because I dared fight back. (I had locked the deadbolt on the front door.) Well, that didn't stop my 6'8" 280 pound husband from knocking the entire front door off the house - hinges, trim and all.

My being too smart didn't stop him from picking me up at 8 months pregnant and literally throwing me across the room into the wall. From slapping me across the face and bloodying my nose minutes before he knew my dad was going to show up, because what, I was going to tell my dad? Didn't stop him from any of the times my "smart mouth" pissed him off just enough to pin my arm behind my back until I cried, shove me with his open hand against my face until I got out of his way, on and on.

Nothing about ME mattered, which was the whole point. And funny enough, IS the whole point: it wasn't ABOUT me. It was about him. HIS anger, HIS frustration, HIS what the fuck ever. I could have been stupid. I could have been rich, poor(er), black, white, whatever. HE was the abuser - it had nothing to do with me, other than the unfortunate circumstances of being trapped with that person.

I actually lived next door to a cop. I was Mormon at the time, and he was in my ward (parish). We lived in a duplex, so he knew what was going on. Come on. And he would time getting his paper or the mail when he could hear me going out to get my paper or mail and quietly ask me if there was anything he could do to help.

Oh, of course not, because nothing was wrong! <-- that was the shame speaking. FFS, I wore long-sleeved shirts in the DESERT in AUGUST. I had a half-starved baby, because my ex would disappear for days at a time and wouldn't leave me with my car or any food. GAH.

I wouldn't accept help, because it was embarrassing to admit that I couldn't handle it, that I'd made a mistake in marrying him, whatever. I also wouldn't accept help because it wasn't overt. You know what was? My sister showing up with her husband (who had a handgun on him, I later learned) in a truck. We managed to get me and the kids out when my ex was working. I threw together two suitcases full of kids' clothes, a shopping bag for my own things (so many of my clothes and personal belongings had been given away to girlfriends, wow, still not over that!), and some of our dishes and kids toys we hadn't unpacked before moving into the duplex. And there was $.38 in the junk bowl for keys.

That was it.

I spent the next five months shell-shocked, trying to figure out what the hell to do with a twenty month old baby (my son) and a barely four month old (#2). We stayed with my sister for 36 hours, flew back to Texas (omg, #2 drank her bottle too fast on the plane's decent and threw up all over the woman behind me, and I burst into tears - I'm tearing up just thinking about the humiliation I felt - and almost gave her my shirt to wear. (She was so nice and calm, telling me she had twins and that wasn't the first time it had happened, and I was so fucking GRATEFUL to her in that moment. I don't think I've ever been so grateful for a person treating me so calmly in my life as I was right then.)

We stayed with my awful, awful mother for two and a half weeks until she couldn't "deal" with it anymore and shipped me off to live with her mother, the one with schizophrenia who lived (truly) in the ghetto. One neighbor raised fighting dogs and fighting cocks, and the other neighbor made/sold meth. It was her "bridal home" so she wasn't leaving. Please know that I was so, so grateful to her. We had our good times, it just wasn't an ideal situation. Her tiny 800 sq ft house had me and my two babies crammed into one little room among her 50 years of memorabilia. We stayed there for five months while I went on welfare and WIC, searched for a job and learned how to be human again.

(To the Mormon Church's credit: I never would have made it as fast as I did without their help. They arranged babysitters for me, clothing for an office job, and set me up with a job specialist to find an appropriate job for my skill set, learn how to budget as a single mom and figure out how to make it all work.)

I had cousins who I'd not spoken with in years send clothes for my kids without batting an eye. My dad - normally a "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" kind of guy - helped me buy a beater of a vehicle - but it worked! - because of course my ex ended up with my car. With all of my stuff, actually, things I'd had for years before we'd even met, but WHATEVER. I was free. That was worth more.

What I'm saying is that because people stepped up and wouldn't let me look away, I was able to make a change. I've been reamed here on LJ before for daring to say that sometimes some women aren't strong enough [for whatever] and can't fix things on their own. Well, I fucking know what I'm talking about. I'm not interested in the academic discussion of women's rights using the most modern of terminology. I'm not interested in making sure I couch my words the right way so people who are merely interested in the topic feel included.

NOPE. I am going to talk like a person who has survived. As a person who knew she was making a horrible mistake every day for YEARS but knows that if it hadn't been for my sister showing up with a truck, I would have kept on in that horrible situation. (And maybe, just maybe those people who tell you you're wrong for using the words you use contribute to that sense of shame a little bit?) Sometimes some women AREN'T strong enough to do for themselves, so we need to HELP THEM. I don't think that's a belittling statement, or a statement that "little girls" someone. I think that's an honest truth. I mean, look around. It's the reality, even if it's not what we WISH the ideal was. Splitting hairs on how to define shit doesn't do diddly squat for that person in need of help. Because let me tell you, I am where I am right this minute because someone said, "Girl, you need to let me help you."

And in that vein, if you are in need of someone saying this to YOU, GIRL, YOU NEED TO LET ME HELP YOU.

IF YOU ARE IN A BAD SITUATION BUT ARE OVERWHELMED WITH WHAT THE HELL TO DO, START DOING SOME/ALL OF THESE THINGS:

  • Get to a bank, it doesn't matter which one. If your grocery store has a bank, all the better because you can HIDE what you're going to do. SET UP A SAVINGS ACCOUNT. Ask to speak to a female accounts manager. Tell her that you only have a certain amount of money, but it's IMPERATIVE that you have a secret way to keep it. Trust me, you won't be the first woman to hide money this way. Put any and all extra change that you can into this account. It may never be much, but it will be YOURS. (I had to sign all of my paychecks over to my husband or suffer the consequences.)

  • Keep your purse nearby at all times. Get in the habit of keeping your phone charger in your purse.

  • make a few copies of your house key. Give it to a neighbor, family, your priest, boss, whoever. If you go missing (or if you can't stand and walk to the door) this could save your life

  • Have a CODE WORD for trusted friends. If someone knocks on the door and you can't bring yourself to answer (or if he is listening in to your phone calls, etc) this is how you can safely communicate that you need help. "Honey, how are you, really?" "Me? Oh, I'm aces, no worries!" *friend calls 911*

  • Have an escape route in mind. Is there a library you can run to? A neighbor's house within walking distance? Have two or three places in mind that you can get to in a matter of minutes.

  • If you can manage it, make copies of things like car registrations, lease agreements, mortgage papers, green card documentation, birth certificates, driver's licenses, immunization records, whatever. PUT THAT IN YOUR PURSE. (Shrink it down, fold it up, and slip it in a shitty novel that you keep in your purse. He'll most likely NOT look there.)

  • if you can, get a gallon ziplock bag and put in it: tampons, travel shampoos and toothpaste, soap, tissues, extra meds, you get the idea

  • keep your diaper bag (if applicable) filled with changes of clothes, diapers, snacks, formula, etc.

  • [ETA] great tip: if applicable, establish a code word with older children to let them know they should avoid coming home for their own safety. Something innocuous like "the dishwasher's acting up" or something that won't raise suspicion with the abuser would be best.
  • You might not be able to use a computer freely - he's monitoring it, has blocked your access, whatever it is. If you can get to a library at any point, use those computers and go to WOMENSLAW.ORG to find services in your area. Most are discreet and many will come meet you in safe places (coffee, car drop off at school) and know how to disguise that they're there to offer you assistance.

  • DOCUMENT THINGS. If you can get to a computer, keep a log of what's happening to you, how you're feeling, whatever. Put that in a doc and upload it to something like Box.net or other online storage place so you don't have a record on your computer. AND THEN CLEAN YOUR HISTORY AND DELETE COOKIES. Every time you log on. EVERY. TIME. (Here's a site that shows you how to do it for your phone, PC, whatever you're using to access the internet.) DO NOT FORGET THE MAGIC THAT IS INCOGNITO MODE IN CHROME



PINCHING is abuse. POKING. TRIPPING. INSULTING YOU. BELITTLING YOU. RESTRAINING YOU. PREVENTING YOU FROM LEAVING WHEN YOU WANT. STALKING YOU. NOT LETTING YOU HAVE PRIVACY ON THE PHONE, EMAIL, WITH FAMILY, ETC. FORCING YOU TO DO THINGS YOU DO NOT WANT TO DO. Those things are abuse just as much as hauling off and punching you is abuse.

YOU DID NOTHING TO DESERVE IT. You do not deserve to be treated that way. You didn't do something stupid enough to warrant it, you didn't "mouth off" enough to deserve it, you didn't fail to do something properly. YOU DID NOTHING WRONG TO WARRANT ABUSE.

It is not YOU. It is THEM. 80% of abuse goes unreported in the state of Texas alone. You do NOT have to suffer. Is it going to instantly be roses after you get out? No. But you sure as hell won't be with HIM any more, and honey, for me, that smelled like a fucking rose garden. Anything was better than living my life in a full bodied cringe.

You have the right to live life pain and abuse free. It doesn't matter how much he's financially supported you. It doesn't matter if you're in this country because of him. WHATEVER EXCUSE HE FEEDS YOU IS WRONG. THAT IS NOT LICENSE FOR ABUSE.

I don't know where you are in all of this, but I know that fear and that shame. And I know that it doesn't last. *hugs*

CALL 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) (or 1-800-787-3224 for TDD) to immediately talk to someone who will listen to you without judgment and who will find a safehouse for you in your area. If you're able to go online without suspicion, go to womenslaw.org to find specific services in your area, such as a shelter, legal care, help if you're an immigrant, and child services.

THERE IS HELP. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.



FOR PEOPLE WANTING TO HELP BUT DON'T KNOW HOW:

  • Don't turn a blind eye. Everyone but that cop (and eventually my sister) did that to me, and it fed into the shame.

  • Don't judge. You don't know what's going on. Just let them know you see it, you care, and when they're ready, you're ready to help.

  • Consider making your next clothing donation to a Woman's Shelter in your area. A lot of women don't have anything but the clothes on their backs. That makes it really hard go on job interviews. (Or you know, feel like a contributing member of society. For me, at least.)

  • DON'T JUDGE.

  • Consider volunteering at a shelter.

  • DO NOT SHARE INFORMATION. The most dangerous time for us is when we're fleeing. Emotions run high. DO NOT SHARE INFORMATION WITH ANYONE SHE DOESN'T EXPRESSLY NAME.

  • You don't have to have the right thing to say. Just knowing you're in support of us - however that may be - does a lot.

  • Consider making a donation to a shelter in your area. My favorite local place is Genesis Women's Shelter. Check out Noah's Magic Shoes for some awesomeness - and a way to connect with children in abusive families.

  • Guys/males, your help might not be wanted at the time. It might be triggering for the woman to be around men. Don't be offended by that, just express that you can be trusted, and leave it up to her to come to you. She might not; it's her right. It's not a slight against you.

  • DON'T JUDGE.




I may not have enough in me to show up and help you myself, I may not have it in me to do more than connect you to someone who CAN do that, but by god, I will help you get to the right people. IF YOU NEED HELP, YOU CONTACT ME.

I was raised to be perfect, or to shut up until I was. Lots of bad guidance there, let me tell you. I didn't tell anyone what was going on, because hey. I might've been wrong. He might've gotten better. I might've deserved it, etc. God damn, people, we have to look out for each other. There are times when it is literally life or death. I'd rather piss someone off for assuming they needed my help than to ignore something this major.

(And you can share this post with someone if they need this information, you don't have to ask.)

Note: I know this is gender-specific, but it's because I am gender specific. I only know what I know, and I don't know how to speak about abusive gay relationships for fear of giving incorrect information. I can almost guarantee, though, that the numbers I've listed will know how to help you if you're a gay male/trans/non-cis male/human being in an abusive relationship. And the words of love apply to you, too, don't doubt for a minute that you matter. <3

Comments

( 118 comments — Leave a comment )
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ladycyndra
Sep. 9th, 2013 09:46 pm (UTC)
Words cannot express what I feel for this post and you. Thank you for sharing this and your experiences. I am SO glad you survived and made it through. Agreed with you 100% that yes sometimes, we do need help and there is no shame in taking that help.

*LOTS OF HUGS* <3
stoney321
Sep. 9th, 2013 09:53 pm (UTC)
That first realization that you don't HAVE to be ashamed of getting help is the most freeing experience. My god, it just opens doors like you couldn't believe.

<3 <3 <3
fabrisse
Sep. 9th, 2013 09:50 pm (UTC)
Back in early June I was coming home from NYC and overheard a conversation at the train station. The man was telling his partner that she didn't matter, that no one would care, etc. It took me awhile -- 15 minutes, maybe a little more, I'm ashamed to say -- but I walked over to her and asked if she needed any help or if she would like to find a cop. She turned me down, but I had to ask. I hope I didn't make things worse for her.

stoney321
Sep. 9th, 2013 09:55 pm (UTC)
You know what, that woman probably thinks of you today and in the best of ways. I know that feeling of saying it's all okay, it's not like it seems. (But when it's the small hours and things are quiet, your words are going to bounce around in her head, and could very well be what pushes her to act in her own best interest.)

<3 That was the right thing to do, says I.
brunettepet
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:03 pm (UTC)
You made it and your friend will, too. *big hugs*
stoney321
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:05 pm (UTC)
<3 From your lips to her ears!
ryokomusouka
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:14 pm (UTC)
It took my sister saying that I could come live with her if I needed to for me to finally find the guts to leave. I remember when she said that, as clearly as anything, and the feeling that accompanied it. I knew at that moment that it wasn't a matter of "if" but "when".

It turned out later that SHE was in an abusive relationship as well, and I think it took seeing me going through my own hell for her to find the courage to leave.

It's the shame that keeps us there. We didn't try hard enough, we weren't good enough, we weren't righteous enough to deserve a "good" husband. It silenced us, it held us underwater, never allowing us to breathe.

Thank you. You are a hero, and a comrade in arms.
stoney321
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:19 pm (UTC)
*hugs you so tight your feet are off the ground* It really makes a difference when you know the person MEANS it, right? Not, "You know, if you ever..." and you know they're just saying it to say it. I LOVE YOUR SISTER RIGHT NOW A WHOLE LOT.

God, that fucking SHAME. It could choke me, strangle me right now, just the memory of it. We won't forgive ourselves for the mistake. Everything is OUR FAULT and OUR STUPIDITY instead of being able to look at the situation objectively. That's something people who haven't experienced abuse can't understand. I don't WANT them to understand it intrinsically, but yeah.

You know what I'm talking about. And I hate that you do. Then again, you also know (I hope) how freaking amazing it feels to be free of that daily hell. You, my sweet, are also a hero. I am so incredibly moved that you and your sister were each other's rocks in this horrible situation. *more hugs, because HUGS, RIGHT!?*
flaming_muse
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:19 pm (UTC)
You are not brash and borderline awful. You are amazing. You really are. <3

I LOVE YOU.
stoney321
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:20 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, I'm a little brash. A lot brash. MAYBE NOT SO AWFUL, OKAY, BUT THE OTHER STUFF. :D

I love you very, very much, and you're the best sort of friend a girl could ever ask for. <3
kouredios
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:34 pm (UTC)
<3

Thank you for writing this.
stoney321
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you for READING this! <3 back at you. :)
fiveandfour
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:39 pm (UTC)
I've thankfully never been in that particular situation, but have been in an "it's my fault" scenario when it definitely wasn't. It's pretty amazing how we think we must live with things and go it alone thanks to that sense of shame we take on for ourselves. My mom told us kids the story a few times about how she left her first husband with 3 children under the age of 7 in tow in an era when divorce was a sin and the wife was supposed to submit because he hit her one time - she told us once was all it should ever take and I think it made a deep impression on all of us that it's NEVER ok regardless of circumstances. Who knows if things would be different in our respective lives with our respective spouses had we not had that lesson to draw from, but I know we all shared the story in our dating years as a kind of "fair warning". (I'll just say that it made for some interesting conversations while dating, LOL.)

Anyway, the person I worked most closely with at my last employer lost his sister due to domestic violence. As a consequence, it was a personal thing for him to work with a lot of local charities and women & children's shelters. For the holidays our office would adopt the families at a shelter and work to fulfill their Christmas wish lists. It's a time of year of heightened stress and therefore swelling populations at the shelters so donations at that time of year are especially appreciated.

A couple of other things we learned:
* If possible, get and hide a pre-paid cell phone. So much of our daily lives revolve around having the ability to make a call any time, anywhere, so the infrastructure doesn't really exist any more to allow running to somewhere local and making a call.
* If possible and depending on ages, work out a plan with the kids including code words so they know to do things like go home with a certain friend after school or let so-and-so pick them up that day. It's obviously tricky when kids are involved, but if it's possible to dry run it somehow (even without them knowing *why* they are doing that particular thing) so the plan involves something they've done at least once before, it helps reduce their anxiety when the actual time comes to cut and run.

For anyone local to Portland, Raphael's House is ready and willing to help any time.

In most communities there is a pretty amazing structure of services available to help, but of course it's not the kind of thing people really think about in their daily lives so it almost seems invisible to us. One group I've worked with specialized in helping kids keep up with their homework while living lives that meant waking up at one place and going to bed in another. I never would've thought about that level of detail with the kind of help people might need, but someone has. And it's there if you need it.
stoney321
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:44 pm (UTC)
The code word for kids to know not to come home is something I hadn't thought of (mine were pre-verbal at the time), so I'm going to add that to the list. Excellent advice.

Oftentimes (as it was for me) thinking so far down the road was overwhelming to the point of shutting down any action - those baby steps (so to speak) of how to just get the hell out of the house and to somewhere you can breathe are so important.
... - fiveandfour - Sep. 10th, 2013 12:06 am (UTC) - Expand
eac
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting this.

I had to help a friend move all her things out of an apartment while her husband was at work, once. She'd been with him for a couple of years before I could bring myself to intrude enough to try to help. (And really, it was the person who gave her a basement apartment to crash in who was the hero). What really struck me was that she was so ashamed, and she was afraid her elderly Catholic parents would fault her. (In fact, they were relieved and grateful when she divorced him, but somehow she thought they'd choose dogma over their youngest daughter).
stoney321
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:55 pm (UTC)
Oh, you were definitely a hero in that scenario, trust me. <3 (And agreed on the person with the basement apartment! What an amazing gift.)

I've found that people in general are happy to see women get out of abusive relationships. (And when they're not, that's a pretty good insight into the inner workings of a jackass.) I'm so happy to hear that your friend's parents had that reaction. Man, that had to be a huge relief for her. <3
... - eac - Sep. 9th, 2013 11:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
... - eac - Sep. 9th, 2013 11:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
<3 - stoney321 - Sep. 9th, 2013 11:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: <3 - eac - Sep. 9th, 2013 11:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: <3 - stoney321 - Sep. 9th, 2013 11:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
cindergal
Sep. 9th, 2013 10:55 pm (UTC)
If you are brash, then I am a fan of brash. ;-) And thank you for doing this - I am sure you have helped more people than you know. *hugs*
stoney321
Sep. 9th, 2013 11:16 pm (UTC)
I like people who are fans of brash ladies!! <3 Here's to hoping this information can be useful to someone.

<3 <3 <3 <3
heresluck
Sep. 9th, 2013 11:01 pm (UTC)
Bless you for writing this.
stoney321
Sep. 9th, 2013 11:16 pm (UTC)
Aww, thank YOU for reading this! <3
kita0610
Sep. 9th, 2013 11:03 pm (UTC)
This icon is for you
I love you.
stoney321
Sep. 9th, 2013 11:17 pm (UTC)
And this icon is for you :)
I love you, too.
soundingsea
Sep. 9th, 2013 11:08 pm (UTC)
You are strong and brave and awesome, and it is wonderful that you are using your words to help others. *draws hearts around you*
stoney321
Sep. 9th, 2013 11:18 pm (UTC)
Aww, thank you, Sea. Most days my words are all I have. Here's to hoping it can help someone.
halfmoon_mollie
Sep. 9th, 2013 11:18 pm (UTC)
I love you. That's all I can say.
stoney321
Sep. 9th, 2013 11:30 pm (UTC)
Aww, thank you sweetheart. That's enough for me! <3
secondalto
Sep. 9th, 2013 11:39 pm (UTC)
I'm gonna have a T-Shirt made : Stoney is my HERO.

Bookmarking this page should ever the need arise to pass it on.
stoney321
Sep. 9th, 2013 11:52 pm (UTC)
Ha, I don't know about being a hero (unless it's a sandwich DERP). Thank YOU, and here's to hoping the need never arises. *clinks glasses with you*
... - gileswench - Sep. 10th, 2013 12:05 am (UTC) - Expand
livejournal
Sep. 9th, 2013 11:49 pm (UTC)
30 Days: Day 15 Wherein I Recommend a Very Important Post By Someone Else
User gileswench referenced to your post from 30 Days: Day 15 Wherein I Recommend a Very Important Post By Someone Else saying: [...] how to help someone you know who is in that situation. Please go right now and read Stony321's [...]
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( 118 comments — Leave a comment )

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Are You Actually

Reading this? I'm just curious. Because that's really detail-oriented of you. Feel free to stop reading. But you can see that there's more here, so are you going to keep reading? Really? That's pretty dedicated. I'm impressed. No, really. I'm not being sarcastic, why do you get like that? See, this is the problem I have with your mother - yes. YES. I'm going there. It's time we put all of our cards on the table.

I love you, why are you doing this? After all we've been through? You don't have to be like this. You know, still reading. You could be baking a pie. And then sharing it with me.

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