This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart because of my own background. And I wanted to share this with my readers because someone out there might be in a similar situation and this article might help them break free to begin a new life OR give someone the tools to help someone they may know who is being abused. Please share this post with as many people as possible. We need to help build awareness on this issue that affects both men and women. And be sure to click on the pictures of Princess Ariel and Prince Eric to see the Battered Disney Princess and Prince campaign.
I come from a very dysfunctional and abusive childhood. For those of you who have read my books, you might now be saying, “Ah-ha! Now I understand why she had those scenes in there!” Ian Russell, one of the villains in Midnight Conquest, was my literary revenge against my father, who also beat and raped my mother. Fraser Campbell is another version of my father in Midnight Eclipse, but now the villain is through the eyes of the child instead of the wife/mother. Fraser orders the young boy Angus to stand and wait while Fraser eats a succulent meal before his hungry step-son. This scene and the beating that follows were taken from my own childhood experience and my father's sick idea of discipline. “Write what you know,” we authors are often told. And so I have done.
My father pretty much beat every woman he had in his life – all of his wives, me and my sisters, even our babysitters! And he was more than physically abusive. He was sexually, mentally and emotionally abusive as well as neglectful. I remember afternoons when I was playing outside with my sisters at the age of seven when my father walked up to us and said, “I'm just going to run up to the liquor store and grab a pack of cigarettes. You girls stick close to the apartment and don't go anywhere.” He left when the sun was high in the sky and didn't return until it was dark. We eventually ended up in a foster home because of his neglect, where we were sexually and physically abused for two years there as well. Life wasn't easy and I'm one of the lucky ones who survived.
But coming from an abusive past led me to make very poor choices in men. My first husband – God love him, he really was a sweet man and generous of heart – was a control freak. Everything had to be in agreement with him and if I didn't agree with him, he worked on me until I finally gave up and let him have his way. My second husband was worse and I even ended up in a religious cult with him, where not only was my second husband controlling, our “minister” was, too. My second husband tried to raise a hand to me and the “minister” was encouraging him that a heavy hand was the right way to discipline his wife. I was outta there! But it was a nightmare when he tried to run me over with a car and then pressed charges against ME for battery and vandalism. I had felony charges against me, luckily reduced to a misdemenor, and all because I was trying to defend myself. This world is hardly fair when it comes to domestic violence, and that's why we need to build awareness. The third relationship landed me with a man who ended up locking me in my apartment for three days before I got lucky enough that his mother called while he had stepped out. Thank the gods she talked him into leaving me.
Did I ask for this? Absolutely not! But I certainly got tired of the repeated pattern. I also had to finally admit that I was the common denominator here. All three men were from completely different backgrounds (Hispanic, Italian and white-bread southern boy) and even locations (Virginia, New York and Georgia). The point I'm making here is not that I asked for this, but I was unconsciously attracted to AND attracted men who were controlling. Since I came from a background of controlling men, on a subconscious level this was familiar to me. Maybe not what I wanted, but still something my subconscious gravitated toward. I learned that I needed to change my way of thinking and raise my standards. Learning to love myself was the start. Read my recent post, “Romance DOES Exist” if you'd like to know how I was able to overcome my personal issue and find true love. In the end, I finally got out of my own way and made better choices. Today, I'm the happiest I've ever been in my entire life, so I'm living proof you CAN break away from an abusive relationship.
Men Can Be Abused, Too!
As I stated above, this is an issue that affects both men and women. My husband is another example. Though his wife was not physically abusive, she certainly was mentally, emotionally and verbally abusive. No one deserves to be manipulated emotionally through their children or cut down consistently due to never-ending judgment. The guilt trips were endless. Any attempts to stand up against the way she treated him were met with emotional manipulation, belittling and even using their daughter against him by calling him a bad father, etc. Because my husband is a nice guy, he frequently gave in, thinking he was the one who was wrong because he lacked confidence in himself as a person. If the role was reversed and it was a woman in his shoes, many people would be in an uproar. Most men, however, are looked at as weak for not standing up to the abuse or leaving. He stayed to for the sake of his daughter. However, the truth of the situation made him leave: staying in the relationship was hurting his daughter. He also realized how the built-up resentment was causing him to lash out verbally to his wife and behaving in a way he never wanted to. So he finally left.
There are many men out there who have to deal with the same abuse and even men who ARE being physically abused by their wives as well as the above, but like the verbally and emotionally abused man, they're too embarrassed to admit it. Not only that, both abusive men and women often use children as pawns or threaten their spouse with custody of their children to get their way. Anything I've mentioned above can be applied to any relationship, be it a man abusing a woman, a woman abusing a man and gay partnerships as well! No one is immune to domestic violence and the ONLY judgment that should be made such situations is against the abuser. The victim is NOT at fault. NO ONE deserves to be treated in such a way. I think not. The goal of a bully is to get their way by being unreasonably forceful, whether it's through manipulation, physical, emotional, verbal or mental abuse.
Domestic Abuse is Not Just Isolated to Romantic Relationships
Adult siblings can be abusive to each other. Adult children can abuse their parents. Seniors are abused. Children are abused. Domestic Abuse means violence in the home and anyone is subject to it and the cause of it. Any of this information can apply to anyone regardless of the relationship. If you're being abused in your home, you're a victim of domestic abuse. All of the following resources can help! And DO NOT be afraid to cut people out of your life who are abusive. Cutting off all communication with a sibling or other relative because they're verbally abusive or constantly violating boundaries is a healthy thing to do. Don't tolerate negative or abusive behavior. If they truly want to be in your life, then they need to change the way they treat you. My philosophy is, “If you can't respect me as a human being, then don't let the door hit your ass on the way out!”
Where to Find Help
I'm including a few links here that can help anyone who is being abused, but also friends of victims. Read these articles and apply them to your own life or to people you know. Look for the signs. Abuse is not just physical, as I've mentioned above. These resources can help you see the signs. A person like me who has been abused can spot it a mile away. Those who have not grown up in such an environment might not have the eyes to see so easily. EDUCATE YOURSELF so if you ever see the signs, you can reach out.
Take the Bully by the Horns by Sam Horn is an EXCELLENT book to help anyone learn to deal with bullies AND will help you realize how insecure bullies are. That's why they do what they do…insecurity. (NOT an affiliate link, by the way)
—Help for Abused and Battered Women
—5 Stages of Leaving an Abusive Relationship
—How to Get Away from an Abusive Husband
—Invisible Victims: Men in Abusive Relationships
—Help for Abused Men with hotline numbers for assistance
—Leaving an Abusive Wife: Pre-Divorce Checklist
For Friends of Victims
—How Can You Help a Friend or Family Member?
—Help a Love One or Friend
—FAQ Domestic Violence – this is an AMAZING PDF that can help everyone involved – victims, family and friends of domestic violence situations
How YOU Can Help!
You can help in a very simple way and it only takes a few moments of your time. Take the Hotline DVAM Challenge! The National Domestic Violence Hotline has created a challenge to show how people can get involved in building awareness. This blog post is an example of Challenge #1, which I'm reposting here:
CHALLENGE 1: Commit to our DVAM challenge. Do one of the following:
– Share a link to this blog post to someone via email or social media
– Share our challenge image (download here) and encourage your friends to join
– Declare boldy, “I am taking The Hotline DVAM Challenge!” on Facebook or Twitter Click To Tweet!
PLEASE NOTE: If you are in an abusive relationship, please do not post anything publicly that might jeopardize your safety.
Here are the links to the other Hotline DVAM Challenges:
Challenge 2: Information is Power
Challenge 3: Test Your Knowledge of Domestic Violence
Challenge 4: Information = Power – image share
Challenge 5: Know the Signs of Abuse
Challenge 6: Be Supportive
Challenge 7: Helping a Loved One
Challenge 8: For Frustrated Friends & Family
Challenge 9: Share a Message of Support
Challenge 10: Take a Stand
Challenge 11: The Journey of Hope
Challenge 12: Post this Handout
Challenge 13: Find Your Role
Challenge 14: Commit to Change
Challenge 15: Commit to Ongoing Wellness
Challenge 16: Remember a Victim
Challenge 17: Commit to Saying No More
Challenge 18: Evaluate Your Relationship
Challenge 19: Think Ahead
Challenge 20: Congrats!
Don't feel pressured to do them all, but I would encourage you to do as many as you can. And there's no time limit on this. Bringing awareness to domestic violence isn't just for October. 😉
I hope this was helpful to those who need it and at least a step toward building awareness on this important topic. If you have questions, I am available and I'll do what I can to help those who reach out.
With love and blessings to you all,