On speaking out

Silence is the greatest enemy of breaking free from domestic violence, but it is also what puts a victim in a place of greatest jeopardy. The time a victim of domestic violence chooses to break free and/or speak out is the most dangerous part of breaking the cycle. It is a decision to be considered with great caution and knowledge, and never without a safety plan in place. So, why do victims choose to speak out, and once they are free, what compels them to stand upon their soapbox?

Some women find speaking out, sharing their story, to be quite cathartic, and even therapeutic. I know that when I chose to publish my memoirs, the doors began to swing open for me to find not only freedom, but opportunities to reach out and help others. My healing came when I spoke out, and continues today because I have chosen to be a voice in the work to advocate for domestic violence and sexual abuse awareness.

The complexion of my rationale has changed over time. At first, I wanted to lash out through the spoken and written word. I wanted to punish the perpetrators who had abused me. I wanted to get even. There, I said it. That was an initial motivation. Then came the part where I realized I was expected to extend forgiveness. That was confusing, at the very least. Over a period of time I came to understand the true nature of forgiveness. You see, it is not forgetting what has happened to you, it is letting go, releasing the power and control the perpetrator or abuser has over you, even years later, by their ability to continue to dance around in your mind and emotions.

Then came the period of time I felt compelled to compete with other victims – compare notes. I have found this is a common thread in the work with domestic violence victims. Often a victim (and sometimes struggling survivor) just wants to get the upper hand and feel their abuse was worse than any others. “He broke my arm…” is countered by “Yeah, well, he broke both of my arms and my nose…” then comes along, “Mine went on for eight years,” followed by another’s comment of “Well, I went through it for eightEEN years.” Kind of reminds me of my maternal grandmother, who never had surgery, she always had “major” surgery, and then when her peers began growing older and having operations, it became an issue of who had undergone the greater number of surgeries.

For all that, I found myself going through a period of guilt within the past couple of years. The more I heard from other survivors (or those still carrying the victim mentality), the guiltier I began to feel that I never experienced a broken bone, gunshot wound or worse. But, thankfully, an awakening of sorts came to me.

It’s not a matter of comparing injuries, traumas or levels thereof. We all endured abuse. Me being dragged by the hair through the house and having my head repeatedly rammed into a door was only a small portion of what made me a victim. The years of emotional and verbal abuse, of being grabbed, threatened or worse, were also forms of domestic violence. Who was I to diminish the fact it had all happened, and that it will most likely have a lasting, lifelong effect on my children?

So, if you are reading this and have told yourself, “Well, it’s not domestic violence. He never hit me…” please, stop and consider what you have endured. And do not be deceived. The chances of it getting better are practically nil. Can it improve? As long as there is a God in Heaven, I believe all things are possible. Will it improve? Unfortunately, it is not likely. Statistics are what they are, and chances are, it will only get worse. Then, someday, you may find yourself saying, “I can’t believe he hit me.”

Don’t wait. Don’t put it off. Get the information from prior posts here. Be sure you have a safety code in place. Go to the Victim Support page on my website and see what help you can find there. And always bear in mind, there is help out there. There is hope out there, for you, right now.

Listen to Carolyn’s interview with Cynthia Brennen, on “Help, Hope & Healing.” Visit her Everyday Health blog, Emotional Wellbeing, or her website at orangeblossomwishes.com

  1. Marilyn, I am convinced we all have a right to voice opinions, statistics and viewpoints. It would be easy to moderate this blog and only allow those who stand in agreement with me to speak out, but that would be unfair and just not right. While I am blatantly in disagreement with you, nevertheless, you have your voice, too. You make the comment “Fact!” but upon what “fact” do you base this? What percentage of domestic violence is incited by the women’s actions/activities, and where does the study come from? Were you ever a victim yourself, or are you related to a man who was? Statistics say 95% of all domestic violence victims are females, abused at the hand of a male. BUT, there ARE 5% who ARE MEN, and they are abused at the hand of a female.

  2. I can vouch from personal experience that domestic violence is about gaining power over the victim, not about anger-control issues on the part of the abuser (also see http://www.thehotline.org/get-educated/what-is-domestic-violence/).

    The abuser usually tries to convince the victim that it is her/his fault the abuser acts the way he/she does. There is often no “trigger” of an episode of violence or control, it is simply the way the abuser chooses to behave in the relationship.

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