October 19, 2011

I am Worthy of Unconditional Love (AND So Are You!)

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Thirteen years ago, I met my first boyfriend.  I was 15.  Everyday for the following four years that we were together, he made me feel absolutely worthless.  I was told that I was fat, stupid, a whore, a bitch, a loser and everything in between.  I was forbidden from having friends, cut off from the entire outside world, pretty much, for those four years.  Nothing I ever did was good enough. 

For a long time, I didn't know that I was in an abusive relationship.  Other people would tell me that I was, but I would just justify this behavior by saying things like "well if I wouldn't have . . ." or "well I kind of see his point when he says . . . " or "I knew that would make him mad and I did it anyway.  I had it coming . . ." or "it was just a fight, no big deal."  It wasn't until after we had split up and I found myself getting my long overdue restraining order against him that I saw a poster similar to this one and was able to answer yes or check off nearly every "if he . . ." question on there that I realized "Oh my God, I was in an abusive relationship."

I could go into great detail over what all was said and how much it hurt, but that's much more than I would care to share across the Earth via the internet.  Not to mention, over time, I have done my best to try to block out that entire time in my life.  After we broke up, I wrote down everything that happened to me in a notebook and I threw it in the trash--vowing never to revisit it again.

Often I get the question of why I would stay with someone for four years that would treat me this way.  Why didn't I just leave?  I got asked this all of the time by family, friends, co-workers and even my boss at the time (who witnessed several of these events while I was working).  But, as anyone who has ever been in an abusive relationship knows, it's not that simple.

The main drive of an abuser is power and control.  By the time you realize (if you ever do) that you are in an abusive relationship, you are already so low that you feel like you really don't deserve any better, that you deserve(d) the way that you were treated and that no one else would ever want or love you the way that he would.  Some people really feel that they can't leave and must stay for their own safety.  Said boyfriend once told me this in response to my telling him that I was going to get a restraining order on him: "do you really think a piece of paper would stop me from putting a knife to your throat or a gun to your head?"  Sometimes, you feel as if there is no escape.  It's like being in your own prison.

What made me ultimately get out of that situation was the birth of my son.  When he was born, it hit me that this was not just about me anymore.  Even at the ripe age of 18 I knew I didn't want my son growing up thinking that this was an acceptable way to treat women.  I didn't want my ex's rage to turn from me to him.  (Have you ever seen the movie Pay It Forward?  There is a scene in which Kevin Spacey is asking Helen Hunt (who is a victim of domestic violence in the movie) what makes her so sure that her husband wouldn't come after Trevor (played by Haley Joel Osmand) one day.  Strange as it may sound, this scene totally empowered me to leave my ex.)

This was over a decade ago for me and yet I still deal with the damage that was done to this day.  I was fortunate in that I never had bruises, I never had broken bones and I never went to the hospital.  But I do carry scars.  I hope that these scars will lessen with time, and they have, but I am not confident that they will ever leave.  I have been seeing a therapist for the emotional and sexual abuse that I endured.

Some may wonder why I would share such personal story with you all.  Honestly, I almost didn't.  I try to keep things "light and fluffy" round this space.  I am not trying to get pity from anyone or claim to be a victim because I'm not.  I am a survivor and hopefully a teacher.

But today is a special day.  Suze of Miss Vinyl Ahoy is spreading the word about domestic violence today by having everyone wear purple in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Though I didn't go all out with my purple (just my bag), I had to participate because this issue is so very close to my heart.

Please, if you know of someone in an abusive relationship, be supportive.  Try to help them to help themselves by getting out and moving on.  There are a lot of resources out there for victims of domestic violence.  Leaving a relationship like this takes a lot of courage.  It won't end the hurt you will feel indefinitely.  It will not be easy.  It will not be an instantaneous sigh of relief.  But it will be the best decision you ever make for yourself and your child(ren), if applicable.  If you or someone you know are in a relationship like this, please use the contact information below.  Or, you can always feel free to email me personally at franniepantz@hotmail.com.  Spread the word.  Spread the love.     

Here are some exerts from Suze's post today:

"All over the blogs today, you may notice some lovely bloggers wearing purple to promote Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The color purple has symbolized domestic violence for over 20 years. The origins came from the domestic violence homicide of a leader in the battered women movement. Her mourners wore her favorite color, purple, to demonstrate their grief as well as make a statement against domestic violence.

1 in 3 families are affected by domestic violence. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors — physical, sexual, psychological, and economic coercion — used by one intimate partner against another (adult or adolescent) to gain, maintain, or regain power and control in the relationship. Batterers use of a range of tactics to frighten, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, often injure, and sometimes kill a current or former intimate partner.

More than three women are murdered everyday by a boyfriend or significant other, and someone is sexually assaulted every 2 ½ minutes.

Sounds scary doesn’t it? But it’s a real issue that many people don’t think about, don’t talk about and certainly don’t promote. But together, with the (elp of other bloggers, we’re trying to talk about domestic violence.

Let me put some perspective on it for you. In the United States, 1% of people are homeless. 11% go hungry. But 33% are not safe in their own homes.

If you are in danger, please call 911, your local hotline, or (in the U.S.) the National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-7233 or TTY (800) 787-3224."

1 comment:

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