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People who hurt others — who hit, who touch, who yell, who control — we know they are liars. They lie and act and put on a show that they are regular, kind people. But we know they lie.
Someone once said to me, “There’s nothing I can do to help my sister. All she does is lie to me. I’m tired of it.”
There’s something you need to understand about victims and lying. Victims often lie for several reasons. First, it’s a defense mechanism against their abuser. We learn to say the right things, even when we have to lie. Whatever it takes to appease the abuser. Sometimes it’s something ridiculous, like what might have happened to the last glass of tea (“I didn’t drink it. It went sour. I wanted to make some fresh for you.”), and sometimes it’s more extreme, like saying you didn’t see a family member that the abuser has told you not to see.
Lying helps victims stay out of harm’s way, and yes, it sometimes backfires, but what typically happens is, the victim becomes a better liar.
Secondly, victims lie to the outside world for many reasons. Perhaps the abuser makes the victim do so, or maybe the victim doesn’t want anyone to know he or she is being hurt, or even that his or her decision to be with that person has turned out to be a bad decision.
Victims will also lie because it helps with coping. If things don’t sound as bad as they are when talked about, the victim can convince him or herself that everything isn’t that bad.
When stuck in a life of abuse, with seemingly no way out, victims will do whatever it takes to survive. That means a lot of lying.
[Tweet “When stuck in a life of abuse, victims will do whatever it takes to survive.”]
If they want out, you think, why don’t they just tell you the truth?
If it were that simple, they would. But victims fear their abusers. Abusers make threats that they often follow through with. The victims know this.
I was once arrested for my ex-husband and still kept my lips zipped and denied – and lied! – to the police officers because they didn’t have him in custody. And even if they had caught him, I knew he’d get out one day and know I spoke up. I’d be in trouble.
Fear keeps victims silent, and when victims aren’t silent, they are possibly lying. To maintain self. To keep their dignity. To survive.
It’s not about you. Don’t stop wanting to be there for them. Don’t let what you know is a lie stop you from being the person they can turn to, even if all they share is one big lie. When they’re ready, you’ll be there to hear the truth.
Life has been taking cheap shots at you lately, but you have proven that you are strong and beautiful. Continue marching forward, reclaiming your life, your decisions, and your future. So many believe in you — I believe in you! And I really think that before long, you too will believe in you.
“Women ages 18-34 are at the greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence.” –SafeHorizon.org
Dear K. L.,
Oh that I could take back what happened to you, sweet girl. You shake it off and say, “I’m fine,” but I see right through that into the heart of what I know is really true: You’re not fine, but you will be. And then you’ll be amazing. Healing takes time and work, so don’t give up on yourself or the journey. You can do this. You don’t deserve what happened to you, but you CAN heal from it.
“44% of victims [of sexual assault] are under age 18.” –rainn.org
Wow, you are amazing strength. What a testimony you have for others. Your joy, despite your painful past, is an inspiration to anyone you meet, and I am so proud and blessed to know you. As you march forward, know that I and many others are cheering you on, and we hope you know we can be a safe place to land on hard days.
“Part of the healing process is sharing with other people who care.” -Jerry Cantrell
If only people knew…that’s what you said. Well, I know now and I am absolutely positive that sharing your story with me is a gigantic step toward healing. You amaze me with your resiliency and I just know all good things are coming as you continue down this path of reclaiming your beautiful self. I can’t wait to see what’s next!
“According to the CDC, intimate partner violence affects approximately 1.5 million women each year and affects as many as 324,000 pregnant women each year. Pregnancy can be an especially dangerous time for women in abusive relationships, and abuse can often begin or escalate during the pregnancy.” –thehotline.org
How can you leave when you have nowhere to go? I understand this so well. I think when the “solution” seems so easy to the rest of the world, it’s even harder because it’s not easy for you. I want you out, of course, but I absolutely understand why you stay. I know what it feels like to feel so locked into one place, one life, and so I will continue to pray for your safety and your freedom. You are worth a beautiful, pain-free life.
“Why does she stay? Because she has nowhere else to go.”
My heart always breaks when I hear of a story like yours, and yet I am also filled with joy for what you have decided to make of it. I fear not as many men speak out about abuse, so I am thankful that you can and do. Grace to you in this messy place, and grace to you when the days are harder than usual. You can do this…this I know.
“…1 in 6 men have experienced unwanted or abusive sexual experiences before age 18.” –1in6.org
Thank you to each and every one of you for sharing your stories with me. May your journey be one step closer today to healing, grace, peace, and reclamation of self.
“I would never let anyone put their hands on me like that!”
The young lady sat on the front row of her school gym, her arms crossed over her chest. The look on her face told me she meant what she said. She, along with a hundred or so of her classmates, had just listened to an hour-long condensed telling of my story about being a teen mom and survivor of domestic violence.
“I hope not,” I said. “I hope you never meet someone who wants to hurt you, but if you do, I hope you can see it and walk away. I pray for that.”
And yet, what I know is, I also said I’d never…
Teenagers are often easy targets for those looking for someone to control. If they come from a background of abuse, that increases their chances of finding themselves in a whole new abusive situation. Often, they are looking for someone to take care of them — like I was — or someone who will tell them what they want and need to hear, even if they later learn it was all part of the grooming stage.
I was 13 when I met my ex-husband. I believed everything he said. Maybe he believed everything he said too (he came from his own cycle of abuse). I knew he meant it when he said he’d take care of me. I was flattered when he threw away my too-short skirts and when he threatened to hurt anyone who looked at me. I giggled when he said the words that later became a threat: “You are mine.”
All I wanted was for him to love me. I wanted to get away from the abuse at home. I craved his attention, his words, his everything. I was already a broken girl. I thought he could fix me.
[Tweet “I was already a broken girl. I thought he could fix me. #teendatingviolence”]
I wanted more than anything just to be happy.
I had no idea how much worse my life would get. As a young teen, I didn’t know what to look for. But now I do.
And now so do you.
Watch over the young women in your lives. Watch over the young men. Broken teenagers are prime targets. Protect them, love them, don’t let them get hurt. If you see it, step in.
NATIONAL TEEN DATING VIOLENCE PREVENTION INITIATIVE
Teen dating violence runs across race, gender, and socioeconomic lines. Both males and females are victims, but boys and girls are abusive in different ways:
Not one, not twice, but over and over, I’ve seen social media updates and pleas from users that we stop talking about Josh Duggar and Jared Fogle and Bill Cosby, and all the ugly abuse stories in the media. “Let’s focus on the heroes!” they declare.
Yes, let’s. Or, I mean, let’s ALSO focus on the heroes. The heroes in all of these stories are the victims, the advocates standing with the victims, the law enforcement officers and social workers doing their jobs, the parents getting help for their children, and on and on.
But first, can I just tell you what I hear when I read comments about not wanting to hear about those abusers? I hear, “That’s too much ugliness. I don’t want to know about it.” I hear, “Let’s pretend this isn’t happening.” I hear, “If we ignore the monsters, they will go away.”
I understand. These are hard topics. But I am so thankful for all the media attention. I hate with all my heart how much others have been hurt, but here’s a fact for you: whether you hear about it in the news or not, IT HAPPENED. It’s happening right now.
Which means what to you?
It means maybe for just a second the topic is in front of you and you might see something in a situation that is cause for alarm. Maybe you speak up for someone else and save them, whether their story ever makes the news or not.
Maybe you finally feel freedom to speak up for yourself.
You want to talk about the heroes? The heroes are in the everyday person — you, me, and anyone who chooses not to ignore the battle going on behind closed doors.
[Tweet “The heroes are those who choose not to ignore the battle going on behind closed doors.”]
Listen, friends, I get it. These stories are awful and disgusting and heartbreaking. I don’t want to know most of the things I know about sexual abuse, assault, domestic violence, child abuse, etc., but not knowing doesn’t change anything. And when you cry out that we should ignore the stories about the abusers, that we should shift everyone’s attention elsewhere, that’s exactly what the abusers would like too. If you stop shining a spotlight into the darkness, justice and healing are delayed — for all.
So, yes, declare the names of the heroes out there, but also keep the abusers in the spotlight, for their crimes should not be ignored. Victims should hear your cries of injustice, how you stand with them, how you hurt with them. Because sadly, with abuse as rampant as it is, the next victim who hears your support could be in your own circle of loved ones.
“1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.”
–National Center for Victims of Crime
“There is an average of 293,066 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.” –RAINN
“The fastest growing demand in commercial websites for child abuse is for images depicting the worst type of abuse, including penetrative sexual activity involving children and adults and sadism or penetration by an animal (Internet Watch Foundation. Annual Report, 2008).” –Enough Is Enough®
Onward. Sometimes a goal isn’t met, but ultimately, it was never about how far I could go. It’s always been about the journey. And so, it continues. See the video for more information and thoughts. Video is 5 minutes.
1 – 3 Sons Have I
Errin is sharing her story as well as resources to raise awareness. She’s also having a really great giveaway centered all around domestic violence. http://www.3sonshavei.com/2013/10/the-official-domestic-violence.html
2 – Domestic Violence as a Whole
“This blog seeks to address domestic violence as a whole and to address the myths that are out there regarding this subject. Through this blog, It is also my hope to bring hope and healing to everyone who has been affected by DV as well as raise awareness to those who have not.”
3 – Domestic Violence and the Workplace
“This blog is about domestic violence & its impact on the workplace as well as related topics.”
4 – Violence Unsilenced
“Gives a voice to survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse and sexual assault and raises the public’s awareness and understanding.”
5 – I Am a Survivor of Domestic Violence
Personal Stories, Advice, and Support
In the background of the “What a great project!” chatter is another running thought: “Don’t talk about it.”
Countless people have contacted me to talk about how they love the idea of The Tiara Project. When asked if they have a story to share or if they would like to wear a tiara, they often very quickly backed off. “Oh no, nothing I want to talk about. No, I wouldn’t want anyone to look at me differently. No, I don’t want people to think I have anything wrong with me.”
Another response has been, “This isn’t really something we should talk about, is it?”
I get it. Memories are hard. Looking back at a past you put into a grave isn’t something many want to do. Putting away the “I’m fine!” mask you’ve been wearing isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. I have had to wrestle with these things for years, but I choose to keep putting fear behind me because I believe we have to speak out and share. I believe we have to keep walking in the shoes we once walked in, to remember just a little so we can help others currently walking in their own shoes of abuse.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month is often lost behind Breast Cancer Awareness. Pink cancels out purple. People would rather talk about saving the breasts than saving people they assume should save themselves with better decisions. Again, I get it. Breast talk is easier than talk of being raped or punched in the face or Grandpa putting his hands where they don’t belong. But at the heart of breast talk is saving lives. And in the same way, at the heart of domestic violence talk is saving lives. Judgments can be made all day long about people who stay in abusive relationships, but if you’ve never walked even a step in their shoes, you may never get it – the fear, the doubt, the pain.
I don’t know what it’s like to have breast cancer. I’ve never stared down the barrel of death, not knowing if I would be another lost or another survivor. But I have stared down death in the form of violence. And I can tell you this much: There isn’t the same support system in place for violence as there is for breast cancer; there isn’t the same rallying of love and camaraderie; and there certainly isn’t the same odds of survival. Violence can be lifelong or come on suddenly, ending a life just as suddenly. You don’t often see rape coming. You don’t always see that a button has been pushed before you find yourself cowering in a corner, protecting your face from fists. And you certainly don’t get regular checkups to be sure abuse isn’t about to happen to you.
We have to talk more about abuse, violence, rape, molestation, emotional pain, mental control, and all the things that come with. We have to take our stories out of the closet and share them. We have to open up and not allow shame to fill our hearts and minds — not as the victim, nor when looking at a victim.
I pray you never know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a victim, to know that pain, but if you do, I hope you’ll land in supportive arms, see faces that believe you and love you and will get you through. Domestic Violence Awareness Month is simply a month…but awareness should be every single day. Don’t look away from those who are hurting just because the subject isn’t comfortable. Don’t close your eyes because you’d rather not know. And please don’t keep silent if it’s happening to you.
If we can openly talk about breasts, we can openly talk about violence. Let’s do something!
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (King James Version)
I’m not sure how I found this verse as a child, but I clung to it. I read it often. I held onto the promise that the pain would not last forever. I knew God would take care of me. I just knew it.
I long for the day when there is no more abuse, no more tears, no more pain.