Reality

74% of Americans personally know someone who has been or is a victim of domestic violence.

640px-Purple ribbon.svgAbuse takes many forms, and emotional abuse is much more common and undermines one's psyche more than physical abuse. Emotional abuse can cause isolation, self-esteem problems, depression, and increased drug & alcohol use.

Abusers can make you feel like you never do anything right, like you're crazy, or like you're worthless. Abuse itself can be anything from put-downs to controlling money, from texting you hundreds of times a day to outright physical violence, and from giving you "the look" to destroying your belongings ("accidentally" or on purpose).

If you suspect you are being abused or you know someone who is, click here for "Is This Abuse?" from the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The volunteers at the National Domestic Violence Hotline have information and an open ear for you at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 24/7/365. www.ndvh.org

If you are outside the United States, contact www.866USWOMEN.org or call them at 866-US-WOMEN.

Also, check out this excellent artice on Domestic Violence and Abuse.

  

You can get out. You can start anew. And it does get better.

My Story

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My Story:

Life After Domestic Violence

The History

In 2003 I got married and moved to Germany to be with my now-ex-husband. I call it a faux-marriage because it was anything but a marriage. In 2008, I had one chance to leave him and I took it. It was purely a decision based on the fact that I knew I couldn’t stay. He was beginning to get physically violent--it was serious.

The chance came when I was on my first solo visit to my parents in five years. It was a beautiful, summery Friday afternoon. I started reading a book I had picked up at the library, Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. In the book was the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy BancroftIt took me several tries to actually make the call, as I was literally shaking and didn’t know if I needed to call, but I had a feeling that it would be a good idea to talk to someone. Finally I called, and a woman named Ella answered.

“Are you in a safe place to talk?” she asked. “Yes, I am, I’m alone at my parent’s house,” I replied. “How can I help you?” she asked in a calm tone of voice. I began to sob, “I’m so scared…” All my fears and hurt feelings and questions poured out of me.

Ella spoke with me for 1 ½ hours that day. After our conversation, I opened up to my parents and told them what the “marriage” was really like, that it was anything but a marriage, with the criticism and fights and severe disparity of who controlled how much money. I told them that no matter what I did, it was never good enough and that I had gotten so much hurtful criticism from him day in and day out. The emotional abuse was unbearable.

It was then that I was presented with the opportunity that every victim of domestic violence wishes for: the opportunity to leave safely.

 

And I left.

I tore my life apart over a span of mere days, giving up an entire “marriage,” my business in Germany, and everything that I had built for myself there. I literally fled the country. It was the single most terrifying thing I’ve ever done and I give thanks every day that I not only realized I needed to leave, but that I had a safe opportunity to do so, the complete support of my family and friends, and the support of a shelter and a truly amazing advocate at that shelter.

Through that shelter I attended a workshop led by Lundy Bancroft, the author I mentioned earlier; I took the opportunity to tell him that I had been in an abusive situation and had realized I could leave because I had read his book and thus called the National Domestic Violence Hotline. I said to him, tears welled up in my eyes and so choked up I could barely speak, “It’s been 8 weeks and 2 days.” He said, very emphatically, “Congratulations! Good for you!”

Soon after that, I stopped counting the days and weeks since I had left. Now I only notice the seasons passing.

Just the same, the road that I have walked since then has been very, very long and very, very hard. Starting my life over again is the most difficult thing I have ever done. And I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

 

And now:  thriving!

Life_is_so__much_funAugust 26, 2008 marks the turning point in my life where I chose to live my life rather than try to survive something that wasn’t my life at all.

Now it’s time to recognize what the last three years have brought me. I have my friends again, I have my family again, and I have made new friends and have new family members. My tribe has grown magnificently and I am honored and blessed by many wonderful friends and acquaintances. I’m on the path of my career and enjoying every minute of it. Most importantly, I’ve discovered that life is an adventure meant to be enjoyed.

The blessings that I have received in the last three years are immeasurable. Not only have I found my way to self-confidence, joy, and enjoyment of life, but I have discovered my career path, talents I didn’t realize I had, and methods of self-expression I had previously only dreamed about.

Most of all, I’ve started having SO MUCH FUN! So let’s get on with it! Let’s get on with having a seriously good time!

 

 

Speaking Out About Domestic Violence, 10.18.2012

 

I was honored to be a guest on the Kathleen Dunn Show on Wisconsin Public Radio (oh, a happy Sconnie am I!)  for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

 

Carmen Pitre, Director of the Sojourner Family Peace Center in Milwaukee, WI, was Ms Dunn's guest on the show for the same hour. The Sojourner Family Peace Center is a 42+ bed shelter in Milwaukee with confidential support groups. They've even developed a Healthy Relationship Test, which you can read here. Carmen was so forthright, so calm, and so informative, a true advocate for DV awareness and for change in personal relationships.

 

We talked about recognizing red flags, awareness of violence in relationships, and I talked about my own personal experience surviving and getting out of a violent relationship. In light of the recent Brookfield, Wisconsin shooting, this conversation is more timely than ever. And based on the calls that came in during that hour, this conversation needs to continue.

 

Thank you so very much to everyone at WPR that made this happen, it is so important.

 

CLICK HERE to listen to the broadcast(this link opens directly to the player). If you prefer, you can download the broadcast to listen later by visiting the Kathleen Dunn Audio Archive page and finding the link to the October 24, 2012, 9:00 am show.

 

 NO MORE

 

Speaking Out About Domestic Violence, 10.18.2012

Speaking Out About Domestic Violence, 10.18.2012

I was honored to be a guest on the Kathleen Dunn Show on Wisconsin Public Radio (oh, a happy Sconnie am I!)  for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Carmen Pitre, Director of the Sojourner Family Peace Center in Milwaukee, WI, was Ms Dunn's guest on the show for the same hour. The Sojourner Family Peace Center is a 42+ bed shelter in Milwaukee with confidential support groups. They've even developed a Healthy Relationship Test, which you can read here. Carmen was so forthright, so calm, and so informative, a true advocate for DV awareness and for change in personal relationships.

We talked about recognizing red flags, awareness of violence in relationships, and I talked about my own personal experience surviving and getting out of a violent relationship. In light of the recent Brookfield, Wisconsin shooting, this conversation is more timely than ever. And based on the calls that came in during that hour, this conversation needs to continue.

Thank you so very much to everyone at WPR that made this happen, it is so important.

CLICK HERE to listen to the broadcast(this link opens directly to the player). If you prefer, you can download the broadcast to listen later by visiting the Kathleen Dunn Audio Archive page and finding the link to the October 24, 2012, 9:00 am show.

#WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft

 #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft

9.11.2014 - These two hashtags have gone viral in the last 3 days and for good reason--it's truly difficult for people outside of an abusive relationship to understand what goes on in that relationship and frequently people ask why victims stay. Think of this abusive relationship as an intricate, toxic dance and only the two people in that relationship know how to dance it. It is that complex.

Also, understand this:

Asking why a woman or a man stays in a bad relationship places blame on the victim and not on the violent partner, where it belongs. Start asking why does he treat her that way? Why does she do that to him?

To help you understand how intricate this toxic dance is, here is #WhyIStayed contrasted with What He Did. (I've used my own female-male situation, however the same could apply to any abusive relationship.)

#WhyIStayed

#WhatHeDid

 - My life seemed so cool--weekends away, trips here, visiting friends there, the occasional expensive restaurant. Other people thought, "Oh, look at that--he took his wife to that nice restaurant! He's good to her."

 - When we went out of town, he would leave all the prep and return tasks to me--laundry, shopping, mail, errands, everything. I was overwhelmed and constantly exhausted--this doesn't leave time to reflect on your situation. And if we ever went out to a nice restaurant, he'd be sure to pay to show off to strangers that he treated me well. But don't worry, he'd be sure to say something cruel to me at some point in the evening.

 - I could never get ahead financially and it seemed the next possibility for me to earn money was right around the corner--a different job, living in a different place, no, I should quit that job, or maybe work more for that client. I responded to his changing ideas of how I should work and what worked for us.

 - Despite agreeing to share income, once we got married he turned on a dime and refused to share. I had some credit card debt from grad school that he refused to help me with--which I discovered at the bank when we were opening up an account for me and our "joint" account. Ironically, I had taken on that debt while we were in a long distance relationship. I began "married" life EUR 2.000- in debt. And I didn't dare tell a soul. He then proceeded to sabotage every job I had or tried to get. But more to that another day.

 - He had so much stress and was down a lot. I'd offer to help him, to talk with him, to do what I could. When he said mean things to me, he'd apologize and say that he would do better. But soon after, the stings and barbs would start up again. And so would the apologies. It was massively confusing.

 - This is what's called emotional abuse. The abusive cycle is this:  We'd have a peaceful, honeymoon period, followed by a build-up of tension, and then he'd emotionally beat me--even keeping me up into the early morning hours, telling me how I'd embarrassed or offended him, hadn't dressed up enough (to sit in a dark movie theatre). I wasn't lady-like enough, I wasn't paying enough attention to what he wanted. If I started crying, which is normal when someone treats you terribly, he would berate me even more.

- I thought abuse = hitting. I didn't know it was also throwing things, pinching me, being mean & making me feel so bad about myself. I was doing a lot wrong (so I thought). The emotional abuse was so bad I actually thought:

"I wish he would just hit me--just once, so I could leave him and not feel guilty. He treats me so terribly. But since he doesn't hit me, I guess it's not abuse."

- He once threw a folded yardstick in my direction so hard it left a 4" gash in a poured cement wall. He would slam his fist down on the table so hard it would make me jump and scare me into absolute silence. He would also slam his fist into the dashboard of the car while I was driving to intimidate me. And one Sunday afternoon on the way home from visiting his family he started a horrible fight in the car and I convinced him to pull over. He got out of the car and slammed the door so hard I honestly thought the window would break.

I thought it was me--because that was what he told me, day in, day out,

week after week, month after month.

#WhyILeft

#WhatHeDid

- I realized that what he said and what he did were two completely different things. He didn't walk his talk.

- Here's a perfect example:  He had to spend incredible amounts of money on beautiful, expensive furniture. He reminded me constantly that I had to be so careful never to scratch or dent the dining room table. Then one night his poker buddies took off the tablecloth and left hundreds of dents in our beautiful table. I saw them and I said, "Why did you let this happen?! Our table is ruined!" He didn't care one bit. Impressing his friends with our beautiful table was more important. If I had let that happen, who knows what would have happened to me.

- I had little money, hardly ever went out and I didn't have close friends of my own. I was lonely, isolated, and my own "husband" didn't care about me.

- The disparity between our financial states was more like the grand canyon than anything else. He had a collection of $150 polo shirts. He bought expensive wine and only served it to his friends. He bought them round after round at the bar and took a taxi home whenever he felt like it.

- I had one opportunity to leave safely. ONE. And I took it. I had a very unique situation in that I had one week to pack up and move out while he, unknowing, was thousands of miles away. This kind of opportunity is highly, highly unusual. (And also one reason why I speak out-thousands of other women don't have this opportunity.)

- He had already threatened to kill me outright once and had also given me the veiled threat of "I can't live without you." Translated into normal people speak, this means "If you leave me, I will kill you (and perhaps also myself)."
- I had a credit card and parents willing and able to help me get out. I had friends offer me a safe place to stay and colleagues who helped me get work once I got back.

- He kept the stocks and other investments in his bank account and there was a sum of cash in our joint account. The cash was far less than 50% of what we had jointly so I took it. He then proceeded to make some of those investments disappear and railed me in the divorce because I had dared to take that cash. Yeah, he'd invested our money in gold before the gold boom--I'm sure he was doing fine.

I left because I knew I couldn't stay.