October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Today, we share a compelling two-part interview with Liz Young of Facebook.com/The Spermwhale and bowl of petunias
(There WILL be triggers, this IS difficult to read, and this interview DOES includes explicit details of the sexual abuse Liz suffered at the hands of her ex-husband)
A word from Liz:
Hi! I’m Liz Young. I run the facebook page The spermwhale and bowlofpetunias. It’s a place of education, love, and laughter. I am as deep as I am silly. I try to provide solid education, inspiration, and humor. It also happens to be my blog where I spill out my thoughts. I stand for a lot of causes to help people and animals. I work at a group home with developmentally disabled young adults, for an organization that helps the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled and I work at being a super-hero, knit, and spend time with my family also in my spare time. There are possible triggers in some of my responses, so please be careful, you “hoopy froods”!
Q: What does domestic violence month mean to you?
A: Domestic Violence Awareness Month is very important and personal to me as I am a survivor of Domestic Violence. It is a month to raise awareness. It is a horrible epidemic. Every year, more women are killed than all the wars, epidemics, and cancer combined. And this doesn’t even include the men and children who also die. Statistically, it is more of a women’s epidemic but it happens to EVERYONE and EVERYONE is affected. Men are the least likely to report it. They are also the quickest to heal from the after affects. There are astounding aftereffects of domestic violence as well.
People who are victims of domestic violence, are much more susceptible to mental illnesses and substance abuse, especially if it is in their family. Post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, multiple personality disorder, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, are all manifestations that can occur as a result of Domestic Violence. There are other mental illnesses that can surface or can intensify as a result of domestic violence, of course, but these are the most prevalent.
For many people, what comes to mind when they hear the words, Domestic Violence, is physical violence. Even those who are being emotionally and psychologically abused may not realize that they, too, need desperately to find their voice. What do you say to those who do not see emotional abuse as, well, abuse?
Emotional and psychological terror are insidious. Domestic violence would almost never come to happen if the abuse cycle wasn’t put into place. Part of that cycle is emotional and psychological abuse. There is a whole power and control wheel,
Emotional and psychological terror were the first key elements of my abusive relationship, which lasted 8 and a half years before I was able to get free. He was my first serious relationship. He is the only man to date I have ever had sexual relations with, and so I was very naive, and a prime candidate for a dangerous predator such as my ex-husband. I didn’t even know I was being abused. I just knew I didn’t want to feel unhappy anymore. I didn’t want to hurt anymore. I didn’t know I was being abused until I went to the Caring House, my local domestic violence shelter, for help with my divorce, and the therapist there said, “But honey, you’ll be able to heal so much faster if you talk to someone.”
After intensive therapy and intensive classes, I have come to the point that I am on maintenance therapy (as needed), and I am thriving (most of the time) instead of just surviving. PTSD will always be a part of my life, but it doesn’t have to RUN my life.
Q: What do you say to those who have lost their voice and sense of self to emotional manipulation?
A: Surrounding yourself with positive people, who uplift you is CRUCIAL. Educating yourself about the abuse cycle, if you can, is amazingly liberating and empowering. “OH MY GOSH! I WENT THROUGH THAT! That’s why I responded that way! That’s why I couldn’t leave! Someone else went through this!” These are all thoughts I had. It was wondrous to not feel alone when I had felt so alone for so long.
My therapist at the local woman’s shelter told me to start telling myself in the mirror that I was pretty. That didn’t feel right. So I combined my silly nature, and started singing, “I feel pretty,” from Westside Story” until it DID feel right and real, and I could laugh again. I had always thought I was interesting to look at, and there are still parts of me I would like to change, but I am continously evolving. I am a work in progress. I forgot that I am human, and I am allowed to make mistakes.
Also, finding things that you love doing again. Reclaiming you. The youness that is so unique and you, is beautiful. I know those who have been abused emotionally for so long, doing anything for yourself, seems selfish, wrong, inconceivable and so many other adjectives. But YOU ARE WORTH IT. You were put on this Earth for a purpose.
Finding your voice again, is difficult. It takes time. Learn to be patient with yourself. Listen to cliches and quotes. Find the truth in them. Listen to music. Find the truth in them. Feel your emotions. Let yourself feel them. Journal. Get in touch with yourself. Learn deep breathing. Talk to people who understand what you’re going through. Stay away from people who make you feel bad, or are unhealthy for you. And please, don’t go back to the one who abused you. They haven’t changed. It’s just part of the cycle. And if you go back, oftentimes, it’s worse.
Q: I think and write a lot about myths and stereotypes. Below, are a few of the (hurtful) words I have come across. Have you encountered myths and ignorance concerning domestic violence?
A: Myth: Domestic violence only happens to poor, uneducated women and women of different race or color.
Truth: Persons of any class, culture, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, age, and sex can be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence. Because women with money usually have more access to resources, poorer women tend to utilize community agencies, and are therefore more visible.
Myth: Some people deserve to be abused; they are responsible for the violence because they know how to provoke it.
Truth: No one deserves to be abused. The only person responsible for the abuse is the abuser. Physical violence, even among family members, is wrong and against the law.
Myth: If the victim didn’t like it, she would leave.
Truth: There are many reasons why women may not leave, including fear for herself, her children and even pets. Not leaving does not mean that the situation is okay or that the victim wants to be abused. The most dangerous time for a woman who is being abused is when she tries to leave.”
Yes. I have had people look at me, and say, “Well you don’t seem like the kind of woman who would be abused.”
“He couldn’t have raped you. He was too big.”
Another myth I hear from people is that people say, “Well I would NEVER be in an abusive relationship. I would just leave.” I said that myself. And I thought it would be easy. I told him, too, if he cheated on me or beat me, I would leave. That gave him permission, I think, in his mind, to do everything BUT that. Some people don’t understand how subversive, manipulative abusers are at making the victims feel that it is THEIR fault for the abuse, and how hard the abused will work to make the relationship work, and try to change everything about themselves to make the relationship work, and to stop the pain from happening. For the abuser to go back to being the “nice” person they were at the beginning. The truth is, the nice person doesn’t exist. THAT was the illusion.
In the beginning, I didn’t leave because of the brainwashing, the cycle, the beautiful words. He didn’t show me who he was. I fell in love with a lie. A mirage. Someone who didn’t exist. When the kind beautiful words disappeared (which disappeared rather quickly), he was intent on making me feel inadequate but making the excuse that he was trying to help “fix me” and “help me” because he “loved me”, so I scurried around trying harder and harder to make him happy. At odd times he would explode, or shut off. I could never predict what would please him, and what would make him explode. As my life became more and more dangerous for myself, and my cats, I became scared. He would throw the cats up against the walls, and scream at them until they would poop.