Guest blogger Stephanie Titus-Andrews, Professional Trainer and Life Coach from Created to Excel.
December 6th is a solemn day in Canada. Today, I pay homage to that day, and recount how it has affected my life. My name is Stephanie, and I am a Victor over abuse.
We remember December 6th, 1989, because of a deranged man. This man snuffed out the lives of fourteen innocent women. That morning, those women and their families woke up and went through their normal routine. They went to work, went to school or maybe stayed home, thinking that nothing out of the ordinary would happen that day. But they were very wrong. The mothers and fathers of those women never saw their baby girls again. Some others lost a sister, a niece, a granddaughter, a friend. They never got a chance to hug, kiss or say goodbye to their loved-one ever again.
Ironically, I got married that same year. I did not even think about that until recently, as I was gathering facts for this blog. I entered my years of torture just as these young women's torture was coming to an end. The only difference was that no one knew my torture was as bad as it was.
What makes one person cross the line from anger to abuse? We all get angry at some point in time. By stating that fact, I, by no means, say that I am a saint in this category. However, some people cross the line and really hurt other people while they are angry, either with words, their body, weapons, or all three. And, although most people don't think about it, the damage done by words can be just as deadly as if a knife or a gun was used.
For many years, I had the weapon of words used against me. Some people may say, "Why didn't you just stand up for yourself"? If your self-esteem is non-existent in the first place, then it is very hard to stand up for yourself. Combine that with my faith beliefs that a woman is to listen to her husband, then you have a potent-abuse cocktail.
For 23 years, I endured put-downs, criticism and jokes made at my expense. Angry outbursts came and went without warning. I mastered the art of crying into my pillow at night without being heard. Most people don't know that there is a "system" that abusers follow. First there is a trigger event. Nothing could have been wrong previously, it just happens when you least expect it. Next, there is the flare-up. The abuser will lash out with words, weapons, or both. However, it is usually only at the female partner, and sometimes the children. Finally, there is the honeymoon stage. This is where the abuser will become repentant--but with a twist. They might say things like, "I'm sorry Sweetie, but you just make me so angry!" Or, "If you'd just do this or that, I wouldn't get so angry all the time." In other words, they are not sorry at all. They are just looking to blame someone else. The honeymoon stage may last for hours or years. My "honeymoons" lasted for weeks, months and years. Towards the end, it was lasting for hours. As a result of the honeymoon stage, some women think, "It's not so bad. Maybe I was just overreacting!"
Generally, the main reason that a woman stays in an abusive relationship is money. She does not believe that she can make it on her own. I was no exception to this rule. When I tried to further my education to make more money, I was badgered about spending time away from the family. When I didn't work, I was lazy. If I worked, I was negligent. I couldn't win for losing! As a result of going in and out of the job market, I never really advanced financially.
But, there comes a time when you either resign yourself to the fact that this is your plot in life (usually when you are older), or you say, "Enough is enough!" After two attempts at leaving, including one shelter stay, I decided that I had had enough! I did not have a lot of finances by any means, but I was determined that I was not going to put up with being put-down any more. Surely, the God that I served had a bigger plan for my life!
After I left for the final time, I stayed in a shelter far from where I had previously lived. Although it was hard having two people stay in an 8'X10' room, I was thankful for the peace of mind. My youngest daughter stayed with me, and we prayed for her two older siblings. We also prayed for a specific type of place for us all to stay together.
When I was ready to move on my own, December 6 touched my life once more. Somewhere, someone thought that it would be great to start a fund for Greater Toronto Area women who were victims of abuse. As a tribute to the women who died unnecessariIy, it was named the December 6 Fund. The helpful counsellors at the shelter assured me that I met the Fund criteria. After assisting me with the application process, I was able to benefit from the December 6 Fund. This Fund is a non-interest bearing loan that women can pay back in small amounts, allowing them to get back on their feet. I have further benefited at Christmas with gifts and gift cards to help my family and myself. There is probably something in every room of my home that I have gotten with the assistance of the December 6 Fund. I can truly say that, without this help, I would not be as far as I am on my road to independence. It was not just a handout, it was a hand up.
My prayer is that you see the problem of Violence Against Women, and help in some small way. Abuse is not just physical. There is also emotional, mental, financial, and even spiritual abuse. There is probably someone in your life that you can think of who is living in an abusive situation. These women need anchors. They need to know that someone will be there for them when they are ready to leave. They may need financial help, or a place to stay. But most of all, they will need emotional support and a shoulder to cry on when they finally decide to leave. Don't give up on this friend or relative. If you are a person of faith, pray!
The abusive relationship is a very complex one. Be an enlightened person and read up on abusive relationships. Some books are listed at the bottom of this blog. I did not have people in my life that knew about my situation. This made it even harder to leave. That is typical of an abusive relationship. However, you can be atypical. Make a difference in the life of a woman who is screaming on the inside.
Although innocent lives were lost on December 6th, 1989, a good Cause came out of that tragedy. (I am in no way minimizing the fact that fourteen women died unnecessarily.) I am now using my life to Coach women who are going through divorce, especially if there was some sort of abuse in the relationship. I want to help these women to live empowered lives. My goal is to show them how to forgive the people who hurled rocks at them, even if the intent was to do damage. By analyzing, forgiving, and moving on, these abused women can move from being victims to Vibrant Victors! If I help just one woman, I have achieved my goal!
Recovery Coach, Speaker,
Author of 156 Days to Freedom
Why Does He Do That?, by Lundy Bancroft (A former domestic violence cop)
The Verbally Abusive Relationship, by Patricia Evans
Not To People Like Us, by Dr. Susan Weitzman (upscale abuse)
Preventabusiverelationships.com, Dr. Jeanne King
Shrink4men.com, Dr. Tara J. Palmatier (for men in abusive relationships)
Please check out the following exhaustive Abusive Relationship Checklist. It is American, but is by far one of the most in-depth ones that I have encountered.
Stephanie is a great coach to women and men providing support when escaping an abusive relationships. She provides a monthly FREE call on a variety of related topics in addition to empowering workshops. For more information or to get in touch with her for an anonymous consultation please check out her website at CreatedToExcel.ca
If you would like to support women and their children escaping abuse please visit www.ernestines.ca to support the 10 Great Men Campaign which will end on December 10.