5 Things an Abused Woman (This Woman) Wants You to Know

 Sarafina asks only that you not judge her as she challenges the assumptions most people make when they find out she has been abused.

Five –

I’m not weak.

I , legitimately, walk the planet on a daily basis knowing that there is someone out there that wants to physically harm me. I live knowing that, at any minute, Mike could return. And I’m only able to do this because on a hot July afternoon I picked up my broken body from the concrete floor and limped out of the door, without looking backward. Nobody else did that for me. Nobody was there to protect me from the madness, nor did they hold me by the arm while I walked on a strained ankle and battered knee. I was in so much pain that I wanted to crawl. But I didn’t, knowing that if I took even a second longer than necessary he might kill me. Weakness wasn’t an option. Strength is what allowed me to survive. And it kept me alive every day before and every day after.

It wasn’t easy to come home to a house that didn’t have electricity or running water. It was heartbreaking to have my car repossessed two days after I made the decision to leave. Trying to find a job, without a car, was embarrassing and difficult. But I did it. And I lived in a home for the next several months knowing that, at any moment, he could walk back into my life (and my house) because he knew where I was and he knew that my back window was broken out (because he shattered it with his left fist).

Survivors of domestic abuse are strong. We fought our own disease. Don’t ever doubt that. It’s offensive. It’s appalling. It’s also the easiest way to find yourself outside of my circle of friends. I’m not asking you to understand what I’ve been through, but I am asking you to understand that my strength is there.

Four –

Abuse rearranged my beliefs. Yours are only yours. Don’t try to pawn them off on me.

Abuse changes everything. Before my abuse I searched for answers about religion. I wasn’t sure who made decisions or why they were made, but I wanted to find out. I looked for answers in churches and conversations. But when things began to become abusive and I seriously questioned whether or not I’d be given the opportunity to wake up the following morning, I became an evangelical Christian. I PRAYED and pleaded and THANKED god that he was there, looking over me and keeping me alive. I knew that he had a message for me…that I was there for a reason. I stayed, longer than I should have stayed, because my faith in the lord was strong enough that I ‘knew’ I would live.

Yet something changed inside of me during that time and now I say this almost every day: when you are slammed against a concrete wall and thrown down a flight of stairs…when YOU are YOUR ONLY HOPE for survival and no higher being is there to lift you out of an awful situation, your hope lies within your own heart. I knew I had to get out. I knew I was the only one PERSON who could save myself. And I still know that. My savior? Myself. When you tell me that god helped me get out of the situation, and to thank him for that, it takes away from the strength and courage that I had to conjure. No higher power got me out of that house. It was my feet, my heart, and my strength. It was me.

Three –

Dating isn’t the answer.

If dating were the answer, I would’ve started already. Yes, at some point, I have to start seeing other people again, but I deserve to (and will) give myself enough time to feel ready before I allow someone to buy me dinner. I already understand that I won’t ever feel fully ready to date, but respect me enough to let me make the choice for myself. When the day comes that I say, “Okay. I want to try this again,” your help will be appreciated. Until then, questioning my readiness only pushes me further away from the idea. I’m not ready because I don’t trust anyone that I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t trust a lot of people who I do know. I have to retrain my brain. I have to accept myself. I have to feel strong enough that I won’t second guess every move I make. I still do that with friends. How could I ever create a successful relationship from that? I couldn’t. So please stop trying to tell me that I should.

Two –

I won’t get over it…soon.

I can’t get over it because my life has been forever changed. Downplaying the severity isn’t helpful; it’s denial. Acknowledgement and acceptance are necessary.

Some days are easier than others; I know it’s getting better. Yet there are days that I’m crying before I get out of bed. I don’t want to leave my apartment. I’m angry and sad and scared. The world isn’t one that seems to hold opportunity on those days. It’s a place that swallows me whole. On those days I have to remind myself that I was in such a devastatingly bad place a year prior. I have to allow myself to cry in the shower, so that I can keep it together during the work day. I have to be angry on the way to work, and I have to remind myself that I wasn’t allowed to feel anything for two years of my life. I wasn’t allowed to be human, so how can I expect myself to act like I am human?

Every week I feel stronger, even though I’m digging into the issues further and further in therapy. I do feel better…but just because my recovery doesn’t fit your needs doesn’t make my small steps any less significant for me. I am moving forward. If you can’t handle the pace, then just don’t say anything at all.  I will get there. Your doubt and criticism prolong the recovery process.

One –

Never ask me why I stayed.

If an abuser was abusive from day one, there isn’t a woman in the world that would stay. Mike was charming, he was romantic and understanding. He took care of me, complimented me, and made me feel as if I was the only girl who had ever made him feel loved. He listened. Mike helped me heal a wound in my heart from my previous relationship. He was everything that was missing from every relationship I’d ever been in. What 26-year-old girl, looking for love, wouldn’t stay in a relationship like that?

I’d talked up his dedication and love to my friends and family. I’d beamed with pride when I thought about my relationship. We were in love and we were great together, so it wasn’t exactly easy to admit to anyone that things had changed.

When things began to turn, when the verbal manipulation began, I saw this as the man who I loved changing…and I needed to do whatever it took to fix the problem and make things go back to the way they once were. So I devoted my free time to ‘fixing’ the issues because then I wouldn’t have to eat my words. I bent over backwards to make sure he was happy. For awhile, it worked.

But anyone that has ever been in an abusive relationship will tell you that right when you think you’ve ‘fixed’ something, your attempts aren’t good enough anymore. More is expected of you. And, by the time you realize this is the cycle, you’ve already given up so many things in your own life that you feel like you’re trapped. If you try to leave, he’s going to come after you. If you stay, you’ll eventually get to the point where he’s happy. He can’t really expect the world from you…so you just have to reach his expectation.

Why did I stay?

I stayed because I loved him. I stayed because I thought that I could help him. I stayed because I have a heart that works the way a normal heart should work. It’s one that tries to love unconditionally and doesn’t assume others will meet their expectations. It’s one that assumed that a man who treated me so well was only suffering from something else. Maybe if his mother was nicer to him. Maybe if his dad didn’t expect so much of his time at the office. Maybe if his son’s mother wasn’t such a bitch. Maybe if he could find a medication that would actually help with his ADD. Maybe if he hadn’t taken steroids in college. Maybe.

I stayed because I was trying to solve a problem. My heart kept me there for a long time…

…and then he put a gun to my head.

He picked it up off of the top of the refrigerator and cackled his manipulative laugh. He turned around, put his hand on my shoulder, and I could feel the cold metal of the barrel on my temple. He said he loved me so much that he could kill me. He laughed again. And then the gun was placed back on top of the refrigerator, where it hung just out of reach. But it was close enough that he could grab it if he wanted. And it was close enough that I could see it while I was cleaning the kitchen. It was a constant reminder that he could kill me.

And I was never left alone anymore, so I couldn’t escape. I wasn’t allowed to be out of his eyesight. He got me a job at his office so that I could be there with him all day too. I was trapped in his life.

So I stayed because I didn’t want to die. Because somewhere inside of me I knew that if I tried to escape he’d pull down the gun again. And he’d load my head with bullets. But staying meant I’d have a chance at another day.

A list of 1,000 reasons why I stayed wouldn’t ever appease someone who’s never been in my shoes. And that’s fine. But the bottom line is that when you ask me why I stayed, it puts the blame on me. It alleviates Mike of any of the blame. Why did I stay? I stayed for a million reasons. Why don’t you ask why I left? Or why he was abusive? Or if I’m still scared?

Don’t ask me why I stayed. The answer is far too large and confusing. And I’ll never give you the answer that you want me to give, because no answer I give you will make you understand. I know that. And I think deep down you do too. So just let it rest. And let me rest too.

This post first appeared on the blog Future4Fina.

photo by indigo eyes / Flickr

About Sarafina Bianco

Sarafina Bianco is an abuse survivor, retired English teacher, blogger, editor, and ghostwriter from St. Louis. Fina writes about her abusive past, PTSD, healing through therapy and other forms of love and relationships at her new blog, http://Sarafinabianco.com Follow her on Twitter: @FinaBianco

Comments

  1. One of the things you say in this article spoke to me — Abuse changes you. This is so true. I am changed.

    Before abuse, I wasn’t scared all of the time. Before abuse, I didn’t feel like hiding all of the time. Before abuse, I was so open and friendly and now I am closed off and shy. Abuse did change me.

  2. Chris dunn says:

    I started a relationship with a a woman who was been abused by the men in her life , one of them killed their three month old son . It has been six months and her walls came up . I know it is a self preservation thing . What can I do to help her ?

  3. I recently got dumped by a woman who was abused in her prevouis relationship 6 years ago. I knew of these things since date 3. I was very supportiveto her, very loving. But after one year she ended because she is not ready to commit, her fear remains of it all going wrong. I feel like I have lost my future and some beautiful children to. Very sad but I wish she would the support needed as it affects her children too.

  4. just read this after talking with someone i care very deeply about, but admittedly i knew very little about how bad abuse can be, explains a lot about how and why they are the way they are.

    thanks to your article i doubt i’ll be stepping on their toes or being too pushy or anything now

  5. Chris Prescott says:

    Sarafina,

    A wise person once said “You must participate in your own rescue”. Being a passive victim is not good for you or as a model for other victims. And it is flawed thinking that doing nothing will somehow appease Mike and keep you safe. If anything, it will ensure that the abuse will continue if you try to enforce any kid of boundaries.. St Louis has a wealth of resources for abused women under VAWA and local programs. Stand up for yourself and get rid of him. You might be surprised to find how quick he changes his tune when faced with a PFA and possible jail time.

  6. All this applies to men too. I found it almost impossible to speak about it, especially as a man, being seen as weak and helpless. In fact, going through that and coming out of the other side actually proved that I’m stronger than most.

  7. raymond beauregard says:

    wow I am so glad I found this as I have recently meet a beautiful women that I am crazy about and have become friends with but noticed she was a little slow to warm up to me but we are great friends now and she told me the story of her last relationship with a man that abused her she knows how I feel I tell her everyday she is beautiful and I told her I wanted to have a relationship with her but only when she is ready that I will wait and be there for her no matter what now I have a better idea of what she is going through I plan to continue to support her and hope that one day she will allow me to be closer to her and to love her and pamper her I start everyday telling her she is beautiful and end every night telling her to sleep well and have sweet dreams and never pressure her to move forward in this relationship which is hard because I have found myself falling in love with her and she is worth the wait

  8. Brittany says:

    I just want to say thank you for writing this. I was in an abusive relationship similar to yours and got out of it about a year ago. These points just really hit close to home(especially 1 and 2). It’s been a huge struggle moving on from the mental and emotional abuse and, like you had said, that I wasn’t allowed to feel human. It’s very hard for me to share how I feel with other people because I had been so brainwashed into thinking how I felt and what I thought didn’t matter. I have a family member who was also in an abusive relationship so she understands a bit more than my other family members and friends do. I shared this though to spread the word that people don’t realize. Nothing irritates me more than people saying “why did you stay” and then say I made the mistake of being with him. No one goes into a relationship thinking these things are going to happen. Like you said, it puts all the blame on the abuse survivors when it should be placed on the abusers. We have enough to deal with. Then we wonder why abusers keep on abusing…because no one tells them what they are doing is wrong and puts all the blame on the person being abused. Again, thank you.

  9. It’s not just women who suffer domestic abuse–it’s men as well, and all of this still holds true.

    As a survivor of an incredibly abusive relationship with a much older individual who was also addicted to drugs, this just beautifully encompasses everything I could never really explain.

  10. I agree with most of this article. Before having been in the situation I was one of those people who didn’t understand why women stayed but you said it so perfectly. The relationship is so wonderful at the start and you just feel like if you just gave a little more it could be that way again. And the feeling of fear once it has set in is unreal. I applaud you for writing this. The only part I disagree with is the part about not thanking God. You said yourself that you prayed during the ordeal but that God didn’t help you out. But he did. Because you prayed, he gave you the strength to get up and get yourself out the door. We hope that out prayers will be answered by things like your partner changing or something happening to him so you can be free but the reality is that it doesn’t always work that way. Who did you turn to in your darkest hour? God. And he was there for you by giving you the strength and the will and the gumption to finally say you’ve had enough. Yes, you physically walked out that door and no one can ever downplay that or take it away from you but don’t forget to thank the one you asked to help you do it.
    Much love. And I’m glad you got out. Don’t let anyone force you into another relationship. You are right to stand your ground and take time to heal. And if you don’t want another relationship? Who cares. It’s your choice. <3

    • “Because you prayed, he gave you the strength to get up and get yourself out the door..”

      Wrong. She created the strength herself. No one gave it to her – including God. Did you see the part where she wrote “My savior? Myself. ” She was the SOLE agent in her own change. By telling her that God helped her, you are taking credit away from her for creating that strength instead of waiting for prayers to be answered . And you should be ashamed of yourself for doing so.

  11. anonymous says:

    i find it very strange how many things this article hits to a t, even the names((his ex)) and his name. sometimes i wonder if im in a good place or not sometimes i wanted to talk to her to ask. but i waas abused as a child to… so i get used to it. but all dreams except for our child who is amazing down the drain….sigh

  12. Thank you for sharing your experience; my ex husband had PTSD and while not as escalated as your situation, I experienced some of the same. Healing is definitely a long process, and I agree it should be on your own terms, that nobody else can understand it’s depth but you. You’re right about denial, it only makes healing that much slower. Good luck

  13. Ten years ago this April, I sat with my mother and aunt in the waiting room of a hospital, waiting for word on my cousin. She spent three hours in surgery to repair her shattered jaw and a badly broken arm, thanks to her angry, violent, drunken husband. It was not the first time he had hurt her, nor was it even the first time he’d put her in the hospital. But it was the first time the police arrested him and said he’d be charged, no matter what she wanted . He’d been arrested twice before, but both times she had refused to press charges, and so the police had dropped the matter. This time, the beating was so severe that letting him go wasn’t an option. (Of course it probably didn’t hurt that while being arrested he hit and spat on two police officers, and later assaulted a jail guard as well.)

    And yet, when she woke up from surgery and found out her husband was in jail, she was not relieved. She was angry. She wanted us to go bail him out for her. She insisted that he only got angry when he was drunk, that he wouldn’t drink so much if his boss wasn’t such a slave-driver, or if she was just a better wife. She did not want him to go to prison, instead she asked my aunt to call their pastor, so he could come down and pray with her, and pray for her husband.

    I was aghast, but not surprised. My cousin, aunt, mother and most of my family are Christians of the born-again, fundamentalist stripe, the type whose pastors preach that wives are to “submit” to their husbands’ “sovereign leadership.” When my cousin sought counseling from her pastor about her abusive husband, instead of telling her to leave him, or to go to Al-Anon, or giving her the phone number of a battered women’s shelter, he instead gave her a pamphlet about an upcoming “marriage encounter,” then told her to go home and read her Bible and pray that Jesus would make her a better wife.

    Even after her husband was sentenced to a four-year term in prison, my cousin continued to write and see him, at first. But eventually she started going to Al-Anon, and hearing stories from other women who had been in similar situations, and absorbing the message that she had enabled her husband’s alcoholism and abuse, and she could not change him. And so she gradually cut off contact with him. (And again it probably didn’t hurt that one of the terms of his post-prison probation was that he have no contact with her.)

    I wish I could say that she’s fully enlightened, but she still gets guilt-tripped by church friends and even family. Some still see her husband as a “good guy.” He was a high-school and college football star, good-looking, gregarious, involved in coaching and a church youth leader. But he was also your classic manipulator, smooth-talking and sweet, love-bombing my cousin with flowers and gifts and an engagement ring just three moths after they met. Everyone thought he was a “catch.” There were rumors he had a “dark side,” But it was not until after they were married that it began to show. When she complained about her job working for an HVAC contractor, he told her to quit, promising to take care of her. In reality, she now realizes he didn’t like the fact that she was mostly around other men all day. He screened her phone calls and didn’t want her going out with her single friends, because that was “improper” for a married woman. He told her that they should only associate with other married couples from their church, but even that stopped when he decided she spent too much time talking with the husbands instead of the wives. And when he drank, he turned flat-out demonic, but that was often dismissed as “just a good ol’ boy blowing off steam.” He’s moved on, now married to a woman much younger than he, and they have two small children (and I shudder to think what their lives might be like.) Meanwhile, nearly a decade after a near-death experience, while she hasn’t been in another physically abusive relationship, my cousin still drifts in and out of train-wreck relationships with emotionally distant and manipulative men.

    There are plenty of reasons women (and men) do not leave abusive spouses, even when their lives are at risk, and they are well-detailed here. And it will continue as long as we live in denial, as long as we have heavily patriarchal churches and religious communities that deny and downplay the reality of abuse and blame the abused for their fate. As long as friends, family and communities refuse to believe that a man could be abusive because “he’s such a good guy,” and we live in a culture where women are still given the message, subtly and even blatantly, that it does not matter how beautiful, intelligent, smart, capable, successful and accomplished you are, if you do not have a man in your life, THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU (emphasis deliberate), and so the insecure latch onto the first man who shows interest, no matter who he is. My cousin, and other women I know who have been trapped in abusive and dysfunctional relationships, often despair over their inability to find a keep a man, and the psychopaths among us smell that desperation a mile away, and they prey upon it. (And I would imagine that similar could be said of men who find themselves in abuse situations.)

    This message cannot be repeated enough. Thanks, GMP, for posting it, and bravo to the author as well.

  14. That is what happened to me also. The relationship started out good and I felt understood, wanted and loved. It was so nice. Then it changed little by little, and it is such a mind trap, because you can’t figure out what happened and you want what you had back. You think the very things you thought, that you can fix things, that he will get better, that there is something wrong with him. It doesn’t come back because abusers always pour it on thick in the beginning and it doesn’t get better because they rarely think they’re wrong or remorseful about it. The man I was with never hit me, he was a verbal abuser and emotional manipulator. I worried in the end that he might snap and kill me.

  15. The tightening of the stomach muscles when he’s around, the tiptoeing around his moods, the constipation of not eating right, the dry mouth, the hard swallowing, the weight loss, the sweats, the lost stare through the window with nothing in particular in mind. Gotta keep image up at work. It’s a big secret from friends cause everyone thinks I have the strength of character to stand my ground. The sound of his voice chills me to the core. His glare like I’m up to something when I’m not. His subtle attempts to intimidate by filling the tub to the top and grins like he knows he can drown me in this amount of water. He’s thrown me out of his vehicle on the highway. Showed me how if I left he would commit suicide and take me with him. Love this man? Nope. Knew that after the first assault. Terrified when we went to camping grounds I never been to, in the wilds without knowing where. What’s he up to? Is this it? Is taking sex (when I blacked out from drinking my night away to drown out the racing thoughts) rape? He said he didn’t but a woman knows when the VJ is red and raw and stings to pee. Knew what cruelty was by the definition in the dictionary but to experience it firsthand stunned my ability to believe it was happening. I learned what hate was. It stewed in me towards everyone who looked at me. I was a ‘fuck you’ waiting to happen if you spoke to me. Took out my anger at the injustice at home on everyone else. I can see how I changed, isolated. I lacked compassion. Nobody cared about me I thought to throw a lifeline. I’d say something ‘off the cuff’ about how charming he is to strangers and people at work. When asked, “How are you?” I don’t answer. Yet everyone saw the changes in my personality. I faulted others for not questioning, not showing interest, not paying attention, not caring to be so active and participating in my life to have seen for themselves I was a scared victim. I was just judged at how I treated others, no one looked under the carpet to see the real dirt. It was my fault for the bruises of his bites. My personality was buried already, was just a matter of time before my body followed. I was the walking dead. At one point I didn’t care anymore, take me now, put me out of my misery. Nobody noticed I was missing in action. No emails, texts, calls from friends when they haven’t heard from me for over a month. Even laughed a second or two to myself thinking the only people who would care would be neighbours when they complain about the smell of a rotting corpse. When I did speak up, no one believed me. Gave me advice, condolences, sympathy, after the fact. I did get out. Filing a police report the male cop said, “Why didn’t you leave?” I sat in silence with no answer, just looked at him. After a long and thoughtful search I realized this one outing at an indigenous drumming circle drew out the silent warrior I never knew existed, it was called to action – my will to survive. I realized my way of dealing with conflict was being an avoider. I had to change my mindset to change my life. Yes I have changed. No longer live in fear or hate. Experience has given me wisdom. My life-print is to safeguard the sanity of sisters that have had or will be or are walking this mile alone.

  16. I understand.

    I wish you courage and strength to keep going forward but I think you have that covered.

  17. Thank you for sharing this. As a law student, future criminal attorney, and a past DV victim, I have seen how harmful assumptions about DV continue to make it harder for victims to leave and for their abusers to be stopped. To hear a defense attorney talk about using the fact that a woman stayed with her abusive boyfriend/husband past the first incident as “proof” that it didn’t really happen churns my stomach. These are way too many people who don’t understand the very real dangers of trying to leave – that the violence usually escalates around attempts to leave, and thus victims’ fears about trying to escape are rooted in the reality of the DV patterns of control and abuse. Safety plans have to be detailed and thorough, and it’s not the kind of thing you can throw together like packing an overnight bag. Cheers to you for your strength and for going even further than most of us who try to bury and forget our experience, but taking on an active role in challenging the common narrative and responses.

  18. I’m very impressed by the longevity of this article and feel blessed to have come upon it. My very best friend (Male to Female) also suffered a horrific relationship such as the one that you describe. I however was fortunate enough to enter her life at a time in which the abuse became it’s most severe, when it turned physical. Having previously served as a Crisis Intervention Counselor for Domestic Abuse Victims during my stent as a Military Police Officer in the U.S. Army, I was in a unique position to assist my newly acquainted friend through education, support and wisdom. She also to the world kept hush on the abuse, until I came along that is. With my encouragement and a 3rd party call to the local police one night, Pandora’s Box had finally been opened. As more friends and family became aware of the situation the support network quickly blossomed. I even dipped into my savings and bought her a car because she wasn’t allowed to have one. I did whatever I could to make it stop, because it violates the very fundamentals and morals in which I was trained to uphold. Success stories like hers and yours bring a painfully happy tear to my eye, and I’m glad you survived. Sparing details, as a former cop and current Firefighter, I have seen the unfortunate outcome of these situations personally and it’s something no person should ever have to witness. Now somewhere during this process my best friend and I fell in love. However as you may imagine, she is the preverbal poster child of emotional unavailability. Thus, not only for me, and for “us”, but most importantly for her future, I’m working as hard as possible to help in the recovery and healing process of her life. I realize and understand that I have chosen to take the long road with any obstacles in it’s path. I suppose my question to you is, truly, is there anything I can do assist in the healing process being not only her best male friend which always comes first, but the new object of her affection? Or should I let her figure it out on her own? I know she needs time to heal, but she’s also made it clear that she doesn’t want to be alone. I’ve been told “you’re the only person I can really trust in this world.” So I feel somewhat obligated, but also entirely willing and determined. Therapy is not on the table at this time, after discussion it’s too soon and due to some other life issues, she’s quite apprehensive to the idea. But I think a fair place to start might be to leave some self help books on the topic “accidentally” lying around her house in hopes she will pick one up. And also possibly seeking out a support group in the area. Having been a cop, I’m pretty well versed at being subtle. You seem to have recovered pretty well and thus, do you have any recommendations? Thanks again, stay safe…

    • wow, mike, you’re amazing. I recently ended a relationship w a man who is emotionally unavailable due to divorce and PTSD. I am hoping when the divorce issues have settled, we can try again. I hope your girl is able to see your value and pull you in, rather than push you away as mine did. Try showing her EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) on youtube..my friend uses it with soldiers with PTSD and it is supposed to be very effective. Try battletap.com too. EMDR is a more intense therapy that only trained counselors do. It can be pretty difficult to do emotionally, but it also has a great track record. I wish both of you so much luck and love. And strength. Loads and loads of strength. Namaste.

    • My husband and I met only just after I had left a relationship where I was sexually abused. We were able to get to talk and know one another long before there was any physical contact, which really helped, and he was very careful to respect my boundaries once we were able to meet in person, which also helped. I asked him, from his perspective, what he would recommend, and he said that the best thing is to be open and honest. Don’t tip toe around subjects, and don’t walk on eggshells around her. Be caring, but direct in your motives and conversations.

    • Mike –

      It has been quite some time since you posted and, fortunately, I came back to GMP today and posted another article about my healing process (http://bit.ly/1jZsVzm ).

      Be patient with your friend. It took me three years before I was ready to date, but I’m happy to say I’m getting married next month. My current relationship wouldn’t have flourished if he hadn’t told me over and over again, “We’ve got this: I have you and you are going to beat it.” Somewhere along the line I started believing him, and it made our bond so much stronger than any I’d felt before. Knowing someone’s weaknesses makes them extremely vulnerable, especially abuse survivors. Be sure you don’t use it against her and, instead, offer your ears and arms when she needs them.

      Thinking of both of you.

  19. This rattled me. I am also a survivor. We met at school, had a passionate whirlwind relationship. Within 14 months of knowing him, I was stalked, had a knife put to my throat, had my home broken into, was threatened repeatedly, and locked in my house (i had an inside deadbolt and he took my keys) for 3 days while he alternatively begged me to stay and berated me for wanting to leave him… At the time, I never told anyone due to embarrassment. Thank you for being so brave and telling your story. Continued healing to you. After he kept me against my will,I went to the police. That was 20 years and leaving him and having him arrested was the smartest and best decision I’ve ever made.

  20. Catherine Reynolds says:

    thank you for this. i am 44 and could not have explained it better. having been through all of the above i am astounded when friends look at me like there is some hidden weakness or deficit in me that means it was my fault this happened to me. i hate it when i hear another woman tell me she is co dependant or whatever, blaming herself. we need to educate the world.

  21. I understand more than you think; I was married to an alcoholic for over 30 years. There was no physical abuse, but emotional, verbal and financial abuse. It didn’t get bad overnight, but was insidious, and crept in so slowly that I felt like I was in a quagmire up to my neck before I even opened my eyes to reality. In the back of my mind I always remembered how sweet and loving my husband was and could be at times, and that is probably the main reason I stayed. In my mind, if he just quit drinking, everything would be okay. Thank God for Al-Anon, though; I’ve been a member for over six years now, and it has done more for me than years and years of therapy. It’s all an inside job, and figuring out why we became the way we did and made the decisions we did is hard work, but well worth it.

  22. Beautiful article. Tragic, but triumphant. Good for you. I’m not sure if you’re right about people understanding why you stayed, though. I think a good-hearted humble person could picture themselves in the same situation. Of course, I say that as someone who was in a marriage with the same dynamic. My experience was much less severe in most ways, but I had the same desire to help her with her pain that she was using to hurt me. I think you’re just a good person who really wanted to believe that there’s goodness in everyone; there probably is, I think there is, but some people need something more than understanding from their partner to realize that goodness: maybe professional help, maybe a rock-bottom experience, maybe God. I hope you find happiness, and are able to trust someone again; this time maybe someone who deserves you. I think that was one of the main barriers between me and my ex-wife; she couldn’t trust me no matter how perfectly sweet and understanding I was. I suppose it might be harder for a woman to regain her trust in the opposite sex, but I hope when you are ready, you can give it fully, knowing you ARE strong enough to survive. Good luck.

    • Almost there, Paul. I have a loving, supportive boyfriend now. Perhaps it’s time for a follow-up piece, detailing the intricacies of dating after surviving. Hmmmm.

      p.s. I hope you’re right, that I’m wrong about people not understanding. I’ve always believed most people joke and respond the way they do because of unintentional ignorance (never being forced into the situation makes it easier to ‘guess’ at how you would respond). Maybe I should evaluate my own beliefs? <3

  23. While my own experience was not as threatening as yours, my reality of 5+ years with a man who was sweet, caring while I was young and inexperienced turned him becoming a monster. I fought back most of the time when he decided to get physical, I learned of his abuse with his ex girlfriends who he was still connected with, everything in me, told me to leave and I didn’t for a long time. It took 2000 miles, a supportive family and for me to finally believe I was worth more than what he was giving me.People who know me now, don’t know much of my past, they see me as a strong, independent women who wouldn’t take crap from anyone. I suppose this is my defense mechanism, I suppose I sometimes forget my current boyfriend is not the monster I was with what now seems like so long ago. But when people learn of my past, I always get the “But why did you stay with him”, they don’t understand that young love+my self esteem being buried+being 2000 miles away from all who cared about me, truly made me believe that he was the only one who would ever love me. What I know now is that he never loved me, but as you mentioned there are a million reasons women stay with abusive men (and sometimes why men stay with abusive women) and it can never be broken down to something so simple as “I loved him”. Thank You for this piece and you are an amazingly strong women.

  24. Thank you for this. It is very eye opening and insightful. Sorry for your ordeal. There is a woman I’m highly interested in, and I have a feeling she has also been a victim of abuse. She is very reserved and scared to let me in too close. I keep my distance and try not to push her, but I do try to let her know I’m secure and there for her. After reading your article, I’m almost convinced she was abused by her ex. If you can offer any advice, I would greatly appreciate it. I care deeply for this woman, and want to stand by her side through whatever she may need…

    • I am not the author but I would say you need to move at her speed, you need to let her know that you are secure, safe and trustworthy, this won’t happen overnight. I personally have a great boyfriend who is caring, trusting and understands my “speed” in which I handle letting someone in fully is a lot slower than most, and much slower than him.
      I am sure overtime of gaining the women who you care about a great deal trust, she will come around. encouraging communication is key too, sharing struggles you have overcome without expectation that she will also share will put her at ease.

  25. Thank you for sharing this. It’s very personal, and it was eye opening. I have a great deal of respect for you.

  26. Many years ago I survived a very sick and abusive relationship. I stayed because I thought I loved him and sacrificed so much because I really wanted to be monogamous. I didn’t leave until he went to the basement to get the gun. It was literally the end of a lot of torturous behavior on his part.

    I don’t talk about that relationship a whole lot at this point in my life. I’ve worked hard to find myself again separate from him.

    So I guess my biggest frustration and what I think I want people (especially men and some women) to know is that I don’t hate men. I don’t even fear men. I don’t look at every man as a potential abuser. I know some men are abusive but I also know many men aren’t abusive and no man is my ex. My ex is not representative of the male population. There seems to be some expectation that I should hate men. I dipped my toe in the domestic violence survivor group world but I found I didn’t hate men enough to engage in that. I didn’t even truly hate my ex. He was a victim of his sickness which needed to be treated (though I certainly don’t love him or like him and haven’t talked to him since the day I left). But I don’t hate men and I don’t fear men.

    I don’t expect every boyfriend I have to turn out just like my ex was. That also is a common belief that is held by society. I take each person as their own person.

    And finally I wish men who are scared that I’m scared of them knew that sometimes I have PTSD issues and it isn’t them. And while I have much of that under control now once in a great blue moon I may have some minor anxiety over something or pause in a thought or have a ground rule about sneaking up on me with any regularity. But it’s not them and I recognize what’s going on with me and can talk about it with the men who don’t take my PTSD personally. I don’t think they’re him. I don’t even think the men I date have the potential to be him.

    But I guess that’s what I would want people to know more than anything else.

    • Kat,

      Beautiful words. I appreciate your commentary more than I can explain for many reasons. Here are just a few:

      1 – When I wrote this I could hardly trust myself and that made it VERY difficult to trust anyone else, specifically anyone who might want to date me. That being said, it’s not that I couldn’t trust every man. I think it’s the stage I was in…in my healing. I’m not ‘many years’ out of this relationship. But time is proving to give me more strength…even the 6 months that have passed since I wrote this. THANK YOU for bringing to light a different stage, one that I aspire to get to through this process.

      2 – I find it interesting that your experience with group counseling left you with a completely different perspective than the one that was left with me. I found strength through each of the members’ stories and experienced bonding with women from completely different backgrounds than mine. Never did I leave thinking any of the women hated men, but our platform was very structured. Maybe that helped keep it from becoming a man-bashing session.

      Again, I appreciate and love what you’ve brought to the table here. And, specifically for this website, I think it’s crucial that your idea resonate with the readers.

      I do not hate all men either. I do not think every man is cruel. I think that people can be cruel: men and women alike, and I hope that people who read this certainly don’t assume that I’m implying that all men are evil, because that’s simply not the case.

      Thank you for being another voice on this. I truly am inspired by your growth.

      -Fina

  27. Reading all the stories has given me a little understanding of what my sister is thinking. And I am angry at her, for putting herself and her three girls in this never ending cycle of abuse. Im am angry, ANGRY, ANGRY that she keeps making excuses for him. I’m angry that she won’t listen to me, I’m angry that she still loves him, I’m angry that she still wants to be near him, I’m angry that she’s cut me out of her life, I’m angry that she’s picked him over all of her family, I’m angry that she thinks he can change, I’m angry that she won’t open her eyes and look at reality, I’m angry that she’s told me that he hits her after 8 years of he loves her, I’m angry she’s messed up my family life with this major burden, Im angry that she won’t disconnect from him, I’m so angry and I don’t know how to deal with this.

    • Does being angry make you feel better? Yeah, I didn’t think so; so knock it off, you’re not helping, you’re just ticking yourself off more.

      She’ll leave when she’s ready to leave. If she’ll ever be ready to leave. And not a minute sooner. You making her a spare bedroom in the basement won’t make her ready any sooner. You not allowing her bf/husband in a positive light in your life doesn’t help.

      She didn’t “pick him over your family” she probably didn’t want to hear you and your family’s judgemental and mean comments all the time; she probably didn’t want to be put down all the time and told she’s stupid, or not good enough, or why did she get involved with him in the first place, because she hears enough of that at home. She probably went to you to get away from all the arguing and the nagging and you probably did just that.

      I don’t know if putting you in your place helped you understand any more than what you did before; but hey, it’s not about you. Being angry does NOTHING, so stop it. Call her/txt her/email her/or go to her house and spend time with your neices and play nice.

      you should be angry with yourself for not being angry sooner – you know, before she had THREE kids with him. Maybe you should have been angry the first time he called her stupid. You might have had a chance then.

      Be the “get away” the “vacation” the “omg, this is so much more fun than sitting at home with my abusive partner” person. Then maybe she’ll want to leave.

      Good Luck…

      • I dont agree. Anger is a natural part of the healing process and the sister is entitled to feel angry and she is right to be angry. She can use her anger to assist her in this journey in helping her sister, when her sister is ready and in helping her to come to terms with the profound sense in injustice and outrage that the abuse has triggered in her. But telling her that she should have been angry sooner or not at all, seems to lay the blame at her feet for the abusive relationship, which is clearly not her fault. Also, by encouraging her to be the ‘saviour’ of the sister continues one of the dynamics that got the sister into this predicament in the first place – that dynamic that prince charming will save the princess and live happily ever after. The abused sister will make her journey. The other sister will make her journey too. Let them have their journey without judgement.
        Inareta, you will find a way through your anger. Let it guide you so that in time, you will know how best to be present for your sister, when she does need you and she will need you very very much. When I have white hot rage, I do some exercise, like a long walk and that helps to settle my mind and ease my body.
        🙂

    • Inareta,

      I hear you. Being angry sucks. It’s so hard to watch someone ruin everything, for something that you don’t think is worth it…something dangerous. I don’t think it’s wise or realistic to tell you that you shouldn’t be angry, but I feel as if there is something that should be said here: if you walk away from the situation (to avoid these feelings), you run the risk of her feeling more alienated and more likely to stay. From my experience, I was brainwashed into believing I deserved nothing. Because of this, I didn’t want to ask my family for help, because I didn’t think I deserved their help. I was told I was stupid, unlovable, and worthless; I didn’t want to burden others with ‘dealing’ with me.

      On top of this, she can probably see that you’re angry, too. Since she’s already dealing with one angry person (regularly), it makes it easier for her to ignore you (why would she want to deal with another angry person?). I’m NOT saying this is a rational thought process or that she’s right, but instead trying to show you inside of the mind of someone living in an abusive relationship. If she feels like she’s already getting enough ‘heat’ at home, why would she want it from someone else who was supposed to love her?

      I’m so sorry that you’re watching your sister go through this. 8 years must be so very, very hard to deal with.

      It’s my belief that showing your anger only intensifies it for you, and pushes her further away. It’s okay to vent to anyone else (like you’ve done here), but it’s probably counter-productive to do it with her.

      Best of luck to you and your family. You’re in my thoughts.

      xoxo,

      Fina

  28. Fantastic job. This is the one and only piece I have ever read that actually has it right. Every description, every part, describes my past relationship perfectly. Your voice has so much credability, I feel like you’ve actually lived through an abusive relationship, and (like me) was strong enough to walk away for good. Which you know isn’t the case with others I’ve read. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Amy,

      Thank you for standing next to me. I appreciate your kind words. I am a survivor, just like you. It’s only because of my experiences that I can write with such conviction. I know how important it is to find someone/something that feels like you can relate to (after you’ve left an abusive relationship), and I’m glad you feel you can relate to my experience.

      Strength to you,

      Fina

  29. Fiona Rankin says:

    Dear Fina
    You speak with a truth that is like an icy wind. How hard it is to put into words the difficultness of the journey and you have done so with clarity. I borrow your strength and use it as my own for this next week. You are an inspiration. Thank you.

    • I hope you only needed strength for one week because you’re strong on your own.

      Sending more strenth your way,

      Fina

  30. This is …the best. Thanks so much for writing this.

  31. Why does this author assume such a hostile tone w/ her readers? Why does this author assume she will be misunderstood and her experiences will be discounted?
    Why does this author have such a chip on her shoulder?
    A lot of women are abused. I am interested in reading her account, but am baffled by her hostility.

    • I’d say she comes by it honestly. You are right – it may put people off, it may be unwarranted with the actual reader she is talking to. But I can sure see how she came by the habit of being combative.

    • Liz,

      This was originally posted on my personal blog where my readership is, perhaps, more ‘comfortable’ with my tone. But the truth is that women who have been abused are often times seen as weak, and my goal is to show that we have voices…and those voices can be loud (as well as angry). We’re told to be certain ways, to heal as others believe we should, and the process isn’t that easy. It’s unfortunate that you are correct: statistics now show that 1 in 3 women are victims of domestic violence. So while the numbers are very high, there aren’t enough women (people for that matter, in my opinion) speaking out against such horrible acts of violence.

      This post was never designed to be read as angry or hostile toward my reader, and I’m finding it interesting that you’re reading it that way. A new perspective is refreshing and something that helps me continue growing as a writer.

      Thanks for providing another view point than one that’s already been presented, and thank you for reading.

  32. Thank You for writing this & sharing your story. I too would like to share my experience as I believe that survivors of abuse do need to openly talk about their experience, rather than keeping this as a shameful secret. Keeping secrets like this is what makes society’s eye blind to violence & leads to the continuation of this kind of behaviour of the abusers.

    I had been in an abusive relationship myself and I stayed in the relationship at first, because like you, I too felt that when he was loving and good towards me, he really was a great guy. His apologies to me and expensive gifts, after yet another one of his swearing and screaming at me, were what I thought really romantic. Then later, I stayed with the guy because I felt sorry for him: his dad had cancer & he was graduated & unemployed (leading to him feeling very angry & frustrated), so I thought, “I’d be heartless to abandon him in his tough time. I wouldn’t want someone to do this to me…”

    Thankfully I managed to end the relationship before the abuse could escalate into physical violence. And however he tried to threaten me afterwards, make disgusting sexual passes at me while he was engaged to another woman, I stayed strong and thankfully he is now out of my life. After this many years, there are times when I feel anger at him boiling up inside of me and also anger at myself for being in this relationship in the first place! But I was young & impressionable & he came into my life when I was at an emotionally low point: his abusive & manipulative mind probably sensed that and latched on to me.

    But I also feel that there are many positives in my life which came out of this experience: I became a social worker working with survivors of domestic violence & helping other women, like me, leave their violent partners. I also became wiser, stronger and know that its unlikely I would be in such a relationship, nor allow my loved ones to be in such a relationship, ever again.

    I also feel good knowing that my abuser was jealous & hated the fact that I already had an independent spirit & he could never really break me down; have me completely under his control; give up my friends, family, my social life, my professional successes, like he wanted me to. Now that I think of it, he never really had many friends or support, while I had many. My personality & my fulfilling life, my family & friends, were all strengths! I think it was because of them that I realized I deserved way better and left.

    Although, I hear he is married now and much to my sadness, I have heard that he is abusive towards his wife; there was even a police intervention. It sounds that he has become a nasty man and worse in his abuse, because he finally has found his ideal victim. I wish that one day his wife can also read about survivors stories of abuse that are in this blog or others; she realizes that she too deserves better than her abusive husband; that she is able to leave him & keep him out of her life. To my abusive ex’s wife: My good wishes, hope & support, go towards you.

  33. Great post. I am just like you a survivor from domestic abuse and I can relate so much to everything you wrote. I like number one, that is the question everybody ask and unfortunately most people who haven’t been through can understand the feeling. I want to congratulate you for leaving, it takes so much courage and the decision to leave is like jumping into an abysm, a very difficult one to take. I also want to tell you it gets better over time, I’ve been able to recover myself completly after many years of working on my own self and now I am a recovered survivor. You are strong and you can do it. Keep working on your own personal healing. If I did it you can do it and remember that you deserve the best.

  34. Thank you. This is wonderful work. God bless you on your journey.

  35. Thank you for writing about this…it is so hard to put into words…abusers thrive on our compliance and secrecy…. It took me 7 years to feel strong enough to get out from under my Svengali’s grip…He was much older than me…and I was way too young…over the years in that mental prison, I got honors in college, and got into grad school…by my first year of grad school, I realized that I had completed something that my abuser hadn’t…i had bested him and he felt threatened that I had something he couldn’t achieve for himself….his paranoia and anxiety and ravings became more frightening….long story short….it got to the point where I had to say a final “no!” and stay firm….he was in shock because he thought I was still dependent on him….he was really scared because I didn’t need him anymore….

    Because of that, I keep my distance from most men…they are considered a threat until they prove otherwise…it is terrible to have to live in constant suspicion and mistrust of others but my life experiences have shown me that a safe distance is the best action (prevention and aloofness is a lot easier than getting into some fast, sticky relationship with a needy, cloying emotional vampire….)

    • Leia,

      I agree that distance can be good but, for the sake of argument, can you see how this hinders your ability to truly live a ‘normal’ life again? This is the battle I’m fighting in my head right now. Yes, it’s easier to keep up my guard…those are high and powerful walls, too. But somewhere inside of me, my hopelessly romantic heart is saying, “You have to let go, Fina. You’re not going to fully heal from this if you don’t try to fall in love again. Living in constant fear of men isn’t good.”

      So here I am, a month after writing this piece, fighting the same war in my brain. No, I don’t want to jump into anything too soon, but I’m not sure that means that I can’t jump at all.

      What do you think?

    • Leia,
      It makes total sense that you live with a “distance” from most men, and that you don’t trust them. I spent 5 years in intensive therapy to become a survivor, and one of the most transformative moments came for me when I was complaining about how guilty I felt because I didn’t trust very many people very much, and “most men” I didn’t trust at all. My therapist said, “so what? You don’t have to trust everyone all the time. You don’t have to trust men. You especially don’t have to trust someone you don’t know very well!” And it’s true.

      Living a “normal” life doesn’t mean *going back to what you once thought was normal before*, it’s about living with, and trying to balance, your new wisdom. If that makes you mistrustful of most men, well, at least you aren’t naive and susceptible to assault. And you know what? You deserve to have others demonstrate that they are trustworthy.

      Not trusting, is not the same as having constant fear. I’m sure you don’t go running fearfully when a man tries talking to you at a party (but if something inside tells you to run – run!!!!!! You know it!!!!!), but if he asks to drive you home you have every right to be afraid and to say NO. You don’t trust that person, and there is absolutely no reason why you should.

      You don’t have to trust any man in any scenario that doesn’t feel comfortable to you. That’s normal. That’s healthy. Forcing yourself to trust a man just because he is there and acting nicely to you is not healthy, it’s dependent. And it sounds fearful, to me. Afraid of what will happen if you *don’t* trust him.

  36. Thank you, you made. Me cry but also helped me realise that each time my new husband suffers the sins of the 3 abusers who came before its not because I have failed but because I triumphed

  37. I’m very moved by your article. What can I say as a male who you don’t know and have no reason to trust? I guess what doesn’t kill us or debilitate us eventually makes us stronger. Your strength and determination come shining through. The hell with what anyone else thinks you should do. Your recovery needs to be on your schedule. Best wishes… Thanks for your perspective…

    • Thank you, Steve. My determination is what has made my strength grow, and recovery is now on MY schedule. Life is so much easier when I’m consciously making choices that are best for me. And, really, I think that’s what this is about: no matter the circumstances or situations, people have a hard time relating to something they’ve never experienced. If you tell them, “Hey look, this is where I’ve been and where my cards fell,” they’re much more eager to understand and allow you to make your own choices/heal in your own way. I’m there now, and my voice is stronger because of kind words like yours. Again, thank you.

  38. Thank you, NonExist. Your stepping in is the type of behavior that helps move our world, bit by bit, in the right direction of spreading awareness and decreasing abuse, especially if you are a man helping.

    (Abusers are, be definition, woman-haters. They don’t value and therefore, they don’t listen to women when women tell them they’re wrong. So, it will take men to step in and tell them they are wrong.)

    Sarafina mentioned Lundy Bancroft’s (a male PhD), “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.” He nails it in describing exactly how abusers think, how they act, and how our culture aids and abets them by believing their pity ploys (they always paint themselves as the victim), which are actually lies, (the pity ploys), utilizing deep lies of omission, and by disbelieving their targets (victims).

    Stanford’s famous Prison Experiments and others prove that we do, indeed, shift blame to victims, which, in a compounding manner, aids and abets the abuser even more.

    (This believing the lies of the abuser, disbelieving the truths of the target, and blame-shifting to the victim is especially prevalent in courts – a large component of why we’re having this logarithmic growth in abuse. It’s a lag time effect of years of very wrong policies and attitudes.)

    Let’s change that.

    Near the end of Lundy Bancroft’s book, he lists 4 factors he noticed were in place for the men that actually did change during their therapy in Emerge, a program for abusers in MA. (Bancroft was its director for 15 years.)

    They are:
    1. His close friends and relatives recognize that he is abusive and tell him that he needs to deal with it. They support the abused woman (or man) instead of him (or her). Bancroft says he had a much more difficult time with the abuser whose friends and family back up his excuses and encourage his disrespect the woman.

    2. He is lower on the scale of self-centeredness. He tends to show signs, early on in therapy, of having more empathy than other clients do for the pain he has caused his partner, and his empathy seems more genuine and less theatrical. The highly self-referential, arrogant abuser, on the other hand, believes that he is above correction (and the law), and considers his own opinions and insights to be the last word on the planet. So who is going to persuade him that he has been cruel and selfish?

    (We have a moral obligation to try, however. Abusers weigh their cost/benefit very keenly. When it costs them, in terms of financial consequences, and/or jail time, then they will change for the better.)

    3. His partner gets the most unreserved, unequivocal support from her friends and relatives, her religious community, and from the legal system if she needs it. The more consistently she receives the message that the abuse was in no way her fault and that her community intends to stand behind her 100%, the stronger and safer she feels to settle for nothing less than fully respectful treatment from her partner or ex-partner.

    4. He joins a high quality abuser program and stays for at least 2 years. (It takes 3 years for new neural pathways to be laid and solidified, actually.)

    Danna continuing now: Since an abuser is very aware of his (or her) cost/benefit, if we all learn the markers and manipulation methods of abusers (they are charismatic and skillful liars, but there are simple ways to trust, but verify, by getting both sides of the story for a start, among oher things to be able to spot manipulation relatively quickly), and we learn the markers and resultant behaviors of their targets (victims), and we stop blame-shifting to the victim, then we will create the context that holds the abuser accountable, and he (or she) will change.

    In court: ALL lies should be heavily sanctioned with financial penalties immediately. This includes female false claims of abuse. Note: Only 15% of abuse claims are false. That means that 85% are true. Again, often, the abusers’ lies are believed and the targets’ truths are disbelieved in court, which emboldens them to abuse even more. Abusers, when they no longer have direct access to their targets, often utilize litigation to continue the abuse. As Sandra Brown notes in her “Women Who Love Psychopaths”, they are known to pay tens of thousands to their lawyers while they are simultaneously in arrears on an equal amount of child support. So, they would rather pay the lawyers than pay for their children, that’s how their minds work. (And their lawyers laugh all the way to the bank, while the children observe it pays to be abusive.)

    There’s lag time effects to everything. I hope we can all join in to turn this tanker around.

  39. Having had several close friends who were abused by their husbands/boyfriends, your article touched a nerve with me.
    Few people take the time to understand what impact this experience has on a woman’s life.
    Not many people even try to help even if asked because they turn a blind eye saying it is not their problem.
    I wish no woman would ever have to go through what you went through.
    And every time I hear of it I want to toss the guy off a high bridge or something.
    On a couple of occasions I did intervene and give the abuser a taste of their own medicine.

    Just want to say that I have the deepest admiration for you for being powerful enough to endure that and keep going.
    Not going to give you platitudes about better days, but I am sure you know that your inner core will carry you through.

    • Thank you for your kindest of words. One foot in front of the other/one day at a time. The people in your life who’ve experienced abuse are lucky to have you. 🙂

    • I admire and applaud you for standing up to abusers. I… just wish it would really make a difference in the abuser’s choice of behavior. I don’t really know: it’s just my suspicion that it probably doesn’t. And while I don’t really know if your type of intervention makes any difference in the *abused* person’s choices of behavior, I suspect it CAN, and is therefore helpful! So, thank you!

      • I Know – Yes, most abusers will not change…in large part because there’s a seemingly endless supply of new naive targets whom they can jump on and feed off of, once their current targets have been drained by them, and the current targets now ask for the abuse to stop, and for love and respect to be reciprocated.

        Abusers give crumbs, here and there (mostly as a manipulation technique to continue to fool the current target), but, most can not sustain change for the better. As Lundy Bancroft says, (a male PhD, whose book, “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” is a high authority on describing abusers), “Some abusers return to their abusive ways like they’re reuniting with a long, lost childhood friend.”

        The solution is to educate especially loving, forgiving, and trusting-by-nature people on the markers and manipulation methods of abusers / malignant narcissists / sociopaths / psychopaths, (Bernie Madoff is either a socio or psychopath – in other words, only a very small % or socio/psychopaths kill), and also on the markers and resultant behaviors of their targets (victims), (Sarafina’s article does this) so that:
        1) Others can learn how to avoid them earlier, and thereby not become ensnared with them (especially young people at age appropriate times).
        2) We can trace it back and focus firmly on the perpetrator, instead of falling prey to the lies (especially lies of omission) of the abuser, by joining him (or her) in shifting blame to his or her target.
        3) As people age up, either the behaviors will lessen, or knowledge of the reality of the dynamics of abuse -> laws and judges that hold them accountable, instead of continuing to shift blame to the targets, as is the case now. (A very bad circular problem, indeed.)

        Awareness -> change for the better. It will be a long haul, but we need to work for a better world for our children.

        • The only way to create an environment where abusers can be forced to change (because most of them don’t realize that they need to do so) is by shining a light on the issue. I don’t expect anything I’ve written to reach an abuser and, if it did, my guess is they’d insult me, because they believe that I’m the problem. Regardless, the women who hide away in the shadows deserve to hear that they are not alone. I know this, because I was hiding up until a year ago when I decided to live out loud. If one woman sees this and feels like she can relate or share her story…or walk away from an abuser…than I’ve reached my goal. Thank you for reading.

          -Fina

          • Also – I said women because I’m typically sharing this in domestic violence organizations and most of the people involved are women. HOWEVER, men who might need to see someone else’s story are more than welcome to use my testimony for themselves. Abuse is an issue that crosses the gender ‘barrier’ more than we think it does. Survivors should stand strong together.

  40. Synonyms for abusers who can not and will not sustain change for the better (although some can fake change for the better for a time): Malignant narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths. Their behaviors are uncannily identical. The only distinction is how their brain anomalies (25% more white matter, no activity in the frontal cortex right behind the occipital bones, problems in the cingulate gyrus, among other things), came to be. MNs and sociopaths are due to nurture (actually lack there of) and childhood traumas like childhood sexual abuse or witnessing their own parents domestic violence, and psychopaths are genetic. It’s impossible to unfurl nature from nurture, however. Some sociopaths are made in utero when their fathers beat up their mothers while pregnant with them. (A popular time for abusers to increase their wife abuse. They abuse when they know their target is less able to combat them. They do it on purpose to further weaken their target, and to disable not only their minds and bodies, but also their resolve to leave.) Sociopaths created in utero were born that way, but not because of genetics. Interesting twist: James Fallon, UC Irvine professor who’s studied the brains of psychopaths for 20 years has proven that nurture and life choices can override a genetically psychopathic brain. (Thank God for that.) The flip side is that lack of nurture and life choices can cause a non-genetic psychopathic brain to end up looking like one. My point: Awareness of the markers and manipulation methods of abusers + awareness of the markers of their targets’ (victims’) resultant behaviors -> change for the better.

  41. I see a woman who, for starters, has survived in a man’s world since birth.
    I see a woman who should look back and see everything she’s accomplished, everything she’s survived and endured.
    I see a woman doing the hardest job in the world, marriage – a job that goes kerblooey 50 percent of the time – and doing the job with the worst possible partner.
    I see a woman dealing with the worst possible betrayal — the man who promised to love her above all, becoming her worst enemy, doing all he can to make all her choices as hard as possible, or impossible.
    I see a woman who has brushed off broken bones and burns and cuts and bruises that would reduce most men to blubbering idiots.
    I see a woman who has come closer than almost anyone, to the very real threat of death, without collapsing; the only ones who face death the way she does are our troops, but this woman isn’t getting any medals for her heroism.
    I see a woman who has been held hostage by a terrorist for years, without falling apart.
    I see a woman who has had to live like a fugitive, without collapsing.
    I see a woman who has escaped successfully, turning her whole life upside down, new home, new work, new school, new town, enduring enough stress to kill most normal people.
    I see a woman who has survived the betrayal of friends and family.
    I see a woman who has survived the indifference of the police and the skepticism of judges.
    I see a woman who has come even farther than most of the other survivors, just by reaching out for help and taking action to save herself.
    I see a woman who has accomplished so many extraordinary things, even though she was completely unprepared to go on that journey — she didn’t get to go to “I’m Married to a Psychopath” boot camp.
    I see a woman with more capacity for patience and self-denial than an abbey full of monks.
    I see a woman who is capable of loving, no matter how many times her love has been wasted, like water poured down a sink.
    If I had to go on some dangerous spy mission in a hostile country, this is the woman I would take, because she can do anything, solve anything, endure anything.
    If someone wrote this woman’s life story – Ian Fleming, perhaps – no one would buy it, because it’s too incredible. Angelina Jolie would have to play her in the movie, but she’d need months in the gym just to keep up with all the stunts.
    I see a woman who was simply amazing before she was hijacked, who is just waiting to bust out and become someone even more amazing than we knew was possible before.
    I see a woman who is extraordinary.

  42. Sorry to hear all these stories… I am a survivor of Domestic Violence over a period of 15 years, and I truly understand the not leaving part. I thought I could change him, it was my fault, believe me all these things went through my head. But after having the sixth sense if I didnt get out soon, I would be dead in a short time I left. He tried to follow but friends and family were on my side. I am now helping Divas in Defense write a book to help other survivors.. Looking for your story…. send them to editor@flagproject.org One step at a time and one hug at a time, we can end DV.

  43. You go girl!

  44. Never been in your shoes but I admire you that you’ve left, that you’ve found enough strenght to run away. You are brave! You are my hero.

  45. Hi Fina,

    I Just wanted to say thank you for telling your story; I know that it will have helped many women either in a similar situation as you were or who have gone through such an experience. As the daughter of someone who was emotionally and physically abused, I’d like to tell you that you should be commended for your bravery – I never understood why my mum stayed until I realized what my dad was actually like when I was in my late teens. They are so manipulative and charming to the outside world. They seem to care far more about other people thinking they are an excellent father/partner rather than actually being one.

    Anyway, thank you and I hope one day in the future you can look back on that terrible time and feel like it was a million lifetimes ago . . .

    Emily x

  46. Fina… I have been one of those who asks why you stayed. Your answer completely changed my perspective and I thank you for that. The insight I got from this is really a gift

    I wish you well with your therapy and your work at recovery. I’ll hold positive thoughts for your continued strength and future happiness.

    • Thank you so very much for your kind words, Gary. Thank YOU for reading and trying to understand…and for caring enough to try to ask questions that make more sense (to the abused). Therapy has been the absolute BEST thing I have done for myself and I’m so very, very thankful that there are organizations in my area that specialize in domestic violence and trauma.

      Your comment absolutely brightened my day.

      Take care,

      Fina

  47. Thank you for your wonderful post Fina, and I’m looking forward to following your blog. I ended my second abusive relationship about 9 months back. I’m still struggling with why I ended up in the same situation, and whether I will end up back here again. But even though I did, I am proud of the improvements I made: I left sooner, I didn’t believe him this time, I believed myself, and this time I went to the police and got a DVO. It all seems so basic to people who haven’t been in an abusive relationship, but each victory is so huge to me. I still live in fear, he still tries to make me afraid, but I will keep making conscious decisions not to be afraid until I get to the point where I am not afraid any more. I hope the same for you.

    • Liz,

      You’re fantastic and strong. Thank you for being so honest. In my opinion, it’s very difficult to see an abusive relationship for what it is right away. An abusive man has to act loving for a woman to stick around. I’m glad you got out sooner this time. And that you’ve taken more steps to protect yourself. THAT is progress.

      Much love,

      Fina

  48. Thank you for writing this.

    I am a man who was the abused partner in a relationship.

    The worst part is that, as there was no violence, and I was bigger and stronger, I often wonder weather it really was abuse.

    I identify most with the section about why you stayed.

    Thank you.

    • Mike, thank YOU. Thank you for being able to relate to this and find something helpful in it even though you are a man. Abuse is abuse, and the victim and abuser can be male or female. Thank you for not knee-jerk criticizing the author or “feminism” or The Good Men Project, and just responding to the piece straight-up as a human being. You’re a class act.

    • Mike,

      There are many different forms of abuse and many different forms of abusers. Mine happened to cross boundaries on every type of abuse.

      I think we all stay because our hearts won’t allow us to believe that someone could be so cruel. When you’re generous with your own heart, it’s difficult to understand how someone else could be so selfish.

      And, like Lori said, thanks for being bold enough to stand up for yourself and for abuse victims (male or female).

      I hope you’re finding comfort and finding healing,

      Fina

    • Yes! Not only does emotional abuse count as abuse, if generally does more permanent damage than physical abuse.

  49. J P McMahon says:

    Sarafina, I am glad to hear that you escaped from such a horrible situation with this asshole, and that you are using your writing and therapy to deal with it in a healthy way. But I was troubled by the fact that you only mentioned friends and family once in the article, and then it was only when you told them how wonderful the asshole was. What was their reaction when the asshole started beating you up and emotionally abusing you? What about the asshole’s friends and family? Did you ever to talk to them about the way that he was treating you? Did the kind of people they were give you indication of this asshole’s pathology? I almost have the feeling that you were isolating yourself from others, and you say that you have trouble trusting other people now. I think that you really need to expand the range of people that you can have an emotionally intimate relationship with, or you’re going to end up with another asshole like Scott.

    • Hi JP.

      Expanding the range of people that I can have an emotionally intimate relationship with IS on the list of things I need to do, but that goal doesn’t stem from being isolated from friends and family. The truth is, and this is not specific to my case, that abusers alienate their partners from their friends and family as a way to keep the secret as long as possible.

      In my own situation, his friends and family ignored the abuse. They knew it was happening (as I wasn’t the first) and chose to avoid the topic because it was too painful. He had children, and they knew his kids would be taken away if his abuse were ever to be noticed. So they allowed me to stay in that environment, in order to keep the kids in their lives…but that’s an entirely different post.

      My friends and family are around now, but it’s hard for them to hear about and/or discuss. Some of them feel as if they should have done more and others just focus on their hatred of Scott. Neither of those responses benefits me or my healing, so I avoid having conversations with them about the abuse and will continue to do so, until I’m ready to explain to them. I love and respect my friends and family and hope that one day we’ll be able to discuss these issues without tears,

      Thanks,

      Fina

      • J P McMahon says:

        Fina, Thanks for such a beautifully written response to my post. I tried to not ask one of the five questions that you shouldn’t ask someone who has been abused. I have looked at your blog, and you are really a good writer! I’m sure that your students benefit immensely from your prowess with the written word. I don’t think that some family members focusing on how heinous Scott is, is a bad thing. He is obviously a really bad person, and anything that can be done to keep you away from him should be done. Among the “Good Men” of this world, anyone who abuses an animal, a child, or a woman is considered an asshole and should be shunned…or worse. If your folks or friends are going to bust a cap in Scott’s ass, that is a whole other thing, and should be discouraged. In any case, you seem like a good person who turned a bad thing that happened to them into something that was both artistic and helpful to others. Thanks!

  50. GirlGlad4theGMP says:

    Fina, thank you. While it was a difficult read and it brought up my own past, it it great to see a survivor’s point of view.

    What I wanted to say was that, yes, things get easier, and yes, you will eventually get to a point where trust and faith in your fellow man does return. I was very young when it happened to me (think early teens), and it made his lies very difficult to distinguish, but it also gave me time to bounce back (especially helpful in the emotionally formative period of teens/twenties). This I can say: I know you can get there…I know because I got there. I’m ok, I can trust people, I know all people are NOT inherently bad and want to hurt me.

    That said, does it ever disappear completely? No, never. Sometimes a gesture, a place, an item brings up the feelings, the memories. The silver lining? It does make you strong…and it sharpens your instincts.

    Thanks again for sharing this piece. I wish you all the best moving forward. 🙂

  51. I understand this story too, though my relationship was nowhere near as bad as this one at all, but it could have turned out that way. I was fifteen, desperately seeking affection after coming out of a bad time, and I let the guy manipulate me in ways I never saw myself getting manipulated. I let him emotionally neglect me to the point where I started cutting myself for him. He’d tell me he loved me, then start saying how he was dating other girls and doing the same things with them as he did to me. These girls weren’t even real, I came to find out later. And then I found out he was beating his mom and wouldn’t believe it. Instead I insisted on believing she was beating him because I felt sorry for him since he didn’t have a father and the emotional support he needed. Luckily, the relationship ended because his mom didn’t want him being with me–being in any relationship for reasons that had nothing to do with his age and everything to do with who he was. She didn’t want what was happening to her to start happening to me.

  52. Thank you for sharing your story. Your story helped me to understand what abuse means and healing from abuse means. I really appreciate you sharing what you feel when others ask you why stayed. It’s something I wonder but reading your story really helped understand how aggressive that question is. I wish you a steady and continual healing process! You can heal! You are healing! Thank again!

    • It’s a very aggressive question and, I think, one that many people ask in hopes that it will help them connect with the abused party. However, in my case, it’s only proven to drive distance between me and the other party. While that is sad, because it’s just about communicating effectively, I think the easy answer is to be knowledgable that there are other questions that can be asked.

      Thank you for taking the time to read this and for attempting to empathize with others.

      I am growing, healing, and becoming happier by the minute!

      xoxo,
      Fina

      • ((((((FIna!))))) We are all so proud of you!!! I can relate to the emotional abuse and manipulation you went through as well as the physical threats. Youre absolutely right. My ex was extremely charming and sooo nice and likeable when outside our apt. At home he would tell me I was being controlling if I aske him to rinse a plate please so it would be easier for me to wash later. No one believed me either or at least they had serious doubts because I had talked him up when we were dating. I also think the reason people dont see the truth, is that seeing the truth just feels unpleasant to them. Its more comfortable to just join this worlds, blame the woman mentality. I laud your bravery and fortitude in what it took to share this with people. God definately understands. God values men and women equally without a doubt and as a Christian I can assure you he is so happy you made the right choice. Even if God did help you, you are still a strong woman either way. You can definately be proud of the very brave choices you had to make as woman emotionally isolated and misunderstood in that harrowing situation. Many other women have been and still are in your shoes. I want to recommend a book that I know will help your healing further: Its called “Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bankcroft. Bankcroft is an intelligent man who works with these types of people on a daily basis. He will help you understand so much. God bless you!

  53. Peter Houlihan says:

    Harrowing stuff, thank you for sharing. By writing that you certainly proved number 5 wrong.

  54. I’ve been there too. Thanks for writing this. Thank you to everyone who posts their story. I’m glad we got out and are walking strong. Still. We’ll be strong and happy.

  55. I’ve been there. Stayed for the same reasons…there had to be something wrong that I could fix or that time would fix; I’d already talked him up high & mighty to so many friends & family members and by the time the abuse started I was 12 hours from anyone I knew, married, & pregnant. He was smooth. My friends & family adored him and he knew how to even manipulate them into thinking I was just prone to dramatics; after all I was just 20 years old & pregnant while he was 28 & successful.

    I was able to make my escape with my son, when he was 13 months old. We lived on random couches, sometimes even in vehicles I’d be fortunate enough to run across cheap enough to spend a paycheck on. It was almost three years of living that way before even my own mother finally believed that he was anywhere near like I’d described. She’d only made that decision after he threatened her & two of my younger brothers.

    My son turned 9 this past August. My current husband & I live 10 hours from my hometown, unlisted, and I’m fairly sure my ex still doesn’t know my married name. I still live in fear. My husband even has some of the same fears as I do. We moved away 2 years ago and haven’t even gone back to visit my mother or other family members out of fear he’ll find out I’m in the area and try to cause problems.

    I freak out every time I find out he’s been released from prison or the sex offender registry folks have no clue to his whereabouts. I’m always on guard when I know he’s roaming free, even with a registered address. I’ve been able to enjoy life a bit more this last week because i found out he was back in prison, in a maximum security prison this time, 16 hours from my home. In July 2012 though he’s up for parole and will likely be released. Then the worrying will begin again, I’m sure.

    My current husband is awesome. We’ve been together for over 7 years now. Married for 4 years. I would be lying if I said a small piece of me doesn’t fear that it’s just a matter of time before the cycle starts up with him. I know it’s not fair to him, intellectually, but that thought is always there. Always lurking. Ready to snap and say “I told you so”. It takes time and patience…one step at a time, of a staircase that turns into a slide at random. But I’ve pushed though. I’ve made it this far. I’m not giving up. I will overcome this too. In due time.

    • I would be lying if I said a small piece of me doesn’t fear that it’s just a matter of time before the cycle starts up with him. I know it’s not fair to him, intellectually, but that thought is always there. Always lurking. Ready to snap and say “I told you so”. This Stephi is the story of my life as recent as 12 hours ago!

      Your story brought me to tears,no words can make you feel better only time and I wonder if that will ever change???

      • K –

        I can say that the mental jump to that line of thinking is less frequent and less powerful, over the last 7 years. My husband & I have our own pasts that have shaped our current behaviors & thoughts, but we continually work on ourselves and our relationship. It’s not perfect by any means and I’m not the perfect wife by any stretch of the imagination, but practice has helped us both be better spouses, friends, and parenting partners.

        As far as the stuff with my ex husband goes…I’m about 8 years out of that relationship…legally almost 5 years out of it, but because we have a child together I’ll never really be fully out of it, even if we are able to terminate my ex’s rights to him & my husband adopts him. He will always be my son’s father. The best I can hope is that my son learns from the example set for him – that it’s okay to disagree, but it is never okay to badger, demand, harass, hit, etc someone just because you disagree and even disagree strongly. That it’s always best to be kindly honest, even if what you say may hurt someone else’s feelings or make them angry…and to always respond mildly even if your feelings are hurt. Then listen when communicating these things so that you are able to reach a mutually satisfying agreement or understanding.

        As I see my son practice these things with his little sister, who is 5 years younger than him, it reassures me that we are on the right path somewhere. They squabble and such as siblings will but he does take the lead in settling their disputes, with only moderate refereeing…all part of growing up and learning.

        ~Stephi~

    • “I would be lying if I said a small piece of me doesn’t fear that it’s just a matter of time before the cycle starts up with him. I know it’s not fair to him, intellectually, but that thought is always there. ”

      Once burnt twice shy. It’s a protective mechanism. Do you know why it’s not wrong – because you have identified it and watch for it, and you don’t act on it without thinking.

  56. Thank for your honesty.

    I agree with all of your points; I’d just change the “Five” into “I am strong”. Because you are!

    I agree with the dating thing as well, but I’d like to add only this: just because you were scarred by a crazy man, don’t hold onto the fear that the world is all like that. Most people are good people.
    You’ll need your time to get back some trust… and take all the time that you need.
    But don’t give up hope and trust for good… because living without them, is like staying into a black hole.

    • Therapy, my dear sir, is helping me realize this. Intellectually, it’s an easy concept. As a survivor diagnosed with PTSD, there are physical reactions that have made this almost impossible. I am working on it, as I feel I deserve to be loved and/or love others. One day at a time. <3

  57. Thanks for this article…it’s so honest and real….having gone through a similar nightmare myself, this brings back a lot of old memories and feelings….glad you escaped!

  58. @Dave: “Personally if I dated a Girl who was not a police officer but carried a Gun I would stay the hell away from her…”

    What? That seems VERY narrow minded. She could have one for protection, because she likes to get stress out at the shooting range, she hunts, or had a gun passed down to her. It really puts the blame back on the author to say that she should have known better than to date an otherwise wonderful-seeming guy just because he owned a gun.

    • I actually get along well with my ex-girlfriend, who is now a judge in family court — she sees a lot of domestic violence and knows the issue very well. Even she says “yep, get these girls some guns!”

  59. Lisa — Point taken. Appreciate that you addressed it. I’m a published writer, and have actually considered submitting. Now I might actually do so. Thx.

  60. Bad Man — Thank you for saying that.

    Fina — My heart breaks for what you’ve been through, and I applaud your strength and your courage. But I wonder why this essay was published on a men’s site. No, I don’t think that men need to hear this story more than women, particularly. I think bad people are bad people, men and women both.

    I don’t visit GoodMenProject often because of essays like this one. I came here originally hoping that this site would somehow provide something to counterbalance the shame society places on men for being men. That it would somehow allow men to speak out on issues that society thinks are unworthy of discussion, because, well, men have it all don’t they, so why don’t they just stop whining. Well, unfortunately, this site only feeds into the shallowness of what we see elsewhere. It perpetuates the idea that all men are at fault for the actions of some, that all men are somehow responsible for all the abuses women have suffered.

    I have known bad men in my life, but those men, quite frequently, were bad to other men too, not just to women. They would at first charm the socks off anyone from either gender, but would turn into monsters when something didn’t go their way. I have known evil women, who see it their life’s mission to degrade all men because they themselves suffered, who believe men can and should be mocked, scorned, and vilified, and society will clap its collective paws and snicker.

    I sympathize with every individual who has been wronged, man or woman. But i do not sympathize with the idea that we should vilify an entire segment of society because of the actions of some.

    P.S. Fina, this is in no way directed at you. It is directed at the site’s publishers, who have continued to disappoint me with their misguided agenda.

    • Lisa Hickey says:

      Hi ChezMast (and BadMan, above),

      We are a community site. That means that publish pieces that our community submits to us, or finds that they think are of value.

      So the first thing I will say is if you want more stories of men, SUBMIT them. Anyone who comments here has the right to submit. If you don’t want to write, go out and find people who do. Find us the people who will write the stories you want to see. It’s really as simple as that. You can submit here: http://goodmenproject.submishmash.com/submit or email me at lisa at goodmenproject dot com. It really is that easy.

      On any given day, we have 38 different posts up. 38. Most of those are written by men, for men, about men or whatever variation on that theme you are looking for. Just because there are one or two or three others that are a women’s point of view about an issue related to me does not mean we are not a men’s site.

      If you want this to be a site that is *exclusively* for men, we are not that site. There is no “misguided agenda.” We don’t intend to be exclusive, ever.

      If that is what you want, surely there are other sites that have what you are looking for?

      But in all sincerity, and with all due respect, if there are stories you think we should be running that we are not — write them. Submit them. Or get people you know to submit them. It really is that easy.

    • I like this site. Its pretty good. Not perfect. But pretty good. Its really the only site where you will find both feminists and anti-feminists arguing. On feminist sites, anti-feminists are banned or heavily modded. On anti-feminist sites (e.g. spearhead), no feminist visits. But here you will find both feminists and anti-feminists arguing and sometimes coming to some understanding. Its rare but it happens.

      On the whole I would say this site definitely reflects a feminist POV. But it does tolerate other viewpoints which is good. How many other sites are like this? I can only think of feminist critics but that site gets a lot less traffic and I doubt many feminist ever visit it. Although they really really should because I really do think that what feminism needs is a good strong thorough critique.

  61. The Bad Man says:

    Anything similar from an abused man? The experiences are the same.

    • I, too, would like to see the perspective of a man. However, it would be ignorant to assume that the information provided here isn’t pertinent to men, too. What brother, father, uncle, or best friend wouldn’t want to know what’s going on in the mind of a woman in their life who was abused?

      There is no reason to discount a woman’s account because this is a men’s site. Abuse changes the lives of everyone that comes into contact with it, men and women.

      Perhaps you shouldn’t label yourself as ‘the bad guy’. Your name is more befitting of someone who can’t empathize with the ideas presented. And that just doesn’t seem like your agenda.

      • The Bad Man says:

        I can empathize, simply because men’s and women’s experiences are more similar than the media tells us by portraying abuse as a gender issue rather than a human issue.

        However, since this is supposedly men’s site, there should be a focus on men’s experiences rather than women’s.

        I know I’m just kidding myself. The majority of readers for this feminist/women’s site are women.

        • I know this contradicts what you seem to want to think, but the stats I’ve seen are that GMP ‘s readership is 72% male and 28% female. The vast majority of the articles are about men’s issues. Just because you see a few that are not, please don’t generalize irrationally. Get a sheet of paper and a pencil, and go to the home page. Scroll through as many articles as you can, and count for yourself.

          My opinion may be automatically discounted by you because I’m a woman, but I hope not. What I believe is that a men’s site that was completely devoid of female writers, perspective and commenters would not be as good–not as true, not as relevant, not as authentic, not as enriching. I believe the same about female sites, and always enjoy seeing a few articles about and by men mixed in with the otherwise all-female commentary. It keeps things real.

          If you want a site that is 100% male, 100% by men, 100% about men, they are out there. Constantly complaining about GMP seems unproductive. You know that the mission does involve including a female perspective, in moderation, and that is the reality of the site. Men’s issues do dominate–you just jump right onto anything “female” and this is short-sighted. Men have women in their lives and live in a world that is half female. Seriously, get out that piece of paper and get back to me on whether you truly find the focus to be predominantly on women and their issues rather than on men.

          “However, since this is supposedly men’s site, there should be a focus on men’s experiences rather than women’s.” Do the experiment…can’t wait to hear what you find.

  62. This hit WAY to close to home! Thank you for sharing, some of your words were spoken myself came from my own lips! Although there was no guns in our home (I always say Id be dead if there were) I was in an abusive marriage HORRIBLE that started as verbal abuse then escaladed to physical I escaped from it October 10 1999. Bruised but NOT broken. Although I am remarried and it is 12 years later it still haunts me. It embarrassed me when people know what a strong woman I portray that I allowed such abuse. I was embarrassed, stayed for security, my daughters, my family, didnt want to be a statistic in divorce and on and on. In the end I walked away from my home, MY MONEY,my security everything just to not have to be hit anymore and allow my daughters to see it anymore!!! Although I am in a new marriage I will never fully heal I will never fully trust anyone and I still jump when my husband, my daughters or ANYONE makes an aggressive move toward something I jump. Flashbacks stopped a few years ago but they still come back from time to time……..My ex and ANY man or woman for that matter that raises a hand to a person are evil evil people . Fina peace will come take care of YOU!!!!!

    • Thank you for sharing your story, K. I’m so happy that you’re in a better place now. Truth be told, I’m not sure that the haunting will ever go away. But I’m hopeful that it will become more and more manageable. I think speaking out about violence helps the process. I wish you, your beautiful girls, and your new husband all the best.

  63. There was a time in my life when I said “how could they possibly stay? Don’t they have friends, have family? Can’t they go there? Just get out?”

    And then, one day, I found myself being the one unable to leave. I didn’t even have the physical constraints OR the physical abuse that you describe holding me back. I was emotionally, verbally, and sexually preyed upon. My self esteem was completely obliterated. I didn’t leave – for two years.

    Now – I understand. As much as I can understand.

  64. Thank you Nina for writing this. I am still struggling to write mine. I toe my way toward it, sometimes, but there are still too many questions and too much conflicting pain for me to make any sense of it. Of course, it’s senseless and waiting for it to make sense just silences me. (http://wp.me/p14SGm-r5 is one of those attempts).

    I am safe. It is over. I know that he could, at any moment, come on back in. But that is not the silence, now. The silence is these very points you make: that others will see it as a weakness, will ask why I stayed or why I was so weak as to get there in the first place, will suggest I need inner healing, will tell me I need to find someone new. My self-esteem suddenly becomes everyone else’s business, becomes the culprit, and something everyone else knows more about than I do.

    I am glad you’ve written this. Thank you.

  65. I’m a random stranger that doesn’t know anything about you or what you’ve been through. I can’t relate and I won’t tell you that I can. I’ve never been physically abused or brutally battered. But I want to challenge you to read this book: http://www.buy.com/prod/inner-healing-and-deliverance/204706362.html. You don’t have to buy it. If you give me your mailing address I’ll send it to you personally. Why? I’m still a naive person that’s out to save the world. If there is any part of you that wants to be healed and made whole again. I can guarantee you that this is a great first step. Every day I bet my life on it.

  66. Whenever anyone asks me why I stayed, I ask back, “why not ask him was he abusive instead?” – thank you for showing me that I’m not nuts to fire this question back.

  67. Julie Gillis says:

    A truly amazing piece. I wish more people would take these words to heart.

  68. Wow, what a stunningly courageous essay. You are at least able to articulate what is helpful to you and what is not, and that is so key. People are well-meaning, but often say the “wrong” things, and it is so hard. I have not been through what you have, but I have experienced all the well-meaning souls who wanted to know why I stayed in a bad marriage, why I didn’t start dating again sooner after the divorce, and so on. Everyone has to set boundaries and live their life–THEIRS–not the life someone else thinks you should live. You have so much strength, clarity of vision, and self-awareness. Thank you for sharing your story, and for being an inspiration to others who have suffered in an abusive relationship. You are healing, and you are doing it in your own way, at your own pace, just as it should be. Take care and all the best.

  69. Beautifully written. This needed to be said. I have several friends who escaped abusive relationships, and, I admit, I was guilty of a lot of the actions mentioned above. Never having been in such a situation gives one a skewed perspective on it. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who have that “Well I would never stay with someone who abused ME!” attitude.

    Hell, i grew up with abusive parents, and was loyal to them until I was 23 out of a sense of obligation, and a feeling that I deserved it. Yet, I still looked down my nose at women who became trapped by abusive men. It took meeting abuse survivors to change my tune.

    And to the above commenter who said “all men need to hear this”, I applaud your short-sightedness and obvious prejudice for its enormity. EVERYONE, regardless of gender, needs to hear this. One of my closest friends is an abuse survivor, and its mainly her female friends who act superior when the subject is brought up.

  70. God may not be the savior of your situation, but He is the Savior of your Soul. Your courage is astounding. I know, because I lived in an abusive relationship for many years. I’ve been single now, and not dating, and still healing, for 15 years. We make our own choices that put us in bad situations. There is little healing and redemption from those choices until we see our own part in it, remembering “If you had known better, you would’ve done better.” And we need to examine our past, not just with the thought, “What led me to make those choices?”, but “What did I learn from that experience?”

    • Please do not walk the Earth telling yourself that you would have done better, if you had only known better. Please try to heal yourself by acknowledging what you’re worth (which is a lot more than an abuser will allow you to feel). You’re 15 years away from the abuse? That takes one hell of a person and a whole lot of strength. Yes, attempt to understand what led you to your choices. Yes, try to find the silver lining by looking back at what you’ve learned. No, never EVER tell yourself to ‘see’ your own part. Nothing you could have done, and nothing you will ever do, gives anyone the right to abuse you. Ever.

      • Perfect response.

      • Love your Response..your Knowledge,your Voice and Courage…
        I have never had experience with your situation,but I know exactly what you feel when you speak about Judging..
        Our world would be paradise if people stopped pointing fingers and put out their hand to help us get through..no matter what the situation is..
        I think of it this way,when u feel your being judged know that the person who is judging will someday find themselves being the one who is judged..Perfection does not exist in humanity..
        Good luck,I applaud your honesty and strength..#Awareness

      • Thank you, Fina. But my own part was choosing him in the first place. There were definitely red flags–lots of them–that I chose to ignore, thinking “love will be enough” and lacking understanding & education about the complexities of the abusive person. Attempting to understand my choices *is* looking at my part, imo. I take ownership of that. Without recognizing my part and putting the blame entirely on him, I’m doomed to be a victim. No way! Now: Eyes opened, radar up. I should’ve paid attention the first time. I didn’t know better then like I do now. I know it’s not this way for everyone, but it is for me.

        • Thank you for the clarification. I believe that it’s incredibly intelligent to learn that there are, in fact, warning signs. That is not how I read your original response. Knowledge of warning signs is a great defense and something I think EVERY person should have, regardless of whether they’ve experienced abuse or not.

          I wish you nothing but the best in your journey. Stay strong. Keep moving. And keep loving. Sometimes it’s the only thing left to do.

          xoxo,

          Fina

  71. My brother, who is VERY Catholic, continues to wonder WHY I didn’t stay? He said that it was my cross to bear, and that it must have been something in me that provoked him, and that all I needed to do was stand up for myself. He told me that he continues to pray that we will someday be a family again. I stopped trying to explain, and it has created distance between us. I am fine with that.

    • It doesn’t make sense to those who have never been through it. It never will. Both my parents went through abusive relationships. So did my sister. So did I. Maybe my family has something in us that allows abusers to take advantage of us, I don’t know. I feel sorry for your brother. He is missing out on your presence because he doesn’t understand.

    • i heard teh same things but from HIS family.His mother told my sister i must have deserved it, I should have stayed because she did. In the end she said I left her baby all alone and took his babies. I said he was going to kill me he hit me so hard I had a hand print on my face and blacked out she still felt I should have stayed. His brother will not even speak tome (no loss) STAY STRONG

  72. As someone who has been through this abusive cycle, I can attest to everything she has said. Her story is worse than mine, but I can see myself in that position had I not left when I did. The relationship was heading in that direction, and I often heard about how he’d kill me if I cheated on him. But the path is the same.

    It takes all your strength to get out of a relationship like that. It always starts out so nice, they’re always everything you wanted. They spend a few months being wonderful people until they’ve found all your weaknesses, your hopes, and your fears. They then start a slow transformation into a monster, and they begin their work of dismantling all that you are.

    It starts with verbal abuse. They tease you, call you names, do what they can to pick at you. But they don’t do it every day at first. But it starts, and once they’ve picked a hole in you, they change again. They start in on the heavier emotional abuse. That’s when the trapping really begins. Because they still show you something that you can ‘fix’, something that you want to help. And when that goes wrong, well, that’s your fault now. And it helps them blow open the hole even larger, because they’re using you against yourself.

    You throw away everything you are, everything you loved. They physically isolate you from your friends and family, or people who would otherwise see the damage that’s happening. And when you finally snap, that’s when their fun and joy begins. My abusive ex would provoke me into a blind rage. I was simply his toy. At that point, it’s not about trying to fix them, it’s not about who they were before – you’re broken. You become a caged animal, filled with rage and fear and sadness. You have no personality. You are gone.

    It’s not like they are horrible right from the get go. These abusers are master manipulators. They are patient predators, waiting to exploit you. They work slowly. They find your limits and test them, subtly, every day. You don’t see it coming.

    Sarafina, I know where you have been. And you have enormous strength and power to escape from that situation. And I wholly agree with your last statement. Don’t ask why we stayed. It’s far more complicated and confusing than you may understand. You cannot apply logic. Or assume that it’s as simple as getting up and leaving. It’s not. Never ask why we stay.

  73. Thank you for such an inspiring peak into your pain… you sooo eloquently have expressed yourself… I am at the age of 40.. after many cycles of abuse from childhood to my last partner…. I consciously made the choice of remaining single and traveled the healing path for the last 8 years… and life is good.. :)) Thank you again… peace be with you

  74. I cried when I read this. I know EXACTLY where you’re coming from. I feel so many of the feelings that you do. I am so happy you are alive, and got away.

  75. 21cManhood says:

    This is something we as men need to hear. again and again. thank you.

    • I don’t understand the last comment “This is something we as men need to hear. again and again. thank you.” it’s got nothing to do with me being a man, I don’t hurt anyone and I don’t need to be reminded that I am not supposed to hurt people. Personally if I dated a Girl who was not a police officer but carried a Gun I would stay the hell away from her.. I don’t know you but I am sorry for what you have experienced.
      for 21cmanhood- if you need to be reminded not to hurt people I think you should get help ASAP

      • Kirsten (in MT) says:

        Personally if I dated a Girl who was not a police officer but carried a Gun I would stay the hell away from her.

        Why?

        • “LIKE” ….. no doubt! I’d like to be carrying a gun, not to manipulate a man, but for protection. And not just for me, but for those around me. You ever hear those stories of average citizens with legal guns saving lives because some jerkwad with an illegal gun decided to start shooting a place up? Yeah, I’d be the average citizen dropping the jerkwad. And I’m a chick. I’m a wife. I’m a mother (of small children, which is the reason I DON’T carry one right now….but perhaps that should be more of a reason…..which is a whole other conversation.)

      • Dave,

        Your comment, that wouldn’t date someone with the gun, only puts blame back on the me. It’s kind of like saying, “Well, you should have figured out that someone with a gun was going to harm you,” so the abuser is let off the hook again, and the survivor is judged for her choice to stay. While I’m sure that isn’t what your intention was, I’m using it as another example of how an abused woman sees the world, and how people on the outside contribute to their views.

        The problem with guns isn’t the gun itself, it’s the owner, and not every owner is going to use them to harm someone.

        Thanks for coming by,

        Fina

  76. Thank you for sharing this, Fina. You truly are inspiring.

  77. Chris Flux says:

    This is inspiring. I really admire your strength and courage. It is the abuser who is weak, not you.

  78. This is stunningly beautiful. Thank you for this, I’m astounded by your strength and healing.

Trackbacks

  1. […] you wrote about in your article “5 Things an Abused Woman (This Woman) Wants You to Know”  is so similar to my current situation.  The parallels are truly […]

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