As Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes to an end, I want to acknowledge all victims and survivors of DV. You matter, you’re important and together we will rise.
Today is the last day of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month but every day of every month of every year is an opportunity to help someone get free from domestic violence. We need to learn to read between the lines. It takes a victim of domestic violence longer than a month to leave, to heal, to feel worthy, valued and loved. I challenge you the next time you are at the mall, your children’s school, a sporting event or even at your church service to look around the room and remember the staggering statistics of Domestic Violence. You will never see Domestic Violence in the same light again.
1 in 3 women have been victims of (some form of) physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
1 in 4 women have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
1 in 5 women in the United States has been raped in their lifetime. Almost half of female (46.7%) victims of rape in the United States were raped by an acquaintance. Of these, 45.4% of female rape victims were raped by an intimate partner.
1 in 7 women have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States
On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide
1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence
A month of awareness is just a pebble in the sand compared to the vast amount of pebbles that lie on the ocean floor.
Speak Out Today!
How many people do you engage with on a daily basis? How many of those people are smiling outward, but on the inside it is a different story? Maybe there are dealing with pain, anger, abuse, abandonment, suicide, depression, anxiety, sadness, hate, resentment or loss of hope. All the emotional turmoil neatly tucked away to a deep hidden sacred place. Where they will do anything to protect their facade with a smile while their heart and soul are so broken.
We all have been there one time or another in our life. I spent many years hiding behind a smile. When someone would approach me and ask how my day ways my famous words were, “I’m fine” followed by a smile. I would cheerfully reply with such a heavy heart and my eyes still stinging from crying the night before. My response was in no way meant to be misleading or dishonest however it was a means of preservation, protection and control.
It is very common in our society today to associate crying and pain with weakness. That it’s not okay to ask for help. I was blessed to have amazing women in my life in the midst of my hell. Those friends took the time to read between the lines of, “I’m Ok.” For so many they don’t have the support or friends to read between their lines. We have to make it our mission to look for those that are hurting, who may feel they are not seen or heard. You can learn a lot about someone even a perfect stranger just by their demeanor and body language.
We have to learn to read between the lines. I didn’t realize until many years after I had left my ex-husband that my friends became better than any FBI agent. They had serious skills! Not only would they stalk my house in the late hours of the night but they picked up on the clothes I would wear and from the words I would say. The black dress resembled the pain I had endured the night or nights before. I couldn’t wear jeans or a form fitting blouse after a night of being beat because my skin would hurt as the clothing would brush against my skin. I resorted to wearing this black dress I had because it was flowy and it wouldn’t rub up against my skin. My friends would soon come to Hate that dress. Yet the never once judged me for going back day after day. For years they continued to read between the lines.
God has a plan for all of our lives. Maybe that plan consists of paying attention to those around you, to those that are close to you, to your co-workers or friends of your children. You never know what someone is going through until you take some time to read between the lines and be observant. When we care and love one another it becomes a natural instinct to want to protect. I am so grateful for the two very important women in my life that took that time and gave me a safe place to land.
Remember, it’s scary what a smile can hide. Look underneath the facade and be someone’s rainbow on their cloud.
“Be a Rainbow in someone else’s cloud, no matter who they are.” -Maya Angelou
“What about my scars, your scars. Is there treasure in them too? Most of us find scars quite ugly and embarrassing and we usually try to hide them. But a scar indicates that a wound has been healed. As we live this life, it is only a matter of time before we encounter deep heart wounds. And a healed heart wound – scar – is our testimony to the healing. This healing can only happen through Jesus.
Every scar I have is evidence of a fight or struggle that Jesus won for me. He is stronger than the people or things that ever tried to hurt me. My scars are my testimonies of the evidence that God’s hand was on me – touching and healing me.
My scars have treasure in them for others too; for those who need to know that they too can heal from wounds. And Jesus is the healer. Therefore, I will no longer hide my scars. I will gladly share my healed wounds to whomever is willing to listen. “I was blind and now I see” and have to tell what my God has done for me.
Ladies don’t be ashamed of your scars. If God has healed you from anything…tell it! Don’t hide it. Someone else needs to know what treasure waits within your scars.”
By Angel Cantrell
I used to be an expert on putting on the facade that everything in my life was great. I made sure that my outer appearance was always well put together from my hair and makeup down do my stylish heels. It was as though I piled on the layers to hide the real truth. I wore my “mask” to hide the bruises, the fear, the shame and the guilt. Once I completely stripped away the facade, I was left with just an empty shell until I allowed God to show me my beauty through His eyes.
I challenge you today to strip away your masks and let your true beauty of who you are be revealed and let it shine.
You are beautiful, You are worthy, You are loved and You deserve to be treated with love and respect!
Fact: One in three U.S. women has been or will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime.
FACT: A woman is beaten every 15 seconds in the United States. Countless more are emotionally abused, sexually coerced, and controlled financially.
A Deeper Look At Domestic Abuse: Why I stayed
Leaving is never the easy choice — it is just one more painful choice in a reality full of painful choices.
1. I was afraid of being shamed, judged, hated, or accused of lying.
You hear it all the time — an allegation of domestic abuse is waved away, with the reasoning, “I know him — he would never do that, she’s making it all up, he’s a nice guy.”
2. Abuse is generally cyclical, and most abusers follow a pattern that keeps victims feeling trapped.
It was as though he could sense when I was about to throw in the towel, and he’d suddenly be back to his old, loving self, making it very difficult for me to justify leaving him especially because I loved him and desperately wanted us to be able to function in a healthy relationship. He was giving me hope and I constantly thought to myself that maybe he’ll change, and everything will get better.
He would have a “moment of clarity” in which he would get down on his knees, sobbing, telling me he hated himself for what he’d done to me and begging me to forgive him.
3. I loved my husband.
Is it possible to love someone who abuses you? Absolutely. Furthermore, since abusive behavior is very rarely black and white, it makes things much more complicated than “should I stay or should I go.”
Despite everything he’d put me through, to see him collapse in tears like that to see him hurt so much nearly destroyed me. So even though I knew all too well the terrible things he’d done, in those moments, he seemed to me like a lost, broken boy and I would ache for him. I loved him so much that seeing his pain felt far worse than the pain he inflicted on me. And I couldn’t walk away not when he was hurting. Not when he needed me.
4. His emotional abuse and manipulation destroyed my self-esteem.
During my ten year marriage my ex-husband left some pretty inconceivable bruises on me, many times old bruises didn’t have time to heal before the next round would appear. He slowly began to eat away at my self-esteem and the mind games were the worst part. He would twist my thoughts and words until I felt like I was going crazy and would second guess the reality of the situation. I started telling myself that things weren’t that bad and they could be worse. Doubting the validity of your own thoughts and experiences is exhausting and terrifying, and it leaves you very, very vulnerable.
5. Fear of retaliation.
Simply running away from an abusive partner does not always mean the abuse will stop. In many cases, abusers will go so far as to stalk, rape, or even kill the women who tried to leave them. Sometimes it is literally not safe to leave. The realization of having to co-parent with the person who hurt you so badly is hard to imagine.
So the next time you find yourself tempted to say something judgmental about someone who has remained in an abusive situation for a period of time — please remember these words, from someone who has been there.
I have spent pretty much my entire life always watching for what was lurking in the shadows. A little girl has no power when evil lurks in forms of love. It came to a point where I eventually shut down my thoughts, emotions and feelings and made a wall of steel that no one could penetrate. My body couldn’t be protected so I did everything to protect my heart. I came to know what fear was in all its rawest of forms. I learned how to protect my heart like it was a piece of porcelain china. From the time I was 11 years old I knew how to read people, their demeanor, their movements and their eyes. I could gaze into a room and could pin point the ones who had the coldest eyes. Being aware of everyone’s movement was the only chance I had at protecting the little bit of me that had not yet been broken or taken. Over time, I learned how to seem friendly but kept virtually everyone at a distance. Those that seem to get too close to me I rapidly pushed them away. I wanted no one to know my secrets, my shame, my hurt and my pain. I didn’t want love, any kind of love. My heart questioned if love was real or if I was even lovable because all the love that was shown to me from the time I was a little girl only brought hurt, sadness and pain. How could love hurt so much? For so long I question how father’s loved their little girls. Was it okay what he did because he was my father? Do fathers allow their friends full access to their daughters as a kind gesture? I didn’t even understand what sex was so later on in my life when words like rape and sexual abuse were thrown around I couldn’t fully grasp the meaning because everyone around normalized what had been done. For so long I was confused I watched my dreams get broken, I never felt seen or heard and I felt so alone. I felt as though I was fighting a losing battle every step I made. My destiny seemed to already be predetermined. I would never amount to anything. I would not be valued. I was only put on this earth to be used and abused. Those thoughts damaged the little girl that once was me. I had no reason to think any differently.
No matter how many times I have heard the words “It’s not your fault,” I still blame myself in some ways. From feeling like I was being submissive and asked for it, for not telling right away, to feeling that I should have screamed louder, the blame lies underneath it all. I wrestled with the fact that I should have known better and all I did was continue to allow it to happen. Just speaking about the past causes me anxiety and I rarely let anyone into that part of my life. The fear of rejection has always outweighed wanting to share. The blame and shame is hard to get out from under when the choices in my adult life lead to that same kind of pain and despair that I should have known better to avoid. To find myself in the same abuse I spent my life running from the shame became debilitating.
The painful memories and experiences of growing up with abusive men will never be erased. However, I couldn’t be more grateful for my life and all that it has taught me. It took me many years to allow my pain to teach me something rather than blame someone or something for it happening to me. I realized that regardless of what had been done to me, it was up to me to decide what to do with it. I have found gifts in my traumatic experience of abuse. It has taught me how to be humble, compassionate, and most of all empathetic to other people. If anything, I have learned more on how to truly connect with others through my own hurt. We each come to crossroads in our lives where we have to make the decision to let go of our old survival mechanisms in order to grow and make room for something better. Sometimes what used to protect us becomes what harms us and stifles the capacity for our lives to be open and full of joy, love, and peace. I am still afraid to open up to people about the things that have been done to me but in the process I am starting to believe that those broken pieces of my past are what is my beautiful. When I open my life to those I trust I feel safe and that fear of sharing all of me diminishes because it is through that trust that I find comfort. Looking back on my healing process, I struggled with hopelessness and days where I could barely function. I would cry out to God, “Help me!” There were endless days that I just wanted to die to get out from under the pain I was in. Since then God has brought me out of those days of despair, He reminds me daily that my worth is not based on what was told and done to me but instead on His love and favor over my life.
I am no longer in my pain, shame or scars. I have learned slowly to open to others and allow them to see me for me. I am not the things my father’s did. I am not the voices in my head. I am not the pieces of the brokenness inside. My God sees me, sees and hears every tear and was there to comfort my cries when there was no place to cry. The memories will always be there that I know but it does get better. Life’s about joy, life’s about pain and when you learn to forgive and walk away your hurt turns into healing. Time doesn’t heal all wounds and it does hurt to heal but living with guilt and shame is a life sentence. My scars are now healed wounds that no longer bleed. They may hurt at times but now the scar is only a reminder of what I have survived. Letting myself feel the hurt has been my only way out. To give myself the grace I deserve is the mountain I am still climbing. Vulnerability isn’t weakness but it is the greatest gift we can give someone else to gain insight into our lives. My pain is now my joy, my cries are now my laughter and my shame is now what sets me free. My intention is to share with others the experiences that broke my life into a million pieces and took me on a painful path. I want to ensure others that there is hope and healing for those who have been abused. Healing does take time but I know first-hand that God can take your broken heart and heal it completely. God serves as my comforter when I hurt and he shows me His loving kindness when I feel unlovable. I find my rest in Him.