Guest Post- A True Story of Surviving Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but really we should be trying to be more aware every day. The statistics are shocking- 1 in 4 women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. Please take the time to read and share this post so that together, we can help that number dwindle.

Our very good friend, Emily, is one of the strongest women I know. She handles motherhood so naturally, while holding down a full time job as a women’s health nurse practitioner, where she offers not only her medical expertise, but her unwavering support for her patients and still has love and energy for her family and friends. She is one of the strongest and most loving sources of support in our circle of friends, so I am not surprised that she wants to share her story to help other women.

The two things I remember most about that night were relief, and hearing the neighbors sliding their chain across the latch as I screamed for help. Relief because there was no more denying that this was abuse. The sound of the chain because it was in that moment I realized how alone I really was.

All the rest sort of floats around these two memories. The sound of his key in the lock. His smashing my head against the wall, slapping me across the face, kicking my gut as I gathered his belongings into a garbage bag. The heinous names. His hands around my throat as I punched with all my strength to get him off me, the fingerprint bruises on my neck.

Relief, and the chain. Those are what stand out, the clearest of all the memories.

Of course, it didn’t start with the events of that night. It never does. It started out well, probably even too well. It usually does. When the first insults came, the experience was akin to walking peacefully along a beautiful pedestrian cobblestone street, window shopping, sipping a latte, and then suddenly being struck from behind by a motor vehicle. At first, I had no idea where it came from, what I had done, how I could have foreseen or prevented the crash. Then, little by little, I started to sense that danger was lurking in unpredictable corners. I would still walk the pedestrian street, but now I would look both ways before crossing.

How did this happen? I am a strong, smart, educated woman. He was bright, funny, on track for an impressive career. I have also always been an accommodator, and until the dissolution of that relationship, was often willing to bend my needs somewhat to meet the needs of someone else. In bending those needs within that relationship, my insecurities grew. And I began to believe some of what he said to me: the names he called me, the cutting insults. The rational side of me knew he was being abusive and mean, but the seedling of doubt that lived in my gut let way to full-grown blossoms. When his jealousy and control took over, I let him convince me that it was because of how strongly he felt, how special I was. I made excuses, I made compromises, I bent and swayed until at times I no longer recognized my vital self; I turned from friends and loved ones on his demand, I isolated, I gave in.

It took a time of separation, after he had graduated from college and I stayed on to finish another semester, for me to let real anger set in. My anger, and the hardening which came with it, were what allowed me to extricate little by little. By the time that night came, it was all the push I needed to free up any doubt or hesitation about ending the relationship. There were incidents even during our semester apart, but until the physical violence bubbled up and over, all I had were words and feelings as evidence. I will never again understate the power of emotional and psychological abuse. The physical is painful and glaring, but the other cuts deep into the soul.

When that night finally came, it followed a jealous episode in which he had shown up at the restaurant where I was working. Though the potential for the attack had been there all along, the more he sensed my pulling away, the closer he got to lashing out. He was losing control, and as often happens with abusive people, my growing disillusionment was the tipping point.

When that night finally came, there were no sirens. My neighbors slid their chain locks, no one called the police. Though after it was over, after he had gone the police did come – in response to my father’s desperate call from Vermont. My dad had been on the phone with me when the key slid in the lock and the shouting began. He gave the police all the information they needed to locate me. After taking my statement, they arrested my attacker at dawn, in his family home three miles away.

Around that same time in my life, I met the man I would marry. To say he saved me is inaccurate. To say he loved me completely is true. Loved me, trusted me, and has never needed to know everything about my every move, never needed to control me. Still, my husband did not save me. Nor did my father, or the police.

I saved myself when I wrote out my victim’s statement, and when I refused to recant my story a few months later. When I stood up in court during sentencing and requested my attacker be required to complete the Emerge Program for Abusive Men as part of his probation so that, hopefully, any future partners might be spared. I saved myself when I refused to go back to the relationship despite his begging. When I became a nurse practitioner: working with women, advocating for them, connecting them to services, empathizing with them in a deeper way than they will ever understand. When I gave birth to four boys I am parenting as positively as I can so they may grow up to be respectful, kind, non-abusive men and partners.

In those early days following the attack and subsequent separation, I would have flashbacks at any given moment, almost as a dream flies through your mind while in deep sleep. It was as though bits of myself, my childhood, my essential being, were crashing back into my mind, heart and soul as I began to realize I was safe again. Safe to cross the pedestrian street without looking both ways.

This is my story, but it is not rare or unique. I share this 12 years later because I simply could not have shared it sooner.   Right after the attack, several people close to me knew what had happened. However, as I have moved on, have grown a new circle of friends, gotten married, had my children, I don’t tend to bring this up in casual conversation. I share it today because it is important that those who see me and know me now – a competent, confident, professional mother of boys, a musician, politically vocal woman, and friend – will know I was once stuck in an abusive relationship.

Every one of us knows someone or has been a victim of partner abuse. The statistics are daunting, and the only way we will overcome these numbers is by teaching our children how to not be abusers, themselves, and how to stand up to abuse when they recognize it. We need to help them understand that they cannot control or demean others; to teach them what it is to hit below the belt, and to help them understand why it is important never to go there. We need to teach them not to bully or make fun of others, even behind their backs; teach them that name calling is unacceptable, and that they are never to perpetrate violence, especially against someone physically weaker than they are.

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If you know of someone in an abusive situation, or are concerned about a loved one, know that they need you even when they push you away. They are either being forced to isolate by their abuser, or they are not ready to leave and are afraid you will judge them. Be their friend, their family, even if you can’t understand what keeps them stuck. You are not there to push them out of their corner; only they can do that. Give them the Lundy Bancroft book, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry Men, so they can read it and know they are not crazy, they are validated. And, no matter what their partner says, there is no justification for abusive behavior. At the end of the day, never be the neighbor who slides the chain across the lock when someone screams or whispers for help. In dangerous situations, calling the police, even anonymously, is perfectly acceptable. Otherwise, open the door, be the friend, be the family, don’t back down. Someday, they will likely find their way to the surface and they will need you in their corner as they heal and come back to themselves.

If you need help, please check out these resources:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

In MA:

Safelink Hotline 1-877-785-2020

Emerge Counseling and Education to Stop Domestic Violence

Emily Swisher-Rosa lives south of Boston with her husband and 4 amazing sons. When she’s not seeing patients, she keeps busy taxiing her boys to activities, playing the violin, and singing in her church choir.

4 Tips to Avoid Having Friends Who Suck the Life Out of You

If you are reading this post, you probably have a friend or two that suck the life out of you.  GET RID OF THEM! (Gasp!  Horror!)  If you haven’t ever removed a friend from your life, it sounds so scary.  I remember the first time it was suggested to me that I remove someone from my life, it was a very long term friend…  I thought, what?!?!?!?  How is that even possible?

It’s a really tough concept to wrap your head around, but nobody else can cause you pain.  You are in charge of your own feelings.  You can choose to feel happy, sad, stressed, any emotion really.  When you begin to realize that you can control your feelings and emotions, it is pretty easy to not allow people to suck the life out of you.

 

Shutterstock image

Shutterstock image

 

When I gave birth to my first child, I suddenly saw a few people in my life for who they really were and knew they couldn’t be in my life anymore.  Ugly, life-sucking opinions came out.  Disrespectful drop-ins without a call first, and awful, rotten things said behind my back about my parenting decisions.  I was miserable, yet so blissfully in love and happy at the same time.

A brilliant life coach asked me why I was putting up with these people who constantly made my life miserable.  I thought it was such a strange question and honestly it took months for me to understand what she meant.  I began by taking baby steps.  I decided to build a wall around myself when I had to deal with this small group of people and not let their comments hurt me.  Once I wrapped my head around the concept, I began to stick up for myself little by little and something funny happened: By sticking up for myself, I felt a shift and unknowingly changed the dynamic of our relationship.  Some didn’t like it all and our relationships ended.  It was beautiful!  One other relationship “got it”.  She understood what had happened and worked hard at making our relationship better.  It was the perfect outcome.

I started small.  There were two friends that added nothing but negativity to my life.  It was shockingly easy to let go of those friendships.  Once I got the taste for letting go of negativity, I cleaned house.  There were some major life-changing people I removed from my life, some were expensive, time consuming and emotional, but worth every single penny, minute and feeling.

I tend to volunteer my time on various boards and commissions.  I am involved with my children’s schools and deal with a lot of people at my job.  We all encounter difficult people and sometimes we have no choice but to work with them on certain projects.  That is when you have to build your little wall and not let them get to you and move on when the project is complete.

My husband and I have created what we like to call our “happy bubble”.  We check in with each other on certain people and places that are either in or out of our happy bubble.  Lately we have let some real crap into our bubble and it’s time to clean house.  It’s been a while since I have had to, but life got busy and I got  a little sloppy.

Four tips to keep life-sucking people away from your happy bubble:

1. Go with your gut.

We usually can feel it when somebody won’t add anything positive to your life.  I have ignored that little gut feeling too many times.  It’s not worth it.

2.  Don’t feel bad about your decision.

Letting a friend go is usually what is best for both of you.  Let. It. Go.

3.  Be clear.

The “break up” doesn’t have to be a big emotional scene.

Just be clear and unemotional.  You could say something like, “I think it would be best if we went our separate ways. We don’t seem to agree on many things and I respect you too much to continue to disagree.”  There are lots of ways to let somebody know in a civil manner that you don’t want to be friends.

4.  Learn the signs of life-sucking people and avoid!

Most toxic, negative people have the same traits.  Learn them and run in the opposite direction when you meet them.

Life is just too short to walk around unhappy, stressed, and miserable because of the people you surround yourself with.  The people in your life are there because of choices you have made.  Make better choices and you will see wonderful things happen.

 

How to Not Build a Closet (Or, as Babble Titled it, Do We Unconsciously Pressure Our Kids to Grow Up Straight?)

I’m honored to be published again on Babble.com. This is an important topic and I’m anxious to hear about your thoughts and experiences, so please read, share and post in the comments!

❤M

 

No More Bullies!

Bullying is a hot topic right now in just about every community across the country. We have always had bullies, but it seems to be a much bigger issue now than ever before.  Even if your child is lucky enough not to be bullied, every child deals with meanness at some point.  A good friend of mine is struggling through this issue with her little ones right now, so I thought I’d find some good resources to help.

 

I LOVE this list of  ten ways to bully-proof your child!

Bullying stinks!

Bullying stinks!

I remember watching Arthur with my 15 years old when she was little. What a great show! You can still find books from that series and online episodes including episodes dealing with friendship and bullying.

And here’s a great list of books for kids to help them tackle the topic!

 

I hope your children experience childhood without any bullying, but it’s a good idea to be prepared and empower our kids to handle these tough situations.

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

-M 🙂