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I realized a few days ago that I have been working with Gender Violence for about 7 years.
It seems so unreal to me that it has been so long. I love this work so much that it always feels new.
There is so much to learn about the psychology of why a woman stays in an abusive home that I always feel like a novice.
I hope that I always will be a novice at heart, if not head.
Here are some of the irrefutable facts that I have personally learned over these many years:
1. We cannot FORCE a woman to leave an abusive situation.
She may leave for a few days or even weeks but IF the decision was not hers, as soon as the abuser calls and makes the slightest caring overture, she will go back. She will convince herself that she made him angry.
She will put the children in harms’ way again.
She will make these decisions because she believes that even THAT man is a better father figure than NO father figure at all!
She feels that she is making the right decisions for her children.
2. We cannot continue to make the victim feel like a failure and place the whole burden of leaving on her head. We MUST try to make it family centric and involve the abuser in the healing process of his family.
If substance abuse is involved we must try to educate the woman about the devastating effects the substances has had in the brain of the abuser and that she cannot really get through because he is not in charge of his thinking … his addictions are in charge.
One of my dear friends Chelsea Berler has just written a book called “The Curious One” and in the book Chelsea’s mother makes a gut wrenching decision to leave the father of her children and love of her life, because of alcohol related issues.
That Mom chose the health of the children and that was brave and honorable.
3. We MUST begin to educate girls and boys about the horrors of domestic violence.
We must ask them to share their stories of personal experience with abuse and teach them how NOT to perpetuate the abuse when they have families.
This is how my journey began. I remember being 12 years old and just having had a “proper beating” and crying softly to myself (because loud crying would be met with another beating.)
I promised myself that if I ever had kids I would NEVER hurt them.
I tried every minute of every day when my kids were in my care to keep that promise. Sometime I failed and I resorted to the yelling and name calling that I experienced.
I tried as quickly as possible to make amends when that happened and I live with the horror of those memories.
There are many more facts I have picked up along the way but none more IMPORTANT than this…
4. Abusers need to be helped to stop abusing.
In the book The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, author Gary Haugen saysthat the people of Rwanda “did not need someone to bring them a sermon, or food, or a doctor, or a teacher, or a micro-loan. They needed someone to restrain the hand with the machete—and nothing else would do.”
We need to help the abuser to refocus the anger and outrage and to NOT lash out at the partner or the children.
We need to help the abuser to understand their own emotions.
Women need to be helped to use their voices and have a ZERO tolerance policy for any disrespect.
I would like to see ads on TV asking brides if it’s ok for her husband to hit her.
I would like to see the wedding industry invest some money in providing conflict resolution classes in their bridal boutiques.
I fear this will never happen… But I can still dream.
So I will dream about a world without gender violence and I will continue the work at Indranis Light Foundation and do what I can.
Please feel free to share this link with anyone who might be interested in this free training.
The ‘Live a Brighter Life’ Online Program is a free offering to benefit all our lives and to pave the way for future trainers of the work. The six sessions of LABL will be mandatory for participants wishing to enter ILF Train-the-Trainer program.
When animals get hurt, their wounds heal a little thicker and stronger.
Maybe that’s where the saying “thick-skinned” comes from.
This thickened flesh is called Proud Flesh.
Recently, I visited a shelter for women who had been burned by fire, and survived.
Their scars were visible and clear and it transformed them into people they did not recognize.
These transformations not only took place on the outside, with proud flesh, but also on the inside.
Some of them realized how precious their lives were.
They realized how much their children needed them, in ways they had not before the incident.
They found ways to fight through physical and emotional pain and to come out ahead.
One woman lifted up her arm to me and I thought she wanted to give me a high five. The therapist then told me she was showing me that she had regained control of her muscles and that meant she was a winner. I ran over and hugged her so tight, I may have squished her.
We were both giggling.
One of the stories stuck with me. One woman’s husband suspected her of infidelities that were all untrue. He wrapped his hands with a cloth soaked in gasoline, set them on fire and then he rushed and embraced his wife so they would both die. She managed to get away and her daughters are proud of her. She has healed and she is teaching her girls to be strong and fight back.
While at the shelter, the girls sang and danced for me and the mom, stood proudly on the side beaming with both her thickened skin and her thin skin that was not scorched. Her girls hugged her around her waist and one said to me “This is my mother.” The pride in them was palpable and the joy in her eyes could’ve lit up a whole city.
This woman has found a way to transcend her tragedy and focus instead on the love that still exists in her life.
When I think of my own life, I wonder at how I have overcome my hardships and am thrilled at the lessons I have gleaned from them.
One of my biggest gifts is Presence. The presence of mind to see, hear, taste and feel what is happening in the moment.
Recently, I had such an awakening. While steeped in the “tea” of the argument, I saw all the stuff around me. I noticed who was doing what, how they were responding, how I was responding and how I was processing the storm that was raging around me. I heard a soft voice say, “Save yourself” and I immediately stood up and left the toxic situation.
How could I hear that soft voice?
I could hear because I was listening. I was tuned into everything around me and NOT to defending myself.
There was no defense needed.
I was being accused.
I was put on trial.
I was convicted.
However, I remembered that I WAS NOT in a court of law. I was in my life. MY LIFE!
I choose to leave. I was already convicted, so what was the use of sticking around?
I offer the tool of Presence to you.
Try to stay in your own business.
How do you know if you are OUT of your business? The moment you ask, “Why is he/she acting/doing/behaving like…..”
These questions are a sure sign that you are trying to be in someone else’s head.
Devote your energy to questions like…
Why am I doing this?
Why do I want this? Or not want this.
What pattern can I see here that distresses me?
Do I really want to change that pattern?
Am I ready to suffer the emotional pain that I will feel when I attempt to change the entrenched patterns that are causing emotional turmoil?
*********************** Try to stay out of defense.
You know that you are defending yourself when your words just want to erupt. It feels like you cannot hold them back. Your mouth is controlling you, instead of you controlling your own mouth. You feel
that if you speak THIS ONE thing to THIS PERSON, then you will be vindicated.
Both of you or a whole LOT of you are no longer in HEARING mode. Only mouths are working, and it is verbal diarrhea. You are puking and pooping all over each other AND you must leave the situation. If you
feel that you will be physically attacked if you try to leave, then you must call the authorities.
You are unsafe. You must get out.
Try to realize that NO AMOUNT of explaining can stop your accuser from
******************* Try to, as the soft voice said “Save yourself!”
How do you save yourself?
First, go to safety, a different room or house or city or country.
Only you can decide how far you must go to get away from the madness.
Then call a few trusted friends with whom you can weep and grieve.
Expect the pain to be severe and swift and expect to feel like you will die or at least drown.
It will also feel like you cannot breathe.
Yes, even breathing will take effort.
Your friends will remind you to breathe.
They will remind you about how wonderful you are.
You need SUPPORTIVE people.
Do not call people who will judge you or reprimand you.
Remember to treat yourself like a trusted friend.
Remember too, you must change to affect change.
Einstein said the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.
You must DO something different to GET something different.
Allow yourself time for healing.
Stay connected to you; stay present by not building cases against the other person and stop going over old scenarios of past hurts.
That is a waste of good energy.
Go for a walk.
Give these techniques a try and let me know how they work for you.
Love and light,
Your support will be used towards covering the costs of the free one-day or two-day, in-person training the ILF Team provides to the advocates at domestic violence organizations across the United States. Your support has already paid for training in Texas, Oregon, Washington, California, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Illinois.