Bursting Through The Barricades

hands grasping fence
Mitch Lensink

Emerging from a domestic violence situation into the sun feels an awful lot like bursting through the barricades that separate dark from light. Your barricades might include fear, financial difficulties, isolation, hopelessness, religious beliefs, and so many other things. A few people manage to do it on their own, but most people need help. (Don’t we all?)

A Pivotal Moment

For every survivor of domestic violence with whom I’ve spoken, there has been a pivotal moment when they have made a conscious decision, “No more. I’m not going to let you keep breaking me down. I’m not going to keep making myself smaller and smaller. This is my life and I’m going to own it.” There are a lot of different factors that get us to those moments. A real threat to our kids’ safety. An injury that goes beyond a bruise or sprain. Being completely isolated from our friends or family, whether out of fear or shame. It doesn’t matter what gets you to that moment. It only matters that you get there.

It’s your life. You’re worthy.

Make A Plan

Have you had that moment? If you have, you need a plan. In June, Jan wrote a series comparing the preparation plan for a hurricane or other major storm to a plan for getting ready to leave a DV situation. You can read Part 1 hereYour first step, though, should be to contact a group like Reach Out Speak Out, with people who are trained and, sadly, have much experience in this. 

Share With Someone

You can try to get out on your own. But life, in general, is so much easier and better with friends who care about you. Tell someone what’s going on in your life. If you can’t tell your family or friends, tell us. We care.

We want you to live your best life being fully and vibrantly yourself.

Need an anthem? (I have always liked having songs to help inspire me and I know I’m not alone!) Here’s one that I use whenever I’m afraid or the old you’re-not-good-enough scripts start playing in my head (and I thank my friend, Beth, for reminding me of it):

You Are Loved

You Are lovedHaving one of those days when your abuser or memories of them have you feeling down and/or doubting your worth? Don’t let the devil get you down. YOU ARE LOVED. YOU ARE WORTHY. YOU ARE AMAZING.
Just. The. Way. You. Are.

There’s a song by Lauren Daigle that Reach Out Speak Out has “adopted” and I’m including the lyrics here:

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know (ooh oh)
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe (I), oh I believe (I)
What You say of me (I)
I believe
The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity, (ooh oh)
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe (I), oh I believe (I)
What You say of me (I)
Oh, I believe
Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You have every failure God, and You’ll have every victory, (ooh oh)
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say that I am Yours
And I believe (I), oh I believe (I)
What You say of me (I)
I believe
Oh I believe (I), yes I believe (I)
What You say of me (I)
Oh I believe (oh)
Songwriters: Paul Mabury / Lauren Ashley Daigle / Jason Ingram
You Say lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Look at that again….

This is not just me, or anyone from Reach Out Speak Out, or a friend or family member telling you this. God says you are loved. And worthy. And you are His! If that doesn’t thrill you, I don’t know what will. God loves you and says you are strong, even when you feel weak. The God of the universe is holding you when you are struggling and keeping you safe. He is giving you worth and loving you.

Let me leave you with this….you are loved. Be encouraged and find you strength to get yourself where you need to be…. Safety, freedom, stronger boundaries, you fill in the blank. Let God show you your worth and value and take it in – You are loved!

Here is the YouTube video if you’d like to watch/listen:

Men Are Abuse Victims, Too #4

hurt boy sitting on a park bench; dove of hope at cornerThe years I spent in a relationship with my abuser didn’t end when I moved out of the house, got married, and started my own family. What I had learned over the twenty plus years of cohabitation with my abuser became my way of living as an adult. I lived day to day as a “follower” always looking for direction from others. Always preferring to be told what to do rather than come up with my own ideas. By doing without much of my developmental years, I became in many ways a very selfish person when it came to doing things for others over looking out for myself and my interests.

Even though I now had the freedom to live my own life and make my own decisions, I still looked to listen and obey whoever would instruct me on what to do and how to do it. I tried to symbolically bury my abuser, (even though she was already deceased) so that she would no longer have an effect on my life. It wasn’t until I recently forgave her that I’ve felt some release from her hold on me.

If any of what you’ve read in my story over the past four weeks sounds like your life or someone you know, I urge you to get proper counsel from a professional, your church, or a friend you can trust. Don’t let it linger the way I did and waste countless years of your life. DV is a terrible thing, and whether you are a man or a woman, it can have an effect on you for a lifetime either mentally physically or both. My best advice to you is to deal with it NOW. Don’t endanger yourself and your well being hoping it will get better. You need to take care of you. Don’t let your abuser control you as I did. You can have a long and happy life ahead of you, but only if you escape the control of that abuser that wants to rule your life.

Men Are Abuse Victims, Too #3

hurt boy sitting on a park bench; dove of hope at cornerAs I mentioned last week, as a young adult, I was forced to do the things my abuser wanted me to do. Instead of playing baseball, hockey, basketball and spending time with other guys and my guy friends, I was forced to spend countless hours at the roller skating rink wearing extremely feminine looking clothing, doing feminine type routines on roller skates. The other people at the skating rink were very feminine in nature and it had an effect on me in spite of my efforts to not allow it to. I remember having to get fitted for skating outfits, by an elite seamstress who took advantage of being able to touch a fit young man. I hated going there, but my abuser insisted that this person was the best there was and I had to have the best looking outfit for my competition.

I was given the gift of athleticism by God and it translated into skating as well. I was one of the top skaters in the country, winning numerous awards and trophies, not because I wanted to, but because I was forced to. I was told I had to lead the skating rink’s effort to win the team trophy at each event and the team was depending on me.

As I moved into young adulthood, I tried to break away from the skating routine and my abuser and pour my efforts into my true love of baseball. I was good enough at baseball to receive a full scholarship to the University of Michigan and Cleveland State University. I was one of the top players in high school and even had a tryout with the St Louis Cardinals and offered a minor league contract. Upon my return from the tryout, I wanted to discuss my options of taking the contract to pursue a professional baseball career. My abuser would have no part of that, and told me the words that would effect me for life, “I knew you wouldn’t make it, it’s time for you to get a real job.” My abuser would never attend one of my games in high school or college. On occasion my father would try and sneak away and attend a game without my abuser knowing it, and although he didn’t really understand the game or have any interest in it, he knew I was one of the best in the game.

Next week, I will conclude my blog by talking about the long term effects DV has had on me as an adult, and even now as a senior adult. Unfortunately abuse doesn’t go to the grave with the abuser, and even though my abuser can no longer hurt or have an effect on me, I still have to fight to convince myself of that fact.

Men Are Abuse Victims, Too – #2

hurt boy sitting on a park bench; dove of hope at cornerMy mother had to be in control of everything and everyone. She would tell my father what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Rather than cause a confrontation, he would just comply and consider it “his cross to bear.” Things with me were not much different than they were with my father. I would do whatever, whenever she told me to do something. She controlled my interests, my friends, my free time, what I did, with who and when. My brother showed some backbone and would stand up to her from time to time, but even he, rather than enduring a shouting match would simply leave the house. He had a car to escape in while I did not.

My father would try and stay out of the house and avoid the conflict by working long hours 12-14 hours per day six days a week. My mother would have dinner cooking, and woe to my dad if he was five minutes late coming home from work due to traffic or a last minute customer. She would scream at him, throw the dinner at him or let it burn and serve it to him that way. Things were so bad I would sit and watch out the front room window waiting for my dad’s car to pull into the driveway praying he wouldn’t be late so we could have a non- violent evening.

Occasionally there would be some major blow ups. I remember one time my mother broke one of the old cradle telephone receivers over my dad’s head splitting his head open while my brother wrapped my dad’s head with a towel and rushed him to the hospital emergency room with a trail of blood all over the floor behind him. I also remember a cold Ohio winter night when my mother started breaking out all of the windows in our house and my father became so frustrated he began breaking them out with her. That night I huddled under a blanket in my room for warmth and to escape the violence.

One escape for me was playing baseball, I would play with kids in the neighborhood from morning to night all summer long not wanting to go back to the scene of violence in my house. My mother was not happy with that, and would give me a deadline that I had to be home by, and if I missed it, it would usually mean going to bed without eating. She wanted me to take up a sport she liked, roller skating, and because I’ve always been pretty athletically inclined I was pretty good at it. I did this to avoid confrontation, but the atmosphere around the skating rink was not a good one to grow up in (more about that later).

My mother would always put money away so she knew she would have enough to take her private skating lessons and go to the skating rink four or five times a week. This often meant buying junk and cheap foods so part of the grocery money would go to the skating rink. I was often told, I was an unplanned pregnancy, and that I was not supposed to happen. To this day I believe this is why my older brother always had the better things while I received hand me downs. My parents paid for his college education, but when he had to leave due to grades, they said that was it and they wouldn’t be paying for a college education for me. Fortunately for me, I was good enough at baseball that I was able to get a full scholarship and graduated in four years.

As I mentioned last week, domestic violence can come in many forms both physically and mentally. Next week, I will talk about how DV in my childhood affected me as a young adult and into my adulthood. The long-term effects of DV are extremely powerful, and often difficult to eliminate or overcome. I hope you will continue to read the remaining two weeks of this blog as I believe there are many men (and women) out there that know of someone who has a similar situation they are going through now. Perhaps this someone is actually you.

Men Are Abuse Victims, Too

hurt boy sitting on a park bench; dove of hope at cornerMen Are Abuse Victims, too.

In most cases Domestic Violence occurs in the lives of Women and is usually inflicted by a man. This could be a husband, partner, or friend. But I would like to give you a view of the other side of the coin if you will. I am now a 65-year old man, but to this day, I still suffer the effects of Domestic Violence that occurred in my case as a young child. Unlike most cases of DV where the victim is the woman and the abuser is the man, in my case it was exactly the opposite.

As a young child, I witnessed and lived with the abuse that my mother inflicted on my father, my brother, and myself. Neither my mother or my father are alive today, but even from the grave they have had and, if I’m not careful, continue to have a negative impact on my life.

In the weeks ahead on this blog, I will go over what my experience was from a small child’s perspective, growing up in a house victimized by DV, and long term effects DV can have on an adult. I will describe in detail, just what happened to our family of four that was controlled by my mother, and what the results and ramifications were and are today.

Domestic Violence is something that happens to all lifestyles, rich or poor, young or old, male and female, regardless of race, or ethnicity. It is my hope that what you will read over the next three weeks will help you see that DV is not just a male perpetrator and a female victim. In some cases, although certainly not the majority, it can be the other way around.

Next week, I will describe what happened in detail in our house of horrors. Then in the remaining two weeks, I will talk about how this behavior affected my father, my brother, and myself. I hope you will check back to this blog throughout the remainder of this month, and follow a true life event with real ramifications. It is my further hope and prayer, that if you see a man or child that is being victimized by this type of DV, that it will encourage you to take action, if it’s yourself, or direct the victim you recognize to take action in the form of preparing for a hurricane as we have discussed in previous Reach Out Speak Out posts.

Identify, Understand, And Intervene

It is important to identify the warning signs that domestic violence is occurring in a relationship or marriage.

It is also helpful to understand the causes and consequences of domestic violence, including its effects on the perpetrator, on the victim, on the children in the family, and on schools and churches.

It is necessary to intervene when you confront domestic violence as it is happening or when you learn that it has occurred in the past.

It is very important to Reach Out and Speak Out against domestic violence as a whole!

Effects Of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is about control and power and typically is perpetrated by men against women, though the frequency with which men are reporting abuse is on the rise. A recent study Prevention found that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the United States have experienced a form of intimate partner abuse or violence in their lifetime.

Victims of abuse suffer intensely and experience emotional problems that will endure long past the end of the violence. Children in homes where domestic violence is present are more likely to be abused, and even if not physically harmed, they may have emotional and behavioral problems. Studies show that children raised in a domestic violence environment are more like to go on to abuse others unless the cycle is interrupted.

Types of Domestic Violence

There are many kinds of domestic violence and destroys relationships. These relationships may include a spouse or intimate partner including dating relationships. It involves behavior on the part of one person to control and intimidate another.

This behavior, characterized as harassing, intimidating or threatening, can include actual or threatened physical assault, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or financial abuse.

Domestic violence includes actual physical violence, such as assault (pushing, choking, hitting, pinching, slapping, etc.). It also can include acts of sexual abuse (forcing or coercing someone into unwanted sexual activity-rape). These types of behaviors are criminal in most jurisdictions, and the person who engages in them can be arrested and charged, with or without the consent of the victim of the violence or abuse.

Domestic violence also includes harassing, intimidating and threatening behavior. This could include stalking, where one person repeatedly follows, watches or contacts another person. Domestic violence also includes verbal abuse, psychological abuse and emotional abuse.

This may involve name calling and putdowns. It might include isolating a person from his or her family and friends or refusing to allow him or her to get a job. It might entail financial abuse, such as withholding money or demanding that the other person account for every dollar spent.

Threatening loved ones is a common form of abuse, including threatening to harm or kill the victim, their children, their parents, their friends or even pets. Threats can sometimes include a threat to commit suicide.