Warrior's Voice

Giving Way to My Voice

‘Daddy, why are you so angry? Why do you have to hit me with a belt? If I promise I won’t do it again, do you have to hit me with the belt?’

‘Why does mommy lock herself in the bathroom and cry?’

‘Mommy, what’s wrong? I’m sorry that daddy hit Bill. I’m sorry that Bill made him mad.’

‘Mommy, why does daddy hit us with a belt? It hurts when he hits our backs and our legs.’

‘Get married? I don’t want to get married. I don’t even know if I want to keep the baby.’

‘I don’t want to look at porn. Aren’t I enough? Why do you want to look at that woman instead of at me while we are making love? How is it love, if you need to look at them having sex?’

‘I believe you are the head of the home, the man of the family. I believe that God put you there for a reason. You can make all of the big decisions, but why does that mean I have no say? Can’t I tell you how I feel, why I think what you are about to do is not a good decision for our family?’

‘Wait, you want me to do what?’

‘You want me to be naked in front of a camera that other men are going to be watching?’

‘It’s okay, because it is in our marital room and we both agree to it? What if I don’t agree?’

A running list scrolls through my mind as I lay awake at night. I should be sleeping, but I cannot.

Why do I want to write this book?

The question people ask me. The question I ask myself. The need for a simple answer haunting me again. ‘I need to create an elevator speech’, I tell myself for the umpteenth time. A well thought, canned response to the burning question everyone asks.

‘You deserve better than him.’

‘He shouldn’t speak to you that way.’

‘Don’t listen to his words. You are smart. You are beautiful. You have the potential to do great things.’

I have said these things to girls, women I have come across while out for a walk. From a distance I hear her boyfriend, her partner, ridicule her, defiling her with words of hatred. Tearing her down, beating her into submission, not for the first time nor for the last.

I should remain quiet. Mind my own business. I can’t.

I must speak out. I have to defend her. I need to be that person who will speak up for her, to her. Oh, how I longed for someone to speak up for me. To tell me, he was wrong. His words were wrong, I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. No woman deserved to be treated that way. It was not because of my sin. It was not because my heart was not right with God.

If I don’t speak up, who will?

If I give it too much thought, it overwhelms me. I cannot possibly save them all. I understand many do not want to be saved. Some do not know, yet, their need to be saved. Rescued. Many, so many, have tried to leave, only to return. Leaving is hard, unbelievably hard. Going back is easier. I know. How do you help those who do not want to be helped? How do you find those who need and want to be helped? Once you find them, how do you possibly help them? Their needs, all very different, are more than I could take on.

It would be easier to go forward in my own life. To count my blessings and move on. To accept if I am needed, if they come to me, then I will help, if I am able.

Easier.

It was easier to go back. It was easier to stay. Easier to live with the hidden knowledge that I would most likely die. By his hand or my own.

It was harder to leave. Scarier to step out. Difficult to accept that leaving was my only chance to ever know if what I believed, what I questioned, was right, or wrong.

I left. I survived. I am alive.

That should be enough. Only, it’s not.  A purpose burns within me. It began as the smoldering embers of the fire that destroyed me. The fire of his words. The fire of his beatings. The destruction, the mayhem my daughter and I endured. Furniture broken, plates smashed against walls, hair pulled, evil spewed from his mouth, day after day. The flames put out when we escaped, not turning back, in the middle of the night, one last leaving, never to return.

The embers remain, smoldering, white hot, a reminder of all we survived. His words, his abuse reduced to ash, still there, in our hearts and our minds. For years a reminder, giving me strength to continue on, no turning back. The flames sparked when fear crept in, only to be put out once again through therapy sessions, through new found understanding, healing and love. Fear turned to anger a less vulnerable emotion. Anger raged within, crying out for resolution. Resolution, brought healing, forgiveness. Forgiveness, releasing me from the grip of my past. My pain, my hurt, my shame.

And yet, the embers, the ash remain. Eighteen years later, still there. Time heals all wounds, they say. My physical wounds have healed. Much of my emotional wounds have healed. The embers there, inside my heart, lingering inside my soul are giving way to my voice. They glow when I see abuse, when I fall into my own anger, they ignite when I write. The cries within me, silenced for years, rising up, longing to be heard, to be shared, to fulfill a purpose I have shied away from.

Telling my story, is not to shame my ex-husband. It is not to destroy him. He is but a human with faults and pain of his own. Telling my story is not to hurt his parents, his family, those who knew him. Many of them are family to me, to this day, people I admire, people I love, deeply. Telling my story is not to shame my family, my parents who are deceased, my siblings, who are alive and do not understand my need to share, to tell our family secrets. Telling my story is not for sympathy. I do not long for any one to feel sorry for me.

Telling my story, sharing my life, is to give way to my voice. If my voice can help one woman, awaken her inner voice, strengthen her to get help, to leave, to live. If my voice can help one child, open the eyes and ears of someone in their life who can extend the help they need. If my voice can awaken a young girl seeking love in all the wrong places. If my voice can open the eyes of an abuser to seek help, or a friend to call the abuser out. If my voice can open your eyes to the abuse around you and compel you to use your voice to help even one victim. If my voice can do that, then I must give way to my voice.

 

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May the embers of my soul never go out. May they spark in me the fire to speak up, to speak out. May them embolden me extend help to someone in need. May they live on, in others, long after I am gone.

Warrior's Voice

It’s (not) Just Verbal

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”

This little limerick rings clear in my head. Kids all across America have grown up chanting this on the playground, in their neighborhoods, or sneering at their own siblings.

“I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks on you.”

Another limerick, one of the most common responses to a mean word when I was a child. We were taught this by our parents, our teachers. ‘Words are just words’, they would say. ‘Words can’t actually hurt you’, they told us over and over again.

Growing up, we were taught a bully, was someone who beat up kids on the playground, after school, or at the local park. Bullies picked on kids littler than themselves. It wasn’t their words you had to worry about, it was their fists.

‘You might need to defend yourself some day, if a mean kid, bigger than you, traps you in the school bathroom and won’t let you out. You gotta come out swingin’.’ My older brothers taught me that one.

If we told our teacher a kid was calling us names, we were told not to tattle-tale. Nobody likes a tattle-tale. If we persisted, we were often called weak, someone with thin-skin. A good amount of energy was spent on strengthening our resolve to words. If we would only let the words go in one ear and out the other, surely we would be okay. They were just words. In strengthening our ability to let the hurtful words of others roll off our backs, we were taught our pain didn’t matter. It wasn’t real. It was weak. We were weak. Our voice, the one inside of us crying out, “That’s NOT okay,” was silenced.

I grew up checking myself, so as not to be a tattle-tale. Questioning my hurt, needing to justify my pain. Without adequate evidence of wrong doing by the other party, something more than words, it was better left alone. Time after time words, hurtful words, filed away in my the recesses of my mind. My inner voice wanting to call them out, but knowing better, I kept quiet.

“The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the speech of the upright rescues them.” Proverbs 12:6

Words are powerful. Words can build you up. They can tear you down. Words can put a smile on your face, or rip your heart out of your chest. They can free you from a misunderstanding. Or they can can cause division, destroying relationships, communities, governments. Words have the power to silence. To manipulate. To control. To kill.

While intentions were honorable, our parents and teachers were wrong. Sticks and stones may break bones,yes that is true. Words, can paralyze, hold captive, destroy, and even kill a person. By teaching us to ignore words, devaluing their power, we were taught to ignore our inner voice which protects us from potential harm. We were taught to second guess our ability to determine when we were being mistreated, manipulated. We were taught to ignore the early warning signs of abuse, to disregard our own voice.

Now, decades later, it is common knowledge that abusers first groom their victims. One method of grooming is to create a relationship that feels safe and provides a need the victim has. Establishing a dependency on their abuser allowing the abuser to get what they want while seemingly providing what the victim wants or needs. Another form of grooming is to use words to slowly tear the victim down, bring them into a place of submission. Initially the abuser will use minor insults which they will often reference with, ‘Oh, I was just joking. You know that, right?’, to put the victim at ease. This resonates with a person who grew up with ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’ philosophy.

As time goes on the grooming takes hold of the victim and creates the perfect environment for abuse. Many people share stories that begin with, “He never hit me, it was only verbal abuse, but……”

Verbal abuse.

Emotional abuse.

Verbal abuse, emotional abuse has the ability to alter the victims day to day state of mind. To change or stop altogether their ability to function at school, their job, in their home, and in many social environments. Over time and repeated abuse, the victim loses their ability to make decisions, causing them to question their judgement, knowledge and understanding. In many cases, verbal abuse, leads to brain washing, changing the victim’s perception of themselves, their beliefs, and the view of life and the world around them. It is under this control. this abuse, where many victims find them in a helpless position.

Overcome by low self esteem and self worth, they are unable to get a job with an income to provide for themselves (never mind if they have kids, other mouths to feed). Having been convinced by their past experiences as a child, no doubt reiterated over and over by their abuser, ‘they are only words’, the victim has never called the police to file a report. Ashamed of their inability to have a loving and happy marriage and out of fear of reprimand, the victim remains silent. Not sharing their plight with friends and family. They are isolated, beaten down, scared, alone, hopeless and stuck.

It’s not just verbal, it’s Abuse.

It’s time to stand up and speak out against all forms of abuse.