November 20, 2011
From Victim to Survivor
One day it just happens…we begin to heal
I can never forget the day that the victimization of Ms. Roxanne started. I was such a young woman – only turning 22, and my life was turned upside down by a person who promised to love and to cherish me. Well, he did, like a child loves and cherishes a dog until it becomes unruly or takes a dump on the floor. That is when the “fun” began.
Being victimized by someone in whom we place our trust, namely with our safety and totally because we believe that they have our best interests at heart, makes a person begin to question the things they were taught and brought up with. I believed that I was somehow entitled to a happy marriage and a marriage that would mirror my parents’ and my mother’s parents’ did. I dearly wanted, or at least I thought I wanted, to spend my happily ever after with this person, this stranger. The things that I have learned over the last two decades have served me well in the areas of strength and tenacity, the areas of compassion and understanding. I have learned what it is to feel so helpless, so without any measure of hope and I have learned that it is not tangible things that are meaningful, but rather and only intangible things. People are both tangible and intangible. I was cut off from contact with people, with my friends and with my family, and I was told for a long time that I did not need them. He was wrong.
The one thing that is the most important to any person being victimized is access to support, and there is never any sort of support that ever comes from the person who is abusing their victim. They just keep on hurting you and they forget eventually that the person they are beating on is a human being, is someone who cannot figure out why the person they love so much can claim to love you but who will treat you like you do not deserve to be treated kindly. To them divorce, or at least I have been told, many times, is akin to failure, and in my case my long dead father in law was a serial monogamist, having married more than a few times, and every one of those unions included a measure of abuse and violence. It was evident to me with his last spouse, a woman who had gastric problems due to the stress that I know she was subjected to.
And we can tell who else is being victimized. We can see in others the things that are also part of our own lives. It is like Hawaiians knowing who is Hawaiian in a crowd – we just know our own kind. How sad is it that in this case, abuse victims know their own kind? How sad is it that we are aware that there are other people – mostly women people – who are living in a hell not of their own creation? How sad is it that there is not more being done about this problem and how sad is it that there are generations of children who have been subjected to an angry parent beating on the other parent? This is a travesty, a tragedy, and it is like any other disease that goes unchecked. It spreads like wildfire. It is like no other silent killer, because the other silent killers you do not get to know about until a doctor finds whatever it is that is making a person sick.
The worst part of it is that this is a silent killer that is preventable, that people know about because of our here-today-and-maybe-I-will-see-you-in-a-year-or-five presence on occasions and in places we used to frequent. We try like hell to keep it quiet, to cover the bruises by wearing too much make up and long sleeved blouses, to force a smile when instead we are trying hard to force the tears to stay inside of our eyes. We go through so much, deal with way more than most do, and in the end we find that no matter what has happened to us we are able to deal with it. In fact, by the time that you get to where I am now in this process of healing that has taken this damned long there is not a lot that you cannot deal with. Of course, you will be impatient with people, and you will question everything and everyone, and yes, of course, you become choosey as hell, constructing your own family of friends very carefully, all the way down to what sort of man or woman you will choose to trust and who that person will be. You become sharp intuitively, far more than you realize you were before you started getting all those weird little hints and hunches that spawn from the center of the Universe. You begin to see in people the potential for change and you find something that you have not seen in a long, long time – your Self.
It took me some time to get used to the idea that this was a dilema that was not soon going to end, and in my case, with this person I married, it has taken this long for me to finally let it all go, let it all be what it is and learn to accept the idea that I am now a statistic. Though it has been some time since the last time that I was attacked physically, I still flinch when he raises his voice, and I still see that same damned raging bull, still cannot climb over that wall that widens and gains height with every single try I make to get around it. When I remembered that the animal was only in my dreaming state, I was able to breathe. When I woke up from that dream I knew that the thing I waited so long for was upon me, and it was suddenly a good day.
It is much a dream state that we end up in, the survivors of domestic abuse. In my case I was shattered and felt like somehow I was the one who was wrong, because if you are told that you are wrong enough times, you begin to doubt yourself and second guess everything you are told by anyone, even your closest friends. I dirve my best friend crazy with my habit of asking her “are you sure? really?” and even as she gets it, she shouldn’t have to even tell me that she is sure, that yes, really, whatever it is that she told me is the truth. We tend to not believe people, and it takes time to really know who you can and more, who you cannot trust.
But eventually, you grow into the idea that you made it through it, all of it, and if you are lucky, you have grown a thick skin but are still soft enough in heart to be able to have some empathy toward others, namely those who bear the expression that I know I did. You can only hide a broken heart for so long. Eventually people begin to ask you what the problem is. Eventually all that sadness becomes rage and eventually you begin to become destructive to the point where you are knowingly hurting yourself. I took a lot of crap from people about why I was not standing up for myself, and in order to mask the pain of no one understanding I drank. I drank like a fish. I drank like a fish until my oldest child was in utero. Then I started to smoke, and take bong hits, and then one day, through a drunken haze, I cried like a baby.
I cried because my Self was now treating my broken heart with alcohol. and I cried because I felt so alone and I was lonely for my friends and for the companionship that I was told marriage gives you. Sometimes, I still cry, but these days, it is because I am homesick, but being homesick is easy to fix. Being beaten, being abused verbally, being the target of an angry man’s vitriol and feeling vulnerable to his attacks is not an easy fix. In fact, it is one of the most difficult to overcome.
Yet overcome it, I did, for the most part. I am, as I said already, a lot stronger because of what I endured. I would not go through it again, though, I promise.
These days I find myself loving me for who I am. These days I find that I am able to choose my friends because I like them and not because my husband thinks that my friends and I have to match in terms of what we look like because he has some sort of weird level of attractiveness that my friends must have in order to pass his muster. Those days are gone, gone like so many bruises and so many hairline fractures and so many tears of anger and frustration.
These days I have found a voice and it is the voice of the masses who cannot talk for themselves, who are scared to say anything because they do not want to suffer the arrows of anger shot at them from a person who says that they love their victim, who have given up hope because everything they know as normal is no longer a part of their lives. I am that voice. Mine is the voice that cries to the heavens, angrily demanding an answer from the Gods of attrition and hate, of pain and heartache, of disappointment and loss, and I am filled with defiance and rage for a society which ignores the many cries in the night, the cries that ask not why they suffer and neither when they will stop, but rather why it seems that no one loves them. This is what we are told, that we are not loved, that no one wants us, that we will never be loved again and that we do not deserve love.
What no one knows,though, is that survivors of abuse learn a measure of self love that is unmatched by anything, and that Love becomes the vehicle through which we choose to profligate our own corner of the world with. Where once there was pain is now the scar that tells us we have healed. Where once there was mistrust for all there is now in the void those people on whom we leaned when it seemed that no one cared. Where once there was the unrecognizable person staring back at us from the mirror’s reflection through blackened eyes and bruised cheeks and split lips there now stands one who has become the epitome of the Warrior Spirit whose soul is big like the sky and whose Love is endless, for the family who they created with their friends, for life itself, and most of all, for the Warrior who stares back at them, the blackened eyes gone, the scars from the past presented but seeming more now like accessories than evidence of a life unbelievable and unfortunate. I was a crying mess earlier today. I am not that crying mess anymore, and though I cannot forget the reason that I cried, I know now more than ever and more than anything else, what my purpose is. and it is a good thing. There is truth to the idea that I am a diamond in the rough, that my life has only now begun because for so long I was not awake with the passion and the fire that I now have, the sort that is not quelled by someone else’s doubts, not put out by the waves of mistrust and the ocean’s worth of smirky snickering that erupts from this man who thinks so highly of himself.
He thinks highly of himself, I am convinced, because he knows that no one else does and no one else will, at least not after all those people who he conned into thinking that he was somehow the greatest guy alive, the most affable guy they knew, now also know that he has this ugly, dirty sin – the sin of abusing his wife…me. My friend…best friend…said something today as she ignored the foolishness of the ass she married. When her ass hat asked her if the person on the phone was married, she answered “no, he’s dead…” I will not go further with the rest of the conversation, but something, at that moment, clicked in me. She was right – he is dead, not yet physically, but emotionally and spiritually. That is more dead than physically dead.
I am yet a work in progress. It takes time to heal. I know, though, that though this is the beginning of the end of this part of my life, of the first half and the first marriage, even through the death of my abusive spouse, it is also the beginning of the second half of my life, my second chance and is my chance at making a difference in the lives of abuse victims and survivors everywhere.
It is good being me….I Love Me…
I Love You All !
(Rev. Roxanne Cottell is a Freelance Writer, Speaker and Spiritual Counselor residing in Southern California. For inquires regarding the Ka Wahine ‘Ui dance program for survivors of domestic abuse,or any other inquiries. please contact her by clicking here. Her latest book, “Goddesses, Priestesses and Queens” can be purchased at lulu.com and amazon.com)