Thursday, December 20, 2012

Understanding Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse/violence is often a misunderstood concept to many people. It is commonly thought of as only physical, and even when it is understood, many people do not realize the long term consequences of domestic abuse on the victim. Unfortunately, many people think of abuse as being equivalent to a marital mistake--you know, someone cheating one time, or breaking a piece of furniture in anger one time. The truth though, is that abuse is a habitual thing, and almost always hidden from people outside of the relationship. While it may be possible that you cannot understand it unless you go through it, I say that you don't have to empathize in order to sympathize. Understanding what domestic abuse is, is the first step to being able to sympathize and help a family going through or coming out of it. It is also the first step to preventing and ending it.

Facts on domestic violence, taken from http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/domviol/facts.htm:

  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. ("Violence Against Women, A Majority Staff Report," Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 102nd Congress, October 1992, p.3.)
  • Police are more likely to respond within 5 minutes if an offender is a stranger than if an offender is known to a female victim. (Ronet Bachman, Ph.D. "Violence Against Women: A National Crime Victimization Survey Report." U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice and Statistics. January 1994, p. 9.)
  • Battering occurs among people of all races, ages, socio-economic classes, religious affiliations, occupations, and educational backgrounds.
  • A battering incident is rarely an isolated event.
  • Battering tends to increase and become more violent over time.
  • Many batterers learned violent behavior growing up in an abusive family.
  • 25% - 45% of all women who are battered are battered during pregnancy.
  • Domestic violence does not end immediately with separation. Over 70% of the women injured in domestic violence cases are injured after separation.
  • One in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape. (U.S. Department of Justice, “Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women,” November 1998)
  • Nearly 7.8 million women have been raped by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. (Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States. 2003. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control. Atlanta, GA.)
  • Witnessing violence between one’s parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. (Frieze, I.H., Browne, A. (1989) Violence in Marriage. In L.E. Ohlin & M. H. Tonry, Family Violence. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Break the Cycle. (2006). Startling Statistics)
  • Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults. (Strauss, Gelles, and Smith, “Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence” in 8,145 Families. Transaction Publishers 1990)
  • Children who witness violence at home display emotional and behavioral disturbances as diverse as withdrawal, low self-esteem, nightmares, self-blame and aggression against peers, family members and property. (Peled, Inat, Jaffe, Peter G & Edleson, Jeffery L. (Eds) Ending the Cycle of Violence: Community Responses to Children of Battered Women. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1995.)
  • 30% to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household. (Edelson, J.L. (1999). “The Overlap Between Child Maltreatment and Woman Battering.” Violence Against Women. 5:134-154)
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in a national survey that 34 percent of adults in the United States had witnessed a man beating his wife or girlfriend, and that 14 percent of women report that they have experienced violence from a husband or boyfriend. More than 1 million women seek medical assistance each year for injuries caused by battering. (Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS); Horton, 1995. "Family and Intimate Violence")
  • The average prison sentence of men who kill their women partners is 2 to 6 years. Women who kill their partners are, on average, sentenced to 15 years. (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1989)

Someone you know is dealing with domestic violence. It is worth your time and effort to understand it, and also to understand where to turn for help if it is you that is the victim. A great, comprehensive, and easy to understand website to get this information is:

    Monday, April 30, 2012

    Why I Got Married.

    Marriage is not had to have a wedding. In fact, a wedding means nothing without a marriage. And one should get engaged to be married, not engaged to have a wedding.  The binding of two people is not to be a spectacle. It is, instead to be for the edification of both parties and out of obedience to their creator. Thankfully, that creator also created the emotion of love which He places in the hearts of those to be married.

    If then, these things are true, why would one not get married when it is laid upon the hearts of both parties that THAT is what they are to do? Why is the intention questioned, or the act criticized by those who should understand this concept?

    I am told that I don't have the right to remarry, to have a wedding, to wear a white dress. It is spoken of me that I must have gotten married so that I could have sex (really? Does anyone really think that is a reason for marriage?). I am sure, to follow that, there is speculation that I must be pregnant.

    The truth though, is that this is the man I am to be married to. And that is all. He. is my husband.

    Thursday, April 12, 2012

    7 Tries

    Someone told me today that a woman will leave an abusive partner seven times before actually staying gone.

    There is a small part within me that is proud that it only took me twice.

    Thursday, March 29, 2012

    Be gracious.

    I have a lot I want to say right now, but I am unsure of what to include. I wish I could make you all understand without you having to go through what he and I went through. If you could understand what it's truly like for either of us, I think you would be a lot more gracious...and you may even reach out once in a while. Do you know how lonely it is? Do you know how tiring it is? Do you know how many people stop talking to you?

    Do you realize how many people stalk your life but never say a word to you about it? Do you realize how complicated it is to do something as simple as run to the store at midnight if your child needs medicine? Do you realize that even your neighbors avoid you once they notice something is different? Do you realize that quite possibly, the only "Christians" who DO take the time to contact you after a divorce (or during the process) are the ones who are telling you that you are sinning and who throw stones at you (out of "love," and "good intentions," of course)? Believe me, I have cherished and remembered every comment that wasn't like that, and I thank God for the moments when I read them, because they were very needed and appreciated.

    Have you tried experiencing joy and agony at the same time? Have you tried respecting someone while still being honest about your feelings? Have you tried loving people who spread rumors about you? Have you ever woken up at 0430 hours so you could gather up your toddler and baby and bring them to another person's house because you needed to be at work at 0700 hours? Have you ever come back home after a 40-hour shift with three days' worth of dirty laundry, hungry toddlers, and a messy house?

    Here is what would make the difference. How about instead of casting stones, you offer to help. How about instead of assuming something, you ask a question. How about instead of judging, you sympathize. Be practical. Offer to do yard work, go grocery shopping, bring a movie over at 9pm when the kids are asleep and the "lonely hour" hits. Bring dinner once a week. Call and leave a message. Post a hilarious photo on their FB to make them smile.

    I'm not having a pity party here, but this is difficult, people. If you really care, then reach out. If not, then just distance yourself completely. Don't play the half-friend or "caring" stalker. People going through problems in their marriages or who are recovering from a divorce or who are reaching out to others through their own story don't have the time for your drama or shenanigans. Stay out of it, or get involved. It doesn't work both ways. Love requires action, and if you aren't acting out of love, then you are just throwing stones.

    Tuesday, March 27, 2012

    Taking Back What The Enemy's Stolen From Me


    I still feel anger. Not towards him, but towards those who still embrace him. I realize that God forgives us despite our sin, and He continues to accept us as His children upon repentance, but... The grief that I felt for the things stolen from me through him led me to be angry. That is over though, now, and I don't have anger towards him. Those that still call him their own, however, I can't seem to get over.

    The problem is not that they "love" him. The problem is that it feels as though they have chosen to love him over me. I think to myself, "if only they knew the heinous things that happened, then surely they would take the vengeance upon him that I so want someone to take...or at least they wouldn't call him one of their own." I divorced him, and even though I cannot change the fact that he is the father of my children and thus I will always be tied to him, I did change the fact to that he is not mine. However...telling the stories of the almost five years of hidden wounds that turned into scars just isn't something I am interested in. I am horrified by the things that I had to endure, and ashamed of the things I had to partake in. I don't want to remember them, let alone have anyone else remember them for me.

    It is confusing and hurtful to me that no one has punched him in the face yet. There, I admitted it. Why hasn't anyone done that for me? If I ever, ever was told that one of my sisters had to go through some of the things I did, I would surely deal with her offender. Who the heck cares if that person was once considered family to you? Am I not of more value than a relationship? Is the purity, security, and life stolen from me not of value?

    The comfort I can derive from this is that to God, I am worth it. Somehow, he is able to love the offender while defending the victim. He continues to stand for me. He is able to see the past, see what is still going on, and can love and teach one person while loving and bringing justice to the next. I must learn to have HIS grace be sufficient for me, and to not allow the people around me to affect my destiny...because...they don't affect my destiny.

    I am taking back what the enemy has stolen from me. I am taking back my joy, my peace, my freedom, my body, my right to live without sin in my life. I am taking back my dreams, my rest, my attitude. I am taking back my right to have a healthy, beautiful, loving family. I am taking back my right to have a husband who loves me and who treats me as Christ would treat the church.

    Every little tiny thing that the enemy stole, I am taking back.

    Through Your victory, I can finally sing
    I'm taking back what the enemy's stolen from me
    
    
    Freedom has been won
    Death is overcome
    Victory is ours and we'll keep singin'
    
    
    I'm taking back what the enemy's stolen from me
    I'm taking back what the enemy's stolen from me

    (Taking Back by Worth Dying For)

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    His name is Ben.


    It's the moment when the girl meets her prince and the room swirls around them. Except, this moment doesn't stop. It's when the fireflies have already led you out of the darkness, and you are comfortable, but then out of nowhere, fireworks start, unexpectedly, and they're synchronized to music that surrounds you even more fully than the firefly river that brought you there. It's awe inspiring, beyond beautiful, and magical. At the same time, it's normal. Not the boring sort of normal, but the sort of normal that screams "this is how it's supposed to be!", like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Everyone knows that you can have different toppings, but unless it's jelly, that peanut butter isn't in its truest form between the layers of bread.

    His name is Ben, and we are keeping him. From the start, I constantly prayed and examined to honestly know if there was anything about him that I wished was different. Any part of who he was or what he stands for...Neither of us were interested in dating for the sake of dating, and holy smokes, with two kids involved, extra care was needed to make sure things were solid and not wavering. Well, there is nothing I would change about him. He truly is the perfect fit for our family, and I think God must love me an awful lot to give me my Ben.

    The first things I learned about him are some of the things I love the most. The first, is that he is a Christian. Truly, a man who has changed parts of his life and set the relational boundaries before I even had a chance to so that sin isn't a part of his life or our relationship. Talk about healthy protection! He loves Jesus, and it's personal, important, and the driving factor in his life. Mix that with his strikingly handsome looks and amazing voice and it's enough to melt right there. However, God even went beyond that.

    Ben is a fire chief, has a degree in fire science, is an EMT, and is currently is school for his R.N.. He also sings and does ropes (rappelling). If you know anything about me, you know that these things fit my academic and social interests perfectly. Instead of stifling the desires God put in my heart, I now get to share them with the person I love!

    He prays over me and my children. He tells fantastic bedtime stories. He cleans so the kids can have my undivided attention. He roughhouses and throws the kids in the air because I am too cautious to do it myself. He isn't afraid to wipe Timmy's snot away with his finger, to drink the concoction Amara made for him in his drinking glass, or to listen to a crying kid for an hour at a time. He also isn't afraid to love a woman with an unselfish, whole love. To do what is best for her. To build her up. And lastly, he isn't afraid to be himself. He knows who he is, and he is peaceful in that knowing.

    I love how he loves me, and I love loving him. I love that my children are the most at peace when he is at our house and we are a family. I love that when we go out, even to church, everyone calls him my children's father, and my children don't correct them. I love that Amara calls him all of the time, and he talks to her. I love that Timmy cries when he leaves. God grew us all in each others' hearts and we didn't even realize it until we knew each other.

    I prayed for this man before I knew who he was, and his name is Ben. And we are definitely keeping him.

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    Dear Blog, I am Miserable.

    I just need to complain for a moment. I'm sure as heck not going to do it on Facebook (I hate that), nor am I going to call Ben just to complain some more (I've done that enough this week)...but...I am near the point of a breakdown, so need to vent. Hence, the blog.

    Dear Blog,

    I want nothing more than to be wearing comfortable jammies, snuggled in Ben's arms in my bed right now. With kids elsewhere so I can rest and not always be on high alert and in demand. I am SICK and my emotional control capacity is near zero. My respiratory system is stuffed and stressed, my muscles hurt, my joints ache, and my skin is overly sensitive (happens whenever I get a bad cold or the flu). I tried so hard to not get sick with all of this crap going around--I even made two of my patients wear masks earlier this week! But here I am, and I have to get up at 4:30am tomorrow morning so I can go do a 17 hour shift at work followed by leaving for class five hours after my shift ends, driving two hours, sitting through 8 hours of class, driving another two hours, getting kids, driving home, and getting everyone to bed. I don't feel as though I can handle all... or maybe any...of this right now.

    I am overwhelmed with the stuff in my life--trying for months to get insurance for the kids just to finally be told TODAY that my county is not served by the company I have been working with (I cried on the phone with the insurance representative), I have hundreds of dollars in medical bills as a result of all of that. I am nervous about the ridiculous drive I'll be doing for school, plus the work hours that may not allow adequate sleep around my class day. I am so far behind on house work it makes me want to either throw my entire house out or throw up because there's no way I'll ever get it all done. Every errand I make, I have to bring two kids with me...which meant I had to go through the lines and metal detectors and stairs TWICE today because once I'd gotten everyone back and buckled in the car after visiting the county treasurer's office, I then realized I had left the paper that I'd gone there to get in the first place up on the treasurer's counter! Go figure.

    My phone doesn't even charge, so John is coming over to sit here for a few minutes while the kids are asleep so I can run to Walmart and buy an alarm clock since I won't be able to use my phone's. (this is actually a pretty big deal that he is willing to do this). Ugh.

    Cheerios are ground into the floor, there is red popsicle on the white couch pillow, and I still have two loads of laundry to fold, one in the dryer, and one still to start tonight. That's after the three loads I just folded and put away. :-|

    Amara isn't in bed yet. I haven't slept well in days. This is partly because I've gotten out of work late (got us home after midnight two nights ago), and partly because Amara hasn't slept well which means I'm dealing with screaming, crying, and kicking. Which is fine, but sleep is a good idea, too.

    Yeah. Oh, and I feel totally gross about my body. I hate being fat. And then I hate myself because I am not working out and I'm not starving myself. So I guess I deserve to be fat, but then I think, I DON'T deserve to be fat. I breastfed my two kids! Mom's who nurse aren't supposed to stay FAT after giving BIRTH!

    Whatever. I'm in such a rotten mood I don't even care right now. Totally overwhelmed and not happy with any tax or healthcare system available to me right now. Childcare. That's another issue which I will leave alone right now.

    Speaking of which, I need to stop my rant so that I can get Amara to bed before John gets here and I get into trouble for her being up before he gets here. God forbid that should happen, because I don't know what might come out of my mouth if he dares complain...

    Love,
    Rachel

    365 Days Later

    One year ago tonight, my children and I slept on the futon of my sister's house. We lived the next few days with our belongings in laundry baskets, me attempting to keep things "normal" for the kids and to keep myself from having a heart attack from the terror of leaving John. It's been 365 days. Tonight, I will sleep in my own bed. Like when I was married to him, I will get up at 0430 hours tomorrow and get myself and the kids around to leave so I can go to work. I will do it on my own, clean off my own car, shovel my own driveway, and pack everyone's stuff. I will still stay up late tonight so I can clean after the kids are in bed.

    But this time, this year, things are different. I will be able to turn on the light when I get dressed, I won't have to worry about a child's cry waking him up, I won't get into trouble for using the blender to make my breakfast. Tomorrow, as I work, I won't have to try to balance a bazillion text messages and phone calls asking what I'm doing, where I am, who I am with, and why my tonal inflictions are they way they are. Thank God that stress is gone! Today, I celebrated by taking every single piece of lingerie and other "things" I learned to loathe to the dump. I loaded my van with the few remaining objects in the house that had been damaged in fits of anger and threw them into a deep pit of garbage They are all gone now, never to be looked at by me again.

    Today, I've deemed to be Freedom Day. It's difficult to uproot your life and leave a situation even when that is the only option left. Being free, though, is worth it.

    Monday, January 23, 2012

    Questions Answered


    Every so often, I hear a person refer to that couple, those parents, or that woman as being in a negative light because they or she are "split up" or "divorced." Just this weekend, after helping a young girl who had just suffered a drug induced medical problem, I heard this from her parents about the other "bad" parents they know. Immediately, I became conscious of my bare left ring finger since I had already spoken lovingly about my children. You see, I am a single mother.

    Divorce was never supposed to happen to me. I was supposed to grow up, marry, and die old and happy with that man. I was not supposed to have a different last name than my children. The term "ex husband" was not supposed to be in my personal life. But here I am, legally allowed to use my maiden name, locking my own doors at night, working a full time job while being a full time at home mom.

    Many people have wondered why things are this way, and here it is: I am divorced because there was severe abuse in my marriage. Sexually, emotionally, verbally, and physically. I have had to do things that I never wanted to do. Things happened to me that I never wanted to happen. Many people who saw us had no idea what was happening behind closed doors...but it's awful hard to tell someone when you are barricaded from escape, your phone is taken away, and your hand is squeezed so hard that you have no choice but to drop your car keys.  You can't always run fast enough, or say the "right" thing soon enough. Sometimes, you get to the point where you eventually convince yourself that you "want" to do certain things just because then at least it's easier to get through the required actions, and you know you will continue to be pressured until you give in, anyway.

    I am not divorced because my husband left me (I "left" him), because we argued about money (we didn't), or because we got tired of each other (well, I think he got tired of the kids and me, because we weren't even allowed to be in the living room when he was home at night towards the end of things). I am divorced because I couldn't do it anymore, and my children deserve a home where they are safe physically, emotionally, and mentally (hey, maybe I do, too). God comes first in my life, and my marriage was not allowing that to happen because I wasn't safe and our home was inundated with sin. It wasn't a choice. I just couldn't do it anymore, and I never will again.

    Fast forward to now, days less than a year since I left. The kids and I are in the best place we've ever been. We saw a change in the children very shortly after leaving--they were more peaceful, joyful, etc.. People are still telling me that I look alive and happy again. And me? Well, I am finally at peace because I am healed emotionally, safe, and I can now worship God without someone restraining me. We play at home now. We sing. We dance.We pray as a family. We smile and laugh. We tell Bible stories and go to church. And my life is God's now. Again. That's where I belong. My hope is only in Him. My heart, He holds. He rescued us and lifted us out of that place.

    My ex-husband, I have seen a lot of changes in him since we left. However, there are some things that I don't think will ever change. I hope the best for him, but if it wasn't for him being my children's biological father, I would have had nothing to do with him since February 1, 2011. I praise God for giving me life again, and for giving my children a future without fear.

    Oh, and I have a boyfriend. Yes, a single mother of two children, working in a male-dominated field (I am a Paramedic), who is dating. And you know what? It's a gift so precious from God to me and my children that my face still hurts from smiling so much, even three months after he became a part of our lives. Talk about a perfect substitute in our lives--WOW! My life is not what I had planned, and previously, I think I judged people who had broken marriages negatively without even realizing it, either. Sometimes, though, brokenness is a blessing because sometimes getting to where you need to be requires breaking through to the light. And that is what we did.

    Your glory is so beautiful, I fall on my knees in awe. 
    The heartbeat of my life is to worship in your light, because your glory is so beautiful.
    My life is Yours. My hope is in You only. 
    My heart, You hold.
    'cuz you make this sinner holy.

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