Sunday, September 30, 2012

Violence is Never Acceptable: Taking Back my Power

Last night I found myself watching an older movie in which the main character was being physically abused by her fiance. The abuse was shrouded in secrecy and silence. But the telltale physical marks and the character's increasingly timid and frightened demeanor, especially in response to talk about her upcoming nuptials to her abuser, soon betrayed the secret. I was reminded of my own experience with physical abuse in childhood and emotional abuse in adulthood.

Violence--emotional, physical, sexual, or the threat of these--is never acceptable. And violence is certainly never the victim's fault. You didn't cause it, you cannot control it, and you cannot cure it. Over time, violence has a way of promoting secrecy because it pummels the victim into compliance and silence. The victim learns to put up with the violence out of fear of reprisal, that coming forward will have worse consequences. Add to this, the fact that victims of abuse can feel so broken in spirit, they don't fight back. And the downward spiral continues, where the victim of violence eventually victimizes her/(him)self. The impact is far-reaching, affecting so many of our relationships with others and with ourselves.

There is a cyclical nature to violence: the violence occurs, there is a period of apology and "I'm sorry, I won't do it again," followed by the honeymoon period or good period, then wham! another violent act occurs. Sometimes, like an ocean, the waves of violence keep coming, and the good periods get shorter. In order for this cycle to end, it must be broken--you must step out of it.

Violence often escalates. Both emotional and physical abuse have the potential to escalate, and there exists the risk of death. You must make yourself and your children safe. Do you have a safety plan? A safety plan is your out, what you will do in the event that you absolutely must leave. This means having a packed bag ready with all your basic essentials, including passport, health cards, extra money and prescriptions for you and your children, as well as a safe place to go.

If fear is keeping you anchored in a dangerous relationship, break the silence. We are only as sick as our secrets. Reach out--tell someone you trust. Mobilize support and allies. You deserve to feel safe and protected, and no one has the right to take that away from you. No one has the right to hurt you, bully you or emotionally batter you. Yet that huge first step begins with you; only you can save yourself.

What is your safety plan? What is your out? What might stand in your way and how might you take action to save yourself and take back your power?

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