Updated: Feb 13
We're taking a pause in this month's blog series of the top 3 types of DV that our September training participants had never heard of before our awareness training to get a little personal. Next week we'll finish up with the one that was tied with digital abuse for #2, but this week we're going to talk about the fight of the survivor.
I'm gonna talk about how doing this work sometimes lands on - ME.
Firstly, I'm super grateful. Grateful that I can take the s*** that devoured 15 years of my life and the lives of my children and give BENEFIT to my Black sisters, other female survivors, and provide HOPE through the work we are doing through our LLC and the upcoming nonprofit.
I'm Sick of People Thinking It's Over for Me
Secondly, let me tell ya - things don't magically clear up and become rosy simply because the abuser no longer lives in your space, okay? Things are magically wonderful for your children who are still grappling with knowing they have a father who truly doesn't love anyone, including them (see the psychologytoday.com article on narcisstic abuse). Birthdays trigger memories from previous abusive, controlling birthdays with the abuser. Celebrations trigger memories from previous jealous, cruel displays during previous celebrations with the abuser, or moments when he turned the entire celebration in his own personal pity party that all were required to supportively join while abandoning their own celebration. Safe, joyous moments trigger somber recollections of times with the abuser that were filled with mental programming of anxiety and preference of isolation for faux safety.
If you think as a woman, that because you have and are successfully helping other women by creating safe spaces, more informed spaces, programs that serve specific needs previously unmet, that ever removes the boiling anger of knowing someone targeted you specifically and decided to try to wholly destroy you from the inside out - let me tell you - it doesn't.
I Still Have Triggers
When the most recent infamous missing person, Gabby Petito, was discovered to have been murdered, I didn't cry. I didn't even feel sad. (I'm not sure why, but refuse to judge myself in that moment. I may have been numb; I get that way sometimes.) But when I read today that Brian Laundrie may be deceased; I immediately cried hot tears. I'm tired. I'm tired of people getting off "easy" by leaving this world after devastating someone else's. I'm tired of people being able to hide behind the pitiful excuse for justice we have that believes it's necessary to see photos of broken bones and such to protect victims of domestic violence. It's ridiculous that mothers still are forced to take their children to an emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise abusive father simply because those types of abuse "don't count" in visitation/custody determinations. If Brian did take Gabby's life, I don't want him deceased. I wanted him revived to stand the weight of shame - like the shame she felt while being interviewed by the police in that police car with people driving past thinking she did something wrong and was being detained for her criminal actions. I want him revived to feel the disapproval and anger of her parents during his trial and sentencing - like the disapproval she faced repetitively from him during the abuse. I'm tired of feeling like I'm hollering into a hole in the dark sometimes in getting people to understand how destructive ALL types of domestic violence (DV) are - including the one the ABC afterschool specials showed us when I was growing up.
What happens to the survivors?
I Wish People Would Stop
Stop telling survivors to thank God that the abuser "didn't put his hands" on them. Why would anyone thank God for being mentally tortured? Because ALL types of DV come with mental torture. Stop telling Black female survivors how to feel, what they should have done, what YOU wouldn't have done. Because you have NO idea how she feels living in a community who expects her to be his backbone even if it kills her. Because the things you THINK she should have done would have gotten her killed. Because you have NO idea WHAT you would have done - some of you are being victimized right now and are not aware of it and are in the relationship because you're trying to be a good partner.
There's No Shame
And while we're at it, let's just be clear that there is NO SHAME in trying being a good partner. There is NO SHAME in not being suspicious of your partner's behavior; all solid relationships are built on TRUST. There is NO SHAME in looking for the good in your partner; you're supposed to believe the best from them as that makes a productive environment for reciprocity and goodwill between you to flourish.
We Need You to Allow
What about survivors? We know we're strong, we don't need to be told daily. What we want to be allowed to be is angry. Sad. Hurt. We want to be allowed to be anxious. If you had someone constantly harming you that lived with you and knew and exploited your most intimate fears, wouldn't YOU be anxious? We want to be allowed to be extra cautious without being labeled paranoid. 75% of all murders from an IP happen in the first 18 months following separation. However, that doesn't mean harm or homicide is impossible after that 18 months. Do we know they will go that far? No. But we don't know they won't. This person has turned our worlds upside down for months, years, for some it has been decades - some survivors were victims longer than they've been anything else. Give them time to learn how to navigate their world post-abuse in a way that feels SAFE to them - to US.
We Need You to Support
Support us. What does that mean? Let US tell you what support looks like. If we have children, don't interject what YOU think we should do with them and their abusive father - support what we decide safety looks like. You may be the ONLY support we have. If we are working and deciding what arrangements look like for school, daycare, and someone watching them for us - see if you have a scenario or can create a scenario that works for the way we live now; don't seek to influence how we should carry that out. If we have teenage children and we're looking at how to navigate their transition into adulthood, support the decisions we make and being a sounding board or brainstorming partner who respects our new normal. If you have an agency that contains a center of trust for us - DON'T BREACH IT - EVER - no matter what help you believe might come of it. We have worked hard to build a newer, safer village, and don't want that compromised - we understand the less the abuser knows of our next move, the safer we and our children REMAIN.
Help support ways we find helpful so those avenues can continue to support us. Courageous Fire, LLC is birthing a partner, Courageous Access, which will be housing all of the programming that directly serves Black female DV victim-survivors or helps strengthen the network they need. Some of the LLC's programming will be shifted into this new realm. What can you do? Support by giving to start building a financial base as we continue to expand to change the narrative for Black women and DV: Donate to Courageous Access.
The biggest and most significant way you can support a survivor is by doing what you have done as you read this entire article: listen. Listen to a survivor's point of view. Treat it as VALID. Respect her journey. Keep her information TO YOURSELF unless she asks you otherwise. Help her in the ways she asks if you are able, NOT in the ways you believe to be best.
Thank you for listening to this survivor during DVAM, Beloved. Blessings.