The Final Blow
In Topeka Kansas, the city council is considering removing domestic violence from the city ordinance. The drastic measure comes as a result of the Shawnee County attorney refusing to prosecute any misdemeanors at the county level due to a 10 percent budget cut. This leaves the city of Topeka to prosecute the misdemeanors, and the city says not only can they not afford it, but also the city officials are not trained in prosecuting some of these cases, including domestic violence. As a result, the council is considering repealing the part of the city code that bans domestic violence.
Which leaves women in a precarious position. As it is, most cases of domestic violence are never reported. While one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, these cases are rarely reported to police. The unfortunate outcome is that daughters look for abusive husbands, not because they like to be picked on, but because it has become the norm, and the norm is familiar and comfortable. Sons often become abusers themselves, because they see the behavior modeled, and it has become their norm. Thus, new generations of domestic abuse arise out of the ashes of destroyed families.
I always thought that I would never stand for being abused. I told my abusive ex-husband that he better never hit me, because then I would leave. For years, he abused my children and myself, verbally, emotionally and psychologically. When he finally hit me, he dared me to call the police. He said no one would ever believe me. I cowered in our bedroom, crying. Not because he hit me, but because I was a coward. I didn’t have the guts to get out. My children watched the event. They comforted me, and told me things would be fine.
With six children living at home, my fear of the unknown was huge. It took several more months before I got up the courage to leave, taking them all with me, to start a better life.
Many women never get the chance to start over. I am blessed beyond my ability to express my gratitude, for this beautiful life I live, in Evanston. Everyday, I thank God for this great life, for my wonderful husband, and for my happy children. Sometimes, the chance to leave comes when the abuser is in jail, and the woman is finally safe, as in my case. It took just a few hours, after he was arrested, for me to get out of Dodge.
With the city council deciding that domestic violence is no longer a crime, many women in similar positions will never find freedom and happiness. Hopefully, the Topeka city council, the Mayor, and the county attorney’s office will find a way to help the women in their community be safe. Prosecuting domestic violence is an important step in the process.
The statistics are rather grim. According to some statistics, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, mugging and rapes combined. Unfortunately, domestic violence doesn't occur in a vacuum and nearly 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. These children then go on to become the victims or perpetrators of domestic violence in their own relationships, thus perpetuating a vicious and deadly cycle.
While this problem is typically violence against women, the Domestic Violence Resource center says that violence against men accounts for 15% of abuse. The frightening piece of the puzzle is that every day, in this country, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners, most of those occurring between spouses.
These frightening numbers do not show the human side of domestic violence. I can't describe the fear and self-loathing that permeated my being for nearly twenty years, as I heard what a pathetic, no good, dumb, worthless person I was.
After leaving, it has taken me a while to rebuild trust, and to believe in myself as a capable human being. The hardest row to hoe, however will be with my older children. After years of hearing their father berate me, and them, they have come to believe his lies. While my older daughters, now adults, are glad that we got out, they blame me for staying too long. They blame me for not leaving sooner. Worst of all, now they blame me for lying about their dad. After hearing him degrade me, they buy into hate that he spews, and they believe I am as he describes. This painful turn of events has only served to continue the cycle of abuse. My teen-aged son, who still lives with his dad has begun many of the same types of behavior, including blaming others when things go wrong, bullying his younger brothers and sisters, and disregarding what I say, because I am just a woman, and not to be listened to. While my ex-husband accuses me of ruining his respect for women, I can see the painful truth.
My children have suffered, not only watching attacks against me, but also by enduring constant criticism, condemnation and critique. They are working as adults, to build their lives new, to start fresh and to define themselves.
Still, I feel guilty for causing them to endure such emotional trauma. Although they are emerging from behind the veil of abuse, they are still tender, sensitive people whose hearts have been forever marred.
Domestic Violence Destroys Families
The domestic violence trap is a difficult one to escape. Many people may wonder why women don't just leave. Leaving, for an abused person, is not as simple as walking out the door. Many times, domestic abuse involves poverty, children and shame.
When you are poor, it is difficult to think about anything else, other than putting out the immediate fires surrounding your life. When I was in an abusive marriage, we were poor. I worked as a waitress, most of the time, and my daily tips went to pay whatever utility was getting shut off next. It was only after I decided that I needed to leave, that I began saving money. The lying was hard. I had decided to save 10% of my tip money. I always gave all of my tips to my husband at the end of the day. After this decision, I hid the money in my sock, then opened a secret bank account at a bank across town.
That step was very scary, and I was afraid of what he would do if he found out. I had a dear friend who went with me, to encourage me to open the bank account, and fortunately, it went smoothly. After opening that account, I began to save money, a little at at time. I called it my freedom account. Even my password was the word freedom.
While my ex commented on the smaller amount I seemed to be making, it never came up that I was stealing from him. If he had known, I would have been in big trouble. So saving money was one step, and there were a number of times when that money would have bailed us out of financial trouble before I left. I was committed to leaving, and I had a plan, so I stuck to the plan.
I tried several times to ask him to leave. His reply was always the same, "If you are so unhappy, get the hell out. But you have to explain to the kids why you are abandoning them." I knew I could never leave my children behind. I felt trapped by his refusal to leave, and I prayed that God would provide a way for me to get out.
After years of waitressing, I got a job in sales, making more money than I had ever before. I had $50 from every check automatically deposited into the secret bank account. This was significant for my freedom fund, and also very scary. I knew there would be dire consequences if he ever found out.
Finally, after almost a year, he was arrested. I couldn't raise the money to bail him out, and one of my daughters, a teen-ager at the time said, "Mom, maybe God doesn't want you to bail him out."
The light came on in my head, and I realized that this was my chance at freedom. Although we had nowhere to go and no real plan, I decided to pack the van with our important belongings. I told the children not to ride the bus home after school, that we were going on an adventure.
God blessed me when I finally took the first step of faith. He says it many times in the bible, as with Abraham, when God told him to go into the land, which God would show him. God didn't show Abraham the land ahead of time. He told Abraham to start walking, and then he made a path.When I took the first step of faith, relying on God to lead the way, he did.
The hard truth
One of the hardest pieces of advice I ever received came from a dear and trusted friend, who told me, "I don't want to listen to you complain anymore. You are exactly where you want to be. If you wanted things to be different, you would make them be different."
At first, those words stung and I didn't speak to her for a while. After thinking about what she said, I realized the truth in her statement. We are all exactly where we want to be, good or bad.
We all have the power to make our lives exactly as we would have them. The first step is to believe the truth that you can create your own life. The second step is to walk toward what you want. As it says in the book, "Conversations with God," we can create exactly what we want in this life. It begins with a thought. The thought becomes words and the words manifest in action. Believe in what you want, do the things necessary or do the things that someone with that life would do, have the life you want. While this is over simplified, it is also true.
We all have the power to manifest life exactly as we want it. The first step is to believe it.