It took me many years to muster up the courage to tell the people in my life what my husband was doing to me.
Heads up: When you decide to tell, beware. You may not get the reactions from people you expect or hope for. Some people will surprise you, both in a good way and in a bad way.
When I decided to tell my family what he was doing to me I was met with all kinds of reactions and responses, none of which was helpful to me. It quite honestly left me stunned. It's not like they didn't believe me, it was more that they didn't react at all. I kept waiting for the outrage but it never came. My mother told me to "stay out of his way when he gets like that". My father told me that he couldn't "swing it right now" when I asked if I could stay at his house for a couple of weeks because I thought my husband was going to kill me. My siblings didn't do anything either.
I knew I was on my own.
Not going to lie, it knocked me off my feet for a bit and I almost gave up trying to leave. At the time I resolved to the fact that my husband would kill me one day.
Then after one particularly vile episode of my husband’s anger, I reached out to professionals. I called a domestic violence hotline-The number that was posted on a flyer at my doctor's office. And it changed my life.
I should note that my friends didn't help me either when I told them. It's not like I was asking anyone for money or a home or anything other than emotional support and validation that I didn't deserve this violence.
In fact, no one told me that until I spoke to counselors at my local domestic violence program. Sure, that's their job but every single time I interacted with anyone there, I was treated with the utmost kindness, compassion, dignity and respect. Even after they learned in detail about the horrible things my husband did to me, in their eyes, I still deserved respect.
The counselors at the DV program were true life saving superheroes for me. If I needed someone to talk to one of them was available 24/7. One of the best things I did for my healing was to take part in a support group for survivors of domestic violence. For me, this was one of the greatest aides in healing. Speaking with other women who understood exactly what I was going through was critically important. I learned so many things from these beautiful women. The group consisted of women with varying backgrounds, experiences, cultures, religions, and socioeconomic status.
The single most important thing that I took away from the group was that we had something major in common. I bet you are thinking that I mean that we were abused. Nope. The thing we all had in common is our huge capacity to love. Unfortunately we were all exploited by the person/people who were supposed to love us back. In that group we gave each other the gift of love, compassion, and respect that we all deserved.
Not everyone in the real world thinks like that however. Go forward in caution when you decide to tell, however still press forward, no matter what. It might take great courage but you HAVE to move in the direction toward safety. If the first person you tell doesn't help you, tell someone else. Keep telling people until you find someone who will support you in your journey to safety. A great place to start is a Domestic Violence Program.
I cannot stress this enough: You are lovable. You are valuable. You are worthy. You deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, and dignity. And you most certainly do not have to live in fear any longer.
Colleen L is a retired special needs teacher and lifelong advocate for children. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Master’s Degrees in Psychology and Special Education. Her therapy is being out in nature walking endless miles on beautiful trails.
Effective October 6, 2022, The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) and the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) have joined together. To learn more about this exciting venture, to expand the eco-system of holistic and inclusive support for survivors and advocates, please visit Project Opal.