The following survivor story was written by Cary, a registered nurse. Her blog is Big Grey Birds.***
"Violence, Domestic or Otherwise"
I am a Registered Nurse with a Bachelor's degree. My peers respect me; I have been inducted into Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing. I have raised a terrific, compassionate, hilarious son. I live in a very nice neighborhood in a good-sized home with a terrific husband. Prior to this awesome life, I lived another one.
I have suffered at the hands of another human being who hurt me intentionally. I have been throttled. Literally hands around throat, head banging on the steel door behind me when I was a 105-pound teen girl. I have been terrified of a loaded weapon in the hands of an angry man threatening to shoot my boyfriend. I have been intimidated by a loaded weapon in the proximity of an abusive spouse. I have been demeaned, belittled, hit, kicked, cussed out and stifled. I have been sexually abused. I have been all of these things and most people who know me are completely unaware of it.
I am just like you.
I grew up a tomboy in a medium-sized Iowa town on the Mississippi River. I did not come from a broken home; in fact, my parents have been married 45 years now. I was not born from an accidental pregnancy. My family comes mostly from Midwestern farms. Everyone in the family graduates high school, many go on to college. We have multiple Master's degrees and even a PhD. Many of my family members are devoutly religious. They are not drug users, they have good teeth, and they are polite. My relatives are the neighbors who help you with a basement flood or watch your cat while you are out of town. They are normal.
When I was a kid, a family member molested me. I am unusual in that as an adult, I confronted this person. I experienced recovered memories and thought perhaps what I remembered wasn't true until the confrontation at which time my molester admitted what he did and blamed it on my child self. I am unusual in that the person who beat the hell out of me and called me names while I was growing up, who threatened to kill my boyfriend and me, apologized and got counseling. Too late for me, but not for others he might meet. I developed post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. These were both likely triggered by the abuse I experienced.
This type of childhood echoes through a lifetime. I chose partners based on what I perceived as normal male behavior, thus carrying abuse willingly into my adult life. I had no close female friends because I couldn't relate to women. I drank and abused drugs for a while, considered killing myself many times, and forced myself into therapy, which I have no doubt saved my life and probably others. I was angry from the time I can remember. I wanted to hurt other people when they upset me. I wanted to kill my parents, beat my sister, burn down and destroy property. Counseling helped me deal with these feelings, which I often did not understand.
In US culture today it is okay to see violence on TV or in movies. It is entertainment. It is all right to preach against violence in a general way. It is seldom acceptable to admit publicly specific details of having experienced abuse personally. It is a source of shame. I have felt ashamed. I have felt that shame for varying reasons over the years; it was my fault, I deserved it, he couldn't help it, I encouraged him, I should have stopped him, what will people think of me? Will my family disown me? The list can go on indefinitely.
I have known people of multiple faiths who were abusive. I have known atheists, lapsed name-your-religion here; I have known people from all walks of life, all socioeconomic backgrounds who were abusive and abused. Let me tell you something: it happens everywhere. It can happen to anyone. We need to get over the shame, get over the fear of tainting ourselves as victims or whiners or anything other than strong, determined survivors who have experienced abuse and put it in its place.
You know someone who abuses others. You know someone who is or has been abused. Help end the acceptance of personal violence, domestic or otherwise.
As for me, never again.
Huge thanks to Cary for being my brave first poster. Don't forget to enter yesterday's contest, grab a badge for your site (if you had trouble yesterday I believe they are now fixed), and spread/Share/Stumble/Tweet/email/Kirsty/Digg this word far and wide. Many, many thanks.