Life after Domestic Violence

Life after Domestic Violence

While you’re living in fear, being controlled, degraded, assaulted, abused and isolated it can feel like a hell that will never end. Domestic Violence presents physical, emotional and mental pain that changes who you are and changes who you were going to be. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

I’m out now. I’m 7 years out after being in my relationship for 14 years. And the biggest mistake I made was thinking my life would be ‘normal’ once I left. There is nothing normal about my life as I know it now. But it certainly isn’t the hell that I once endured.

Acceptance

I had to learn to accept what I lived. It happened. It was done. I couldn’t change it. Ever. I had to understand and fully accept that it wasn’t my fault nor did it have to define me. I was free to choose what happened next and what to write in my next chapter. I could make different choices on how I wanted to live my life. And then followed through with those new choices because I accepted that I could.

Professional help

Over the years I’ve engaged counsellors, psychologists, doctors, alternative practitioners, medication and lots and lots of personal development reading and support. It has been imperative in my healing journey that I spoke out loud to professionals. Not to relive my past or the traumatic events in detail but to help me gain perspective and gather my thought processes together. To help me learn and develop strategies to calm my negative thoughts, to ground myself, to be mindful and present. I allowed others to support me and hold space for me while I activated my own healing mechanisms and processes.

Healing

I had to be proactive about my healing. I had to do the work. I continue to do the work. I meditate, write, journal, rest, read, listen to my body and my inner guidance. I walk barefoot on the Earth, I exercise, I drink water. I practise self-care by booking massages and getting my hair done. I try not to feel guilty or shame myself if I eat ‘bad’ food. I say no when I need to. I take steps back from negative and toxic people around me to protect my own energy. I do what’s best for me, most of the time. I acknowledge it’s a never ending journey and I remind myself that the joy is in the journey rather than the destination.

Share your story

Silence hides violence.Tell your story. Write your story. Help yourself by helping someone else. People think they’re alone until they hear about someone else’s story. You could make a real difference and help change someone’s life by sharing your own story. You could make another human being feel seen and heard. You could spark their own power to get help and begin their healing journey. You could inspire someone else to tell their own story. There is power in the spoken word. There is great power in telling your story and being heard.

Through my acceptance, professional help, healing and sharing my story I have grown confidence and self worth I never thought I’d ever have. There is a peace and happiness inside that I never knew was possible. And I’m so grateful to be alive to use my voice and tell my story..

Fearing a parents spite

Fearing a parents spite

The day I called the police for the last time during our relationship was the day he was charged with Intimidation and I was granted an interim AVO.

It was the day I decided I wanted to leave my relationship alive instead of in a body bag.

My AVO included not approaching me, contacting me or coming within 200 metres of my home and workplace.

At first my children didn’t have any contact with him. I was beyond scared and I needed to process what I’d been through and how I was going to live safely and move forward.

After a short period of time there were phone calls, and I allowed them, because I didn’t want to stop contact or hinder the relationship. He was their Dad after all.

I would leave the room because I didn’t want to hear his voice and he often asked them when they were coming to visit him. I never gave them definite answer to begin with because I was nervous, scared and worried that something might happen to them to spite me.

It’s a thing. Parents sometimes do things to spite the other parent. Both genders are guilty. None of it is right.

But I did keep them away to begin with because the fear was real to me.

My son said to me one day “I don’t want to talk to Dad anymore” and when I asked why he replied “Because all he does is ask about you, he doesn’t even want to know about me”

Because I would leave the vicinity of the phone I never heard their father ask my children how I was, if I was seeing anyone, if anyone had come over, when I was going out, what I was doing and the questions were obviously enough that my young son picked up on it.

When I wanted to take them on a cruise into International waters their Dad refused to sign their passports. As the departure date drew near with no sign of a passport resolution I got my kids to call him and ask why as a final desperate exasperated plea.

He told them to put me on the phone and not realising he was on speaker said “Do you want to know why I won’t sign their passports? Because if they don’t go then you don’t get to go” and hung up.

My children were devastated and it was in that moment that my worry of his level of spite felt valid.

It’s been over 7 years since the day I left and my children see their father when they choose to. I never stopped them from seeing him completely but there were times I didn’t agree to a school holiday visit because of circumstances involving drugs, violence and other undesirable events at the house that I was made aware of.

The feeling is less and less now that they’re older but was I worried he would hurt them to spite me when they visited?

Every. Single. Time.

How to co-parent with an abuser and/or narcissist.

How to co-parent with an abuser and/or narcissist.

Children and shared custody after a mutual separation with an amicable ex-spouse can still be difficult sometimes. But with an abuser and/or narcissist it can quickly become your worst nightmare. Here are several ways to safeguard yourself and your interactions.

Your children’s best interests come first. This might be supervised visits, it might be allowing your children to make their own decision if they don’t want contact but it must be your child’s unbiased decision. If your children do want a relationship with both of their parents then it’s essential to be smart and put some guidelines into place.

Your relationship with your ex and how you feel is not the same as your children’s relationship with their parent and how they feel. Tread carefully when talking about your ex. Nothing negative. No coaching. No instilling thoughts. Your children will have their own memories that they are still processing. It is absolutely okay to engage honestly in a child led conversation but any conversation that begins with “Do you remember that time when…” is best left right alone.

If you don’t have court orders and feel they are a necessity, make an appointment with a legal advisor today. And then, follow the court orders. It is always best to follow the conditions on your court orders to the letter which includes drop off/pick up times, location and by whom. You may ask certain people (such as family members) to be excluded from the change over. If you let a little detail slide here and there you open yourself up to the conditions being disregarded and your ex playing games by being late or bringing along an extra person. “But you changed the location a month ago” is what you’ll hear instead of “I’m sorry I brought Y along despite the court order. I won’t do it again”. This is more about control and power coming into effect and the implications for later on down the track.

If an urgent issue arises such as your child disclosing something or becoming distressed leading up to a change over please seek urgent police and legal advice before making the decision to just not show up. That could quickly turn into a child abduction order.

Write down everything. EVERYTHING. It might feel like a chore to add to your day but you’ll be so grateful you did if you ever do need it in court. Conversations, what he said and she said will matter. Dates and times are essential. Facts only. If it’s not possible to write it down straight away while the memory is fresh, record it in your voice memos or on video until you can transcribe it. Whichever way you choose to do it, if you are dealing with an abuser please, please, please keep records and write it all down.

Devise a safe word or a safe phrase that you and your children can use when assistance is needed. Use something really easy and general so as not to arouse suspicion and heighten any emotions. Something like “Hey, on your way back from the shops could you grab me a Mars Bar?” If you hear your children use this phrase, call the police. If you are doing a drop off or a pick up and you message a friend with that, they will know to call the police. The key is to protect yourself and have a safety plan in place.

The most important thing to remember is that you can’t control their actions and words but you can control your own reactions and words. It’s hard but try not to buy into nasty remarks or emotionally driven comments. An abuser wants to see your reaction. They derive joy from you being flustered, upset or feeling like you’re going crazy. Try to remain calm, don’t enter into any non-child specific conversation and if you don’t feel grounded enough to do drop offs and pick ups ask for the courts to add a condition that someone else goes in your place, someone else goes in your ex’s place or someone neutral is involved instead.

And always, always remember that you are so much more than the way you’ve been made to feel and the words that have been used to hurt you. Stay safe.