Finding a Way Out of the Horror of Domestic Abuse
On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. Hard to believe, but this is a very real statistic in a report from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. These numbers are chilling and truly unnerving, especially when someone we know becomes a statistic in this report.
I was once one of those statistics, but finally found the strength to remove myself from this dark place. Now I am an advocate for others trying to find their way out of this scary maze. It’s such a dark and unforgiving space to be in – I know all too well how difficult it is to find a way out. When on the other side, those, like me, who make it out find ourselves asking those who are still stuck within these walls the very same questions that we were asked when we were stuck on the inside, praying to get out. No, we haven’t forgotten that journey – the terror, the tears, the terrible guilt, and awful shame – of being trapped in a place that we sometimes so willingly entered of our own volition.
Just today, I received a call for help from inside ‘The Maze”. Calls can get out but it seems that return messages become muddled by the density of these darks walls. The call I received today went something like this:
Through tearful sobs I heard familiar words that sounded like my very own voice – “I have to get out, but I can’t, she said. “The level of violence is increasing and my daughter’s life is now also in jeopardy”, she added. And my response was “Why?” But I knew why, even though I stupidly asked the question.
And she said, “I’m not ready to leave yet, I need a job and money to leave” And my response was “Why do you have to wait for that, can’t you move in with family or friends/” And she said, “This is my house, I worked so hard to get it, I can’t leave it; it’s too hard to start over”. And my response was, “Why can’t you start over?” Why? Why? Why? are not the words that helped move me through that difficult pathway, so why was I even asking?
The theory of relativity in science says, in essence, that elements that affect change in life are not based on a hypothesis (supposition) but on empirical (what one actually observes and experiences) discovery – stated in simple language that a person stuck in a scary maze of abuse, distrust, fear and confusion would understand – it’s easy to state what seems obvious to someone on the outside of the maze, but those within the wall are experiencing a whole different level of reality that they deal with relative to their own situation, their own strength and resources.
So, we must be willing to accept each individual’s own reality, meeting them where they are. The walls of this dark maze can often close in on it’s victims and crush them to death. When we see that happening, drastic measures may be necessary — like stepping in and removing the victim from the situation, or picking up the phone and calling the dark maze police, or offering one a place of refuse.
It’s oh so easy to be outside looking in and stating what we, as outsiders, would or would not do in the very same situation. When the breath has been crushed out of one’s spirit, one loses all strength to move; one becomes numb. I remember that feeling. If a breakthrough is going to happen, sometimes it requires that the sun, moon, and stars all be in perfect alignment, and the right moment, the right time, and the right circumstance gives an unexpected opportunity to break free. Other times it is just a matter of having a plan, then making the plan happen. Then there are times when the only way out is to completely destroy the maze. This last option is the scariest and most risky one that may entail violence or even death – either on the part of the perpetrator who rules over the dark maze or the victim.
In intimate partner violence (IPV), there are common threads that all victims recognize as oh so familiar – power and control over their lives by someone else, and emotional, physical or mental abuse. It may be one or all of the above at varying degrees of oppression, with other elements thrown into the mix that makes leaving ever so complex. But there is one thing that anyone who has ever been able to break free knows for sure — one must never give up hope. The one thing that helped me was truly believing that I would someday – however long it took – find my way out of this very dark place, and after a very, very long time I did! I started my life over at age 50. When freedom finally came, I started a whole new journey – one with many fulfilled dreams and unexpected pleasures. I went back to school, got a master’s degree, wrote four ooks and became a published author, and a motivational speaker – devoting this new life to advocating for others just like the person I used to be. It was not an easy journey, but I did it, taking one step at a time.
So, I encourage those pushing through that dark maze to just push on. Focus on how life could actually be. Visual it, read about it, write about it, paint it on canvas to make it all real. Fill your entire spirit with it. Know that there are many who make it out and I pray that your dark wall will too crumble soon and very soon. We all deserve to live our lives free from bondage, and filled only with love.
Pauline W. Mansfield
Author of “Turtle Story 2 – Life on the other Side of Abuse https://books.google.com/books/about/Turtle_Story_2.html?id=pHOjtQEACAAJ&source=kp_book_description
Ms. Pauline is a “profile in courage” and a great example of how to overcome the trauma of abuse. I am so proud of her and admire how she has dedicated her life to now helping others by continuing to tell her story.
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Thank you for sharing this, Pauline. I hadn’t realized that this was your story too. And the fact that you are now helping others move out of the maze is inspirational! More power to you. ♥
Thank you for sharing this unfortunate but all too often reality. Your story, as horrifying as it is, continues to help others who are suffering the ills of domestic abuse.