Category: BF NEWS

Forget Me Not: Taking on Personal Responsibility

647058-1

There comes a time in each of our lives where we have to make a choice — the choice to take full ownership of our lives. As I have stated several times over, about so many issues that arise after abuse has ended, this is no simple task. However, it is a very important one. Taking ownership of your life is the difference between staying stuck and living the life you deserve.

As survivors of domestic violence, we often come out the other end a bit lost. Well, a bit lost is likely an understatement. We often come out the other end very, very lost. As is usually the case, I can only speak to my experiences, but I’m sure many will see common themes between my story and theirs.

I started dating my husband at the age of 15. We were both young and, in many ways, grew up together. He wasn’t abusive from day one, although there were signs I didn’t see. All in all, we spent 16 years together. When I finally left, it was bittersweet. I was ready to move on, emotionally and physically exhausted, and needy for love and attention, yet I was leaving the only relationship I knew and heading out on my own. Although I was scared, joy washed over me like a tidal wave of positivity. I was high on freedom. The simplest of things, like going to bed and waking up when I wanted to, were so exciting that I could see no bad in my life.

That lasted for all of about three months. Once the initial rush of being free from him wore off, the realities of life after abuse started to set in. With each negative thing that happened, I fell deeper and deeper into a life of anger and bitterness. While I struggled to pay the bills and finish school, he was working a great job. While I struggled to form solid relationships, he was getting remarried. Soon I found myself in a routine thought pattern being run by my hate and anger towards him. It was his fault I had no money, his fault I lost so much in the divorce, his fault I was in my 30s and back in school, his fault I had no children, and his fault that I was so screwed up.

He had messed me up so bad that I was damaged goods. I was depressed and anxious, struggling to focus at work, and a mess in the dating world. My friends were few and far between and I never believed I was a priority to anyone. They had better things to do than to be with me, and it seemed that everyone around me was better at life than I was. Everything was simply falling apart.

And then I got sick. My body finally succumbed to all the stress and literally started to shut down on itself. I was sleeping over 13 hours a day, could not walk around the block, and gained over 30 pounds in less than a year. My life was falling apart, and it was all his fault.

Or, was it? You see, I wanted it to be all his fault. If it wasn’t his fault, then I was the failure he told me I would be. If I didn’t believe it was his fault, then he was right that no man would want me. If I didn’t believe it was his fault, then that meant that I was one very messed up individual. I needed it to be all his fault.

The problem with this mentality, though, is that making it his fault did not do anything to improve the life I was living. In actuality, it only made things worse. The more angry and bitter I got, the more depressed I became and the less I lived and enjoyed my life. Don’t get me wrong, his actions did cause me a lot of grief and heartache. I struggled for years with thought patterns and beliefs about myself because of my relationship with him. There is fallout. It does hurt and affect your life. But, you can come back from it.

It took me hitting rock bottom and deciding that I could not live this life anymore before I sought help. It was only then that I learned that holding onto the past does not create a better future. I had to let go, make peace with the fact that my past was what it was, and decide to move forward. I had to take ownership of my life and start making it what I wanted it to be.

One can spend their whole life, or many years of it, blaming others (outwardly or inwardly) for their life situations. But it is up to us to own whatever is ailing us. I’m not sure how to say this the right way, so bare with me. It is not your abuser’s fault that you are depressed, an alcoholic, self-destructive, lost your job, or are struggling in life. Unless there are specific actions that lead to a specific low in your life (Abuser lies to boss = you lose your job/Abuser lies to court = negative outcome regarding child custody), then you have to let it go.

The fallout from abuse is real and we will all react to it in different ways, from substance abuse and self-destruction, depression and lack of self-care, to hurtful behavior towards others. It is up to you to take responsibility for your happiness and do what is necessary to let go of the past, place blame aside, and do what you have to do to get moving forward. You are responsible for your happiness, your success, and your wellbeing. Go out there and get it!


Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Forget Me Not: #MaybeSHEdoesnthityou

maybeshedoesnthityou

The hashtag #maybehedoesnthityou is lighting up Twitter and was quite the story last week. What an amazing way to bring attention to the realities of domestic violence. I’ve talked about statistics before. 1 in 4 women have been the victim of severe physical violence against them by an intimate partner in their lifetime. It is important to note that these are the ones who report the abuse. Furthermore, these statistics only account for women who have reported an instance of severe physical violence. What about the ones who do not report their abusers? What about the ones who are emotionally, financially, or otherwise abused by their partner? These individuals are not counted. Which begs the question: exactly how many people out there are being abused by their intimate partner?

As I read the stories posted alongside the #maybehedoesnthityou hashtag, it came to mind that many men also suffer at the hands of an abuser. When it comes to severe physical violence, 1 in 7 men have reported abuse by an intimate partner in their lifetime. But how many of them do not report the violence? How many of them are emotionally and verbally abused? Statistics tell us that men are much more likely to be the perpetrators of physical violence, but we often fall short of mentioning just how many men are verbally and emotionally abused by the women in their life. Their cries for help often go unanswered and their comments on abuse are often brushed aside. But what would happen if we added the hashtag #maybeSHEdoesnthityou? What then? Would men stand up and share their stories? Would more see violence against a man, by an intimate partner, in the same light as we see violence against a woman.

Our society tells men that they have to “man up,” “be tough,” and never admit defeat, which often leads to men feeling ashamed or unwilling to seek out help. No one should have to live a life of emotional and verbal abuse, male or female. Emotional abuse of a man is the same as emotional abuse of a woman. Yelling or screaming at your partner, name calling, treating them like a child, stalking, demeaning them, putting them down, forced control of the household and finances (“wearing the pants in the family”), and speaking poorly of them in front of others are all forms of emotional abuse.

#MaybeSHEdoesnthityou, but that does not mean that you are not being abused. Men, share your story and help educate others on this important topic. It is only by helping others to walk in your shoes that they will have a better understanding of the far reaches of domestic violence.


Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Forget Me Not: Dolphins at Sunset

Dolphins at Sunset

I’ve shared a lot about heartache and pain throughout my posts. I want others to know that I understand where they have been. It is my belief that it is only by experiencing the pain that abuse creates, personally feeling the hole that it leaves in your life, and being able to say yes, I know, I really know that one individual can completely connect to another that is hurting from similar abuses. But once there — once that connection is made — it is imperative that we raise each other up, share stories of peace and happiness, and show those around us that we are above that very pain and suffering that we connected under.

This is the place from which I come to you today. Although I write of past events that have tormented me for years, I am no longer owned by them. Although I share my darkest fears with you, they no longer control my every moment. And although I sometimes slip into a momentary sadness, my life is no longer filled with depression and anxiety.

Very recently, I was reminded yet again of the wonder that fills my life daily. Today, I want to share with you that side of me.

The sun was low in the sky as I helped my boyfriend drag the kayaks through the grass to the bay. We had been promising his family that we would show them how to paddle so that they could experience the joy we did each time we took them out. Tonight was the night. It was beautiful out. Not hot, not cold…simply perfect. We laughed out loud as one cousin tipped the kayak, face planting into the water, then posed for pictures between giggles and jabs. I then watched my boyfriend paddle off down shore with another cousin while I picked my way along the shoreline. Every now and then I would catch his glimpse across the water and he would wave and smile at me.

When he returned, he passed the kayak off to me stating that it was my turn to enjoy the sunset. He waited patiently on shore as I worked my way up to some boats where I had seen dolphins earlier. Bobbing along in the water, peace washed over me. It was so still out. The sun glistened off the clouds in various shades of red and yellow as it dipped further into the horizon. I was mesmerized by the tranquility. The slight sound of small waves washing against the boat, a periodic hum of voices traveling over the water, a cool breeze in my hair, and peace in my heart.

As the sun lowered out of view, I paddled slowly back to the shore where he was waiting with the other kayak. He was ready to go back out. He wanted to experience the beauty of dusk with me.

Back out on the water, I caught myself watching him as he paddled in front of me. I smiled to myself out of sheer happiness and giggled when he caught me. I realized just how lucky I am and how much I love the joy we find in each other’s eyes. Just as the thought crossed my mind, two dolphins passed in front of us, no more than ten feet away. We both yelled out in hushed tones at the same time and grinned from ear to ear. It was amazing!! The colors of the setting sun framed the dolphins as they continued swimming away from us. We were awe struck.

It was exactly as it should have been all along. I was in a beautiful place, sharing a beautiful moment, with an amazing man; something I never believed I would experience. Yet, here I was. Life can be beautiful. It will be beautiful if you allow it. When you find peace in yourself, life will find its way to exactly where it is supposed to be.


Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Forget Me Not: You and Me

You and Me

The other day, as I was driving through town, “You and Me,” by Lighthouse came on the radio. I’ve always liked this song, but this time it created a wave of emotions that I had forgotten about. Perhaps it is because of all the recent writing, the book, or my constant rehashing of my past, but out of nowhere, I remembered things that I had long since forgotten.

I remembered that this song used to mean something to me. And, hearing it the other day reminded me of what it used to mean and created a very deep sadness in me. A sadness for the girl I used to be.


What day is it? And in what month?
This clock never seemed so alive
I can’t keep up and I can’t back down
I’ve been losing so much time

‘Cause it’s you and me and all of the people with nothing
To do, nothing to lose
And it’s you and me and all of the people
And I don’t know why I can’t keep my eyes off of you

All of the things that I want to say just aren’t coming out right
I’m tripping on words
You got my head spinning
I don’t know where to go from here

Although the words are very obviously speaking about a man falling in love, they spoke to my heart as a woman trapped. I vividly remember what these words meant to me when I was finally waking up and realizing how broken my marriage was.

I remember the sadness that would wash over me as I believed I was “losing so much time” and how I didn’t know where to go and how to say the things that I felt in my heart. I was torn. I felt alone and lost, and yet I looked to him for my support.

I believed that it was just him and me. It was him and me, and all of the other people in the world. And I — I was only focused on him. I didn’t believe there was anyone else that could understand my pain, or my life, as he did. He had created it, and yet I clung to him because I loved him. We were broken together.

I was torn between how I felt inside and how guilty those thoughts made me feel. He was my one and only, and nothing he did to me seemed to be enough for me to see beyond him. I literally blocked out everyone else. Those outside people were a threat to my home. I could not keep my eyes off of him.

As I sit here now, free of the horrible pain I experienced trapped in that marriage, I feel so badly for my former self. She really believed these things and didn’t know what to do with those thoughts. I want to reach back in time and heal her, to pull her to safety and security. I remember being there so vividly and it stirs such sadness in me. I can’t go back and free my former self, but I can help those who are currently feeling her pain to move away from it. You are not alone. You can be free, and you have support.


Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Forget Me Not: Guilt and Confusion

Guilt

Do you ever feel guilty that you left your abuser? Perhaps you question if the abuse was really that bad. Or maybe you wonder if your children would be better off had you stayed. Did you make up the stories in your mind? Maybe it wasn’t really domestic abuse at all? Maybe you made the wrong decision for yourself and your family. Maybe, just maybe, he/she wasn’t the monster you believe them to be.

As victims of domestic violence, I believe we often find ourselves questioning what reality we really live in. Even now, so many years out, I find myself questioning my version of the story. Maybe he didn’t mean to say those things. What if he wasn’t trying to confuse me? He was so young and perhaps he really did not know any better. After all, look at how he grew up; look at who his role model was.

Each time I begin to question my recollection of events, I do my best to look back on how each situation actually took place. I know I’m not making up what happened. Everything I write consists of words he used and actions he inflicted. Even though I know that my words are truth, I also know that my abuser wanted me to believe I was crazy. And, to a certain extent, he was successful. As you can see, even to this day, I sometimes question my own beliefs. I do understand, however, that the reason I sometimes struggle with these skewed beliefs is because of a certain type of emotional abuse. It’s called gaslighting.

Gaslighting is “an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power (and we know that abuse is about power and control). Once an abusive partner has broken down the victim’s ability to trust their own perceptions, the victim is more likely to stay in the abusive relationship.” — The National Domestic Violence Hotline

When you have been subjected to this kind of emotional abuse, you do not just automatically revert to “normal” belief patterns and thinking once you are free of the abuser. Many of these belief patterns remain and you are forced to reevaluate each one, creating a new belief pattern that is not altered by the brainwashing of your abuser.

When you find yourself questioning whether or not the abuse you suffered was real, or to the magnitude you remember, just remind yourself of the facts. What actually happened? Where you manipulated, called names, physically assaulted, or emotionally torn down? What words did your abuser use? Were they kind and loving, or hurtful and demeaning? Think about the facts of what happened and not necessarily the emotions attached to them. If they look like abuse, they are. Don’t question your sanity while your mind plays tricks on you. Remember that you are worth more, then pick yourself up and move forward. Practice being sure of yourself. Life is too short to live in guilt and confusion.


Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Clarissa

cropped

My name is Clarissa and I will be interning at Becky’s Fund. I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University this past May with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. However, I found my true passion when I declared a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies.

My minor exposed me to invaluable classes that opened my eyes and understanding of the world and inspired me to work to end domestic violence. Perhaps the most moving class was Violence Against Women, a service learning class where I volunteered my time for Planned Parenthood and the Young Women’s Christian Association. In Feminist Theory we theorized why domestic violence and more so, why general violence happens in our society and created solutions that we as students would be able to achieve. These classes inspired me to join student organizations such as SAVES, Students Advocating Violence Education and Support, where we educated the community on red flags in abusive relationships, consent, healthy relationships, and resources for survivors.

Even though I just graduated from VCU, I already have my sights set on graduate school to obtain a Master’s in Social Work to continue working with and for survivors. One of my longterm goals is to become a professor so that I can inspire other students to dedicate their lives to feminism and ending domestic violence. The more people we can reach, the more we can create social change.

I am very excited to start my career off on the right foot. I am interested in participating in the Becoming Your Own Heroine program as well as the Men of Code program. As our society socializes us from a very young age, I think it’s imperative to speak to youth in order to create social change.

The Monument Quilt Summary

image00

This past weekend, I was honored to join a phenomenal group of artists and activists for The Monument Quilt Leadership Retreat. The Monument Quilt is a collection of quilted stories from survivors of rape and abuse that creates public healing spaces by and for survivors. By allowing survivors to tell their own stories on quilt squares, the project aims to resist a single narrative of how sexual and domestic violence occurs and how survivors should heal. These quilt squares then become the landscape of large public displays across the U.S. and in Mexico.

Creating healing spaces in the open air of football fields, public parks, and train stations, the Monument Quilt temporarily integrates healing from rape and abuse into everyday public life. In doing so, the quilt displays envision a different reality in which it is the public’s responsibility to make space for survivors rather than the survivor’s responsibility to re-assimilate into a “normal” public. As stated in the project’s guiding values, the quilt’s vision calls for a society where survivors are publicly supported rather than publicly shamed. The physical space of the quilt display and the structure of quilting workshops are intentionally designed to empower and support survivors in their on-going healing processes by providing ample options, giving permission for an array of emotional reactions, and validating the difficulty of interacting with the material. In addition, The Monument Quilt recognizes that survivors experience violence, access to resources, justice and recovery differently based on gender, sexual orientation, race, class, ability, citizenship and age and accordingly builds in intentional spaces to support the specific needs of survivors in different communities.

The Monument Quilt project will culminate with a display of over 6,000 quilt squares on the National Mall in 2018, spelling out “Not Alone.” To find out more about The Monument Quilt, support the project, or host a quilting workshop in your community, visit themonumentquilt.org.

image01

My own quilt square, which will be one of 6,000 blanketing the National Mall in 2018
Ella Rogers-Fett

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Natasha

10749970_10205044549933472_6961745818053544605_o

My name is Natasha Rahim, and I will be interning at Becky’s Fund this summer.

I am a rising third year at Boston University with a major in International Relations, minor in French and an intention of pursuing a career in law. I am currently a member of the Boston Model UN convention, Women’s Law Association, and Common Sense Action. I also volunteer weekly at the Susan Bailis assisted living rehabilitation for the elderly.

My interest for helping end domestic violence started when I attended a seminar in high school where an alumni spoke about her issues as a victim of violence and how she overcame this to soon become an advocate and lawyer for domestic violence victims. This inspired me to pursue a career in law to help people who do not have the resources to help themselves. The speaker also inspired me to start an organization at my school called Mentoring Alumni Partnering with Students (M.A.P.S.) where students attend seminars to learn more about how people in various industries became successful in their career.

For many years, I have always had a passion to help put an end to domestic violence but did not have the right direction or resources to do so. I came across Becky’s Fund and learned about how this organization helps people understand that there is a way to escape from violence and that it is possible for victims to overcome these obstacles. I intend to work closely with victims and help them achieve support legally, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I especially hope to work closely on the Becoming Your Own Heroin program to work with teenagers and younger girls on how to speak up and prevent violence at their age both physically and emotionally. I am very excited for what I will gain this summer and am excited to work with this organization in helping put an end to domestic violence.

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Maya

MayaMenon

My name is Maya Menon and I am originally from Seattle, Washington. I am a rising junior at Wake Forest University majoring in Studio Art with minors in Human and Health Services, Education and Sociology. In the next year, I will begin looking at Master’s programs in Social Work.

After watching those close to me suffer from sexual violence and experiencing it myself, I needed to do something to educate and aid those who are exposed it every day. In North Carolina, I work with Family Services as a victim’s advocate for domestic violence and sexual assault. In addition, I am a campus advocate with a group called TrailBlaze aiming to dismantle rape culture on campus as well as lead a blog called End the Silence WFU to give survivors a space to share their stories.

Last summer, I researched the obstacles that victims of sexual assault face when seeking medical attention. I am very fortunate that Wake Forest has awarded me another grant allowing me to intern at Becky’s Fund while creating a research paper to present in the fall about the presence of domestic violence on college campuses. When I was creating my project, I became very interested in the variety of work that Becky’s Fund is involved in, especially their outreach programs for young adults. I believe that ending sexual violence starts with us but first we need to end the stigmas of silence and shame surrounding the issue. By helping with the Men of Code and Becoming Your Own Heroine initiatives, I want to teach the importance of healthy relationships, consent and bystander intervention.

Through my work here, I hope to continue learning how to be a better advocate through prevention education and direct assistance. I will understand what goes into a non-profit and apply that knowledge with individuals I work with in my community. By the end of the summer, I want to have done what I can to help end sexual violence for those who receive services from this organization.

Forget Me Not: Today I Am Sad

Today I'm Sad

Today I am sad. Today I am frustrated. Today I feel the weight of that which I don’t understand and I struggle with my own self-doubt. I do not like being in this place, and yet I find myself here again. My own words to support others seem to mock me from the back of my mind. I feel myself confused by my emotions and my thoughts. I find myself questioning my own sanity and struggling to hold onto the positive focus I preach about. I am human after, am I not? Is it okay to slide into a tumultuous thought process and try to sort it out from a perspective I still question?

Why do I fear the unknown so much? Why is it okay for others to follow their dreams, but irresponsible of me to do so? Why do people not care? This is the question I struggle with the most. I want to scream it from the rooftop, and I fear that even by sharing my frustrations here, I am calling out those who are the closest to me. But this is where I am.

I promised to share my feelings, no matter what they are, in an effort to support those who are healing. I promised to be honest in the ups and downs of where I am as a survivor. I share my story so that others can know what it feels like to be a survivor of domestic violence. It is an effort to help those who are trying to make their way through the process of rediscovering their life after abuse, as well as a process to educate “outsiders” on what it is like to be that person.

What I find is that people do not want to hear about it. The people that we need to support us are the very ones who do not want to deal with the realities that are a part of this world. I see a society that will throw money at cancer research to the tune of billions a year, that will create a media uproar when a city bans panhandling, will spend hours arguing over politics and religion, and will look the other way when their neighbor is beaten by her husband. I see thousands of likes and shares on Facebook for sites encouraging the exploitation of women, and then I see those who ask that we not post pictures of victims of domestic violence. What makes one cause more important than another? Are we, those who suffered at the hands of those we loved the most, less important? Do you blame us or do you just not care?

On a personal level, I receive advice from those who refuse to read my story. Those who do not know where I’m coming from or why this cause is so important to me. They want to tell me why my outreach won’t work, why I need to be patient, why I should be happy I have a job I don’t belong in, and why I need to understand how uncomfortable people are with the topic of domestic violence. And, if they do not say as much in words, they do so in actions. When I speak my truth, there are few who want to listen, to show up, or to support. A simple like on a Facebook page, a moment to understand why I do what I do, a familiar face at a speaking engagement, telling others about an event I’m holding…all such powerful shows of support. Yet, this type of support is crazily few and far between.

This is my story. This is my truth. This has molded me into who I am and I am not alone. So many are affected by domestic violence and it is time that society stands up and listen. There are more women whose lives are derailed due to domestic violence than breast cancer. There are over 15 million children a year exposed to horrific experiences in the home. The reach is wide. Look around you, 1 in 3 of the women you know are harboring secrets and silently crying for help. You will not know how to help them if you refuse to acknowledge the problem. And by hiding behind your fear, or lack of empathy, you are not supporting those who need you the most.

There are those who have supported me, backed me, and encouraged me. For them, I am grateful. But this week, I have felt the sting of crying out to an empty room. The loud whisper of those surrounding me saying that my cause does not matter…that it is unimportant. And, with that, I’ve questioned my own realities and was washed back to when I questioned my marriage.

I begin to wonder if it is me who is seeing the world backward, or if I’m just aware because I have lived something that is not fun to think about. I find myself questioning if how I feel is part of who I am or if it is due to the self-doubt brought on by my past. I want to be strong, and I want to carry on, but I struggle with the lack of understanding I seem to be surrounded by. I’m right back on my balcony, looking at the world below and questioning my perception of all that is. At that time, I was trapped by my marriage. Now, I feel that there is something wonderful that I can’t grasp because I am trapped by fear and societal pressure to be that which I am not. And the coldness I feel radiating back at me is growing that insecurity.

Then I question again why I crave the support. Again, this is my story. This is my passion. Support or not, it is mine to take and run with. And that is what I will do.


Read the Forget Me Not Series here and visit the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group’s website.

The safety and well-being of our clients and staff is our first priority.

Read a note from our Executive Director to our supporters on Becky's Fund COVID-19 plan.