Advice from someone who’s been there.
As I sit watching the hurricane coverage this week, it’s hard not to make a comparison between the force and magnitude of the storm and what was once my life of domestic abuse. People are being told to leave their homes like it’s just that simple: leave. And people have choices to make about the safety of their families, themselves, their finances, their possessions, pets – it’s endless. Some of them have to do this alone and some of them have a partner who will help them. All of them have one thing in common: something larger than them, larger than life, is heading directly towards them and if they don’t move they may not live.
If you can picture this, and I’m sure you can, then you can start to understand what it’s like for the domestic abuse victim when someone tells us to get out. I’m out so I can speak to this. But what I really want to do today is speak to you, because if you’re still in there I know exactly what you’re up against and how you feel.
The feeling of leaving a home of domestic abuse is like looking at a mountain and someone telling you to climb it. You’re standing there without equipment, without a team to help you, and you’re thinking: How am I supposed to get to the top of that? I felt that way for so many years that I stayed. And I suffered as a result. And so did my children. Now that I know what I could have done, I really want to share that information with you.
I’ve learned something as a result of my own behavior and it’s why I spend my time now trying to help others: We cannot change something that is bigger than us. We have one and only one choice and that is to decide how we will react.
It’s like the hurricane that has been forming and is now beginning to strike. We can’t change it. We can’t make it change paths, we cannot make it diminish in size. So, what can we do? We can decide how we are going to react to it. People can begin gathering their belongings, reaching out for help, and making a plan to leave safely.
It is the exact same story for the domestic abuse victim. If you look at that mountain and think about getting to the top, it will overwhelm you instantly. If you think about your finances, your children, your home, where you are going to go, what is going to happen next, who is going to help you, it will incapacitate you. But, what if you only had to do one thing? What if you could make one call and know that professionals would help you make a plan that would address all of these issues as well as the safety of you and your children? Would that change the story?
I know one thing for sure: Domestic abuse is bigger than you, bigger than me, and bigger than all of us when we are on the inside. But from the outside I have learned that we still have an opportunity to begin a new life and get out of the way of a force that is heading directly towards us. Because we can still choose how we are going to react.