Words Have Power

  Angela Pic Lab

In October, I spent time writing about my personal experience with domestic abuse for 2 publications: SharpHeels.com and Care2.com (click links to read published stories) and it was positively therapeutic!  Because I am a survivor, It was really important to me to share my personal experience and tips for preventing and healing from domestic violence for others during Domestic Violence Awareness month.  I had the opportunity to be interviewed by Care2.com (with over 3 million unique subscribers monthly) about my personal experience and was overwhelmed with the response I received through the comments of readers, proving that this issue impacts so many individuals. I was also able to share my thoughts with SharpHeels.com, about my experience from a professional view, and seeing my story in print made me realize just how much of a fighter I AM-and how far I have come since that dark period in my life.  My hope is that you will read my account and feel empowered to help another, to raise awareness for the issue and feel empowered to heal from it if you are recovering yourself. Please read and share the post below (or the links to the published stories included above) with others to help raise awareness for how easily it is to fall into a violent relationship, how hard it is to get of it, violent signs to be aware of as you date and what basic tips can help heal the mind, body and being in post-trauma recovery.  Thank you to SharpHeels.com and Care2.com for allowing me to be part of raising awareness for this very important issue with my story.

Don’t Let My Light Go Out

A Survivor’s Tips to Recognize, Stop and Prevent Domestic Violence By Angela Martindale

I was young. I was in love and I was getting married to a man that I thought was the love of my life. We had a whirlwind romance and when we finally tied the knot – I was HIS. I was HIS when he slapped me for the first time. I was HIS when he did it the second time, third, fourth and fifth time, until I lost track of how many times I had been slapped, hit, punched, had HIS hands around my throat, and forcefully pushed down and kicked. I was HIS when he called me degrading names to break me down and steal my worth, when I put a smile on my face for my clients so they wouldn’t know what torture awaited me at the end of the day, or when he removed me from all contact with people that knew me before HIM. I was HIS when I slept in my apartment stairwell instead of facing his wrath at home. I was HIS wherever I went, breathed, ate, walked, sat, cried and screamed for it to stop. I was HIS when the light went out of me and I became a paralyzed shell of who I had been. I was HIS.

But I was NOT his when I decided that he didn’t own me, when I decided I was worth love and that I was strong enough to survive him. I was NOT his when I had Eminem blaring in my head telling me that “I was NOT afraid.”   I was NOT his when I finally made the choice to escape him once and for all, when I chose to put myself back together and heal, when I heard MY voice in my head telling me I was strong, powerful, in control and worth love, instead of HIS voice telling me I wasn’t. I was NOT his when I looked in the mirror and saw ME, with the light back in my eyes, and a smile on my face. In that moment, free of the domestic abuse I had survived for 5 years, I was ME again.

Domestic Violence, an uncomfortable topic at the very least, haunts over 12 million homes and an estimated 24 people per minute in the U.S. alone. It costs employers $8 million per year, and its subjects at least 74 sick days per year. This mental health epidemic is so massive that even our President took to an awards show in 2014 to address preventing it to the entire national audience. It is such an epidemic that thousands of shelters are established to help heal from it in the U.S. and the entire month of October is dedicated to raising awareness for it. It is such a widespread issue among American households that even if you have been lucky enough not to experience it, the odds are that someone you know experiences it every day. Domestic Violence, is a specific kind of torture that brainwashes and rapes its subject of identity, value, worth, happiness, joy, light and life. Being aware that it exists as a reality, is the beginning of being able to help someone end it, and prevent someone else from ever having to endure it – but how?  Here are some signs of abuse that you can reference if you suspect someone is being abused:

  • Indifferent to conversation and interaction
  • Repeated withdrawal from social situations and events
  • Overwhelming concern for being available to their spouse or partner as they consistently call/text throughout the day
  • Bruises, cuts and scrapes that can’t be explained for their location on the body
  • Changes to clothing styles (either to cover abuse evidence or as a result of the abusers direction to look a certain way)
  • Consistently “not feeling well”
  • Slow increased lack of appetite or severe increase in appetite
  • Hair loss and brittle/broken or bruising of nails and nailbeds (classic sign of nutrient deficiency and stress)
  • Dark circles under sullen eyes (due to the lack of sleep, nutrition and healing)
  • Periodic and sudden crying (in part due to hormone imbalance as a side effect of trauma to the endocrine system)
  • Slowly deteriorating cognitive ability and reaction time (due to lack of sleep/healing)

Recognizing signs of abuse after it has begun is vital to helping someone that WANTS help. If you know that someone is being abused, but they continue to deny it, don’t be offended. Remember that you can only help people that want to make a change and are ready to do it. Here are some tips for how to help a friend, family member or neighbor that is the recipient of abuse:

  • Continue letting the person know that you are their friend
  • Offer positive reinforcement regarding their strength, worth and value to you and those around them
  • Offer encouraging stories of women who have overcome abuse, and be ready if they decide to trust you with their secret
  • Call the Domestic Violence hot lines to ask for their expert advice in other methods to approach an abused person. They can offer a lot of support for family and friends trying to manage the stress of outreach and help someone recover.

How Can You Prevent Being in an Abusive Relationship? Part of raising awareness for Domestic Violence is also sharing ways to prevent abuse before it can begin. Here are some signs you can look for in a potential partner that will help you determine if a person is worthy of your time and will respect you in love:

  • Are they possessive of you or the person you’re concerned about?
  • Are they always asking you, your family member or friend where you were and who you were with?
  • Do they want to be in sole control of the finances?
  • Does the partner insist that you, your friend, or family member dress a certain way?
  • Does the partner dictate the personal schedule in the relationship with expectations for meeting their demands?
  • Do you, your family and friends have good feelings when they’re around them (this matters so much)?
  • Does their family have a history of domestic or even verbal abuse? (Pay attention to how they treat members of their own family. You’re instincts are always right)

Although some signs above are apparent, others might be hidden from you when dating, and there is nothing you can do about someone else’s ability to successfully con you. Abusers are excellent at crafting a persona that enchants you to cover their intentions until you become theirs. If you find yourself in that situation, don’t wallow in regret. Find a way out. The past is in the past and cannot be changed, but the future is unwritten. What I endured was unthinkable, but what I have overcome is miraculous. Realizing that you are worthy of joy, worthy of love, worthy of happiness at any stage in life is something to be celebrated. Do I still hear his voice in my head? Yes-sometimes I do, but I realize that my voice is stronger than his and if we are united as sisters in fighting for one another, and with one another to educate, stop and prevent the epidemic of domestic violence, we can be the tool that brings the light back to many of our sisters eyes – and that is a fight worth fighting!    

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Angela Martindale