This post was submitted anonymously by a woman working to regain custody of her children.
I’ve had a 250-day sustained trauma recently. Twenty-four hours a day for over nine months. At first I felt like I was dying, the grief was so intense. I felt as though I’d been hit by a bus, every molecule in my body ached like deep subcutaneous bruising. I’d find myself weeping five times a day. A few months in I was acclimating, sobbing maybe three times a day. I’d feel my body buckle as I collapsed – there was some humour now, “here I go again”, as my body gave way. And then there were days where there were days between crying. Lately, I note that my sobbing has dried up. My ribs are wracking and tears don’t come, and yet I know my body is sobbing. Days can be excruciatingly long. I broke them down into two-hour segments to survive. I couldn’t comprehend longer timeframes in this state.
How you can help a person extracting themselves and their children from battery and violence:
- Listen. Actively listen. Bear witness. Offer meaningful action, big and small.
- For each person who reaches out with a note, a card, an email, a text, we know that twenty other people meant to. For those who reach out, it moves us. Thank you for showing us you are seeing us. Thank you for acknowledging us and this hard journey. Thank you for supporting us. Thank you for reminding us of connection when things are bleak. Thank you for changing up the norm.
- Phone. Leave a message. Do that again. It may take some time for us to get the energy to respond. We may not respond (if that scares you check in with us again.)
- Offer to go for a walk. Offer to go for tea. Offer to go for coffee. Offer to go for ice cream. Offer to share a bottle of wine. Offer to cook a meal. Offer a visit. Offer a hug or to hold hands.
- Stay with us as we cry or rage. Let us express whatever feeling is arising. It is highly valued to have another person let you be wherever you are.
- It’s nice to have 1-2 people you see/talk to/facetime with daily. The hours in a day are long. It’s relieving to have someone you can just be with, in tears, tiredness, or victory. Those people become very close.
- Share yourself. So often people stop telling us about their lives, since it can’t compare to ours. I want to hear about your happy life and your successes, they remind me what the real world is like while I am extracting myself from hell. Give me some reprieve from my life. When you tell me about your life I get a break, which I need.
- Help organize. It takes a lot of energy and financial resources to remove oneself, and protect ones self from violence.
- Set up a fundraiser in your specific community (be it spiritual or sports…)
- Help set up a fundraising site, something that helps to get the word out. Make violence known and transparent. Violence occurs, in part, because it is hidden.
- Donate your services (like your ability to write, document, organize, build a website, host a site, offer childcare, cook a meal. . .)
- Stay onboard with social media. It makes a difference to have people watching and bearing witness to the journey.
- Start the conversation. Wear a marker. Have an e-tag line. Make the commitment to end violence part of your daily life. Engage in conversations. Educate. Inform. Live non-violence.
- N0, you cannot see legal documents unless invited – don’t ask.
- Overlay your past unresolved trauma on my present situation – if you are triggered then step back and don’t make a further mess of my shitty situation.
- No, I am not trading my soul for your help. Make sure exchanges of help are given without expectations that place further weight on the sufferer. Benevolent help is very different and stands out for the beauty it is.
- Insist on simplicity or a simple understanding of the world. Leaving violence is often complex. Legal violence is extremely complex. If you can hold complexity you are highly valued.
- Do not assure us that thing will get better – stay in reality. Things sometimes don’t get better. There is a lot of institutional issues that allow and even support abuse to continue.
- Accuse us of the need to “fess up regarding our part” – there may not be an “our part”.
- Do nothing. Victims of violence lose so many friends and family and the grief is multi-layered.
- Protect the abuser or excuse the abuser.
- Liken your situation to ours when the signifiers mean different things. Don’t assume my divorce is like yours.
- Complain to us when our abuser fucks you over too. We had tried to protect you and we had made clear we were dealing with violence.
Do you have a story to share? Write to me @firstname.lastname@example.org