I’m sorry my posts are so irregular. I have a series of three written in my head! I’m not meaning to neglect this blog. I think of all of you every single day. And, I miss connecting with you. I’ve simply been cleaning one or two houses every day of the week except Sunday. It’s exhausting, but I’m learning it’s either feast or famine so I’d better take the work when it’s available. God willing and the creeks don’t rise, I’ll be posting again Friday morning and back on schedule. Until then, God bless you and keep you!
This may be revealing too much about myself, but this is my hometown. As if domestic violence victims and survivors didn’t have it bad enough to begin with matters have taken a drastic turn for the even worse.
Our county has a long standing reputation for high rates of domestic violence. As you all know, a local judge ordered, in December 2012, I turn over a rifle to my abuser as part of our dissolution. This is the same judge who refused, in September 2011, to expunge my abuser’s record of his prior domestic violence conviction because of his continued violence.
God help us all.
The children’s chatter and laughter could be heard from the back doorstep. The early morning sun shone brightly, and I laughed to myself as I listened to them from outside. Apparently no one heard me pull up the long gravel driveway to the old farmhouse because they weren’t responding to my knocking. It occurred to me that their dad couldn’t hear me through their squeals and fast conversation, so I went around to the front door.
The little boy saw me approaching and began to unlock the door before I got to it. He was already hollering, “Hi, L!” His darling little sister stood close behind him and greeted me readily as well. They quickly shared with me that their dad was in the shower, so I shouldn’t go in the downstairs bathroom. Scarcely had those words left their lips, when the little girl excitedly told me that she’d done her own hair. She looked at me with questioning eyes, waiting for the answer she already knew was coming, “Yes! It is beautiful!” She had done a good job for a five year old–all six clips were lined up evenly along the left side of her face.
By the time their father opened the bathroom door I was well on my way around the kitchen counters. He was pleasant but hurried. It was a typical morning rush to get two young children out the door for the day.
Right before they left, the dad sprayed the children with sunscreen. As he did, he instructed them, “Hold your breath. Mommy says this is bad for you to breathe. Hold your breath. Run through it!”
The children did exactly as their daddy instructed, as their mommy had warned all of them about it.
Typical nice little family scenario. But, it struck me. I mean, literally like a slap across the face.
If my ex did ever perform any hygiene or preventative measures on the children at my request, there would not have been a nod to doing it because mommy knows best about how to handle it. There would have been condemnation. Something like, “This is ridiculous. I don’t think this stuff really works. I don’t know why your mother wants this done. That’s good enough. Just don’t tell her we didn’t do it. Otherwise, she’ll be mad at both of us.”
Or, conversely, he would have yelled at them like a drill sergeant, yanking on them, and telling them that mommy told him to do it.
Either way, every action, every word, was meant to create doubt in their little minds regarding mommy’s knowledge and mommy’s love for them. It was designed to create questions as to who was the real “bad guy,” the one administering this rough application or the one who had “commanded” it. His voice conveyed a sense of him and them against me, not of family unification and the instilling of a common value and never simply of parental care and concern.
That’s when it slapped me.
That is precisely why my children question every request, every instruction. Every. Single. Word. That comes out of my mouth is met with indignant questioning by all of them. Suddenly it occurred to me that my children are not necessarily displaying blatantly disobedient and disrespectful behavior. They are merely living out what they have always had to.
They are fearful and insecure, feeling that they must figure it out by their little selves. Who can they trust? Daddy beat them and ridiculed them and said that he doesn’t love them. He even tried to kill them on several occasions. He obviously can’t be trusted. But, he had moments when he would display kindness and, in those moments, he said mommy should be doubted. She’s crazy. She’s hormonal. She’s a dumb woman. She’s just mean. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
They saw one thing, heard another, and God only knows how they felt about it all. But, the result is certain. They are insecure, independent, fearful, without a solid family structure to gird them and strengthen them.
It seems like such a small thing, such a silly thing. It was just a father applying sunscreen to his children before school on a sunny spring morning. But, it was a scene and a conversation that stood in stark contrast to anything that ever occurred in our home. And, it grieved me for the damage that is already done.
My youngest two children sneaked into my room where I was sleeping. They let out a collective sigh, and one exclaimed, “Whew! We thought you were dead! ”
I’m not dead, nor am I dying. I’m just sick again. Though I may feel “like I’m dying,” I know I’ll eventually recover. It’s been six weeks since we first became ill, which feels like an eternity, but it can’t really last forever.
The children, sick themselves, keep a close eye on me and become extremely clingy when Mama goes down. References to my impending demise are frequent.
In January 2011, I became obviously very ill. Several doctors, uncertain as to the cause for my suffering, all concurred it was potentially life threatening. I looked like a dying person, and I could sense my life ebbing away. The children, however were oblivious. They’d yet to experience death up close and personal, so it never crossed their minds they could lose their mother. They just thought mom was sick, but she’d get better.
Well, that’s what they thought until their dad could no longer contain his excitement. He sat in the car with our children, ages 2, 4, 11, and 14, while I went in for another appointment. While they waited for me, he bubbled over, “If Mom dies, we’ll sell everything and move to Alaska! Auntie L can home school you, and we’ll live where there’s lots of snow! Doesn’t that sound fun? ”
They were horrified. Traumatized. The thought of losing their mother frightened them. It didn’t sound fun to them. They didn’t want Mama to die! They didn’t want to leave their home, their toys, their animals and go some place strange!
I know I’ve shared all of this before. And, it’s just another example of R’s cruelty. But, it’s fresh again tonight as I struggle so hard to find a bit of rest and my youngest two won’t allow it. They hover and watch and touch me. They listen for my heartbeat.
They can’t stand to see their mama sick because it brings up that fear that I might die. That foreign fear that R instilled in them over two years ago.
I don’t want to tell them, but with God’s grace, I plan to live to be a happy 90 year old just to spite their father.
This too shall pass. I’m not dying!
My oldest daughter was 17 years old when she enrolled at the local community college. One of the first classes she took was Intro to Psychology.
While R was at work, she brought me some of her homework and a photocopy of an article. She quietly and timidly told me that she thought it described me.
I read it and did, indeed, recognize myself in it. But, I did nothing with that information or the realization that something was seriously wrong with my patterned behavior and my thinking. That ambivalence, that protective hiding, only further proved her point.
I’ve thanked and praised God all week, along with the rest of the nation, for the preservation of the lives of the three young women held captive in Cleveland, Ohio, and for their rescue. And, I’ve become a little infatuated with Charles Ramsey, the unlikely hero. But, I also picked up on some things in his interview with Anderson Cooper that have haunted me and piqued my curiosity–not in an ambulance chasing sort of way, but because I’m intrigued by the dynamics of that household and the strong similarities between that particular hostage situation and the perpetrator’s domestic violence background.
At one point in the interview, Mr. Ramsey shares that the little girl was crying. He admits his thoughts were that the little girl should shut up because her mama was trying to help her. But, she was crying, saying that she wanted her daddy, the kidnapper.
A sketchy picture has been painted with little information verified, but it seems that beatings were regular and may have induced several miscarriages. Mr. Ramsey had earlier stated that the door was “torture chambered” shut to keep the captives locked in. Surely, this little girl witnessed some of these horrific acts. Certainly, she saw the look of fear, sensed it, smelled it, in the house and in her mother’s eyes. Didn’t she have a natural bond to her frightened mother held hostage by this rapist, this violent man? How could this little girl witness all of that and yet throw a fit for her daddy when her mother was desperately attempting a brave escape?
I’ve seen it with my own children and the children of the women in my support group. They had, have, a greater desire to please the abuser and long to draw close to them, rejecting and vilifying the victim parent.
I understand it because I’ve felt it. I was in a similar place back when my daughter came home from school ten years ago and gingerly presented me with that paper. I was scared to death of R, but I wanted to, at the same time, protect him.
Those seven photocopied pages were hidden in the school room all this time, and I’ve reread them frequently now that R is gone.
The copied chapter is titled Survivors of Terror, Battered Women, Hostages, and the Stockholm Syndrome. I believe it’s from the book Rethinking Clinical Approaches by Dee L.R. Graham et al. On pages 217 and 218 the author states, “Although the experiences of hostages and battered women are seen as very different phenomena, in this chapter, we suggest that the psychological reactions of battered women can best be explained as a result of their experiences of being trapped in a situation that is very similar to that of hostages. Traditional psychological theories have suggested that battered women love and remain with the men who batter them because of female masochism. We suggest that their experiences can be better understood through the model of the Stockholm Syndrome, which has been developed to account for the paradoxical psychological responses of hostages to their captors (Dutton & Painter, 1981; Finkelhor & Yilo, 1985; Hilberman, 1980). In particular, when threatened with death by a captor who is also kind in some ways, hostages develop a fondness for the captor and an antipathy toward authorities working for their release. The captor may also develop a fondness for the hostages.
This model furthers a feminist analysis of battered women. First, it is a situation-centered as opposed to a person-centered approach. The model shows how the psychological characteristics observed in battered women resemble those of hostages, suggesting that these characteristics are the result of being in a life-threatening relationship rather than the cause of being in the relationship. Second, the model uses a power analysis that shows how extreme power imbalances between an abusive husband and battered wife, as between captor and hostage, can lead to strong emotional bonding.”
I think it goes without saying that this likely also applies to an abused child or a child held hostage.
As for the kindness of the perpetrator in this case, that has yet to be discussed. However, Mr. Ramsey does also tell Anderson Cooper that Amanda Berry was “wearing mascara, rings, was well groomed, didn’t look like she’d been kidnapped.”
In an interview with her cousins on another news program, one of them commented that she was still wearing her eyebrow rings and rings on her fingers that she’d worn before her kidnapping.
So, on some level, her kidnapper was “allowing” her a certain amount of expression of her individuality and expression of femininity by wearing make up and pulling her hair back. Could this be misinterpreted as a kindness? Or, could he have been using this as an example of his benevolence, a defense of himself against the protests of those he held captive? A sort of, “Look at what I do for you! Look what I let you do!” response to his victim’s pleas for freedom from his violence and torture?
Haven’t we all heard similar statements from our abusers?
I also think that the fact that the other two women were not tied up at the time but did not escape with Ms. Berry should be more than a footnote. The law enforcement source described them as brainwashed and fearful.
If a battered wife remains inside her home turned prison, it is presumed that she “likes it,” and Child Protective Services will even turn their suspicious eyes toward her, questioning her ability or her desire to protect her children. Social judgments are made. And, all too often, churches promote that response. But, seldom does anyone declare that she is simply brainwashed and fearful.
Though that is accepted as a normal response for a hostage, few seem to recognize the look of a wife who has taken that strange and lonely trip to Stockholm.
In my humble opinion, George Washington Carver was one of the greatest men to ever grace this continent. I admire his strength of character, his conviction to choose what he felt was right over what was of a greater financial or social benefit. I am in awe of his obvious love for and sense of obligation to other people.
I truly love how evident Providence was throughout his life. But, most of all, I love that he was so aware of that, he was able to just go where it took him.
It’s easy now 150 years later to look back on this great man’s life and say how perfect it all worked out. If he hadn’t had whooping cough as an infant and been a sickly child, he would have been out working the fields with his brother. Instead, he stayed inside and learned to cook, clean, and read, learning principles he would need later on. If he had been accepted to college fresh out of high school, he wouldn’t have staked a claim and farmed, again learning what he needed to know for what he was about to do.
That is a theme echoed throughout his life: apparent hardship and suffering were a setup or classroom for where God was leading him. He was merely learning necessary information for the great places God was taking him. In other words, he needed to be sick and he needed to suffer the horrors of racism in order to learn his required life lessons for the perfect path God had chosen for him in order to help so many.
It’s easy to think that because of his loving spirit he didn’t mourn the could have been’s and the should have been’s. Not the way we average human beings do anyway. He somehow seems above that. But, I doubt it. I think a closer study of the man’s life would reveal the private pain and disappointment common to us all.
Thinking about George, it strikes me. Just like he needed to be sickly, I think I needed to marry R. I think I needed to suffer at his hand.
The horrors of my childhood did more than torment me. I was denied basic instruction in the ways of human interaction. I didn’t understand what love was, how it acted. I didn’t know what it meant to honor someone. I had been taught, brainwashed, to believe that I was born inferior and evil without hope of redemption or change.
As we entered the book display yesterday, we passed a woman with an infant and four or five young children. My precious four year old daughter joyfully exclaimed, “Wow! She has a lot of children!” I responded, “Yes, she is blessed, isn’t she? How many children are you going to have?” Thus began a lengthy dream sequence detailing her future children and her husband and the beautiful family life they’ll someday have.
As we walked and she talked, I wandered mentally back to my own preschool years. I was told repeatedly that no man would ever want me. Not a good one anyway. (Can you see why I settled for R?) No one would put up with me for long. From the moment I was born, my mother could see that I was a little bitch, and she frequently told me so.
I listen intently to D and inspire her to keep dreaming. My little girl dreams were met with ridicule and scorn.
And, beyond that, the harsh reality that my own mother hated me from birth and the constant repetitive mantra, “No man will ever want you!” drove me to self-loathing. When, as a teenager, I suffered the heartaches so common to that age, I wasn’t able to recover. I was devastated because they proved my mother right.
If my own mother hated me, and I couldn’t blame her because I hated me, too, then surely a righteous God couldn’t love me either. If I was beyond hope, born rotten, I could not be redeemed by His holiness. I could not stand before Him.
When R took his turn berating me and beating me it only further proved Mommy Dearest right. Though I’d been “saved,” I knew that I was somehow getting in to Heaven only by the skin of my teeth. Perhaps not. Why else would God allow me and my poor, innocent children to suffer like this? I was being punished for my innate rottenness, and my children were being punished for no other reason than being my offspring.
I didn’t doubt God’s goodness. I just didn’t think it was for me. I’d been told it wasn’t. And, I hadn’t been able to see it and taste it and touch it in my life. I’d certainly seen it in the lives of others, so I knew it was real. Just not for me.
R took me to the same depths of pain and degradation my mother fed me on. It was like spiraling down the same hole over and over again. And, I had to admit those same questions remained. I couldn’t stuff it and stand in church and pretend. I couldn’t raise my hands in worship to a God I believed didn’t love me as much as he did the former drug addict in the front row or the perfect mother of ten in the row in front of me, all ten children lined up quietly in matching homemade outfits.
I needed to lose everything. I needed to face the loss of my health and possibly my very life. I needed to lose my parents and R all at the same time. I needed to stand naked and destitute for all to see my shame. Because it was only in that state of complete emptiness and need that God could swoop down with the arms of others, here in my hometown and strangers I’ve never met, and express His great love for me.
If I had been full and content, happily married to a wonderful man who loved me and treated me kindly, I would not have faced the demons of my past. I would not have dealt with that corner of doubt. I would have always worried that this imaginary man would come to know the real me and leave at any given time. I would have never realized how much my Savior does indeed love even me.
Just like my hero, I needed certain experiences in order to learn my required life lessons for the perfect path God has chosen for me. R was a cruel schoolmaster, but he taught a required course.
In a response to Still Scared, I mentioned that an old friend had nightmares about R all night long last Thursday night.
This is a woman I met about eight years ago. She was devout, very spiritual yet silly, very entrepreneurial minded, and trapped in a marriage to an adulterous, abusive man. We had much in common and became fast friends.
However, with the difficulties inherent in both our lives, we eventually lost touch. I haven’t seen her since D was a baby, but about a month ago she found me on Facebook and we casually reconnected.
I was surprised to get a frantic sounding message from her, telling me to text her my phone number. She lives in a remote area without internet service, and she didn’t have my new phone number. But, she NEEDED to know that I was okay. She’d been so frightened and so desperate, that she took her laptop and drove into town, seeking free wireless, in order to send that message.
When I got off work and finally got a hold of her, she shared with me that she had dreamed only of me all night long. R was stalking me and still beating me in every one of her dreams. He pulled a gun on me and tried to kill me several different times. Each time though someone helped me get away. She said that toward morning the dreams were set in a different house than the one I’m living in, the one I’ve lived in for fourteen years. But, R found the new house, broke in, and beat me badly. My new neighbors helped me escape, but it didn’t slow him down. He was angry and intent on killing me.
In the final dream, she and I were both working at a METAL WAREHOUSE. It apparently was some sort of resource center for victims and survivors of domestic violence. There were many women and children all around inside the warehouse when R came raging through the door, looking for me.
He confronted her, and she told him repeatedly that she would NEVER tell him where I was. R pulled a gun on her and held it to her head. He threatened to pull the trigger unless she told him where he could find me. With one quick action she pulled a pistol from under the counter and emptied it on him. She said that, in her dream, she stood over him, feeling absolutely nothing, but thinking, “I told you not to threaten me.”
She hasn’t even laid eyes on the man since J was a baby six years ago. Yet, he can still torment her in her sleep and elicit a fearful reaction.
Yesterday, another friend, my closest friend, the maid of honor at my wedding all those years ago, texted me that she had something to tell me. It was too long to text, so she was emailing me. I was intrigued.
She knew nothing of my other friend’s nightmares last week.
However, she, too, had dreamed of R. Again, it was set in a WAREHOUSE. He was bullying the kids in front of a crowd of people. She had thin sticks of wood, similar to molding, that she was breaking in her hands. She knows the little wooden sticks were significant, but she has no idea why or what they stood for; they just seemed prominent in the dream. She said that she verbally let him have it and “lost her religion” in the way she talked to him. She broke the little sticks and told him that his days of manipulating these kids are over!
It seemed strange to me that two of my friends would dream similar dreams. But, these are women who knew my suffering and understood the depths of my pain when I was in the midst of it.
Still, within days of each other? Both set in a warehouse?
Last night I told the Lord that if I heard anymore of this warehouse talk from a third person, I would accept it as a confirmation that He is warning us of something and that this isn’t just metastasized fear.
Today I had to order J’s language books for next year. The vendor sends a traveling rep, and you get free shipping when you order at the display. So, I always try to order when he visits in order to save on that expense.
After I submitted my order, the rep asked if there was anything else he could do for me. I leaned forward and, in a hushed tone, said, “Yes. Last year I expressly told you that my ex-husband’s name was to be removed from our account. Somewhere at headquarters though someone put his name back on, tracked down his new address that I didn’t even have, and mailed my books to him.”
He interrupted, “I remember that! I remember! Did anyone ever get that straightened out?”
I explained that UPS stopped it and rerouted them back to me. I called the main office for his supplier at that time and hoped that it was now squared away, but I would appreciate it if he could keep an eye on it. I shared with him the fiasco over the tuition reimbursement check that USPS rerouted to R, that he, of course, cashed. If the books got routed to him, he would keep them and the kids wouldn’t have the school books they need.
This former pastor turned book salesman then openly shared his personal story with me. A story involving adultery, domestic violence, child abuse, and public shame and judgment. (Women are not always the victims, and men are not always the perpetrators!) He then leaned forward and in a hushed tone said, “I got the impression your situation was similar.” How did he know that???
I won’t divulge the details of his personal life. Those are his to share. However, one incident when his children were placed in grave danger involved a METAL WAREHOUSE here in the county where I live!
Coincidence? Perhaps. Weird? Certainly. Chilling? Um, not this time around.
The fear stops here. R instilled a horrendous fear in me that I still carry. It reared its ugly head today when a stranger nearly hit my 4 year old daughter and then yelled at me. But, it will not control my life. I will not allow these dreams and coincidences to fill my head with thoughts of what if?
The final statement the salesman said to me was, “The Lord will restore the years the locusts ate. I assure you of that. I have been happily remarried for 15 years, and my kids are all great. But, more than that, read Philippians 1:6. He says be confident of this, He which has begun a good work in you will perform it. He will finish the good work He has begun in your life. Be assured of that. He will finish it.”
I am His, and I stand confident in His promises. No weapon that is formed against me shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17). The Lord did not bring me this far to let me go. He will finish this for me.
Instead, I am choosing to take those dreams as a warning to not get lazy or cocky. The enemy is still sneaking about like a roaring lion, and I still need the protection of my friends (their prayer covering). We just don’t need to live in fear of our enemy because we can enter boldly before the throne of Grace and trust in our Righteous Redeemer to restore the lost years, protect us from the enemy, and finish our stories with good endings.