Tuesday, 26 February 2013
Silent No More
By Sharon Ostrow who blogs at It's All About the Journey
My life was out of control and had been for years. I couldn't pinpoint exactly what was wrong. I only knew that I was unhappy.
My first marriage was a disaster and crumbled after seven years and three children. I fled in the night from my husband who was violent and unpredictable. I thought that once I was away from him that I'd be happier but this wasn't the case, and in fact after that I couldn't seem to maintain any of my relationships with men. My self esteem was low and I felt that I still didn't have control over my life.
One of my friends, who happened to have been my batterer's second wife and was mistreated by him as well, sent me a book called Battered Woman by Lenore E Walker. As painful as it was to read, this book set me on the path to healing.
How could I let the two words "battered woman" define who I was? I didn't speak of it to anyone. There is a stigma that accompanies victims of battering, much like that of rape. The victim blames herself for what happened and is ashamed.
My living situation at the time was not a nurturing one in that respect, either. I was part of a religious cult. We were taught to only speak for positive thoughts and speaking about the past was definitely not encouraged. This only led to my feelings of isolation.
By putting a name to the crime of battering, to know that I was not alone was an enormous relief. My friend encouraged me to seek out a support group but this was not a choice for me at the time. I continued to read books on the subject of battering and I also kept a journal which was therapeutic and a catalyst for empowerment.
During the years that followed I lived, as I have mentioned, within a religious cult which had gradually gotten less strict but for me was still repressive and controlling. The women were not encouraged to speak out. We were taught to be submissive and, as I call it, "barefoot and pregnant” both in the literal and emotional sense. In other words: dependent and kept at home.
This situation, too, crumbled after more than 30 years. I now realize the reasons I stayed for so long were basically the same reasons I stayed with my batterer: low self esteem, co-dependence and lack of personal finances. This is not to mention the fear of being banished from the group or stigmatized in some way.
I have some perspective now and as a grandmother, I feel it is time to tell my story not only for my own healing but for the sakes of thousands of battered women and children in this world today. You can break through, you can heal and you can break the silence.
I read a saying recently that states if you are going to write your life story, don't give someone else the pen. You are the one creating your own life, no one else.
[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]