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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.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Thank you for the honesty and these words that may encourage others who are in similar situations. I wish you all the best in taking up that pen and putting it to paper and look forward to perhaps reading more about it here.

Sharon, Every story of abuse is different, but there are similarities. For example, the tendency to feel ashamed and to blame one's self as you did.

Many of us remember a time when people believed (or at least said) that what happens behind closed doors is between the people involved. It's not any business of neighbors, the police, or the courts.

We've made so much progress in that area, yet we still have abusive husbands (and some wives), the Jerry Sanduskys of the world, and pedophile priests. It's an enormous advance that the abused can now accuse and confront an abuser and see him locked up forever.

I admire your courage and hope you'll do more writing to help others as well as yourself.

I'm so glad you escaped your batterer--and the religious cult. Thank you for telling your story. Unfortunately, in my experience, because most religions believe in the subjugation of women, historically violence against women has been and sometimes still is condoned. For this reason among many others I have been personally nonreligious for many years.

I spent a brief time in an abusive relationship in my 30s. I was fortunate to realize that not only must I escape my abuser but also to have the education, skills and resources to do so. Many women don't, so they stay or leave and return repeatedly. During my career in social services, I worked with many abused women, and I never forgot that there but for a combination of positive circumstances went I.

Keep writing, Sharon, and I'm so happy that you are free.

Thank you for this personal statement Sharon, I hope that you continue writing your life story.
I believe abuse is a crime, period, regardless of the relationship between the criminal and victim.
I wish you well.

Sad story indeed but you must continue to write more about it for it will cleanse your soul and make you a stronger person.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this important topic. Women can be subjugated and abused in a variety of relationships, not just marriage. That journey is one that no one else can take other than you. Good luck to you on your new life.

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