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Excellent piece from Laurie Penny on the current discussion of men’s behaviour toward women.

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Posted in Faith Groups, Meditations, PTSD, Reclaiming Yourself from Domestic Abuse

Meditation X

First, I’d like to appologise for my absense from my blog, I have some longterm health issues which get much worse when flu and cold season is upon us.  I’m feeling improved, with a little way to go yet, but I have been desperate to get back to writing, so here I am, and it’s good to be here!

 

The final meditation from my book WITNESS is the one I wrote signifying gaining a place of safety, not an end in the journey of recovery, but an end to the abuse.  Recovery is an on going process!  We can reach a place of strength and peace, then something happens to put us back into that place of trauma.  The very nature of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is that it goes on, because life goes on.  We find ourselves relaxing with friends, then someone says something, or looks a certain way, and we are in a full blown PTSD episode.  Hopefully, these episodes lessen as we continue to move on, and learn strategies to cope with these episodes.  Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that we survived the actual trauma, we have been strong and resourceful and this can be applied to our PTSD too.

When we have children who maintain contact with their Dad, it is likely that they continue to be treated in an unhealthy way by him.  They then come home to you with their upset which can trigger your own issues; this is why it is important for you and your children to get good quality psychological support.

Sarah began by getting counselling from Marriagecare, a Catholic Relationship Counselling Service whose ethos includes the following (their emphasis):

‘We believe that preventing couple separation and maintaining an intact family where healthy relationships can exist and grow in goodness is of fundamental importance to the flourishing of family life and society at large.’

Sarah worried about approaching a Catholic organisation for fear she would be encouraged to remain in her marriage, but she found a counsellor with a person centred approach who understood her circumstances, and, as the quote above shows, this seems to be the approach of the whole organisation. Reaching out to an organisation from her own background made sense to Sarah; it is essential for us all to seek counselling where you feel most at home.  Relate is known throughout the UK as a relationship counselling service.  Relationship Scotland has a wide range of services including Child Contact Centres which are of particular help to children with abusive fathers.

Sarah found CAMHS  (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service) to be hugely supportive of her children.  David was 5 years old, and Erin 7 years old when they began meeting with Andrew, a Children’s Nurse Therapist, and they continued to see him until David was 19 years old.  Andrew provided Erin and David with a safe space to air their problems, and offered advice to Sarah in supporting her children. David and Sarah were both referred to the Cedar Network which supports mothers and children who have experienced domestic abuse. Cedar invite mother and children together providing their own groups, a Mothers Group, and a Childrens Group where each group explores an aspect of living with Domestic Abuse and it’s aftermath.  Both David and Sarah found Cedar gave them more confidence in themselves and a greater understanding of what they had experienced, added to which was the support of others with similar experiences.

I am aware that there are issues with Mental Health Service  across the UK at present, particularly in England and Wales, I would still encourage you to ask your GP for a referral, and if that is not successful ask your GP to refer you to another service.  Sarah found her own GP to be very supportive, referring her and her children to appropriate services as required.

For women with a faith tradition it seems obvious to seek support from our ministers, priests, rabbis and imams, howerver, the majority of these positions are held by men which may make approaching them difficult.  Sarah was fortunate for a friends suggestion of speaking to a priest who was trained in counselling, and was straightforward in his belief that when her husband struck the first blow, he had broken the marriage contract.

Work is being done by many denominations and faith traditions to address domestic abuse in their congregations:

  • here is a link to the Violence Against Women page on the Church of Scotland website,
  • the Methodist Church document on tackling Domestic Abuse;
  • Amina is a Muslim Women’s Resource Centre which includes support for women who have experienced, or are experiencing domestic abuse.

In finally reaching the point where Sarah was divorced, and living in her own house, she also needed the help of a solicitor, many friends and family.  This final meditation is one of gratitude for all who helped Sarah, Erin and David reach safety in their own home.

 

Meditation X

 

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Mother, when we felt alone and unable to go on, you were there in the friends who comforted us and the games we played together. You were in the doctor and therapists who cared for us and in the solicitor who gave us advice. You were there in the priest who supported us and the *sangha who walked with us and the women’s groups that shared our experience. You were there in the peace and quiet of the sea.

Thank You.

Posted in Current Affairs, Feminist Theology, Meditations, Raising Awareness of VAWG, Violence Against Women and Girls

Healing Meditation (viii)

Why doesn’t she leave?

When a woman discloses she is in a relationship with someone who abuses her, the first thing she often hears is, ‘Why don’t you leave?’.  On average it takes a woman seven attempts to leave, and because of the complexities of our emotions, our practical needs, and concerns about our children, there can be some going back and forth between leaving and staying. One huge factor is the lack of confidence in our ability to cope, we’ve had the confidence knocked out of us, and we’ve absorbed the lies we’ve been told by our partner about how weak and incompetent we are.  Leaving is not a straightforward task.

For those with no personal experience of Domestic Abuse, remember that leaving is the point at which women are most likely to be murdered.

Sarah, from my book WITNESS recalled her attempts to leave her husband Jamie in several chapters of the book.  Perhaps the most difficult, but ultimately crucial, time was when her son David, her youngest child, was about 14 months old.  It had been a very trying year, due to Jamie’s behaviour; his affair, his violence, and his focus on himself, not his children and wife.  Jamie had a car accident not long after David’s first birthday, which was also a few days after Sarah had been in hospital for some minor surgery.  Sarah was still in pain, exhausted, and constantly on alert.  Another woman had entered Jamie’s life by then; he said they were just friends.

‘…Sarah decided to call his bluff. If they were simply friends, then she was sure Sheila would want to visit him after his accident. She sent a pleasant card to Sheila inviting her to visit and then told Jamie. He was furious.

His right elbow and collarbone were immobilised, but using his left arm he picked up David and led Erin out of the living room and put them on the bottom step of the stairs. He closed the living room door and began beating Sarah with his left hand. He told her to sort it out and chased her out of the house. Sarah managed to grab the car keys and drove straight to the local police station. She told the duty sergeant she had been assaulted, and she wanted her children out of the house. Two sergeants came out to the house with her.

Jamie met them at the door, opening it a crack. He said, ‘Nothing has happened here. She’s off her head!’

Sarah could see Erin peering out behind Jamie.

The sergeants told her there was nothing they could do. It was her word against his. They advised her to go and stay with a friend. They left Jamie, who needed assistance to dress and bathe himself, with the care of Sarah’s three-year-old daughter and David, who could not walk!

Sarah had no choice. If she went back into the house, she thought she’d be killed. She spent the next ten days with her friend Kay. That night, she arranged to see her GP, who took note of the injuries to her face and back. The following day, she began divorce proceedings.’

(WITNESS by Kitty Nolan, p75)

Sarah met with Jamie several days after this, by now he had the letter from her lawyer.  Jamie wanted to find a way for them to stay together.  He was reasonable to start off with, and after he thought he had won her round, he began to challenge her about what she had done, involving the police, his colleagues, and talking to a lawyer.  He wanted her to apologise.  The conversation did not go well after that, and Jamie decided he was going to leave.  He packed his rucksack and went away, Sarah did not know where to.

 

That night, Sarah breathed a sigh of relief.

The following day, she left the children with Kay while she went to her hospital check-up. Kay was to bring them back in the evening so Sarah could get a rest in the afternoon. When she got home, though, the front door was open. Jamie had forced his way into the house, leaving a hole in the wall at the front door. When she went into the living room, she found a note attached to the tape recorder. ‘Please listen to this,’ the note read. ‘It will be of interest to you.’

She listened while he pleaded that he could not live without his family. He wanted them to stay together and would do anything. Sarah could take no more. When Jamie came in and asked what she wanted to do, she couldn’t answer him. She began to cry until the sobs made her whole body shake. She could not speak or open her eyes and soon could not hold her own body up. She cried for three days.

***

Jamie panicked and sent for Mhairi. Jamie’s sister spent hours with Sarah, just sitting beside her and stroking her head. Once Sarah was asleep, Mhairi went downstairs to talk to Jamie. She told him he had to give up Sheila and start taking his responsibilities as a husband and father seriously. He didn’t like this.

Over the next week, he took great care of Sarah and the children. To begin with, he stopped asking about what would happen to their marriage. He seemed genuinely concerned about Sarah. Then bit by bit, he began to wear her down with his plea to hold their family together. Sarah felt paralyzed by her need for freedom on the one hand and, on the other, her fear that she could not look after her children on her own. Jamie had made her believe she could not cope alone. She also believed that, if her marriage ended, she would be alone for the rest of her life.

Kay came to visit because she was worried, so much so that she had phoned Sarah’s doctor. Sarah’s GPS knew about her situation but couldn’t do anything unless Sarah made direct contact with them.

Sarah saw Dr Cullen the next day. She said she felt she had to give the marriage one last chance. Dr Cullen advised that, if she was going to do this, she should put boundaries in place.

On her way home Sarah gave Dr Cullen’s advice a great deal of thought. When she got to the house, she sat down with Jamie and told him she was prepared to have one last go, but if he hit her again, their marriage was over, and if he had another affair, their marriage was over. Jamie didn’t like these terms, but he accepted them.

Sarah halted divorce proceedings.

(WITNESS by Kitty Nolan  pp 76 – 77)

 

Sarah hadn’t yet reached the point where she felt fully justified in leaving Jamie.  He had never begged her to stay before, and she felt she had to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps more than anything, she needed to justify breaking the Church rule that marriage was for ever.  However, fourteen months later their marriage came to an end.  Although Jamie did not lift his hands to her again, he was often verbally aggressive, holding his clenched fists by his side, and still would not brook Sarah holding her ground on an issue. The final straw came when Sarah discovered evidence of another affair, and for Sarah this made it clear-cut, she had endured violence and unfaithfulness; aggression and name calling; girlfriends phoning the house, and giving her disease.  Their marriage was over.

Jamie left their family home, and moved in with his current girlfriend.

 

Meditation (viii)

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Mother, sit with me in my rage. I needed protection from the police and got none. Why? I was terrified he would kill me, and my children’s lives would be a living hell. He wore me down. He said I couldn’t cope alone. They needed two parents. I felt isolated. He made sure I felt alone.

Mother, breathing in, I place my feet on your earth, my home. My roots sink into Your earth anchoring me, holding me steady. You feed me through these roots. As these memories arise, help me be present with them. Help me feel my feelings, my rage, where it is in my body. Breathing out, I let go into my roots, into the earth, my home.

WITNESS is also available from the following outlets:

http://www.amazon.co.uk

http://www.amazon.com

Barnes & Noble Bookshop (USA)

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Reclaiming Yourself From Domestic Abuse by Kitty Nolan

One in three women worldwide experience Domestic Abuse at some point in their lives; I am one of them.  There are many terms to describe what we experience:  Gender Based Violence (GBV); Domestic Violence (DV); Wife Battering; Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG); I’ve opted to use the term Domestic Abuse because it covers many of the behaviours women, and men, experience.  Firstly, domestic describes the running of the home, or family relations, and is synonymous with private; private or intimate relationships are the grounds for this abuse.

I use ‘abuse’ instead of violence because it covers physical violence, sexual abuse, financial abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, power and controlling behaviour, isolation, and spiritual abuse.  Some victims experience some of these behaviours, many experience all of them. Women and men experience abuse differently. For one thing, men are more likely to murder their partners than women are, and women generally…

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Posted in Feminism, Feminist Theology, Meditations, Raising Awareness of VAWG, Reclaiming Yourself from Domestic Abuse, Violence Against Women and Girls

Healing Meditation (iiv)

When we are overcome by violence and humiliation, we become prisoners; prisoners of our abuser, and prisoners of a silent community.  Domestic Abuse may be a shared experience among women, but we do not share our own experience of it until we find the motivation to leave.  We may tell a sister or a friend of a particular incident, but say nothing about the day-to-day terror.  We often look strong, and capable to those around us, but feel humiliated that we have no power over our own lives; our lives revolve around our abuser, and trying to keep him from yet another outburst and the subsequent violence. Humiliation is a broad thread in our lives.  We are humiliated by the affairs; humiliated by the lies, and humiliated by being overcome by his violence.

In my book WITNESS, Sara talks about her experience.  By now Sara and Jamie had a daughter and a son;  this incident happened shortly after the birth of their second child, David.

‘In their house, they had an office space in the dining room with a filing cabinet. During the time Jamie was moving jobs, Sarah went into the filing cabinet looking for some paperwork so she could pay some bills and found letters from Brenda {Jamie’s girlfriend}. When Sarah challenged Jamie with the letters, his first reaction was to deny he was having an affair, and then he angrily told Sarah she had no business reading the letters. Sarah demanded he end the affair; Jamie said it was over.

By now, Sarah’s health was crumbling. One evening after feeding David, she became aware that she had no feeling in her right leg; this worried her. Sarah’s mum had had two major strokes, and she knew what the signs were. When she saw her doctor, she explained the strain she was under because of Jamie’s affair; at this point she was afraid to mention the physical abuse. Her doctor checked her over, and the indications were that she had not had a stroke; the most likely explanation was that she was under too much stress. Could she get help from anyone? Helen{her sister} came to stay for a few weeks, which gave Sarah some company, and more of a chance to rest, but by now, she was constantly anxious.’

 

(WITNESS by Kitty Nolan p 64-65)

Sarah was humiliated by yet another affair.  He was seeing this woman while Sarah was pregnant with David, and Jamie saw this woman soon after David was born.   Him going from the intimacy, and vulnerability of the delivery room, to his girlfriend was crushing for Sarah, and there was more humiliation to come.

At Christmas that year, Jamie informed Sarah that he had contracted chlamydia, and they had an appointment at the sexually transmitted diseases clinic on Boxing Day. Jamie said he’d had it since March. Sarah felt humiliated but tried to deal with this news practically. She knew how fastidious he was about his health and felt this might be the thing to make him stop and think about what he had been doing. When she saw her GP about this, she felt embarrassed, and when she went to the clinic for treatment, she felt violated; the tests were so invasive.

Sarah… realised he’d had the disease while she was pregnant with David. She knew how dangerous it was for a baby to come through the birth canal when chlamydia was present. She talked this over with her doctor. Chlamydia could cause problems with the eyes of newborn babies. Sarah was thankful David’s eyes were healthy. She was enraged that Jamie could risk her baby’s health in this way. Nonetheless, she was unable to show her anger to Jamie; she knew he would either play it down or get angry and aggressive, and she knew either response would make things worse.’

(WITNESS by Kitty Nolan p65-66)

For Sarah, this was not just humiliation, it was shaming; Jamie’s behaviour careless and selfish.

 

Most of us know the term ‘gaslighting’; it is a tool of abusers of all kinds. Here is Wikipedia’s definition:

Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting 
Jamie used this technique often, particularly when he was having an affair.  He made Sarah believe he had ended the relationship he’d had while Sarah was pregnant, then she got a phone call:

‘… Brenda’s brother phoned to find out if Jamie knew where she was because she’d disappeared from home. Sarah said Jamie hadn’t seen her for months!

‘Then how is it that he was up here visiting her last week?’ came the response.’

(WITNESS by Kitty Nolan p66)

Jamie still made out he was no longer seeing her.

They had found the money for him to have the climbing experience he’d always wanted.

‘The night before Jamie was due to leave, he was working late. Sarah knew they had an early start in the morning, and Jamie was not packed to go. He’d told her not to pack his things, but as the night wore on, and Jamie had still not arrived home, Sarah decided to make a start. She began by emptying out his rucksack, which was still full of things from his last climb. He kept his maps in a space at the back of the rucksack, and when she began to take them out, she found an open pack of condoms. Sarah and Jamie did not use condoms; she was on the pill. Sarah was furious, and this gave her the courage to challenge her husband about her discovery when he arrived home. She told him about Brenda’s brother phoning and telling her that Jamie had been visiting them. It seemed to her that the affair was still going on.

Jamie flew at her. He punched her across the face, damaging her jaw. Sarah tried to run upstairs and barricade herself in their room, but Jamie grabbed her and pinned her up against a wall outside Erin’s {their daughter} room. He put his hands around her throat and held them there, squeezing just enough for her to know he could kill her.

He screamed in her face, ‘If you ever mention Brenda’s name again, I will kill you.’ ‘

(WITNESS by Kitty Nolan p66-67)

Sarah, like many women being abused, was bullied and threatened into doubting her own experience; doubting her own good judgement.  Fearing for her life, and unable to claim her experience, Sarah dealt with her feelings alone.

Meditation

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Illustration and text © Kitty Nolan 2016

Mother, feel this pain with me. Surround me with your love, Touch me gently. Let your tenderness sink into my skin, into my flesh, into my muscles, into my bones until I am healed.

Help me reconnect with my body. Hold together my scattered self. Give me rest. Give me peace. Give me love.

 

 

WITNESS also available from:

www. amazon.co.uk

http://www.amazon.com

Barnes & Noble in USA

Posted in Uncategorized

poem: women of conflict

Asif khan

conflict

Is he dead?

Why don’t you answer me?

 Answer me!

 So I may answer my daughter

Who questions

When would papa come?

Whom you dragged from the decorated bed,

While I followed you weeping for mercy in my bridal outfit

Kicking me in the womb after labeling me as a whore,

 I fell on the ground while you took him into the jeep

 Felling pity upon my bridal apparels,

The army general dragged me inside the room,

And forced himself upon me

My ears lobes bled,

As he put his murderous black fingers inside my earrings

Then silenced me,

by putting his sweaty hand upon my screaming mouth

I couldn’t take him off me,

As he was too heavy and strong  

He almost ripped the flesh from my clumsy chest,

While I kept screaming whole night

This is our life,

We are the women of conflict

We are…

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Posted in Feminist Theology, How Did I Get Here?, Meditations, Reclaiming Yourself from Domestic Abuse, Violence Against Women and Girls

Healing Meditation (vi)

We generally think of pregnancy as a time of joy, and anticipation, but it is also a time when domestic abuse can begin, or worsen.  It is a time when a woman is more vulnerable, aware of the new life she is responsible for.  Sarah talks about her experience in my book WITNESS, and I share some excerpts  in this piece.

Sarah’s journey to motherhood was a difficult one, she had several miscarriages before undergoing fertility treatment.  They were overjoyed when the treatment worked first time, and a daughter, Erin, was born.  During this pregnancy Jamie was in good spirits; he looked forward to the baby, but made it clear he wanted a son.  When Erin arrived he was thrilled, and enjoyed taking her out with him, showing her off to his friends.  It was a few weeks after Erin was born that he began an affair, and this devastated Sarah.  She felt the walls closing in.  Not only had she been taught that marriage was for life, she now had responsibility for another life – a much wanted child, and somehow, she had to find a way to make it work.

Throughout their daughter’s first year, there were problems. Jamie’s mood swung from delight in his new baby to fury at his wife. Sarah no longer seemed to be a person in her own right; she was his wife and Erin’s mother. When Erin was born, Sarah stopped working. It was impossible for her to continue at her job because part of her responsibility was to be on call twenty-four hours a day. If Jamie was on night shift and she got a call out, it would be impossible to get someone to look after Erin. This meant Sarah had no income of her own, and with a diminished family income, she was responsible for managing the household finances and meeting Jamie’s demands.

 

His anger now erupted if he could not find socks when getting ready for work or if she ironed his shirt the wrong way. On one occasion when her sister Helen was visiting, he punched Sarah in the face because he could not find socks. He made sure he did this in another room so Helen could not be an eyewitness. On another occasion, he was angry, and as Sarah moved away from him carrying Erin, he shouted at her that she ‘was only hiding behind the baby!’ Fearing he would hit her and Erin, Sarah put Erin in her chair and left the room. Jamie followed her and slapped her face and punched her head. She had no business answering him back.‘  (pp 51 – 52 WITNESS by Kitty Nolan)

Sarah had another miscarriage, and, with some reluctance, Sarah agreed to have another round of fertility treatment.  Once again it was successful, and David was born.  The fertility treatment was straight forward, but her pregnancy was a nightmare due to Jamie’s behaviour.

As the weeks of this pregnancy progressed, it became apparent that Jamie was having another affair. This time when she challenged him, he said it was the hormones; she was imagining things. He was away from home more and more. One evening, Sarah complained about him going out; they had agreed to decorate the kitchen. Sarah had stripped the walls, and they’d bought the wallpaper. Couldn’t they make a start on it? Jamie erupted again, screaming, shouting, banging doors, demolishing the ironing board, and turning the sofa upside down. Sarah was terrified. He stopped short of hitting her, took the car keys, and left. Sarah locked all the doors and then set about putting things back in order.

 

Two hours later, Jamie returned. When he couldn’t get in, he became enraged again. Sarah didn’t want him to waken Erin, so she went to the door. He said he came back to make sure she was all right. Didn’t she realise that she shouldn’t make him so angry? She said she was fine. Jamie went back out again and didn’t return that night. This was another of many nights he did not stay at home.

His affair continued, and he continued to deny it. Sarah could talk to no one.‘  (pp 53 -54 WITNESS by Kitty Nolan)

 

Like many women in her circumstances, Sarah could see no way out.

 

Meditation (vi)

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Image and text © Kitty Nolan 2016

 

Mother, I was lost and alone, terrified for my daughter and my unborn child. Trapped, I didn’t know what to do. I wanted peace, and no peace came. I wanted safety, and no safety came. I felt alone and isolated with my daughter and my unborn child. By now, he had made me feel worthless. I continually doubted myself. My own values were devalued and had no currency in that relationship. I believed my first responsibility was to keep my children safe.

From this distance of time, I now know my first responsibility was to keep myself safe. And in turn, my children would be safe. But then my energies were focused only on my children. To keep them safe I had to avoid making him angry.

He took no responsibility. He felt entitled. His needs were paramount. He was a megalomaniac – all powerful, all demeaning, invincible.

But you are my witness. You see clearly. I am of great value. You are my witness. I am courageous. My children became safe.

Gently, you remind me of my strength. Sitting with you I feel loved. Thank you.