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)

523648_FNL_08 copy

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)

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized

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…

View original post 862 more words

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

523648_FNL_07 copy

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…

View original post 4 more words

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)

523648_FNL_06 copy

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.

 

 

 

Posted in Feminist Theology, How Did I Get Here?, Meditations, Violence Against Women and Girls

Healing Meditation (v)

Abuse in intimate relationships is difficult to comprehend unless you have experienced it, or someone has told you about their experience in some detail.  Before it happened to me I imagined it to be constant overt violence, and belittling behaviour; the reality was quite different.

When we enter into a committed relationship, none of us expect it to fail; we pour ourselves into it, believing our efforts will bear fruit.  We love our partner, which means we want their happiness, and will give our all to help him achieve happiness.  We know, also, to expect ups and downs, and believe all participants are committed to the same end.We also observe our friend’s marriages, and sometimes discuss our concerns them. Sooner or later, however, those of us who have been with an abusive partner discover that our partners do not participate in the relationship with the same expectations.  Our partners  want their own happiness above all else, and will do anything to achieve it. Sarah, in my book WITNESS, only recognised this after she and Jamie separated.

Two years after they married Jamie joined one of Scotland’s police forces, which meant them moving house, and Sarah leaving her job.  The first few years in the new house were probably the happiest they had together;  Sarah felt this was it, they were finally settling into their marriage.  She found one job, and then another working with young adults with mental  health issues; she felt this might be the area she wanted to build a career in.  This settled time also gave Sarah the opportunity to look more deeply at where she was in her spiritual life, and spent some time discussing this with Jamie’s sister, Mhairi.  Mhairi and Sarah had become good friends over the years, and this deepened their friendship.

Jamie did not like Sarah getting involved with church again, and over a period of six weeks or so, he became more and more angry and distant, until he refused to talk to her at all.  After weeks of this Sarah felt they needed to separate, and told Jamie she would be looking for a place of her own.  This enraged Jamie, resulting in him beating her with fists on her head, her back and her body.  She managed to get away from him, and was fortunate to have a friend from work offer her a guest bedroom until she could find a place of her own.

While she was away from Jamie, Sarah continued to discuss her situation with Mhairi, telling her about Jamie’s anger over church, and about the beating.  Mhairi believed that marriage was for life, and, while this separation was necessary, she believed all would be well in the end; she also believed Jamie would go back to church himself.  Sarah spoke with Mhairi’s minister, and his view was the same; he said he recognised how committed to her marriage Sarah was.

No-one suggested this was not a true marriage, and should not be saved.

Meditation (v)

523648_FNL_05 copy

Image and text © Kitty Nolan 2016

 

Mother, with the distance of time, I know you did not want me to suffer.

You were outraged at the beatings I took. You were outraged that my husband terrorised me, trying to control my mind and my spirit.

You knew the guidance given to me was wrong. Why, when I cried out for help from you, did it not come? The teaching I had was that marriage is a sacred bond that only you can break. The bond was broken by the first punch.

Jesus stood by women abused by men, but in the tangle of misguidance, Jesus’s message was drowned. My cry now is for love. There can be no love without justice. My cry now is for peace. There can be no peace without justice. When we live with abuse, inside we die. My cry, now, is for life.

You promise to hear the cry of the downtrodden. Mother, hear it now. For me, for my children, for all women and children living with abuse!

 

 

Posted in Feminist Theology, How Did I Get Here?, Violence Against Women and Girls, Women Made of Fire

Healing Meditation (iv)

When we think of domestic abuse a few behaviours come to mind: hitting, kicking and punching; belittling speech, looks, and actions, and controlling who a person can associate with, what a person do, what a person can wear.  We rarely talk about sexual assault as part of this abusive pattern, perhaps because, until fairly recently, rape in marriage was not an offense.  The fact that it has only recently been acknowledged as an offense doesn’t mean it was acceptable to healthy men before that; healthy men have always regarded rape as an offensive and damaging act. In sharing these meditations from my book WITNESS, we come to the point where marital rape must be discussed because Sarah was raped by her husband Jamie.

Sarah and Jamie were happy to finally be in a place of financial stability.  They had both been working regularly and able to relax and do more of the things they liked to do.  When Sarah got a new job working for the Civil Service, they were both overjoyed.  It would mean more money coming in and things would ease up even more.  Things started to go wrong when Sarah returned from her second last week of training.  She had always known how jealous Jamie was, but she had never given him any cause to be. When he surprised her by meeting her off the train, Sarah was delighted.  Jamie was less than pleased when he saw her bid a cheery farewell to one of her co-workers, Bill, who was much younger than her, and good company.  Jamie was very quiet as they traveled to their house; he accused her of sleeping with Bill later in the evening.  Sarah was appalled at the suggestion, but Jamie wasn’t prepared to believe her.

Next morning, she was wakened early by Jamie, who was on top of her.  In her sleepy state, she thought he was apologising by starting to make love to her, but he wasn’t.  There were no kisses, or caresses, no loving looks or loving words, just Jamie thrusting himself into her, and hurting her; tearing her.  When Sarah realised this was an assault, she knew there was no point to struggling with him, he would win and things would be worse, so she disconnected from her body feeling shamed. When he finished, he pulled himself out of her, and growled, “Get it sorted!”, and left the bedroom.  She knew Jamie was marking his territory.

Sarah didn’t tell anyone about this until after she and Jamie divorced.  She was ashamed, and felt it was her fault for becoming friendly with other men.  She didn’t make this mistake again, always keeping her distance from her male colleagues.  Another chunk of her life limited.

Meditation (iv)

523648_FNL_04 copy

Mother
I am made in your image,
Your daughter.
I do not understand why I was treated this way.
I do know that you were there,
And, like all mothers
You react to sexual assault with rage.
I learned to be absent from my body when he harmed me. I know you were present.
The time for healing has come.
The time to remember and feel is here.
As the fear and rage arise in me
I know you are with me.
You were my witness then,
And now.

I feel lonely and isolated. Few people understand.
I need compassion,
And human warmth.

Hear my prayer.

Take my hand as I look
Into the dark room of my pain. I may not stay long;
It may be too frightening.
But you reassure me,

We can come back again when I am ready. Leaving and returning
Until healing arrives.