Many of us who have experience of Domestic Abuse are from Faith Communities, and this has a huge impact on the mechanisms that keep us stuck in abusive relationships, and is also important to our recovery as survivors. Even when we no longer go to church, mosque, synagogue or temple, or continue to believe in a Higher Being, we have absorbed particular teachings about marriage and family responsibility as we grew up, leaving us with a lot of untangling to do. This untangling is essential, because we need to recover ourselves, and our core beliefs must belong to ourselves.
In sharing the meditations from my book WITNESS *, the context of the meditations is Sarah’s experiences of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, Jamie. Today’s meditation follows the first violence she experienced. As you will appreciate being punched and slapped for the first time in her life was a shocking experience, and resulted in Sarah leaving. She took all her belongings, and stayed with her sister Anne. Not knowing what she was walking into when she drove to get Sarah, Anne describes this a distressing place to be. Later, they both found Jamie’s continual phone calls difficult to deal with; Sarah didn’t want to talk to him, and Anne wanted to protect her sister. Eventually the calls wore Sarah down, and, like many women, she went back.
The abuser demands that their victim adopts his belief system, and Sarah, like many of us, found herself on constantly shifting ground: on one occasion Jamie would want an honest discussion about Sarah’s views on a given topic; on another he would become angry because she didn’t agree with him. Her worst nightmare was when, as a couple, they got into discussion with family or friends, and Sarah disagreed with Jamie; sometimes he was reasonable, others he would be enraged when he left the others. For Sarah, this meant her own beliefs went underground, and became impossible to examine.
Mother, I place myself in the warmth of your loving arms. I place my feet on the earth, which is my home. I allow my roots to sink into the earth and allow you to stabilise me.
I hear you tell me that I am your beloved child; you take delight in me. As a parent you enter into my suffering. You were there when the first blow was struck. You wanted to shelter me from harm. You found me a place of safety. You were with me in my heartbreak.
You were with me when I gave in and returned. You traveled with me respecting my choice; aware of my hopes and desires. You knew better than me, and you knew I did not understand. I needed to learn, and you stayed with me throughout, calling me back to myself, a patient, loving parent, always.
Image & text © Kitty Nolan 2016
*WITNESS is also available at:
Barnes & Noble