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.

 

 

 

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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)

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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)

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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.

Posted in Feminist Theology, How Did I Get Here?, Meditations, Women Made of Fire

Healing Meditation (iii)

Most of us who have experienced Domestic Abuse, can later pinpoint the event that caught them in the abuser’s trap.  Abusers don’t take responsibility for their behaviour, it’s always the fault of someone else – she made me angry;  if only I could get a better job; if only my parents accepted me.  Everyone is to blame except themselves.  These meditations are shared from my book WITNESS*, which recounts Sarah’s abuse at the hands of her husband, Jamie.  When Sarah got free of him, after many years, she discovered in counseling the point in their relationship where she became trapped.  It happened after a severe beating that left Sarah cowered, bruised and in shock.  Some time after the attack, with Jamie gone from the kitchen, Sarah got herself to her feet and went into the living room to find a comfortable seat.  When she opened the door, Jamie flew at her again, and told her she shouldn’t make him so angry; one of these days he was going to murder her, and he would end up in prison, and it would be Sarah’s fault.  Sarah loved Jamie, and the last thing she wanted for him was prison; she didn’t have the presence of mind to consider herself, and what he did to her. Jamie made her responsible for his anger, and she took that responsibility.  She had no-one to talk this over with, her mother was dead, and her sisters far away.  In any case the uppermost feeling she had, was one of shame.

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Mother, I place myself in the warmth of your loving arms.
I place my feet on your earth and allow myself to be rooted in the earth, my home. I feel your energy rise in me, supporting me in experiencing my pain.
You were present when he hurt me; you are my witness.
Alone in a small room, he slapped me and punched me and kicked me.
No other human being saw.
Later, he made me doubt my own experience, my own heart, my own mind.
But you are my witness.
He did these things to me.
He shamed me.
He degraded me
He blamed me:
I accepted blame.
You Mother surround the Cosmos;
I have life and breath in You.
Hold me in my pain.
Heal me
Bit by bit, layer by layer.
Mine is a long journey back to health.
You are my guide and my companion.
Remind me when I doubt my own experience.
You are my witness.
Remind me when he denies these acts.
You are my witness.

Image & text © Kitty Nolan 2016

 

*WITNESS also available from:

http://www.authorhouse.co.uk

http://www.amazon.co.uk

http://www.amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

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Posted in Faith Groups and VAWG, Feminist Theology, How Did I Get Here?, Meditations, Women Made of Fire

Healing Meditations (ii)

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.

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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:

http://www.authorhouse.co.uk

http://www.amazon.co.uk

http://www.amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

Posted in Faith Groups and VAWG, Feminist Theology, How Did I Get Here?, Meditations, Women Made of Fire

Healing Meditations (i)

For many women, and men, trying to recover from domestic abuse, faith communities are important, even though many teachings handed down to us kept us stuck in the violence:

‘Marriage is for life; if you divorce you cannot remarry.’

‘Women are subject to their husbands.’

‘The man is the head of the woman.”

These teachings were part of my upbringing as a Catholic in Scotland, but there are similar teachings in all faith communities.  When I began reclaiming my life after my husband and I separated, dealing with these unhelpful rules was important to me; challenging them took a lot of courage and strength.  Over time the word ‘God’ became too loaded for me, and I preferred the Hebrew word ‘Yahweh’ – I am that I am.  ‘Yahweh’ became a clear space for me, allowing me to honour my own experience, insights and understanding.  All relationships require the participation of all concerned; my relationship with ‘Yahweh’ required me.  Over time I came to address Yahweh as Mother, expanding my understanding of Yahweh, and including the nurturing energy of The Mother.

I thought for the next set of blogs I would share with you the meditations and images from my book WITNESS *.  I’ve mentioned my book in previous blogs, but just to recap:  WITNESS relates Sarah’s account of her experience of Domestic Abuse at the hands of her partner, Jamie.  They lived in a rural setting in Scotland, they were drawn together due to a mutual commitment as Christians, despite which Sarah dealt with most manifestations of domestic abuse, and their children, Erin and David, frequently witnessed this abuse.  At the end of each chapter of WITNESS I included a healing meditation accompanied by a supporting image.

In chapter one Sarah and Jamie’s relationship begins with hope.  They come from different backgrounds, meeting through college and friends.  Shortly after beginning to live together Jamie becomes nasty and undermining for a short time, which Sarah put down to academic pressure.  She met his family over Christmas but who behaved in a way she was not used to, vying for their mother’s attention, and talking over one another. Jamie had an outburst at one of his sisters, and then his father, upsetting the whole household. Gradually things settle when they return home, but it is also clear that Jamie no longer believed in God, and belittled Sarah for continuing in her belief.  This part of herself went underground because she felt shamed.

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Mother, I place myself in the warmth of your loving arms.

I place my feet on Your Earth and allow myself to be rooted in the Earth, my home.

You see me as good. I accept the goodness in myself.

You see me as worthy. I accept the worth in myself.

You see me as beautiful. I accept the beauty in myself.

You see me as desirable. I accept myself as desired.

 

Text & image © Kitty Nolan 2016

 

*WITNESS is also available from :

http://www.amazon.co.uk

http://www.authorhouse.co.uk

http://www.amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

 

Posted in How Did I Get Here?

The Power and Control Wheel

Please be aware this blog has confronting information about abuse and could be upsetting to read.

Reflections and Recollections

  • Please be aware this blog has confronting information about abuse and could be upsetting to read.

We are going to explore the foundations of Domestic Abuse and what it is and what it could mean to you or a loved one, family member, friend, colleague or neighbour.

Do you think Domestic Abuse is just Physical or Sexual abuse?

Physical and sexual abuse are the two main forms of abuse that are discussed and are also more recognisable than other forms of abuse. There are many forms of abuse that come under the “Umbrella of Abuse”. To understand domestic abuse we first need to understand the different types of abuse that form this Domestic Abuse Umbrella.

Let’s not forget  Domestic Abuse/Violence is one of the leading social issues in the world and does not discriminate.

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The Power and Control Wheel was developed by staff from the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth city which is situated in Minnesota, America. This was…

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