Posted in Women Getting It Done, Women Made of Fire

A woman’s place is in the revolution!

It’s been a momentous week for women campaigners with the indictment of Harvey Weinstein and the success of  Repeal the 8th, which, once the legislation is completed, will make abortion legal in Ireland.  I’ve had a little to do with both issues.


In reaction to the revelations about Weinstein, #MeToo began to trend on Twitter as a way of exposing the number of sexual assaults women across the world have experienced, and I used the hashtag to add my name to the list in solidarity with other sisters across the world.  According to Wikipedia the phrase “Me too” was tweeted by Alison Milano around noon on October 15, 2017, and had been used more than 200,000 times by the end of the day, and tweeted more than 500,000 times by October 16 .  On Facebook the hashtag was used by more than by 4.7 million people in 12 million posts during the first 24 hours. Sending out a tweet with this hashtag was a very small act which had a big effect in terms of raising awareness. This awareness raising began discussions in governments, in Hollywood, the music industry, universities, shop floors, and coffee shops, and made men who had behaved badly speak out in apology, and encouraged some people to report abuse resulting in prosecutions.


The campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution, which would result in legal abortion was a different kind of campaign, still one begun by women, and with women at the heart of it, but also one where folk knocked on doors and engaged their neighbourhood in a conversation on this very polarised and sensitive subject.  Those of us supporting ‘Repeal the 8th  who did not live in Ireland posted information on social media explaining our position, but our experience of engagement, however helpful to the cause, was not the same as the door knockers because it lacked in-person conversations where we could be challenged,  and challenged to hold your ground respectfully.  The ‘Yes’ campaigners I engage with indicate that in the face of aggression this is what the majority managed to do, and, for me, apart from the success of the campaign, this capacity of respectful engagement is a significant achievement.

people working at the office desk
Photo by on

Social media is a powerful tool, and like all power tools can be dangerous in unskilled hands. Feeling entitled to be insulting and demeaning on social media doesn’t often translate into feeling entitled to do so face to face.  The most benign outcome of an insulting face to face encounter on a doorstep is the closing of a door, the more hostile outcome would be getting screamed at and punched; neither would be helpful in changing minds; indeed the  more likely outcome would be an entrenched position.  We all know this, and yet when I’ve the strength to engage on social media, and Twitter in particular, my feed is awash with deliberate insults and name calling – not blunt truths, simply meanspirited remarks.


Over the past two years of Repeal the 8th I’ve just got on with doing my little bit quietly.  My nearest and dearest, and anyone engaging with me on the topic of abortion knows where I stand, but last Saturday while watching the coverage of the referendum from Dublin Castle, and posting my support for Repeal the 8th I became aware of becoming anxious.

I am 59 years old, and was raised Catholic, and absorbed Catholic Church teaching on contraception and abortion as I was growing up.  I remember the discussions in the house of  Humanae Vitae , Pope Paul IV encyclical outlining church teaching on contraception and abortion; this at a time when I was aware experts were concerned about the population explosion and the earth’s ability to sustain us.  I was 12 years old, contraception and abortion weren’t on my horizon as a personal concern,  but I do recall feeling relieved to learn the Church would allow an abortion where the life of the mother was in immediate danger, and feeling this was the least they could do.  At 12 I knew in myself there was something damaging in this teaching, but I kept my views to myself.  Life experience gave meaning to that intuition, but 47 years later I sat in front of a screen feeling anxious because I was afraid of the reactions of family and friends who hadn’t discussed this with me, and didn’t know my views. On a daily basis I read replies on Twitter to people I follow being trolled and threatened by those who disagree with them – this explained my anxiety.  The disconnect between speech and body is what makes people entitled to do this, but surely if we wouldn’t say it face to face, we can’t be saying it in a tweet.  Those of us who campaign are (mostly) adults, and we have a responsibility to commit ourselves to respectful discourse – social media is a public forum; young folk are listening, and following our example.  If we wouldn’t say it in the town square, why are we saying it on social media?

As it turned out I was fortunate with my posts; those who disagreed with me simply didn’t respond, those who did agree with me engaged.

Returning to the women’s campaigns that I began with:  I think there will be much to learn from Repeal the 8th, and I’m looking forward to hearing their stories of engagement.  Campaigning isn’t just about posters and ralleys; it’s engaging with your friends and family and their friends and family, confidently and respectfully understanding the facts of your position, and listening to the concerns of others.

I believe a woman’s place is in the revolution, and the predisposition for us women to talk,  I wonder if this is how the revolution for equality and human rights put into action will be won – by women at kitchen tables, at the school gates and at the neighbourhood barbecues.

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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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:

Barnes & Noble


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:

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 :

Barnes & Noble


Posted in Women Made of Fire

Finbar: the child not born



One in four women experiences domestic abuse or domestic violence at some point in their lives. This may be physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse. More than 30% of this abuse starts in pregnancy, and existing abuse may get worse during pregnancy or after giving birth.

Domestic abuse during pregnancy puts you and your unborn child in danger. It increases the risk of miscarriage, infection, premature birth, and injury or death to the baby.  NHS website


In my book WITNESS  Sarah shares her experience of early miscarriage, and a missed abortion at 16 weeks, which was most devastating of all. I wrote this poem hoping to describe Sarah’s thoughts and feelings about this great loss.

I called you Finbar from the very beginning, not knowing if you were a boy or a girl, and Finbar you remain to this day. Your sister was eleven weeks old when you planted yourself in my womb. Around that time, she began sleeping right through the night. You’d like your sister and sometimes you wouldn’t. She is beautiful, bright, intelligent, articulate;
she always has the last word! She writes evocative stories and loves to draw and paint.
Then after you came your brother. You’d be great friends. He is funny and loyal, compassionate and protective. He is wise and messy, tells jokes, sings songs, plays music, and climbs mountains.

But your dad, he’s not safe. He hurts with words and fists. Like all mums to be, when you planted yourself in me, I was tired, but weary too, and worried.
He’d punched me before, but now his anger was ever present. He loved being with your sister but didn’t like me. Did you know? Is that why you didn’t stay?

At twelve weeks, I felt you begin to fade. At sixteen weeks, no heartbeat. The scan showed no movement, but still you stayed. Was I keeping you here? 

Then came the blood and the surgeon and the
long cold silence. Your dad hugged me in the hospital and then didn’t speak to me for days.
I was alone in my grief, empty.


Your sister kept me going and then your brother. When he planted himself in me, he clung on despite the blows and the anger and my fear.

Have I been angry at you for leaving? Yes. Should you have left? Yes. You are safer where you are. You began a journey into this world and chose to leave for a better one. Our world is better now, too. Your dad has gone. Your sister and brother have grown. Maybe from the place where you are, you can help them move on – forgive but not forget. You have moved on but will never be forgotten,


©  Kitty Nolan


Posted in Women Made of Fire

Did he ever love me?

A clear example of the thread running through abusive men; Sarah would recognise Jamie in this account.

My Family's Journey After Leaving an abusive relationship

I don’t feel forgiveness for my abusive ex-partner just yet, it is far too soon for that. However, I am incredibly proud of my progress, because I no longer have any feelings of loathing, bitterness or regret towards him either. I freely admit that I did harbour those feelings towards the end of our relationship and even more so after he had been prosecuted and charged for his final assault on me. Carrying those obstructive feelings was an exhausting burden which definitely worsened my mental state and ability to function as a human being. It has taken me a full year and a hell of a lot of support from family and friends, but I have now reached the point where I really don’t feel anything for him at all.

Other than the guilt I felt for allowing my children to be part of something so destructive (I shall talk about this another time), the biggest emotional trauma…

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