by Dr. Kathleen Hall — CEO, Mindful Living Network
Why Didn’t You Leave?
“Why don’t you just leave mom?”
These were the daily mantras of my tortured life as a child. I have never publicly talked about this but feel it is about time since October is Domestic Violence Month. It is past time to release some of my old toxic shame. I was one of seven children under the roof of a living, breathing, evil monster called my father. There are too many stories to tell of physical and emotional abuse. You have heard so many of them before. These are a few of my chamber of horror stories that I have never shared.
There’s the time he shot my cat with a shotgun in front of me and little Kathleen tried to gather her precious shattered body. He shot at our dogs with his gun for target practice–thank God he didn’t kill them. He disabled our car so we could not leave and burned my mother’s clothes because he did not like what she had on that particular day. I’ve been knocked out, kicked, and beaten so many times by this monster that there is no way of tallying the number. Every day was a living hell navigating the dangerous land mines of an abusive father.
My mother’s answer to my relentless question of, “Why don’t we leave mom,” was always the same. This was a time when there were no domestic violence shelters and my mother had no money, no job, no self-esteem, and toxic shame. She was also infected with batter woman syndrome. My mother, like so many other women, believe they have done something wrong and will do better and then the abuser will do better. We were Roman Catholic and that added fuel to the fire because the monsignor that we kept going to told us to pray more Hail Mary’s at night and God would change him. Such a pitiful site in retrospect remembering us seven little children kneeling in a circle with our mother, praying for our monster father to change who was degenerating with every passing day.
Resurrection Day Finally Arrived
One night we finally found a way to get in the car while he was out. We hid out in another state at a tiny motel with the curtains drawn with no food for days. My mother was catatonic at this juncture so I was in charge of the next stage of our life which I will call hell and resurrection. Don’t think it is ever easy leaving a monster. We spent years being followed, having the doorbell ring and when I answered the door a shotgun being pushed against my chest, and other horrors.
The Feminist Arises From the Ashes
I surely don’t thank God for that childhood but that hell hole drove me to the magical, loving, healing life I have created. It took many years of healers, teachers, mental health professionals and marrying a very tender, kind man to heal. I got very involved in the feminist movement to save women and children from ever experiencing the life I had survived. Experiencing firsthand the destructive, long term effect chronic stress and anxiety can have on one’s life, I became a stress expert to help others. Subsequently I learned how mindfulness can be a healing balm to our emotional wounds. I have spent my life trying to alleviate the suffering of others in any way I can.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, making it a perfect time to increase our knowledge about domestic violence. Incidents of domestic violence are far too common in this country. It’s estimated that 1.3 million women become victims of physical assault by an intimate partner every year. Fortunately, October is the month for spreading awareness on this issue and preventing future cases of domestic violence.
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. These cases of stalking, physical assaults, and rapes have tremendous detrimental psychological and physical effects. There are financial costs as well. The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year, of which 85 percent is for direct medical and mental health services.
Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police. The consequences can also become generational as children from homes with domestic violence can become psychologically impacted. Stopping this cycle of violence begins with us. So, if you’re concerned about the controlling or abusive behavior of your partner consider asking yourself some important questions this month.
Ask Your Self These Questions
- Is my relationship healthy?
- Am I anxious, depressed, or fearful in this relationship?
- Do I believe that the more I love my abuser the better our relationship will be?
- Do I have to check in during the day with my partner so they know where I am? Does he/she follow me?
- Am I being physically abused? Is my partner or family member touching or hitting me in any way?
- Am I being emotionally abused? Is my partner or family member cursing, yelling, or belittling making me fearful at any time?
- Am I afraid to leave my relationship?
Other important questions you should consider asking yourself:
- Am I verbally or physically abusing others?
- Do I suspect or know anyone in my family, at work or in my neighborhood who I believe is experiencing physical and emotional abuse?
Consider talking to a counselor, cleric, or the police if you suspect physical and emotional abuse in any situation. There are many online agencies that are ready to help you also. For more information, visit The Red Flag Campaign or National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.