The Expert

Who wants to be an expert when it comes to domestic violence? No one. Not a living soul in their right mind would want to experience domestic abuse in any manner – physical, mental, emotional, or financial. I did, though, and I’m here to tell you that there is life in the aftermath – there is a great life in the aftermath.

I have always been of the belief that no one on this planet can tell you about a thing better than someone who has actually experienced it. There is not a man in this universe who can tell you what childbirth feels like. They have a pretty good idea of what a woman’s body goes through from the time those first contractions hit till she pushes that baby though the birth canal, but they will never know the pain that comes with bringing a child into this world.

I have always likened childbirth to getting run over repeatedly by a semi rolling at 90 mph, but not dying. I tell people it’s like getting hit by that big truck, standing back up, then being knocked to the ground again when it barrels over your body again and again. It is true what they say though (in my case anyway): once you hold that baby, you forget all that pain because the end-result is the birth of your child. Unfortunately, the end-result is not the same for many victims of domestic violence.

I am blessed to have survived. On July 21, 2009, I had an aneurysm, and everyone knows that the chances of surviving one of those things is slim. I began to pray as soon as I realized what was happening to me and right away, I knew God was going to spare me. My prayer was that He spare me because I did not want to leave my child and I believed He kept me for that reason, but I came to realize that He had more in store for me. He kept me here to show others that there is life after that living hell. He kept me here to show that faith in Him supersedes anything else in this life. He kept me here to show that the refusal to get caught up in vengeful acts is unnecessary. There is just no need for that kind of thing.

On my very soul, there was never a day when I felt the need to get even with my ex-husband. To this very moment, I still don’t. I never will. Why would I? I got exactly what I needed and that was the freedom to forge ahead and rebuild my life. I am having a complete blast doing that. I completed graduate school with a degree in English and Creative Writing. My GPA was a 3.77, and that, in and of itself is something I am extremely proud of us since I had no residual damage from the aneurysm. I will be certified to teach English at the secondary level by December 31, 2019. I will also become a commissioned notary for the state of Louisiana by the end of the year. I am claiming that post even though the notary exam in the state of Louisiana is one of the hardest in the nation. It’s been called a mini bar exam. That thing is hard, you guys. I am going to put in the work to become who and what I want to become.

I said all of this to say that as an expert on the recovery from domestic violence, I can assure you that you can move forward. Your path will likely be different from mine. You route will take you on different highways and byways, but eventually, you will find your way to a brighter life. You are not your abuse, you are not a victim. You are a survivor, a mentor, a bridge.

If you need help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline via phone at 1.800.799.7233 or online at https://www.thehotline.org. They will help you.

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How Much Can You Handle?

My tolerance for pain is different from yours. Yours is different from the person’s you sit next to on the train. That person’s tolerance for pain is different from the person in the cubicle next to his at work.

 

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Photo credit: Photo by Rodolfo Clix from Pexels

 

We’re all susceptible to pain — physical, mental, and emotional — and how we decide to deal with those things is just as different from person to person as the actual levels of pain we experience.

The Physical

Before July 21, 2009, I thought I had experienced the worst physical pain imaginable. At 4:53 AM on July 26, 1995, my son was came barreling through into this world and my body was traumatized, I shook. The pain was so intense, I couldn’t hold my baby for several minutes after he was born.  As the saying goes, though, I forgot every single second of the pain I’d endured over the previous 36 hours when I saw my little bundle of joy. I would be reminded of everything I went through when it was time for me to use the restroom for the first time after giving birth, but that’s neither here nor there.

 

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Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

 

The next most excruciating level of pain I would experience came when I had to have emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder. Anyone who’s ever had a gallstone knows the pain I speak of. Well, magnify that by at least 200 and you’ll know what I went through in April 2008. The doctors and nurses asked a million times how I had been able to function with that much pain. I couldn’t answer them. To this day, I still don’t know.

Those two experiences pale in comparison to what I felt on July 21, 2009. Y’all know the story about the aneurysm so I won’t go into it, but let me just say that I would rather give birth to my 6′ tall son at his current weight of 232 pounds than to be hit with that level pain ever again.

I can handle physical pain.

The Mental and Emotional

A large part of my story involves the mental abuse I sustained and lived through over those 19 years of marriage. The belittling, the lying, the constant put-downs, being told that I was worthless, hearing him tell others he made the biggest mistake ever by marrying me, being disrespected on a consistent basis — those things finally took root in my subconscious and set up home.

One day, I started to believe that I was too much trouble. I began to believe that I wasn’t smart. I believed that I couldn’t make it on my own. He had me just where he wanted me. That level of control is reserved for abusers. Believe that.

 

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Photo credit: www. pexels.com

Then One Day…

 

…I woke up. I had to. I had to draw on the strength of the woman I was before the mental, emotional, and verbal abuse overtook me and swallowed all of me.

I also had to form an image of the woman I wanted to be in the future in order to have something to strive for. It’s taken me a minute to get there, but I am so happy to say, I’ve made tremendous strides.

I filed to register my writing business with the state of Louisiana on June 22. It became an official L.L.C. on June 25. I am working on the website now and building my portfolio. I’ve been writing for a very long time; it’s time for me to share my knowledge with the world. For the first time in my 50 years on the earth, I will do what I love to do and that’s put pen to paper.

The Moral of the Story?

Whatever the cause of your pain, use the experience to grow. The worst thing a person can do is allow the pain they feel to consume them and cause them to hurt any- and everyone that crosses their path. To hurt another person because you’re hurt is the ultimate expression of immaturity. It’s out-and-out childish.

Getting hurt is nothing new nor is it unusual. It can happen. It likely will happen. Be a grown-up about the thing and go somewhere and heal. Don’t spread that pain. Take the time you need to fix you. Don’t destroy the lives of others because someone did you wrong.

No one has time to deal with a hurt person who’s out to hurt others.

 

Today

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Photo Credit: Town of Gilbert, AZ

Later today, I will speak on a panel regarding the 19 years I was a victim of domestic abuse. Thanks to Project Celebration, I will sit speak to health care providers and students at LSU Health in an effort to help.

Today’s focus is on helping healthcare workers better recognize domestic abuse victims. It can be hard to see the abuse under all those layers of shame, fear, and sometimes, guilt. I hid all that carnage well. The people who saw me nearly every day had not the slightest clue that I was being abused.

I was blessed to land at Presbyterian Dallas on July 21, 2009, after that aneurysm. I was blessed to be treated by the best neurosurgeon in the world, Dr. Jeremy Denning, and a magnificent staff who knew I hadn’t landed there by some weird chance. I had been relatively healthy and while an aneurysm can strike anyone at any time, they somehow knew that I had landed there because of the things that were pushing against me.

They kept asking me if I had been under a lot of stress. I kept telling them that I hadn’t because after fighting a man who was so self-absorbed for nearly 16 years at that time, it had become “normal” for me to be in some sort of stupid battle with him every day. It was never-ending.

I’m honored to have been chosen to share my story today because just the thought of knowing that there are other women out there who are being gnashed mentally and emotionally destroys my soul.

Words hurt

True enough, we can see the scars of those who are battered physically. It’s the scars to those who are ravaged mentally and emotionally, though, that we must look for. I hope to shed some light.

Which One?

She was probably sitting right next to you yesterday at church.

 

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Photo credit: http://www.pexels.com

 

She just might be the lady standing in front of you in the grocery store.

 

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Photo credit: http://www.pexels.com

 

Maybe it’s the guy in the next cubicle.

 

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Photo credit: http://www.pexels.com

 

Perhaps it’s the older man who greets you every day with a gentle nod.

 

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Photo credit: http://www.pexels.com

 

It could be a relative.

It could be the friend of a friend.

It could be you. It was me.

 

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Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

 

What Do Victims Look Like?

Abused people look like, well, people. They’re black, white, yellow, brown, and every color in between. They have blond hair, black hair, red hair, and every other color in between. They are short, tall, and some are in between. Look in the mirror — it could be you.

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Photo credit: http://www.pexels.com

 

What Do Abusers Look Like?

See above.

Who Are Domestic Violence/Abuse Victims?

They’re people. They’re male and female. They are not from any one particular ethnic group. They’re not from one specific part of the country. They are not confined to a particular career sector. A victim can come from any sector of life. They come from every geographical area of the world. They are your friends. It could be you.

Who Are Abusers?

See above.

Some Numbers. Some Facts.

  • 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States — more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.
  • Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively).
  • Most female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same offender, including 77% of females ages 18 to 24, 76% of females ages 25 to 34, and 81% of females ages 35 to 49.
  • n a nationwide survey, 9.4% of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the 12 months prior to the survey.
  • 43% of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse.

Read more about the statistics here at The National Domestic Violence website.

Your Sister’s Keeper. Your Brother’s Keeper.

It is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you’ve turned a blind eye to this atrocity until now, vow to get involved and help bring about change. Acknowledging that there is a  problem is such a huge step in bringing about that change.

Someone somewhere needs your help. Don’t turn away.

National Resources:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline — 1.800.799.7233 | 18007873224 (TTY)

Shelter  –  www.domesticshelters.org

Local Resources:

Project Celebration — Shreveport, LA

Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence

 

This Month

Today marks the first day of a month of celebration and remembrance. It’s also the perfect day to pop that collar and resolve to do more. It’s the perfect day to resolve to do better.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it is also National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Let us remember those we’ve lost to breast cancer. Let us remember those we’ve lost to domestic violence.

Let us celebrate with those who’ve won the battle against breast cancer. Let us celebrate with those who’ve escaped domestic violence.

Let us stand with those who are fighting breast cancer today. Let us stand with those who are caught in throes of domestic violence today.

Unfortunately, we all know someone or we are that someone who is fighting both these demons.

Stand firm and fight hard. We’re in this together.

Death of a Thing

One of the most important lessons I learned after my divorce was the importance of dying to my old self. I had to kill her. I had to bury her 10-feet under — not six but TEN! There was no way I could have continued life and prospered in any manner had I continued to be the battered shell that had been left to rot.

After Abuse

By the time I made it back to Louisiana permanently in late August 2013, I was living life in a parallel universe. I was watching myself from a distance. Eventually, I was shaken back into reality and couldn’t believe what I was viewing. I was damaged in every imaginable way and I looked it. I mean I was a mess from my hair to my clothes. I just didn’t care.

That version of me didn’t just appear overnight. That woman had been dragged, half-way rebuilt, dragged again, and then just left to mold. She’d been left to die by someone who didn’t care about the destruction that had been left. The only time my appearance was mentioned was when my ex said, “You look pretty good when you comb your hair.” That came after he pleaded with me to have sex with his friend so he could watch. That night, my sense of self-worth tanked and it would take nearly five years for me to pull my head out of the sand.

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The inside of my head and mind had been damaged by a battering ram of mental and emotional abuse. It had been bludgeoned nearly to death.

Once I woke up, though, I knew I had to finish off the old Trease. She would have killed me if I hadn’t.

The Wake-Up

One day, I woke up and remembered that I’m smart. I’m not only speaking of my bachelor’s degree or my paralegal certificate. I’m talking about being wise to life. Some folks even refer to me as a smart-ass and that’s true, but I’m smart nonetheless.

 

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Photo credit: www.quickmeme.com

 

I realized that I have amazing worth. My friends and family love me. I love me!

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Photo credit: Everyday Self Love

I realized that I’m pretty. Nah, I’m beautiful. Don’t take that as conceit because if there’s one thing I despise, it’s deceit, but I know I’m easy on the eyes. Gray hair and all, I’m okay.

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Most importantly, I realized that I have so much to offer the world. The old Trease had to die in order for the new one to surface. The two of them couldn’t co-exist. One had to go and I chose to release the one who was no good to herself or anyone else.

I woke up and got a good whiff of the smell of life.

Today

I still have a way to go in some areas of my life, but for the most part, I’m good. I know I deserve unconditional love from a man. I know that I will give unconditional love to the next man. I won’t let the past dictate my future.

I keep myself up even though I could stand to lose a few pounds. I’m working on that, but my love of cheese and cake are undermining my best efforts.

Do what you have to do to be who you want to be. There is life after abuse. There is indeed life after abuse.

Again

When I received the barrage of notifications from all the news outlets that alert me to breaking stories that there’d been a shooting at a school in San Bernardino Monday morning, I cringed. Just like I always do when I hear of these things, I stopped and prayed that there were no deaths, no injuries. When details began to emerge and we initially learned that two people had died, almost instinctively, I knew domestic violence was involved. I just knew it. Even though it had taken place at an elementary school, I just knew.

What we’ve learned is that the shooter, 53-year old Cedric Anderson, walked into his estranged wife’s classroom and shot her. We’re told that he didn’t say a word when he shot 53-year old Karen Smith. He reportedly had a criminal past. Some of the women in his past had applied for restraining orders. This man was clearly dangerous. He had been charged with crimes against public peace in 2013. That charge was either dismissed or not prosecuted.

Then on April 10, 2017, he chose to take the life of the woman he proclaimed to love. Within minutes, he took his own life. An innocent little boy also died as the result of this man’s actions. Another boy is in the hospital recovering from the injuries he sustained during the chaotic madness. There was a total of 15 children in that classroom, but I think it’s safe to say that not one person in the entire school on Monday will ever be the same.

This story is an example of the ultimate filth of domestic violence. This couple had only been married a few months, but she saw fit to leave him. She did what many women do — she left. It’s clear, though, that leaving wasn’t enough. I don’t know yet if she had a restraining order on record against him or not; I don’t know that it would have mattered. The school said he had been allowed in because he was her spouse so if one had been in place, I’m sure someone would have at the very least tried to stop him.

Just Another Tragedy?

I hope no one considers this to be just another tragedy. It’s not. Karen’s family is preparing for her funeral. She was only 53 years so I’m sure she had not done all the things she wanted to do in this life. Domestic violence doesn’t care about your wishes.

We, as survivors, have to tell our stories because there’s a woman out there who needs to see and know that what she’s going through is NOT normal. She needs to understand that love does not hurt. She won’t fully get that fact if we, the women and men who have made it through that living hell, don’t share just how we did it.

You, as a domestic violence/abuse prevention advocate, are responsible for reaching out to any person you know or suspect is being abused. There are signs. Most abuse victims hide their situation like it’s a treasure. It’s no treasure. It’s fear. It’s shame. It’s embarrassment.

If YOU are being abused, get help. Are you questioning whether what’s going on is really abuse? Take a look at this. You deserve better. There is a better life out there. You can escape. I almost lost my life on July 21, 2009. I was 41 years old. Not from physical abuse, but from the stress and strain that had become so overwhelming that my brain started to bleed. I have a close friend who suffered a heart attack because of the mental and emotional abuse she suffered. She was not yet 40.

The wounds sustained in domestic violence/abuse cases are both visible and invisible, but both kinds run deep. Understand that in the case of mental, emotional, verbal, and financial abuse, the wounds are not visible, but in cases of physical abuse, almost all of them — visible and invisible — are present.

Do your part in preventing this crap. We don’t need anymore Karen Smiths. We don’t want another Cedric Anderson to assume the role of creator and judge. Help those that are suffering. Help yourself.