Pride is Power

By Rick Dougherty

Similar Goals:

As we come to the end of Pride Month in the United States, we have all hopefully been reminded of the important language of inclusion necessary for the continued advancement of members of the LGBTQ+ community.  Many of us can remember a time when multinational corporations were not rushing to show their support for these marginalized communities.  The LGBTQ+ community has led the charge towards gaining support; controlling the narrative; and eventually empowering the language in a way that forced the acceptance we see today. 

Intersectionality is real, and many Domestic Violence survivors have yet to realize the strong connection we should feel towards a group of people that shares many similar characteristics and obstacles.  We need to make sure that we are always leading the charge in acceptance, and that we are learning the techniques that have been successful for our LGBTQ+ friends.  Most importantly, we must recognize that a large number of victims and survivors are members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Heteronormative Conversations:

So much of the dialog surrounding Domestic Violence can take on a heteronormative slant.  This is not a problem exclusive to Domestic Violence.  Topics of racial, religious, and ethnic identities and issues also commonly fall into this trap of heteronormativity.  We must break out of this narrow viewpoint to really thrive in our desire to include LGBTQ+ allies into our movement, and to be better allies to those in the LGBTQ+ movement.

Pride was created as a way to escape the closet, and to raise awareness.  Visibility has been a prominent reason for many of the advancements that have occurred in recent years.  The work of inclusion, and equality is never finished, but many heterosexuals began to ally with LGBTQ+ goals when they saw the common bonds.  A Gay relative, Lesbian friend, or Transgender co-worker has often provided an example to many people that what unites us is stronger than what divides us. 

This visibility should not be limited to issues of marriage, adoption, and health care.  As survivors of Domestic Violence, we must make sure that the LGBTQ+ community is heard in the conversation.  Too often we paint the abuser and victim narrative in simple male and female terms.  This framing completely removes same-sex relationships from the conversation.  It also often removes straight men or straight women who were abused in a domestic setting by a member of the same sex, who is not a romantic partner. 

Heteronormativity is inherently patriarchal.  It presupposes a way a family is supposed to look.  These are the same preconceptions that allow Domestic Violence in all of its forms.  The more visibility the LGBTQ+ community gains in all conversations, the more we will see that all families are different.  The more we stop accepting the outdated narratives surrounding power structure in the home, the more we will empower survivors. 

Pride is About Power:       

In the Domestic Violence conversation, we are aware that abuse is almost exclusively about control.  Somebody with power tries to maintain or expand that power through physical, emotional, financial, or psychological abuse.  In short, the purpose of Domestic Violence is to remove the victim’s pride.  The abuser intends to humiliate, and subjugate the target.  Pride is about power. 

Stonewall, often cited as the igniting incident in the fight for Gay Rights, should be an event to which many Domestic Violence survivors can relate.  After years of having their Gay bars busted by the NYPD, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back against the random threats.  The raids of Gay bars were meant to be arbitrary.  Just like an abuser will alternate between love-bombing and tantrums, the NYPD would go for long spells without random arrests in Gay bars.  That would be followed by sweeps that would find many members of the community put behind bars with ramifications that extended to their jobs and home lives.

These are the patterns of abuse.  A person who is always afraid, is always on-edge.  This is one reason that Pride celebrations have proven to be so important.  Standing up and refusing to live in fear is a powerful statement against patriarchy, abuse, and inhumane treatment.  Beyond gender identification or sexual orientation, all survivors of Domestic Violence can take a message from that.  Pride is power.  Pride is the very quality the abuser is trying to take from you.  Pride is what gives a victim the strength to escape an abusive relationship.  Just like it led the brave customers of the Stonewall Inn the courage to stand up for themselves back in 1969, pride is what can lead so many of us to stand up for ourselves in the battlefields of the home.

Learning From Our Allies:

It is no coincidence that Stonewall happened in 1969.  Members of the LGBTQ+ community had been watching other groups make great strides through concrete activism for the better part of the decade.  Black activists fought for justice, and it directly resulted in the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.  The American Indian Movement raised awareness to issues faced by a group of people this country and long been ignoring.  Women began to demand equal treatment, and went a long way towards changing the conversation for future generations.  Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers fought and won many battles.  Pride did not happen in a vacuum. 

Again, intersectionality is real.  Many of those heroes at Stonewall were also members of other marginalized groups.  The first brick was thrown by a Black-Transgender-woman.  It is here where our movement against Domestic Violence can learn lessons from Pride.  The same methods that the LGBTQ+ community used to raise awareness to its issues and concerns, are the same methods that will work in combatting Domestic Violence.

When the NYPD successfully scattered the patrons of a Gay bar, those people were easy to control.  When Queer people were kept in the closet and ashamed, they were easy to control.  They lost their power.  Pride parades and celebrations were ways for LGBTQ+ people to remove the stigma surrounding their lives on their own terms.  As survivors of Domestic Violence, we can take so much power from that.  The stigma that surrounds abuse permeates through so many of our stories. We can remove that stigma by refusing to stay silent.  By sharing your survivor stories with us at BTSADV, you are throwing a metaphorical brick like those tossed so many years ago at Stonewall.  Instead of scattering into the dark allies, we are coming together as a community with pride. 

There is no monolith among Domestic Violence survivors.  There are women, men, and gender-non-conforming survivors.  Survivors are Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and European in ancestry.  Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and all other religious groups suffer from (and members of those groups also commit) abuse.  Yes, survivors are Gay, straight, Transgender, Lesbian, Bisexual, Pansexual, Asexual, and many other classifications.  Pride can remind us of the diversity in our ranks.  It can also remind us to stand up for ourselves. 

The Language of Pride and Phobia:

Quite possibly, Pride has made the greatest impact on society in our language.  Recently, even the business networking website LinkdIn added an option to include your gender pronouns on your profile.  We are learning to speak in ways that include more people.  We are learning to avoid phrases many of us once incorrectly thought were inoffensive.  We have started to separate from some of our preconceived notions of masculinity and femininity.  With that, we have changed our terminology in these areas.

The way we talk about things matters.  Homophobic phrases that serve to emasculate men for sensitivity or compassion only perpetuate the same patriarchal preconceptions of toxic masculinity.  We have all heard male survivors of abuse be subjected to these slurs.  By challenging transphobic, homophobic, and sexist terminology in our daily lives, we are actually making it easier on survivors of Domestic Violence to reach out for help.

Rebuilding and Grateful But Still Afraid

rebuilding

I was a naive fourteen-year-old, dating an older boy. It was my first real experience, but not his. The first time we met up, he kissed me, my first real kiss, but he didn’t stop there. I was in pain, but that didn’t bother him. He accused me of not being a virgin. I didn’t even fully understand what sex was, and I had no idea of the hell I was about to go through, but I was afraid.

I was a damaged fifteen-year-old, dating an older boy. He kept me awake at night. If I hung up on him or fell asleep, he would keep calling until I answered. If I didn’t answer, he said I would regret it. One night, I put my phone on silent. I woke up with over two hundred voicemails and text messages, berating and belittling me. If I talked to any males, even my close friends, he would threaten me, or worse, threaten them. He had a gift for finding people’s weaknesses. If I tried to walk away, he would reel me back in with lies. I didn’t know what to believe, but I was afraid.

Ripped to Pieces

I was a broken sixteen-year-old, dating an older boy. He isolated me from my friends and family. He told me what to wear, what to say, how to feel. He told me he was just trying to protect me because all men were predators. He taught me to fear, not only him, but everyone else. He told me that if I ever left him, he would have to prove his love to me by killing himself because he couldn’t live without me.

But now, he told me, it was my turn to prove that I loved him. If I really loved him, I would do exactly what he said. He tore me down, piece by piece so that I couldn’t walk away. He cheated, constantly, and blamed me every single time. The worst part was, I believed him. He showed me a world that was so unlike my own. It was full of chaos, excitement, rebellion; full of fear.

17 and Soulless

I was a seventeen-year-old that had lost her soul and had nothing left to believe in. He lost his temper, but it would never happen again, he said. He pinned me to the ground. He left bruises around my wrists. He threw knives at me. He forced me to sit in a hot car for hours. He spit in my face. He broke me. Deep down, there was nothing left. I lost who I was. I lost friendships, I lost hopes, I lost dreams. I lost all respect for myself. I hated who I had become. I blamed myself for being too weak to walk away. I blamed myself for letting him destroy me. Eventually, it got so bad that I stopped fighting back. I lost my voice. At seventeen years old, I lost my will to live.

I had accepted death, but nothing prepared me for the challenges I’d face once I survived.

Rebuilding and Grateful But Still Afraid

At some point, your friends have to walk away and you can’t blame anyone but yourself. They try to help you, but when you have to make choices between them and him, survival always wins, and they don’t always understand. You know how weak and pathetic you are, not being able to help yourself, but all your energy goes into just trying to make it through the day.

I had to rebuild these friendships and relationships, the ones that I hated myself for neglecting, while also trying to find my soul. I was lost. Could I ever go back to being who I was, that unsuspecting fourteen-year-old girl that knew very little about the darkness of the world?

The answer is no.

Rebuilding on a Roller Coaster

Today, I’m grateful for how far I’ve come, but that doesn’t erase the past. I’ve had to work harder than I ever expected. It’s been ten years and some days are still filled with dread, but it’s no longer every day. Some days I wake up wishing I could just disappear because I lose the hope that I’ll ever be able to feel happiness, but it’s no longer every day. Some days, I look in the mirror and am instantly filled with self-hatred. I can hear his voice telling me that I’m disgusting and worthless, that no one will ever love me. Some days, I still believe him, but it’s no longer every day.

Some days, I feel like I’m the monster like he stole a piece of me and replaced it with a piece of him. After all, he taught me everything I know about love.

I’m ashamed to still think this way because so much time has passed, but not all of the wounds have healed. It feels like it’s never going to end. To be honest, I don’t even blame him anymore because, deep down, I know that someone broke him first. Still, though, every time I meet someone new, he lingers over my shoulder. He brings out the worst in me.

I’m Still Afraid

I see his face all too often. Sometimes in my nightmares, sometimes in other people, and worst of all, sometimes in myself.

And I’m still afraid. Afraid that I’ll never know what love actually feels like. Afraid that I’ll never forgive myself. Afraid that every person I encounter sees weakness all over me, that I’ll never be strong enough. Afraid for every innocent fourteen-year-old that is taught to believe that they aren’t worthy of love.

Yes…All Men

all men

Hiding Behind A Hashtag

#NotAllMen was trending once again on Twitter within the past few weeks.  It rears its ugly head quite frequently.  Whenever there is some public sexual harassment or sexual assault scandal, we hear the same cries from “the good guys.”  These men will post about how they “respect women,” and may even mention that…surprise, surprise…there are also female members of their family, and they love those female members of their family.

Unfortunately, it is all men.  

The Problem With “Not All Men

Why this hashtag, and sentiments like “nice guys finish last” have such a negative effect on our discourse about sexual harassment, sexual assault, and Domestic Violence is that the people who are saying it honestly believe it to be true.  Of course, there are men who intentionally and deliberately use this as a weapon to control the narrative, but bad-faith actors aren’t the only ones using the hashtag.  Many of the men saying “not all men” have never intended to hurt a woman.  Many of the men saying “not all men” have probably even tried to be allies to women in difficult situations.

The sheer fact that #NotAllMen can trend on social media indicates that many men are oblivious to the problem.  In fact, the absurdity of men flocking to Twitter to say that they have never sexually harassed a woman is a big part of the problem.  They are setting themselves up as the defendant, defense attorney, and judge in a proceeding that doesn’t even have an accuser.  These men may not be aware of times that their words or actions have made a woman feel uncomfortable sexually.  These men may have had interactions with women that have been resolved through a conversation.  They may even have learned from those interactions and conversations.  Learning does not absolve.  Forgiveness does not absolve.  It is still a mistake.

Missing the Point

#NotAllMen isn’t a symptom of the problem, it is the problem.  The hashtag reframes the discussion to be one of intent.  With an act of rhetorical slight-of-hand, sexual harassment is no longer the center of the conversation.  The proverbial magician has created a diversion with his left hand, while pulling out the Ace from his right sleeve.  Conversations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and Domestic Violence need to focus on the women, and often men, who are victims of this behavior.  This isn’t the time to coddle male egos.  Instead of hijacking the conversation with a hashtag intent to vindicate you from any potential criticism, join the conversation.  If you truly are a “good guy,” irradicating sexual harassment would be a higher priority than a preemptive public relations campaign against non-existent accusations.

As a man, I have 100% made mistakes in this area in my life.  It was never my intent to make someone feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t matter.  It may be a hard pill for a lot of us men to swallow, but there are probably times that we have made people feel uncomfortable sexually in public or business settings, and nobody ever told us.  We could be blissfully ignorant of the joke, comment, or well-intentioned compliment that someone just accepted as a “cost of doing business.”  How can we claim #NotAllMen, when there could be dozens of these little moments out in the universe?  

Accountability of All Men Over Taglines

Justice is hard.  We have to be able to admit #YesAllMen, so that we can turn the mirrors towards ourselves and our own actions.  As men, if we accept that we have almost certainly made mistakes, we can work on not making those same mistakes in the future.  In recent years, it has become glaringly obvious even to the most unreceptive observer that sexual harassment is a huge problem that permeates all aspects of society from sports to politics to Hollywood to offices.  People are being harmed by this every day.  We can’t shirk responsibility.

Luckily, many women commandeered the hashtag to tell their stories about harassment.  We need to hear those stories.  Men, we need to stop making this about our intentions.  Most abusers don’t view themselves as abusers.  Most harassers don’t view themselves as harassers.  It is a small segment of society that goes out and tries to harm people.  Until we can all listen to victims of sexual harassment without getting defensive, we will never learn ways to be even better.  We can’t be “good guys” until we have learned what that actually means, and how it looks in our societal interactions.  We can’t be “good guys” until we can look back on a situation and admit we made a mistake.  To truly be a “good guy,” you have to work towards equitable workplaces and public spaces where people can feel safe and comfortable to interact.            

When Abuse Hides Behind Love

abuse hides behind love

I am afraid to tell you my story. Afraid because in my story, I am a victim, and I have never seen myself as a victim. Afraid because – even in the thick of it – I didn’t see the abuse, and I’m afraid you won’t either. The abuse hides. Afraid because I will have to relive the pain, the fear, the emptiness. I will have to see those parts of myself that I have tried to forget and hide and bury. And I am afraid of crying when I tell my story because I’m not sure if I will be able to stop the tears from falling.

Hides in Love

The abuse was cloaked in love and longing. In logic and rationality. In silence and distance. I spent so many years normalizing and excusing the abuse. Even now, I find it difficult to call it abuse. His love hid the abuse – and he had no idea.

We met at a Christmas party when I was 19 years old. Our eyes met across a crowded room, and a passionate long-distance romance began. We wrote letters to one another on carefully chosen stationery. I spent hours crafting my thoughts into words in the hope that they would make him love me. We moved in together when I was 22, and so began the first signs of control. We discussed our finances, and he expressed the need for all of my income to cover our living expenses. I agreed and only later realized that this left me with no financial autonomy. When I over-spent, I don’t remember there being angry words or shouting—just the shame of his disapproval and disappointment.

This was to be the pattern for the next 18 years of my life: subtle and insidious control slowly eroding my sense of self and my place in the world.

Hides Within Family Pain

My greatest sadness lies in my family’s pain in watching my story unfold and knowing that they were powerless to intervene. Early on, they had tried to tell me that this man was not right for me and that there was trouble ahead. He himself had told me when I first met him that he was “not nice.” My family warned me, one of his friends warned me, and even he warned me… But I felt loved and in love. I couldn’t reconcile the warnings with my reality. 

The years that followed brought us both successful careers, amazing travel adventures, and upper-middle-class wealth material trappings. I had come to accept that my husband didn’t wish to spend any time with my family and didn’t like most of my friends. I let his feelings guide my own actions in distancing myself from those who loved and cared about me.

His Loss of Power

We had never planned to have children, but as I approached 30, I longed to start a family. We talked about trying to have a baby and agreed that it was something we both wanted. But it quickly became obvious that I suffered from subfertility, and we were advised to commence IVF treatment. My husband understandably felt like an observer most of the time, powerless to influence any outcomes and bewildered by the many unsuccessful cycles. One night, we discussed what to do if we didn’t fall pregnant the next time around. I suggested donor eggs or adoption. He adamantly refused to accept a non-biological child. At that point, I realized for the first time that we were two very different people. But all of our differences were quickly forgotten when we fell pregnant the very next cycle.

The pregnancy was high-risk and downright hard on my small 5-foot frame. But nothing phased me. I was ecstatic to be pregnant finally and took it all in stride: the constant sickness, gestational diabetes, and the “house arrest” from 20 weeks onward. I think all of this likely made my husband feel powerless and afraid. Outwardly, he seemed calm and supportive, but he could also be very distant and even mean. 

Hiding Behind Parental Struggles

Caring for babies is hard. My husband and I struggled as new parents and struggled as a couple.

I returned to work, and life moved forward. My husband became increasingly stressed. There were financial pressures. He was drinking more. We didn’t talk much, and if I tried to discuss my concerns, he would shut the conversation down. He would only touch me in the context of sexual intimacy. We were both becoming increasingly socially isolated.

At this point, my mother had entered into a wonderful new romance and was getting married. My sister was flying her family over from Europe for the wedding, and my brother was flying his family over from Australia. We hadn’t seen each other for several years and knew that it would be several more before we all met up again. With this in mind, my husband agreed reluctantly that we could attend the wedding.

Isolation

But my husband did not want to see my family before the wedding, and I didn’t have any energy to try to do so without him. Following the wedding, my husband agreed to visit my mother’s house, which didn’t have any child safety measures. My husband and I were racing around trying to prevent any toddler accidents when he suddenly yelled that he’d had enough, picked up the twins, and said that he was leaving. I pleaded with him to stay – this was the only opportunity I had to spend time with my family. I also knew that if I stayed against his wishes, he would see me as disloyal, and a period of emotional distancing and silence would follow. I was too exhausted to protest and stay.

I will never forget my entire family begging us to stay and then standing on the driveway crying as we pulled away. I, too, cried silently as I waved them goodbye, knowing that I would not see them again for years.

Reflection

I recently asked my siblings for their recollection of events because I still don’t trust my own memory of what happened. And when I imagine looking at my story from the outside, like you are now, it doesn’t seem that bad. It doesn’t seem dramatic or damaging. But every one of these small, hurtful daggers added up to almost two decades of being slowly hollowed out, of losing myself.

I have since asked myself, “how did I actually let that happen?” I have looked inward and tried to uncover the psychological flaws in myself that could have led to this abuse. I have also wondered what motivated my abuser – he didn’t know then and doesn’t know now that he was abusing me.

Jess Hill, in her polarizing book, See What He Made Me Do, explains the complexities of being in the shoes of both the victim and the abuser. She highlights that the issues are societal and individual; the solutions demand individualized treatment through community-led, collaborative programs. 

By the time I turned 37, I understood why some people choose to disappear from their current lives – leaving their family, friends, and familiar surroundings. Not that I myself was going to disappear, I felt deep despair at losing myself. I knew that I had somehow lost my truth, my way, my light.

Saving Myself

When I was 39, my husband chose to take a 12-month overseas work posting on his own. As a result, I was suddenly set free and reveled in my newfound freedom. Over the course of that year, I reconnected with friends, family, and myself.  I realized that every decision I had made up to that point in time was my own. There were outside influences, but ultimately no one could save me but me. I was going to have to save myself. And so, I did. By the time my husband returned, I had decided to leave our marriage.

Thankfully, after the break-up, I continued to work full time and quickly established my financial independence. There was no requirement for child support payments, and I found myself free of my ex-husband’s financial control. I give thanks every day for this. I am deeply aware that this is not the case for many victims and that financial autonomy can remain an ongoing source of trauma.

But my ex-husband’s pattern of emotional distancing, silence, and control continued despite the divorce. He hasn’t spoken a single word to me in 8 years, even though we have 50:50 shared custody of our children. Without any in-person dialogue, we initially agreed to communicate by email. Predictably, my emails would frequently go unanswered, and I often found myself pleading for replies. After a while, I gave up begging and waiting for responses. 

Seeing the Control

I didn’t realize it at the time, but we had begun a system of “parallel parenting.” Parallel parenting allows parents to take charge of parenting decisions while the children are under that parent’s care without the need for the other parent’s approval. It is often the chosen parenting method for high conflict ex-partners.

Withholding of information has been my ex-husband’s dominant strategy of control over the past 8 years. Luckily, now that the twins are teenagers, they can message or call me with any important updates. We have also moved from email to a parenting app called “Talking Parents,” which has facilitated much better communication when needed. 

My ex-husband remarried several years after our divorce and now has another child. He enjoys great success professionally, and I find that I am still immensely proud of him and all that he’s achieved. I truly hope that he is happy and doesn’t repeat the abuse pattern in his new relationship.

My New Story

I have now written a new story: one based on love, kindness, generosity, joy, and the simplicity of being. I give thanks every day for my two beautiful children, an amazing family, wonderful friends, and work that I love. In just over two years, my children will turn 18, and there will no longer be any need for regular communication with my abuser.

I know that I am one of the lucky ones and that for many other victims, there can be no such happy ending. Many will tragically die, and many will be irreparably damaged; as Gloria Stein points out, in many societies, “most women are one man away from welfare.” My greatest wish is that our children will not have to continue the fight against domestic abuse. That with this war fought and won, they themselves will never have to go into battle.

Victims and Survivors Talk About Money: Financial Education Against Domestic Violence

talk about money

Rebuilding financial security and confidence after domestic abuse can be extremely challenging. More and more online and nationwide in-person programs have started teaching survivors the financial skills necessary to recover from abuse. However, as the adage goes, knowledge is power! Let’s talk about money and begin your financial education journey today.  

What does financial abuse look like?

Financial abuse is a red flag that can escalate to other types of violence, such as physical abuse, between partners.

The abuser will attempt to and perhaps succeed in controlling and/or stealing their partner’s finances and information. They can also stalk them at their workplace or prevent them from having a job. Victims of domestic violence can be particularly vulnerable after leaving their abuser. Escaping is a financial burden in and of itself; it may mean single parenthood or difficulties finding a stable home and job. Victims may lack the financial knowledge to (re)gain control over their economic situation.

According to Judy Postmus, director of the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at Rutgers University’s School of Social Work, when explaining why it can be challenging to leave abusers, survivors complain about their lack of access to financial resources and knowledge of money management. Undoubtedly, survivors of domestic violence have unique financial needs. For example, they may require information on how to separate joint accounts, improve credit scores that their abuser damaged, budget as a single parent, and draft financial safety plans.

Financial empowerment refers to, among other aspects, employment, budgeting, housing, debt, and assets, but here, when talking about financial empowerment, we’ll focus on three things – knowledge, personal savings, and separate credit – as well as how victims and survivors can use these to their benefit.

Talk About Money Knowledge

The first step for both victims trying to escape their abuser and survivors of domestic violence is to build strong financial and money management knowledge and confidence. Knowledge is power! Fortunately, there is a growing list of financial literacy resources available online tailored to victims and survivors. Here are some you may find helpful:

The next steps include listing out all your IDs, debit and credit cards, birth certificates, personal accounts, assets, and debts, which may require a lot of research and digging if your abuser has hidden these documents and information from you. Make a note of what financial resources and documentation you have and don’t have. Ask yourself: Is the abuser keeping the documents and financial resources you’re lacking? Is there a way you can get them back, cancelled, or re-issued? If you’ve never held these documents and financial instruments, what’s stopping your access? Is this something you can get around or get help with?

Keeping Your Personal Info Safe

Remember to keep all your IDs and your Social Security number, and any other personal information safe. Avoid sharing any personal details and passwords with others unless required. It may be a good idea not to store passwords on your computer or phone. These steps will ensure your identity is protected and that the abuser cannot steal it.

As a safeguard, be wary of any requests for your personal information and passwords over text or e-mail, especially soon after you leave your abuser, even if they appear to be coming from your bank or any legal authorities.

Separate Savings

If possible, always keep some savings under your name, perhaps by regularly putting some of your paychecks into a separate account or under a close friend’s name and address, to keep it hidden from your abuser. Victims leaving an abusive relationship should try to take at least half of the money from all the accounts they own jointly with their abuser. Keep in mind that abusers may attempt to drain jointly owned accounts after their victims leave.

Check out Domesticshelters.org, an online searchable database of domestic violence shelters around the country, which can assist with housing after abuse.

Separate Credit

If possible, have your credit card and (bank) accounts to ensure you can build a credit history in your name and that you are not left with a bad credit score or unmanageable amounts of debt after escaping your abuser.

Final Thoughts

Rebuilding financial security and confidence after domestic abuse can be extremely draining and challenging. Financial concerns can also keep victims in abusive relationships and postpone their escape. More and more online and nationwide in-person resources and programs have started teaching survivors the financial skills necessary to recover from abuse, however. There is a lot of power and hope in knowledge. Click on some of the links referenced here to further or begin your financial education journey and reap the benefits.  

A Pastor’s Daughter: Road to Recovery & Forgiveness

pastor's daughter

Pastor’s Daughter

Having been raised as a pastor’s daughter with little hope or help in my brokenness, I know the lack of response on the part of churches when abuse strikes families of faith. My dad was a pastor and missionary with the first denomination to recognize the need for victims to be heard and helped. In 1997, the denomination faced tragic abuse allegations at the denomination’s academy in West Africa during the 1950s – 1970s. A committee on discipline & restoration was set up in 1998 to help many survivors who were tragically abused at that boarding school as children as their parents were doing missionary work.

As a pastor’s daughter, I never thought I had a story until I began a relationship with an imprisoned heroin addict. He and I had a link: dangerous sexual abuse as I began to write him. Over eight years, I was emotionally codependent with this hardened criminal as we brought him in & out of prison and our home. Early on in our marriage, severe PTSD and infertility following decades of trauma led to our eldest son’s adoption. But pornography and infidelities rocked my marriage to the core. Many years later, I realized my husband’s sexual addictions and deep anger towards me resulted from his not having dealt with his father’s suicide.

I knew nothing about his world but was willing to help him get into detox and drug treatment programs. I thought that I could help him, but I learned that I was the one who needed rescuing. Because of my faith, I am a caretaker with deep empathy, but I had to learn who I was and what happened to me so these strengths could become my purpose in helping other survivors. My long road to recovery from childhood incest from ages 2-8 and clergy sexual assault from ages 11-12 took decades. Along this road, I found my passion and purpose.

Road to Recovery

In 1998 after watching a show on confronting family secrets with my elderly mother, I realized that secrets destroy your soul and ability to live free. I gained courage and Pandora’s box opened as I wept and told my mother what her father did to me as a very little girl – only to learn that she too had been violated.

The following summer, I finally found my God-given passion and purpose after going back to the camp where I was violated by a clergy member. The house of cards began to fall as triggers surfaced and I saw one of my childhood friends. I discovered that she too had experienced sexual assault by the same pastor as I had. We both wrote letters to the denomination’s headquarters and reported what happened to us. The committee on discipline & restoration, with several pastors and well-known psychologists, led four of us adult survivors forward to face the elderly youth pastor for what he did to us in the 1950s. He was in complete denial when I confronted him and chose to forgive him. He was charged with six counts against myself and the other women, having caused severe PTSD. Just seven weeks later, I received a phone call and was shocked to learn that he fell down the stairs, broke his back, and passed away.

My Purpose

It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but necessary to my restoration, closure, and healing. My story has received international attention. A film crew flew to my mission compound during my humanitarian aid work in the Philippines and made a short YouTube movie about my life. I now co-host the NAASCA Stop Child Abuse NOW Talk Show.