My 2019 Celebrate Women Calendar and Giving Back
I believe that the world is full of beauty and since you are here, you’re probably a see-beauty-everywhere person too! Us beauty-seekers live life with our cups half-full seeing goodness and kindness in people. We believe that most people want to do good, and want to live life with high integrity, honesty and love. We are adamant that each person deserves to be treated with kindness and respect.
Of course, there are people who are not kind or good and who don't treat others with kindness and respect. Sadly there are people who live with them who are subject to various forms of domestic abuse. Here is the thing – many people who are being abused don’t realize it until after the fact (read on to find out why). By bringing awareness to this issue, I hope that if we help just one person to break free of an abusive relationship, then we have a reason to celebrate.
I want to help
When the idea of my 2019 calendar took shape, I knew I wanted to not only celebrate women, but also do something to help educate about the various forms of Domestic Violence and contribute to an organization that helps victims find a path to safety.
Before you read further, I want you to know that this is a difficult story, definitely not one of my normal uplifting see-beauty-everywhere musings, and hopefully one that is very removed from your life. Bear with me! Even though this is a hard subject, it does have a good ending and it illustrates why awareness is so important.
However, I completely understand if you want to skip this whole bit. This is a story of a family friend who underwent abuse, but because she and her daughters didn’t walk away with bruises, she didn’t call out for help. Unfortunately, I believe that domestic abuse is often hidden and explained away by the victim because they don’t intellectualize that they are being abused.
A story from twenty years ago when our oldest was 3
A good friend of our neighbors' introduced us to his sister and her daughters, who had just moved to Washington to escape an alcoholic ex-husband. As a lovely way to welcome the girls into our lives, our gracious neighbors started inviting all 3 families to their home each week for ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’. The mother and her daughters were delightful and the two youngest daughters started babysitting for us.
Unfortunately, the mother had a problem choosing the wrong sort of guy – the sort that flatter and lavish gifts, and on the outside seem wonderful, but have a lurking darkness underneath. We raised our eyebrows at how soon after her divorce she moved herself and her daughters in with this guy, but we weren’t alarmed. Yet.
However, over time, the family stopped coming to ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’, we began getting excuses as to why the girls couldn’t babysit, and the uncle started getting excuses as to why his sister couldn’t get together with him. Then we found out the girls had been pulled out of school and were being home-schooled.
It would have been easy and natural to feel as if perhaps the family didn’t want to get together with us anymore, perhaps the girls had found other babysitting jobs they liked better, perhaps the Disney movies we watched were too childish for the family, perhaps life was too busy, perhaps they had met other friends… It would have been easy and natural for us to do nothing.
Luckily this family had all of us, and when we realized that we were ALL being shut out of their lives, we knew not to take their rejection personally. That something was wrong and we needed to take action. One day, when the guy wasn’t home, the men in our group found the girls and removed them from the situation.
An abuser doesn’t start by hitting
Here is the thing – the mother, though very glad to be out of the relationship, was fuzzy about whether there was any abuse, and in fact we were all a bit fuzzy (at the time) that what was happening was abuse. You see, an abuser doesn’t start out hitting. If he/she did, the victim would most likely call for help and get out. What happens is the abuser starts out slowly – first by isolating the victim, using intimidation, guilt, coercion and threats, instilling economic deprivation, and using the children as manipulation. All things that can be explained away on their own, things that if done slowly enough become the ‘new normal’ until the victim feels they no longer have a way out. Eventually the abuser convinces the victim that they are crazy for questioning the abusive behavior (this is called gaslighting and is heartbreaking and dangerous).
The details of their life with this guy didn’t come out at first. In fact, we didn’t find out about the following event (and other devastating details) until the oldest daughter came to live with us a year later and the stories started to flow. Turns out the ‘new normal’ for this family was horrifying to someone looking in: being a feisty outspoken girl, the oldest was banished to her room, forced to sit on a hard stool and could only get off her stool to go to the bathroom and gather the food that was set outside the door for her. This was the punishment metered out for talking back to him. She sat on that stool for nearly a month.
My anger at the mother is exactly what the abuser wants
To be honest, I held onto an enormous amount of anger towards the mother for allowing this to happen. I blamed her for not protecting her daughters. But here’s the thing – my reaction plays exactly into the hands of the abuser. The mother was so completely, emotionally, verbally and economically abused that she no longer had the mental capacity for rational thought. She was convinced, in fact brainwashed, into believing that she was insane to question the abuse. At the same time, she was consumed by terrible guilt. Unfortunately, people looking in (me included) judged her, adding to her guilt. This is exactly what the abuser wants.
Sadly, I didn’t forgive the mother until decades later when I became educated about all of the different forms of domestic abuse. Now I know differently. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline has eye-opening information and I believe is a must-read for all of us.
Let’s spread awareness and help make a difference
For each calendar that is purchased a portion of the proceeds will go directly to The National Domestic Abuse Hotline. I hope you will join me in contributing to this important cause.
More importantly, please pass on the word!
Do you know anyone who:
Is being isolated from their friends
Is prevented from getting or keeping a job, or having access to family income
Is being coerced into believing that if they leave a relationship something bad will happen (eg. the abuser will hurt him/her, will threaten to commit suicide, will turn her/him into authorities)
Is being emotionally abused by constant put-downs, name-calling, humiliation, guilt
Is being ‘gaslighted’: brainwashed into believing they are insane to question abusive behavior
If so, please refer them to The National Domestic Violence Hotline – there is a wealth of information and paths to provide help.
Thank you for reading through this and for all that you do to help others!