The bathroom posters

It’s not always easy to access victims of intimate partner violence if you want to help them. You never really know what the abuser will do if he/she finds out.

In giving and getting information about ending the abuse, privacy and confidentiality are so, so important.

I found a pleasant surprise on the back of the door when I went to use a toilet in a hospital the other day. It’s a perfect place to display information for anyone and everyone. And those who are in an abusive situation can see it, and perhaps choose to seek assistance. He/She may not have done – or been able to do – anything about it otherwise. You never know.

Because when you have someone who uses violence, intimidation, and manipulation on you, they’re always there. They find a way. It would almost be amazing, if it weren’t so bad.

The one place, the one time you can be alone. Washroom. Bathroom. Rest room. Toilet. Whatever you want to call it. That’s one place where you may have a moment to catch a first glimpse at potentially life-altering information.

It may be the first step for someone.

For me, it was a pleasant surprise. And I stood there, looking at it, wondering if things could have been different for me, had I seen something like this three years ago.

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There’s an app for that?

They say there’s an app for everything… and I’m starting to wonder if it’s true.

SmartSafe+ is an app that helps women safely collect evidence of family violence. It looks like it’s actually pretty decent. It’s disguised, it’s requires a password, and the information is stored in a cloud so the contents can’t be deleted. The app lets you take photos and audio recordings, and even tells you what kind of information is helpful to collect. And it’s free.

But.

Not everyone who experiences violence realizes that it’s violence, and that it’s wrong, that it’s not normal, that it’s not their fault. Not everyone wants to prosecute the perpetrator – or even realizes that it’s possible to do so.

Not everyone is able to stand up for themselves. (Yet, at least)

Also… wouldn’t it be hard to do an audio recording?

But.

It’s so much better to have the app than not. It’s so much better to have that choice, to have that knowledge. To have that access. To have that power.

今なら「生」を素直に選べられるよ

2016年の秋に書いたこと、考えたことを見返してみました。今なら素直に「生」を選べる。
だから今は大丈夫だよ。

今、これを読んでいるということは生きているということ
今、知ってる限りでは「生」と「死」の二つだけ。
その二つのうちの一つしか進めない。

必ずどこかで「死」を選ぶ者もいる…
でも特に考えもしないで生き続ける者も多い。
何となく時間を過ごしてただ「親にもらった命だから」と言って生き続ける
それを本当に「生」と呼べるのだろうか

ただ命があるから生きるのではなく、
いつか胸を張って
「生」を選びます
この言葉を言えるようになりたい。

今はまだ迷う。

どちらも選ばないからどちらも進めない。

誰だって死ねる。けど、誰だって生きれる訳ではない。

私は「生」を選べるようになりたい。

こう感じていた私は今なら笑って
「生」を選びます
って
そう言える、そう思えることに最近気づいた。
ちょっと嬉しいような、照れるような、新鮮な、でもちょっと違和感のあるような不思議な感じでした。

The goal is to live violence-free

I was reading about the Survivor-Centred Approach to gender-based violence intervention, and at one point, I saw that the goal of this approach is to live violence-free, not necessarily to leave the abusive relationship.

A little ray of light shone within me. The dark, heavy clouds that had been looming for at least a few hours didn’t seem quite so bad with this little bit of warmth.

I’m sure there are a number of people out there who do or did want to leave their abusive situation, who want to get away and stay away. Far away.

Some people though, don’t necessarily want to leave. They just want the harm, the violence, to stop… to go away. To… have things be different.

That had been me.

But I knew it wouldn’t end. I had tried to learn how to influence him, to calm him, but there was nothing I could to to lessen or prevent it. That was difficult, and yet also freeing. No matter what I did, he got angry, which therefore meant that it was easier for me to finally understand that it wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t triggering it, unless of course, he was just aggravated by my existence and hated me. But, you know…

Anyway, it didn’t matter what I wanted or how I felt. I didn’t really have much of a choice. I had to leave.

I don’t regret that choice.

I just wish things could have happened differently.

The second post

After breaking the silence to my online community on August 2, 2016, I didn’t post anything more about it until January 4, 2017. Like the first post, I wrote, re-wrote, edited… edited again, thought about it… thought some more… and finally made it visible to most of my online connections a few days after the new year began.

And like the first time, the outpouring of love, patience, and understanding was more than I could handle. It took multiple attempts to read the responses I received, let alone even allowing myself to become emotionally invested in the messages.

Thank you for creating a safe space for my reality in its raw form. Thank you for accepting it for what it is and what I have become. Thank you for taking the time to send kind words.

2016 began with me finally realizing how bad my situation really was. Since then, I’ve left him, feared half the human population, left my job and friends and moved across the world – again.
I also met the best therapist I could ask for, and relied very heavily on her and a hand full of others for a number of months. I finally started to be able to talk about some of the things that had been going on, at least what I could remember.

I went from loathing everything about myself, and being embarrassed about my existence, feeling guilty for breathing the oxygen and eating the food that so many others could be putting to better use…just wishing I could disappear into nothingness… to finally being able to sing again. For every step forward I take, I often feel like I’m taking a step or two back… but I still manage to wake up every morning to another day. I still have the life that so many are fighting to keep.

I told a friend a while ago that I want to want to choose life – how wonderful of a desire would that be? We talk about choosing death, but how many of us choose life, rather than simply living because we already have a life? The friend responded that me saying this already meant I did want to choose life. Although I’m still not sure if that’s true, it’s a good desire to strive for.

Guilt is what kept me alive before – guilt of leaving my parents behind with things to clean up, organize, and pay for after I’m gone, guilt of knowing I’d let them down, guilt of knowing I would hurt them forever, guilt of leaving my boss suddenly in need of a replacement and needing to investigate what happened.
My guilt now often relates to not “recovering” fast enough, although I don’t hope to be the same person I was before.

As I wander and float from place to place, I’m realizing that the beauty I see on planet earth is what keeps me going and wanting to wake up to another day.

Perhaps now in 2017, I’ll find another reason to want to choose life – that luxurious choice that not everyone can make.

Health Outcomes of Violence Against Women

I wanted to share this image, the second slide from Creating Trauma-Informed Services for Women with Co-Occurring Disorders, a presentation by the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE).

This is real.

These health problems are being experienced by women because of the violence caused by their intimate partners/ex-intimate partners.

Violence can happen to any one at any age. Although overall, men are more likely to be victims of homicides, 13.5% of homicides are committed by intimate partners: 6.3% are male victims, and 38.6% are female victims… Women are six times more likely to be killed by their intimate partners than men are.

I must admit I’m not really that surprised, but if anything, that makes it worse. I should be surprised.

Although I wondered if he’d end up killing me, I was only in serious danger once, when he grabbed my throat. I think he let go within a few seconds. It was late, and dark. It was probably Saturday. We were outside. It happened in the middle of what probably ended up being the most fearful and emotionally charged night I can remember.

I’m lucky that I haven’t experienced most of the outcomes on this list, but many women do and have experienced them.

We are all statistics, but we are also people.

Why is this still a thing?

Confessions

I have a good family. And yet, I first learned how to handle being controlled, sacrificing, and feeling sub-par, as a small child at home. It snowballed over time, but it began with my parents and with my siblings.

I still struggle with it, but I don’t hold it against them.

I am still often unable to stand up for myself. And I know it, so I do my best to avoid being in a situation that could become one where I need to stand up for myself. (It’s mostly about recognizing the signs and the possibilities.)

I was often told as a child that I was too nice. I was practically scolded for it. But I didn’t know what ‘too nice’ meant, I didn’t know what the potential consequences of being ‘too nice’ were.

I worry that the ‘better’ I get, the less I’ll be able to support those who need it.

I worry that if I’m not well enough, I can’t support those who need it.

I worry I might forget the tough times and how far I’ve come.

I worry I may not have learned ‘my lesson’, trip and fall into another deep, dark place.

I wonder if he’s gotten in touch with his ex-girlfriend again.

Part of me still wonders if I should try to get in touch with her some day.

I wonder if he’s found a new partner. I wonder if he’s treating her worse  – or better – than he treated me. I wonder if she has the support that I had. I wonder if she’ll survive her time with him.

I hope he’s well enough to work and lead a good life. And yet, I hope he’s not well enough to tear apart someone else.

Sometimes… I miss him.

The email entitled “.”

Toward the end of July, just before his birthday (also about a week before we broke up the first time) when the tension was really building up, I emailed both of my sisters and a friend I’ve known most of my life to try to open up to them about what was going on, and what I’d recently ‘learned’ about myself. We’d been together about nine months at this point.

Here is part of the email I sent:

Basically, I’ve been doing things for a long time that are convenient for me, and disregard how that may affect others. I’ve done a lot of things that have hurt [the lion], because I always put myself first. From the little things to the big things. I know how to protect myself, but I don’t know how to protect others. 

I want to be like Scrooge on Xmas morning. I want to put him first – that’s what he’s been doing for me. I may grumble about him, but that’s the Japanese in me that’s talking. He’s actually been doing his best to help me grow up and become a better person, even though I’ve resisted a lot. And I’ve hurt him a lot. I hurt him today. He’s probably one of the most genuine people out there, and he cares about everything. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s probably the best thing that’s happened to me in a really long time or perhaps ever, and I don’t want to waste the chance to keep him because I continue to think only about myself.

The damage is done and it is already too late, but I still want to try. I’ve been losing him from the start because I’ve been putting myself first. I have been causing him a lot of damage, and I still did that today. 

I didn’t know that I’m not compassionate; I didn’t know that I was shallow; I didn’t know that I was self-centred. It’s finally starting to sink in, and this has to cause drastic changes very fast or I’ll lose him and any hope of becoming kind in the real sense. It’s a deep-rooted problem because I still often don’t see what I’m doing wrong. I’ve been denying it for 9 months, and even now that I can see it better, it’s still after the damage has been done (and he needs to help me see this damage – all the time).  

I need help to be on track. To make sure I’m honest, and that I’m putting him first. To make sure I put myself in his position to see what he’s seeing and what he’s thinking so that I can stop adding to his stress, stop lying, and stop hurting him

But it’s too late and I’ve done a lot of damage. He always cleans up after me, and takes the cut. And he’s tired of putting up with it for 9 months. 

Theoretically it was possible to stay happy with him, but if I can’t do anything but seek attention from everyone, then it would never work. 

I didn’t receive any email responses.

“Uhh, I don’t know” was all I could say at the time. Today, I know better.

“[…] And these notions of masculinity that you have a right to a woman’s body…that women are of less value and that you have a privilege, that’s almost a birthright.”

I heard these words on the radio, and couldn’t help but nod. Ah, yes… Spoken straight from the horses’s mouth. Today’s episode of CBC’s Out in the Open was about different aspects and forms of consent. At least this guy knew enough to put words to the behaviour that so many do, but can’t necessarily identify why.

After I left the lion, I lived with my friend, Kei, for 2.5 months. She is now the standard to which I measure the quality (and depth) of friendships. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to her for everything she has done and continues to do for me.

She asked me one day, “Did he ever rape you?”

I looked at her from the adjoining room, somewhat surprised by the question. “Uhh, I don’t know” was all I could say.

“If it’s not a clear ‘no’, then it’s a ‘yes’.” She always has the best answers.

I’d been sexually assaulted more than once, by guys I called friends. I’d never done anything about it though, for multiple reasons: cultural norms and expectations, victim blaming, lack of self-confidence, embarrassment, not wanting to cause any ‘disruption’. I usually pretended nothing happened and moved on with life.

After being with the lion though, I couldn’t just move on. As what happened sunk in, I lost interest in and felt disgusted by anything sexual – jokes, TV/movie scenes, even being touched by any male creature (and this included pet dogs for a while). I was afraid of all men, until finally, I was able to be okay around men who were very obviously in love and devoted their parters. After that, my ‘safe’ male group started to include men who I’d known for a very long time. Their behaviour had established a reputation I deemed as safe. And finally, guys who were very obviously not interested in me for any reason became okay too. It went in this order, and it took time.

Even now, men who are interested in me, and men who try to touch me are automatically labelled as dangerous. Don’t touch me, don’t step into my bubble, don’t stand behind me. I constantly test them (even if they don’t know it). I watch their movements. I listen to their words. I watch their reactions. How do I know they’re not suddenly going to put their arm around my shoulder? Try to hug me? Try to grab any part of my body? I don’t know, that’s the thing. And that’s why I don’t trust them, that’s why I keep my distance, that’s why I cover up, that’s why I don’t want any curves. If only my body was just a rectangle with a head, arms and legs…

Kei and I talked after I gave her that answer. I told her what had happened on that one occasion that stood out the most. I actually looked up the definition of rape too, and that’s when I realized, “Oh, okay, yeah. I am a rape survivor… hm”. It’s a label I don’t like, and I still struggle with it. Just because you’re in a relationship, or just because you’re living with your partner doesn’t automatically mean it’s always an active, enthusiastic ‘yes’.

I’ve had to read about rape, sexual assault and harassment, to help myself understand, and to make up for the lack of open discussion I’ve had with anyone, really. One main reason it happens is power and control, but there’s no harm in learning more.

The guy being interviewed on the radio owned up to what he did. I wonder how often that happens. I want to call him ‘brave’, but what he did should be normal.

Jian Ghomeshi. Brock Turner. These are just two cases that were on the news as I was grappling with my own situation. It made me sick. It made me shake. It made me rage. I had no words to describe the fire in me that burned with disgust and hate, not only for the assault itself, but for the people who tried to protect them and lessen the severity of their behaviour, their ideology… Our society.

“[…] I don’t know where to start. When I saw your name in my inbox, my spine went cold […]”, he said through the radio. I’ll be reading their book, South of Forgiveness, soon enough.

Please, take some time to check out the links. It could help you protect a loved one. It could help you protect someone, anyone, perhaps even yourself.

 

“Why didn’t you just leave?”

I’ve been lucky – I don’t recall anyone asking me this awful question.

If you’re tempted to ask someone, don’t.

To leave or not to leave? That is not the question. That’s just not how it works.

Reading and researching helped me understand and better explain the situation to myself, often because I hadn’t had the patience or grace (and often still don’t) to sit down and try to show someone (who often just won’t get it) how it’s not that simple. I haven’t been able to let myself be walked on by insensitive people. I haven’t had the strength to stay calm and collected while I describe what it’s like to someone who isn’t able to try on someone else’s shoes, let alone walk a mile in them.

Within a few months of leaving him, I stumbled across an article, Why I stayed in an Abusive Relationship for 11 Years, I watched a TED Talk, Why Domestic Violence Victims Don’t Leave, and they helped me put words to my murky, tangled emotions. A few months after that, I found, read, and then purchased a book: It’s My Life Now: Starting Over After an Abusive Relationship or Domestic Violence. These and other readings helped me define ‘abuse’, and realize that yes, it had been bad. It helped me understand what had happened from a less emotional, and more academic perspective, which helped me a lot. And on top of that, I wasn’t the only one. It was a relief and also a horror. How many of us are out there?

What happened between the lion and I could’ve been worse, but there’s not much of a benefit thinking about it that way. Shouldn’t we all expect to be in abuse-free relationships with both ourselves and with those around us? The obvious answer is yes, but for some, it’s not so simple.

We stay for many different reasons.

Here’s a compiled list of 10 reasons why they didn’t leave.

In my case, the lion and I were both expats and he didn’t have the same access to the local language and culture as I did. I needed to help him with the mail, paying bills, doctor’s appointments. He was stressed because his work wasn’t going the way he wanted it to. I wasn’t being a good enough partner, so a lot of his stress and frustration was my fault. I was the only one he could rely on. If I pulled my weight, things would be better. He promised to never hit me again after my black eye – a promise he actually kept. He was getting depressed, and sometimes suicidal. He needed help. I had to be there for him. We had talked multiple times about building a life together. I had committed to him, I couldn’t just abandon him. Even if I did leave him, no one would want me anyway. I wasn’t worth much of any thing. My life with him was familiar, it was normal. Besides, I loved him. What would he do if I left? Who would he turn to? How would he deal with his frustration and stress?

Was I even worth ‘saving’ from this situation anyway?

But, after breaking up and getting back together twice, leave him I did.