October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic Violence is a disease, a virus that feeds on silence and lack of education. My hope is for my poem to be one small step, one voice toward turning up the volume of the dialogue of abuse.

 

Thank You For Watching

mommywars

The carpool line– hands down the bane of my existence. And it was one of those days I was sitting in the unwavering string of cars coupled with drivers who mistake the procurement of children for social hour at a nightclub, my phone dinged. A friend had sent me an article she said I should read because it was sure to make me mad, not that my friends purposely set out to ‘make me mad’. But in all fairness, I was the one complaining of boredom.

The article she sent was written by Janie who chose to be submissive to her husband. Notice I linked the word ‘article’. I did that so you’d read it, that way you can follow along and what I’m about to write will make more sense.

It’s okay, I’ll wait…

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Pencil

It was a week before suburbia strangled me, with its Mayfair filtered landscapes that garnished cropped homes and bottles of Domaine Georges & Christophe Roumier Musigny Grand Cru  on Bunko night. It was the week Yoga pants seduced us all with the way they forgivingly stretched to accommodate  an evening spent with too many gas station nachos, the way they move softly with our thighs as if to say, “Hush now, I know it’s Monday and your kids have to be at school at 7:30 A.M. for special projects they signed up to do and following that you must make a trip to the bank, gas station, and grocery store with three preschoolers in tow. Eat that victory doughnut, I got you girl.” It was because of this unwavering assurance that yoga pants began dominating the world, turning all women who dare give in to their siren-like lure of seductive comfort into nihilists who were willing to forsake all meaning in life simply because of wearing these pants that could best resemble the pull of Medusa.
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welfare-state

Happy Friday the 13th; I know it’s been a while since I posted and I can attribute that to the constant circus that is six children and college. Between the snow days and the reading, this semester is killing me, by the way.

Worry not, I am here, writing, about nothing in particular so that all two of you out there who read my blog will have something new to laugh about.

The only thing I really have to write about is the new law that states are now adopting which requires individuals who receive welfare to undergo mandatory drug testing. I have always considered myself to be somewhat conservative and I know that typically  I focus on humor and not politics; however, I must say that as a person who has been employed since the age of 15 years old, I find those who commit welfare fraud to be deplorable.

With that said, as a former welfare recipient who was not a drug user, I am not quite sure how I feel about this law. My biggest problem with this, aside from the fact that it endorses a blanket assumption that everyone on welfare must also be doing drugs, is that with all the welfare fraud that is committed already and the high case to social worker ratio, I am wondering how adding another mandate will be enforced.

Perhaps I am too compassionate, but I think about people with drug addictions, particularly those who I met when my children and I were homeless after escaping my abusive ex-husband. I am not justifying their addictions, but many of these women were suffering emotional and physical trauma from being abused that, in many cases, proved worse than mine. I was fortunate that I was able to have a bit of financial support and access to better resources than many of these women.

I am not sure that taking resources away from welfare recipients who may have a drug addiction is the best option; rather, I would contend that mandating that they enter into counseling and are provided with extensive resources could prove a better option.

I feel like these laws simply mask the symptoms; it does not look to solve the core problem: if we advocate that people who receive welfare must take drug tests, then we must also believe that a significant amount of welfare recipients have drug addictions. Taking away their welfare is not going to get them off of drugs; for most people, addiction is a disease, in many cases it is not a practice that a person wants to continue.

In short, everybody has his or her own ‘rock-bottom’ and for the lucky few it might be a matter of running out of hairspray or being late for work. For some, it is physical, emotional, mental abuse, it is drug abuse, or addiction. If drug addiction is a significant problem, then we should also be looking to the systemic issues that made the ahddict feel as though he or she had no other avenues.

I know I will receive a lot of backlash if more than two or three folks read this. I also understand that people work very hard for their money and that it is their tax dollars being used for welfare and that these people find it incredulous that drug addicts are getting federal benefits. I get that; but I also see a lack of compassion, a disregard for the life circumstances that would lead a person to make detrimental choices in life. I dislike the assumption that those who receive welfare do not work, I worked and received benefits and I know many people who do work and receive welfare.

I just decided to write this because when I try to find material to write about, I begin scrolling on Facebook and some of the most interesting things are not the articles but the comments. Lately, I have been very discouraged at some of the remarks and the lack of intolerance and empathy. It has pretty much made me stop using Facebook because I cannot understand how one person has the right to harshly judge another when he or she has never and can never be in their shoes.

domestic

It’s the start of a new month and I think that I have finally figured out how to customize my blog. That needed to happen. If there’s anything difficult to read, aside from my horrid attempts at writing engaging material, let me know as I was not sure about the colors.

After a tedious Sunday morning of trying to get the children ready to go out and about, I slipped on the ice outside and decided that I was simply not that motivated.

I did, however, manage to get called lazy; after making a post about how a woman should never be made to feel as though she should be a domestic slave because her husband or significant other has decided that a “man” shouldn’t do chores, I was chided because how dare I assume that a hard working man should participate in household chores. I mean, I am the one who is home all day long, (except for when I leave at 7:45 A.M. and don’t get home until 6:00 P.M.) but all of those loooooong hours at home should be spent with me in domestic shackles happily dusting and humming show tunes because I have a big, strong man out working hard to take care of me.

…Please? Can we untangle those puppet strings?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that my husband is hard-working; but so am I and there is absolutely no common sense in the idea that because he works he is incapable of changing a diaper or switching out a load of laundry.

It was also asserted that my husband just must come home and do all the work that I have not done that day. If that were true that means that he comes home, bathes all of the children, coordinates their outfits, does their homework with them, swims through the stacks of fundraising slips balled up in their backpacks, wrestles them down to brush their teeth, feeds them breakfast, carpools them to school, does the dishes, drops the younger two off at the babysitter’s, picks the younger kids up from the baby sitter’s, picks the older ones up from school, drives to Tae Kwon Do lessons, wrestles with them to get them dressed and ready, fights with the baby to keep her off of the Tae Kwon Do mat, busses them all back home, cooks them dinner, does more dishes, switches laundry, cleans the floor, and puts away the dishes.

*whew* He does a lot, if anyone sees my husband, please commend him on his ability to hold down a full-time job and manage all of the rest as well.

Some men, and note the word some need to not interject commentary into issues that they simply cannot relate to. In other words, I pity this man’s wife. It really blows to have a husband who objectifies you and treats you as though you have no other abilities but to hum songs from Annie while you get down on your knees and scrub the floor by hand.

Men: You ALL need to realize that some women enjoy household work and others do not take a natural interest in it. We have other talents. This does not mean that we are lazy.

domesticviolence

“More than one in three women and more than one in four men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime” (American Psychological Association).

For a large part of my life I never considered myself a writer and I still remember my stinging cuticles (because I bite them when I am nervous) as I walked into one of my first university courses called “The Writing Process”. What could have easily been a traumatic experience turned into an incredibly positive experience; with the help of a wonderful and supportive professor, I learned the importance of “voice” and the impact it could have on a reader.

The more I wrote, the more I could feel these ideas in my head, forming words, sentences, and paragraphs. 

And as much as I enjoy my feeble attempts at writing humor, I also feel compelled to write about domestic violence. I realize it is not a subject that people look forward to reading about and even though I am well aware of the statistics, I never can get over the initial shock when I hear tell of another woman (particularly a woman that I have known for sometime) escaping her abuser. I freeze up and at first, I am not able to process her story as I remain on the “cause/effect”: he abused her and she left.

He abused her, she was abused by him, he was her abuser; she escaped. 

In many situations I find myself comforted to know I am not the only one: I’m not the only mother who has almost baked her cell phone, I am not the last parent in the car pool line because the baby decided to have a diaper blowout on the way out the door, or I am not the only person sitting in rush hour traffic on 95 south from D.C. at 3:00 P.M. on a Friday afternoon. But, I would be more than happy to be the only person who ever had to experience the during and after effects of domestic violence.

As if experiencing domestic violence wasn’t enough, survival after escaping is even more difficult; but this can be overcome.

When I escaped I faced homelessness and I won. Even though the protection order gave me possession of the house, I was weary of living in an environment where he was familiar with every nuance. Likewise, many well-meaning friends offered to allow us to stay at their houses and I declined out of concern for their safety. My children and I lived in a domestic violence shelter for nearly a year.

I overcame poverty. He controlled the finances. My paychecks went into his account and I never had access to the money. He decided if and when the bills were paid. One morning, I was getting the children ready for school and as I turned the faucet to brush my son’s teeth, water did not come out. I found out later that he simply didn’t bother to pay the water bill and he also saw no need to inform me of this; he bought a gun instead. Needless to say, when I escaped, he drained the bank accounts. I had about $20. Despite this, I applied for any aid that I could receive for my children and myself, as we escaped with next to nothing. After sometime, I was able to continue working full-time and continue taking college courses.

overcame adversity. This might be difficult to believe, but some people treated my children and I as though we had survived the plague. When I told a person, in confidence, that we were living in a shelter, they asked if we had been exposed to TB. I was also scorned for using food stamps and welfare money (even though I have been a working taxpayer since I was 15 years old.) The thing that hurt the most was when I was told that the abuse that my children and I suffered was “a direct result of my life choices.” Those words not only angered me, they ripped me apart and I can’t say that I was told them, that person actually yelled them at me.

I want the reader to realize that I never chose to be abused, when I married my husband I married a Christian, police officer who seemed, by all outward appearances, to be supportive, loving, and stable. He had a great sense of humor and was supportive of my goals. There were no warning signs until about a year into our marriage. Suffice it to say that it wouldn’t have mattered if I would have married the neighborhood drug cartel; NOBODY DESERVES TO BE ABUSED; NOBODY.

How incredulous to believe that somebody, more specifically myself, woke up one day and said, “you know, I think that I am going to go find a dickhead that is going to push me down a few times, call me a bitch, keep me constantly pregnant, and then use our precious babies against me as though they weren’t even people, simply weapons that would ensure that I behave myself.” Sounds like good times right?

Even though I lost a lot, I would never take back my decision to escape. When I say I lost a lot, I mean stuff. I lost a lot of stuff: A LOT! But I gained so much more: the most important being my children, they are happy and confident; free to be children and we are embracing every precious drop of this! They are strong, survivors in and of themselves and throughout this they have exhibited a courage beyond their years. I gained independence, slowly but surely I have learned who I am and I have regained a sense of self: my voice, my passion for writing, and self-respect.

I once confided to someone that if I ever did get out, I wanted to someday share my story with others. To let them know that they are not alone. That person condescendingly told me, “Sure, if you really want to put your life out under the public microscope.” It’s not that I want to, it’s that I need to. These stories need to be heard, domestic violence survivors need a voice: they need many voices! I think I have about thirty people who see the articles that I post, and even if only five read this then that is five people that have heard my voice and even if zero read this then at least I have had a chance, for my own healing, to process this trauma through the art of writing.

My poetry professor told us the other day that when people write comments and blogs, then they should leave a name and take ownership and I am not afraid to put a name and face with what I write. I will spend the rest of my life, whether it be a year or many, many years writing and speaking out against domestic violence.

I DO NOT LIVE IN FEAR; I LIVE. 

I am going to try to attach a video, I am not technology savvy so I hope it works. This is a good friend of mine whose mother I knew growing up. Even though I spent many a night over at her house, I never realized that abuse was occurring in the home. This was one of those jaw-dropping, heart breaking moments for me and I hope, if I can get the link to work, that you all take six minutes and listen to my friend’s story.

Surviving Domestic Violence