Karen and I chatted this evening on the phone. It started with Facebook messaging, but Karen decided we needed to talk as she needed to “vent.” A little background leading up to tonight: We have a friend in common, more of an acquaintance on my part, someone who went to the same high school we did. This friend recently posted on social media that she was a victim of domestic violence and was making the move to get out. She gave lots of details on her posts. This is someone Karen has reached out to in the past when this friend almost died at her abuser’s hands, only to survive and go back to him. Lots of detail that we won’t go into, but that leads us to today when this friend, just a couple days after crying out on social media for help and posting pics of the Sheriff’s cars outside her home, she posts a “GoFundMe” account on Facebook.
Karen’s reaction to seeing this “GoFundMe” has her so riled up and angry, she wants to vent. Karen shares with me, very passionately, her thoughts and feelings. When she is finished. she asks me why I think she is so angry.
As I listened to her “vent,” it was all too familiar. The anger I hear in her voice is the same anger I have felt before. My answer to her question: “You are angry because you can’t fix it.”
You see, it doesn’t matter whether it is Karen dealing with domestic violence, or me dealing with divorce, we so passionately want to fix the person we are mentoring, fix their situation, make it better. Just like our kids, we want our friends to learn from our past experiences. Why learn the hard way when you can learn from someone else who has been through it? That is the million dollar question. There is something within us, or maybe it is just plain stubbornness, that won’t allow us to take the easy way out. We have to learn the hard way and experience it ourselves.
In my unprofessional opinion, Karen is handling her time with our friend exactly how she should. She is doing and saying all the correct things; now we pray that the friend listens.
We cannot control how others receive our advice or what they do with it. We can only give it with the love and support in our hearts and the knowledge that comes from our own life experiences.
As we chat, we try to remember, think back to when we were in the thick of things. At that time would we listen to someone else? Did we listen? Did we accept others’ advice?
Or is it only in hindsight that we can see clearly?
As I sit here a couple of weeks later and think about the emotions of that night, I still wonder why I was so worked up. I remember thinking I was “angry” about the GoFundMe request, but after our conversation, realizing it had nothing to do with the request and everything to do with the situation.
I remember the day I found out he put her in the hospital from beating her so badly. I spoke with her several times as she shared how she was done and was going to make sure he went to prison this time. I remember how proud I was of her for following through with that and making sure he did go to prison.
I don’t remember how long he was in prison, and I don’t remember how long after he got out that I saw a Facebook post that would leave me speechless and helpless. Not only did she take him back, but she married him! I tried really hard to be supportive. We all have different paths, and everyone deserves another chance, right? In some cases, yes. However, in this case, hell no! I am a firm believer that a pig is a pig, a dog is a dog, and an ass is an ass. In this case, a snake is a snake. As the saying goes, even when the snake sheds its skin, it is still a snake. I wanted to be kind and gracious, but I just couldn’t. My heart knew exactly where this was going to go. So, instead of saying anything I couldn’t take back, or offending her, I just shut myself off from her, waiting for her to reach out to me when or if she needed me.
Quite a bit of time went by and she called just to say hi. She spent most of her time doing her best to convince me that he had changed. He had spent time in counseling and anger management while in prison. That he wasn’t the same person he used to be. I didn’t say much. I listened, and my heart broke. I knew what was up the road. There is a cycle of abuse.
There is the honeymoon phase, the tension-building phase, and the crisis phase.
During the honeymoon phase, the abuser is calm, loving, kind. This is also the phase where he is remorseful, and apologetic. The tension-building phase is where little things begin to “aggravate” the abuser. This is usually where the victim is doing whatever they can to “keep the peace.” However, the tension builds and the abuser explodes. That immediately is followed by the crisis phase. The abuser then unleashes their violence until emotions have settled down.
*IT IS NEVER THE VICTIM’S FAULT! ALL RESPONSIBILITY FALLS ON THE ABUSER! DO NOT ACCEPT THAT YOU PROVOKED THEM!
Trust me, I get it! Leaving is a process, a long, scary process. This is where the confusion of my emotions get the best of me. How is it that I understand the cycle of abuse, and why she is making the choices she made, yet am so angry that she was reaching out for help? With some reflection, it turned out the answer was simple. I am afraid!
I am afraid that she will continue in this chaos. Maybe not with her husband. She may find the strength to divorce him and get an ex-parte on him. I hope she does. However, if she doesn’t fix what is going on internally within herself, she will find another man just like him. We get comfortable with what we know. The outer package may look different, but if we aren’t looking within ourselves and fixing what needs to be fixed, then we repeat the pattern over and over.
In most cases, the abuser has emotionally beaten and dragged the victim down so low that all it takes is a pretty smile and the right words from the “right” man, and bam! Right back at it! I know a little about this myself.
Several months have passed since Donna and I started this writing. I am speechless at the turn of events. Just as I had thought, this friend decided to welcome this man back into her life.
I had many conversations and texts with her this last time. She had the Sheriff out at her house on numerous occasions, filed a restraining order, changed her phone number so he could no longer harass her. Then one day on Facebook, I see a post inquiring about getting a passport to go to Mexico. She was excited that she AND her husband were going to take a short vacation there. My head was spinning! You are going to leave the country with a man who almost killed you once, and then you married him; and now after he has threatened you yet again, you are going to leave the country?!!! What the hell?
I tried to call and text her several times and she would just text me back saying she was busy and would call me tomorrow. Tomorrow still hasn’t come yet. She has since decided to “unfriend” me on Facebook. I suppose it was because she didn’t like that I spoke the truth to her. For now all I can do is pray for her and ask God to protect her.
*I do not believe that an abuser no longer abuses. I firmly believe that no matter how many times a snake sheds its skin, it will always be a snake.
*Disclaimer: this viewpoint is solely the opinion of the writer.