Recently I was forced to take a break from Happiness Weekly, and I decided to write a post about what has been happening…
But first – I need to break my silence:
2/3 of women served with an AVO are the victim of domestic violence in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, according to Women’s Legal Services in NSW. And of the cases that go before the court, 40% still have the AVO in place against them, even though they were actually the victim of ongoing abuse. Of this figure, no one can tell me how many women are too scared to show up to court and how many are just too exhausted to continue the fight so “consent without admissions”.
Last year, I was one of those women. My abuser had me served with an AVO on his behalf. For six weeks after the court hearing, I felt completely alone and ashamed. But when this statistic was released along with an accompanying research paper, it changed my perspective and brought me relief – because it prove it’s not just something that happens to me.
For most people that statistic that 2/3 of women served with an AVO are actually the victim of domestic violence would be pretty disturbing. But when I first came across it, I felt comfort and relief. That statistic kept me going for the six months that I had an AVO against me. For those who don’t know, I’m talking about an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (AVO) which is also known as a restraining order.
Many know it as “harassment through the legal system” – somewhat ironic when I was served on the grounds of harassment – but it happens all over the world, mostly in divorce scenarios (rather than AVOs) – but I guess this is how it happens for people who are otherwise in no way tied to our abusers. If I had the right support available, and if more people had spoken about being served before it, then maybe it wouldn’t have happened … but it did. So I have boldly decided to own it and use it.
In being served with the AVO I was given a 360⁰ view of domestic violence. I could see the frustrations with our systems (and trust me, I felt them!), I understood why victims feel forced into silence and I also learned how the current AVO system enables further torment which leads to further abuse, homicides and suicides.
I also uncovered some myths attached to the stigma of the order – for example, I didn’t have to stay a certain distance away, because my conditions didn’t include contact clauses. So as long as I didn’t stalk, harass, assault, molest etc. my abuser, then it was ok. The thing was – I hadn’t done those things in the first place, but careless police work allowed for this to happen. The fact is, my abuser already had his story, he just needed me to play into it. The reason for that is – to a narcissist – life is a game. So this is a prime example of how the court system is now being used for harassment.
Today I’m talking about my beliefs as the victim, which are common with other victims in domestic violence situations. I’m exposing the gaps between these beliefs and what actually happens as a result. And I’m giving you the reality that I saw in the lessons I took away.
Today I’m talking about domestic violence, getting an AVO, becoming caught up in a world that wasn’t mine – and what I’m doing about it.
“He’s not like this all the time” – the shame game
Belief: Like so many women in domestic violence situations – I didn’t seek assistance until it was really out of control. In fact, instead of seeking intervention early, I was too busy trying to help “save” him from his misery. I was doing everything in my power to make him happy.
The gap: Let’s face it – I stuck around until I was served with an AVO, then I magically found my courage to leave my abusive partner. That courage was always in me, I just had a lot of excuses, blame and denial for not leaving that over-shadowed the reason to leave: to save myself!
The process of trying to make him happy was soul-destroying – it left me feeling anxious, ashamed, humiliated and hurt. But still I stayed with him – to the point that I didn’t want to leave.
For the average person, there should be a lot of shame in being served with an AVO – not many people would admit it or want to talk about it – so I’m going to talk about the shame associated with domestic violence. While I wouldn’t say receiving an AVO is something I’m particularly proud of, it’s something I now embrace because there are much bigger issues that need to be exposed.
Shame is the number one feeling victims of domestic violence suffer from that keeps them hidden and silenced. And although I was being abused in my relationship last year – I didn’t ask for help, because for most of the time, I didn’t know I was being abused. So I want to give you some insight into the shame I felt as I looked back at the abuse and thought:
“I didn’t know I was being abused as he continued to shamelessly cheat on me with his wife” – but I did know how I felt when I’d confront him in distress and he would shrug, ‘Yeah? So?’ – it was always ‘just’ me over-reacting and it was always my problem. Shame.
“I didn’t know I was being abused while he held me in place and spat in my face” – but I did know only moments later in my apartment, I was already shrugging it off ‘we’ve shared more bodily fluid than that before… it’s ok,’ I told myself to calm myself down from the shock and disgust. Shame.
“I didn’t know I was being abused while he grabbed me and stopped me getting out of his car” – but I did know I felt enough fear that I became so desperate at that time, that I jumped out while it was still moving just to get away from him. Only for him to run back to me like a super-hero, apologising profusely to me only moments later, and me falling straight back into his arms. Shame.
“I didn’t know I was being abused as I lay awake at night feeling violated following degrading sex on the living room floor” – but I did know his erectile dysfunction problem gave him license to dominate where, when and how we had sex – every single time… Shame.
“I didn’t know I was being abused when he held me up against the wall by my neck and threatened to hit me” – because all I could concentrate on at the time was how thankful I was that he regained his self-control and resisted. Shame.
“I didn’t know I was being abused as he walked past my parents and I, with a wheelie bag, at the same time I was leaving to fly interstate to my friend’s wedding” – but I did know we had broken up and he was demonstrating that he was carrying out his threats to follow me. When I got to the airport I was so anxious and so scared that I broke down at the check in – I waited to be last to get on the plane to ensure he didn’t get on. Shame.
“I didn’t know I was being abused as I stood before his car sobbing helplessly and he threatened to drive over me before edging into me several times” – but I did know, the man I once knew, would’ve leapt out of that car and said ‘Sair, I have to go but I’ll be back in an hour or two and we can talk about it then, ok? I love you.’ He would’ve kissed me on the forehead and given me a hug. It was impossible to accept the man who once adored me so much, was now threatening to kill me. Shame.
My abuser’s final words to me were: “I will say and do whatever it takes to take you down”.
I can’t even begin to explain how it makes you feel when the person you have loved unconditionally, who you did everything for exactly as they asked you to, literally stands before you and threatens to destroy you.
And what’s worse? I didn’t know I was being abused as he coerced me into participating in illegal activities, on his behalf, after his wife had allegedly threatened him at knife point – but I did know, as he reminded me, that I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened to him and I could’ve prevented it – at least I thought I knew. Shame.
What I did by doing as he asked was prevented myself from going to police earlier, because he had all the “evidence” he needed to demonstrate I was the one with the problem. It trapped me.
THIS IS ABUSE! THIS IS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!
Reality: Yup, shame on me for not seeing it! Or at least not seeing it earlier.
Initially I felt a lot of shame – which was exactly what my abuser wanted.
But who does that help? What is positive about feeling ashamed?
Shame only holds you back.
The reason I decided to talk about it is this: to expose my abuser, as tempting as that is, I help one or two other people maybe – if they happen to see this post. But to expose the abuse I suffered as loudly as I possibly can – I could help hundreds, thousands and even hundreds of thousands – maybe even millions – of people who are in domestic violence situations and don’t know it or aren’t currently seeking the help they need.
And my message for them is this: drop the shame and be your own hero – do what it takes to save yourself, recognise what’s going on and quit the game – because there is life beyond.
“He never used to be like this – he loved me” – the power of denial and cognitive dissonance
Belief: The denial and cognitive dissonance that people experience while in a domestic violence situation isn’t something someone outside it can comprehend – and it’s not up for judgement. Abusers go to extreme efforts to groom their targets for what is to come. It’s the effort that abusive people put into the grooming phase that inevitably makes them feel entitled to their targets and they become possessions to them. It’s the grooming phase that set me apart from my abuser. I didn’t go extra miles to groom him, it was very clearly the other way around. All the while, the target is completely unaware. Men are meant to charm the pant off women at the beginning of a new relationship, right? And it’s exciting!
Gap: The problem is when abuse sets in, it’s what the victim thinks to first, they remember “how it used to be” and this drives them to want to stay with their abuser, believing that they’re really different, when in fact – this is the reality, and the grooming was fake.
Abusers crawl into your skin, to the point that you actually feel like the same person – it’s like mirrors in a funhouse – you actually can’t see where they end and you begin. Meanwhile your soul is being sucked out of you. This makes it impossible for an empathetic person to be cruel to their abuser, at least not to the extent that the abuser has been cruel to their target.
Let me tell you how it was. In the beginning it was a love I’d never experienced. Our arguments were sickly-sweet: who would take the bin out and who should have the last bite of dinner – we were always looking out for each other. It was picture perfect – random people would stop us to get a photographs of us, trying to capture what we had. He showered me in gifts, paid attention to me in ways no one else had, read my blog start to finish, wrote loving whiteboard messages to me every day, in times of hardship, he was there for me, he drove my 11 hours in his luxury car to have job training, he always had time for me and he’d always listen. He would tell people how amazing I was – in front of me. He made me feel special. I was beaming all the time – and we were completely inseparable. It was too good to be true.
In the end, my abuser got off on three things: intimidating me, seeing me humiliated and his consistent personal challenge of always winning me back – no matter how bad it got. I know he got off on these three things because he would constantly and deliberately set up these scenarios which lead to these outcomes, it was manipulation and control to make them happen, and he demonstrated it over and over. It wasn’t long until it became a pattern. And it’s important to recognise that in order for this to become a pattern – I had to be there.
My abuser was overly nice to me almost as quickly as he become aggressive, which made the abuse easy to forgive and even easier to forget. Sometimes I was in so much shock I even questioned myself that it had actually happened. When someone abuses you and then they just brush it off like nothing happened, it makes it almost impossible to process and invites cognitive dissonance – because it causes self-doubt.
In the end, it wasn’t Jekyll and Hyde at all, it was like more two consistent opposite personalities always in existence with each other in the one body. He was both kind and evil – all the time.
So when I said earlier that I wasn’t aware of my abuse, you may have thought it wasn’t that bad – or I could possibly have low intelligence, or a disability – but the abuse I suffered covered the entire spectrum of Domestic Violence. It was abusive emotionally, mentally, sexually, physically, spiritually, academically and financially. And the reason for that was that I didn’t know the first thing about abuse or domestic violence – because this doesn’t happen to people I know – that wasn’t my world. And it definitely doesn’t happen to me!
Reality: When you’re being abused, it sounds strange, but it’s almost impossible to see. And it took four solid months away from my abuser before I realised how bad it was and I was sure I wouldn’t return. It was only then that I could see how brain-washed I was and how my words, reasons and excuses were actually his. But there’s a lesson in my situation – everyone thinks domestic violence is physical abuse (including police a lot of the time), but just because you’re not being beaten senseless doesn’t mean you’re not being abused by someone you love – and just because the police won’t act, doesn’t mean it wasn’t that bad or that you should doubt yourself and stay.
Did you know abusers test their abuse before they action it? All year my abuser was testing what he could do to force me into such distress I needed time away from work to recover. That time away had me lying in bed watching day fade into night – I couldn’t even watch the television there was so much fuzz in my head.
He knew exactly what he had to do to get that sense of power and almost entitlement over me. It’s all about control, but it doesn’t look that way when you’re in it. So I would answer his caring text messages and open the door for him at the end of the day and I would listen to him say: “I knew you’d take the day off, I’m sorry I upset you”. This is called “Trauma Bonding” – a tool commonly used by narcissists. Every reaction I had, was playing straight into it – until he knew exactly how to manipulate me into doing precisely what he wanted. This is what caused him to be so familiar with affecting my work, and made him feel that he could ultimately control my future. So the only person I have to blame for him having this overwhelming power and control over me – is me – because I gave him that power, like so many other victims do, and I had no idea that all I needed to do was quit the game.
The reason my abuser had such power over me and was able to abuse me the way he did – was because I enabled it. I let him in, I listened to his elaborate excuses, I took his calls, I read his text messages, I accepted his hand written notes, I accepted every excuse – every story – every lie.
I responded to everything – and I even defended him.
The fact is, I was almost as bad as him for exposing myself to his ongoing abuse time and time again. And it wasn’t worth it – forgiving myself for enabling the abuse and sticking around was almost impossible. It’s something I consciously worked on to become healthy again.
Although my abuser’s behaviour was deliberately subtle and manipulative and when I did see I was being abused I went straight into denial. An abuser will behave in a subtle manner, so their target won’t have any conscious awareness of what they are doing and their abuse can continue. Therefore, their target won’t seek help, they won’t leave and they won’t try to take action against them. This means their cycle of destruction can continue.
By the end of the relationship, my self-esteem was so badly destroyed from ongoing abuse that I had little regard for my life whatsoever. The bizarre thing was, until I was removed from my abuser, I wouldn’t have said that I was scared of him. I knew I walked on egg-shells, but I was so sure we could resolve it. I thought he was just feeling pressure from his pending divorce. That’s what I told myself – and that once it was done, he’d be back to how he was in the beginning. Just like many in domestic violence situations, I told myself a lot of stories that made me stay.
The scariest part of all? Although I spoke to friends about what was happening – reporting any of these events to police, didn’t even cross my mind. And I kept my abuse from family because I was convinced it would change and I didn’t want to change their opinions of him. Every story I told, every excuse, every reason – it all originated from my abuser.
Looking back, it was a silent torture and while it initially left me traumatised and waking up in the night screaming, living in constant fear – it’s what motivates me today. All I keep thinking is somewhere, out there, there’s someone, just like me – having the same experience, trapped in their relationship – and this is my one shot to open their eyes.
“He’s lying and I need to know the truth” – seeking closure enables abuse
Belief: People in domestic violence situations will suffer through the ongoing lies and manipulation produced by their abuser because at the time they can’t see the forest between the trees, and they crave the truth. While people point blame at victims of domestic violence, say it’s their decision to stay, they’ll just go back, they’ll work it out again etc. Look at all the people surrounding them and judging them. People in domestic violence situations need intervention – not because they’re weak and helpless – but because their abusers have taken all their control. What they don’t realise is it doesn’t always take police to intervene to become safe. It’s your life, you’re the main character, and what have you done to be your own hero?
By the end of the relationship, I thought I needed closure. I couldn’t accept the man I thought I knew didn’t exist. I’m not alone. In fact, majority of domestic violence victims unintentionally enable their abuse as they stick around just to be sure they are acting on the truth. They have such low self esteem from the abuse that they don’t trust their own judgement. Without realising it, while sticking around in the abuse with self-promises – “if he does it again, I’m leaving for good this time!” – they lose all faith in themselves. Then in the end, as people who are being abused stay for answers – “once I know the truth, I’ll leave!” – their self esteem and self trust continues to erode. And it gets to the point that when the truth keeps presenting itself, and what seems so obvious to the outside world, is impossible for the person in the situation to see, because they continue to doubt themselves.
Gap: Before long, as I started seeking closure, the relationship became like heroin – logically I knew it could kill me, but I couldn’t give up on the fantasy of who I thought he was.
Chasing closure in itself becomes an addiction. People who are being abused in domestic violence situations often believe that once they know the truth, that that it will be over and that is what they need to leave and move on with their life. This is also more reason abusers will be manipulative and deceptive and may even ramp it up, knowing this is what their target wants to enhance the abuse. Meanwhile it’s the abused person’s own self-talk, denial and cognitive dissonance at the time these revelations appear to them that is the greatest problem. And despite the abuse, I continued to enable my abuser to hurt me by chasing that closure – and I got served with an AVO in the process. Even though at the time I was served, I had left the relationship and was already seeing other people and trying to move on.
While I don’t expect you to read this without judgement and scepticism (because I know I would), and even though this isn’t about my story but about my lessons and how I plan to use them, let’s do some very basic profiling to establish the facts:
Me, I’m 30, single, no children. My parents are still together – happily married. I grew up with a silver spoon in the wealthier suburbs of Sydney – a picture-perfect kind of childhood. I left my serious boyfriend for my abuser, and it was my abuser who convinced me to move to a studio apartment on my own for more independence (isolation). He moved in with me almost immediately. I paid for everything. I worked for a charity. I spent my spare time blogging for Happiness Weekly to help others through adversity and on weekends I’d visit my parents, catch up with friends and spend my time with my pets.
My abuser, 45 years old, two teenagers and a wife (he’s been abusing for many, many years). He had a hard upbringing. His father was an alcoholic who abused him. Both his father and his grandfather spent time in jail for abuse. Following his father’s jail time, his parents had a bitter divorce which resulted in him ceasing communication with his mother for more than ten years. My abuser claimed he was “separated”. Eventually he moved to his own apartment, one level up. (Note: 80% of stalkers are men). He worked for a public transport company. He spent his spare time boxing and training obsessively to run faster, often boasting about his strength.
Reality: According to statistics, 73% of male abusers were abused as children.
So while domestic violence wasn’t my world – I knowingly dated into it.
It turns out my abuser was a narcissist – which explains the grandiosity in his threat that he could simply take an AVO out against me on a whim – no empathy and no conscience. It also means he never loved me, which actually brought me relief – because it made it easier to accept everything was fake. So aside from the inconvenience of losing his “source of supply” (or target), none of this would have affected him at all.
When I suggested to the police that they do a basic profiling before serving an AVO they laughed at me: “It’s just an AVO – it’s not that serious”. It scares me how desensitised police who issue these AVOs have become, because how will they keep people safe if they actually don’t care? The reality of the system at the moment is that it’s a process line – it’s just about checking boxes and then NEXT!
“The police will save me” – the belief that stops you proactively helping yourself
Belief: Like so many people in domestic violence situations, I relied heavily on the fact that police would protect me – no matter what. I believed the police would help me because I was the woman, and if you saw me standing next to my abuser, you too would raise an eyebrow. And without realising it, I somehow believed that as soon as he would turn violent they would almost magically appear for me. I never envisaged me being the person that would call for help – I was always relying on the fact a neighbour would hear me scream or cry or all the banging around and they would report it.
Gap: My abuser and I lived in an apartment block with paper-thin walls – you could hear everything. Well, just like many other domestic violence cases, the police never came to my rescue – and the neighbours never stepped in, probably initially because they didn’t want to get involved. When they heard it night after night, it probably became the norm to them.
No one really wants to intervene in domestic violence. What many don’t understand is that while people are abusive in domestic violence situations, they are abusing targets w ho they have groomed and they know they have control over them because they’ve tested it. But much of the time to the outside world these abusers want to appear in control and often manipulate the situation to appear to be their target’s victim. Exhibit A.
One morning my abuser was yelling at me, hurling abuse, at 3am as he stood over his breakfast I’d prepared for him because the proportion size was “too much” and I had given him one less vitamin than he wanted. I stood there with a photo of his breakfast that he’d poured a previous morning “It’s the same!” I tried to tell him, comparing the portion sizes. His yelling would’ve woken Kuwait and still no one came. No one just knocked on the door to let me know they were there. But maybe that was lucky, because the way my abuser manipulated, I can assure you if you did come, he would have had you upset at me over the Crunchy Nut cornflakes as well! Did I leave? No, because I honestly believed it was my fault and by the end, he had me all but counting the tiny flecks of Crunchy Nut cereal in his bowl each morning. So not only did I not leave, but I altered the way I did things to try to adjust the outcome.
When my abuser began to overtly threaten my wellbeing – which means it had to get pretty bad for me to grow that conscious awareness of it – I went to the police to seek advice. By this stage I had been abused for a solid year and I was starting to realise it. When I didn’t want to make a statement to get an AVO against him on the spot they said there was nothing they could do – but they promised to leave a 24-hour window so I could think about it. In the meantime they called him as I had asked them to, to ask him to cease threats and contact.
The very next day, his estranged wife – who I had nothing to do with – went to the police to seek an AVO against me. What an uncanny coincidence! I contacted the police back and asked to proceed immediately and they said “It’s too late, we’ve heard his side of the story – we’re not taking action against him”. I had no doubt my abuser was convincing, they didn’t need to tell me – I’d stuck with his abuse for an entire year – he was very convincing! The frustration was overwhelming because at this point I knew he’d successfully get an AVO against me, so my friends and I prepared ourselves for what was to come and just hoped the system wouldn’t allow it to happen.
Expert in narcissistic abuse, Kim Saeed from Let Me Reach, explains the scenario perfectly in her post The narcissist, the ex and the new girlfriend – the art of triangulation. What if my abuser’s wife was successful in her quest? My abuser would’ve succeeded in separating us so he could continue abusing both of us and we would’ve remained completely oblivious. As for me being punished – I was the most recently groomed and as I was leaving the relationship anyway, I guess he made the decision that I was the less important source of supply – so he discarded me. If she was successful in getting an AVO against me, he would’ve just shrugged with the same “told you she was crazy” story.
Reality: When I followed up with the police about my abuser continuing to harass me only three days after the court hearing. He had emailled me to wish me happy birthday. Their response was: “It’s not a crime to wish you happy birthday”. The fact was, I went to the police on three separate occasions before I was served on my abuser’s behalf by the same police station I went to for help. The same police station had already contacted him twice to tell him to cease contact and stop the threats, they didn’t contact me once. And I look back at my AVO and shake my head. So here are the facts direct from my “non-urgent” AVO:
- I lifted my ex-boyfriend’s windscreen wiper blades – even though at the time he alleged I did it, I was out to dinner with my parents in a restaurant
- I questioned if he was back with his “ex wife” – who he never actually left (though he did file for divorce on her birthday – I know for sure because he had me check signatures and drop it in to the lawyer on his behalf)
- I used his intercom to contact him
- And he claimed I’d been harassing him for two months – even though I had text messages on my phone clearly showing we were in a loving relationship up until only a few weeks before. And it was far from one-sided!
OK, I can understand an urgent AVO – but if an AVO is “non-urgent”, why does it exist? Shouldn’t there just be an AVO or an urgent AVO? According to the serving police station, their evidence wasn’t substantial or serious enough to make it an “urgent” AVO. But if it’s not serious, or substantial, then why would an AVO be put in place?
What concerned me most was the fact that the police had contacted my abuser twice and he didn’t follow their instruction. This contributes to my concern that an AVO wouldn’t protect me from much when it came to him. In fact, I believe even if I had taken out an AVO against my abuser it would have protected me as much as taking a toothpick in to battle! People who remain in domestic violence situations have this fear. NOTHING will protect them. So when police won’t help – or that piece of paper fails – what will you do?
So as the abuse worsens, not knowing how to get help when you need it can be extremely detrimental. Because despite all his threats and the abuse which was quickly becoming more regular, more physical and more overtly obvious – I didn’t want to hurt or punish him – so I wouldn’t leave a statement. I actually said “I don’t want to take action, I just want his threats to stop!” And I wanted something on their records to show what was happening. Apparently police can’t record that detail, so I didn’t go ahead. I’m not the first person to cover for their abuser even when I knew it was really bad, and imagine what that did to my self-esteem, my self-worth and my self-trust – knowing I was being abused enough to need intervention but not being able to let go enough to follow through and get the help I needed.
Scarier still, once the relationship was over – I was seeing someone else – he told me to return a lovelock: a padlock with our names on it or something would happen to me. “Think carefully,” he wrote. Meanwhile the police shrugged again – “Not a threat of violence”. So when I didn’t do as my abuser wanted, (and imagine how it would have appeared if I did?) my abuser who was determined to set me up, carried out his threat and had me served with an AVO by abusing me and provoking me until I did react – by lifting his wiper blades. How that could be manipulated into a threat of violence is actually beyond me. My abuser was particularly convincing.
Something I have learned from Domestic Violence groups recently – is that people who take out AVOs, that need them, don’t threaten the person allegedly abusing them with it. Because if they need an AVO, then they would be scared that the person will retaliate if they were to do something – so taking action against them wouldn’t be a threat someone who needs an AVO would make. Someone who wants an AVO would make this threat. And there’s your distinction. The fact that even the delivery of his threat of the AVO changes from his wife wanting it, to then suddenly him needing it – this also suggests it was used as abuse rather than necessary action for protection.
When I told the police that my abuser was threatening to get an AVO against me, they shrugged: “So? It’s just a piece of paper” – they couldn’t understand the concept. Why would someone threaten that? The same police station made no attempt to contact me to say there was a complaint of harassment despite their records – and I know they had my details at the time. In fact, even the investigating police officer was more concerned with saving face with the police ombudsman than in changing systems to ensure a manipulated version of events won’t be taken in the future. As long as whatever was said and “proved” checked boxes, the AVO is warranted.
My introduction to trying to get help from the police was like banging my head against a brick wall. In fact, they admitted a lot of the “evidence” was taken at face-value. For example, in following up with me about my complaint for police negligence it was revealed that I allegedly left nine voicemail messages for my abuser, and they read out the times I allegedly left them. First, my abuser didn’t have your typical voicemail message: it was a second of air and then went straight to the beep. So if I did then it certainly wasn’t to hear his voice! Second, my abuser never checked voicemails when they were left, which I knew. So why would I leave a voicemail message? And finally, the times he claimed I left them, I was in the garage lifting his wiperblades on his car, where there was no reception. Irony. So I challenged the police and asked if they listened to even one of the voicemail messages. No. And I strongly doubt the phone records could have supported it with these facts, which means they obviously hadn’t checked the phone records. The police also admitted they hadn’t determined the length of time my “harassment” had been going for, and just accepted his version of events – which I disproved this. It makes me wonder if they kept a record of the threat of the AVO, and if they did, why this wasn’t checked and why I wasn’t contacted.
I asked all the right questions, and as far as I could see, I did the right things to try to protect myself. And I don’t lie. I wasn’t going to say he verbally threatened to kill me, when he didn’t. Still no one would help me. But while I did everything I thought I could have, I didn’t move out of the apartment block soon enough and multiple reasons and excuses kept me there.
I tried to get support before I was served on my abusers behalf, but the police couldn’t suggest any support groups (which turns out they could but they didn’t – and with all due respect, who are they to filter and determine who gets access support?). I went to a psychologist for assistance from the middle of last year and they couldn’t suggest anything either. Support groups only appeared to exist for inpatients, people in shelters or they were designed for the low-socioeconomic stereotype.
I broke my lease one month before it was due to expire, the day I was served with the AVO and moved out the day after the court hearing.
At the time, I asked all the right questions. For an issue where there are heaps of organisations dedicated to the cause and companies pouring money into advertising for it, it’s bizarre that no body knows where people can go to get practical support! So I decided to create my own. I got qualified, and I opened my company.
“I’ll give him what he wants so he goes away” – the dangers in giving up
Belief: Often people in domestic violence situations will continue attempting to please their abuser, and when they finally do – even for a moment – they reach a state of euphoria because it’s almost impossible. This is addictive in itself. Being addicted to an abuser also creates shame, particularly as they logically know they are being abused and still continue trying to please them. Part of the reason someone in a domestic violence situation may stay and continue like this is because of how they were groomed in the beginning – and their abuser “isn’t horrible all the time”. Unfortunately it also means people who have been in domestic violence situations let down their guard quickly once they are out of the situation, because we start thinking if they just have what they want then they’ll leave us alone. Victims become exhausted and get to the point where they give up and start giving into their abuser all the time so they leave them alone – the only problem is: abusers don’t function like that.
Gap: So when I was served with an AVO on the grounds of harassment I decided if I just gave it to him, he’d leave me alone – because he’d have what he wanted, right? Fighting it wasn’t an option for three reasons: it was expensive, it I won – he’d be back or there would be repercussions and I refused to fight for him anymore. I have a belief that what’s worth the prize is always worth the fight: the only thing worth the fight at the time was my freedom. And even looking back, my freedom was worth the consequence. So I decided to “consent without admissions”. In fact, I even hired a lawyer to say it for me, so he wouldn’t have the satisfaction of hearing me say it.
For six months following the court hearing, I didn’t leave my new apartment because I was so terrified that he would set me up again. Fear following domestic violence is the most common and complex emotion to overcome. And I had reason to be scared because separation abuse set in shortly after I moved into my new apartment – only days after the court hearing. I’d never heard of it before – but this form of abuse can be fatal – either through homicides, suicides or both. So here’s how it looked for me:
Just three days after my abuser had me in court, consenting without admissions, he wrote me an email to wish me happy birthday – which I mentioned – the police shrugged, “it’s not a crime to wish someone happy birthday”. I have spoken to several people who took AVOs out against their abusers and they would only wish them a swift decent to hell that soon after. Needless to say, having spent around $10,000 to get clear and safe from him: I didn’t respond.
When I didn’t directly react to my abuser’s birthday message, his employer contacted me (the owner of the company I used to work for, which is how my abuser and I met in the first place) in an attempt to bring my honesty into question. Interestingly, the same man said how honest and hard-working I was as I left his company, and here he was… just suddenly changed his mind? Just another coincidence?
When I didn’t respond to that either, my abuser went to a lot of trouble to comment on a Happiness Weekly post about escaping a controlling person, which I never approved. He used his real name, revealing commitment and intent:
“The exact stuff that you write is all about the exact person you are and have become. You just proved that YOU manipulate people. And I ask you, why was the AVO given to YOU? I didn’t give to you, you got it yourself! Deservingly, and in person by the Police. The Police make the descission [sic] if an AVO is valid. You are not a psychologist or have a qualification in this stuff that you write. Please delete me from Happiness Weekly as I don’t want any blogs sent to me ever!”
I’ll let you decide if that is a message from a domestic violence victim or not. Keep in mind, this was received within the week I was served on his behalf with an AVO and to leave a comment on a blog isn’t as simple as flicking an email to someone – you need to find the right blog platform, set up a profile, find the blog, and then leave the comment.
Two things stood out to me:
First, if I “deserved” the AVO, why was he going to such extreme lengths to contact me to tell me? Happy birthday one day and then abuse the next? Had I “deserved” the AVO, his behaviour would’ve reflected mine – doing everything he could to shut down, shut off and ensure his safety.
Second, he demanded I unsubscribe him from my blog – so what he’s saying is he felt strongly enough that he had to leave comment, and he’s intelligent enough to post it, but it didn’t occur to him to just type “unsubscribe” into a Google search? Seriously?
I complained again that their “protected person” was still contacting me after I’d asked for him not to on several occasions. At this point the police contacted him for the third time to ask him to cease contact with me completely – but not before they first asked me to produce his phone number for them so they could call as soon as we hung up.
My abuser then attempted to retract his comment, and in doing so revealed the email address linked to the profile he created. I searched it on Facebook. A fake profile appeared. Fake name. No image.
Terrified, knowing he was doing it to find me in my new location, I returned to the police only to be told I was on a “revenge mission”.
At this point – as the systems continued to allow him to abuse me, my self-esteem at an all-time low and I had total disregard for my life with limited support – I attempted suicide.
Reality: What’s scary – I felt my most rational at the time.
My thought processes were clear and if I lived everything the same way again, I can say with near certainty that I think it would drive me to that same point again because the only way I thought that I could stop it from continuing was to remove myself completely – and permanently.
In surviving that suicide attempt, I said to myself “Sair, what are you going to do?”
I answered: “I’m going to make sure this never happens to anyone else.”
“No one will believe me” – the decision to talk
Belief: Abusive people lie and manipulate, which is linked to the psychological makeup of narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths – and there’s not a lot of difference between those three types of people. Anyone who can abuse someone, knowingly, intentionally and continually lacks empathy and conscience can generally be linked to one or several of these labels.
Initially, I didn’t think anyone would believe my story. Probably because of the police response I received. That stopped me from talking about it. I walked around with my head down and my confidence sucked out of me – the smallest clothes size you could get caused by the stress, with fears of anorexic setting in. My self esteem sat at zero. I felt like a shell. There was nothing left.
Gap: Three months after I was served with the AVO I went out for the first time to my friend’s 30th birthday. It was the first time I’d been to the city in months and the only reason I went was that I was assured security would be there – and they were.
Zac, a very good looking and charming man, approached me – and in one breath, he said:
“Hello there, I know you’re not here to meet anyone because you’re avoiding eye contact with everyone in the room, but I couldn’t help but notice that you’re drinking red wine and that’s incredibly sophisticated of you – in fact, it’s my drink of choice as well – and don’t worry I’m not hitting on you, I’m gay – my name is Zac”.
No introductions – I immediately told him my ex-boyfriend had an AVO in place against me and that I didn’t want to meet anyone. Zac was the first stranger I told.
His reaction, was my turning point.
Reality: Interestingly, not one person I have told my story to has disbelieved me – even though I was the one served with the AVO.
So when Zac heard what I said, he looked me up and down and laughed.
He thought I was joking.
When I told him I was serious, he kept laughing because: “It’s just so ridiculous – look at you!”
That made me laugh.
From that night on, I owned the AVO and the abuse that happened to me.
The moment when we make that powerful decision that we’re going to own something that we’re ashamed of, we stand taller, more confidence and become a force to be reckoned with!
“I’m proud of myself today” – allowing the phoenix to rise
Belief: I didn’t do everything right. I made a stack of mistakes. I have this permanent blotch on my record that will forever tie me to my abuser, just as he wanted. It’s not fair! It sucks! But what happens next is up to me. So I told myself: “OK, that’s happened – and it’s not what happens to us, it’s what we do next and what we do with what’s happened to us that matters” – that thought opened me to self-forgiveness, so long as I could make something positive and productive come of the situation.
Gap: In the eyes of the police and the law, their intervention was a success, because I stopped “harassing” my abuser. But even if it had happened exactly as he said and the AVO was warranted, I don’t believe it was successful. Not in the current system as it stands. Because “the protected person” came back, which is what happens with AVOs to drive police to the point of frustration. It’s precisely this behaviour that invites the cycle of abuse to continue. Could you imagine working your butt off to help someone only to see them walk straight back into the abuse? That’s what our police see every day. People will return to abusive partners for their own reasons: maybe they’re duped again, maybe the threats get bigger, and it’s so easy to judge when your outside it. But what if AVOs included no contact clauses in the conditions, for both parties, every time. Where there is property and children involved, they need to talk through lawyers. I’m talking about a complete intervention that STOPS the abuse and the cycle. It’s not up to me … I’m just putting it out there.
Reality: Just like so many others before me, I could’ve returned as well – BUT I DIDN’T!
And I’m so freakin’ proud of myself because that’s where I go “This AVO didn’t protect anyone from anything – but I did! I quit that freakin’ game and I protected myself!” The truth is: the AVO wasn’t successful, but I was.
I left the apartment (and no one moves overnight unless they’re already looking – just sayin’), I worked out how to do NO CONTACT (big shout out to the talented Kim Saeed from Let Me Reach for helping me!) and I surrounded myself with people who supported me unconditionally and who shed tears watching me turn things around (big shout out to my girls Lara and Kat!).
Because I’m the one who had the strength to walk away, slam that door and not look back. I’m the one who grew strength to tell my story. I’m the one who gained more friends, more confidence and had ONE LESS LOSER! I’m the one who maintained NO CONTACT – and now I’m determined to help others. Because if I can do it – then I know others can too.
And I’m not saying it’s easy. This has probably been one of my greatest challenges in my life so far – but I can confidently say: it was worth the AVO to get to where I am today – clear of my abuser.
“How can I get the most out of this?” – picking up the pieces
Belief: I now look back – and the police were right – it was “just a piece of paper”. Although that blotch exists on my record insinuating I’m a hazard to society, fortunately, it didn’t affect me at all.
Gap: My abuser’s intent for the AVO was punishment not protection. He did it to try to silence, trap and further control me. One of Sydney’s top lawyers told me it was done to gain “the ultimate control”. And that’s ok, because the ultimate control came with a time limit.
That “piece of paper” was intended to cause damage.
But it didn’t – not just because I took the right steps not to let it, but because the people in my life haven’t allowed it to affect their opinion and judgement of me – and I have so much support in what I’m doing now.
Reality: That “piece of paper” stops me from repeating my mistakes – believing, trusting, forgiving unconditionally and returning to my abuser. It was the “evidence” for closure that I needed. That “piece of paper” gave me this 360⁰ insight into domestic violence that not many people see and that I have tried to give some insight into it today. That “piece of paper” became my Diploma in Surviving Narcissistic Abuse.
What my abuser didn’t count on – was for me to use it for something positive. It’s that “piece of paper” that motivates me to want to talk about my story on international stages, and my qualifications will enable me to help people all over the world.
That fact is, I’m not the first person to have an AVO served against me as part of my abuse – and I won’t be the last. Perhaps previous victims of this have become so wrapped up in shame and guilt that instead of talking about it, they wanted it to go away. Or maybe they went back. Or maybe it wasn’t a big deal to them and it’s just a big deal to me! So who did they help in staying silent? If someone had spoken about this as boldly as I am now, and if I had known how easy the system was to manipulate, maybe my story would be different?
So OWN IT! Talk about it. Be your own hero and take the steps to prove it!
“Here’s what I’m going to do” – introducing Relationship Free
Belief: Elizabeth Bank’s character in Walk of Shame says: “I’m not ashamed – not ashamed! And I don’t care what people think anymore, because … it is exhausting!” That’s how I feel.
My 2013 looked like this: a year of abuse and torment, served with an AVO and topped off with a suicide attempt.
I’m determined to turn that around!
Reality: So, I owned it.
I stepped out of myself, I left my ego behind and I got to work to help others recover from relationship traumas so this wouldn’t happen to them.
Relationship Free was born!
Relationship Free is my latest venture. It is forward thinking, forward focused and forward moving in all our approaches to relationship issues. Everything we do is designed for individuals not stereotypes. It has a strong life coaching foundation and it draws experts in specific fields from across the globe, who offer one-on-one life coaching, to one place where people can find the support, help and assistance they need from the comfort of their safe haven. All coaches appearing on the Relationship Free website are wounded healers (meaning we survived what we now specialise in to help people) and each of us partners with our clients work to build self-esteem, self-worth, self-trust and self-empowerment – all the things I lost through my abuse.
We help people to develop self-compassion to enable self-forgiveness, and ultimately we transform lives!
Relationship Free experts eliminate shame and fear of judgement with our main concern being “What can we do now?” Because no matter how complicated the situation, how hopeless it seems, how trapped you feel or how addicted you are to an abusive person – the journey beyond starts with you and it can start immediately!
The website, due to go live in November, will include a calendar of events, programs for purchase, resources, forums and heaps more!
So here’s what I’ve been doing!
Since I got served with the AVO:
- I moved out of my apartment and into my “Safe Haven” sanctuary
- I single-handedly transformed my whole entire life: my thought process, my friends, the way I dress, even what I eat! Everything changed.
- I reconnected with friends and family who I wasn’t allowed to associate with last year
- I educated myself as much as I could to enable me to help myself and others – I completing three courses and enrolling in a fourth, while completing my Certificate IV in Life Coaching, starting up Relationship Free and working full time (plus I got a promotion!)
- I regained my confidence, self-trust, self-worth and I forgave myself
- I contacted several Members of Parliament (MPs) with my story and evidence to ask for amendments to our laws. Concerned, they assisted me in following up with the Attorney General
- I contacted the Attorney General – directly (several times) and via my MP, with a call to have the procedures reviewed and the law addressed
- I contacted the police ombudsman to try to adjust procedures. Instead I found out more about the system and my serving police station has become a great supporter of my work. I look forward to working with the police in the future as we share the common goal to stop domestic violence.
- I put together a business plan for Relationship Free
- I designed programs to assist others recovering from domestic violence and narcissistic abuse
- I sourced local venues to host various support groups and events for people suffering from relationship trauma
- I gathered content and worked with designers for my new website which goes live in November
- I had the Relationship Free logo designed
- I connected with various experts around the globe to represent Relationship Free and offer the best assistance possible to people who would benefit
- I attended seminars to grow my knowledge and give me some ideas for Relationship Free
- I reviewed Happiness Weekly because my abuser is still subscribed … twice … and I decided I’m ok with that
- I wrote my story to educate others of the dangers of a relationship with domestic violence and to show how it happens and why people don’t leave … and I’m going to sell it!
- I spoke to lawyers, solicitors and barristers about how I – and others – can stay safe with the current systems as they are
- I created a Facebook page called “Served with a false AVO or restraining order – harassment through the court” – and started providing emotional support to people who have been falsely served with an AVO
- I finished the six-month AVO period without a breach
And I married myself. While I was sinking to the bottom of the ocean in agony, drowning in fear, shame and guilt, I got down on one knee, and I said to myself: “Sarah, I will never leave you!”
It was at that moment that I made a full commitment to myself – and I realised I would never be abused again. Because until you are fully committed to yourself, you can’t be your own hero and save yourself. Making that commitment is the most powerful thing I have ever done. And the bottom line is, until you commit to yourself: you can’t live a full, happy life.
Today I’m launching the Relationship Free Facebook page so I can start building a supportive community to help others.
That’s just in six months.
Imagine how much of this list I would have completed and achieved if I didn’t own the fact that I was served with an AVO. If I just brushed it under the carpet and got on with life.
And imagine how much I will achieve by the end of this year because I have owned it!
“The fear won’t stop me” – setting my own barriers
If my abuser turns up to a Relationship Free event, there’s nothing police can do, and my initial reaction was to abort Relationship Free.
Then it hit me: I feel unsafe every single day of my life – whether I’m starting this business and my details and whereabouts are public or not. Despite going to great lengths and great expense to ensure my security, I still feel unsafe. My abuser is determined – if he wasn’t, I wouldn’t feel the need to go to the lengths I have to keep myself away and safe – but it also means, he would track me down if I started Relationship Free or not.
Besides, there’s other options. I can always hire security!
Because I refuse to live in a bubble and put my head in the sand while other people continue to be abused. Instead I will use my situation as a platform to help others. My mission in creating Relationship Free is this: whatever my limitations, I’ll find it, fix it and share it. I will not be forced to feel trapped, guilty, ashamed or humiliated.
As I was recovering, and continue that journey, I promised myself I’d never accept anything unacceptable again and I would use my new freedom to live my best life. So far, I haven’t let myself down!
How you can support Relationship Free?
If you would like to support Relationship Free, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org. There are many ways people can help:
- Show your support: tell your friends about it, like the Facebook page
- Provide a physical space for Relationship Free to host support groups
- Invite me to speak and share my story
- Partner with Relationship Free
- Invest in Relationship Free so I can make this a full-time focus
- Use Relationship Free services, programs and come to our events
I want to thank White Ribbon for being an outstanding support, helping me find the contacts I needed and encouraging me to share my story. I’d also like to extend my compassion to Rachelle Yeo’s family and friends – and I want to thank you for being such amazing and inspirational people. Your work helps people like me to talk about what happened.
Best wishes and thank you everyone who reads this, for letting me share my story,
Want to know more about Relationship Free? Watch the video!
I’m tired of people not understanding what it’s like for me.
It took all my strength to get away and I still suffer so much.
Every single day.
I wake up every morning and my first thought is: “Am I alive?”
I used to bounce out of bed and look out the window to see if it’s sunny.
I talk to myself in the mirror as I get ready for work.
I go over what happened to me. Over and over. Until I’m exhausted.
Sometimes I don’t make it to work.
I cry too much to do my make up.
Or I can’t make the journey, because I’m too scared.
On the mornings I force myself out the front door, I have a ritual:
Check all my locks. Like I have obsessive compulsive disorder.
I don’t have obsessive compulsive disorder … at least I didn’t before…
I fidget for my keys until they’re clutched tightly in my hand.
I have to be completely alert when I walk – I can’t be distracted or caught off guard.
I clutch my phone tightly to my chest the entire journey to work.
My head down, trying not to be seen. I wish I was invisible.
My phone is filled with Panic Apps.
And I ask myself…
What if I need to use one?
Would anyone even help me?
Will I get to it in time?
What if he smashes my phone again?…
I walk the roads with the most CCTV cameras.
A lawyer friend came over and showed me the best path to take, shortly after I left him.
It was the best gift anyone has ever given me.
I don’t deviate off track.
And even though I know the cameras are there, I watch my back.
I turn to look behind me several times on a straight 1km stretch of road.
That’s less than it was. I guess I’m getting better.
Can you imagine what it’s like…
To breathe a sigh of relief that you made it to your destination alive? Every.Single.Time.
To know that once the door closes, that’s it.
The rest of your time is spent mustering up the courage before you have to walk through it again.
Imagine being too scared to leave your home.
To not leave your office unless someone is accompanying you – even just for coffee.
It didn’t used to be like that.
As you question if you really need groceries this week, because you don’t want to risk seeing him.
Looking at strangers and wondering if they’re a Private Investigator working for him.
A series of lies in hand.
I remember how he operates…
Imagine doing it alone. Imagine not having help.
Imagine a world where no one understands.
That’s my world.
Do you know what it’s like…
To have to leave work during daylight hours so you can see far enough in front and behind you, so you can run if you have to?
He’d catch you anyway – he runs marathons.
To know he’s looking for you online. He was on your LinkedIn the other day.
Is he just tormenting me again?
Would he really try to find me? What would he do if he saw me?
I know one thing … it’s only a matter of time until the next thing happens…
And then I get told I’m too thin.
I look frail and weak.
My weight melted off me from stress.
I can’t regain it.
I buy groceries like I’m feeding an army.
I strain my arms carrying it to the Safe Haven – what I call my new place.
Most of it is stale by the time I get to eating it.
I don’t have much of an appetite anyway.
Food seems to be so unimportant now. I used love food.
I can’t imagine a single day without this.
Will I date again? Will I trust again?
Everything I wanted seems so far away.
So, before you judge a victim of domestic violence…
Ask yourself: “Are they really receiving ‘special privileges’ when their life is like this?”
It’s not up to you to judge someone else’s survival.
Having trouble understanding your cheating partner? Have you become the ex-wife left without explanation for another woman or discovered yourself “the other woman” with a series of excuses as to why he can’t truly leave his wife? Does it happen that he is always “nearly leaving” his new girlfriend, or his wife is a “crazy psychopath”? If any of this rings true, read this outstanding blog by the exceptionally talented Kim Saeed for some great insight into what a narcissist partner is really playing at! Thanks, Kim!
Originally posted on Let Me Reach with Kim Saeed:
Of the most common searches that lead people to Let Me Reach, a large percentage consists of female readers wondering about the male Narcissist’s Ex-wife or his new girlfriend.
In other words, the new girlfriend is worried about the Ex and the Ex is worried about the new girlfriend. Why? Because Narcissists are cheating slime balls, and the Ex and the new girlfriend have every right to be concerned. And no, that doesn’t make them crazy, as the Narcissist loves to suggest…
It’s not enough that most Narcissists are porn addicts and are constantly busted for surfing online dating sites, but they keep their Ex and the new girlfriend perpetually enmeshed in a crazy love triangle, often promising both of them that he’s on the verge of leaving the other.
The typical low down:
The narc-hole husband gets tired of the chains of matrimony and moves out, leaving his…
View original 909 more words
Nothing is ever what it seems but everything is exactly what it is. B. Banzai
Today I want to tell you about my experience with men. You may think at first I’ve just had really bad luck … but this is a pattern. So am I just unlucky or do I really just “know how to pick ‘em”? And either way, is what I see acceptable?
I’m flinging open the doors for what it is like to date in the modern world, and why so many women feel like they’re trapped on the set of The Hunger Games as they enter this scene: they don’t want to be there, but if they’re not, the chances of the happily ever after are at zero.
Before I begin, you should know something about me: when meeting men, I always make it clear that I’m not the type to sleep around. That’s not a challenge – I’m just not interested in becoming that type – and if that’s what they’re after then they shouldn’t waste their time. I’m not saying all men are like this. I’m also not saying that women can’t be like this. I’m saying I’m firm in my values and the fact that there are predators out there trying to break down those boundaries makes me feel disgusted. But this may also influence my story today because I’m on such high alert for these signs and I won’t be used.
I want to share a story with you that happened to me recently. As you know, I’ve been offline for a couple of months and the reason was I was deciding my way forward as I recovered from domestic violence and narcissistic abuse which wrapped up with a narcissistic smear campaign.
During my time out I was exceptionally conservative when it came to dating and spending time with people in general. In fact, I was completely off the market. I was off all social media, off dating sites and I didn’t go out … except for with work colleagues. I didn’t trust anyone. Not my family. Not my friends. Not the postman. No one.
Anyway, one day I felt ready.
It was the first time I’d felt really ready to date again since my destructive experience last year where I was constantly lied to, the lies were then manipulated if I called my abuser on it, I then got abused for not accepting it, then there was more manipulation – he would tell me it wasn’t as I said, thought or felt, then I was lied to again, and further manipulation and I was hit down when I didn’t accept it, and hit down, and hit down again. This kept cycling in my life until my abuser had actually exhausted all fight power from me. So dabbling back into the dating scene was a really big thing for me, I just wanted to buy the ticket in the lotto and to have the chance to meet the man who I was meant to be with. This is my experience…
After a bit of consideration I decided Internet dating would be safest for me. I could get to know someone properly first that way. I eventually hit up a dating site that is the latest craze among people my age – mostly professionals – here in Sydney. Although nervous, I went ahead with caution.
I started chatting to this guy – we’ll call him Alex – and he seemed to tick some boxes. He owns his own real estate company. He drives a BMW. He lives in a luxury apartment nearby. He’s successful. He’s charming. He’s good looking.
I told him a bit about my experience last year and my general business plans to keep people not only informed, but safe, from the abuse I suffered. I also told him I’m talking to politicians to have our laws adjusted to ensure “protection” is not manipulated and used as “punishment” for victims.
Alex and I spoke for three nights and he seemed like a great guy. Eventually, on the third night, Alex complained that his fingers were “blistered from typing” to me and he wanted my phone number. Cute. Right? We were getting on well, and I know how to block people from my life since my experience, so I thought “OK … I’ll give it to him”. At that point, I invited him to call me – as his fingers were blistered from typing. That was the point, right?
He didn’t call. In fact, he said he couldn’t call because he had no credit on his phone.
Instead, he started texting me.
The conversation continued and was perfectly amicable – not flirtatious – just chat.
He mentioned that he had a dog. And he rustled up a photo of this gorgeous black dog. It wasn’t your average iPhone picture, it looked almost professional. It was also a date-stamped screenshot – taken in October – who knows what year. This raised suspicion for me, because as a pet owner, I have a million photos of my dog … and most pet owners would show a recent photo of their pet. In fact, if the pet lived with them, they would show a photo of it at that moment, sleeping or doing whatever it was doing just to show it off.
Despite this little feeling inside telling me it wasn’t right, I get a bit excited because I love dogs!
He starts talking about how he loves his dog. And I tell him I have two dogs.
At this moment another image comes through.
It wasn’t part of our conversation or as though our conversation was heading in that direction – it just came out of nowhere. It was a photo of him in his budgie smugglers. You know, the small Speedo swimsuit type things for men? That’s what he was wearing. And it was a selfie.
He proceeded to ask me if I was his type.
At first I sent an awkward face. I literally didn’t know what to say…
And then I responded: “No … unfortunately my type wouldn’t take his clothes off to take a selfie … sorry”.
He responded. Three texts:
“It’s old but all good”
“Good luck in your search then”
“Thanks for the text chat it was fun”
There was a silence. The end – right? I sat in some kind of shock. The nice guy I was getting to know … wasn’t at all as he had appeared.
At that point, he tried to call.
I ignored it.
When he didn’t get through … he text me a frowning face and asked me to call him back.
I replied: “I thought you were out of credit? No – that’s ok – I’m going to call it a night” *smiley face*
That would be all there is, right? What could he possibly have left to say?
Then I received this:
“You are a little strange but ok. It’s one pic big deal”
To which I replied this:
“I’m not sure what bothers me more now:
- The picture
- The lie about credit in your phone
- The attempt to manipulate this into my problem.
And at that point – I blocked him.
Thankfully, Alex has made no attempt to contact me since.
On a very, very minor scale, that disturbing exchange was almost a replica of the abuse I had been through just the year before:
- He put me in a situation I didn’t choose or want to be in. I didn’t want to see that photo. I had no interest in seeing him like that.
- Then he lied to me … or maybe not? Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say he recharged his phone – though it seems odd someone so successful would have a phone with credit.
- And once caught out, and I’d changed my mind and I thought we were amicably separating, he manipulated it into my problem.
I haven’t attempted to date since. It’s too dangerous.
Here’s what I’ve learned from dating the modern man though: No one can save you. No one can force you to hold your boundaries or knock them down. But you can save yourself. If you’re educated enough to know what to look for and to know what you don’t want or what you will not tolerate, you will be in a position where you can protect yourself.
To conclude, if you have time to do some further reading, I want to point you in the direction of this blog post – Dear #notallmen by Lauren Ingram – and think about her very powerful message. Well done, Lauren.
How do you ensure your safety when dating?
Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come. Robert H. Schuller
Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success. Napoleon Hill
They say that the universe always provides for us – ask for patience, and you’re likely to find a line at the bank or you could just test yourself and head to the post office during your lunch break. Imagine the frustration you would encounter if every time you looked for patience you got tested in some way. Patience is a skill, that’s why often we hear the term to “practise patience” – we can actually practise it and strengthen our ability to be more patient in all circumstances! This week Happiness Weekly gives you some tips on how!
Know your triggers
If you know what makes you feel impatient, you can avoid it when you are already feeling irritable, but you can also use it to challenge yourself when feeling calm to strengthen your patience in various situations.
Letting go can be difficult, but once you’ve packaged everything in a box and handed it to the universe, trust your journey to guide you. If you find directly challenging yourself with frustration is too difficult, you could also get in touch with your inner zen and practise:
- Mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
- Meditation: a written or spoken discourse expressing considered thoughts on a subject.
- Affirmations: the action or process of affirming something.
- Visualisation: a technique involving focusing on positive mental images in order to achieve a particular goal.
Look at the big picture
When you’re finding it difficult to practise patience, sometimes stepping out of the situation and looking at the bigger picture can make the discomfort feel more bearable. Remember your goals and direction and then decide if enduring discomfort is necessary or worth it for what you desire.
Don’t demand yourself be perfect
We can all be perfectionists. We all want to do the best and be the best. But what if for just one day it was ok to be yourself, exactly as you are and that was perfectly perfect enough? Sometimes when we’re on the brink of frustration it’s because we’re demanding too much of ourselves or expecting too much. Consider how you would treat your best friend in the same situation. Treat yourself accordingly. What you’ll eventually notice is that being hard on yourself won’t change the outcome.
Intentionally practise patience
Deliberately put yourself in situations time and time again where your patience is constantly being tested. For example you may:
- Choose to stand in the longest line
- Drive behind a slow driver when you’re in a rush
- Take the longer route to get somewhere
- Make yourself wait longer
- Deliberately miss a deadline
Laugh at the problem
Laughing at anything is great at reducing stress. If you’re irritable and you laugh, you will instantly feel calmer about the situation and be able to feel more patient in your situation. When I can’t find the funny side in a situation, I have a lot of friends who will find it for me! If you’re having difficulty, talk to a friend and tell them their job is to find the funny side in your story. See how you feel once they find it and you’re both laughing.
Remind yourself what’s important to you
Is it really important that you achieve that goal exactly on time? What happens if you don’t? What is it about that particular thing that is frustrating you? How does it honestly affect you? Really think about it before you wind yourself up too badly over something. Sometimes simply reminding yourself what’s important to you is enough to practise patience.
In becoming more patient and practising patience you will reduce your stress levels, feel happier, make better decisions, be more empathetic and compassionate to others, and be better able to understand the process associated with growth.
How do you practise patience?
Everybody wants sunshine, nobody wants pain, but you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain. Anonymous.
Loyal followers – who don’t know me personally – may be wondering why my blogs went from full happiness focus to a focus on happiness during times of adversity. It’s like one day I woke up and while the element of happiness was still there, it went from being happy and bouncy to tackling some pretty serious issues with a theme of maintaining happiness during tough times.
Two years ago, when I started Happiness Weekly, I was a very happy person. I was also very naive. I believed that there was only good in this world. Not only that, I believed that as long as you believed that there was only good this in this world then that’s what you would attract – just like The Law of Attraction, right?
Since then I’ve learned first-hand that psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists exist. And even if you don’t want to believe it, they’re very real and they roam the planet just as a normal healthy human being. It terrifies me to not only know, but to have experienced first-hand, that some people feel empowered by making other people feel miserable.
I’m not tainted. I’m not jaded. I’m not bitter.
I’ve learned quickly to accept this.
But instead of promoting happiness as a way of life, I decided I wanted to equip people to survive times of adversity and to facilitate their happiness and assist their inner glow to shine through during these harder times.
Through surviving my own adversity, and getting back up, I finally know who I am. I stand tall. I’m confident. And I share with others from a place of confidence and sympathy.
So Happiness Weekly has evolved as I have.
My posts for the next little while will be filling in the dates I missed while I was away, as well as posting so that we’re back up to date. Each week I will try to release two posts until I’m back on schedule – I apologise if I miss a week, my priority is now on the next chapter. To stay on top of what has been released, you’re welcome to follow my blog by email, you can keep an eye on the Facebook page or you’re always welcome to contact me.
I want to leave you with this: never stop learning. Never give up. Once you think you know, you’ll discover there’s more to know.
Stay in the driver’s seat of life and keep moving forward.
A man speaking sense to himself is no madder than a man speaking nonsense not to himself. Tom Stoppard
So there I stood, in front of my bathroom mirror, sobbing. It was May 2014. By this point I’d laughed at the consequences of what happened to me last year – but often I still cried over how it got to that point – and that’s the result of the trauma I suffered:
“I did everything right! But no one did anything to protect me!” I told my reflection.
“The police didn’t do anything. My parents didn’t do anything. The lawyer didn’t do anything.”
I stopped for a second and in complete frustration I screamed at my reflection:
“YOU didn’t do anything!”
It was at that moment that I put the BED-time story to rest. Oh my god, I’m talking to myself – am I going mad? This week Happiness Weekly looks at why victims of trauma should talk themselves through it as well as seeing a therapist. AND! I share some good news about trauma with you.
- No one understands what you’ve been through better than you
I have a buddy who had a very similar experience to what I have had and she has been there for me every step of the way – and vice versa. The friends I have allowed into my life this year have all been outstanding – they’re consistently supportive and understanding and they listen to me, even when I repeat my story or go over aspects of the events. They’re very patient. But no one experienced what I did. No one was there except for me. And it’s when I realised that instead of bashing myself up for what I went through and taking too much responsibility for the outcome, if I started talking to myself as I would my best friend who went through the same set of circumstances and had the same complaints and upsets as I was experiencing, then I was able to be kinder to myself and help support and encourage myself in moving on. I decided to ditch any even slight need for external validation in order to get me through, but instead I shifted to a dependence on my intuition and internal validation. If I thought it or felt it, that was my reality and I’d respond accordingly instead of doubting myself. That conscious decision to start really listening to myself helped me to step forward and really focusing on my healing journey and tackling my trauma head on.
- You could have an epiphany that puts your BED-time story to rest
What happened in my experience mentioned above is that in talking to myself, I was able to acknowledge and drop the story riddled with blame, excuse and denial (BED) all at the same time. Instead, it made me realise it’s done. There’s nothing I can do to undo it or take it back. It’s not that I care about the consequence but I’ll forever be hurt by how I got forced into being “punished” in a way. It’s the way that I got set up that constantly reappears through nightmares and flashbacks. That’s what I go over and over when I speak to people or myself. Once I was able to recognise the BED-time story – I didn’t have to accept it – but I could make myself a promise for how I would ensure it would never happen to me again (which would test and hopefully regain my self-trust), I could start taking responsibility for my part in what happened to me that lead me to such trauma and I was able to start considering strategies for how I could move forward from there.
- The only way to overcome trauma is to release it
Talking about it will release it. Often victims of trauma will go over and over the same scenario. They will talk about it over and over to people. They’ll repeat the same story and the same facts. It’s almost like someone who is suffering from some kind of memory loss, only they know you know, but they can’t resist but talk about it. It’s not that the victim is looking for external validation but they’re doing it for the release. If you have a friend who is a victim of trauma and going over the same story, be patient – don’t stop them – and remain completely neutral about what they’re saying. Before you suggest anything, ensure it’s helpful.
The good news about trauma?
Trauma doesn’t have to be negative. Positive Trauma and Post Traumatic Growth have been established as ways of not only moving on from a traumatic event in a positive way, but actually being able to celebrate your achievements since suffering from the consequences of your traumatic event in taking control again. It’s a concept that was introduced by scholars in the early 1990s.
According to Wikipedia, Post Traumatic Growth is also known as “benefit finding” – there are so many different names for it – it refers to the positive psychological change experience as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life experiences. This is where you can actually use the power of choice to decide if you want your experience to make you bitter or better, and then use your time to move in that direction – but feel empowered that you do have a choice in what happens from here.
Although I continue to struggle with my traumatic event, fortunately for my love of being consciously optimistic, I have been able to focus on how I can make my negative experience to filter the most positive and inspiring outcome I could. Instead of returning to the baseline of where I was before I suffered, I worked hard to get qualifications that would help me assist others who go through what I just went through, and share my story with as many people as I could to provide education for others. And that’s what it’s about. Post traumatic growth is about using the experience to improve yourself and others. It’s the difference between surviving something and actually using it to thrive and be better than you were to start.
The two most important things to do for self-defence are not to take a martial arts class or get a gun, but to think like the opposition and know where you’re most at risk. Barry Eisler
Recently I suffered to extremes after leaving a relationship riddled with narcissistic abuse. I look back and think I was a blogging contradiction – here I was writing all these blogs about helping people to stay strong emotionally and mentally through adversity, and there I am – the voice of authority – stuck in the worst, most manipulative and excruciatingly painful situation that I’ve ever found myself in. I’m an empath which according to Christel Broederlow means I’m “affected by other people’s energies and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others … Empaths can perceive physical sensitivities and spiritual urges, as well as just knowing the motivations and intentions of other people. “ Unfortunately for empaths, co-dependent relationships that often lead to abuse are common, so although I don’t see what happened to me as ok – I have certainly learned from it and I can understand it better now.
Having said that, in trying to escape my situation, it was made clear that my emotional self-defence was weak. If I knew then what I knew now – how different things would be! So this week Happiness Weekly writes for the sensitives, the empaths and the self-aware victims of domestic violence, to help build their emotional self-defence and help them when dealing with predators such as sociopaths, narcissists and psychopaths.
Decide what hurts you
Emotional manipulation is all about disempowering you so the abuser takes control. The good news is, you can decide what and who hurts you. This is challenging, even when you know someone is emotionally manipulative, but if you can stay strong in deciding this person is only out to hurt you, and detach from their words, you will be better equipped if they try for a harder blow – such as a smear campaign.
Trust your intuition
Let your instincts guide you on whether or not you can trust someone. You will actually hear yourself say it to someone or even directly to the person. Once you accept that you can’t trust the person, there has to be a reason for that. Find the deeper reason and the evidence within yourself as to why you feel this person is untrustworthy.
Let your conscience guide you
Don’t be bullied into making a mistake. If it feels right and good at the time, see how long it lasts. If it feels right and good hours, days, weeks later – it’s good. If it feels right and good at the time, but hours, weeks, months later it fades and returns back to bitter bad – drop it! Don’t try to punish or get even with your abuser, just concentrate on getting safe because it’s the people we trust the most who can be the most life threatening and dangerous if they don’t have a conscience.
Know your friends
Who can you really depend on? You’ll probably be able to count these people on one hand. Write a list of anyone who you know has your best interests at heart. These people are your friends. These are the people who will understand you and are possibly in the best position to help you. Once you know who your friends are, the people who you honestly trust, start talking to them to disempower your abuser and you’re handing some of the abuser’s power to them and they will take it and offer advice that could help to protect you.
Help others help you
Know when to ask for help and how to ask for help. If you are being abuse, it’s likely you’ve been groomed not to. In fact, you may have been groomed so well you’d stand in front of a speeding bus to protect your partner despite ongoing abuse which includes emotional manipulation. You need to allow others in and let them help you because at this point, you won’t be able to help yourself. If they see the signs, open up to them and be honest. Pushing them away or forcefully defending your abuser will only serve to keep you isolated which is what an abuser wants. End the silence on domestic violence. Talk about it!
Keep a diary
A diary won’t hold up in court. It won’t save you in any way. But what it will do is give you a complete sanity check. It will be a record of what happened, when it happened and how it happened, so if anything happens to you – it’s there.
Build a brick wall or cut the energy bonds
Build a brick wall between you and the person affecting or hurting you. Imagine a thick and high brick wall between you and the person hurting you. This will block the person. If you’re recovering from domestic violence, you may wish to cut the energy bonds to your stomachs. Literally visualise an energy connection tying you to your abusive partner, joining at the belly buttons and imagine yourself cutting the ties with a pair of scissors.
Know your boundaries
It’s no good other people knowing them if you don’t. You need to know your boundaries, be completely clear in them and respect them. If you don’t respect your boundaries, no one else will. Know when to say no. Know when enough is enough.
Know where to get help
Know where to get help. Sometimes authorities won’t help so you need to figure out how else to stay safe and don’t give up until you are safe. Here’s a frightening statistic for you: 70% of Domestic Violence homicides happen once the victim has left. This is often why victims who leave abusive relationships spend a long time following their situation watching their back. I am in the process of developing a website that will became an international hub for where victims of domestic violence can get help – from all around the world … without seeking intervention from authorities who can sometimes alert abusers rather than protect victims.
How do you protect yourself emotionally?
I’m really excited to announce Happiness Weekly is back online! Our Facebook account is now active and we’re set to go with some very exciting news to share, new blogs, a different writing style and more!
During the break I actually received a submission for Happiness Weekly from my colleague, Craig, who saw something on the way to work one morning and it reminded him of Happiness Weekly. That afternoon he returned to the spot to take photos of it and I wanted to share the Happiness Hero’s action-packed version of events:
Pulled up my car in a side street…
Walked to the bus stop where the chair was…
When I took the photos I was standing in the middle of a bus lane – pretty wild – cars traffic…
Some chick called out “Are u a reporter?”
Well I could not resist the opportunity: “Yes I replied – I am on an assignment for “Happiness Weekly.org.”
For a minute I really thought I was a reporter – till a bus tooted me and shocked me back into reality … Doooohhh!
Have a good day!”
Here are the photos he took for us:
Thank you, Craig the Happiness Hero!
If you have a submission you would like to make to Happiness Weekly, email it to email@example.com and we’ll put it up for you or you can post it on our Facebook page and we’ll share it for you.
Happy Independence Day everybody – catch you on Monday!
- Have no friends not equal to yourself. Confucius. 21 hours ago