Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Is this Good for You?

Is it good for you? A short question with huge ramifications.

As former victims, we are more likely to base decisions on unconscious questions such as "Will the other person be mad if I say I don't want to do this?" or "I can survive a little more; what difference will it really make?" or "Will my doing this help this other person out?"

I am learning that this other-focused way of making decisions is insidious and well ingrained. It may have helped me in the past. Perhaps caring more about the other's reaction or needs, rather than evaluating my own condition and needs gave me at least gave me some illusion of power in situations of powerlessness.

But now that I am free from abuse and establishing a more healthy lifestyle, I need to know how decisions will affect me. I need to know if a food choice, medicine choice, or relationship choice is good for me. It turns out that I have a staring role in being responsible for my own health choices. Will I spend time with someone who drains me? Will I do something I do not want to do, because somebody important to me thinks that I should? Will I eat a food that has no nutrient value? Will I alternate sitting and standing throughout the day to respect my physical limitations?

How about you? Do you need to think about whether choices are good for you? The good news is we make many decisions daily so there is plenty of turf on which to practice. Start asking yourself, "Is this good for me?"

If we don't know whether or not something is good for us, we can ask the God who has promised to give wisdom to all who ask.

God, bless our minds with your wisdom, our hearts with receptiveness to the truth, and our wills ready to act in line with Your will. Amen.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."
James 1:5 (NIV)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sex Trafficking

Twelve years old is the average age of girls who are sexually trafficked in the United States. Most of them are girls who ran away from an abusive home. I learned these facts at church today and didn't know whether to scream or cry! In my own country! Twelve years old! At puberty's onset for the early birds and ahead of it for the majority of girls. How horrifying!

What can a former victim do to help protect and free current victims of sexual crimes? It is a question that I think most former victims ask at some point. How can we help end the pain and the tragedy? How can we save children from the anxiety, danger, and shame?

I still need to read and digest the literature I brought home, but one thing is clear. This is a problem and different organizations are banding together to give it attention. These groups include the Emancipation Network,The Salvation Army, Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking, US Department of Health and Human Services,and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. I am also aware of another group The Silver Braid. Giving support to any of these organizations or participating in their programs is one way we can help.

Other possible ways to help might include:
1. Educating ourselves and then educating others on the problems of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children.
2. Speaking up, having a voice, when the topic is brought up anywhere.
3. Report it whenever we have suspicions that a child is being abused or exploited.
4. Teach our sons to respect women.
5. Treat pornography as evil and educate your children about how damaging pornography is to both individuals and society.
6. Put porn protection programs on our family computer.
7. Let the shame be the perpetrator's and share our story with others. It helps others to know where to turn for help. It also helps educate others around us on the helplessness of a dependent child and the damage caused by abuse.
8. Create a home in which all family members feel safe, loved, and respected. Allow children to have a voice.
9. Get help and support from counselors and organizations if any of your children are ever sexually abused by someone. Don't let family or friend connections stop you from getting your child and yourself help.
10. Carry phone numbers of help agencies in your purse, so that you'll be able to give the information to someone who is hurting.
11. Pray for the children who are being abused.
12. Follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Someday your obedience may allow God to use you to change a child's life.

We are former victims. We understand the pain. We are no longer helpless. We can help to whatever extent God urges.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Impediment to Relaxation

A former life full of abuse does not make one laid back. Truly, deeply relaxing is foreign when you've spent years being on constant alert, watching your abuser and assessing your level of danger. Like a rabbit or dear, your ears are attuned to the constant threat of the predator.

Years after I stopped engaging in abusive relationships,I realized that I was rarely relaxed. There was always a tightness inside and always a suspicion that at any moment abuse might walk back into my life. Working on abuse survivor issues with a qualified counselor has helped considerably, but relaxation itself has taken concentrated effort for me. I am improving step by step.

I recently a doctor mentioned to me that "sometimes you just need to relax and watch a good movie." I love a good movie, but too often I keep my hands and eyes busy doing something productive during my "watching." Splitting my focus like that doesn't allow for optimal relaxation. I knew it as soon as she made her comment. I need to allow myself to just focus on one thing at a time so that my mind and body can relax more.

I'm far from an expert on the topic of relaxation, but I am writing about it anyway because it is important. Not just nice, but necessary. God didn't design our bodies to be on constant alert, pumping adrenaline frequently. It damages the body over time when we never relax. I have learned this the hard way. My body has gone on strike and left me with fibromyalgia.

So how can we relax when we've been terrorized by one or more abusers, who insisted through words and/or actions that our needs had no significance?

Here is what I am discovering:

1. Getting to know God on a deeper level and asking Him to help me trust Him more has been revolutionary. I now know, absolutely know, that God is for me, not against me. I know that my Creator loves me. I know that my soul is safe with Him forever. Knowing these things with my heart and soul has made it safe to relax.

2. Relaxation exercises are helpful. The simplest one is to breath deeply and slowly, allowing your chest and stomach to rise and fall slowly and restfully. It brings down your stress level and sends lots of needed oxygen to your limbs.

3. Taking a warm bath (not hot) relaxes the muscles and the mind. Adding lavender or bath salts adds to the relaxation, as do light candles near by.

4. Sitting outside and staring at the clouds, the birds or the breeze moving the tree branches is soothing.

5. Exercise on a regular basis lowers stress levels. So set up a schedule and get moving. If you have been sedentary, start small(i.e. a 5-10 minute walk) and build up.

6. Spend social time with people who are upbeat. Life is too short to invest your precious downtime with negative people.

7. Learn to say no to overburdening your schedule. Every second should not be committed.

8. Repeat to yourself that it is healthy and healing to spend time doing things that you love. (It is not wrong or selfish!)

Let's say yes to times of relaxation, smiles, and laughter. This life is full of trials but it need not be all work and no play. You're too precious for that. You'd be worried if your child or sister refused to ever recreate or relax--you're just as important and your needs are just as real. So learn how to let go of responsibilities for a few minutes each day. Breath deeply and do something enjoyable and renewing.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ways to Help Your Children Heal

How can we help our children heal from abuse? As much as we would like to, we cannot wave a magic wand and fix all the broken places in their spirits. Abuse hurts everyone in the family. If we separate from the abuser and focus on healing for ourselves and our children--we have made a huge, positive impact on our children's futures. But there is much more we can do, if we focus on helping ourselves and our children to heal. Not just survive--but heal.

1. Ask God to heal you and your children. Too often we forget to ask, but without God's help nothing of lasting value is possible. God alone knows every hurting place in each child.

2. Resolve to create an abuse-free home. Resolve to never live in denial again. Both things will take effort, but the rewards will be invaluable.

2. Find counseling for you and your children. Don't let lack of money deter your search. There are counselors who give reduced fees. Ask for contacts from your church and from your county health department.

3. Trust your children's pacing. Allow them to initiate conversations about their other parent. Focus on listening. What is your child feeling or wondering? Respond simply and briefly.

4. Tell the truth in simple, calm language and tone when your child wants to know why you and the other parent are separated or divorced. Be trustworthy.

5. Keep as much routine in your life as you can. It will help the children feel more secure.

6. Do not drop discipline. Yes, the children have gone through a lot, but they need reasonable boundaries to feel secure and loved.

7. Create fun times with your children. It will lift all of your spirits and help relieve some of the stress. Try being silly now and then. An upside down dinner (dessert first) or a race across the park or playing follow the goofy leader can generate laughter that is much needed.

8. If you are divorced, don't date anyone for at least a year. Such a stand is not common these days but it could save you and your children from a lot of grief. Your children need some undivided attention from you. And you need time to heal enough to become attracted to non-abusers.

9. Pay attention to the quality of any daycare you need to use. Be picky. Your children don't need any more neglect or abuse. If something isn't right, confront the daycare provider and if that doesn't resolve the problem, look for new daycare.

10. Seek God's help in forgiving your abuser and yourself. Letting go of bitterness will go a long way toward creating a healing environment. I do not mean a quickie forgiveness that is ultimately artificial. Dig into real forgiveness that is grounded in truth about the wounds inflicted and the need we all have for a Savior. God can help you forgive at the best pace. All you need to do is to be honest and to reach a place of sincere surrender to the need for forgiveness.

11. Learn to take care of your own needs. You can't help your children if you are constantly overwhelmed and burnt out. Your abuser taught you that your needs were unimportant, but that is simply not true. Simple measures can make such a difference--ask the neighbors to watch the children and go on a walk, hike, or run, draw a warm bath and light a candle, or postpone a decision until after you've had a chance to calm down or to seek wise counsel. You bless your children when you treat yourself with respect and loving care. You're modeling healthy ways and teaching them that they too can voice their own needs.

It is not too late to help your children heal. Your children need you. Be present. Your actions will speak straight into their hearts, so show your love by treating them in loving and respectful ways. God will show you the way, just lean on Him and follow Him.

Recommended Books

  • 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages by Karla Downing
  • A Way of Hope by Leslie J. Barner
  • Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Paul Hegstrom
  • Battered But Not Broken by Patricia Riddle Gaddis
  • Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw
  • Caring Enough to Forgive/Not Forgive by David Augsburger
  • Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
  • Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan B. Allendar
  • Keeping the Faith: Questions and Answers for the Abused Woman by Marie M. Fortune
  • Perfect Daughters by Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D.
  • Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert L. Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden
  • Safe People by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
  • Slay Your Own Dragons by Nancy Good
  • The Cinderella Syndrome by Lee Ezell
  • The Dance of Anger by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
  • The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee
  • Turning Fear to Hope by Holly Wagner Green
  • When Violence Comes Home: Help for Victims of Spouse Abuse by Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson
  • Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft