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How A Woman Escapes Domestic Abuse Print E-mail
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Written by By Jacklyn Burns   
Thursday, 30 November 2017 00:00

I remember how she thanked me, repeatedly, for a small spot on my cold living room floor.  She said it was much preferred to her bed which had grown dangerous because of the man she had married.  Way back, he had sworn before God to love her “til death do us part” but to her, death seemed to be right around the corner had she opted to stay. Her reality, after the honeymoon was over, meant every time he was drunk or displeased for any reason, she became his punching bag.  He had promised her stars indeed, but she never dreamt they would have been the type she saw when his iron fist made impact with her face and left purple bruises and bleeding lips, the type that hurt like hell.  Her honeymoon period escalated to the tension period and then explosions of anger prevailed over her dream marriage.

Surviving domestic abuse, for her, meant using an underground system like the slaves did, to escape. In the middle of the night when he was out with his drinking buddies, she sneaked away in the dark.  She definitely was not going to any of her known girlfriends because they too might feel his wrath.  She instead opted to overnight with me, an acquaintance; someone he did not know and did not even know she knew.  There she huddled, uncertain of her plan but certain that she must survive domestic abuse.

Marital bliss in Belize is often riddled with some form of domestic abuse. In 2010 the Women’s Circle survey showed that 23 percent of our women are abused by their partners. Some are not even formally married to the woman, but in a domestic relationship that can grow into a real nightmare. The horrendous reality of domestic abuse is not biased to one gender but, is exponentially and alarmingly more frequent against our women. Perhaps it is that many have repeated the empty myth “if ie no beat mi, ie no love mi” and lived by it. Or maybe it is because this psychological poison seeps from one generation to the next, through illustrations and practical examples; that we never seem to be able to rid ourselves of badly battered women in our communities. It might be the very nature of the beast that leaves abused victims feeling helpless and insecure that offers them no alternative.  Sometimes it is the embarrassment where victims become the subjects of many whispered gossip among those who know and those who feel helpless.

Some cases are very extreme.  The woman whose partner takes the clothing iron and burns her skin with it after heating it up, the ones who suffer broken bones must lie and hide their scars from the world.  There are also those whose bodies are no longer their own and are obligated to sexual acts they do not want to be a part of.  But, the man wears the pants and she is his to control…or so he thinks.

Victims, do you know that we enable abusers when we hide them?  Do you know that this is not the faults of the abused and that you have no reason to be embarrassed for something that was done to you and more than likely not provoked by you?  It is unfortunate that sometimes we have little boys in men’s clothing; some who are not man enough to love a woman right.  Remember, “A real man never makes a woman cry” but there are those who take their frustrations out with punches and slaps, kicks and hurts…because they feel incomplete and do not know how to heal themselves.  It is important too, for all abuse victims to know, that once a relationship becomes abusive, it will not stop. My mom told me once, if a man hits once, he will hit again. All those “sorrys” and “It will never happen again” soon fade and the abuse comes back.

So, how does an abused woman get to escape her nightmare? Should she report her abuse to the police?  After all, what good would the police do?  What about the children who are caught in the middle?  How can she leave when she does not have a job or a house of her own?  Is there any program in place to support her until she heals enough to find a job? What counselling programs are available to them?  Is there hope after being an abused victim?  How does a woman escape domestic abuse?

A woman escapes domestic abuse by leaving, by rebuilding her self-confidence and by surviving.

This however, is certainly easier said than done. There does not seem to be much that Belize has to offer in terms of a rescue program for abused women. But, there are a few options. One such option is the Haven House in Belize City that provides temporary housing which accommodates those who feel they have nowhere to go.  This home is specifically for women who wish to escape their abusive partners and have nowhere to go.   It offers housing to women and children as well as counselling support, court advocacy and eventually referrals for domestic abuse victims to function in society after leaving an abusive partner.

Of course, I urge women to report these criminals to the police.  Harming anyone, regardless of the relationship you share, is against the law.  The police is there to protect and serve and the only way an abused victim can get some sort of defence, is by ensuring that their abusers are reported to the law.  What the police can do is take a report and keep a record that there has been abuse.  This can serve many purposes.  One, the abuser can be arrested and charged. Two, it will be your defence , if for any reason, you must go to court and three, it is your justification for asking for a protection order which the court of law puts in place for the abuser to stay away from the victim.  All these can be very helpful and may offer a victim a form of security.  Some abusers however, become enraged by the embarrassment caused after being reported and the victim can be in even more danger.  So, be careful and vigilant at all times, please ladies.

Children are often the bargaining chip that forces the women to stay.  I say, lady, your children do not need a broken mommy.  They do not need to grow up in a home where they see their parents fighting.  They do not need to learn that love means abuse and abuse means love which causes a cycle. Victims of their circumstances, they grow up to either be victims or abusive monsters as well.  The Psych Mind warns us that “Children exposed to violence on their family show the same pattern in their brain activity as soldiers exposed to combat.” Our responsibility to our children is to protect them and love them.  Take care of yourself so that you may take care of your children. Chris Sain Jr. made epic sense when he says “Sometimes the best reason to let go of a toxic or abusive relationship, is because your child is watching.”

Another issue is that some women are dependents and do not have jobs so they stay in abusive relationships because they feel they cannot earn a living to care for themselves and their families.  The lack of confidence that is often a condition of abuse, begs one to feel needy.  But, this dependency is a myth, often created by repeated verbal abuse. There are employment opportunities and someone who has the will to survive can and will find a way to do so.

But, the abused woman needs to desire a change. Staying in abuse is a recipe for a situation to fester.  No one can be happy tolerating abuse forever.  It is inevitable that a victim will get enough.  Friends and family need to make themselves available to lend a helping hand when the victim reaches out.  The most difficult part of leaving an abusive relationship is to make a decision to leave.  The way out will never be easy but, life itself will be easier when abuse becomes a part of the past, rather than your current reality.  The Journey of Peace reminds us to “Never forget that walking away from something unhealthy is brave, even if you stumble a little, on your way out the door.”

Walking away from domestic abuse cannot be easy.  It takes a mental decision before action.  It takes confidence, which he knocked out of you when he first put his hands on you.  It takes leaving the security of family and home.  So, it is no small task.  But, it can be that thin line between your survival and your death.  It can be your only survival option.  There are too many weak men who need “to crush a woman to feel powerful” living in our midst and that is not your fault.  Sisters, let us show them that we are resilient and strong even after their fists have tried to break us.  The journey will be long and a real struggle but, you can do it.  You must survive.  So do so. Make the fire inside you bigger than the fire inside your abuser.  And escape to a new reality…call on your inner warrior and I know you will be just fine because women are the strongest emotional beings I know. In the Scarlett Letter there is a line that says “She did not know the weight (she carried) until she felt freedom.

Leaving is not the end of the healing journey however.  A person who experiences abuse needs to start from the bottom and rebuild.  This will take some self-love and getting to know who you are…some serious soul searching and in some cases counselling is recommended.  With time, the ugly words and the derogatory names will fade.  The scars will heal and you will learn to be comfortable in your own skin again.  I pray for the women who are in abusive relationships.  I wish you mental strength. I wish you buoyancy. I wish you healing.