Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS - Survivor’s Guilt: A Ripple Effect of Domestic Violence

Survivor’s Guilt: A Ripple Effect of Domestic Violence

Why me?

This question normally fits into a context of… why did X bad thing happen to me? For me, it’s different. More of why was I spared from what could have been a very bad childhood environment when many others are not? It is a question I have wrestled with for years now, and one to which I cannot find an answer that resolves the question in my mind 100%.

It’s called survivor’s guilt, I’ve been told by a Psychologist friend. It’s ripple number one in my life and personal experience with domestic violence.

Hi, there.
My name is Anne and I normally write about food and share recipes on a food blog with my husband, professionally trained in Culinary Arts by Johnson and Wales University. We would love for you to stop by and peek at some of our recipes. Most are simple but with amazing flavor!

I’m excited to share with you today, though, some of my personal story in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As someone whose whole life was impacted directly by the effects of domestic violence, I deeply appreciate Autumn shining the spotlight on this problem.

And it is a huge problem, with one out of three women having been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime, most often, by a member of her own family.

Consider a few more statistics from

  • Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
  • Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.

It’s kind of ironic to me that Domestic Violence Awareness Month falls in the month of October because on October 1, I was born into a family that I would later learn was torn apart from the ripple effects of domestic violence. That would be ripple number two.

I was adopted as a 2-year-old. For as long as I can remember, I have always known I was adopted. My mom loves to tell stories about what a verbal, talkative 2-year-old I was. She tried to change my “go-by” name to the first name she gave me, but that didn’t work out. Every time she would call to me by that name, I would not respond. As soon as she called to me by the name I knew, Anne, spelled A-n-n pre-adoption, I answered right away.

I also always wanted to know more about my biological roots and the first two years of my life, at least from the time that I began to mature emotionally enough to grasp deeper meaning in it all. I was able to begin a search during my senior year of college, and over the course of a number of years, I learned lots of details and answers to questions I had always had.

About two years after my initial search and reunion with several birth family members, my foster parents and some friends of theirs that had considered adopting me and who had also prayed for me when my birth family tried to regain custody, I was devastated to learn about the years of abuse my birth-mother had experienced from her father. As difficult as that was for me, it has helped make sense out of some of the other experiences I have had during my lifetime.

The best example of this is there were two men I knew during my adolescent years around whom I always felt uncomfortable or uneasy, especially if I thought I might be alone in a room with them. At one point after discovering the history of abuse in my birth family, I sought counsel from the pastor of my church at the time, who had extensive family counseling experience. I was going through a lot of emotion in processing what I had learned.

When I shared with him about the uneasy feelings I had gotten around the two men earlier in my life, wondering if there could be any connection to my past, he explained to me about how the human brain stores memories, even those memories of events that happen before we are old enough to be able to recall specific, vivid memories. But when we get older, a sight, smell, sound, etc. may trigger the memory in a different way, such as through emotion we feel depending on what type of memory it was. He said this was likely what I was experiencing, that something about these men, perhaps a facial feature or a scent, reminded me of someone from a past experience.

Years after learning this, I was going through some photographs and found a picture of one of those men. I could not believe when I looked at that picture how much he looked like my maternal grandfather! It was a stark resemblance. I mean, I thought to myself… they could be related! Not that I thought that in a literal sense, but that is how much they looked alike to me.

This is another ripple effect, number three, of the domestic violence that occurred in my birth family, reaching into a third generation. There are numerous others.

But the biggest message that I want to communicate in sharing these very personal experiences is that domestic violence affects people beyond the victim.

Further evidence of this lies in what we know about the cycle of abuse. I also learned that my maternal biological grandfather himself had left home as a teenager and had been abused. So the ripple effects in my life actually stemmed from some source prior to the abuse in my biological family, and the more I thought about this, the more I realized that I probably would never know the answer to where the abuse actually started.

I was incredibly sad. I felt some sense of anger, but it was difficult to have one person to feel that anger towards. I know and strongly believe that people have to be responsible for their own actions and abuse can never be rationalized in any way. It is wrong no matter how you look at it.

But I also have some level of compassion for the abuser who was also victimized at some point in his life.
What if someone had found out he had been abused and got him “help”? Would the cycle have ended there?

The recent news of the three girls in Ohio who were held for ten years and abused by Ariel Castro was horrifying.
Cycle of Violence - (Photo Source)

Absolutely horrifying!

My heart goes out to those ladies. It is unimaginable what they went through.

I know that many people have strong feelings of judgment and anger against abusers, and rightly so. They take so much from their victims and what they do to them has a lifelong impact.

Yet, when Ariel Castro pled guilty, I was quite relieved that in doing so, he did spare the women from having to go through a trial. He spared society from all of the costs associated with it.

I’m sure he knew they had so much evidence against him, he did not stand a chance in a trial. But that does not stop most of the alleged perpetrators who put us through the expense and media circus resulting from those trials. I felt some appreciation that he chose not to go that route. It’s almost like the others want the “glory” of a trial, seeing their faces and names in the news.

When Ariel Castro made the statement that he was not a monster, but rather, sick, a part of me was thinking, Yeah, right. Anyone who abuses someone else is a monster, especially the way he did year after year to not one, but three girls. But then as I read more about his experiences as a victim earlier in life and his addiction to pornography, I had to agree with his statement that he was sick.

And again, I had to wonder… what if?

This is where I think Domestic Violence Awareness is so critical. I am not knowledgeable enough on the front of what to look for as signs of a child being abused, aside from the obvious signs of physical abuse, to address those in this article, but I beg those reading this who are working with children or teens to become knowledgeable and to be observant with the children/teens under your influence.

You never know when you might have an opportunity to help someone, to stop the cycle and to minimize the ripple effects of abuse in someone’s life. Or possibly saving someone’s life.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I'd love to hear from you...