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Freedom – a basis to promote a better understanding of abuse

We wanted to share with you an essay on The Freedom Programme by a talented graduate of the Freedom Programme in Fife: “Freedom – a basis to promote a better understanding of abuse”

Freedom – a basis to promote a better understanding of abuse

Don’t you get sick reading the paper? Too many ‘domestic abuse’ snippets. Yes snippets because, and unless someone dies, domestic abuse remains a snippet. It is an area too often looked into for the sole and only purpose of educative research.

‘Got my essay on domestic abuse. Dang here goes … I’d rather go out and party’

How many health and social care students find domestic abuse on the agenda? It is a fact that minorities and subclasses become a part of studies. In these PC days … one could not afford to offend someone/anyone to then find themselves accused of discrimination. Imagine the shame of it… Perish the thought! We shall address each and every sub class there are and should we find time to add on a few more to our busy schedule then we shall! Oh the joy of proving to be such caring Universities/Colleges etc. Naturally and due to such a hectic educational calendar, we shall stick to the headlines only. Why not throw in something written by a ‘victim’ just to make it look a little more lively and well researched. Look what we dug out of the woodwork for you! Students! Get your teeth into that just before your tea break of course. We shall yet make professionals out of you (we hope).

I know this to be the truth because I was once there. Yes I was a student and domestic abuse, same as hiv and aids were part of the curriculum, although they did not warrant more than a simple essay. And yes I really looked forward to my tea break after that. I did wonder how anyone could put themselves through that? I did feel sorry for them. I guess I felt glad I was not one of them. Little did I know then that I was years away from becoming one more statistic. I had gone from student to case number tens of thousands and one. Yes I had then been abused in the context of the relationship with my partner. I doubt anyone will ever fathom how humiliating it was for me. A sobering experience would be to put it extremely mildly. Unfortunately for me I felt the rawness as it was: Pure and undiluted. It is still with me in many ways, will never leave me. I guess domestic abuse is similar to birth that way. It is always with you. The physical act of walking out of the bad relationship does not end once you are safely tucked in refuge. It is there, like a shadow softly moves under the sun. Most people cannot see it of course. You left so you’re ‘cured’. It is all over! You are safe now. Move on and that’s that. How dare you feel down? Why can’t you see that it is over? This is your time! Your new life begins now. New born babies do not walk. They do not change their nappies. They cannot prepare their meal either. They are new born. Domestic abuse or rather the aftermath is similar in the sense that you do not heal overnight. Some of us will experience life- long effects. The latter affect our physiological health, our mental and emotional health and can impact on our spiritual health as indeed our societal beliefs and interactions as well. W.H.O definition of health (1946) demonstrates what consists of good health as deemed by them.

‘Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

W.H.O (1946)

Whether we are left physically and/or mentally bruised or not, we still took a battering. Abusers do not always wave a big stick to hit us with. They do as much damage and sometimes worse with mental and/or financial abuse. The person we knew to be ourselves prior to abuse can never be the same person again. In all appearance we are doing well. After all we are safe! What more could we ask for? Sometimes it proves easier to put up a front. Oh no people about! Here goes … I shall now smile, look/act happy so as not to disappoint anyone. So much effort put into us? Let’s show them their efforts were not wasted on us (even though we do know they were because we are not worthy).

Through all the things we have to do, our energy levels seem to have totally vanished, let alone self-belief, self-esteem and self-worth. Because we are out of the relationship does not mean we are back, not by a very long shot. In all appearance, we stand, walk, sit down, eat, drink, sleep (badly) but within? There is no one left there. All we seem to have become is a mass of self-doubts and negative inner questioning. There is nothing left of us that we like/love. It would be wonderful to physically disassociate: Hop out of our body. Leave it to rot. As for our mind … It’s buried too deep under a pile of self-hatred, regrets, nightmares and flashbacks. Do we want it back? Are you crazy? Why of course not. Who would want to be us? We certainly don’t want to be ourselves. And yes there is an overwhelming sense of deep shame prevalent at all times, so much so that we cannot feel much else if anything at all. And then we embark on Freedom course.

I graduated from Freedom. I did it because I never missed a class. It made for difficult at times, sometimes worse if it also made for the realisation that I was not mad (scary thought) I was not bad (no badass me) I was not stupid either. Yes there had been signs of what was to come but then most of us get taken in. Could it be that we care too much about others, not enough about ourselves? We put loved ones, friends, neighbours and everyone else’s needs ahead of our own. We function as utilitarian machines. ‘The world first- my needs matter not’.   Probably because we didn’t have a very positive self-image at first but then … accidents happen all the time and so does abuse. Tort companies advertise nationwide ‘had an accident? Call us’. People refer to ‘their claim’. The latter involves an amount of money paid out towards reparation to the victim. There is no such thing with the aftermath of abuse. No monies tendered to help us rebuild ourselves because no one can ‘fix’ us overnight. We are the only people that can do that. Granted there is help along the way but the bigger damage to the self is for ourselves to see to. How do you stop a venous bleed? Apply pressure on the wound. This is a simple first aid requisite. When you bleed all over deep within then no amount of gauze of bandages will stop the bleed. It is going to take a very long time if the scars will always remain unseen to the naked eye if they are very much there, day and night.

If you compare the human psyche to a faulty car, then Freedom shows you where the leaks came from. It also tells you about those phantom spark plugs that seem to ignite when they’re switched off to stop when you need them on. I am not a mechanic. I just like to visualise things in my own way. Should it help someone else develop a greater understanding of what we go through then I will have achieved something.

Our society revels in a clean split of everything. There is good and bad, God and Satan, captains of industry and workers, those that were never abused and those that survived. Societal values also include victims of some kind and naturally relief and aid agencies. I guess we all have our part to play if I have yet to meet one person proudly state that they were once abused but look at me now!

Freedom empowers us to discover the intricacies of abuse, from grooming to the actual acts. It develops a new inner chord we had never quite noticed beforehand. We learn the signs just as we learn to walk away early on. We also learn to spot abusive tendencies from others in various contexts. The friendship we believed we had? Suddenly the good friend turns out not to be the good friend we thought. Fact is the person was no friend at all. We know; so sure it hurts but we get over it and move on. We do because we can. We have walked away from worse. We can do this! And we do so calmly and quietly.

Freedom proves a wonderful tool in the sense that it always reminds us that classes are not solely held for women but also for men. It awakens feelings of compassion for all other people abused, regardless of their gender or sexual preferences. Cut us and we bleed. We all bleed the same fluid (blood) just as we all cry with sorrow and despair. It is a sobering experience as indeed a much needed lesson that we all need to learn in a bid to give us what we need the most: self-acceptance. Naturally self-acceptance cannot be borne without self-forgiveness. You do not go to bed feeling terrible one night to wake up cured. It is a very long process and not a straight forward one either. You have bad days just as you have better ones. Freedom is not only the spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. In most case it is both the sugar as well as half the medicine.

It is my inner belief that Freedom should be part of the school curriculum. Education should start at the basis: teenage children. It could help prevent many of them fall into an abusive relationship. It is  also my strong belief that healthcare and social science professionals should attend Freedom as part of their continuous education. Many of us found that we went on from an abusive relationship where our voice was never heard of course, to the circus of ignorance where help was either not made available to us or those we were referred to elected not to hear us.

Freedom is not about statistics, visual projections and/or computer generated pie charts. It is about human beings that were terrorised by their spouse/partner. It is about them try to come to terms with what was done to them. It is about too many of us apologize for everything, including the fact that we survived when others didn’t. It is about awakening after the nightmare from hell. It is also the first positive step taken by a person towards the self: ‘The Idiot Guide To ‘Healing yourself after domestic abuse’. Freedom is the first changing room we all enter as we swap our ‘victim’ label for that of ‘survivor’ or better still ‘warrior’.

Ending as I started, do enjoy your tea break. Mine is black coffee no sugar and a bar of chocolate.

– By a graduate of the Freedom Programme. (All views her own)