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Emotional abuse or Physical abuse, what is worse?

Emotional Abuse Physical Abuse

People ask me regularly whether emotional or physical abuse is worse. As someone who is abused sexually, emotionally, physically and financially I ought to have an opinion about this. From what I see, most people believe that physical abuse is the worst. Maybe because it is so visible? The pain easier to understand?

Physical abuse

I believe that physical abuse contains aspects of emotional abuse, because the emotional and psychological effects of abuse are also present in this type of abuse.  I remember the first time my ex choked me. That’s an emotional experience that never goes away. True, the bruises faded. My body healed on it’s own. But it took a long time before I healed the emotions coming from that physical experience. Even now, I don’t like it when a scarf touches my neck very tightly. I don’t wear turtlenecks and if I do it is often to challenge myself because I don’t want to connect my past experiences with the feeling of having something around my neck. I want to be free of that burden and don’t give in to negative associations my mind has made from that experience.

Emotional abuse

The thing with emotional abuse is this: it is harder to recognise and to comprehend especially because it is so vindictive, often hidden and not very obvious. It is harder to understand and to recover from it.  Healing emotions, in particular in situations of child and partnerabuse is very difficult. The effect abuse has in your life, both short and long term is enormous. The path to healing is a difficult rocky one that needs constant awareness.

Healing process

If you look strictly; with physical abuse it is your body and the body does the job itself (NOTE: if someone is not abused to the extent that he or she has broken something or in pain for the rest of his/her life of course).

With emotional abuse YOU are the one who has to work. Most likely there are patterns of emotional abuse that have existed for a long time, maybe a feeling of dependence, lack of self-confidence and you might have given control to the other person for so long that you don’t know who you are and what you want anymore or now afraid of making choices. Maybe you don’t dare to say no to the other person and always give in by doing what the other person expects you to do and you probably don’t know why exactly. It is probably hard to accept that you are the victim of abuse and to understand how and in what kinds of ways you have been abused. Next to that you might have to deal with the controlling and manipulating behaviour of an ex-partner or parent that can linger on for years after breaking up the relationship making it hard to create new healthy patterns.

Physical abuse contains aspects of emotional abuse. Physical and emotional abuse can be equally difficult to heal. The difficulty of healing depends on the type of abusive situations and the thoughts you created around that experience.

How do you interpretate the abuse?

I believe that both emotional and physical abuse have in common that emotional abuse is involved. And where emotional abuse is involved there is work to be done to recover from it. Change won’t happen automatically. Although I am known for my opinions I cannot say what is worse; emotional or physical abuse. Because that depends from one person to another.

The way you interpretate your experience with abuse will determine how you feel, not the experience itself.

None of these two options can be a “winner”. Both are hard to recover from. There is no price to be given. There is only compassion from your fellow survivor who has felt a lot of emotions like you do.

Abuse, Mindset, Personal

How to become confident in a matter of seconds

Confident

Becoming confident

(This is a blog I wrote earlier for the blog LifeSurfer.net)

One of the most common things that people tell me after they have heard me speak about violence is: “Alianne, you are really confident.. It is a shame that I could never be like that!”

But the thing is, they don’t see my vulnerable moments, or how I handle them. Seconds of closing my speech during the WAVE conference (women against violence Europe), I felt fear was creeping in. In my post adrenaline glow I thought I could have spoken better English, that I could have done better in general. Maybe I had messed things up. Maybe the other professionals would think my speech was silly.

A few more seconds later (without exaggeration) my hand was kissed, I saw the tears in the eyes of the professionals who work to end the violence against women, people exclaimed how glad they were that they had come to listen and to have met me, told me how brave I was, professionals were telling me that they wanted to hire me. etc. (I still need to get used to all the love in life, but I love it, it is so empowering!)

Don’t settle for the way you are handling things right now

But there is this thing that nobody saw and that is what happened between those two moments. What I have trained myself over the years and the thing that separates me from most people is that I correct myself pretty quickly. A personality is largely made by ourselves and our thoughts about ourselves. We can choose to be confident and strong. We can learn to master our thoughts. We can choose and work towards being free.

Do the work

The reason that most people aren’t confident is that they are either to afraid to step up for what they want to become, the thoughts in their head seem to strong, they are afraid to do the work (or what they will have to face about themselves) or they don’t know how to start.

Be your own cheerleader

But how did I transform from insecure to confident in just a matter of seconds during the WAVE conference? I just interrupted my thinking. Whenever I feel that I am attacking myself, or approach myself from a place of scarcity I will stop myself from doing that immediately. I want other thoughts and believes for myself. I want to support and grow myself, not belittle me. (You can learn how to do that over here: http://www.aliannelooijenga.com/19-ways-to-become-a-confident-woman/)

I knew where my insecure thoughts were coming from and I chose not to accept the way I was thinking about myself. I knew that my negative thoughts were a lie and I decided not to dwell on depressing emotions.

Yes I am confident. But I don’t have a magic wand that gave me this “skill”. Sexual abuse, partner abuse, financial abuse, abuse supported by the government and institutions break down your feeling of safety and your self worth.

I had to work damn hard to find myself and lift me up to some higher plan with a vision and goal for myself. I had to work damn hard to remove the voices in my head that said I couldn’t do something or that I wasn’t good enough of a person. I had to work damn hard to get rid of the feeling of constant uncertainty and loss of direction in life.

But I just didn’t settle for the status quo. Working hard, every day, gets you where you want to end up.

That’s the key for everything in life. Working hard and empowering yourself in order to support others in life.

Mindset, Personal, Speaking

How to gain mastery over your emotions (in 3 steps)

How to gain mastery over your emotions (in 3 steps)

Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy. – Aristotle

How to gain mastery over your emotions 

I love this quote by Aristotle but I don’t completely agree with him. I believe anyone can gain mastery over their emotions. We all have the ability to take control over our own thoughts and beliefs and thereby having control over our emotions. And because of that the power to control our behavior without being blown away by feelings and circumstances.

But to achieve this, one needs to realize that there is an alternative to their behavior, and we need to know how to make the change. And of course, we have to be willing to change.

Without the decision and commitment to change a behavior, nothing will change, period.

 

First step: Identify your feelings.

When you want to start you first have to be conscious and curious about what you are thinking. Listen to yourself. What are the thoughts that are spinning through your mind? What is the language you use in your thoughts? Are they unproductive negative victim thoughts (why is this always happening to me), or are they empowering you? What emotions do you feel? If you find it helpful, you can write them down.

Second step: Acknowledge your feelings:

What is your emotion telling you? How you feel about something tells a whole lot about you. A particular moment in your life might give you anxiety while another person might get pleasure out of the same experience. But there is often another meaning to feelings as well. You just have to dig deeper to find it.

I will give you an example: a few years ago, I told my children to get ready for school. After repeatedly asking and reminding them, I saw them playing with Duplo, while the clock was ticking, I found myself feeling angry and stressed out.

When I took a closer look at my feelings I noticed that it wasn’t so much angriness and stress that I felt, but the feeling of disrespect because they weren’t listening to me, and the feeling of shame because I wouldn’t meet the school’s standards by being on time.

I could change both situations: I explained to Tycho and Sem what I felt, and guided them more in their morning tasks. We became happier morning persons because of it ;-). Next to that, I learned to give less importance to what other people might think and so I became more relaxed and therefore I gained more energy throughout the day. Energy that I didn’t spend worrying about others.

Third step: Take back control

When you have thoughts like: “Well, if she just hadn’t said this” or “If he would have done that, I would feel…” you are giving your personal power away. Others seem to have the power to control your emotions. Remind yourself that you are the only one accountable for your emotions and instead of blaming, find ways to solutions, and make the experience useful.

To feel happiness you will need to redirect your energy of “poor me” into “powerful me!” Give limited space to the things that are draining your energy and that you can’t control, and give attention to the things that give you energy and that you can control. Your life will go where you focus on, so focus on where you want to go, not by what you fear or makes you feel powerless.

Change your thoughts: If you think: “What drains my energy right now,” you focus on what drains your energy and you will feel empty. But if you think: “what gives me energy?” Your focus is on all the things that give you energy and you will feel completely different because the latter empowers you instead of draining you.

Which language do you use?

It is as simple as this: no person or situation in the whole wide world makes you feel sad or happy..

“But hey Alianne, wait a minute” – you might think- “when he did this to me and when I felt…” Yes, I know, I hear what you are going to say, but let me finish. No one makes you feel sad or happy because your emotions are based on how you’re interpreting each situation and event in your life, see?

What makes your neighbour feel happy, might be different from what makes you happy. And what feels disastrous and gives anxiety to one person, may just feel like a tiny bump in the road for another.

What makes you feel pressure in the form of anxiety and stress? How can you turn this around? Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time and what action can you take to get there? Those are questions that will help you move forward.

In which direction are you going?

Imagine how you want to feel: Close your eyes and take deep belly breaths. Feel your mental pressure and let it go with a deep exhale. Imagine yourself feeling relaxed and happy. Think of what makes you feel happy and feel relaxed. Realize that you are the only one in control over your thoughts and thereby the moments of your life. The only thing you need to feel happy is to imagine it.

What are the actions you can take to become where you want to be? I recommend you do this guided meditation of Jason Stephenson and enjoy his beautiful Australian accent: https://goo.gl/kaJP1o

Use your experience:

The truth is that you most likely have experienced this emotion before, although maybe in another context. What did you do previously when you felt that emotion? What was the outcome? What can you do now to get a better outcome? What kind of action can you do now to feel the way you want? What do you need to feel the emotion you want to feel? And how can you give that to yourself?

If you are feeling stressed, it is important to implement more fun, spontaneous actions.  So go out, have some fun, and relax a bit!

No harm can come from that!

X

Family, Home, Mindset, Personal

Break the silence: How to tell others that you were abused

Break the silence: How to tell others that you were abused

How do you tell your family and (new) friends that you’re a survivor of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse?

Some will say that you just have to “just say it” and others will say you have to plan carefully.

The problem with the first suggestion is being too impulsive, and the problem with the latter is that by planning too much, overthinking too much, you likely will procrastinate and/or create unnecessary worries and anxieties.

I have heard a lot of people say they just want a successful outcome.

But what is a successful outcome? Is there even a successful outcome?

Second: you can never control the “outcome” or the reactions of the person to whom you are telling your story. Nor should you want to, because it is in the reaction of the other person that you can see the value of your relationship with them. It is not your job to be busy thinking about what the other thinks and does. It should be your goal to think about how revealing your secret will benefit you. Telling someone you are a survivor is something you do for yourself.

Although I never hid my story of sexual abuse from my mother, I didn’t tell my story to the rest of my family until I was 26. At first, I was silent to protect my beloved grandfather; after that it was to protect my aunt who was married to the abuser; and as a child, it because I was afraid of the stories of child protective services. And because my uncle threatened, “What would happen to your poor mom” if he wasn’t there to help my mom out with things around the house.

With the help of my friend, I’ve written a looooong document where I told all of my uncles, aunts, and adult nephews and nieces what happened.

I sent the letter and my family went silent. Well… At least until my uncle the abuser responded to prosecute me for defamation. Thereafter I decided to file charges against him for sexual abuse because I discovered the statutory limitations on abuse hadn’t expired yet.

After a little while, my older nephew called me. He told me he was the only one in the whole family who didn’t know that this had happened despite the knowledge of his father (my uncle) and his mother (my aunt).  I had told what happened to someone close to me and that person had told my aunt and my grandmother, and apparently, everyone knew in my family knew after that.

The whole family knew the whole time! I had a really big family. And nobody did anything or talked to me about it!

My nephew concluded the phone call that he would await the judge’s ruling in the case of defamation.

The judge’s ruling was in my favor. Except for the brief phone call from my nephew and the prosecution for defamation, I never heard from my family again.

This experience showed me that there is a difference between family by blood and your chosen family by heart. I am truly more happy to have people in my life who truly love me for who I am and who stand up for me and stick with me when the going gets tough no matter what than the forced family who did nothing to show they cared.

So, back to the second question: what is a successful outcome?

I think it’s about the enormous weight falling from your shoulders. There is no dirty secret anymore. The meaning you give to this abuse becomes less heavy; you essentially free yourself. It opens the doors to accept yourself for who you are, to acknowledge that you have nothing to be ashamed of, and to fully express yourself.

Back to the original question: How do you tell your family and (new) friends that you’re a survivor of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse?

It is important to not “overthink,” you cannot possibly know what the other person is thinking, so stop wasting your time doing so.

Ask yourself: What is your reason for telling?

  • Is your goal to explain your past to another, or maybe your behaviors?
  • To tell someone else why you have certain fears or why you are struggling with depression, suspiciousness or certain sexual issues?
  • Maybe you seek validation and moral support? To let it all out and to heal this wound in your heart caused by the secret’s damaging characteristics?
  • Do you want to protect other (future) victims?

Before you enter the conversation, think things through:

  • How do I explain why I didn’t tell someone sooner (some people most likely wanted to reach out to you sooner)?
  • How do I want to tell (via a written letter, meeting somewhere or maybe both)?
  • When do I want to tell it; it is best to schedule a moment when you both have time for this type of conversation.

As you sit down with the person you feel most comfortable with, someone you trust and who is most likely to believe you, you may still feel nervous. Tell the other person you feel nervous and that you need support from that person after you have told them your story (that gives the listener an idea how he/she should react since your story can come as a complete shock and that person doesn’t know how he/she is allowed to comfort you).

You have to prepare yourself for possible letdowns, too. Sometimes people will have trouble believing you. Remember how difficult it was to accept what happened to you. It’s a good thing to have compassion for the recipient of your story. Others might need time to accept it, too.

At first, it may seem easier to hide from others what you’ve been through. But the secret will grow until you become sick, and it bursts. Whenever you are ready to let this secret go, do it on your own timing, with the people you trust the most. And if you tell others, you can take the people you trust most with you to support you when you tell your story to others.

Some notes:

  • Writing a letter can be a good alternative to a face-to-face meeting if you think that you might be interrupted when you are telling your story. A letter can also help to serve as a guide when you tell your story. It also helps when you have trouble with expressing yourself under pressure.
  • Advice from a therapist can really help before you drop the bomb. He or she can discuss your goals with you, the probable outcomes the conversation can have, and can practice the conversation with you.
  • It is important to know that telling is hard but keeping something like this secret, will damage you deeply, and thereby infect those around you.
  • You have nothing to be ashamed of. You are not alone. 1 out of 3 women are victims of abuse. You have the right to be true to yourself and to tell your story.
  • There is no good or bad way to tell your story.
  • This too shall pass.
  • Most importantly: we need more people to show the world who they really are.

The first time is the heaviest. After this, you gain confidence and it becomes easier every time. Maybe you want to tell others after this, or maybe you don’t. For some, it helps to talk about it more often, while others may not be ready yet to deal with the strong emotions they experience when they talk about the abuse and trauma. It’s okay. It’s important that you break the silence and accept that this is a part of your life. It has shaped you into the person you are now. It’s time to let go of shame. It’s time to break with the victim inside of you. It’s time for you to move on and to start living.

Abuse, Family, Family by blood, Mindset, Personal

How to talk with your children about abuse

How to talk with your children about abuse

One of the hardest things you do after a relationship with an abuser has ended, is talking with your children about their abusive father or mother. Sometimes it can feel if you have to weigh each and every word on a scale and if you are tiptoeing on a very thin string.

Perhaps you’re wondering whether you should bring up the topic when your child doesn’t mention it, how you can talk about what your ex-partner did to you, and what you should actually do with your own emotions. Below you can find a couple of tips. Choose the ones that feel right for you.

Set some ground rules with yourself

Just like there is an age restriction on tonnes of films, it should also exist in your imagination during conversations with your child. Your child is mentally not ready to hear all the horrible details of what their father did to you. You then push all kinds of adult emotions into a tiny body, and your child doesn’t have the mental capacity, nor the ability to handle it. Keep adult topics far away from your child’s ears. In my house I have the strict rule; subject A (which I never mention out loud) is only discussed at night when the children are asleep, and preferably when the children are staying elsewhere. My children don’t have to know that I was sexually abused for ten years and that that is the reason why my mother doesn’t cycle in the abuser’s street. They don’t have to know they were born early because I was abused by their progenitor. They have their own history with him, their own trauma, and that is bad enough. Apart from that, I just want to let them be children.

Find (independent) help

Many children have difficulties to talk about their emotions, so when you notice that in your own child, it is time to get help. Find an independent child psychologist to talk with your child.

Let them talk

When my children want to talk about it, I do this without judgement. I let them tell their story. I don’t interrupt their conversation by, for example, talking about myself. I don’t give them my vision, but when possible I provide them with support to continue talking. Sharing is good, and it gives me an idea of how far they’ve come in their development and trauma processing.

Safety first

I have not allowed my children to go with their biological father after they had been abused by him (about which you can read more here: http://www.aliannelooijenga.com/infringing-the-rules-despite-the-consequences/. Despite penalties, threats of juridical hostage, and increasing the penalties, I always put my children’s safety first.

I once told my children they would never have to see him again, which I started to regret when youth care forced me to let them see each other again. I had given them my promise and couldn’t keep myself to it. Nevertheless, I will never let them be alone again, since that is too dangerous.

Be honest towards your children.

When my son told me I wasn’t clever for having chosen such a stupid father, I agreed with him. I am honest about what happened in the process (though, of course, I don’t bother burden them with unnecessary insecurity).

Indicate your boundaries.

You don’t want your child to lose themselves in all kinds of nasty fantasies. Let your child finish, but do indicate your boundaries.

My children know the abuse is not their fault. Children always have the tendency to blame themselves, which is something I have been vigilant for from the very beginning.

Pay attention to your child’s drawings.

My children used to make drawings in which the abuser was very tall and they were very small. They also made drawings in which they drew him as very ugly, after which they crumpled up the paper and threw it away. Later they would make drawings in which they were very tall. When I saw them drawing something like that, I always joined them to talk about it. I gave them space so they could use their drawings to tell me what they were thinking. Of course, I thought the drawings were horrible, but by not reacting emotionally and by giving them my time and attention, they felt safe to tell their story.

Don’t force conversations;

let it come from your child. Forcing when a child isn’t ready will only cause your child to withdraw even more.

Praise your children.

Show your child that you see and recognize and understand his/her feelings. Give compliments.  My children receive loads of compliments. About having dried the dishes well, that a shirt looks very nice, reminding them that they are strong etc. Together with them, I strengthen their self-image.

Watch your child.

Children pay an enormous amount of attention to the reaction of adults. Show your child that you believe (in) them and will be there for them and have their best interest at heart.

What if your child misses their father?

We have never been in that situation because at the moment when an affective bond should have developed (during the imposed moments of contact), that didn’t happen. But whatever your situation is; talk to your child about their emotions. Find the space in your heart to talk about the good moments that have happened, find neutral words (i.e. don’t say, “Well, and that moron of a dad of yours”, don’t play down the events and explain what you can.

Be patient.

Abuse is already hard to understand for an adult, but for a child it is completely unfathomable. Be patient if your child has put some walls in front of you or struggles with feelings of loyalty towards the abusive parent.

Discuss healthy boundaries.

Talk about how one should treat another. That it is never okay to physically, sexually or emotionally hurt another living being. And ofcourse, what your child should do and to whom your child should go when someone crosses those boundaries.

Empower your child

Humans have a tendency to tell themselves all kinds of negative things about why they are unworthy of something. And what you tell yourself, you will believe. So give your child some positive affirmations. Plant those little sentences in your child’s head. Rewire their brain and program empowerment in their brain. A few example of sentences you could use:

1.) I am loved

2.) I am strong

3.) I am worthy

4.) I am fierce

5.) I can acchieve anything

6.) I am save (but only if it is the right thing to say of course)

7.) I am powerful

8.) I have a beautiful soul

You can also listen to the video below or check out this website to find other affirmations for kids you can use. Remember to frequently tell your children the same affirmations so they will remember them.

145+ Powerfully Positive Affirmations for Kids

Love,

Alianne

Morning Motivation Starting off with positive affirmations can set a great tone for how your day unfolds. Learning this from an early age can be very beneficial in the esteem and confidence of a child. We are all Destined for Greatness!

Posted by The DFG Movement on Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Abuse, Family, Family by blood, Mindset, Personal, Speaking

PAVE PODCAST EPISODE 009: PEACE, RED ELEPHANT FOUNDATION, GENDER EQUALITY AND HOW TO INSPIRE PEOPLE INTO ACTION WITH KIRTHI JAYAKUMAR

To listen to the PAVE podcast Episode 009 with Kirthi Jayakumar please click here: https://itunes.apple.com/nl/podcast/pave-professionals-against-violence-podcast/id1203285774?mt=2#episodeGuid=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.professionalsagainstviolence.com%2F%3Fp%3D932

Kirthi Jayakumar is an activist, artist and writer from Chennai, India. She founded and runs the Red Elephant Foundation, a civilian peacebuilding initiative that works for gender equality through storytelling, advocacy and digital interventions. She is a member of the Youth Working Group for Gender Equality. Kirthi is the recipient of the US Presidential Services Medal (2012) for her services as a volunteer to Delta Women NGO, and the two-time recipient of the UN Online Volunteer of the Year Award (2012, 2013).

Kirthi is also the recipient of the Global Peace Prize 2016, from WeSchool, and the Rising Star of India Award, 2016, from We The City India. Her second book, The Dove’s Lament, made it to the final shortlist for the Muse India Young Writers’ Literary Award. Kirthi was recently invited to the United State of Women Summit at the White House in Washington DC, as a nominated changemaker. She is also a Zen Doodler, and her works have been commissioned by corporate establishments, non-profits and art collectors world over.

About your host: 

Alianne Looijenga is an international speaker motivating organizations to effectively help survivors of partner abuse, child abuse and sexual abuse. She is also the founder of aliannelooijenga.com and the Professionals against violence (PAVE) podcast.   Alianne is a survivor of sexual abuse (including rape); partner abuse; and is the mother of twins who were abused by their biological father after a judge granted him visitation rights when the children were three years old.

Alianne is dedicated to the empowerment of survivors of abuse and to support organisations working to end the violence against women and children.

TOPICS DISCUSSED AND ORGANISATIONS/EVENTS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Kirthi suffered different kinds of abuse: sexual abuse, bullying, racism and ethnic violence. It made her empathy driven but it had a major impact. She chose silence over articulation of the things that happened to her with manifestations on her health as a result.
  • How Kirthi transformed because of the New Delhi rape and the wisdom of her mother:
  • You have two options: you can feel terrible about this, you can feel depressed, you can mourn about it, you can do whatever you want, fine. Or you can do this for some time and pick up your life. Whatever it is that you do, remember it is your choice and whatever you choose, I am with you.
  • Kirthi thought deeply for six months about all that happened, learned about alternative healing, read and thought a lot and after six months she gave her mom (on her birthday) the gift of Kirthi’s empowerment and founded the Red Elephant Foundation.
  • United state of Women (9:00 minutes)
  • The secret about how Kirthi can accomplish so much per day
  • Female infanticide (12:00 minutes)
  • Why Kirthi chose fiction to tell her stories to inspire people into action (13:00 minutes)
  • The writing proces of the writer of Dimashq (15.00 minutes)

– Syrian conflict

–  A different approach in thinking about war and conflict

Kirthi’s biggest dream (19:00 minutes)

Why peace is so important for Kirthi (21:00 minutes)

Alianne’s story regarding to health and trauma (35 minutes)

To listen to the PAVE podcast Episode 009 with Kirthi Jayakumar please click here: https://itunes.apple.com/nl/podcast/pave-professionals-against-violence-podcast/id1203285774?mt=2#episodeGuid=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.professionalsagainstviolence.com%2F%3Fp%3D932

MORE ABOUT KIRTHI AND THE RED ELEPHANT FOUNDATION

MORE ABOUT KIRTHI 

http://www.redelephantfoundation.org/

https://www.instagram.com/femcyclopaedia/

https://www.instagram.com/kirthipotamus/

The Doodle Kirthi created for me (I am still humbled to be featured next to these women): https://www.instagram.com/p/BSzC5e8A-R9/?taken-by=femcyclopaedia

Kirthi’s books, including the Dove’s lament and the doodler of Dimashq: https://www.amazon.com/Kirthi-Jayakumar/e/B076V6GJBY

MORE ABOUT PAVE

https://www.instagram.com/aliannelooijenga

SPONSORS

If you want to be a guest on the PAVE podcast, a volunteer working for PAVE, if you are interested in becoming a PAVE sponsor, or want to help us in an other way, email me to see how we can work together to end the violence against women and children.

email: alianne@aliannelooijenga.com

To listen to the PAVE podcast Episode 009 with Kirthi Jayakumar please click here: https://itunes.apple.com/nl/podcast/pave-professionals-against-violence-podcast/id1203285774?mt=2#episodeGuid=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.professionalsagainstviolence.com%2F%3Fp%3D932

Abuse, Activism, Feminism, Gender Equality, Health, Interview, Mindset, Patriarchy, PAVE Podcast, Personal, UN women

How to stop running back to abusive (boy/girl) friends

abusive friends

Let’s say you have a best friend and she is dating this guy. He is charming, funny, wants to spend a lot of time with her. You are very happy for your friend and you share all the things that women share when dating a cute guy :D. But after a while, you notice that she is canceling appointments with you. It’s getting harder to make an appointment with her because she is busy. She starts making sentences like: “my boyfriend doesn’t like it if…” “my boyfriend thinks I should” “my boyfriend doesn’t want me to…” She starts worrying if she is good enough for him. She tells you about his complaints about her, tells you about his long nights away. Perhaps even tells you about his anger issues. But as time progresses she shares less and less because you wouldn’t understand anyway, and on top of that you don’t understand their relationship well enough. At some point,  she comes to you and the truth comes out. He has hit her several times and she is afraid.

Question: Would you recommend for her to run back to her boyfriend?

No, of course you wouldn’t.

But if the situation were reversed, would you have returned to him? If so, why would you return to such a guy? Maybe because you feel you love him. Maybe because deep down you are afraid of being alone. You find leaving scarier than staying.

So we stay and try to justify our boyfriend’s behavior. And like a skill, we become experts at convincing ourselves why we should stay, why we HAVE to stay. Something I personally used as an excuse was: “he needs me, otherwise he’ll hurt himself.” I also told myself that if I just could be better, if I just would change this or that we would be fine. This was something he had told me all along and I just adopted it. I told myself that it wasn’t that bad, that all relationships go through rough patches, etc., etc., etc., etc.

Honesty

But I should have been honest with myself and if you ever find yourself in such a situation, I believe you should be honest with yourself too. Because all the things I told myself about why I should stay ultimately came down to this: I was afraid to leave because of my low self-esteem. Before the trauma bonding, before anything else it came down to low self-esteem and not loving myself enough. I could not believe that what I felt was really happening – because I didn’t trust myself enough, due to my low self-esteem. When I entered the relationship, I didn’t have a high self-esteem in the first place. Ten years of sexual abuse, the beginning of puberty and typical adolescent uncertainty does that to someone. The fear kicks in after the first hit, but the foundation of emotional dependence was already there.

But if I truly loved and trusted myself the way I should have, I would have left and I think that is something that most of us will recognize. Loving the other more and valuing ourselves less is the first cause to make us to stay. A few things that can happen while this is happening.

Leaving is scary (and can be dangerous). The future is uncertain. Starting over again is scary. You are left vulnerable. So you just ignore that gut feeling that tells you that you should leave. By staying you and I didn’t asked to be hurt, but by staying we did create the possibility for him to do so and thus allowed him to go on.

The crazy making cycle

In an abusive relationship, you can’t communicate your needs without being punished for it and if you could, your needs probably wouldn’t been met. This is because you are in a toxic relationship.

Suddenly you realize the dangerous situation you are in and you are afraid to leave. This time it is not because of being hurt but because the situation is now so dire. He is now so out of control, you are afraid of losing you and possibly your loved ones lives.

And then ultimately you leave. You probably feel a lot of self-blame after a while. Maybe you feel stupid for being in that relationship for far too long, for losing friends and family, for hurting or not listening to them. Because of this, your self-worth probably continues to go down. Maybe you feel alone, scared. You start a mental loop full of thoughts. Maybe he wasn’t that bad. Maybe it was you; maybe you can do better. Maybe you even deserved to be treated that way. All these things start playing in your heard on repetitive cycles.

Until you either end up in a relationship equal to this one with even less self-worth and self-esteem or run back to your ex.

But how do we break this cycle?

Build you self-worth

Understand anxiety

  • We must understand our anxiety and how to deal with it when we feel it coming. What do you do to calm yourself? Do you call a friend, does ASMR help you (like one of the videos perhaps? https://www.youtube.com/user/StevePickles94/videos ) or do you have other healthy techniques that helped you in the past to calm down? Whatever you choose, remember to do breathing techniques to calm yourself. You can’t make healthy choices if your mind is running around, so calm your mind first. Breath slowly in and out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJ04nsiz_M0

Pay attention and learn to trust your gut

  • Pay attention to your instincts in your relationship. When you feel that something is off fundamentally, it probably is. But sometimes we don’t trust ourselves enough to trust our instincts. For example, because you fell in love with an abuser before. Well, let me help you out: the problem wasn’t so much in the first place that you fell in love with an abuser. The problem was that you didn’t act upon your instincts when you felt and knew something wasn’t right.  It isn’t enough to have those gut feelings. Everybody has them but if when the signs aren’t clear because of our low self-esteem or past experiences we don’t trust our instincts, we ignore it, and we do not act on what it is telling us and continue to act against it. We confuse ourselves and ultimately can’t feel the signs anymore. But luckily we can prevent, reverse, and strengthen this “skill” by paying attention to our gut. Let it be an comforting thought: you have the power to choose who you spend your time with. And if someone isn’t treating you right, you have the power to walk way.

What is your source?

  • Now we are paying attention to our gut, it is time to understand what our intuition is telling us. Sometimes we are so consumed by fear, anxiety, and doubt that it is difficult to know what is what. So first of all we must define our feelings. What is the source of these feelings? Is it truly your intuition or is it fear? I think this is a great article to help you start with that: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rosalie-puiman/your-gut-feeling-fear-or-_b_6667194.html

Set standards and be clear

  • Now we learn the difference between actual fear vs. our instincts acting up. It is time to listen and act upon our instincts. If someone is crossing our boundaries, then it is time to communicate that with them. If that doesn’t help and somebody crosses them over and over again, then you have to decide if this situation is healthy and what you want to do with that situation. Remember, as we grow, our perspective, our attitudes, and our needs change anyway (crossing boundaries or not).

Dare to let people and thoughts go

  • Other people who are going through their own growth process don’t necessary grow with us; it can happen with people who are close to you. It doesn’t always mean that you’ll have to say goodbye (this is only possible for non-abusive relationships of course), but if something has a negative impact on your life, it is best to let it go and find positivity and closure to learn from that situation.

Find help and support

Move your body

  • Do a crazy dance. Seriously. If you find that your mind is spinning, spinning, and spinning and you want to snap yourself out of that loophole, do a crazy dance. What not to do: hanging out on the couch listening to sad music that will allow your mind to go through that loophole again. If you feel that your mind starts again and you want to step out of that loophole do some kind of activity like running, dancing etc.

Level up

  • Level up. New things in life are scary. Uncertainty is scary. Life is scary because nothing is certain. But you have one person you can learn to trust your detour and that is yourself. The amazing Yourself is someone who will always be with you and the best thing is that you can control how she reacts to circumstances. You are in the powerseat of your life and you and only you are responsible for the choices you make.

Other must reads: http://tinybuddha.com/quotes/tiny-wisdom-when-its-time-to-move-on/ by Lori Deschene

 

Abuse, Mindset, Personal

Abuse and the common sense of the family court system

I wrote some of my (more personal) blogs for the website lifesurfer.net in 2015/2016. This is one of these blogs. The organisations mentioned in this blog are no longer interfering with my family and I only have professional contact with them for when they ask me for advice regarding domestic violence.

The common sense of the family court system

Many abused women have faced injustice, heartbreak and fear when dealing with the family court system.

This article is addressing this international problem, but will mention Dutch organisations I have been involved with.

Dutch institutions and organisations and their abbreviations:

RVDK = raad van de kinderbescherming best translated as The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service which is set up to promote the welfare of children and families involved in family court.

AMK = The Advice and Reporting Centre was until the end of 2014 a Dutch organization that registered reports of suspected child abuse, gave advice and, and if necessary, took action to prevent further harm.

Jeugdzorg = Youth Care Agency is a Dutch care institution for youth with both voluntary and mandatory care assistance and guidance

Common sense

When I was 14 I started a relationship with my ex-partner, who was 21 at the time. The years that followed were characterized by emotional abuse, rape and financial abuse. During this time I felt as though my life was completely in his hands, as he made every decision. When I tried to escape, I found out I was pregnant, which was a complete surprise – a miracle, given my chronic disease. I decided to stay with him because I believed he would change for our children – I was having twins – and would seek help for his violent behavior, as he had promised me he would.

Because of the emotional abuse I suffered, my self-confidence was very low. I couldn’t imagine taking care of children by myself, and I didn’t want my children growing up in a broken home without a father. It turned out that this was wishful thinking, as during my pregnancy I was still abused, badly enough that my twins were born prematurely. Eventually we fled his house.

My stress increased every time I stood up to my ex-partner to protect my children from his abuse and after the social service wanted to receive child support for my children so they could withhold it from my allowance. Something for which I had never asked my ex-partner, by agreement.

Angry because he felt he was losing his power over me and because the social service wanted money from him, he wanted value for his money and threatened to call Youth Care and take my children from me.

Since then I have dealt with several youth care organisations and  RVDK ( Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) employees.

Talking about child abuse and partner violence is taboo

What I noticed about these employees is that they did not dare approach the subject of child abuse. I don’t know if that’s because they don’t have enough funded scientific knowledge, are afraid of the extra work or just have a blind spot for this subject; regardless, the results are the same. In the past, people used to cite PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) as a reason to let children visit their father, nowadays employees and the media directly address a divorce battle.

It is overlooked that different motives exist when it comes to violence between partners and a messy divorce, with each being a completely different subject is not realized and therefore disregarded.  An extreme example of this was when I made a statement to the police about child abuse and partner violence. It is a standard procedure for the police to alert the AMK (advice and child abuse reporting centre) when someone files for child abuse. When I was sitting at the desk of an AMK employee our report was literally pushed aside.

None of the employees of the RVDK, youth care or the AMK ever asked me why I hadn’t completely committed to the visitation rights but instead chose a less intense form of contact. None of the employees to whom I have spoken over the years has had specialised knowledge of the field of child abuse and partner violence. Everyone I have spoken to has acted out of dogmatic principles within Youth Care – that every child not only has the right to two biological parents but also that the absence of a parent always threatens the child’s psychological and emotional development.

An employee at the youth centre we had to visit had such a romantic view about the “always apparent and unbreakable bond between child and biological parent” that he approved of a case in which a child was forced to visit a parent in prison. This parent had tried to kill the child and had actually killed the child’s mother and little brother in front of the child’s eyes.

Acting out of gut feelings

None of the employees I talked to acted out of well-funded scientific substantiation, knowledge or research. Rather, they acted out of dogmatic principles like they exist within youth care, the AMK and the RVDK. These agencies suffer from tunnel vision; they assume that it is always bad for the development of a child if he or she has no contact with the biological father.

Of course, a bond between a father and an child is an important factor that should be considered when determining visitation rights but there already must be a bond and such a bond between child and father should have been developed long before the divorce (Source: Stichting Zijweg (2008) Uit het veld geslagen. Knelpunten na partnergeweld). This was, and isn’t, the case with my children. My ex left the house where we more or less lived in together when the children just became one year old when he abused me severely.

Earlier in the relationship he had been home only during the weekends because of his work, but after the children were born he was almost never at home even then. If he was home he didn’t interfere with the children at all. He never took care of them and when I left him and he forced his way into my house and a few times randomly showed up and demanded to take the kids (a request I initially didn’t dare refuse out of fear of him) he would bring the kids after an hour to my mother’s house because he didn’t know what to do with them. The children really met him for the first time when they were three-and-a-half years old. At that point, they didn’t have any memories of him. Thankfully, because it meant they didn’t remember the abuse.

Common sense

What I’ve missed in my contacts with Youth Care, the council and the court is the use of common sense. According to the prevailing dogma within Youth Care and the RvdK, contact with the father is more important than investigating whether the child’s physical and mental well being will benefit from contact with an abuser. Whether contact with this biological parent is in the child’s best interest. The risks of child abuse are greatly underestimated. Youth Care and the RvdK act as though once a divorce is agreed upon, the children and mother are no longer in danger because no family situation exists anymore.

However, it is generally known that violence often continues after a relationship ends. For example, the father uses the children as pawns, engages in emotional and physical abuse, maintains control over the mother via the children, files frivolous lawsuits, does not fully pay alimony or pays it late, blames the victim or threatens the mother. None of this is taken into account, a situation that results in the continued abuse of children and mothers by ex-partners.

A deal is sought without taking history into account and without adequately examining the statements and behavior of the father during his conversations with care workers. The children are delivered to him like packages – without consideration for how safe the situation actually is and under the motto that they never can be sure who speaks the truth nothing is done with the history of abuse and the earlier child abuse.It is literally pushed aside.Nobody asks about it. Nobody asks what the father’s plans are regarding parenting techniques when he yells in court that he wants to be in touch with his children, but then doesn’t show any initiative or attempt to contact them. The only thing that matters and what contains the value is the fact that he partially created the children and the blind dogma says that contact with a parent is always good for a child.

PAS is applied but disguised

No consideration of safety risks is made because one of the dogmas of Youth Care is that a child is harmed when he or she isn’t in contact with the biological father. Youth Care still regularly refers to the principles of parental alienation, which is caused by false information to the child by the custodial parent. This is despite the fact that PAS has been refuted by well-funded scientific research. The myth is still used in practice, and mothers who don’t fully agree to contact with the father during the intake of Youth Care are immediately labeled liars who are acting out of grudges and resentment stemming from the divorce.

Coercion and threats cause damage

In my contact with Youth Care and the RvdK, I’ve encountered significant coercion, in particular by two employees of Youth Care, the employees of the centre, the court and my ex. I had to cooperate and had to do what they wanted otherwise, the children would be removed from my home, the children and I would be placed under supervision by a guardian, the children would have to live with their father, I would have to pay penalties or I would even be held hostage. The OTS (under the supervision of Youth Care by means of a family guardian) and the penalties are actually imposed. My ex is able to demand 15.000 euro at any moment now and make our lives miserable – a situation hanging above our heads like the Sword of Damocles. It’s a powerful weapon of which he reminds me regularly and, just like in the relationship, when money was the weapon, it apparently gives him pleasure and a sense of power.

I didn’t feel understood by any of the employees. I didn’t feel as though they maintained essential knowledge of child abuse or partner violence or that they considered children in their decision-making process. Today, my children and I are still working through the damage that has been inflicted upon us by the visitation rights that were established when they were three-and-a-half to four years old and the events in the youth care centre when they were seven. The pressure under which I found myself triggered symptoms of PTSS. Together, we have had some rough years.

Common sense

Back to common sense. Since when is the right of the father (especially a father who is only a father in the biological sense, having begotten the children) more important than the right of the child to grow up in a safe environment? When are facts not considered and common sense not used to determine what really happened any more? Since when are no conversations had with children and their mothers about why they are scared? Why aren’t fears investigated? Why, when the mother doesn’t let her children go to an abuser, is she threatened with fines and the loss of her authority, with being forced to let her children live with a parent they don’t know and with whom their safety can’t be guaranteed? Where is the common sense that says we must investigate what’s really going on before we coerce contact with all the instruments of power we have?

The child as a percentage in statistics

When I asked a male employee in the youth care centre in Leeuwarden how the centre was going to ensure that my children would be safe emotionally and physically with my ex-partner, the employee just shrugged and said, “We can’t rule out the possibility of something happening with them if they’re with him”. I reminded him that one can’t gamble with the lives and welfare of children. Their emotional and physical well being isn’t something that can be put at stake so that the rights of the begetter can be maintained or from a dogmatic principle nor can one put blindfolds on and maintain a tunnel vision, saying that contact with the father is always in the best interest of the child. After all research shows that at least one child per week dies by child abuse, and with the attitude of Youth Care, that isn’t surprising.

Living in uncertainty

I know that this week when the family guardian wishes us a nice Christmas and a happy New Year, she ends her working day and goes home while we stay behind living in uncertainty and concern about what Youth Care is planning now that my children are doing a lot better upon the total absence of their biological father and family guardians.

This is because I have done everything in my power, despite the destructive influence that Youth Care has had on my children, to give them confidence and the sense that they are safe. I am the one that sought adequate professional help for them even though their biological father and employees of youth care frustrated my attempts to do so.

Now we must wait on what Youth Care is planning to do with my children. Even though their father has shown no interest in them and has made no initiative to contact them, the schools, or anyone else involved in their lives, Youth Care continues to believe that contact is possible and would be in the children’s best interest (False! as the children are doing much better now that they don’t have any contact with him and now that they are processing the trauma that the youth care centre caused them) . This is despite the fact that the children’s psychologist indicated that youth care should stop putting pressure on the children to have contact with their biological father, with whom they never bonded.

If Youth Care would forget its dogma’s, they would see that a partner abuser exhibits different parenting behaviour and maintains different motives than “normal” parents do. No term like PAS or divorce battle can change such parenting behavior. This can happen only when it is acknowledged that a divorce battle and a divorce following partner violence are completely different, non-comparable issues that ask for separate and different approaches.

This means more work for investigators, family guardians and employees of Youth Care, as well as more effort from judges. It means daring to enter a conversation with the victims of domestic violence and with the abuser himself, sincerely listening to children and, for every individual case investigating what the family needs with respect to rest, safety and stability. Having an open mind towards the family and considering every fact when making a decision. It means seeing the key players as individuals instead of placing them into the category of “a divorce battle” and not simply going along with the opinions of colleagues who have never seen the children. It means, as a family guardian, following one’s own observations and adhering to research.

 

More information about guest lectures and workshops:

For guest lectures or advice about complex issues regarding partner abuse, sexual abuse or child abuse and for which specialised knowledge is necessary, I’m available via alianne@aliannelooijenga.com. In your email, tell me about your organisation and what you would like me to do. I will contact you to discuss how I can be of help.

 

Collaboration and sponsorships:

I am open for collaboration and sponsorships. Just shoot me an email via alianne@aliannelooijenga.com so we can talk further.

Activism, Family, Mindset, Personal, Speaking