Doesn’t happen in your neighborhood, right? WRONG.
Domestic violence obeys no socio-economic or racial boundaries. I got a firsthand taste of this at a fundraiser for the Center for Domestic Peace, a home for Marin Abused Women’s Services (MAWS). The group combats domestic abuse in the county of Marin, California, one of America’s wealthiest places to live.
A put-together, smiling woman, who would have looked as at home in a country club as at a charity ball, stood up to speak. Having used the services of MASW’s and now a volunteer, she spoke about growing up with money and having an abusive father. She then ended up marrying the same type of man– successful, alcoholic and abusive. And just as her mother had been submissive to her father, she stayed in that marriage for years thinking she had done something wrong and she was too ashamed to admit what was really going on. Her life looked perfect on the outside, but on the inside she was dying and so were her kids who had to watch “daddy beat mom.”
Chris spoke not as a victim of domestic abuse, but from a place of understanding the same emotions. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and for years she felt neglected and abandoned. She spoke about how privilege or coming from an affluent home did not take away her feeling “empty or not enough.”
The two speeches back-to-back blew me away and got me thinking about all the kinds of abuse that go on inside the supposedly safe walls of home. As insidious and likely to sneak into homes across class and wealth is self-abuse.
Self-abuse can take many forms – it can be anorexia or bulimia, self-mutilation such as cutting, even verbal abuse. Chris’s feelings of being unworthy, her internal monologue that told her she was not enough, is just as bad as a partner hurling those insults.
I have experienced both in life, and hearing these brave women speak showed me just how closely the two are related. Growing up with an abusive father, I found comfort in food, which later became the way I abused myself. Binge eating, excessive alcohol, and drugs – were my weapons of choice. Both my father’s beatings and my own behavior damaged my body and mind. In order to recover, I needed help, and I needed to feel safe.
The important thing, whether you’re suffering at someone else’s hand, your own, or both, is to find safety.
For those in abusive relationships, follow MAWS advice:
- Get to a safe place (i.e. a trusted friend’s home)
- Call 911
- Call 1-800-799-SAFE to find a domestic violence program in your area.
- Talk with a friend or relative about what’s going on.
- Seek medical attention if you are injured.
- With a social worker or counselor, devise a plan to keep yourself (and your children) safe.
- Remember, you are not alone and it is not your fault.
For those dealing with self-directed abuse, help is also out there! Safety can be found in getting help:
- For eating disorders, call the helpline for National Eating Disorders Association: 1-800-931-2237.
- If you are injuring yourself physically (i.e. cutting or burning yourself), the Self-injury Outreach and Support website is a great tool.
- If your abuse happens mostly in your head, you can still benefit from professional help. Find a therapist or life coach (if finances are a concern, seek out a nearby graduate school program, many of which offer great care for less).
We all found our way to safety – MAWS’ speaker got help. Chris discovered she was enough. I got help, stopped abusing myself and healed.
The central theme of all of the speakers that day was whether rich or poor, domestic violence is prevalent. I’d like to add that the same goes for self-abuse – it cuts across all societal boundaries.
But to find safety, you must take action. I understand what it is like to hide, both from the world and from myself. Let me tell you, silence hurts – it does not heal.
When we silence our pain, we hurt more. It is time to speak up about our own pain to free ourselves of unnecessary abuse.
The time is now. This moment.
Weight Release & Body Image Expert Laura Fenamore supports women around the world to love who they see in the mirror. Through her guidance, they learn to unlock the secrets to healthy weight and to love their bodies like never before. Having overcome her own battle with addiction, obesity, and eating disorders, Laura released 100 pounds 25 years ago. She has chronicled this journey in her new book, Weightless: The Be Good To Yourself Diet. Learn more about Laura’s programs, or invite her to speak by visiting her website at OnePinky.com , her Facebook Pages and connect with Laura on Twitter .