Returning to Toxic Relationships, Part 1

Old love letters, Source Flickr, Author Rachel Ashe of Vancouver, Canada (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Almost all of us have, at some time or other, run into an old flame and felt the desire to reconnect.  What draws us is a mix of nostalgia and the desire to correct past mistakes, to “get it right” this time.

The problem is that many of the former relationships to which we find ourselves drawn as abuse survivors were, to put it mildly, toxic.

Why do we save the love letters of a man who repeatedly cheated on us?  Why are we tempted to call the boyfriend who stole our charge cards and emptied our bank account?  Why do we find ourselves checking Facebook for the ex who put us in the emergency room?

The answer is not that time heals all wounds.  It is not that we are seeking closure, that we enjoy pain…or that we are simply too dim to know better.

One reason is familiarity.  There is something powerfully familiar about these toxic relationships.  They evoke buried memories from our past, memories we once associated with love. Continue reading

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Bunnies

Baby with toy bunny, Source https://www.flickr.com/photos/floridamemory/6520748155/, Author Florida Memory (PD)

WARNING: Graphic Images

  • Joseph Milano and Lauren Semanyk, a Maryland couple, have been charged with third degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of their 10 month old daughter [1].   Other charges pending include possession of drug paraphernalia.  The couple waited over 6 hours to report that the baby had ingested fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50-100 times more powerful than morphine.  They described Angelina to emergency personnel as having drowned during a bath.
  • A 16 month old Pennsylvania toddler is in guarded condition after having chewed on a discarded baggie that held heroin [2].  Narcan saved both the baby’s life and his mother’s, both found unconscious.  A search at the home turned up a dozen empty heroin bags.  The mother is expected to be charged.
  • Antonio Floyd and Shantanice Barksdale, a Michigan couple, have been charged with second degree murder and manslaughter in the death of their 18 month old daughter [3].  The toddler, Ava, died after ingesting some 15 times the amount of fentanyl commonly seen in overdose deaths.  Drug residue, baggies, scales, herb grinders, and guns were found in the couple’s home.  They have two other children.

We mull over baby names.  We paint our nurseries pink and blue; decorate them with bunnies or friendly cartoon characters.  We buy sound machines, cashmere receiving blankets, teddy bears 3’ tall, and designer baby clothes.

Amid all the excitement, we overlook only one thing in preparing for the birth of a child.  And that is the very thing a child needs most:  loving and responsible parents, capable of putting their child’s needs first. Continue reading

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BOOK REVIEW – Climbing Over Grit

Image result for wikimedia commons "climbing over grit"

WARNING:  Graphic Images

Climbing Over Grit by Marzeeh Laleh Chini and her daughter Abnoos Mosleh-Shirazi is a ringing indictment of child marriage, in the years leading up to and during the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

A moving story of courage, strength, and love in the face of abuse, Climbing Over Grit is a first-hand account of the early life of Laleh’s mother, Najma.

Neglected by her wealthy but self-absorbed parents, Najma is married at the age of 11 to a man thirteen years her senior who regularly beats and rapes her.  Despite horrific abuse, Najma’s spirit is never broken.  She forms a close relationship with her mother-in-law and manages to raise four children (becoming a grandmother at the early age of 30).

In the process – and despite her husband’s vehement opposition – Najma resumes her education, attaining a small degree of independence.  However, history repeats itself when Najma and her husband arrange a marriage for their daughter, Jaleh, at the age of 15.  Continue reading

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What Is A Man?

The righteous man walks in his integrity;
His children are blessed after him” (Prov. 20: 7).

Abuse must not blind us to the good in men.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

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Moving Beyond Intimate Partner Violence

https://art-sheep.com/12-of-the-most-powerful-and-brutal-domestic-violence-awareness-campaigns/

“Violence that occurs between intimate partners does not end with the relationship’s conclusion, yet few resources exist to help survivors move beyond the betrayal of abusive relationships in order to begin new, healthy relationships.”

-“Intimate partner violence doesn’t end with the relationship”,  Science Daily, 7/11/18

Some estimates are that one in three women in the United States has experienced violence by a partner, and that one in ten has been raped by a partner.

Abusive behavior by an intimate partner is not, however, limited to physical violence.  It can include verbal, emotional, and financial abuse.

All this is experienced as betrayal by the very individual we most trust, the very individual we rely on to support and protect us, the very individual to whom we have committed our lives.

Shame

The shame associated with intimate partner violence is likely to carry over into new relationships.  This may influence our choice of a new partner.

Once a new relationship has been established, self-esteem issues stemming from the violent relationship can color the routine problems that arise in all relationships.  We may wonder whether we deserve love at all. Continue reading

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Red Flags

It can be difficult, at the outset of a relationship, to predict whether a prospective partner will become abusive.  However, there are certain danger signals which, in combination, should not be ignored.  These involve embarrassment/criticism, control/manipulation, isolation, blame, threats, and violence.

Here is a list of “red flags” [1][2]:

Embarrassment/Criticism

  • A partner who regularly disparages your friends, family, ideas, and goals.
  • A partner who deliberately embarrasses and insults you.  Such a partner may humiliate you in public, or criticize you viciously in private.  He or she may attack your looks or your parenting skills, as a means of undermining your confidence.

Control/Manipulation

  • A partner who prevents you from making decisions. This interference may, at first, be as simple as telling you what you can and cannot wear to work.
  • A partner who is extremely jealous and possessive.  Such a partner continually tracks where you go, whom you meet, and what you do.  He or she may expect to you check in, throughout the day, and spend every moment of your free time with him/her.
  • A partner with a hair-trigger temper. You walk on eggshells to keep the peace.
  • A partner who takes your money or refuses to provide you necessary income for expenses.
  • A partner who plays “mind games” to make you feel guilty.  Such a partner may, for instance, threaten to commit suicide if you leave him or her.
  • A partner who pressures you to have sex, or to engage in a type of sexual activity with which you are not comfortable.
  • A partner who prevents you from using birth control.
  • A partner who pressures you to use drugs or alcohol.

Continue reading

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R. Kelly

“It’s too late. They should have did this s__ 30 years ago.”
– R. Kelly, Facebook Live [1]

The Lifetime channel recently aired a documentary series called “Surviving R. Kelly” which explores the R&B singer-songwriter’s reputation for preying on young girls [2].  The program contains statements by several of Kelly’s underage victims.  The young women describe having been groomed, abused, then finally abandoned.

A number of journalists have reported on R. Kelly’s reprehensible behavior.  Kelly was acquitted of child pornography, though a tape allegedly showed him having sex with and urinating on a 14 y.o.

The program sheds light not only on the singer’s pattern of predation, but the roots of this behavior.  It, also, exposes the complicity of others in the music business. Continue reading

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Gypsy – Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Gypsy Rose Blanchard, Source MyDeathSpace.com

Imagine you are told as a child that you have a debilitating illness, an illness that restricts your activities, an illness likely to be fatal.  Due to your fragile condition, you live a life of seclusion.  You cannot attend school or have normal friendships.  You undergo extensive medical treatment, even surgery.  But the illness lingers, impacting every aspect of your life.

Then you learn all this was a lie.

Munchausen Syndrome by proxy is both a mental illness on the part of a parent or guardian, and a form of child abuse [1].  A child’s caretaker – often the mother – fabricates symptoms on the child’s part and creates real one (whether through the use of poison, starvation, contamination of an intravenous line, or other means).

The underlying cause of the mental illness is unknown.  Experts suspect that the payoff for the caregiver is admiration for supposed “dedication” in the face of a tragic illness.  The abuse often goes undetected by health care providers for years.

Gypsy Rose Blanchard was one such victim [2][3].  Her mother, Claudine (“Dee Dee”) Blanchard, isolated the child from other family members, lied about Gypsy’s age, and treated her like an invalid.   Frail and confined to a wheelchair, Gypsy was told she had brain damage, leukemia, muscular dystrophy, seizures, asthma, hearing, and vision problems.

Due to these health issues, Gypsy was given backstage passes by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and free trips to Disney World.  She stayed at Ronald McDonald House.  Dee Dee meanwhile received a home from Habitat for Humanity. Continue reading

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Unbiblical, Part 6 – Forgiveness v. Victims’ Rights

“ ‘And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us’ ” (Luke 11: 4).

As I have said elsewhere on this website, forgiveness is a personal matter between abuse victims and their God.  Urging forgiveness on victims prematurely ignores the gravity of their trauma, and the depravity of the sins committed against them.

This amounts to a further violation.  Victims will necessarily feel that Christians are siding with the predator…even condoning the abuse.  Shockingly, in some cases Christians have been guilty of this.

Witness the Catholic Church sex scandal.  This was, at best, a product of poor judgment, and a distorted view of Scripture.  At worst, it was a cold and calculated attempt to avoid corporate responsibility, while facilitating the most heinous of crimes.

Detail from “Christ before the High Priest” by Gerar van Honthorst (1617), National Gallery (Accession No. NG3679), London, Source Web Gallery of Art (PD-Art, PD-Old-100)

Either way, church hierarchy applied precisely the same rationale to young abuse victims, as the high priest, Caiaphas, did to Christ:  “ ‘…[I]t is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish’ ” (John 11: 50).

To be clear, forgiveness is not a “warm and cozy” feeling, on the part of victims.  It is a deliberate decision by victims to leave the harm inflicted on them behind, and instead move on with their lives. Continue reading

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Unbiblical, Part 5 – Self-Sacrifice v. Codependence

Sketch for mural “The Spirit of Self-Sacrificing Love” by Kenyon Cox at Oberlin College, Smithsonian Museum (1983.114.15), Source https://americanart.si.edu (PD-Art, PD-Old-95)

“The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.  We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”

– Mother Teresa

Self-sacrifice is natural to Christians, and encouraged.  Christians are to put the legitimate needs of others ahead of their own, in imitation of Christ.  Mother Teresa was a shining example of this.  For abuse victims, however, self-sacrifice can become confused with codependence.

Codependence as an After-Effect of Abuse

Individuals suffering from codependence will allow the emotions and behavior of others to dictate their view of themselves.  Those with codependence will tolerate – even, unconsciously, seek out – relationships that are “one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive verbally or physically” [1].

Codependent characteristics include low self-esteem; fear of anger; denial of any problems with the relationship; and an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the feelings, choices, and actions of the loved one [2].

While on its face, codependence may resemble Christian self-sacrifice, there are distinct differences between the two.

The codependent individual may forego his/her goals and desires to meet the perceived “needs” of a loved one.  But the underlying motive for this is not the welfare of the loved one.  It is fear.

Actually, the codependent individual is attempting to shore up his/her fragile sense of worth, strike an unspoken bargain for love and affection, and maintain the relationship at all costs (however abusive or unsatisfying it may be).  An overly solicitous mother might be a crude illustration.

By comparison, Christian self-sacrifice is not the attempt to manipulate (or placate) an individual perceived as more “important” or powerful.  It is, or should be, truly selfless.

Clinging to an Imitation

None of this is meant to imply that abuse victims cannot love and love intensely.  The problem lies in the fact victims have not seen healthy love modeled.  What feels familiar is a flawed version of love, an imitation.  The real love and support victims need seem out of reach, so we cling to the imitation with all our might, confusing pain for passion. Continue reading

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