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Friday, May 3, 2013
12:00 AM | Posted by Tara
Adella is my story in the “Her Story” anthology. Adella was my mother and she is someone I admire to this day. That admiration does not come from her perfection, but rather from her imperfection. She was human, flawed, filled with fear, and dealing with some of the worst kinds of human failings. However, she did manage to keep me alive, see me stretch beyond the limitations that held her, and give me the opportunity to follow a passion she always wished to realize—writing. This story is a snapshot of the times in which Adella lived. It was an age when women’s choices were limited and domestic violence was an accepted part of life.
Adella was my mother and I was her last child. I came to know and understand abuse, in all its forms, intimately. My childhood experiences led me to work in fields associated with social reform and education. I currently work with an agency that provides shelter and services to victims of abuse and offers community education programs. I am often asked by those who have never experienced abuse: “Why don’t they just leave?” It sounds like a simple solution, but it is never that simple. Abusers are about control and that control comes in many forms.
A common phrase spoken by men of my mother’s time went something like this, “Keep them barefoot and pregnant and they can never leave.” That single phrase says much. An abuser will manipulate the money and the environment as a means of control. They set all the rules and, when the victim does not comply, there is often physical punishment. However, the physical abuse is not the thing that keeps them trapped, it is the mental conditioning.
The abuser will at first seem kind and caring and draw their victim in with the façade of what the victim most wants—a caregiver, a lover, a supporter, a partner, whatever it is the victim most needs or desires. Once the victim surrenders their heart and their trust, the abuser may begin to guide the victim away from their family, friends, and all potential social support. By isolating them, they keep others from interfering with the control process. Now begins the conditioning.
Out of love or a belief that it is his or her responsibility, the victim attempts to comply with the wishes of the abuser. The wishes at first seem small and benign. Then these small, benign wishes grow into a cancer, eating away at self esteem and free will as the abuse solidifies. Should the victim try to flee, the abuser goes to his or her arsenal of ‘weapons’. One of those weapons is threat. “If you leave, I will kill myself.” “If you leave, I will kill your family.” “If you leave, I will kill you.” “If you leave, I will call the police and tell them you are crazy. They will lock you up.” “If you leave I will kill the kids in front of you and then I will kill you.”
Domestic violence crosses all socioeconomic lines, from rich to poor and everything in between. Abusers come in all shapes and sizes, making it difficult to recognize them. They can, literally, be your next door neighbor. Being a victim is not about weakness, stupidity, or bad genes. When we trust, when we believe, and when we love, those emotions can make us blind. In the relationship, power is given up to the abuser out of love, commitment, fear, or whatever tool the abuser finds effective.
It is always easy to say, “That would never happen to me.” But do keep in mind that NEVER is a very long time and we NEVER really know how we will react in a situation—until we are IN it. Don’t judge.
I invite you to watch this video that is dedicated to all those who have taken the first step toward freedom.
Morgan Summerfield grew up an avid reader and by her teens was a hobby writer. As an adult she has been a teacher, a technical writer, an instructional designer, a consultant, and a freelance writer. Her recently published first novel, Blood and Magnolias, was a dream fulfilled. In a recent contest, the characters in Blood and Magnolias were given a 5 out of 5 rating. When she is passionate about something, it shows. Beyond her writing, Morgan is a painter and works with a domestic violence shelter and education council.