When things are really bad in our lives, whatever the reason for the badness, we often feel like the good stuff will never come back into our lives again. This suffusion in badness is probably most prominent in situations concerning domestic violence.
I want to tell you about a good thing that came from a bad thing so that, whatever your situation, you won’t stop looking (and waiting) for that light at the end of the tunnel.
My friend, Gina, was in a bad marriage for years. I’ve spoken about her horrific marriage before so there is no need to relive that; the good thing is that Gina got out of that marriage with her life, sanity and spirit intact. She was one of the lucky ones. I’m sure we all know somebody who wasn’t as lucky.
A really inspiring thing I notice with people who overcome adversity is that they want to give back, to help, to prevent others from going through what they have gone through.
Gina has done that. Through her psychologist Gina met women who had gone through similar things to her and formed a group that gets together once every two weeks to offer support. These women chat, laugh, cry, eat cake and are generally just there for one another.
A few weeks ago I made a couple of chocolate fudge cakes for Gina to take along to the group; as a result of none of them being hospitalised from eating my cake I was invited along for coffee and more cake today (a very nice lemon cake, incidentally…..delicious!)
It’s hard when you meet a group of women whom you know have been abused. You don’t want to gush too much about how sorry you are or how brave they are and how glad you are that they eventually got away from their abuser. You want to be sympathetic, but also cool.
I needn’t have worried. The girls (as they like to be called) were incredibly welcoming, open and warm. After half an hour I felt like I had known them for years. What struck me most about all of them was how much they had it together. Articulate, well read, humorous; I know they were coming off the tail end of intensive therapy, but they were not the sobbing, emotional messes you might expect to see in such a group.
These women all have one thing in common with Gina and that is they come from middle class backgrounds and had partners/husbands who were very successful business professionals. The picture we often have of the abuser as the drunk, undereducated yobbo, isn’t always a true one.
Due to their backgrounds, all of them said they had a fear of not being believed about the abuse. Outwardly, their lives looked good, almost carefree. They had nice homes, nice clothes, regular holidays. Their husbands presented themselves to the outside world as friendly, nice guys, often quite charming. All of these women were called liars by certain members of their families when they revealed the abuse. An alarming statistic is that 80% of the perpetrators of domestic violence are only violent at home, not in any other part of their lives.
In a society that gives so much credence to keeping up appearances it is not surprising this statistic is as significant as it is. But just imagine going through what they went through – getting hit, getting pushed, living in fear – then telling their mother or sister or friend and not being believed. How devastating.
Support. We all need it, no matter what our circumstances. The support I saw in this group blew my mind, it made me feel that anything was possible. It made me feel that with a little bit of kindness, compassion and love the world could be changed.
In their darkest hours, the girls gave up hope; they lost the light, they lost themselves. The shared experiences, empathy and love of the group has brought hope back. It has brought them back to themselves. It has established a kind of sisterhood, full of charity, tenderness and solicitude.
I am so proud of Gina for turning her life around, for not letting the badness of another person crush her. I am even more proud that she has seen fit to get involved and help other people fight off the badness in their lives. It is inspiring, gratifying and enlivening; it is making a difference, and hopefully, will provide me with more opportunities to eat lots of delicious cake.
* If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence checking out this link is a good place to start to get some help. Please remember that you are not alone and that there are people out there who can help you.
** You can also call the Domestic Violence Helpline
in Australia on 1800 656 463
in the US on 1−800−799−SAFE (7233)
and in the UK on 0808 2000 247