A mentally stimulating exercise!!

ketaskeep.blogspot.com

As a newly legal young lady- I knew it all. But instantly realized I was without a clue. Not to mention falling in love was fairly easy for me. See, as a child I had no recollection of any domestic abuse taking place in our home. Until my very own encounters which brought forth the low-down on the violent men my mom had previous relationships with. Her warnings came with mixed emotions. I felt as if she just didn’t like my boyfriend at the time while also being burdened with the feeling I was partially responsible for his hitting sprees.

Nonetheless, I didn’t leave.. Now don’t get me wrong he was never like this before as most men aren’t. In fact he was very attentive, loving, thoughtful and always knew just what to say. That was until I discovered he had an undercover addiction that caused him to become violent-deranged at times. Fast forward, I was now expecting… And couldn’t bare the thought of knowing this little person (that I am now beginning to feel) could become just a memory if I didn’t get away from him. Mind you he hadn’t hit me while I was expecting YET! It was bound to happen though.. Out of fear for what would happen to my child I left and from that day to this one I never looked back! Was it easy? Of course not! Worth it? Absolutely!! I encourage anyone who is in an abusive relationship rather it be physical or emotional to REMEMBER YOU!!! Often times people don’t understand the seriousness of a thing until it’s too late. Don’t be that person!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.” ~Marianne Williamson

“As you become more clear about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you- the first time around.” ~Oprah Winfrey

Hurt No More…

Courtesy of Shepherd Door

Today marks the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence or intimate partner violence according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy.

Growing up, hearing about or seeing a woman being hit by her partner while not common place didn’t seem a serious enough issue to be up in arms about. Of course we were all taught boys should not hit girls; however that was easier said than done when the boys that were hitting were mimicking their fathers.

Growing up, and being a typical teenager who thought I was so crazy in love didn’t give a second thought to the phone calls asking about my whereabouts or the suggestions on who my friends should be. I chalked it up to a jealous boyfriend not control or psychological abuse i.e. intimate partner violence.

I was sixteen the first time I was struck. I remember being untruthful to those who loved me when questioned about a busted lip. I remember making excuses for the heated exchange. I remember going back. I remember never leaving. I remember… Still the seriousness of this public health issue did not resonate.

Fast forward to May 2000- post a few more black eyes, verbal assaults, and foolishness. Intimate partner violence reared its ugly face and caused devastation that can be felt to this very day. You see it came this time with a vengeance that sunglasses couldn’t hide, time couldn’t heal or a thousand apologies couldn’t erase. This time it took the life of my mother. Shot seven times in a fit of drunken rage- domestic violence cancelled her existence.

And again the questions of what she did or didn’t do sought to validate or make sense of this crime. Even today when we hear stories of celebs and violence we pick and choose who we support, we find a way to justify why it happened instead of seeking to eradicate the root of it all.

Taboo, common place, not your business or you wish a n**ga would- however you categorize the issue- I challenge all that’s reading this post to not accept the status quo, don’t turn a blind eye and don’t judge. Violence against anyone man/woman- boy/girl is unacceptable.

I am dedicating my blog all month long to raising awareness about the issue. Share your stories of healing and triumph from either side of the fence. Your story could be the one that breaks the cycle for a woman/man that doesn’t know how to get out. 

“Live your life from your heart. Share from your heart. And your story will touch and heal people’s souls.” ~Melody Beattie

Links:

Enough- Breaking the Silence of Domestic Violence

http://www.thehotline.org/

Safe Horizons

Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. (Colossians 3:19)

I now realize why it was so hard to write this article. I thought it was just writer’s block, but actually it was a self preservation tactic; not wanting to pull back another layer in which God wanted to heal me. I was not willing to look at how being exposed to domestic violence had impacted my emotions in the past, present and in my behavior today.

As I am typing, I can feel tears welling up because this is a topic I have never felt led to discuss. Moreover, we rarely hear of it in Church or among family. Yet it is a very real issue in our communities. Over half of the women in prison are in there for taking matters into their own hands against their abusers.

At four years old, I remember my Mom lying on the couch depressed with a black and blue eye that was swollen shut. I walked up to her wanting to talk, but she did not smile or rise to greet me. She just laid there, quiet, still and hurt. My Dad in a rage expressed his anger through violence against my Mom. It is one thing to be upset; it is another thing to strike another human being. Needless to say, it did not end there. I also watched my Step-Mom abused by my Dad. I would see him hit her with his fists and with hangers. I overheard them fighting many times and I always found myself caring for her after the ordeal. I believe I was nine years old at the time, but I wanted it to stop. I remember praying and asking God to help my Dad and deliver him from drugs, which were a huge part of the domestic violence in our home.

When I married my first husband, violence was how I dealt with my anger. I remember being so upset that I charged him with my fists, hitting him until he restrained me. I realize now that this was a learned behavior from my childhood, but I needed God to help me control my emotions.

Sitting in church one Sunday, my Pastor said we do not resolve our issues in the flesh through arguing, fighting and throwing things. We must walk in the love of God no matter how much we hurt because violence is never the answer.

I love my Dad, Mom and Step-Mom today. I have forgiven my Dad for his choices and I have learned to appropriate my anger by walking in love. I am happy my Mom was strong enough to start her life over again. But it is sad when people allow themselves to remain in abusive relationships. They feel trapped. I am sure they are afraid and believe no one else can love them. Yet the love they believe they are experiencing is actually control. We can open the Word of God to find out what love is really about. This has to be the measure in which we express our emotions. The Bible says, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Prayer:

Father in Jesus name, I lift up every person reading this prayer who has endured domestic violence in one degree or another. God may your living waters flow into every heart. May You love, mend, protect, guide and keep families together. Cover all children who were exposed to this type of pain. In Jesus’ name.
Amen.

This is a letter to the loved ones of the woman in hiding.

You know her so well, and you love her for many reasons.  She is your friend, your sister, your cousin, maybe even your mother.

You found out in the weirdest way, and now you’re stuck with the knowledge that she is allowing someone to repeatedly bring her emotional and physical harm.  You still remember the moment you became the woman with a friend or relative in a domestic violence situation.

I remember that moment too.

One of my dearest friends is still with her emotional and physical abuser.  I feel for her deeply, as I imagine you do for your friend.  If she’s anything like my friend, her spirit can be so freeing to experience, and she has such passion for what she does.  Unfortunately, that fire she embodies is often hosed down at the doorway of her bedroom, or sometimes in her driveway for the world to witness, and for her to bear.

When a woman you know and love is in an emotionally and/or physically abusive relationship, it can feel like you’re witnesses the burning of a beautiful forest, and all you can do is stand there with your bucket of water, wishing it were enough to make it stop.

Please remember, she is not stupid, or “trippin”, or crazy.  She is a A VICTIM.  She is not emotionally well, so her decisions are misguided by her inability to imagine experiencing something better with someone else.

Equally important is the prioritization of yourself in all of this.  Seriously, it is important you realize that you are now part of her equation, and her actions can affect your safety, as your actions can compromise hers. 

Courtesy lastfm.com

3 Things You Can Do To Support Her While Prioritizing Yourself

1.  Assess any potential harm.  She is in harm’s way, and you might not be able to resolve that, but you can and should protect your own self.  Abusers tend to feel threatened by people they see as potential influences in their victim’s lives.  If her abuser knows that you know she’s being hurt, then you need to recognize that her abuser may dislike you, and if you think that compromises your safety, you may choose to create a healthy distance between yourself and her, as harsh as that may sound.  Here are some examples:

  • Make a more conscious decision about whether to talk and what to say when you’re on the phone.
  • Don’t send her text messages about her situation, because if he sees it, it might put her at risk for an immediate outburst.
  • Let someone in your life know.  Choose wisely, because it call lead to harm, but you also need to protect yourself in case there is a threat of abuse directed at you.  

2.  Offer to help her create her I Choose Me plan.  An I Choose Me Plan includes phone  is her instructional sheet for what to do should she decide to leave the abusive relationship.  It should include numbers of people and places she could call at any time, where she would meet them, what bag she has packed and where she keeps it.  If she is willing to have this discussion, that is good; she is not in denial.  If she is not willing to have the conversation, give her space, call in support (other family, the authorities when you deem fit), and just keep reminding her that she could choose NOT to live with someone who hurts her.

Here’s a safety packing list you could tell her to keep on hand: http://www.womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women/get-help-for-violence/safety-planning-for-abusive-situations.cfm

3.  Do your own research on the psychology of abusive relationships.
  You can better protect yourself and your friend when you have a better idea of how abuse happens, and what emotions your friend might be experiencing.  She will need plenty of compassion, so do not blame her or make her feel bad for not leaving.  It takes time, and she may even leave and go back, repeatedly.  This is not just about “making bad choices”, this is an emotional and psychological trauma that your friend is experiencing.  You might be able to help her get out and pull through if you are more educated on the what and how yourself.

Do you have any tips of your own?  How do you cope with having a loved one in an abusive relationship?

——
Life Design Practitioner and Certified Emotional Wellness Educator, Akilah S. Richards, creates live and digital resources for women seeking clarity, confidence, and courage in their Work-Life journey.  She serves mothers and entrepreneurs ready to release fears and self-doubt, and use their natural gifts and talents as a means of emotional and financial sustainability.  When a woman is willing to risk expression, she can rely on Akilah to help her design that Life of Thrive.

I never really took the time to think about what my HIV status meant to me. Being negative seemed enough; at least for a young black sexually active teen in the early 90s. The most that my friends and I were concerned about was not getting pregnant or folk finding out that we were doing the do; some with multiple partners. The idea of being labeled a “hoe” was more important than not behaving as such. HIV? Even as a young person the face that I associated with HIV didn’t look like me. Nor did the information given about HIV include those who looked like me- black women, black girls. Unknowingly to those outside of the public health realm a shift was taking place with who was becoming infected.  This undercurrent seemed to go unaddressed for years. Which begs a few questions: would the rate of infections for African American women be where they are today if they were informed? Would behaviors be differently? Would we still be paralyzed by stigma and shame?

Being HIV negative brings about a myriad of questions and thoughts as I ponder the real significance-the larger context. As educated as I am and as knowledgeable as I am about the disease; I still feel anxiety and pressure rising when I discuss my own status.  The fight for my own life is real and has been real.

Will it be my fault if I contract the disease? Am I lucky? Am I better than the woman who is positive? Should I live my life in fear? Will I be the 1 of 32 black women infected with HIV in her lifetime?  The infallible/human part of me poses these questions every time I hear HIV/AIDS even though I know I have total control over my body.

And I am quite sure these are some of the same questions many other women who are negative have, yet it does little to change behavior, self reflect, or position them to not become infected. Maybe they are living life much as I many do with the mindset that it can’t happen because it hasn’t happened.

Having a negative status does not make one less vulnerable or any safer. The rules of engagement have changed, inciting fear in some and ignorance in others. It causes some women to be guarded- side eyeing every brother- because he just may be on the down low and we all know they are the reason women get it (insert sarcasm).  You see this very ignorance continues to imprison us to the point that it hurts us. Being a society that consumes content –written and spoken, we have to become educated about this disease; we have to begin dialogue with our family, health practitioners, and community. In the words of Frederick Douglass, “If you teach that nigger how to read, it would forever unfit him to be a slave.” The more you know about the disease coupled with the removal of physical and social determinants, things can change tremendously.

Being HIV negative should come with a sense of EMPOWERMENT- a sense of being in charge of your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional body. So I continue to challenge you- my sista girl to get tested, know your status, know his status, and stay protected!  

Resources:

http://hivtest.cdc.gov/

http://aids.gov/

http://www.greaterthan.org/

 

 

 

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As a writer, it’s easy to get lost behind the words, the computer screen, or the social media profiles connecting with people only through the World Wide Web. While this is truly a comfortable place to be, I found that more people wanted to connect with me personally- beyond a brief encounter at a book signing. My inboxes overtime presented various questions followed by invitations to speak at events, join panels, or mentor  teens. My audience was now captive and I suppose that was always part of the plan. Yet I needed to give them more than words of encouragement, guidance, or a listening ear. At that time, I didn’t think I could have offered more along that line anyway because you see I’m far from an expert on relationships, parenting, or life. I simply speak to the heart of situations based on my own sometimes tumultuous life experiences.  The restlessness of needing to give my audience more had become a thorn in my side.  I have learned that when you are charged with a task greater than yourself, there is no peace until you answer the call; thus the beginning of my HIV/AIDS activism. I am able to share with WOMEN who have enjoyed reading and listening to me information about a disease that affects them greatly. I am able to engage WOMEN in a discussion that is rarely had due to stigma, shame, and lack of education. I am able to get WOMEN to reconsider the behaviors they partake, spend some to time to self reflect, and ultimately unload the baggage- with the end goal of no new infections.

I am an HIV/AIDS Activist because HER LIFE/YOUR LIFE MATTERS!

There comes a time in your life when it’s do or die – decision making time. something inside of you screams at the top of it’s lungs, begging for attention and finally, you pay attention. You begin to listen, closely, wondering what this voice is trying to say, what this voice wants you to know and do. You are uncertain of those answers but there is one thing you know for sure, it’s time to do something. But what? But how?

 Every woman is faced with this kind of uncertainty at some or many points in her life. Many times when we find ourselves in this place we want to look outside for a source that will help save us, make it better, or make it go away. It’s time to stop that and get on with what is calling you from the inside to grow into MORE of who your are. This is called, your turning point, your Aha! moment and you need every bit of courage you have to get through. 

I’ve been at this place many times in my life. It hasn’t been as easy as I would have wanted it to be, but growth requires some bit of stretching, and stretching doesn’t always feel good. If a “good” feeling is what we are looking for during these times we could be waiting, well, forever. It’s like learning how to ride a bike. You may fall down sometimes, get bruised and cut up, but you know you gotta get back on and try again. Your goal should be to get back on that bike and try, try, try again. Through the pain, tears, and sweat. That’s the place you want to get to when life calls on you to grow, pull up your britches and face that…thing.

 

Your way out is to look within and 

REMEMBER YOU!

Within us all is a depth of insurmountable strength. Strength that many times we don’t know we even have that is waiting for us to tap into. This is the kind of strength that warriors need when in battle, that mother’s need when they are about to give birth, that parents need when they hear that their son or daughter has been killed at war. This kind of strength sometimes lays dormant for years, untouched, just waiting for an opportunity to show up and show out. Ladies, you got this! 

You have the strength of a warrior because it’s naturally a part of who you are. Can you think of a time where you can remember tapping in and getting a taste of what it was like to LIVE in that strength, to LIVE in that confidence? Can you remember feeling unstoppable, unbeatable, just like you can fly? If you’ve only gotten a taste and you want more you’ve got to REMEMBER YOU!   

 Lay down everyone else for a moment and remember you. Don’t do anything else for another person before you stop and do something for yourself. Hug yourself, pat yourself on the back for whatever it is you can think of. Take a look in the mirror and smile at YOURSELF! Take a walk, go to the movies, read a book, do something you love and feel good about it. By doing things like this, by taking the time to care for yourself you are remembering the most important person in your life, YOU! 

This is the first step to discovering the strength that is within. This is the first step to discovering the endless possibilities that are waiting for you. Your life will be full with joy, pleasure, beauty, and bliss if you just remember…you!

**Lisa R. Charles is a mother, blogger, writer, and lover of life. She has an innate ability to connect with women from all walks and inspire them to grow in their own truth. For this reason I asked her to share this gift with us for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (March 10th). A woman is truly the full circle; creating, nurturing, and transforming and with that in mind, we have to ALWAYS remember…ME, YOU, HER!

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