A hashtag (#) is a symbol used to denote keywords or topics on the social media highway called ‘Twitter’.
With current headlines highlighting spousal abuse, these two hashtags are lighting up the Twitter-sphere as thousands of women weigh in with why they stayed in an abusive relationship or why and how they left.
Living in an abusive atmosphere – which can take the form of physical, emotional or verbal abuse – can be a mental prison where defeat and fear are the cellmates. But it is possible to find a light in this cell of darkness and self-doubt.
Canadian Women’s Foundation studies show 67 per cent of us know a woman who has been abused. I know one of these women and she agreed to let me tell her story of why she stayed and why and how she left.
My friend, let’s call her Emma, was an executive with a small company and appeared happily married. What was not openly evident, in the last few years of her marriage, was that she lived in fear and isolation within the walls of the marital home.
Held captive by fear and feeling at a loss as to where to turn, she was desperate enough at times to think her only exit strategy was suicide.
Finally, a hasty exit from an increasingly violent and abusive situation was not alone an act of bravery, but one fueled by faith. She became a survivor.
Studies find that many survivors of domestic violence identified with some form of spirituality and used their faith community as an integral component of their survival experience.
Emma was a student of the Bible most of her life and when she felt she had no one to go to and nowhere to turn, she turned to her Bible. Like the saying: “When all else fails, you can always pray.” And, pray she did.
The Scriptures are full of stories of many released from prisons – some physical, some mental – and all helped or healed. One verse that started the light to shine in her dark space was from the prophet Isaiah: “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.”
She read in Genesis the promise that ‘everything made was very good.’ (Genesis 1:31) Emma grew in understanding that her identity was not worthless (despite what her spouse said); it was part of the ‘very good’; and, she was not alone.
Knowing that she was not alone and that there was an answer to her predicament, although not immediately obvious, Emma took the first steps to leave her home and the abusive relationship. An opportunity arose to stay with a friend that she hadn’t seen in years. This friend opened her door and her home when Emma knocked. Emma’s journey to an identity of wholeness and self-esteem came gradually.
Helping women find that wholeness that gives them the strength to leave is key to programs that support women in these relationships. With the diversity of religious or spiritual beliefs among individuals, however, there is apprehension about discussing faith or spirituality among those working in the social support systems. They want to take care to avoid creating misunderstanding or intruding upon privacy.
Still, researchers on spousal abuse have identified the importance of spirituality to psychological well-being in general. They have found that having a belief in a supreme being in particular – often called God – brings emotional support and facilitates the healing process. As in Emma’s case, it also restores quality of life, happiness and self-esteem.
Many, like Emma, have discovered the key that the ancient Scriptures have always held. The mental prison may try to hamper our ability to see the light that can open the prison door. But the light of divine Love cannot remain hidden or unseen for anyone.
This article was published in several online Metroland publications, such as Muskoka Region