Bruised, Not Broken – A Survival Story
My past has not defined me, destroyed me, deterred me, or defeated me. I am the face of abuse and recovery. I have survived child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. I am stronger than what has happened to me, but what has happened creeps into the shadows when I least expect it and response will always be present.
A little about me: For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Paulissa Kipp. I have been a Women Against Violence sexual assault/ domestic violence victim’s advocate for 20 years. This conversation may be disturbing. If at any time you’d like to take a break and regroup, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
The story I’m about to tell you is mine. I was 22 years old. I left Nebraska for a romanticized ideal of being taken care of. Every relationship red flag that I will discuss was present but I was young, opinionated, and most of all, naïve.
The relationship started easily enough.
Here he comes. The truck and ladders lumbered down the lane with a loud clank. 3:47 am. He’s been gone for three days, no phone call (the phone was actually working but he didn’t call), no food in the house except for 2 packets of oatmeal, and here he comes rolling in at 3:47 am drunk. He fumbles with the keys, singing “Yellow Submarine” at the top of his lungs. He finally gets the door open.
He asks me for a kiss. The smell of whiskey nearly makes me sick. “What’s wrong you don’t love me?”
“You’ve been gone for three days! Do you even know how many days you were gone? The police are looking for you because I filed a missing person’s report.”
“I told you I was looking for work in Oklahoma City.”
“I know what you told me”.
I didn’t see it coming. The force knocked me backwards. I could feel my broken teeth and my jaw hurt. I ran into the bathroom and pushed the dresser against the door and held it. He came through the door and choked me until I gasped for air. I ran down the basement stairs and shut myself into the storm cellar. I felt the knife whip the air as it passed my head and grazed my ear. The footsteps overhead grew louder as glass shattered. The house gradually became quiet. I took my shoes off and tiptoed through the house. I gathered a bag of clothing, my legal documents, and walked to the front door. As the door opened, he stood up and lunged toward me. The bullet grazed my hip. My ankle twisting, I broke free and walked 3 miles on a broken ankle for help. I am one of the lucky ones. I lived to tell the story.
Abuse causes many cracks in the veneer of the soul. Healing from abuse is a slow recovery process. It requires a courage that does not come naturally. It often requires counseling and brutal honesty. It requires forgiveness, but not forgetting. It requires not being a bystander. It requires making a stand and saying “Not on my watch, not me, not you and not your child. It requires faith, even when you don’t know if the wound will heal. It requires acknowledging that we are all broken in some way. In the words of Leonard Cohen, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets through.”
All violence is the result of people tricking themselves into believing that their pain derives from other people and that consequently those people deserve to be punished. Often abusers punish while professing love.
You might ask yourself how do we combat violence? Violence isn’t just what lurks on the surface; it goes deeper than that. As Jiddu Krishnamurti points out, “Violence is not merely killing another. It is violence when we use a sharp word, when we make a gesture to brush away a person, when we obey because there is fear. So violence isn’t merely organized butchery in the name of God, in the name of society or country. Violence is much more subtle, much deeper, and we are inquiring into the very depths of violence.” Begin by speaking for those who are unable. Don’t ask why did he or she stay? Ask why do batterers, rapists and molesters do what THEY do and work to combat it. Yes, I’ve been there and can tell you it’s not as easy as it might seem. If you are being abused, have a safety plan (if you don’t know how to set one up, call the national domestic violence hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233).
I have spent a lot of time working on myself, learning to be vulnerable, to love myself, to find my own worth, to value the things I do well, to not give others the power I should keep for myself and to learn how to feed myself and my soul what it needs.
So dear friends, this has been very long and if you made it to the end – THANK YOU! The things that I am learning are these:
A caterpillar only remains in the cocoon for so long. Eventually, it has to break out of its shell to become what it is destined to become. So it is with our lives as well.
The things we give the most of are the very things that we need most desperately.
No matter how painful our past or present is, we do not have the right to project that pain onto others and punish them for past hurts. No matter our past or present circumstances, we have a choice. We can choose better. I have a lot I could be bitter about. For the most part, I’m not bitter. Why? Because if I am bitter, that means that I have nothing worthwhile to offer the world and that would be a waste of my potential and ability to love.