No matter how many statistics you memorize, imagining what actually goes on in a day in the life of a victim of domestic violence is a whole other ball game. Understanding, objectively, the effects of trauma and violence is the first step to creating a better world in which to live, but the reality of life after abuse is something completely different. Survivors know this. As many times as they may try, it can be so hard to open up to their support system(s) about the daily struggles they deal with – because they know that as much as someone may want to, how could anyone else possibly understand?
Our theme for North Texas Giving Day is #ADayInTheLife to highlight some of those daily struggles and enable our community to better empathize with survivors of violence. While you read this blog I want to ask this of you: take off the lens through which you see the world and try to put yourself in this woman's shoes.
A Day in the Life of Samantha
30 years old, recently-divorced survivor of domestic violence
7:00 AM: You hear the alarm clock go off and sleepily hit snooze. Getting up is difficult in the mornings because you rarely sleep well. Most nights you have at least one nightmare reliving past experiences of abuse. Some nights you wake up with a jolt of anxiety after them and are unable to go back to sleep.
8:00 AM: You pour yourself coffee while you cook your son's breakfast. He is 7 years old and has been having a hard time with the divorce. In an effort to protect him, you did everything you could to hide the abuse from him while it was happening and booked a million play dates to get him out of the house. His sweet friends' parents – he spent more nights at their houses this summer than he did at yours! But that was intentional. As a result, he does not know a lot about the abuse and does not understand why the family is not together anymore. He has become sullen and withdrawn, and you are worried about what to do.
10:00 AM: You have dropped your son off at school and have spent the last hour at work. You hate your job, but you know that you are lucky to have it. Your ex-husband had not allowed you to work in years, so that he could keep you financially dependent upon him, so your résumé was far from impressive. The only job that you could get on short notice with little experience was at a call center, so you have the fun job of working in customer service (lucky you!).
11:00 AM: On days like today your job is hard. REALLY HARD. You know that you perform much better at this job when you are happy and upbeat on the phone, but it is almost impossible when your depression is kicking in. Your brain feels foggy and sluggish and all you can think is – I hate this job, what was I thinking trying to go out on my own? Will I ever find someone who loves me again? Is this life any better than the one I was living before? You try to ignore these negative thoughts and get through the day, but every second there is another self-doubt on your mind and it weighs you down like an anchor. Your coworker notices and asks you what is wrong. You say you're just tired and that you will do better tomorrow. What else could you say?
12:30 PM: It's lunch time and you make your way out of the office. You get in your car and pull out your phone to check your bank account balance. $50. Yikes. You have worked with someone to help you budget your money and spend it wisely, but with your lack of job experience there is just not a lot that you can be making. Paying rent and putting food on the table for yourself and your son takes a large toll. Looks like another day of cheap fast food. People keep telling you to eat better and take good care of yourself, that it will make you feel better. You know that they're right, but on your budget what choice do you have?
3:30 PM: You take a quick break from work and check Facebook. On your News Feed are status updates from people you haven't spoken to in years. Your ex-husband pretty quickly cut you off from your friends and family after the wedding. You have spent years feeling isolated and dependent, without having anyone you truly call a friend. If you ever dared to reach out to someone and get connected again, you knew there would be retribution waiting at home, so you didn't. You scroll down and come across the update from your former best friend – she just got engaged! You want to post some congratulations and yearn to reach out but are too embarrassed to know where to start. How could you explain to her why you cut her off before; would she even want to be your friend again?
5:00 PM: FINALLY! You bolt out of the office and make your way to your son's school. You are starting to feel a little better that you got through the day and look forward to spending some time with your son. When you walk in the classroom to pick him up his teacher stops you and asks for a few minutes of your time. For the next 10 minutes, she tells you about some behavioral problems your son has been exhibiting. She is concerned that he may be depressed and asks if everything is okay at home. You tell her about the divorce but leave out the abuse. Teachers are mandatory reporters, right? If there is any sign of abuse anywhere near a child, aren’t they required by law to report it to CPS? You're not sure exactly of the rules, but you know that there is no way you will ever put yourself in a position to lose custody. Your son is all that you have and vice versa; no one is taking him away because of the choices that your ex-husband made. Whatever needs to be done to help him, you feel like you have to do it alone.
6:00 PM: You are home and cooking dinner. You try not to let yourself go there, but your mind keeps wandering back to what the teacher was telling you. Is my son depressed? Is he angry with me for leaving his father? He must be so confused. And then the worst thought – is this my fault? Did I do this to him and cause him this pain? Did I make the wrong choice?
Survivors of domestic violence are at high risk for depression and anxiety, which makes all these little bumps feel drastically harder with which to deal. This is why Friends of the Family is here! We are here to walk a client and their son through counseling and play therapy and start working through some of that depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We are here to provide food from our pantry so that they can eat healthy foods and take care of themselves. Our advocates are here to walk through CPS reporting and begin connecting them with opportunities to provide for themselves and their children. No one deserves to be abused, and for anyone who has or is experiencing these things – it is NOT your fault!