An Unfamiliar but Safe Place

safe-spotWe often share our home address with great caution. After all, addresses help us to locate friends, relatives, and enemies. Consequently, this week, I was surprised when nearly 10 pieces of mail from three different locales were mistakenly delivered to my home—all on the same day. Although some of the pieces were junk; others (bank statements, bills, etc.) were part of the mix-up. So, I scribbled a note on the envelopes for the mail carrier and assumed he’d deliver them to the right location.

Like those lost pieces of mail, sometimes we end up in strange spots. Over 20 years ago, while sizing up an unfamiliar place, I hoped my stay would be brief. According to some stereotypes, I didn’t belong there anyway. Many folks wondered why a woman with a good-paying career, security clearance, car, and nice apartment on another side of town would give this residence a second glance.

But, I did. After months of spousal abuse and overstaying my welcome at friends’ homes, I temporarily relocated to my new digs: a domestic violence shelter. I realized it was the safest place for me at that moment. And, much like the contents of a stuffed mailbox, pieces of my life needed sorting; I had to separate the important stuff from the junk.

Ladies, no one aspires to be abandoned, rejected, abused, or neglected. Still, these awful things happen to people—sometimes through no fault of their own. If you live at an address where the real “you” can’t emerge because you’re constantly living in fear or are distressed (physically, emotionally, sexually, etc.), perhaps a relocation is in order. But, planning is key. (See my October 27 post, In a Dark Place, for links and information on safety plans.)

In the meantime, know that God can deliver you and set you in a new location—one that’s safe … one where your mind is quieted long enough to hear His voice. Then, with a grateful heart, pray for direction, heed the Lord’s response, and trust that He has everything under His control. Soon, you’ll realize God’s “delivery” system is better than any postmaster’s.

In a Dark Place?

cat-on-the-prowlAs I raised our garage door one Sunday morning to begin our drive to church, my children spotted it. But, none of us could make out what it was. A bird? Lizard? Rodent? No use guessing…the animal had been completely mutilated. Since my husband was out of town (and my previous night had been restless) I was certain of one thing: I wouldn’t stick around long enough to fathom what happened in my driveway the night before. So, off to church I went.

In the days that followed, my mystery unraveled. I noticed a stray cat roaming through my back yard. On one occasion, I watched it crouch behind my neighbor’s garbage bin with its gaze fixed on something nearby. Another day, it pranced across my patio with a small animal swinging from its mouth. Finally, I saw the orange and white feline in action. It jumped on my retaining wall and chased a chipmunk into its burrow. Three days passed before I saw one of the tiny rodents surface from the hole. Even then, the chipmunk wouldn’t move more than a few inches away from the entrance.

Like the chipmunk in my back yardentrance to chipmunk burrow, many of us retreat to dark places when we feel threatened. Some folks become promiscuous once their hearts have been broken; they refuse to fall in love again. Others might turn to a gang for brotherhood or sisterhood when family has failed them. And, when our prayers aren’t answered according to our timetables, do we begin to practice self-reliance instead of waiting on God? Dark places … unfortunately, we can nestle in them so deeply that we forget our way out.

Still, I have good news: We don’t have to stay in a pit of despair. It’s natural to feel afraid, overwhelmed, and even overpowered after a devastating or hurtful experience. But continuing in such debilitating mindsets isn’t healthy. In time, as we seek help, healing, and encouragement, we can emerge with a plan to exit our dark places stronger (and wiser) than before. Do you have an escape plan?

———-

Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’ve included links to sites that offer advice on developing escape or safety plans for those who are in dark places because of abuse.

Those Three Little Words

#DVAM - Domestic Violence Awareness Month - October 2015Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, I’m sharing an adaptation of a chapter from my book, Lessons from the Littlest: A Devotional for Mothers of Young Children. Read on and find out how this piece is especially relevant.

Those Three Little Words

Walking from my mailbox a couple of decades ago, I opened a letter that read, “To ensure the safety of all our tenants, you are required to vacate the premises in two weeks.”

I thought, Me? Evicted? I’m four months pregnant. Where will I live? After recent happenings, no community will ever accept me as a tenant. What will I do?

During an ordeal with my abusive husband a few days prior, a gun-toting SWAT team had been deployed to my unit. No doubt, this raised quite a few brows in my building. I had been physically and verbally abused, evicted from my home, and strapped for cash. I even relocated to a couple of battered women’s shelters. I felt like I was sliding downhill—fast.

But, things began to get better. My daughter was born healthy. My debt eventually became manageable, and my overall outlook improved. I was slowly regaining hope. The Lord truly knows how much we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). Still, I grumbled. I had been an ungrateful new parent with a plethora of complaints—“I need …,” “I want…,” and “Am I ever going to get….”

In the years that followed, God constantly used my daughter to get my attention. One day she innocently uttered three little words: “Are we rich?”

After laughing out loud, I thought, This child evidently doesn’t know that I’ve lived in vermin-ridden apartments. I have holes in my clothes, a faulty vehicle, a job I dislike, and a bank account with a single-digit balance. While I was pregnant with her, I could barely afford to buy one meal per day. She just doesn’t understand.

Oh, but she did. What I really needed was a new perspective and a new attitude. God has a way of using little children to shake us up inside, doesn’t He? My young daughter simply saw that her basic needs were met. In contrast, I saw a picture tainted with earthly desires, comparisons, envy, and resentment. I hadn’t praised God for what He continuously did for me. I only pointed out those things that were yet to be done.

I was a believer; however, I needed to pursue a more godly lifestyle and exhibit stronger faith. Being a child of God, I had received provision from the Father far beyond what I deserved. Food, transportation, shelter, and clothing were always available exactly when I needed them.

Sisters, let’s not go about our day longing for material stuff. It will all deteriorate after we’ve gone to our new home anyway (Matthew 6:19–20). What matters are the intangibles we possess. The more I think about mine, the more I realize how appropriate these three words are: “Thank you, Jesus.”

For more information on domestic violence, check out the resources below:

Some Leave, Others Stay: Domestic Violence Awareness

Georgia Perimeter College Prevents Domestic Violence

Georgia Perimeter College Prevents Violence 2014

As Domestic Violence (DV) Awareness Month comes to an end, many have been enlightened by statements used alongside the hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft. This month, such statements have helped people understand why some folks continually endure unhealthy, dangerous relationships, while others leave their abusive situations altogether.

Last week, at a Georgia Perimeter College (GPC) DV awareness event, attendees were given handouts with heart-pricking statements followed by these hashtags. One by one, male and female audience participants stood to read the statements they’d been given.

One bold woman broke the silence. “I stayed because I was used to his behavior,” she said, glancing up from her handout. Another participant rose and added, “She’d take away my children if I left.” In the back of the auditorium, a woman studied the paper in her hands. “I wouldn’t have been able to support myself or my children if I left.”

However, as participants popped up to read the text marked #WhyILeft, the room’s heaviness lifted. We were empowered by statements like, “I realized I deserved better;” “I was tired of being bruised;” and, “My children needed a safe environment.”

As the session continued, we interacted with a panel including counselors, survivors, and advocates who shared their testimonies and expertise. Before long, one of the few men in the audience told about the physical abuse he’d recently endured at the hands of a female family member. The panelists verbally affirmed his worth. The audience applauded his candor. After witnessing the support this young man received, I couldn’t help but think, This is what DV Awareness Month is about.

Kudos to GPC for providing free seminars like these to enlighten students and the community. GPC has set the standard high for DV Awareness by …

  • Helping people to realize the signs of abuse and the intricacies of DV
  • Revealing how common DV really is (for women and men)
  • Sharing why it’s important to have a DV safety plan
  • Publicizing free anti-violence mobile apps like Circle of 6
  • Teaching people how important their voices are
  • Making people aware of safe ways to offer assistance to someone who is in an abusive relationship

Share your hashtag statement by leaving a comment on this post to enlighten someone today!

Thankful for … Noisemakers?

Giving Thanks to NoisemakersMs. Powell, an administrator at the school I attended during eighth grade, would start the morning announcements ten decibels higher than necessary.  “Good morning,” she’d blurt, “isn’t it wonderful to be in presidential territory?”   Our school, Woodrow Wilson High, was nicknamed The Presidents—and Ms. Powell never let us forget it. Her school spirit was unrivaled.

Some people come into our lives to make noise about the important things.  Their voices ring in our ears years after they’ve gone from our lives.  Their efforts, passions, and encouragement, speak to us even today.  In their absence, their words give us the strength to press on.

I’m thankful for friends and family who spoke up during the tough times in my life when I was too emotionally distraught to assess the abuse I endured at the hands of my prior spouse. These faithful noisemakers were actually lifesavers working under God’s direction.  They risked their own safety for my sake and for the sake of my unborn child.

Although this horrific period in my life occurred over eighteen years ago, I’m still thankful for my life, health, peace of mind, and the ability to give back to others as an advocate for domestic violence awareness.

Are you a noisemaker for a great cause?  Leave us a comment to tell us about it.  You may help foster children transition to adulthood, cook meals for cancer patients’ families, mentor teen moms, use the arts to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, or simply paint elderly women’s fingernails in a nursing home.  Know that you, like Ms. Powell, can help someone have a presidential day.

Watch out for Bopape Enterprises, Inc.’s efforts in 2014 as we strive to make a difference in the lives of hurting, abused women.  Great things are on the way!

Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2013: Four Points To Ponder

"No More" - DV LogoAlthough Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) just recently ended, I’d like to share some final thoughts on the subject. We must keep the conversation going.  Awareness is half the battle.

1.) There really are benefits to arguing. However, specific parameters must be met in order for an argument to be productive.  When we spew threatening, belittling statements, we overstep our boundaries and set up an environment conducive to abuse.  (See my April 30, 2013, blog post, “Why Argue?”).

2.) Let’s not hurt ourselves while trying to keep peace in our homes. During my interview with screenwriter Cheryl L. West four years ago, she stated,Women deal with anger different than men . . . [we] tend to have seething anger that . . . is not always ladylike to express.  Sometimes, I think, holding on to that anger . . . [it ends up] being medically manifested.”  Suppressing anger, we open the floodgates for physical ailments and expose ourselves to life-threatening conditions like depression, hypertension, and weight issues.   Have we become “suicide peacemakers—” habitually hurting and denying ourselves for the sake of appeasing others?

3.) Although our finances may be in a wreck, we shouldn’t physically feel like one.  Several years ago, I watched an interview of an NFL player.  He explained how during the football season, he woke up every morning feeling as if he’d been in a car accident.  The money was good, the plays were strategic, but the morning after . . .  ouch!   Likewise, many who suffer from physical abuse also experience mornings with wrecked bodies and mangled thoughts.  By sharing some of the tools and resources available to victims, we can help lead them toward less painful mornings.

4.)  A poor economy is not the culprit.  In the report, “The Impact of the Economy on Domestic Violence,” the National Network to End Domestic Violence reveals, “Although an economic downturn itself does not cause domestic violence, it can exacerbate the factors that contribute to domestic violence and reduce victims’ ability to flee.” Whether experiencing a layoff, underemployment, a loss of benefits, or financial loss, no one should physically punish another for a bad turn of events.

As we start a new month, let’s share our knowledge on domestic violence and celebrate those who have survived.  We all win when we help others create a lasting legacy of peace and safety.  Generational cycles of abuse can indeed be broken—whether physical, emotional, sexual, financial or otherwise.

Tell us your plans to promote domestic violence awareness in the upcoming year.   In the meantime, click here to learn about the “No More” logo (pictured above) and how you can help advocate awareness.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2013: Throw Me a Curve

SmileA fashionista may tell us what a warm color is and who should wear it.  She certainly knows how a pear- or apple-shaped woman should dress.  With a quick glance, she detects whether a woman with an A- or D-cup could get away with a plunging neckline.

However, one of the most attractive and welcoming curves a woman displays is not in the span of her hips, the size of her waist, or the ampleness of her bosom. Surprisingly, it’s her smile.  A universal symbol for peace, happiness, assurance, and contentment, it is a contagious symbol of beauty.

But what happens when you’ve lost your smile?  Many domestic violence victims have done just that—exchanging grins for grimaces.  They’ve been under the influence of a person who controls, isolates, humiliates, and dehumanizes.

What will you do to advocate domestic violence awareness?  The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) offers 31 suggestions—one for each day in October (Domestic Violence Awareness Month). Visit NNEDV’s Facebook page for ideas or leave a comment here to share one of your own.

In the meantime, go ahead and throw me a curve.  I’d love to throw it back.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2013: Why Won’t She Leave?

Leave an abuser? At what cost?What causes a woman to stay in an abusive relationship?  Perhaps …

  • She’s aware that she’s more likely to be fatally wounded when she escapes her abuser.  (However, an exit strategy helps.  The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers a safety plan template.)
  • She knows that the need for emergency housing often outweighs the availability.
  • She’s unaware of the resources that are available to her and her children.
  • She fears she will not be able to single-handedly support (i.e., feed, clothe, and provide shelter for) herself and her children.
  • She’s misinformed by well-meaning clergy who simply aren’t trained in counseling abused women.

Perhaps a more appropriate question is: Why won’t he stop?  For more facts, read Domestic Violence Counts 2012: A 24-Hour Census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2013: Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation

DVAM 2013 - Forgive vs. ReconcileIn her Bible study, Renewing the Heart…for Women: Life Principles from the Beatitudes, Barbara Henry writes, “Women in abusive relationships must often separate themselves from the men they love. Forgiving does not mean putting yourself in a place of being hurt again. Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. Forgiveness must be unconditional, but reconciliation depends on humility, repentance, and change in the attitudes and spiritual directions of both parties.”

How appropriate that I happened to read this content in my quiet time during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I agree with the author wholeheartedly. What’s your take?

Work Cited

Barbara Henry, Renewing the Heart…for Women: Life Principles from the Beatitudes (Chattanooga, TN:  AMG Publishers, 2005), 80.