Rachel Grant Coaching

June 29, 2015

A Beyond Survivor Shares His Story!

Having now worked as a Sexual Abuse Recovery Coach since 2007, I can say that I have one of coolest jobs ever. Not only do I get to spend my days walking alongside amazing men and women, assisting them in their journey of recovery, but I know without a doubt that my Beyond Survivors are a very special breed. They are generous, loving, world-changers, fun, and brave.

So, it's with great honor that I get to introduce you today to Bryan, who became a Beyond Survivor in 2014. He shares with you a bit about his journey and what he gained from our time working together.


"Trying to escape was pretty normal for me. Now I don't do that... I learned that there's much more of me than meets the eye ... now I feel like a person who is ten times the person I was before I started with Rachel."

You can learn more about my Beyond Surviving program here, but more importantly, leave a comment for Bryan letting him know what you got from his story.


June 22, 2015

One Woman's Story: Inside the World of Intimate Partner Violence - Part 4


Deciding to Leave

It is easy to say, this will never happen to me. I assure you there is a long line of victims who said just that. According to the Center for Disease Control and Preventions, one in four women (24.3%) and one in seven men (13.8%) aged 18 and older in the United States have been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

The most dangerous time for victims is when they attempt to leave.  Victims (male or female) should contact the shelter in their area where a professional will work with them to set up a safety plan (including having extra car keys hidden, a packed suitcase, copies of important documents and cash) [Footnote: http://www.domesticviolence.org/personalized-safety-plan/]. Often shelters have female support groups that meet on a regular basis. Victims do not need to stay at the shelter to attend. There are fewer options for male victims. Shelters often have connections that will provide support and a place for men to stay. If there is no shelter nearby, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or go to www.ndvh.org.

Whether to leave or stay is a difficult, personal decision. A therapist who is trained to work with victims of domestic abuse can help a victim assess her options and will respect the victim’s decision. Should a victim choose to stay, the therapist can help her set up a safety plan. If she decides to leave, a therapist can help the victim untangle from the abusive relationship and leave safely. The therapist then guides the victim through the healing process, which may include treatment for Post Traumatic Stress.

Friends can help by respecting the victim’s decisions and not applying pressure for her or him to leave. Friends can speak honestly about what they witness and point out that the victim does not deserve to be treated in that manner. They can remind the victim what is right and good about her or him, and have the hotline number for the nearest shelter or the National Domestic Violence Hotline on hand. Friends can also be a part of the victim’s safety plan by having a signal that allows the victim to notify the friend should they need the police. Anyone who witnesses violence should immediately call the police.

Recovering after abuse is a journey where victims take back their power and become survivors. Through the healing process, victims thrive. They learn to trust their instincts, recognize their strengths and abilities and move toward a different, healthy future. It is hard work, but it is worth it. I know—I did it.

I learned that I could take care of myself and provide a safe, peaceful home for my children. We struggled, but every hurdle cleared was a victory that nurtured my self-esteem. I became stronger and wiser and no longer needed a partner in my life. Ironically, then I met a truly wonderful man. We have been married for 25 years.

Over time I shed the “survivor” label. Now I view myself as a women who spent a portion of her life in an unhealthy relationship. Each year that portion grows smaller.



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Joanna Hunter knows what it’s like to live in the secret, terrifying world of abuse. She did it for almost 20 years. She also knows that victims can transcend domestic abuse and go on to live a joy filled life. She's done that.

In her book, But He’ll Change; End the Thinking that Keep You in an Abusive Relationship, Hunter discusses the components of abuse and identifies over 100 unhealthy thoughts that victims embrace to cope with the abuse. She teaches the reader how to counter those false-beliefs. Her book received a 2011 Nautilus Book Award.

Since 2001, she has educated and shared her story with thousands of adults and teenagers through classrooms and community organizations. She is a popular guest speaker at universities, where she trains students in medical programs how to screen patients for abuse and how to help victims. She volunteers at the women’s shelter in her area. 


Connect with Joanna:


Facebook: A place where those touched by DV can join a caring community of survivors
Blog: Focuses on healing after abuse

June 15, 2015

One Woman's Story: Inside the World of Intimate Partner Violence - Part 3

This week, Joanna continues to elaborate on the false beliefs victims of intimate partner violence deal with.

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Believing I Could Save Him


Victims want to help their partners, be there for them, fix them. Feeling needed, victims stay in the relationship, believing that if they can love their partners enough, their abusers will change. The facts show that it is rare that perpetrators change their behavior. They cling to it because it works for them.

Should the victim threaten to leave, the abuser often pledges to do whatever she asks if she will stay. He may promise to go into treatment but does not. He may enter treatment but soon drop out. He claims that the only way he can change is with the help of his victim, often threatening to harm himself or the whole family if she leaves him.

When the victim has spent time cleaning up her partner’s messes, making excuses and covering for him she feels responsible for his well-being. Also, she has worked hard for this relationship. What would happen if she left and he did change? She would miss out on the fruits of her hard labor. Does she want to start all over with someone else?



Sacrificing My Self

Abusers are insidious in there effort to chip away at their victims’ self-esteem. Over time, even victims who were originally confident, come to doubt themselves and their worth.

Victims are very perceptive regarding others’ feelings. They see the pain under their partner’s bravado facade and may hide or discount their own abilities so their partners will feel more powerful. They may give up opportunities so that their partners will not feel bested. Victims often sacrifice their own self, believing that they can earn their partners’ love and approval. They cannot.

Spiritual abuse is common in violent relationships. Victims who take their marriage vows seriously are reluctant to break the covenant they established with God and their partner. Abusers can easily twist the tenants of their faith to assure control of the relationships. They position themselves between God and their victims or take God’s place in their victims’ lives.



Blaming Myself for His Behavior-Believing I Deserve It

Women in violent relationships live with a partner who demands perfection. Falling short of his standards triggers a violent episode. She struggles be the partner he wants, looses weight, spit-polishes the house, cooks only his favorite dishes, manages the children and meets whatever requests he makes. He continually points out her failures. She accepts the blame and vows to be better. Believing that she can never do anything right, her self-esteem plummets.



Blaming Outside Forces

Controllers go to great lengths to cast blame for their behavior elsewhere. They target not only their partner but also their bosses, coaches or other superiors. In the abuser’s opinion, those people apply too much pressure, are unreasonable and cause undue stress in the controllers’ lives. Controllers may also excuse their bad behavior by claiming they were drunk or high on drugs.

Having fallen prey to the Stockholm Syndrome, a victim has deep empathy for her partner. She already carries full responsibility for keeping his home life easier. However, she has no control over those on the outside who affect him or his drug and alcohol consumption. All she has is hope that if his stress level is reduced his drug and alcohol use will diminish. Then everything will be okay.



Accepting Male Privilege

Societies around the world have placed women in a step-down position. In our own country women had to fight for the right to vote (1920). In the 1950s women could not open a bank account without their husband’s permission. Women are still trying to earn a salary equal to that of men in equal circumstances and are continually treated as if they are not capable of making the right choices regarding their own bodies and reproduction.

Sexual abuse is common in violent relationships. After being severely battered, victims are often raped as a final humiliation. They do not report it to police because of the lingering false belief that rape does not occur within marriage or any on-going relationship where consensual sex has previously occurred.

The media insists that women’s only value comes from physical beauty. It sells products. Movies glorify men who are strong, powerful and violent. Bad boys are depicted as a good catch. Nice men are portrayed as boring. All this misinformation has been internalized by both victims and controllers.

The belief that men are smarter opens the opportunity for financial abuse. In many cases the abusive partner controls all the finances, reducing the victim to a child’s position of having to ask for money for groceries or other needs. They have no discretionary funds to spend as they choose. They are required to account for every last cent. If they are working, they must turn their paycheck over to their partner. In many cases the victim has no idea what the household income is or where it is held. This is another reason why victims believe they are unable to leave.



Giving Up on Myself

Victims stay for many reasons. After a period of calculated abuse, victims believe that their partners, the ones who are closest to them, have confirmed they are unworthy of love. While victims recognize their partners’ controlling and violent sides, they also see their partners’ good qualities. Many victims become numb to deal with the pain, some by the use of drugs, alcohol or other addictions. Some victims live in two different worlds, the one at work where they are productive and capable and the one at home where they are abused.





Next time, Joanna talks about leaving a violent relationship...

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Joanna Hunter knows what it’s like to live in the secret, terrifying world of abuse. She did it for almost 20 years. She also knows that victims can transcend domestic abuse and go on to live a joy filled life. She's done that.

In her book, But He’ll Change; End the Thinking that Keep You in an Abusive Relationship, Hunter discusses the components of abuse and identifies over 100 unhealthy thoughts that victims embrace to cope with the abuse. She teaches the reader how to counter those false-beliefs. Her book received a 2011 Nautilus Book Award.

Since 2001, she has educated and shared her story with thousands of adults and teenagers through classrooms and community organizations. She is a popular guest speaker at universities, where she trains students in medical programs how to screen patients for abuse and how to help victims. She volunteers at the women’s shelter in her area. 


Connect with Joanna:


Facebook: A place where those touched by DV can join a caring community of survivors
Blog: Focuses on healing after abuse

June 8, 2015

One Woman's Story: Inside the World of Intimate Partner Violence - Part 2

When I left the abusive relationship, my raging question was—how did I get into that mess? I joined a support group, entered private therapy and worked diligently to assure that I was never going to have a relationship like that again.

I found the Power and Control Wheel, the Duluth Model helpful to understand what components  abusers use to control their victims. They:

•    Isolate their partner from others; 
•    Minimize, deny and blame their behavior on their partners;
•    Use their children to make their partners feel guilty or fearful;   
•    Use male privilege by having strict male/female roles with him as the master;
•    Use economic abuse by controlling all finances;
•    Use coercion and threats against victims, pets or children;
•    Intimidate their partners by destroying their property, displaying weapons; and
•    Use emotional abuse to make victims feel worthless, humiliated and guilty.

I understood that perpetrators use these techniques to coerce victims into compliance. This led to the question: What false beliefs do the abuser's behaviors instill in victims?

In my book, But He’ll Change, I listed over one hundred precepts that create an elaborate and intricate root system entwined in victims’ psyches. The combination holds victims captive in the unhealthy relationships. To heal, each one (i.e. If I love him enough he will change, I am worthless, He doesn’t mean to hit me) must be addressed and challenged in order to uproot it. Like the perpetrators behaviors fall under the 8 categories on the Power and Control Wheel, the victim’s false beliefs fall under 8 categories:

•    Seeing my partner as all powerful and the center of my world;
•    Denying and minimizing his behavior;
•    Believing I can save him;
•    Sacrificing my self;
•    Blaming myself for his  behavior/believing I deserve it;
•    Blaming outside forces for his behavior;
•    Accepting male privilege; and
•    Giving up on myself.

At the hub of the perpetrator's wheel, the abuser’s driving force, is the need for absolute power and control. At the hub of the victim's wheel is the deep desire to be loved and validated. While, love is one of our basic needs, it should never be paired with “at any cost.” For victims of abuse, it often is.


Seeing Him as All-Powerful and the Center of My World

Victims are overjoyed to meet someone so perfect. They fall hard and fast because their perpetrators profess to share the victim's vision for the future. Controlling partners rush their victims into intimacy. Relationships often start with a period of limerence, where couples spend all their time together getting to know one another. During this period, controllers are already taking steps to isolate their victims from friends and family.

Controllers have spent a lifetime honing their individual skills to engage others, hook them, then play games with their psyches. Perpetrators immediately begin to instill self-doubt in victims by downplaying their achievements, suggesting what they should wear, and over-riding their choices.

On the outside, a controller may appear to be cool and have it all together—that great guy. He may be the pillar of the community or church, captain of the football team, top student, active in all kinds of benevolent causes. Friends of the victim tell her how lucky she is to have such a wonderful man (adding to the reasons why victims dismiss or ignore the warning signs).

Inside, controllers are often calculating predators aware of what they are doing, or they may have grown up with a sense of entitlement that allows them to view others as property to be used at their whim. This sense of entitlement enables them to expect that their superiority will be recognized by their partners who will then kowtow to their every demand. Controllers believe it is their right to use whatever force is necessary to keep their victims in line.

Victims of abuse live amid partner-created chaos. Every day is like walking through a mine field where the bombs have constantly been moved. Since, they are never in the same place, victims cannot learn how to avoid them. A behavior, dress, or meal that was acceptable one day, is grounds for a tirade the next. Since the rules change with the controllers’ whims, victims become hyper-vigilant, knowing that with one misstep everything blows up.

The constant chaos keeps the victim so busy that she does not have time to step back and see what he is doing—setting himself up as the center—and only thing—in her life. There is no time to follow her passions. It takes all her energy to survive. She has little left to give to the activities that would fill her spirit. Over a period of time, the victim’s life is absorbed and dissolved into the controlling partner’s world.

Hyper-vigilant victims are so keyed into the controller’s every raised eyebrow or tightening neck muscle that they know their partner better than they know themselves. I could tell by the sound of my husband’s footsteps coming across the porch whether I was in trouble that night. After a time, I understood that nothing I could say or do would change what was about to happen.

Denying and Minimizing His Behavior

When the violence begins, that first impression of him (that wonderful man) holds the victim in the relationship. She believes that is who he really is and if she could just do things “right” he would once again, and forevermore, be that man. He reinforces this belief by affirming that she is the one who ruined the relationship.

After his tirade, he shows his victim a snippet of that wonderful man. He claims to be sorry for the incident, but reminds her that if she had not—fill in the blank here—it would not have happened. She minimizes his bad behavior, resolves to be better and in a show of cooperation may give up activities that she enjoys to focus more on his needs and wants. Believing it is over, she is sure that this time he will stay that loving man. Soon enough he moves into a period of tension where he becomes annoyed and angry. Another more violent incident follows. This is the cycle of abuse that reoccurs throughout their lives together.

Science has shown that long-term exposure to emotional abuse causes a chemical change in a victim’s brain. This change skews the victim’s view of the severity of the violence, allowing her to tolerate life-threatening abuse. [Footnote: Bessel van der Kolk, “The Body Keeps the Score: Memory and the Evolving Psychobiology of Post Traumatic Stress.” Harvard Review of Psychiatry 1, no. 5 (1994); 253-65.]


Next week, we take a look at the remaining beliefs... 
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Joanna Hunter knows what it’s like to live in the secret, terrifying world of abuse. She did it for almost 20 years. She also knows that victims can transcend domestic abuse and go on to live a joy filled life. She's done that.

In her book, But He’ll Change; End the Thinking that Keep You in an Abusive Relationship, Hunter discusses the components of abuse and identifies over 100 unhealthy thoughts that victims embrace to cope with the abuse. She teaches the reader how to counter those false-beliefs. Her book received a 2011 Nautilus Book Award.

Since 2001, she has educated and shared her story with thousands of adults and teenagers through classrooms and community organizations. She is a popular guest speaker at universities, where she trains students in medical programs how to screen patients for abuse and how to help victims. She volunteers at the women’s shelter in her area. 


Connect with Joanna:


Facebook: A place where those touched by DV can join a caring community of survivors
Blog: Focuses on healing after abuse

June 1, 2015

One Woman's Story: Inside the World of Intimate Partner Violence - Part 1

Domestic Abuse is the systematic suffocation of another person’s spirit. It is about power and control. One person holds all the power and uses it to control the other. It goes by many names: Intimate Partner Violence, Domestic Violence, Coercive Control, Teen Dating Violence, to name a few. Controllers may be male or female, gay or straight. Abuse invades the full spectrum of relationships from work environments to friendships to dating and marriage. The dynamics of these relationships are as varied as its participants. 

In this series of posts presented by the amazing Joanna Hunter, author of But He’ll Change; End the Thinking that Keeps You in an Abusive Relationship, we will look at violence between intimate partners where the perpetrator is a male and the victim a female since this was her (any my) experience.

 

Joanna's Story

If he had hit me on our first date, there would have been no relationship. I would have called the police and had him arrested. Instead, he seemed a great guy; charismatic, daring, and self-assured—all the things I was not.

It was the beginning of my freshman year in college. Our gazes met across the bookstore. He strode up to me, introduced himself and kissed my hand. To an 18-year-old, that was heady stuff. We became a couple. He would take me on jaunts that were outside of my stuffy box, like climbing the fence to the football field late at night. We sat at the top of the bleachers, kissing under the stars. It felt daring and invigorating. He would chastise others who used foul language around me. Little did I know that he would later direct those same words at me. Having been reared to be a people pleaser, I was swooped up in the romance and never suspected that he wore a disguise.

We talked for hours. Actually, I talked for hours. He wanted to know all about me. For someone who was no more than a blurred-face in the high school crowd, it was flattering. It felt so good, I spilled my heart to him, describing my dream for the future. A dream he claimed to share.

He told me I was so sexy that he could not keep his hands off me. To be considered sexy was very intoxicating. He would say, “If it were four years from now, I’d marry you in an instant.” I believed that meant he loved me. Having planned to be a virgin until marriage, I limited our sexual activity. That was the late sixties—Make Love not War. Everyone was supposedly having sex. The fact that he was suffering by my withholding heaped guilt on me. When we were out together, he ogled other girls. I felt the weight of that. The first time we had sex, I became pregnant and we married.

A few months later, enraged, my husband slapped me across the face. I was stunned but let that incident go, thinking that it was a fluke and would not happen again. But, it did. The fourth time he battered me, he hit me so hard on the side of my head he popped my eardrum. 

Embarrassed, I did not tell anyone. In the seventies people did not talk about this kind of thing. After three days with ringing in my ears, I knew I needed to see a doctor. I told him I was hit in the head with a ball, but would he check both ears. He never questioned me.

I remembered my mother saying that it was never okay for a man to hit a woman—never. One evening, when things were calm, I told my husband that if he continued to hit me I would leave.

His face blanched. He stood and went into another room, closing the door. I could hear him crying. I felt awful.

In a few minutes he came out and said, “I thought you loved me.”

I said, “I do. With all my heart.”

“But you would leave me.”

My people-pleasing heart was screaming, tell him you’ll love him forever, no matter what. My gut said don’t back down.

I listened to my gut and let that boundary stand. I did not believe it would hold, he had swaggered over any boundary I had set before. Why should this be different? After that incident, I believed that he was not hitting me because I did not make him angry enough. It was just a matter of time. During every subsequent incident I worried, would this be the time?

The emotional abuse became more severe. Instead of hitting me, he would pin me against the wall

and scream in my face, telling me what a stupid, worthless woman I was. It did not take many of those incidents for me to internalize this message. Like kidnapping victims, the survival mechanism known as the Stockholm Syndrome took over. [Footnote: The Stockholm Syndrome describes the behavior of kidnapping victims who, over time, become sympathetic to their captors. The name comes from a hostage incident in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1973. After six days of captivity in a bank, several kidnapping victims resisted rescue attempts and later refused to testify against their captors.] I was convinced that I was stupid, worthless and could not do anything right.

In the beginning I tried to tell my husband how I felt, reason with him. Instead of listening and hearing me out, he twisted my words and took the conversation off into a different direction, putting me on the defense. When I tried to clarify my point, he continued to misinterpret what I said and became enraged, frightening me into silence.

Like most victims, I believed I could handle things. I toed the line and stood steadfast in my belief that one day he would wake up and change. His partying without me was easy to explain away as that four years he needed before he would be ready to settle down. Consumed with guilt for getting pregnant, I minimized my own hurt feelings over his behavior and kept trying to be a better wife and mother. However, my husband continually raised his expectations so I could never quite get there.

During the almost 20 years I spent with him, he went to great lengths to tear down my self-confidence, humiliating and berating me. My husband would adamantly claim that I did things I did not do, Gas-lighting me [Footnote: It comes from the 1944 film titled Gaslight which depicts the crazy-making aspect of abuse where the abuser hides or moves items and accuses the victim of losing or misplacing them]. He was psychologically manipulating me into thinking I was losing my mind so I would no longer trust my judgments. He ignored my feelings. When I needed his help with an aggressive drunk at a party, my husband announced that he was not going to help me. It was his way of reminding me he held the power and would decide when or if he would be there for me. Would he help me if the situation was dangerous? I did not know. I felt helpless and alone.

I stayed because I loved him and believed that I could make a difference in his life. I stayed because I was a worthless and stupid woman. How could I care for my children on my own? He threatened to take the children away from me and I would never see them again if I divorced him. I believe he could. I stayed because he had a .357 Magnum. He never threatened me with it, but I knew it was there, loaded. I was afraid.

Toward the end of our relationship, during a tirade he slammed me into the wall and pressed his forearm into my throat until I saw spots before my eyes. “You gonna leave me now?” he demanded to know. In that moment I realized that he was not hitting me because he did not want me to leave. If I tried to leave now, I would no longer have that protection.

A short time later, he blew up at me during a gathering of friends. They were stunned because they had never seen this side of him. The men at the party protected me and made him leave. I truly believed that my husband would go home, get the gun and come back and kill me. That did not happen. Fortunately my children were visiting my parents in a different state. I called my mother and told her I had left my husband. She said, “Thank God, I’ve been praying for this.”



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Joanna Hunter knows what it’s like to live in the secret, terrifying world of abuse. She did it for almost 20 years. She also knows that victims can transcend domestic abuse and go on to live a joy filled life. She's done that.

In her book, But He’ll Change; End the Thinking that Keep You in an Abusive Relationship, Hunter discusses the components of abuse and identifies over 100 unhealthy thoughts that victims embrace to cope with the abuse. She teaches the reader how to counter those false-beliefs. Her book received a 2011 Nautilus Book Award.

Since 2001, she has educated and shared her story with thousands of adults and teenagers through classrooms and community organizations. She is a popular guest speaker at universities, where she trains students in medical programs how to screen patients for abuse and how to help victims. She volunteers at the women’s shelter in her area. 


Connect with Joanna:


Facebook: A place where those touched by DV can join a caring community of survivors
Blog: Focuses on healing after abuse



Resources, personal stories, communication techniques, and strategies for survivors of sexual abuse who are ready to break free from the past and return to their genuine self.