Healing From Emotional Abuse: Domestic Violence Military: with Amy McLawhorn

Can you heal from abuse?  What do I do after leaving my narcissist? What does a healthy relationship look like? These concerns cross the minds of over 20 people every minute; over 28,800 people every day.  And the sad fact is, we still don’t talk about it enough.  Healing from Emotional Abuse isn’t a bandaid situation.  But it doesn’t have to take years either. The lives of millions of other survivors around the worlds have been impacted by their narcissist.  Yours doesn’t have to.  To show you how to live a free, confident and peaceful life, your host and Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, Marissa F. Cohen.

Marissa: Welcome back to breaking through our silence. We’ve been talking lately a lot about military sexual assault, because it’s super important. And it’s incredibly common. And it’s not really talked about that much after the Vanessa Guillen issue, and finding out that she was harassed and assaulted by people on her base, to then being brutally murdered, It’s such an important topic. And it’s good that people are starting to bring light to it. So, I wanted to introduce a self-proclaimed regular woman just trying to make it in the world. And a friend and coalition member with me, Amy McLawhorn. Thank you so much for being here today and talking with me and sharing this insight with us.

Amy: Hi, Marissa. Thank you. That was that was a beautiful intro. I appreciate it a regular woman in the world. That’s me just getting by.

Marissa: You’re doing more than that. Because you’re sharing your story and advocating for people who might still be too afraid to advocate for themselves. So, I want to thank you very much for that amazing work.

Amy: Well, thank you. Thank you. And I, I have gotten to a point in my life. And maybe it comes with age, but I want to shout things from the rooftops now. And I think because when I was growing up, when I was a younger woman, people and women were not shouting things from the rooftops. And I think that’s why we find ourselves, one of the reasons why we find ourselves kind of in the place that we are as a society. As a civilization. And so yeah, I’m now happy to talk about my experiences. And I find it very cathartic. And I feel very much like that, if it helps one person see the light in some way, or reach out for help, or throw up their hand to say, somebody saved me or somebody helped me save myself, then it’s worth it. So, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Marissa: Of course, I’m so happy that you feel empowered to speak out and inspire others. That’s so brave, and honestly, just beautiful. So, I’m really honored that you want to come on and speak with me. So, would you mind telling us as much as you’re comfortable with about what happened?

Amy: Sure. So, I was 15 years old. And living in Florida. My dad was a commander in the Air Force. It was a colonel in the Air Force and I believe at the time, he was a Vice Wing Commander. A girlfriend of mine and I were out on a Friday night and cruising around because she had a driver’s license, but I didn’t yet. And we saw this group of cute guys in a parking lot of a bar. Of course we couldn’t get into the bar. We just saw him in the parking lot of the bar. And we stopped and we were chatting with them and this one guy and I hit it off and he was super handsome and very interested in me. And we had some things in common. And we started dating. Now, he was 20 years old. He was an airman stationed at the same base where my dad was stationed. I was 15. And we spent about three years together. His friends knew when we first started dating, that I was much younger than they were, obviously. I didn’t even have a driver’s license. Nobody said anything Our relationship progressed pretty quickly. And I would say within the first year, he was physically abusing me. It started out you know, small things. I mean, the first time he ever hit me, it was not like a punch to the face or anything like that. I mean, he’s slapped me across the face. But at that point, of course, I had kind of already been beaten down. Because as we all know now from the literature and research that’s out there, the abuse generally starts long before anybody actually lays hands on someone, if it even gets to that point. So anyway, I stayed with him. I hid it from my parents for a while. And when I was almost 17, I think my mom and dad found out. They of course immediately said that we couldn’t see each other anymore. They put me into therapy, I continued to see him secretly and then continued to see him kind of out in the open. Eventually the beatings got really bad. And I mean they were beatings, like legitimate beatings. Closed fist, kicking, choking. He would choke me until I was unconscious. Many, many, many times. One time, I remember that he was beating me in the back of my head so hard that he broke his hand. An hour after everything had calmed down, his knuckles were like, all deformed on the top of his hand and his hand was swollen and already starting to turn black and blue. And he went to work the next day and told everybody that he punched a wall or something. And nobody ever questioned that. His friends, other airman, even people who outranked him, who were higher ranking than he was, but still travelled kind of in their friend group, saw him with their own eyes hit me, slap me, push me, pull me around, grab me by the arm, yank me into other rooms. And they never reported him to his commanders. They never asked me if I was okay. I remember them being visibly uncomfortable. And I remember them being like, Whoa, dude, calm down, or, you know, a couple of them saying something, but they never took it any farther than that. They continued to allow him to be this way, among their ranks. They continue to sit and work with him knowing that he was an abuser, that he was an alcoholic. And all of those other things, they never stepped up to say get this guy out of our ranks. One day after, basically a wake up to go to sleep day of violence. I mean, we I woke up and he was already drunk, and started in immediately. And we spent all day in this cycle. He sent me out to the store one night for something and I just drove away. Because I knew that if I went back, I was going to die. I just, I just knew that that was the night that it would go too far, and that he would kill me. And so I just kind of gathered myself in my car and I drove to my parent’s house. I was terrified. I was just sure that he was behind me. I was sure that he was following me. I got to the front gate; my parents lived on base. And I got to the front gate and the gate guard — I remember him looking at me with this look on his face, like, oh my god, like, this isn’t good. And he just kind of waved me through. Like he didn’t even I don’t think I even dimmed my lights. You know, when you go through like the main gate, you have to dim your lights so they can see the sticker on your car and all that kind of stuff. I’m a guess. I guess they still do that. I don’t know. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a base. But I remember being so flustered and freaked out that I couldn’t I didn’t remember to do that. But when I got up close enough so that he could see me he just like was like go, you know. I drove to my parents’ house. And this is where my story I think differs from a lot of people. You kind of can see the juxtaposition of our two stories. So, I went home, I confessed everything to my dad and my mom, my dad was there first my mom wasn’t home, but my dad was there. I told my dad everything. He obviously could see me the physical effects of what I was going through. And he said, “Okay, we have, I think we have two choices. Our two choices are for me to go across the street to the commander of security police’s house — commander lived in the house right across the street. And I can tell him what’s going on. And he can help guide us on what to do from here. Or you can just come home back into your family. And, you know, we don’t have to tell anyone. You don’t have to report this. You don’t have to call the police. You don’t have to whatever.” I said I want to report it. I want to tell somebody because he shouldn’t be in the world as he is. And so my dad went across the street. And I remember it was really funny because the commander of Security Police came over and he was like in his gym shorts and a T shirt, which is really weird. You know, when you see like a commander in normal clothes and you’re like this is so strange. Like it was just really it was kind of weird because it was like a, you know, it was like a Sunday night or Monday night or something and he was just relaxing with his family probably. So, he came over and I told him what had gone on that day and he said, “Okay, well, this happened off base. So the security police can’t handle it yet. We need to contact the local police department and you’ll file your report with them and he will be arrested and then when here is arrested. Security police, we will pick him up and then we will deal with him from the Air Force side.” So, the commander of the security police went with me to the local police station. My mom he and my mom, myself. My dad stayed on the base, I think that because the Wing Commander was traveling and my dad couldn’t leave the base because he was on call. And so, the commander, the Security Police, and my mom took me to the local police department. I filed a report, and they went to our apartment to arrest him. And that’s a whole other story. I won’t, that was insanity also. But they arrested him finally, and the commander went with me into my apartment and with my mother and helped me pack up my stuff. And we loaded it into the back of his SUV and drove it back to my parents’ house. And I kind of felt like for the first time that somebody cares. That this is I mean, I was super shocked and traumatized, obviously. But I felt like I had protection. I felt like I had people around me, right, that wasn’t just my mom and my dad. And so, the next morning, my mom and I woke up early, I went to the emergency room on base — hospital. And one of my mom’s friends was a charge nurse there. I think she was a Captain or a Major and, and she gave me an exam and made note of all of my injuries, and all of that kind of stuff. And then we went to the courthouse and the county courthouse, and I filed a restraining order and then walked down the hall to the courtroom and watched him be arraigned over video. He was released into the custody of the Security Police. And when I got home, I got a phone call from I don’t remember exactly who was on the phone, or their ranks, I just know that there were several people in the room and they had me on speakerphone, and he was among the people in the room. So, I’d had this experience the night before where the commander really took care of me. And I know that that only happened because he and my father were peers, right? I know that. And I knew in that moment that he was doing this because this was the commander’s daughter who just had the shit kicked out of her by an airman. And we need to do something about this. And I was kind of like, Oh, I have this team. Now people really care. But the next morning, when I got that phone call, I realized, oh, okay, so maybe I don’t really have a team, and maybe people don’t really understand what they’re doing. Because that phone call consisted of, you know, first sergeant, a commander, and him. He was there in the room, when they were calling me to ask me how I wanted to handle things going forward. He can hear this conversation. He can hear you. I said, I don’t know what you mean, what do you mean? And they said, Well, you know, obviously, we’ll be dealing with it on our end. But we know that you guys live together. Do you want to take possession of the apartment? Or do you have somewhere else you can go? No, I don’t want the apartment. I don’t want anything in it. I don’t care to ever go back there. I don’t want to have any contact. And they said, Okay, well, we have explained to airman XYZ, that he shouldn’t have any contact with you. But we want you to say to him in front of us that you don’t want to have any contact with him. We would like to have it on the record so that he knows and we know what your wishes are.

Marissa: So inappropriate.

Amy: Yeah. So, I was terrified of this man. Speaking the words, I don’t ever want you to contact me again, felt like he was going to come through the phone and murder me. You know what I mean? Like, that’s how afraid I was of him. And the idea of confronting him in that way, even though it was only on the phone. And there were like three or four other people in the room. Me standing there alone by myself in my living room with my cordless, like, you know, my 1995 cordless home phone in my hand. I mean, I felt like he could murder me through the phone. I was terrified. But somehow, I said, I don’t want any contact. I just kind of blurted it out. And I heard him gasp and say, “Are you sure?” And then the other guys in the room, you know, kind of, you heard. you know? I’m not quite sure what the purpose of that was. I still don’t fully understand. I can guess at what the purpose was that they were trying to make a point like, or maybe that was their protocol back then that they, somebody need it to be able to testify to the fact that the victim said she didn’t want to have contact with the perpetrator anymore. I don’t really know for sure, but I said it and the call ended. And I kind of stood there like the whole thing. I just it was like an out of body experience. About four hours later, my phone rang and it was him. He lasted four hours. I’m assuming he lasted long enough for them to tell him about what was going to happen to him going forward. What the charges were, what his punishment might look like and he told me that he was proud of me for calling the police and for leaving him. I never again after that day, when the men in the room with him in the room called me to say, please tell him that you don’t want to have any contact with him anymore. I never heard from the United States Air Force again.

Marissa: Nothing?

Amy: No, they never even told me what his punishment was. They never asked me to write an affidavit. They never asked me to testify in front of a JAG person, or they never sent me a letter saying, here’s how we handled the beating that this airman gave you. And at the time, I asked my mom several months ago, because I thought maybe that I was misremembering. I thought that maybe in the months and the years after that I was so wrapped up in my own trauma and my own PTSD that I didn’t remember kind of what had gone down. I asked my mom, I said, “did you ever hear from anybody again? Are there any letters that we got from the Air Force? Or did you guys have like conversations with them that were kind of out of my presence, you know, that you didn’t want me to know that, you know, we’re trying to protect me from?” And she said, No. and I was like, That’s so crazy. And she said, that is really crazy. And she said, you know, your dad and I, but especially your dad we were trying really hard not to ask too many questions, because we didn’t, your father didn’t want there to be an implication that he was interfering in any way. That he was going to go after this guy, because that’s my daughter, and I’m a Colonel and Commander. And he didn’t want there to be this, any kind of doubt about whether or not he was going to get what he deserved, based on his very own shitty merit. That it wasn’t like the commander Oh, the, you know, the sky data, the commander’s daughter, and now he’s out to get him kind of thing. So, my dad was very hands off. And he didn’t ask any questions. He specifically told me that it was like, honey, I can’t, I can’t ask because I don’t, I don’t want it to look like I’m influencing anything. I need, we need to let this run its course. Well, I now wish that he had, because I don’t know anything that happened. I know that he was discharged months later. I know that he was on, “Weeds and seeds.” For a while where they decided his fate. He had been an air traffic controller and they I guess, obviously took him out of, off of the scope. And that he was, “weeds and seeds” for a while. And I know that he was discharged. The only reason that I know those things is because he told me. Because he never stopped calling. He would leave me messages on the answering machine. He would call me at work. This is way before caller ID This was way before anything like that. And I never reported it because I didn’t even know who to report it to because I never heard from anyone after I reported. That make sense? So, I was this like traumatized 18-year-old trying to get her shit together, trying to get her life together. And I didn’t have a like, nobody gave me a business card and said, if we can help you, here’s who you call. Nobody wrote down a phone number. So, if even if I had wanted to report it, I had no idea who to report it to. And I was so messed up that I thought the fact that I had even answered his call or listened to him talk to me, meant that like I was in the wrong somehow. And that my parents might be mad at me for talking to him. Even though I didn’t I wasn’t the one who called him he would call me and I just answered the phone. But I really still thought I was in that guilt shame cycle where I thought that it was all my fault. And I thought people would be angry if they knew. Not angry at him for breaking the restraining order, and the directive from his commander that you know, me and like three other people heard any of that. I thought they would be mad at me. And I think that really speaks to the mindset of an abuse survivor and a victim of abuse. So yeah, I had no idea who didn’t even report it to the judge or the DA I guess reduced the charges against him to some kind of a misdemeanor. And he was ordered to serve like six months probation, I think. And the way I found out that the charges had been reduced was because he told me. They never called me to say we’re reducing the charges. He’s pled guilty. He’s pled no contest. He’s been sentenced to probation. I never heard from any organization after the night that I reported. Never. I never heard the United States Air Force and I never heard from the county in Florida where I lived where he was charged.

Marissa: That’s disgusting.

Amy: And that’s amazing to me. And I say, Oh, it was a long time ago, but 25 years is actually not that long ago. And I read a lot of stories and I see a lot of people talking online, and I don’t think things have changed much since then. I’m pretty sure that most women who are either victims of domestic violence, narcissistic abuse, or victims of sexual assault don’t have a Mariska Hargitay that’s like SVU holding their hand on the way to every court. Like I didn’t even know there was a court case. I didn’t have a SARC person. There was none of that. And I see that not a lot has changed. Because I see story after story after story online, of these women and men being dismissed, being retaliated against, being ignored, being made fun of, being laughed at.

Marissa: Your bravery and sharing all that is, is amazing and inspiring. Thank you very much. Well, first of all, every single one of those organizations was wrong, not only for reducing or dismissing the charges, I hope that he was dishonorably discharged but I feel like that’s not the case.

Amy: I hope he was too because… I have no idea. Where is I have no idea. Isn’t that crazy? I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Marissa: No, you’re right, though. I mean, and I think that you brought up a really good point that it was really only escalated and handled. I’m air quoting handled, because you were the commander’s daughter. And I don’t think that if you were just either a service member or the daughter of, I don’t know, a sergeant,  or a staff Sergeant or something. Yeah. No, not have cared, it would have been met with Oh, do we have to do the paperwork on this? Or can we let it slide? Like, how long can we dodge this issue before they give up it’s disgusting. And it happens so much?

Amy: Yeah, I mean, I would like to think that that, as far as I know that security police commander was an honorable guy. And I would like to think that he would have done that for anyone’s daughter. And I and I feel like he probably would have, if it had been one of his Airmen. Does the commander come out for one of the airmen? I don’t think so like, does the commander hold the hand of the young 18-year-old female airman who’s just gotten the shit kicked out of her by her boyfriend? I don’t think that he does. And, he should. He should. They all should.

Marissa: They all should and it shouldn’t matter what your rank is or who your parent is. I’m in good faith that that security commander would have gone to bat for everyone. The problem is, it’s so much more than that. Right? So yes, people that were in that room that day, while you were on the phone forced to address your abuser, the day after you were assaulted by him. First of all, I have to comment that that is disgusting. And if that’s a protocol, if it’s still a protocol, they need to get rid of that, because that is intimidating and it’s manipulative.

Amy: It’s crazy. I hope that that’s not still some kind of protocol. And maybe people can like, I don’t know, email you (me@MarissaFayeCohen.com) or something like tell us I would really like to know whether…

Marissa: It’s a good idea if you have experienced this, and part of the protocol was that you had to be on the phone with your abuser after it happened to tell them that you didn’t want any contact, shoot me an email. I’d like to know if that’s still a thing because that is vile. That is a vile, manipulative tactic to make someone feel intimidated and threatened and that’s not okay. And I want to address that with the people that will get rid of that. Lay that down right now. I’m not going to be quiet about that. That is disgusting. First of all, I have to commend your dad for being so awesome and level headed when you brought this up to him the day that you came home. Because I feel like for me, if I went to my dad’s house after I had just gone through an event like that, my dad would have bought a shotgun. I mean, that is that is really admirable. And I understand that he was in a power position and didn’t really have that option, but to be able to take a step back and be like, Okay, so here are your two options. That’s amazing. And I’m so glad you had support in that moment like that. That wasn’t explosive.

Amy: Well, that’s what makes my dad, what made my dad while he was in the Air Force, I think probably an exceptional leader and an exceptional fighter pilots, a fighter pilot, like they don’t have time to like, freak out or lose their shit. You got to decide, you know, your plane is going Mach two. What are you going to do?  Yeah, my parents are amazing. And he really did me a service in that moment by giving me the choice. I had been living my life without any choices. Where I didn’t feel like I was in control of my life at all. I had someone else I was the puppet and there was a puppet master who was pulling the strings and controlling my life. And my dad, Sorry, excuse me, my dad in that moment, he gave that back to me. He gave me control. And I think in that moment, that was probably one of the greatest gifts that he’s ever given to me, ever in my life. He gave me back my control. And he was like, a man who gave me back my control, which, you know, if you let it get really deep into your brain, I mean, that’s deep shit, right? Like, that’s a really powerful moment for a young woman to have an important man in her life, give her power, give her choice, give her control. And so, I am forever grateful to him for that, in that split second that he said that, to me, was a beautiful thing. And it was the best gift that he could have given me.

Marissa: That’s incredible. And I’m really, I’m really happy that that you had that experience, because it really, I can’t verbalize how meaningful that is. And you did a beautiful job, you know, it is it’s giving your control back after a situation where for three years, you weren’t able to make a decision. Or if you tried to make a decision, you’d get beaten. You’d get hurt. I’m really happy. Something else that you mentioned, I wanted to go back to because I see this all the time is that like, brotherhood mentality where his people that saw him treating you that way didn’t address it. Probably, in my opinion, because they didn’t know how, but also, because there’s this toxic culture, in organizations like the military, where they’re brothers, right? This is a brotherhood or you know, whatever and they really can’t rat on people without being considered like a betrayer, or whatever. And that’s so gross, and so toxic. Do you want to comment on that a little?

Amy: I think if I could like wave a magic wand, that would be one of the first things that I would do away with. That mentality. And I think you hit the nail on the head when you said a lot of them, maybe didn’t know what to do. But I know for a fact, And I remember for a fact that there were people there around us who were older and more higher ranking than him, who had airman under them, who should have known better. Were they not taught like, hey, if you see one of your airmen like slapping his girlfriend around, you need to report it?Like that’s not to me, that’s not a stretch, right? Like, I would like to say that people didn’t know what to do. And they were shocked and all those kinds of things And I’m willing to give that to most people. I’m not willing to give that to somebody who has 15 years in the military and who has people under them. Or 10 years in the military, you know, who has Airmen or soldiers or sailors or Marines under them that they don’t, they don’t know what to do in that moment. I mean, their whole job, the oath that they take is about protecting America, right against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Like, how do you not know what to do about that? And so yes, that, to me, is one of the most disappointing things about my story. And about the millions of stories that I read about, and that I hear every year is the lack of accountability, and the lack of responsibility that service members feel either for their female counterparts or for the spouses and significant others of their co-workers. And it must stop. Guys get your shit together. If that makes you uncomfortable, that is a really good indicator that it’s wrong and you should tell someone. You should tell someone. I mean, if any one of those guys who saw that or knew about that firsthand would have gone to a commander and said, this guy is dangerous. He doesn’t need to be an air traffic controller. He’s an alcoholic, and he beats his girlfriend. He shouldn’t be in charge of pilots lives because that’s what it comes down to with an air traffic controller. I mean, these guys, they have a job to do that keeps lives safe. So, I don’t understand why people would want to be friends with a guy like that. I don’t understand why people would want to continue to work with a guy like that. You know, I never expected anybody to like fist fight him or something. You know what I mean? Like, I wasn’t waiting for some like big moment where somebody like swooped in and saved me because I knew that that was not going to happen. But it is amazing to me that nobody reported him. That’s crazy.

Marissa: It’s a testament to the training. When I worked for the army, I put together a ton of trainings with other people who worked on the base with me because our trainings were outdated. They were inaccurate. All of the trainings are, are a cover your ass tactic. It’s not like they were taking them seriously anyways, and people go into those training soldiers go into those trainings knowing this is just a check off a box. Especially in the 80s and 90s, domestic violence was not taken seriously. I remember reading articles, and doing research on this when I was in my master’s program, about how in the 80s, if somebody called for a domestic dispute to the police, a police officer would show up, ask the aggressor, what the victim did, and tell the victim to stop doing whatever that was to make the aggressor angry. Told the aggressor to go take a walk around the block until they cooled down. That was how they handled it. And imagine the military being much different.

Amy: In my story, I guess it’s good that he got discharged. But again, how many people don’t? How much of that was the fact that they never talked to me again. They never, you know, explained to me what was going on. But my last name was still on that paperwork. Right? So, was he discharged because of who my dad was? I don’t know. I have no idea. But I do know that I hear about a lot of guys doing a lot worse stuff, or the same level of bad stuff, who don’t get discharged. So that makes me wonder, too. I mean, in some respects, every story should be like mine, in the level of care that I got that first night, and all of that stuff. And the fact that my abuser was ultimately discharged. But the other side of my story isn’t all that different from everybody else’s. And that’s what has to change. My dad often says that when a change needs to be made, that most of the time, you’ll have to drag most people kicking and screaming over the finish line.

Marissa: I love that.

Amy: You have to you have to force it; you have to force it. But once you forced it, and some time goes by where the change is now the new normal, the problem starts to get better, right? Because you forced the change. And now, people see it as normal and that’s what’s going to have to happen in the military. With the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence. We are going to have to drag people kicking and screaming, it’s going to have to be like bloodshed. Like nobody is safe. It needs to be that if you see something and you don’t say something, you get punished, not, “Oh, we’ll chalk it up to we need to educate you more, or we need to send you to another SHARP class.” If you see something and you don’t say something, even if you weren’t the perpetrator, you’re in trouble.

Marissa: You’re out.

Amy: You’re out.You’re done, because you’re not the kind of person that we want in our United States military.

Marissa: I don’t understand if the oath is to protect foreign and domestic, why are we not protecting domestic? Abuse is terrorism. It’s literally the definition of terrorism. It is making somebody feel scared to be. Why is that not taken as seriously as a foreign enemy? Because domestic enemy can live in your house with you.

Amy: Yeah, domestic enemies do live in our homes with us. They live in our homes. They work in your tower. They work in your Squadron. They are everywhere. And my dad is a strong believer in diversity is like, people have to understand that everything is made better by diversity. And a lot of people aren’t on board with that, because they don’t, they don’t understand the power that comes with diversity in your workforce, whether it’s military or private sector, or your friend group. It amplifies and increases the value of everything around you. So, we can continue to live in this space in the military, where we let women in because we had to. And they’re really not vital to you know, we don’t feel any need to protect them really, because they’re… Yeah, they’re not as strong or physically large. But you’re missing out. You’re missing out on the diversity that comes with women, being in your workplace. And if you don’t protect that diversity, you don’t protect that space to make it so that you can have a diverse space, and a diverse force, then you are weakened by that. You are making yourself weaker every day. Every time that you don’t protect one of the females under your command. You are weakening yourself, and you are weakening your force. But somehow commanders are missing it. They’re missing it because they’re trying to protect themselves.

Marissa: I completely agree like the bureaucratic nonsense. It’s all old school mentality and it’s all bullshit. Last question, what advice do you have for other survivors to help them to heal and overcome what they’ve gone through.

Amy: My first biggest piece of advice is therapy. However, you can get it. Because your brain is not equipped to manage this alone, you really need the help of a professional. Find one that you connect with, find one that makes you feel safe. Find one that has some experience in trauma, and everything that goes along with that. Whenever you feel safe enough talk about it, I think talking about it takes some of the scariness out. Admitting it to friends and family that maybe you haven’t talked about it with. Maybe they just know that you guys broke up, but they don’t know why. Talking about it, the more you talk about it, the less it stings. You know, I’m sure there’s a psychologist who probably give that a name, obviously. But I just know that the more that I talked about it, the less it hurt. Also, the more I talked about it, and the more I told people, its kind of helped me stay accountable to myself to not go back. Because I think that that is a real struggle that every woman who is in a domestic violence situation struggles with. We all struggle with that. I mean, women leave sometimes several times before they’re finally able to stay away. And one of the things that really helped me stay away, when the evil voice was kind of churning in my head, like, go back, he loves you, this is what you deserve, right? Was that I had told a bunch of people. And I didn’t want to have to be like, “Oh, no, I told you that you’d beat the shit out of me, but we’re back together.” That helps hold me accountable. It sounds crazy and people think like, why would you even think about going back? But you do you absolutely do think about going back. So yeah, tell people. Share with people that you feel safe enough to share with what you’ve been through. But yeah, just know that you can do this. Follow the advice of domestic violence organizations out there. Make a plan for yourself, know where you’re going to go, and who you’re going to, and know how you’re going to get there. Because I think that helps, I think that I was very lucky that I could leave there and run home to the safety of my parent’s house, I was very, very lucky. And I didn’t have to make a plan I just ran away Not everybody has the opportunity to do that. So, if you know that you’re not one of those people that has an opportunity to do that, try to make a plan. There’s a lot of literature out there. There are a lot of great websites out there that can give you a checklist for how to leave. And go there and learn and figure out how to leave. And once you’ve left, follow the advice of people who have been there to help you stay away and stay safe. But yeah. Therapy, I think, is one of the top things that I can recommend to people, you just you can’t get through it on your own. Like if you get sick, you go to a doctor, because the doctor has the knowledge and the skill and the medicine to help you get well. And this coming out of something like this is a sickness, and you need a doctor to help you get better. It is so freeing and life can be so beautiful, and full and happy and safe. It’s so worth it.

Marissa: Thank you for sharing that. And just so anybody listening knows if you need a safety planning worksheet, I have one available on my website, MarissaCohen.com/free-resources . It’s a full checklist of all the things to pack, what to do before you want to leave when you’re leaving and after you leave. So, thank you for bringing that up. We have that covered on the site. But you could also obviously look into other resources as well.

Amy: Yeah, thank you, I’m so glad you have that Marissa. That’s awesome.

Marissa: The most dangerous time in a domestic violence relationship is leaving. The abuser feels like they’re out of control. Which is probably why yours was calling you a couple times a month to check in to try and still have that control over you, despite all the orders and no contact. But thank you so much for being here and for imparting all of your knowledge and insights on us and teaching us how to navigate this horrible scary situation. And thank you for your honesty. I really appreciate your time.

Amy: Oh, thank you, Marissa, thank you for listening and thank you for Amplifying Voices of women and men who have had these experiences. That cone of silence, and that cone of shame It goes away every time somebody speaks and the more people speak, the more change happens.

If you enjoyed this podcast, you have to check out www.MarissaFayeCohen.com/Private-Coaching. Marissa would love to develop a made-for-you healing plan to heal from emotional abuse. She does all the work, and you just show up. Stop feeling stuck, alone, and hurt, and live a free, confident, and peaceful life.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the Healing From Emotional Abuse podcast, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marissafcohen, and instagram @Marissa.Faye.Cohen. We’d love to see you there!

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