In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. My blog will feature several guest contributors sharing their domestic violence experiences and how they healed. Today my guest blogger is Domestic Violence Survivor, Author & Empowerment Speaker Jodine Basterash. She shares her story of over a decade of domestic abuse.
I have been a rebellious teen, single mother, wife, divorcee and, above all, a woman of unique courage. Acquainted early in life with turmoil surviving three rapes starting at the age of 10 years old, growing up fatherless, self identity issues and very low self esteem, my circumstances have shaped my perspective and strengthened me to overcome the challenges I would encounter later in life with 14+ years of domestic violence starting at the age of 16 years old. I’ve encountered physical, sexual, economic and verbal abuse disguising them all as “love."
I didn’t grow up in a household of domestic violence, so I wasn’t a statistic. I grew up without my father in the home, as well as the absence of a father figure. I didn't see any type of example, negative or positive, about what a healthy relationship was supposed to look like. I just looked at our encounters as, “Oh, we just had another fight” because just as quick as we had the fight, we made up. I confused the jealousy and power and control as love. I thought it was cute that I had to check in with my abuser everywhere I went because he was concerned about me. When they isolated me from family and friends I believed my abusers when they said others were jealous of our relationship or didn’t mean us any good. I compared it with a "father's love & protection" that I desperately yearned for by my father, but never received. But after a short time, my abusers’ anger and rages started and the cuteness in it all turned into fear. Because I called myself being in “love,” I felt sorry for my abusers and the excuses they gave me and wanted to help them. I believed them every time they said it wouldn’t happen again.
I always seemed to become the object for my abusers to release their anger on. There were times I was silent and there were times I argued and fought back. Either way, it didn't matter. They still found a reason to choke me, pull my hair, slap or punch me, call me all sorts of degrading names, drag me or throw me around. Oh, and let’s not talk about the times I was stabbed, shot at or dragged down the street with their vehicle. I remember numerous times where myself and all four of my children would be curled up hugging and holding one another crying after an episode.
Every time I threatened to leave my abusers, they told me, "Nobody’s going to want you with four kids" or “a man is going to think that you’re looking for someone to take care of you and your kids.” Or he would say “I will kill you if you try to leave me” and “I’ll take the kids and you’ll never see them again.” I believed them and stayed. It seemed as if no matter what I did or said, it was never good enough. There was always a reason to be upset with me. At one point when I thought I found a refuge by giving my life to God and going to church, one of my abusers stopped me from attending stating that the church was a cult and they were brainwashing me.
But, the cycle continued. I still did not understand what was going on and minimized it, making up excuses for my abusers and believing them every time they apologized and said it would never happen again. God forbid if someone said anything negative about them. I would have a fit and come to their defense. I called the police very few times throughout those 14 years because I learned rather quickly not to get them involved because it only made the situations worse after they left.
There were numerous reasons of why I stayed with the #1 reason being that I didn’t want my children growing up without a father or father figure like I did. I didn't want them to have to experience the things I had to endure growing up fatherless. These are the thoughts that continually ran through my mind as for some of the reasons why I stayed in the unhealthy relationship. I thought I was doing the right thing by staying in the unhealthy relationships so that my children wouldn't have to grow up in a single parent home like I did, but I was damaging them. I was teaching my son that this is how you treat a woman and teaching my daughters, this is how a man should treat a woman. I mean, why not, mommy's allowing it and daddy's doing it. Often as parents, we lead by example and don't even realize it because we're caught up in our own mess. We don't realize that the things we're doing or saying to one another are being shadowed by our own children. I used to tell my children all the time, "never let a man treat you this way, or never treat a woman this way." But did it really matter? It didn’t because they saw and heard the fights in the home no matter how many times I yelled out to them to go to their room or not to come out when the fights were occurring. Regardless of what either one of us said, actions speak louder than words.
Even after the domestic violence relationships stopped, I continued to encounter additional unhealthy relationships because of the pattern I fell into. I yearned to be loved and just wanted to be accepted. I finally realized that the cycle was continuing because I didn't love myself first. I found myself being attracted to the same type of men, allowing them to treat me any type of way. I thought that if a man abused you or tried to control you, that meant he loved you, he cared. I realized that I couldn’t expect for a man to love me if I didn’t love myself first.
My journey to healing and restoration began in 2011 when I learned my rubies worth. Proverbs 31:10 says, “She is more valuable than Rubies.” As I began researching the Ruby from a gemstone and Biblical perspective, my healing and restoration began to transform. I learned how to love myself first and learned my value as a woman. Because my self esteem was shot down so bad, I had to start seeing myself as a person who is valuable, lovable, capable and worthy of all that is good and eternal. Real beauty lies within. Your real identity is not defined by outward labels of how other people perceive you. Each one of us have individual traits, preferences, dreams, skills, talents, desires and personality that make us unique. We spend too much time comparing ourselves to others or believing what other people have said about us. I had to stop worrying about what my abusers or other people said or thought about me and focus on what God said about me.
Not everybody will like you. Some people may even aggressively dislike you. Despite how you see yourself, you are perfectly designed for God’s purpose. Stop living your life according to the desires and expectations of others to the point that you really don’t know what you like, what you want, or your own dreams. Strip away all the labels, obligations and responsibilities, and even relationships. What you are willing to confront, God is willing to heal. What you are willing to change, God is willing to help. What you are willing to leave behind, God is willing to transform. We go through highs and lows in our life and we learn through them. We grow through them. As we continue to go through seasons of adversity and victory, we discover more about who we are if we trust in God and how He works. Look deep and long into yourself and ask, who am I? Who did God make me to be? It is only in that place and position of discovery that you find your purpose and live your life completely. You are a unique design of God, made in His image. When you truly know who you are, your life will come into focus. Discover the rare, original, magnificent, fabulous, beautiful person God designed you to be! You are one of a kind, irreplaceable, and valuable beyond measure. When I learned to love myself and my self worth, my pattern of unhealthy relationships stopped, and healing transformed. I am currently in a beautiful healthy relationship so it’s possible to have someone love and accept you for who you really are. Just be true to yourself first and never let anyone try to change you into who they want you to be. Be-YOU-tiful!
Everything I have encountered in my life since a child, God was preparing me for such a time as this. There’s a scripture that says, “He is the potter and I am the clay.” My mission and purpose in life is to help other women who have encountered domestic violence and sexual assault. There is a deep-seeded passion within me to help others remove the masks giving them strength and courage to speak their peace by delivering messages of awareness, hope, encouragement and truth to our communities. This has become the motivating force behind my work to empower others to create healthier relationships, restored lives and the end to domestic violence.
It is vital that our communities are educated on the dynamics of domestic violence so that we can continue to lower the statistics and save lives. The more we talk about this issue, the more we create spaces for healing. The less we ignore domestic violence, the less harm we'll see in our communities. Unfortunately, I have developed an expertise on this subject matter through my personal experiences of being a victim for 14 years and how it affects the entire family, including the children. I share my story to encourage and empower other victims and survivors – to break the silence.
We have the power within ourselves to rise above our past and create the life we choose. We can’t change our past, but we can change our future. My story is proof that it's never too late for a new beginning. What happened to me was not my fault. I am proud to scream to the entire world – I AM A SURVIVOR!
I am available for workshop presentations and speaking engagements on the topics of domestic violence, teen dating violence and women empowerment.
Jodine Basterash is the President of Adore To Empower is a nonprofit dedicated to building a support system for domestic violence victims & survivors empowering them to accept, embrace and believe in their inner and outer beauty, and equipping them with the tools necessary for success.