Freedom Series: Abuse to Favor

 “For me, my dreams were shaped out of a childhood that was fenced in by fear”

Abuse to Favor is a 96-page minibook that is a part of the Freedom Series created by popular author and speaker, Michelle Borquez. Each booklet shares a woman’s true story about her journey from brokenness to freedom.

In Abuse to Favor, Jo Ann Aleman shares her story, struggles, and triumph over abuse.  It begins with her father, a man she recalls as generous and loving with his children, but extremely abusive to their mother.  Her “normal” was a violently abuse home life fueled by alcohol binges. A home (a life) that healthy families would see as filled with fear-invoking, pain-inducing, spirit-shattering chaos.  Time and again, her mother would pack the children up and flee for safety, then return when things seemed more settled, and so it went on and on.

The cycle brought on by her father’s rage and abuse directed at her mother caused her to go to a place she felt more secure–her mind–a place that no one could touch, a place that seemed safe. Like so many others in her situation, she dreamed about how her life would be different. She fantasized about someone coming to rescue and protect her: a savior.

But, as with any story of abuse, there’s always more than what appears on the surface. Why did her mother stay in that abusive situation? Her mother stayed because of her own experience with abuse. She and her siblings experienced great physical, emotional and mental abuse by their stepfather.  So she promised herself that her future children would never be subjected to a stepfather. But it wasn’t that he was a stepfather. It was that he was a broken abusive man.

“Many times we think of abuse as being only physical; however, abuse takes on many forms. Sexual abuse, verbal abuse, and emotional abuse—even neglect–are all perversions of real, unconditional love.”

Fast forward to Jo Ann Aleman’s adult life… with her childhood promises to herself still with her, she married someone she thought would take her in a direction that was new and better. To a place she could only recognize in her dreams. But he didn’t.  She shares about his abuse and the ultimate disintegration of the marriage.  So longing to be loved, she quickly found herself in another marriage, this time to an older man. She hoped he would bring the security she so desperately wanted. Again, it was not to be found. He too, abused her both physically and emotionally.

“Many nights I was awakened by his fists pummeling my face. He would get so drunk that he would black out, and the next morning we would wake up to a house that looked like a tornado had ripped through it… He was bent on compete destruction.”

As you may have noticed in your own life, there is this resilience about human nature. No matter how bad things get, no matter how improbable the odds, in our little broken torn-apart state, we still somehow find a way to reach out like a flower in the shadows, straining toward the sunshine, hoping against hope for something good.  Jo Ann Aleman was no different. Her heart reached out yet again, longing for love. She spent twelve years in “prison” with her third husband. A man who abused her through fear and intimidation, lashing out through physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse. But this time, it spilled over onto her daughter.

That’s when something shifted. This time, she didn’t reach out to a man, but to God. She writes, “Although we are all somewhat conditioned by our environment, something deep inside of us reveals the truth.” There was more for her.  She wanted once and for all, to be free.

Sharon Kay Ball (a professional counselor) uses biblical illustrations to define healthy and unhealthy thinking and behaviors, and speaks to the issues of conflict, power, authority, power struggles, and abuse that can affect any type of relationship. She also walks readers through common abuser behavior:  using rage, silence, intimidation, altering your sense of reality, criticizing, and blame-shifting to control their victim.

“His words only confirmed my feelings. They shaped me, took root in my heart, and I believed the things he said.”

Ball breaks down the phases in the cycle of abuse and talks about making a “safe plan.” Although it’s crucial to get out of an abusive relationship physically, it’s not enough. Victims need to purge themselves from the damaging affects of abuse that are left embedded in their minds and spirits. That means talking about trust, low self-image, forgiveness, anger, and learning how to move forward.

Aleman writes, “I was free on the surface, yet broken and deeply wounded inside.” That was, until she decided to no longer allow herself to be defined by abusive men, but by a loving God who offered hope and healing.

You may also be interested in:

Domestic Violence: But He Really is a Good Person

What is Emotional Abuse?

Quotes From Women Who Have Suffered Emotional Abuse

Sexual Violence Against Women: Rape, Abuse and Incest

Innocence Lost: Women and Childhood Sexual Abuse

Note: Rose Publishing provided me with an advanced reader copy of this booklet.

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™–”Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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The Power of Words: Women and the Negative Voices Within

You’ve heard the expression: You are what you think. All of us have positive and negative voices, but the negative ones can be crippling. They can advise, dictate, taunt, mock, measure and define us. They are constant reminders to us of who we are, and who we are not.

They may scream or they may whisper, be constant or intermittent, but as long as we listen to them, we feed them and give them permission to keep us in bondage. Like internal slave masters–they are oppressors who keep us locked in heavy chains–held captive within our internal prisons of self-doubt, self-deprecation and/or self-loathing.

But where do these voices come from?  From mothers, fathers, other family members, caretakers, teachers, coaches, friends and strangers. They also come from the media or the culture we are a part of. But sadly, and more often than not, they originate from the very people who were meant to love and nurture us the most– our families. Napoleon Hill said, “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”

The Power of  Words — Messed Up Messages

You’re Not Good Enough.
No matter how hard you try, you can’t measure up. You will never be good enough, so don’t even bother trying. You’re not capable–you don’t have it in you–you’re not cut from the “right” cloth. You’re not smart enough, hard-working enough, talented enough, charming enough, thin enough, pretty enough. 
You’re a Bad Girl.
You’re not a good little girl like those other girls. You’re dirty and you’re a bad girl. Look at what you’ve done and look at what you’ve caused other people to do. You should be ashamed of yourself, you’re a nasty girl. 
You’re to Blame.
It’s your fault, you’re to blame. Whatever bad things happen to you, it’s because of you, you deserve whatever negative things come your way. If something bad happens, you probably provoked it, either by something you did or something you neglected to do—either way, it’s your fault.
You’ll Never Be Anybody.
You’re not going anywhere in your life. The stars don’t shine for you like other girls. You’re not meant to be anyone or anything. You just stay low, that’s your “place”, that’s where you belong. Don’t dream, wish or imagine, because that’s not for you. You’ll never be anybody and you’ll never go anywhere.
You’re Worthless. 
You’re not wanted. No one truly celebrates your life. You’re a nobody, you have no worth or value, and you are not cherished–because you are considered to be nothing.  Or, “You’re just like your… fill in the blank.

In some families and cultures, you are de-valued simply because you were born a girl — Talk about a no-win proposition!

The Power of the Mind — Influence & Choice

The human mind and emotions are powerful forces. They are fertile fields ripe for planting and we reap a harvest from whatever seeds are planted. The question is, what kind of harvest?

  From the mind and emotions our spirits can either shrivel or soar. We can hear beautiful melodies, or hear stabbing, painful or judgmental tones. We can envision greatness, manage complex processes and dream dreams, or see only darkness, locked doors and certain failure on our personal horizons. Because of them, we can believe in endless possibilities and a future with hope, or we can believe in nothing because the voices tell us not to bother–those things are for other women, not us.

Like pre-programmed computer chips, the voices embed themselves and create strongholds in our minds. They translate to our senses and emotions how we “should” feel, and define consciously or subconsciously, who we are. If we listen to a lie long enough, we begin to believe it to be truth. The destructive voices hold us back from being our true selves, stunted from all that we are meant to be.

Certainly, there are some places around the globe (or in some family structures) where women and girls are treated with high esteem and are given equal opportunity compared to their male counterparts. It is also true that in many cases, females have become much more self-confident, self-reliant, successful, truly happy and free. But for the ones who are not yet there, and are caught in an oppressive place (in the cultural or familial context) because of the voices who have not stewarded, taught, or nurtured them well — there is hope!

“The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.” –Author Unknown 

Saying Goodbye to the Voices

To recognize the negative messages being piped into our minds as lies, is key. We don’t have to live with the voices, but they will not go away on their own because they are deeply rooted. It may take some time, but it will be time well spent.  For women, the voices are so intricately tied to our self-image.

By purging the lies, we choose to invest in reprogramming our view of ourselves in order to bring a true sense of reality, peace and overall well-being. It’s time to say goodbye to the harsh masters who have held the keys for far too long. The plaguing thoughts that have held us captiveincapacitating and hindering us from living our lives in freedom and confidence.

“No power in society, no hardship in your condition can depress you, keep you down, in knowledge, power, virtue, influence, but by your own consent.”  –William Ellery Channing

Replacing the Voices — Choosing Life

So how do we begin to make a change for better?  We begin by washing our minds with truth, which is what will set us free. We make a conscious choice to say yes to right thoughts about ourselves and no to the negative ones. We keep company with positive and honest people who will act as mirrors in our lives, speaking truth to us about ourselves, our dreams, our futures—and we rid ourselves of regular contact with the toxic ones. “Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.” –George Eliot

We lose the things in our atmosphere that bring death (belief systems we’ve subscribed to, harmful relationships, bad habits or addictions, places we frequent, or any inputs we listen to through media, music or literature that reinforce the negative or dark messages) and replace them with the things that bring life. Our thoughts can be like a tape stuck in an infinite loop that runs and re-runs in our mind. The good news is, we have control over what tapes—messages—we choose to play.  Choose life!  Choose the things that bring you peace, joy, encouragement, inspiration, challenge and fulfillment.

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”  –Wilma Rudolph

And, we welcome the voice of God and let it tell us who we are. We are cherished, capable, valued and loved—we are here for a purpose. We have a future and a hope, and thankfully, we are not alone. Our true destiny awaits us.

© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women
(Photos by Heal and Inspire, Jason Borneman, Alice Palace, AJ Bruestein)

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