Scars Speak

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What comes to mind when you read the word SCAR?

A scar can be left over from a surgery or a “trophy” on a veteran of war. It can be a reminder of a painful accident or a traumatic physical assault. And not all scars are visible to the eye. Sometimes we carry internal scars caused by wounds from a verbal assault, emotional or psychological damage.

“We’re stronger in the places we’ve been broken.” – Ernest Hemingway

One thing all scars have in common is they tell us that at some point in time, trauma occurred. They also tell us by their nature, the incident that caused the trauma happened in the past. The hurt may or may not remain, but the scar always does.

Some may look at their scars and be unaffected or even laugh because they don’t have any recollection of the actual incident. They may have had surgery and been under anesthesia. Or, they may have received their wound in an accident but their memory of the event has been erased.

There are some people, however, who have to look in the mirror and live with negative memories associated with their scars every day. They are the ones I’m writing about today. Scars caused by abuse, neglect or violence. Their scars are a constant and merciless reminder of pain. The relentless pain of hatred, rejection or violence against their person or spirit. Those memories summon our worst nightmares and haunt us with torment. Sometimes the scars taunt as if to say, “You deserved what you got” or “You’ll never be good enough. You’ve got the scars to prove it”. They are reminders of the powerlessness in abusive encounters. To some, a permanent warning sign to stay inside an imposed boundary. And they can’t be erased. The most we can do is cover them so the world can’t see. Because if the world sees them, they will wonder how our scars came to be, and we can’t bare to reveal or re-live the trauma.

Donita’s mother burned her with cigarettes and left scars from beatings with an iron hanger. Veronica’s uncle sexually assaulted her and her sister leaving a different set of scars. The pain of shame on top of sexual assault with the pressure of keeping a secret no girl should have to bare. Morgan’s arm is scarred with needle marks from a life she desperately wants to forget from her drug-addicted past. As beautiful as she is, Chandler wears scars under her clothes from cutting. No one knows because she masks it with a fake smile. Shauna wears long sleeved blouses and lots of bracelets to cover her wrists after attempting suicide. Makeup and jewelry cannot completely hide years of abuse to Trina’s face and neck at the hands of an abusive husband. Women and girls with faces and bodies acid-burned by their own husbands, fathers, brothers and family members–people they should’ve been able to trust to love and protect them. Every single scar from abuse cries out, “Why me?” Our faces, our bodies, our minds and our spirits are such a deep part of our identity. When we are assaulted in any way that is meant to inflict injury and pain by another, visible or not, it is inexcusable. When it is self-inflicted pain or abuse, we hurt and scar the same.

Thankfully, as the saying goes, beauty truly can come from “ashes”. We can rise to a better place. The other thing that all scars have in common is they Tell a Story. Your story. A very personal story. A painful story. A pain-filled story. But yours, nonetheless. So what’s so great about having a personal painful story? Nothing. That is, nothing in and of itself. But your scars, our scars, tell us and the world, “I am here!” They say without speaking a word, “I lived through it!” THAT is the story. THAT is the grace. It is your badge of courage. It says you are a fighter, a victor.

The truth is, the scars are proof that you made it through. You are meant to be here. And maybe one day, you will come to understand that you lived (or made it through the pain) to tell your story so that others can learn from it. And in so doing, what someone tried to take away from you, (your confidence, self-worth, freedom, identity, voice) ended up positioning you to give strength (and courage and hope) to another. And in the process, gave you back the voice no one could ever truly take.

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

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Domestic Violence is a Choice

Let’s be clear on the issue of Violence Against Women. If a man physically and/or psychologically abuses a woman, it is not by accident and it is not by mistake… It is by choice. I posted an article on this issue in 2011 titled, Domestic Violence: But He Really is a Good Person. Here’s an excerpt:

How many times have you heard a woman say these words after she’s been abused: “But he really is a good person”. She then goes into all of the things that have been difficult in his life, all of the things that have kept him down and made him a victim.

As if to say what?  He really doesn’t mean to be a bad person. Just look at his life, the cards were stacked against him. As if to say: Because of his past, he doesn’t have a personal choice in his future actions? As if to say: If those bad things didn’t happen in his life he wouldn’t be the way he is today. Wouldn’t he?

Over and over we have seen statistics and read stories about women who have been caught in the storm of violence perpetrated by a husband or lover—someone she knows intimately.  They sit on their friends’ couches, in their therapist’s office, in a bar, or at a police station, with their bruises, cuts and outward scars. They say things like: “But he really is a good person.  I know he didn’t mean to do it.  He loves me.” Read Full Article

Every woman, every person, deserves to live their life to its fullness. Free from fear, free from torment, free from abuse, and the list goes on. Everyone deserves to love and be loved fully and freely. Take the first step to love yourself enough to be free. You are worth it!

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

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

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16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence 2013

Say NO – UNiTE to End Violence against Women is a social mobilization platform on ending violence against women and girls. Launched in November 2009 by UN Women, Say NO – UNiTE showcases advocacy efforts and engages people from all walks of life, online and on the ground.(1)

Connect with Say No To Violence for news updates, stories, and ideas on how to get involved in your area. During the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign (November 25-December 10), people around the globe will be wearing orange to raise awareness and act in solidarity against the violence and oppression of women. How will you be involved?

INSPIRATION TO GET YOUR ORANGE ON:

  • Share your stories and messages on Twitter on how you “Orange Your World” during the 16 Days of Activism. (Use #orangeurworld on Twitter)
  • Wear orange, take a picture of yourself and share with the world why you are taking a stand by tweeting #Iwearorange because…
  • Join UN Women’s #AskPhumzile Twitter chat with Executive Director @phumzileunwomen (Date TBD)
  • Tweetup with @SayNO_UNiTE and worldwide friends at the end of the 16 Days of Activism on 10 December. (Check UNiTE website for further information as available)
  • Read International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
  • Visit “Orange Your World in 16 Days” on Facebook
  • Check out more social media sites: Google+,Pinterest, Instagram
  • Visit UN Women In Focus web page
  • Watch the UNiTE Campaign and Permanent Mission of Italy’s hosting of a Theatrical Performance called “Wounded to Death”.

Powerless and silence go together. -Margaret Atwood

Keep the flame of hope burning… Speak out against all forms of violence and oppression of women and girls, (and while you’re at it, wear orange!)

(1) Say NO-UniTE to End Violence Against Women website

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

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

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International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women


“I welcome the chorus of voices calling for an end to the violence that affects an estimated one in three women in her lifetime. I applaud leaders who are helping to enact and enforce laws and change mindsets. And I pay tribute to all those heroes around the world who help victims to heal and to become agents of change.” –Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

This year, the UNITE Campaign is extending Orange Day to 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, starting November 25, (International Day to End Violence Against Women), through December 10, (Human Rights Day).

The Secretary General’s Campaign UNITE to End Violence Against Women
has proclaimed the 25th of each month, “Orange Day”, stating: Among other actions, the Orange Day invites us to wear something orange to highlight its calls for the eradication of violence against women without reservation, equivocation or delay.

QUICK FACTS:

1 in 3 women & girls experience violence in their lifetime. Violence against women is never acceptable, and not inevitable.

Over 64 million girls worldwide are child brides. 1 in 3 girls will be married before they turn 18.

140 million girls & women have suffered Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). It’s a form of violence against women and girls.

40-50% of women in EU countries face unwanted sexual advances or other forms of sexual harassment at work.

Ending violence against women is smart for economies. Intimate partner violence cost USD 5.8 billion in the US, GBP 22.9 billion in England and Wales, and AUD 13.6 billion in Australia.

Violence against women happens everywhere, every day. In cities, women are twice as likely as men to experience violence.

Every minute 1 young woman is infected with #HIV. Violence against women increases the risk of new infections.

Women are 2-4 times more likely than men to get HIV.

For 30% of women worldwide, their first sexual experience was forced.

Over half of all victims of sexual assault are girls under the age of 16.

Join advocates from around the world for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. Share how you plan to “Orange Your World” (#orangeurworld) from November 25-December 10, with actions to end violence against women and girls. Together, we can raise our voices and make a difference!

Get Involved & Learn More.

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

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

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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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FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY: IJM’s The Just Church by Jim Martin

In the news today, we see heart-wrenching stories about the complexity and horrors of sexual exploitation, genocide, forced labor, debt bondage, extreme poverty, and a bevy of other human sufferings. More than ever, we hear talk about extreme poverty, ethnic cleansing, and human trafficking aka modern-day slavery. But as individuals and societies, especially in the western world, we find ourselves in a counterintuitive state of self-absorption and apathy that only fuels the brokenness, adding insult to injury.

And… Where’s the Church?

The church is right in the middle, yet many would argue, not fully awake. Although the church is commissioned to, “love your neighbor as yourself,” and the call for justice rings louder than ever, the world is missing, in large part, a crucial voice: The Church.  Do our “neighbors” not encompass widows, orphans, and others whose human rights have been so violently trampled upon?  Should we not hope for the church to be the first to answer the call?

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9

In The Just Church, Jim Martin of the International Justice Mission, (IJM) asks and answers: “Why is it that the glaring global justice issues of our day—issues such as sex trafficking, modern slavery, illegal property seizure and sexual assault—are so seldom addressed in our churches?  Why is it that the widows, orphans, aliens, and strangers so often mentioned in the Scriptures are so seldom mentioned (or present) in our churches?”  

The author challenges readers to “move outside our small worlds,” and “actually see and experience the world as it really is—inclusive of the suffering and pain that we could easily avoid noticing. It calls the church to move from apathy to action, not just calling out the issues and the need, but meticulously outlining strategies, sharing true stories, lessons learned, and offering tools that any congregation or individual can use in their justice-seeking mission.

FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY To enter, simply leave a comment below and you will automatically be entered to win a Free Copy of “The Just Church.” Winner will be announced by Nov 1st 2012. Share with Your Church & Tell a Friend!

ABOUT IJM

International Justice Mission brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to secure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to ensure that public justice systems effectively protect the poor. 

GET INVOLVED

Learn more about how your church can partner with IJM on the frontlines and in your community. Purchase Copies of The Just Church, visit www.ijm.org, or follow IJM on Twitter @IJMHQ.  Click Here to invite Jim Martin or another IJM expert to speak at your church or event.

Related Article: New Book by International Justice Mission: The Just Church

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

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

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Shadows in the Sun: A Book Celebrating Womanhood

 

It seems impossible that babies are still being killed in the womb, and even after birth, just because they are a specific gender, but it is a reality.  Female infanticide, or “gendercide” is still happening in the 21st century. It is the reason Bangladesh-born author, Rukhsana Hasib, decided to write the book, “Shadows in the Sun”.

From firsthand experience she writes, “Being from an Eastern culture, I am acutely aware of the abuses and oppression of women in Eastern societies, particularly among the poor. The birth of a daughter is still considered a misfortune by a vast number of people.” According to a 2011 report, 50,000 female fetuses are aborted every month in India alone. 

“It’s a reminder of how horrible life still is for many women and why we need to support one another and the freedom of all women to be full human beings” –Reader

In some cultures, the birth of a boy is widely celebrated, while the discovery that a mother is carrying a girl in her womb is not. In fact, it is cause for grave disappointment, shame and even murder. The mindset changes from carrying a baby, to a nameless, faceless, “it”.  A girl.  A thing to be discarded and destroyed, just because of the gender. Countless news reports tell harrowing stories of mothers who throw their baby daughters out of hospital rooms, into rivers, or onto garbage heaps.

While India has outlawed selective abortions of female fetuses, it has not stopped the crime. Females in many parts of the culture are still considered inferior to males, and gendercide continues. A 2012 article by The Economist: The War on Baby Girls: Gendercide states, “for millions of couples, the answer is: abort the daughter, try for a son.”  Worse still, research reveals the belief and practice is not limited to the poor and uneducated, and is found on almost every continent.

“This book will open up controversial discussions in many book clubs about the roles of women in society and the difficult choices they have to make to better the next generation of women” -Reader

Through the story of Shadows in the Sun, author Rukhsana Hasib adds her voice to the millions of women who have stood up and fought for women’s rights, “with the hope that eventually our collective voices will ring loudly enough to be heard in every corner of the world.”  

Many use “selective abortion” to get rid of female babies. Not just out of the womb, but out of the family structure, the society, and their place in the world, literally robbing them from their destiny. Rukhsana Hasib, along with advocates against gendercide look forward to the time when “the birth of a daughter is no longer considered a misfortune, as a mere shadow in the sun, but as valuable as the sun itself, which nurtured the earth like the mother who gave birth and sustained life.”

Long held belief systems are powerful, but not impossible to break through. As with any cultural shift, negatively embedded belief systems must first be dismantled in the mind. Life is a gift to be valued and honored, regardless of gender.

We need to protect, celebrate and empower the next generation of women. The more light that is shed on the issue of gendercide, the less room there will be for evil to propagate in the darkness. 

Author Biography

Rukhsana Hasib came to the United States in 1971, earned an MBA at Rutgers University, and went on to work as a commercial lending officer. She is the author of the novel Shackles of Time and a short story called Redemption of Red, which was published in an anthology of Diaspora writers, poets, and artists in 2011.

More Reading:

All Those Little Faces’: Elizabeth Vargas Explores India’s ‘Gendercide’  

In the third world, unwanted baby girls ‘disappear’. It’s called gendercide. And it’s happening in this country, too  

Follow Rukhsana on Twitter @rukhsanahasib, or on Facebook

Join me at @DestinysWomen on Twitter.

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