Sunday, December 3, 2017

Sunday Night Reflections

A small purple ribbon...and a flood of memories...

As I was leaving an evening mass service, a young woman, holding a basket of purple ribbons, reached out with one in her hand and cheerfully said, "This is to remember that October is domestic abuse month." Taking the ribbon in my hand, I looked at her and asked, "So...what does this mean?" She replied that it was just a reminder that it was domestic abuse month. I then asked, "But what does wearing a ribbon do? What is the action that is being taken? Is the church doing something?" At that point, she clearly didn't know how to respond. She just looked at me and said, "We're just asking that you wear the ribbon." 

As my husband and I drove home, I thought about a day not long after we began dating. A friend of mine who was in her senior year of dental school and needed to begin seeing patients had asked if I would like to come in. Dental coverage had just been added to my insurance plan, so why not? I had thought that it would be rather fun, I would go in, get my teeth cleaned, we would laugh a bit, and that would be the end of it. But, being a good dental student, she talked me in to having x-rays, and it was then that she discovered a mass in my lower left jaw. Nothing was said at that initial visit. She showed her findings to the head of the school who then saw me at my next visit. He told me of the mass and that it needed more examination, as it could be a cyst or a tumor. The news was shocking, it was a tumor. I left in a fog, not even knowing how to process what I had been told. My husband, whom I was dating at the time had taken the afternoon off so we could go canoeing. When I arrived, I laid back on the sofa, and said the words for the first time, "I have a tumor in my jaw and they won't know if it is cancerous until surgery is done." 

The next few weeks were a whirlwind of activity. Root canals were done in order to save my teeth, lots of x-rays taken, and consultations. In one consultation, the surgeon told me that this type of tumor is caused by severe trauma, and then asked, "Have you been in an accident, or suffered a severe blow to your face?" I lied, I lied and said no. 

The surgery was preformed, and happily, no cancer was found. But I was told that I would ultimately need reconstructive surgery, and that I would know when it was time. 

Fifteen years later, I began to have horrible headaches on an almost daily basis, and there was a small mass in my jaw. I was told when I had the surgery to remove the tumor, I had an 80% chance that it would return. My dentist sent me back to the school where the surgery had been performed. 

When the surgery had been done, I was told that in the history of that school, they had never seen a case like mine, and from that point forward, my case would be the final test for all graduating oral surgeons. 

So, now here I was, back again, nervous, not knowing what to expect. A lovely woman walked into the room, paused, smiled and said, "So, it was you." She had graduated from this school and had my case as a graduating oral surgeon." Now here she was, the head of the school and would have the opportunity to fix what the tumor and time had done. As we talked, I felt comfortable, but the fact that I had lied all those years ago was still nagging at me. So I said, "I need to tell you the truth. I was in a very abusive relationship where I suffered many blows to my head and body. When the tumor was found and I was asked, I just couldn't tell the truth." Tears welled in her eyes, and she whispered as if she was talking to herself, "The missing link, what you must have gone through." She said that she had wondered how this could have happened, but since I was only 23 years old at the time, she never would have imagined that I had experienced what I had. She then looked at me and asked, "And life now???" I smiled, "I am now married to a wonderful man who truly loves me. No comparison to what life was like so many years ago." 

Back in September, I saw this picture in a Yahoo article. Not a real bruise, makeup. The picture was posted by Diala Makki who was trying to bring attention to domestic violence, and she added the question. "How would you react if this was not makeup?"  

But, more often than not, it's a face like mine that represents the scars of domestic violence. Those who experience domestic violence do their best to cover their bruises, hide their pain, and like me, will lie. Not to protect the abuser, but to cover their shame, a shame that does not even belong to them.

What everyone sees is this,

But what lies beneath the smile is quite gruesome. Below, a picture of what can happen when someone either enjoys inflicting pain upon another, or who feels that they have the right to use their might to try and control. This x-ray was taken just after surgery, so the braces are still intact. But if you look above the teeth, you'll see plates on either side of my face, another just below my nose. There are plates and screws on either side of my nose that you can't see in this picture.  More screws and small plates can been seen along the lower jaw.     

What most want to know is why...how??? I've even been asked, "Didn't you know before hand?" That question is like putting the blame back on the victim. 

There are answers to why and how, of course, but for another day. The best part of the story is that I was able to escape, and when I did, I promised myself that this would never happen again. Not all share my story and many remain in abusive relationships for years upon end. They have no resources, no power, and then there may be children that makes escaping all the more difficult.

So, what would you do if you knew someone who was being abused? By all means, do more than just wear a ribbon, and please have compassion. 

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  1. Thank-you for sharing. I'm sure it wasn't easy. You are beautiful in and out.

  2. Crying... so sorry what horrors you went through...

  3. Hugs Rhonda. You are one of the strongest women I know.

  4. A great big hug from me to you.
    And not to forget - perhaps even more scary than physical abuse, is psychological abuse. It's completely invisible.

    1. Thank you Irene 😊
      Most often, both go hand in hand.

  5. I'm so sorry that you went through all that pain. Both physical and emotional. And have come out the otherside still a beautiful woman both inside and out. Perhaps wearing a ribbon will encourage more women to talk about it.

  6. OMG. Make sure they know I'm here for them, make sure they know it is not their fault. I'm glad you escaped and are now kind of paying it forward. Respect to you for that.

  7. OMG. Make sure they know I'm here for them, make sure they know it is not their fault. I'm glad you escaped and are now kind of paying it forward. Respect to you for that.

  8. Thanks for sharing your story. A gentle reminder to all of us that not everything is as it seems and we need to get involved not be bystanders in life.

  9. Thank you Rhonda. You made a GREAT STATEMENT TODAY, and not just to the Sewing Community! Thank you for your Boldness and God Bless You!

  10. Rhonda, this must have been so difficult for you, beyond my imagination. Good Lord, the injuries! I am so thrilled you found you power and the will to share your story. Don't you wish you could have taken that young women passing out the ribbons and tell her why you asked? Or was she a victim or witness to such abuse and unable to express herself as you felt in your twenties? Who knows, but you speak now with great courage, insight and compassion. Thank you for sharing your story. FWIW, whoever did your surgeries did so with such skill it totaly belies your past and your heartbreak. You are a beautiful woman, one of power, courage, insight and compassion. God bless.

  11. Rhonda, thank you for sharing this piece of your story with us. The kindness of your heart continues to amaze me, as does your strength.

  12. This is an incredible testament to your strength and an inspiration to everyone who has experienced abuse. I have emotional scars from abuse, but I don't have the courage to expose them as you have with your physical scars.

    Your post is also a reminder to people with good intentions - like the nice woman with the basket of ribbons - if you want to get involved in a cause, be prepared to discuss or uphold it. I worry because she wasn't able to answer a simple question about domestic abuse, what if a victim had asked for assistance?

  13. Darling Rhonda,
    My beautiful, gorgeous, courageous sewing friend...............Thank you so much for your honesty and bravery in posting your story. I have to admit, I am so fortunate to have met the wonderful husband I have known for the last 19 years. As you said, people see you but don't "see" everything that has made you the amazing lady you are today.

    Your message is of such hope and we are all so happy to learn that you triumphed over such adversity. A true testament to your courage and the love of such a wonderful man who is still standing by your side. You are both a force for all that is good in the world. God bless you and keep you in his loving care.

    Sadly, as a Samaritan here in the U.K. there are so so many horrific life stories that we hear each time we pick up the phone. It is so wonderful to hear when a life has been totally transformed for the better and that it can happen to quite a few of us. There is a bright light at the end of the dark tunnel some journey through.
    God bless you for having the bravery to share such a personal story.

  14. Cherished Rhonda!! Thank you so much for sharing your story. Thank God you escaped and that you're with someone who can appreciate the gift you are to all of us and the world at large. I hope someone who is struggling in the dark will read this and know that there is a way out. Especially in this Advent season, may it be a beacon of light that brings healing. Many blessings on you!!

  15. I call it Domestic Terrorism not domestic abuse. Terror controls and abuses but doesn't necessarily leave a visible bruise. Domestic Terrorists have many ways of controlling their victims, money, making them feel incompetent or worthless, telling them no one will believe them and getting other people to say: "Are you sure you tried everything?" "What did you say to make him react that way?" "You need to try harder." or "I'm not getting involved."

  16. How very difficult it must have been to write this, but even more difficult to live it, and at such a young age. No one ever saw my sorrow either, and even today, not many know about it. We live it, somehow feeling diminshed and of less value when we have done nothing to warrant it. I am so very, very sorry for what you endured, but so grateful you came put whole on the other side and have found someone worthy of you. I am so emotionally scarred that I feel sure I could never truly anyone, ever again. Wear that ribbon. You earned it - but you may be aked if you are a fibromyalgia survivor because FM has a purple ribbon too. If people ask, tell them what it honors. You do not have to go into your personal story but know you will at least make others aware. Maybe the more we share, the more free we will become. I am also so very glad that your faith is strong. That has helped me more than anything. May God bless and keep'you always.

  17. Rhonda, thank you for sharing your story. You show great compassion even though you have suffered.

  18. Thank you Rhonda. I admire your courage & purpose in sharing your story. You endured a long journey to your place of strength. Know that you are respected very deeply and lovingly by many of us, your loyal followers. Warm wishes to you, Kathleen

  19. Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry you went through such a horrific experience. You could have come out of this an angry, bitter person (you have reason to be!) but instead, you came out of it with a very kind, compassionate and generous spirit - a testament to your strength.

  20. Rhonda,

    I remember my father’s verbal and physical abuses of Mother AND my brothers. One time I jumped up from the dinner table after Dad chased Mom to the bedroom in a rage. The phone was in my hand to call 0 for the police ( no 911 yet...) but Daddy was a policeman. What would he do to me?

    It was horrible... and I am indeed so very sorry you, too, went through the horrors you did.

    I pray your strength to make a difference. I am trying to do that myself. It’s past time to speak up, but so many battered individuals are paralyzed by fear. You know.

    *hugs* and love,

  21. Rhonda, what a touching story. You bought tears to my eyes. I have not experience physical abuse, but it is something that I've seen in my family. My heart goes out to those who suffer from abuse and don't feel there is a way out. To be perfectly honest, I don't know what I would do to help. I'd want to do the most to help. Love you always. You are surely a brave soul.

  22. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s not until things are brought to light that we can start healing and helping each other. I will remember your story and try to make a difference when I can.

  23. This must have taken a lot to write this for all to see. I'm glad that you managed to get out and that you found your husband.
    Thank you for writing this and I hope it will help someone who is going through this at the moment.