Protect, Respect, AffectA few weeks before escaping the sociopath, he and I were browsing photos taken during his family birthday parties and his family birthday parties and his family birthday parties. (If it seems like I’m stuttering, I am. His family was obsessed with celebrating birthdays!! Their own.)

All the photos were posed (of course) with everyone smiling and happy and looking like they were a part of some picture-perfect family. I couldn’t help but notice that I was wearing the same green t-shirt in nearly every photo taken. Birthdays from months before, weeks before, and days before, I had worn the same green t-shirt. I thought it was comical, chuckled, and commented, “I must really like that shirt, huh?” The boy thought it was funny also and said something about another birthday coming up and that I better be sure my green t-shirt was washed and ready for the big, picture-taking event. I smiled outwardly but kept my disgust of this “dress-up” idea hidden.

I don’t remember that next party, but I’m sure we probably had the same fruit cake, ice cream, Argentine treats, and coffee. Always the same. I’m sure I wore the green t-shirt, too, but I was in such a daze during those weeks just before leaving, many of the specifics remain a blur. And all of this I write now would have remained a blur too if I hadn’t reached for that green t-shirt this morning.

I grabbed the first shirt that caught my eye, but before putting it on, I became focused on the difficult-to-read words scrolling and swirling across the front: protect, respect, affect. My mind snapped to attention immediately. My decision to wear this shirt today wasn’t random or some fluke. I was meant to “get” something today. And this is what I got:

To me, these are the three things we, the victims/survivors of domestic violence/intimate partner abuse, must live by moving forward to ensure our healing and the healing of others:

Protect: We must protect ourselves (and our children) first. The abuser need not be protected. We should not be obligated to hide our secrets from the world. The secrets of the abuse inflicted upon us happened. They are real.

Respect: We must respect ourselves. Our thoughts, emotions, and actions have value and meaning. There is a reason for them and we must respect them by accepting them.

Affect: We must work toward affecting change. If not for ourselves, then for other survivors. Remaining silent simply helps to maintain the status quo of ignorance which breeds more abuse.

I thought about those pictures of me in the t-shirt again. I realized the Universe or God or some power greater than myself was trying to tell me something. Something like, “Get out! Get out while you can! You were meant for something so much better than this.”

Somehow I got the message, because I got out soon after that last family birthday party. And realizing today the possible source of the force propelling me forward, that green t-shirt, simply amazes me and is something I can’t just brush aside as a coincidence. It WAS a message, and the messenger needs to be thanked. Thank you.


abuse, Child abuse, Cluster B disorders, domestic violence, Emotional Abuse, Family, Forgiveness, Health, Humor, Journaling, Lessons, Mental Health, Narcissist, Peace, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychopaths, PTSD, Relationships, Sociopaths, Spirituality, Writing

Join the conversation! 15 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on ronald scott ippolito and commented:
    This is perfect!


  2. i had a shirt kinda like that, and ive noticed i wore it a lot too when i was with him! it actually said, and i am not lying “i love bad boys” ekk, i guess my shirt was telling me the wrong thing! that shirts has been destroyed since then [thank goodness!] but i should definantly buy myself some sort of inspirational shirt to wear when im feeling crappy! maybe that’ll be my next experiment haha


  3. Great post, Paula! I appreciate your focus on what many would call a “coincidence”…you saw a pattern and so you payed attention to details in that pattern. Well done. I also like that you feel thankful to whatever this was that sent the message into your heart and that you do not name it specifically. Such things are no less powerful remaining a mystery! I love you Paula. I’m glad you got out!


  4. i just shudder at the “happily” posed pics, that was like my family. i’m glad you could pull positive out of the shirt and hopefully ward off the triggers connected xo


  5. So interesting, yes, the shirt was meant for you to notice! I read your No More piece and I totally agree, it is what I am going through right now. Trying to live to what I was meant to do. I have such a hard time with putting myself out there. I am trying to break the silence but I feel like I have to be careful, I am not as brave as you Paula but I totally applaud your scream it from the rooftops approach. I had gotten an email from a friend of his for the last 30 years who lives in another country. I share a passion for art with him and have become friends as well. He wrote how sad he was we were divorcing, it was very upsetting, yada, yada, yada.. I wrote back that he should not be sad, that I was happy about it and it was the only way I could save my soul. He was verbally abusive and I should not and would not put up with it anymore. Then I went on to another subject. I kept thinking I should not have said that. But a part of me does not want to keep his dirty little secret for him and so be it. What kind of friend would want me to be verbally abused, right? You are doing an amazing job and I feel empowered every time I read your work. Thank you, love you, xoxo!


    • Wow! That’s a break through moment, being able to come clean with a mutual friend you both shared. Those are often the most difficult and the ones that carry the most confusion: can he/she be trusted? But it comes down to what the truth is, and trust of that person shouldn’t even be a concern. Let the truth be known.

      My bravery sometimes comes from a VERY stubborn place inside. I’m aware how destructive it COULD be and I think that’s why a blog works for me. I get to slowly and gradually work things out through my mind, onto the pages, and then publish to the world. There are many posts I have written and never shared. Some I set to private after sharing them, and others I completely delete from my archive.

      Thank you so much for your encouraging words and YOUR story and blog! It’s amazing and powerful stuff.


    • Thank you Paula! I was actually thinking about going private with mine now that he is gone. I’m doing really well and feel some connection between the publicness of my blog and my anger which I would like to dissipate. I thought perhaps if I went private it would be like closing a door never to be opened again except maybe after he dies I would ebook the whole thing. Have you ever felt that way, like being public keeps you angry or has your focus evolved into helping others where it is all positive?


    • That’s a great question and one I have contemplated recently.

      The book and blog have allowed me to understand the source of my anger. Now, it’s up to me to deal with the anger and forgive myself for how my anger has controlled me in the past. Revisiting my story and blog when I receive emails and comments from readers actually helps me keep the source of my anger in mind and therefore keeps my anger in check. Within the past few weeks, I have been refocusing the energy once used being angry to helping others. I’m determined not to abandon what I started even if it started from an angry or confused place. In just 6 months, my anger and confusion has helped connect me with some amazing people; it has become something greater than me and much greater than my experience. And to think the suffering, anger, and confusion of others has the potential to be transformed into something good for them too, keeps me determined to find a way to share my process (and the process of others) to help victims/survivors who have no clue where to start. I hope that makes sense. 🙂


    • It does and it is a beautiful thing. I just went through my blog and marked them all private, I felt a little relieved doing that but when I go to my blog they are still there, but it says private in front of the title. Does that mean the public can’t see them anymore, am I private?


    • The only post we can see is “Pause is needed.” That’s a great choice! I’ll miss you.


    • Thank you Paula, I so appreciate it!
      Hugs xoxo


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