A 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.