I am a woman, and I am an atheist.....and have escaped from the abusive relationships of my past and I now want to give back. This is a topic that is "skidded over" through the horrific consequences of religion, but I haven't seen the topic come up recently on TA as it's own separate entity of discussion. My goal around this conversation is for women to come together who either: 

1. Have been in an abusive relationship and escaped,

2. Are currently IN an abusive relationship and don't know what to do and are looking for support, 

3. For any men who are allies who want to add their comments/insights to be able to do so. 

There are lots of resources in many placed in the US, I don't know about the rest of the world, but I think that even still there is a lot of discrepancy and confusion about what domestic violence IS and there's a lot of people who are in abusive relationships that don't think that they are abusive, they just see them as normal. Also there's a lot of misconceptions and myths portrayed by media. I hope together we can blow a hole through all of that and get down to some real truth on the matter, as well as support anyone who may be going through it, to give them a safe place to fall....

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I have been in abusive relationships. I didn't realize i was trapped into a pattern of seeking it out. Until i got help from an amazing therapist. she made me take a deep honest look at my world. I realized i kept falling in to same hole. Guys would be charming and strong. I have a weakness for Alpha males took me a while to realize Alpha didn't mean puffed up macho behavior. I didn't understand why for longest time. I needed someone to be stronger than me. I needed smarter than me. I say this without arrogance. Most people are not. With women i didn't care as much beyond please be someone i can talk with and be a fairly good person. It's hard to leave someone when you have kids. You get scared what if i can't take care of them. You tell yourself they need their father.You make a thousand excuses. Then one day he threatens your 18 month old and something inside snaps. You wake up. You feel a hatred so deep it overtakes your sense of right and wrong. You contemplate murder. You leave because you're pretty sure you can't get away with it. You find a previously forgotten part your self. You get strong make the right decisions.  I was here at one point of my life. Now i can stand on my own. You have to make the hard choices get better and know why you made the mistakes you made. 

Maybe he realised it was the right thing to do.  If he has a shred of decency. 

Maybe he realised he's just no good at relationships, at this current time, because of X, Y, Z problems he obviously has (the poor dear). 

Also - suddenly, he's weak and you're strong.  That must be surprising for him. 

I find that this is a useful concept: 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locus_of_control

and who has it? 

It takes a long time to heal. I know it hurts. The tear will eventually mend. It will leave a scar. You will look at it one day and see what you overcame. You did the best thing for you and your son. You didn't fail your marriage your ex did. He let you go because you found your strength.Men who are abusive once they lose control because your able to fight back. They retreat they need the weakness and tears to feel like real men. You will get though this.HUGS

I remember I had a brief stint at Hickory Farms when I was 19.  I was working the kiosk in the mall and it was a slow day.  This woman of maybe 35-40 came up to look around and maybe make a purchase so we started talking about this and that.  I don't recall how the topic came up but suddenly she is telling me about her abusive husband who hits her and how she feels really confused about what to do. She is telling me how her church was suggesting that she needed to live in a place of forgiveness regardless of the abuse because that is what Jesus did while her son is telling her he doesn't want her to stay with her husband/ his father because she is being hurt.

I of course told her the same thing and we talked about how her son was grown and so there is no "Father Figure" factor anymore and that you have to learn to love yourself enough to form healthy relationships that don't repeat the same destructive patterns.

So here we have religion playing a part in the continued abuse of this woman and of course she is playing her part too.  What really struck me though was that in her eyes this 19 year old kid working at a Hickory Farms part time was a good candidate to share this info with.  Some people will introduce themselves in a way that gives them an extreme amount of attention but that was not the vibe I was getting from her...it just seemed like she was that desperate to talk to someone, anyone about it.  Hey random person please reassure me that I'm sane and not crazy when I want to leave if someone is hurting me...that is okay right?  Can you give me validation kid who is so much younger and inexperienced than I?

I think at the time I thought religion was the culprit and really only enhanced my dislike for it in general...but I think if it hadn't been religion it would have been some other possibly toxic crutch that she leaned on instead of leaning on herself and her own wisdom.  Is religion really the issue or is it simply the indicator of a much deeper issue.  A general lack of belief in self that a disproportionate amount of women seem to have.

I have to wonder if our society is a bigger culprit where we try so hard to keep everyone in line and we heavily reinforce almost a worship of authority figures in general.  

"Don't do some basic research and reading about the human body...instead go to the doctor the minute you have a sniffle because you are not a doctor."

"Don't make any major life choices without consulting your church because we may know better than you."

So for these people that have been taught to obey someone other than themselves...religion seems to be a beacon for answers.  Even if these answers hurt us in the short and long term...maybe that seems more bearable than the imagined silence that would ensue if we asked ourselves for the answers instead of an outsider who is only too eager to tell us their version of "right".

I'm glad that women like you exist Belle because it means we are making progress...we are moving forward.  You didn't escape the mistreatment completely but you didn't suffer your whole life either...and maybe when enough women like yourself come forward and share and talk about it in a healthy way...maybe future generations will bear less and less of the abuse.

Thanks Belle! 

Here's a short exerpt  from the BBC World Service programme From Our Own Correspondent.  It's talking about the domestic violence problem in Bhutan in the Himalayas, and how they're trying to tackle it using little advert-dramas on the radio.  It sounds really good. 

@ Jason - that totally rocked.  I think that one problem is that Jesus didn't have a very good record of standing up for himself.  If he had had more time, then probably he would have got round to covering that, but in the 2-3 years he had it was all about the radical message of peace and forgiveness, and then he was required to make the final sacrifice.  So it makes it very easy for, in this case, Christians, to perpetuate the abuse of women if they're minded to.

Somebody should be able to be Christian and still have a good theoretical formula to use against this attitude.

@ Belle - I'm looking for someone to cover the subject of abusive relationships in my atheist Bible thing I'm doing - tying it in with the fundamental model of morality, perhaps starting with a clear theoretical framework.  Maybe that would be a good way to help you work your way through and turn your experiences into something really positive for the world that might help a lot of people.  

"I internalized that to mean that if I just am there for other people enough and love them enough then they will in turn love be back to the same capacity."  Definitely, I think that's ass-backwards.  You have to be strong and love yourself, otherwise it's hard to do anything with other people in my opinion... for me, that means trying to do the right thing morally, approving or disapproving of the same things in myself that I would approve or disapprove of in other people's efforts to be morally good.  But that's it.  Fuck everything else, it doesn't matter to my self-esteem.  Some people say I'm like a soldier; maybe that's true. 

What moral behaviour means to the individual is up to them to work out. 

@ Belle - also, I'm compelled to say I think you're doing a brilliant job.  I know I might seem to be all about criticism, but you're doing everything right as far as I can see. 

@Belle - "subtle" is right.  That's one thing they're expert at - going unnoticed by everyone else.  It's surprising how much talent and cleverness they can put into this.  They're expert manipulators too I find - if you don't play the game then X bad thing is your fault, like everything else.  I suppose it comes of a lifetime of study, of honing the skills.  Smoke-screening, manipulation, control, invisibility, subtle undermining.  The opposite of all the solid honest qualities. 

Charming too, right?  Give me a charmless person any day. 

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