Monday, May 26, 2014

To all the Maggies of the world

Last June, photographer Sara Naomi Lewkowicz won the 2013 Ville de Perpignan RĂ©mi Ochlik Award for her work documenting Domestic Violence. She had followed a couple, Shane and Maggie, for several months and photographed moments of their lives in great detail.

“I had originally intended the story to focus on the difficulties felons face once being released from incarceration. My intention was to paint a portrait of the catch-22 many individuals find themselves in upon release, the metaphorical prison of a stigma they can never seem to escape. The story changed dramatically when one night, Shane and Maggie got into a fight. Shane began to physically abuse Maggie, slamming her up against walls and choking her in front of her two-year-old daughter, Memphis.”

- Sara Lewkowicz, on her site.

Sara asked someone else in the house to call 911, and she documented the abuse.

Click.

Click.

Click.

All the while, Maggie was being tossed across the room and choked in front of her tiny daughter until the police arrived.

My friend Galit Breen of These Little Waves asked me to make a statement for an article she was writing for All Parenting about the story. I had seen the headlines, but hadn’t yet clicked through the photos when she asked me to contribute my comments. When I finally looked at the whole series, the tears rolled down my face before I could stop them.


I told Galit: I cried for Maggie, and I felt her fear and loss and pain. I felt her wish that she could change him. I cried for the children, watching this play out, and wishing for them a better future. I cried for the feelings I had when I was punched in the jaw and kicked and screamed at. I detested the photographer for standing there, snapping photos, while this family fell apart. That's what my heart said.

Maggie is now in Alaska, reunited with her husband and father of their children. She is fighting poverty, age, inexperience, fear, stress, and a history that now includes battery. It’s a Sisyphean task.

When I split up with my husband, it wasn’t after he wrapped his fingers around my neck and socked me in the jaw. In fact, I married him after that. I know just how hard it is to break away from the erosion of self-esteem to find the true you again. And I didn’t have kids at the time.

I have been thinking of Maggie every day for a week now, and I’m willing her with all my heart to push through this. For herself, for her kids, for her husband… for the rest of her life. There are far too many Maggies in the world.

I want to gather all of the Maggies in my arms and hold them and tell them this:

He’s going to tell you that it’s your fault.

It’s not.

He’s going to tell you that you pushed his buttons and made him do it.

You didn’t.

You’re going to think that you’re crazy.

You’re not.

I know you feel worried that you will never find someone else to love you, because your worth has been compromised.

I know you are afraid that he’s right about all the things he says about you.

I know you will feel nervous about dating someone new and you doubt your judgment.

I have been there.

I doubted my worth, my self-esteem suffered, and I worried that my judgment was not just askew but absent.

It’s OK to quit a relationship. You are stuck in a riptide; reach out for the nearest hand and grab it and let them pull you ashore before you drown. I told different people small pieces of my story but told no one the whole story. I was afraid that they would tell me to leave him, and I was not strong enough to do it.

Know that this is your chance to teach your children about healthy relationships.The last thing you want is for your son or daughter to grow up thinking that they can be treated this way, too.

It’s OK to feel sorry for him. I know you want to fix him. I know you are hoping that love will carry you both to the happily ever after. It will not happen as you’re getting hit. He needs help that you cannot offer.

Don’t kick yourself for missing the red flags along the way. It is never too late to change. If you are afraid for your life, listen to your intuition. You are not insane. You know when it’s wrong if you listen to your heart.

It’s OK to feel scared and unsure about what your life will look like without him. You will grieve the relationship, the loss of hope, and the emotions that you thought were love.

It’s OK to wonder if you can live without him.

YOU CAN.

YOU MUST.

YOU DESERVE BETTER.

Believe it. Tell it to yourself every day.

Real love does not hurt - physically, verbally, or emotionally.

I love you. Love yourself enough to break the cycle. No one else can do it for you.

* * *

I have written about my own experiences here on my site as well as for Violence UnSilenced.

#YesAllWoman

I want better for the next generation.

13 comments:

  1. Kristin, thank you for sharing what must be a painful thing to talk about. We need all the Kristins in the world to speak up for all the Maggies, who can't, or won't.

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  2. Jennifer MiracleMay 27, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    I'm so proud of you KVHS, for telling your story and sharing your experiences. It is not easy. Owning your story and refusing to be shamed by it is allowing others to do the same. Bravo, my friend. I pray some day all of the Maggies can find strength to create a better life for themselves.

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  3. This is so powerful, Kristin. I know that your loving and encouraging words will help others as they find their way on this difficult journey past abuse.

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  4. This is so, so important. It pains me that you went through these terrible things. But you are amazing in the work that yo hare doing to speak up for these women.

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  5. I am sure that is a tough story to share...but I honestly think the more we share and talk about it, the younger generation of women will realize that there IS another choice. I am grateful for people who share their stories, in the hope that my teenage daughter's generation will feel that they can take a stand against being made to feel small and insignificant. xoxo

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  6. I am sure this was a tough story to share, Kristin... and I am hopeful that by brave women like yourself sharing these stories, my teenage daughter and her generation will see that it's not just them, but there are many others who have had to take a stand against abuse. So very important, and I thank you for sharing what is really a very scary scenario for any young woman to live through.

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  7. I cannot imagine. You are so incredibly wonderful for being as strong as you were, and for being as brave as you are now to share. (And help.)

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  8. Wow. What a raw and brave post. Thank you for this. For being a voice for so many who feel they don't have a voice. I pray for all the Maggies.

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  9. You've got some serious ovaries. xo

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  10. These words are SO strong and powerful, Kristin. I am blessed to have never been in a situation like you or Maggie but I've seen other kinds of abuse and all the things you say are true. I am so glad you and hopefully Maggie too, are in a better place in life. Thank you for being a brave voice for all the Maggies. xoxo

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  11. oh. wow. I don't even know where to start. With my own domestic violence story at the hands of my parents or their story at the hands of their parents? Maybe I should bring up my sister who is currently divorcing the husband who hit , choked, belittled and terrorized her (eventually she needed surgery) for 14 years. I am Maggie or I was..and my baby sister is too. So I want to say things like YES, we need to say more, do more. I also want to say that we can survive it (as you did, as I did, as Dana is just by leaving and divorcing him.) For as long as I can remember I've called it "breaking the cycle" of rage, of violence, of low self esteem and using our hands to solve a problem.

    but what I really want to say more than anything is THANK YOU for bringing it to light, for posting it here and for always remembering that we can break the cycle, in every day, we have a chance to do that.
    xo

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  12. Thank you for talking. Thank you for loving yourself, for constantly thinking of others' plight. Thank you.

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  13. Such a great post, Kristin! I imagine there are many women who need to read this every single day.

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