What I Have Learned From Domestic Violence
According to the chairwoman of the Balinese Women Empowerment and Children Protection organization, Mrs. Agung Purnamawati, domestic violence cases in Bali is considered quite high. There were 673 cases in 2009, 782 cases in 2010, and dropped slightly to the number of 627 in 2011.
Although there is a law that has been created to decrease the number of the victims, it is suspected that there were still a lot of women who were reluctant to report it to the police department. However, this organization has been more proactive to raise the awareness through seminar and other tools that help them encourage the victims to realize their rights for protection.
Witnessing and experiencing physical and verbal domestic violence have been the most painful and traumatic yet astonishingly an enlightening and awakening catalyst that propelled me to apply assertive, compassionate, and a more consciously non violent attitudes particularly in my adult life.
I am still learning and growing and at times there were events, behaviors, and memories that triggered my anger and led me to aggressiveness and verbal violence but compared to where I was a couple of years ago, I may consider myself significantly improving.
I would like to give credit to the conscious and audacious Western communities in the developed world whose unrelenting and vigorous efforts and spirit to bring the awareness regarding this specific matter worldwide become more accessible and feasible through the advancement of technology, internet, and even social media that I believe has encouraged countless of grassroots women from the developing and impoverished countries to speak up more fearlessly and unapologetically.
Moving right on, I would like to share my personal experiences coping with this vividly inedible issue and the lessons and wisdom I have learned from it.
I grew up in a family in which physical and verbal violent were a vicious cycle has been undertaken and justified as a way to enforce discipline, maintain the status quo both as a man and parents, regaining power, and a substitute of a lack of communication skills.
After my grandfather passed away since my father was 4 years old, he was ferociously abandoned by my grandmother who immediately married a new man and entrusted him to his rather rigid and cruel uncles and aunties who were his then foster parents.
He was hit by a hammer till he passed out when he did mistakes and being a foster kid and an orphan he was often insulted by his other cousins and even by my mother. My mother did that because she was hurt and sad knowing that my father could not provide a house for our shelter every time we visit our hometown for regular ceremonies and cultural activities and that he kept defending his family even when their actions had been demeaning to my mother. He was not taught the right skills to cope with their hurtful and painful behaviors and I did not think in his era, he could find books and literatures that could provide him the education to deal with the same situation in a non violent fashion.
As a child who was not raised by his natural family, he did not have the power or support to stand up for his rights and decided to accept the physical and verbal abuse and repressed what he felt towards this hurtful behaviors for years. He was taught that right or wrong, parents deserved respect and always right. In addition to that, due to lack of education and communication skills to express what he felt and to make himself understood when he was hurt, frustrated, offended, and disappointed by the repeated challenging and quite highly frustrating behaviors and denigrating remarks from me and my mother, he chose slapping, hitting, beating up, and pushing away as alternatives to get his message across similarly to the way he was treated. And moreover, living in a patriarch society, his position as a man has been a privilege that he misused and manipulated to apply dictatorship to be controlling to his wife and his daughters.
Also, being the living example who survived with such strength and resilience from the domestic violence himself, he was convinced that I would do well as he is now. And I could imagine that being a man in his era and in society where they are put in a pedestal, showing vulnerabilities would be considered as weak and he would not cope well with this label.
Whereas my mother was treated similarly by her own mother who was infamous for her overbearing and utterly old fashioned attitudes that I myself could not bear up to today. One day, her head was pressed down in the mud as a punishment when she wronged her. She was also beaten up by a stick when she woke up late in the morning. She lived in a small village and only graduated from junior high school and as a daughter she was not treated equally to her male siblings.
However, if my memory serves me well, my deceased mother had different reasons and motives to justify both the physical and verbal abuse that she did to me and to my father. She used to hit me when she was overwhelmed and frustrated by our financial issues and a cruel discrimination by my father’s rich relatives. I could empathize with emotional exhaustion and depression when someone is belittled for being poor and uneducated, and let alone discriminated from the rest of the family. And dealing with a demanding kid amidst these circumstances would be the resemblance of hell. In addition to that, in my parents’ era, having different opinions from your parents were considered insurgent and sinful and to me it was as if my opinions did not matter and worthy as theirs.
My parents were married hastily after dating for 3 months with quite immature reasons from both sides. They barely got the time to know each other and this impulsive decision to settle down especially from my mother has led her to disappointment. I could sense and empathize with their pain since my early life and I always felt responsible to fulfill their expectations to heal their bitterness when as a matter of fact it was their job.
My mother was more the breadwinner in the family whose ambitions and earning have intimidated my father’s pride and ego yet made him love her at the same time. Insecurities, low self esteem, inabilities to cope with fears through adversities and greed for a better material life, recognition, approval and power struggle were frequently the main core issues for their quarrels. They fought a lot in front of me and they had quite extremely different approaches to life and I was too scared to interfere. And the worst scene I ever saw that still broke my heart whenever I recalled it was when my mother was pushed away and beaten up until her eyes were bleeding and when I tried to rescue her, I was hit too in my forehead.
In retrospect, I must admit that I was a handful daughter to handle. I had a highly sense of justice yet frustrated when I found no support from the parents of my peers to fight against this abuse. I was highly opinionated, hard headed, critical, inquisitive and perceptive enough to sense a lot of things that seemed irrelevant but my voice was not strong enough because I was a child and in Bali parents were considered the second God who could do no wrong. When I depended on them financially I repressed my anger towards their behaviors but when I could earn my own money to finally regain power, my anger was exploded and I treated my parents the way I was treated when I was a kid. I also did not think that there was a proper law to diminish this type of violence and even when there was one, I would never imagine getting my father incarcerated.
However, as years went by and when I finally decided to wake up and be responsible for my own life and my future and realized that my past was not equal to my future, I would like to share with you the positive and negative impacts as consequences from this tough upbringing:
1. Opportunities to help others relinquishing their pain and to help themselves. I am more perceptive, empathetic and easily moved by pain. I could even sense it from afar and even when it was unspoken. A lot of times I found myself trusted by a lot of people who were very convenient to share all kinds of pain they had been through to me because after I disclosed mine, they felt that they could relate themselves with my stories and they realized that they were not alone. I am honored to have their trust.
2. Assertiveness. I learned the hard way to hone my communication skills and assertiveness. I read international books, articles, and watched television programs that taught me about the most effective methods to be heard, to get my messages across, and to share my vulnerabilities to relate myself better emotionally with others. Educational and spiritual websites like Oprah and Tiny Buddha shed some lights when I was on the verge of despondency and even when I contemplated suicide. I filled my brain with psychological knowledge and practical solutions from Martha Beck and others who were simply generous to share their life’s challenges and tips on how to cope with adversities and I was uplifted realizing that I was not alone. I trained myself to tell others how I felt instead of victimizing myself or hitting someone to be heard and understood and so far the results were a lot better. I gained more respect to be an assertive person who speaks up more for issues that matter the most to me and more men were stimulated for my depth and courage to be authentic with my own views.
3. Coping with adversities by choosing the right attitudes. Receiving constant criticism and feedback especially from my lovers and best friends about how they felt towards my aggressiveness and verbal violence, I forced myself to master the soft power. It was not like a walk in the park to make amends and I still strive to be better but certain events beyond my control taught me to choose different approaches for my own inner peace. I learned that it was not the poverty that triggered the conflicts but more about how we reacted to the situations when we did not have money and when we were discriminated. I put myself at a risk by leaving a job with a secure income to live with less money and the job I enjoy and often I only had Rp. 100.000 in my pocket to survive. I always told myself to marry a rich man to have a less stressful life that my mother had but I learned that the stress was not derived from the fact that I had less money but from my attitudes to embrace change. I thought my life would end when I did not have money and I confronted the fear head on and tried calmer approaches to deal with it and I survived until now. I am not against having a rich man to be married with but gradually I know that everything that happened in my life was based on my decision to choose the right attitudes and reactions towards a situation.
4. Conscious behaviors. I am more conscious and reflective to comprehend thoroughly about the underlying and designated issues and experiences that were the core of my rage and I am working hard to forgive step by step all attitudes and words from my parents or others that triggered this emotion and to forgive myself to apply the same behaviors.
1. Cyclical abusive patterns. Childhood painful memories affected most of my complex behaviors. I found it more convenient to blame my parents for a lot of my relationship issues in my life and refused to rise above it. Since physical and verbal abuses were justified in my family, I subconsciously repeated the same patterns. I was abusive to my sister and my ex boyfriends. I had a challenging time to alter a belief system that the only way to regain power was by screaming up and by being stringent and it still happened lately when I was controlled by my fears of rejection, being abandoned, and being humiliated. Actually, it was likely to happen when I cut corners to have power and to gain money. I learned that when I dated and was spoiled by my Dutch ex boyfriend as a way to improve my parent’s social status, I found myself taking things far too personally and sweat the small stuff more frequently. When I corrupted power and had instant money, the amount of stress I had was equal to when I had less because I was surrounded by people who wanted to take advantage of my fortune instead of who loved me unconditionally.
2. Passive aggressive behaviors. Traumatized by being beaten up when I did wrong or had different opinions has been the major role of my passive aggressive behaviors. I was haunted by the fear of hostilities and conflict was a horrible word that I mostly ran away and resigned without giving a short notice every time I had to face up a confrontational situation. I did not want to be humiliated in front of others and the fear of my dad would slap me has been subconsciously engrained that I feared my opinions would be belittled and considered unworthy for people with superior positions and until today, I was still triggered to unleash my anger when reminiscing how my opinions were belittled and rejected by my father in front of others. It was not as bad as when I was in my teenage life because I stood up more and more for my right to have different opinions and I knew that I deserved respect as he deserved his. Also, being raised as a woman who is under duress to comply the society’s standards, I must force myself to overcome the fear of being disliked by others because expressing different opinions fearlessly will be a potential threat for a lot of people and in my professional life dealing with my superiors, I still deal with fear of rejection. In Bali, it is still very common that people were murdered by black magic when they rebelled and more successful than others due to jealousy. I was afraid that all people with power will act like my father yet I persistently challenge my fear, held on to my stance and bite the bullet to tell what I think, need, and want even when I did not always have support from others. Apparently I was still disappointed when I dealt with arbitrary events or conduct because my position and social status were not powerful enough to create meaningful impacts but I realize that it is not the end of the world.
Last but not least, my father and I are in a better term and relationship now especially since my mother passed away. As we both get older, we still tend to avoid conflicts and keep the peace by repressing what we feel and ignoring problems. There were still moments when my opinions were rejected and belittled because as a father, I assume that he was threatened that I had more progressive knowledge that are different from what he expected to hear but more and more with the communication skills I have learned, he started to understand to show more respect.
Assertiveness, compassion, and non violent behaviors are the focus of my growth lately because I strive to be a better parent, friend, and partner. I am not perfect and still caught myself being stringent and aggressive when someone pressed my buttons and disrespect my boundaries especially when I still did not heal and forgive a lot of my past pain, but I know that I will only get better with more experiences and wisdom to stay true and honest with myself.
I condemn physical, emotional, and sexual abuse not only to women and children but also to men because my objective to fight for this issue is to share the truth and to obtain justice for those who are vulnerable out there. One is too much and I trust that forgiveness and education are the ultimate key to solve this issue.