Many forms of captivity may manifest in our lives beckoning our very own exodus. One such form of captivity I personally experienced was domestic and familial violence, that is violence or other forms of abuse committed towards me by a spouse as well as a close family member. Sometimes people who you thought would protect and provide for you choose to oppress you much to your shock and horror. Nevertheless, the story of Joseph’s family oppressing him (in the Bible) reminds me that God can use all circumstances for your good and the benefit of others as well. Later on, in Scripture, God hears the cries of the oppressed descendants of Joseph and his family and sends Moses to let God’s people go. Hence, the exodus story. After cultivating my exodus from such “pestilence”, God used gardening to help heal my heart and mind. With a heart full of gratitude towards God for graciously hearing my desperate prayers, I want to use my life to help cultivate growth in others who may still be awaiting an exodus of their own.
Due to these traumatic experiences and wanting to help others still in captivity, I became a certified domestic violence advocate that not only held faith-based support groups in my home for victims of domestic violence, but I also went on to found a non-profit that housed pregnant survivors of domestic violence and their children. Although I no longer house hurting women, I find myself still wanting to encourage those who are suffering. Perhaps my garden-themed writings throughout this site as well as the Ever-Blooming Roses magazines will plant seeds of hope and healing in those still in captivity.
Additionally, if you are a loved one of a person currently in a toxic and abusive relationship, it is critical you do the following to best help your loved one:
- Educate yourself on domestic violence. There are many variables involved and no easy solutions. Refrain from saying things like, “Why don’t you just leave him/her?” or exuding any form of victim-blaming. To learn more, click here http://stoprelationshipabuse.org/educated/avoiding-victim-blaming/
- Ears open. Understand victims of domestic violence are often gaslighted and bombarded with lies and negative comments from their abusers as well as ignorant, insensitive people. How you respond to the victim is a matter of life and death. The best thing you can do for your loved one is simply listen.
- Explore and Empower. You cannot fix their situation and you do not know what is best for the victim. They, however, know their circumstance and abuser best. It is important you help them explore all options and think through potential outcomes for better or worse and then empower them to make the best and safest series of decisions for themselves and their specific circumstances. Refrain from making decisions for them or forcing them to take action.
- Encourage the victim. Please be patient and encouraging as you listen to the many exhausting emotions, patterns, and variables the victim will experience. Be aware a victim of domestic violence often attempts to leave or indeed ends the relationship only to return on average 7 to 9 times before finally terminating the relationship. It is important you do not say anything negative about the abuser to the victim for she/he will not return to you for advice or help once she/he reconciles with their abuser. Leaving is a process – not an event. Also, be aware when a victim of domestic violence attempts to terminate the relationship, that is when the victim’s life, as well as her children or pets, are most in lethal jeopardy. She cannot “just leave”. By encouraging her to do so, it could be signing her death warrant – particularly if weapons are in the home.
- Evolve. Eventually, by planting seeds of love and hope in your loved ones as you implement these methods listed above, in time, the victims will hopefully free themselves from such pestilence or suffocating weeds when they believe it is safe to do so and evolve into overcoming, “ever-blooming roses” despite life’s prickly pain.
Also, it should be noted any gender can be abusive, and false or exaggerated accusations can be made to suit the agenda of another. The following graphics are not my own but are helpful as one learns to discern abusive dynamics.
“My life is an example to many, because you have been my strength and protection.” Psalm 71:7