Your Body Knows

Your body tells a story. Even when your mind forgets the words.

A few days ago, I finally returned to a doctor’s office for pain management of an injury I sustained during my years as a victim of domestic violence. I hadn’t been in this office since prior to our COVID pandemic, so the pain was getting worse each day. Usually maintaining a level of tolerance, this was the longest I’d gone without medical support.

But I never look forward to it. The injections of cortisone hurt – but what hurts most are the memories. Or I should say, the flashbacks that are directly linked to addressing injuries. It’s funny how your mind can work. It can be your best friend, trying to protect you. Or it can be your worse enemy, reminding you of things you wish you could forget.

Back in 2005, I was still in the throws of my high conflict divorce – when I just couldn’t take the pain I had in my foot as I walked. And it was effecting my dancing ability, my exercise routine, etc. so I knew that the time had come to seek medical attention. My threshold for pain is quite high (a gift of being a domestic violence survivor I guess), so when I have to finally address something that hurts – well, it’s always for good reason.

I was new to New Jersey, where I had relocated during my divorce proceeding, and did some research for foot doctors in the area. I found a female doctor (preferred at the time – had to do with my mental state of trauma), and made an appointment. I went to the appointment, almost limping by then, and told her where it hurt, how it hurt, and when it hurt. She ushered me into another room for x-rays, then the waiting area. I figured she’d prescribe an anti inflammatory since nothing over the counter helped. And perhaps tell me that I must have bumped into something to cause the pain.

An x-ray technician came into the waiting area to summon me back to the doctor’s office. She looked so angry. Let me explain another one of my talents : I can predict emotions in others. Yes, that’s right. Another trauma survivor gift I was left with.

Frowning (and me wondering why she didn’t use Botox), she pointed to a seat. And then this doctor’s emotions escalated from 5 to 100 in seconds. My heart started racing as she spoke with annoyance in her tone.

“Why didn’t you tell me you had broken some bones in your foot?! It would have made this appointment easier. I told you I needed your history. You had a form to fill out of questions! You have had broken bones that didn’t heal properly! Im not a magician!”

And with that, I fled.

That’s right – I ran. I thought I’d pass out, but my feet knew what to do. I got up, opened the door to the doctor’s office, ran through the waiting area – right out of the building to my car. My feet knew what to do. My mind was in charge of my direction. The next thing I remember was sitting in the parking lot, crying. And trying to stop the visions that were flooding my brain.

My ex husband had many torture techniques that he employed throughout a 20 year period. To say they were methods of abuse would be to slight the aftermath. What my mind helped me to put to rest, my body reminded me of. All of a sudden, for that is how some memories return, I remembered how my foot was injured years ago.

He would catch me as I entered or left my bedroom on Piping Brook Lane. The master bedroom had two doors to it’s entrance. Double doors. When he was raging, if he was on the other side of the door – he would grab me by the shoulder, locking my position mid doorway (foot on door jam) and slam the door on my foot repeatedly. The visual is in my mind. The story remains in my body.

I remember a time when I did not leave the house for a period of a few weeks. Yes, that happened a lot with various injuries I suffered through – but this particular instant was due to not being able to put a shoe on my foot. It was winter time. I couldn’t let anyone know what happened to me. I was still in my shame and blame phase.

Too often, after injuries, I did not receive medical help. Once in a while, after he’d hurt me, my ex would take me to an emergency room only if he could explain away the damage he did. Like when he smacked my nose – bloody, bruised. He told the ER nurse that I walked into the door in the dark. When he did take me to the emergency rooms – and I say rooms for a reason – I actually would thank him for taking me! After he caused my injuries. If you think there’s no such thing as battered women’s syndrome, come talk to me. I had it to the nines. And back in the time of my abuse, no one alerted police of injuries – suspicious though they were. My ex was a smart evil. Not a stupid evil. He switched it up alot. A different hospital each time, doing the rotations throughout Westchester County New York hospitals and Greenwich, Connecticut.

So, there I am in my car – back in 2005, remembering what my body wouldn’t let me forget. I processed it all with my counselor at the domestic violence shelter where I was focusing on my healing. I discussed it with my internist, who sat compassionately as I relayed what happened. And I was referred to another doctor. A surgeon who operated on my foot and corrected some of the residue of my past. It was the beginning of sharing what happened to me. It was the start of subsequent surgeries to put me back together better than ever. My last surgery was to have part of my spine removed (seemed an old fracture didn’t heal properly when my ex threw me down the stairs…)replaced with metal components, and fused. The hard part of all this is that now, my mind no longer blocks out how all the injuries happened. A result of my healing.

Why am I telling you all this? Here’s my purpose:

If you have been a victim of domestic violence, and are trying to prove it in court – take a picture! Get yourself some x-rays, some MRI’s, some CTScans. Your body knows. Even when your mind tries to forget. I recently gave this advice to others going through the court system, fighting evil abusers. And in every damn case – it helped.

So, here I sit. Post pain injections. And now I’m off to go for a nice walk.

Remember – your body never forgets. It just might be the “evidence” our broken court system needs.

A Moment

In Judaism, we are taught that each and every moment is sacred. There are many things to be said about the weight of a moment. And so many things that a moment can say to us. It can alter our self thoughts and determine our path, change our views of the world and lead to a different set of possibilities.

A particle of time consisting of an event, or a situation, can be so shattering and alerting – that you might begin to see life as a “before” and “after.” Somewhat of a transformation may even occur, changing the direction of thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.

I no longer let my moment define me, but there will forever be that before and after. Everything went to shit in a handbasket afterward. Until I decided to stop saying Uncle. I took back my power – I took back ME!

Let me tell you about a time in 1978. I was just graduating from the Hartford Art School with my BFA in art education. Not much to say of my four college years – I flourished in many ways. But as the end of my education passage came to a close, I found myself back home in New Rochelle, New York again. Back on Surrey Drive. Searching for a teaching job, I returned to live in my childhood home until I could afford my own residence.

Richard (remember, I said I was changing names here) also lived on Surrey Drive in New Rochelle. A year my junior, I knew him since I was 6 years old. Our mothers even played Maj Jong together. It wasn’t unlikely that I would run into him when I was home from college. We lived 2 blocks away from each other, my family had a boat…his family also had a boat – at the very same marina on the Long Island Sound, the Castaways Yacht Club in New Rochelle.

June of 1978, I would see Richard on occasion and eventually agreed to join him for a meal and a movie. I had no desire to make the relationship anything other than a friendship. I didn’t have any other friends in the area and it was something to do. However, Richard had his own ideas. After going out to movies and dinner three times, Richard informed me that it was time to “consummate” our relationship. I don’t even remember kissing him and was caught off guard by such a statement. He said it after driving me home, as we sat in his car in front of my house. I remember thinking he was joking – so I laughed, not knowing that my reaction would trigger his fury. His facial expression went stone cold as I opened my car door and said goodnight.

There was a time lapse here of a few weeks when I then heard from Richard again. Since he realized I had no romantic feelings toward him, he approached our next meeting as saying it was merely a dinner with a few friends and then going to see the fireworks. It was the fourth of July.

The friends he referred to were another couple. Tod had also attended New Rochelle High and was with his girlfriend, Lynn, from nearby White Plains. And we all went in one car.

Our first stop was a restaurant directly across from Harbor Island in Mamaroneck. I wore white jeans and a navy and white striped t shirt. I had a glass of white wine with my dinner…a second glass appeared but I did not drink it. I used to wonder if my life would have turned out differently had I not drank that glass of wine. But because of and through my healing, I know it made no difference and was not to blame for what followed.

We crossed the street from the restaurant and sat on the grass, watching the fireworks after dinner. Afterward, Tod was driving and decided to drop Lynn off at her home in White Plains first. Then Tod drove to Richard’s home on Surrey Drive, while I thought that was strange. I had wanted to be dropped off next. When the car stopped in the driveway of Richard’s home, there were no lights on and it appeared deserted. Richard said he wanted to show me his stereo system (I had told him how much I loved music). I wasn’t interested. He persisted, telling me that his stereo had unique features. Like being able to tape his older sister’s phone calls. Very strange. But I did not know what a red flag was back then, needless to say I didn’t see them.

I had known Richard and his house for most of my life, as his sister was my age and a former friend in elementary school. So here comes my moment….

I went in. I entered Richard’s bedroom to briefly catch a glimpse of his stereo set-up on the right wall, twin bed on the left. No one else was at home. I thought nothing of that at the time. As soon as I walked into that damn room, he shut the door. Immediately pushing me down on the twin bed, he grabbed at my clothing, forcing himself on top of me.

I remember yelling “No!” And I remember yelling stop. His friend was outside in the driveway waiting to drive me home – I wanted Tod to run in and rescue me. No one came to help me.

Air conditioning blowing, windows closed, door shut….and I remember a lot of plaid. A plaid bed spread. Blue carpet. Dark walls. A stereo system behind glass when I turned my head. But no, he wouldn’t let me turn my head anymore. He was holding down my hands over my head. He was so strong. I remember hearing crying. Someone crying. It was me.

Tod was just beyond the window, knowing about Richard’s plan – as Richard raped me.

I could not stop crying, shaking. I’m feeling it all again as I write this. And Richard got off of me telling me next time he wanted me to shower first.

I told no one. I had no one to confide in. No one to understand. Only Richard, Tod, and I knew. For a very long time.

Ashamed and feeling branded, I had no support at home in my family. My mother was far from the motherly type. All I kept telling myself was that it was because I had wine. Maybe I would have been stronger and able to defend myself if I didn’t have that one glass of wine.

I had one glass of white wine. Blaming my drink was me trying to make sense of something horrible that happened. But there is no way to make sense of rape. And the only cause of rape is a rapist.

I isolated for a while. I also started believing that no one else would ever want me after that “moment.” Eventually, I saw Richard again and the brutal sex act was never mentioned. He stole from my soul that night of July 4th, 1978. A holiday that was to celebrate independence marked my life with loss of self, destroyed spirit, and shame.

I went out with Richard again. I don’t remember much about those times as I believe it was the beginning of dissociation, a coping skill mechanism in response to trauma. At 22 years old, I cannot now fathom who I was back then. There was a time when I thought I had my whole life to look forward to, and then a time when I wanted it to end. There were too many terrible times, as Richard treated me as though he owned me. And as though I was as important as yesterday’s trash.

There was the time at the marina when we were having lunch with another New Rochelle High School graduate who was a deep sea diving friend of Richard’s. Evan stopped at the marina for a quick burger with his girlfriend and Richard and I joined them. Richard ordered a burger and macaroni salad. I told the waitress that all I wanted was a macaroni salad and thanked her. When our order came to the table, she put down only one side dish of the mac salad, and she put it right in front of Richard. She proceeded to tell us that was all macaroni salad they had left in the kitchen before she walked away. Evan suggested we share it and offered me his bread plate to split it on. Richard immediately took the bowl of macaroni salad and spit in it. Yes, he spit on it – and then announced he didn’t want to share it. I sat there with no food. Evan took Richard aside, spoke to him, then sat down again. No more words were spoken.

Richard, or Rich as I’ll sometimes call him here, didn’t think twice about hitting me in the presence of friends. There was the time he smacked me in front of my visiting college friends, who remember it to this day. Richard felt entitled and omnipotent. His anger was easily expressed physically. He’d hit me, shove me, push me…. It’s sad what you can get used to. I was a victim of his physical violence, emotional abuse… and then, he raped me again.

Richard had bought himself a little 18 foot speedboat before I returned from college. He had it when I met up with him at the beginning of the summer of ’78. He named his boat “For Play.” We were on his boat that September, anchored off the shores of Mamaroneck’s Orienta Point. It was cold out, as summer was drawing to a close. I had a bathing suit on under my clothes, it was that chilly. Funny how I can remember some facts, and others are locked away deep within me. Just the two of us were on the boat.

We were all alone, no boats around us, anchor thrown in off the shore. Richard wanted to know if the water was cold, as the weather had already begun to change. “Get in and tell me how the temperature is,” he said sternly directing me to jump off the side of the boat. My reply, “No, I don’t want to,” was not met well. He pulled down his bathing suit trunks and peed on me. He pissed all over me. Literally. Laughing, he said, “Now you have to jump in, bitch.”

And I did. I needed to wash his urine off as I tried not to puke. I was shivering when I got out of the water, returning to the back of the speedboat. My clothes were soaked and stuck to my skin, but he still managed to pull them off me and push me to the floor of the boat. He raped me. I call it rape when a woman says she doesn’t want to do it. I call it rape when a woman says “no”.

Again, I told no one. All I did was cry. And blame myself for trusting him on the boat alone with him. What was I thinking?

I wasn’t. I grew up in home where I was hit consistently by my abusive mother. I was always told I was ugly, good for nothing, and much worse. The nightmare of July 4th confirmed what I was drilled about myself – I was worthless. And no one else would ever want me.

I ended up as Richard’s property. Repetitive bouts of physical , emotional and psychological abuse continued. We married without a single member of my family in attendance. I was no longer the hopeful college graduate and artist with the world to conquer. Richard had destroyed all that I was. In a moment.

With no support of any kind, I was locked into a life determined by rape. There were no domestic violence shelters back then. There was no access to therapists. I was beaten and raped prior to marrying Richard and no one knew how much worse it would get.

After college graduation, I never found out who I was and never knew the possibility of who I could become. Until now. Decades later, after marrying, having 2 sons, and divorcing – I am becoming. I was married to a monster for 20 years, and left almost 20 years ago (the divorce itself took a decade). And I’m still becoming.

Choice is the most powerful tool an individual has. It allows one to exist amongst a field of infinite possibilities. My choice to say, “No”, was stolen, disregarded, and abandoned. Consent is voluntary. Consent is enthusiastic, non-coerced, sober. Any lack of consent is rape. Rape takes away your safety, your confidence, your energy, and your voice. The rapist steals a part of you that can never be returned.

I have learned to be there for others in a way no one ever was for me. I advocate against rape and help educate teens against dating violence. But most of all, I know how very sacred a moment is and how everything can change drastically in the blink of an eye. Was the moment I was raped – sacred? It was a particle of time where my own free will was taken from me. Without that, we can lose who we are, who we were, and who we can become. I did not have a choice in that moment. My attacker did. And some day, I do believe that he will have to answer to a higher power for his actions.

Please do not judge me for marrying my abuser. We live in a culture that too often thinks its more shameful to be raped than to be a rapist. It wasn’t until I heard actress Joan Collins speak of her own ordeal – how she described rape, then marrying her rapist – that the shame began to heal. I don’t know who I was back then. All I know is that I was damaged beyond measure by a moment that drew a line in the path of my life. There will always be a before and after.

And now it is all about what I am doing after. I am very active and outspoken regarding dating abuse. Many programs are available to educate teens in recognizing the early signs of abuse. Dating violence is a type of intimate partner violence that is prevalent in our society. It occurs between 2 people and includes behavior such as physical violence, sexual violence, psychological aggression, and stalking. In my community, you will often see me and hear me at engagements supporting local organizations who bring awareness to this much needed education.

I am a lifetime member of the National Council for Jewish Women. In our Essex County, NJ, location, we have a program entitled, “Teen Dating Abuse”, or TDAA. Teen dating abuse awareness project is a multi media presentation for high school students as well as a community awareness program. The goal is to educate teens early enough to avoid domestic violence in the future. I tell teens my story every chance I get. I survived 20 years of domestic violence that began with rape. And now I’m hoping to change the stories of others.

Unhealthy relationships can start early but they don’t have to last a lifetime. Know the signs.

No means No!

Flip It

I’ve been told that you will not understand my victories if you don’t know my past. That makes sense. However, I decided long ago that I was not to be anyone’s victim ever again. It’s something I work on, as nothing progresses in a perfect line. There will always be those bullies out there. And mine have not yielded.

There’s so much to be said about learning from what you have been through and survived. So I am going to share some past experiences with you. And then I will tell you what I’ve done with them. It’s been a while since I’ve told my story – especially parts of it that are so very difficult for me. I know what happened to me is real history, but I don’t recognize the person that I was. I’ve changed drastically. And for the better.

My voice refuses to come from victim mentality, but if I don’t tell you how I was a victim, you will never get me. And another benefit to sharing my life, is to remind myself all I have been through and all I have bravely become. I’m going to change the names in my writings. Honestly I’m not sure why – it’s just a gut feeling. I do my best to try not to knowingly injure, defame, or libel anyone. But bear in mind, I was married to a really bad dude. I’m going to tell you some things that are far from pleasantries. Please know that everything I’m going to tell you is the truth; my truth. And I own it.

Some people want me to be silent about my past – but that serves no good purpose. Until You Say Uncle Again is my personal blog. Opinions expressed are exclusively mine. My intent for this blog is to bring awareness to topics.

I won’t let my past ruin today, because I flip it into inspiration.

Living Bravely

Anyone can give up. It would be so much easier than the struggle to hold it together sometimes. But life is way too short to be a victim of days gone by . I’ve got a new story to tell and it doesn’t look like my past.

Without forgetting all the adversity and things I’ve overcome, I will remember the days I doubted my ability to survive. The days when the hardest thing to do was to continue living. Those memories serve as components to my strength. I write not as a victim – but as a survivor. I will not give up on life. I will not give up on myself. And most importantly, I will not say “Uncle” again.

The expression, “say Uncle”, is used to indicate submission. You might think it pertains to wrestling or even a game. I know differently. It was an expression I heard for 20 years of my former marriage. An expression my perpetrator always demanded, a submission, a begging for mercy as he abused me…he would not stop on so many occassions – until I said “Uncle.” The perpetrator was my ex husband.

This isn’t going to be a blog sob story about yet another victim of domestic violence venting and character bashing. Here is the story of ME. I only tell you where I came from so that you can better grasp the jubilation of how I have evolved. A few years ago, I had a very popular blog (thank you), titled “Until You Say Uncle.” In the course of a 6 year period, I took that blog down twice. Both of those times, I considered every measure of what to do. It all had to do with my two sons…I said Uncle. I had heard that they – most likely their father- wanted the blog down. I backed down, lost my voice in the desire to regain my relationship with my sons. Let me tell you, giving up your voice is like giving up your soul.

I told a story back then, too. I think the worst part was related to and about my two boys. Telling of Parental Alienation, explaining it’s signs and steps, I transferred my personal heartache out to the land of social media. It’s because of them that I wrote, took down my former blog, then reinstated it…only to remove it again. Each time, I did so hoping that it would bring them back to me. I didn’t understand what to do or what not to do. I have finally came to the conclusion that my actions were neither a cause nor an effect of what transpired. But back then I hadn’t figured out that whether I wrote or not, whether I told of domestic violence, shared my history of abuse and tribulation, didn’t matter – briefly, I was foolish enough to think that perhaps the blog kept them from me. It didn’t. When I was silent, the alienation continued. I will tell you more of that in days to come.

My ex husband had told me that if I pursued my quest for a divorce, I would never see my children again. They were 13 and 17 years old at the time. A divorce proceeding I started in 1999 was not finalized until late in 2006, with another decade of legal abuse in addition to those high conflict court-filled years.

And so, I wrote. In 2009, I wrote to grieve, I wrote to heal, and sometimes I would just write so some day my sons would know how I fought for them with every ounce of my being. I didn’t write of the horrors related to my marriage until my sons were well into their twenties and could perhaps handle the so many truths. Meanwhile, during the battle of divorce court, my ex was telling my sons I broke up our family and filled their minds with hateful lies.

When I first learned how to blog in 2009, after seeing the movie “Julie and Julia”, my words came from a victim mentality that I knew only too well. A victim may be defined as anyone who experiences injury, a loss, or misfortune, resulting from an event or series of events. I wrote experiences of horror – from a voice describing rape, beatings, humiliation and worse. Yes, so much worse. I wrote of a mourning that to this day, has not ended – parental alienation. Now you can add grandparent alienation to the roster as both of my sons continue a cycle of hate. I have four grandchildren I have never met.

Trauma would often trigger my writing in the past. Experiences would be shared as I muddled through life. It took me a great deal of time to realize that life is not meant to merely survive – but to find your way through all your challenges and thrive.

I hope you will join me on my new blog journey and come to realize that I was able to transform victimization into a victory of great joys. I’m grasping the strength to rise up. Not every day is a good day, but my soul tells me to live every day with as much hope and faith that I can muster.

It also tells me to Never Say Uncle Again.