When “silence is golden,” words become transformative and creative tools at SEF. We encourage families to break their silence, to help them unburden and thus reinvent themselves by shedding all emotions that hinder their liberation. Below are the testimonies of three women who were hosted by SEF and who wanted to break their silence and share their stories. These three women, all victims of domestic violence, help shed much needed light on the problem of domestic abuse in Lebanon. Each with their own personal stories of abuse and endurance, these women are now unified in their liberation from it all.
The Way to Conscious Liberation (Part 1)
My story began when I met and chose my husband. In hindsight, I am almost certain that when we met, my soul went back to my childhood to rediscover the hardships I went through and put me back into a vicious cycle. I will not go into the details of my traumatizing past, but that trauma was reinvented and reinstated when I married.
A mutual friend set me up with my husband. When we arrived to meet him, he was already angry because we were late. This was the first clue that made me flinch and yet, when he saw me, he became very gallant and kind, which was what I needed at the time. Two months went by, filled with romantic meetings and important life achievements being boasted by him to impress me, but also a lot of problems came to light due to his very difficult character that evidently affects his current life.
There were also many problems that I only learned about after we were married. His alcoholism and frequent drunken belligerence began to become apparent, as well as constant and significant changes in his temperament. And yet, I found myself completely invested in the relationship, and we married two months after meeting. He was not on good terms with his family. At our wedding, only one member of his family attended as his Best Man. His sole family representative was a business partner of his, and was the only person who showed support for him and our marriage, yet another sign that something was not right.
My whole family, on the other hand, was present. Despite my high level of education, I never found myself able to invest in my career and achieve my aspirations. I found myself constantly conflicted with unresolved issues from my past. I have realized that intellectual development is highly dependent on a well-developed emotional life, one that I had never achieved. To learn about the rest of my journey, follow my weekly journal.
The Way to Conscious Liberation (Part 2)
….The wedding party went well. And by that I mean, only one person who is very close to me noticed my newfound husband’s erratic behavior after the guests had left the ceremony. That same person drove us home after the wedding, and even stayed with us for one week to ensure that I wasn’t in danger. Once he left, he professed how sorry he was for the situation that I was in. At a time when people usually receive gifts and congratulations, I was the recipient of apologies and concern.
“Dear wife, you will find peace every morning that you wake up after terrible drunken evenings. You will clean the house and prepare the food for when your husband calmly wakes.” I told myself this to help me get through the worst days. And I did. I survived the days and nights, sometimes being hopeful about the future, and other times with unbearable devastation. The only consolation I had left was growing in my belly, and I waited for it with tender love, a love I hoped I’d receive too one day, even if only when the baby is born.
Was it enough? Was the fetus even happy? Listening to sweet conversations between his parents on some nights, but then to the screaming curses and insults thrown by his father to his mother on others. Would it be enough for us to be happy?
The Way to Conscious Liberation (Part 3)
…I knew that I wanted to give my first child a brother so that they would be each others’ companions in life. The latter was just a baby when the abuse began. The psychological abuse became a constant for the three of us. When it became too much, I decided to leave the house. Sure, I had physically left the premises, but the link hadn’t severed yet. Five years on, I forced myself to take care of my estranged husband because I was his only source of support. He took the opportunity to manipulate me as much as he could – creating an endless cycle of problems to stack onto my already tired shoulders.
I began to solve his problems for him, focusing solely on that, forgetting about myself, forgetting how to live. As long as my life depended on what he did, what he thought, what he might say, I was not living, I could not breathe. There was no other choice for me but to separate from him again…
The Way to Conscious Liberation (Part 4)
I changed my address and cut ties with my husband for three months. It was a time of relaxation for my children and me, something we had never known before. After he did a great deal of begging, I agreed to let him see the children every two weeks. Coincidence or perhaps irresponsibility meant that our home was close to his own and he began wanting to see the children every day. His temperament had, of course, not changed.
The law and the society in which we live have not been great helps either. The children began showing signs of psychological trouble, which led to serious mental disorders. I became aware of SEF during this troubling period.
When my request was accepted, it changed my life. I settled with my children in the secure and well-organized shelter where all our daily needs were met. We went through a phase of stabilization and recovery in a very professional and family-centered atmosphere and began to build a life project that would be well-suited to our situation.
For the time being, I have taken a big step towards the inner liberation of all outward influences and culminating guilt, unburdening myself from my past and building my future life plan. I feel extremely at ease, especially knowing that I have saved my children from a constant state of confusion and danger that would have dictated their entire lives.
Many thanks to SEF, to everyone who works there and supports this association, and to all the other families who are at SEF and who have supported me. The people in charge at SEF are doing a great job, and the women who they have helped break their boundaries and blossom are going to accomplish extraordinary things.
The Way to Conscious Liberation (Part 5):
During our integration period with SEF, we were supported by the whole team – from social workers, to educators and psychologists. These representatives helped us in our adaptation phase to life at the center and helped us combat our inner fragilities and physical fatigue.
We received medical care as well as psychological and social follow-ups. Various skills of ours were developed (from cooking workshops, to handicrafts, educational activities, and social outings), allowing us to acquire a newfound inner strength and confidence and learn how to manage our time.
The children thus evolved little by little, and started to leave their fears behind and build healthy personalities. I too have acquired this inner strength to be able to set the right limits and be able to think about my life and my children’s lives in a productive manner. We worked on devictimizing both in groups and individually, something that I found to be hugely helpful in my process of liberation.
This work allowed me to become aware of my status as a victim, and I was able to admit that this status is an unhealthy one and became strong enough to make the decision to get rid of it. My awareness of the previous steps that influenced this situation has been of great help throughout the process of devictimizing myself. This whole framework that gave me a sense of security and an opportunity to get out of my personal prison – allowing me to express my feelings through writing, to give free reign to all that was festering inside, and to release my intellectual inhibitions.
I found in me the ambition of the little girl who I once was and who had been trapped inside of me for a long time. I started to attend training sessions that strengthened my ability to resume an effective professional life. Gymnastics also gives me a much-needed release. My relationship with my children has progressed, and I have become more able to offer them the support they need, helping them manage their conflicts, and establishing a supportive and necessary authority figure to walk them through their development. They even took part in a program that allowed them to discover their body and know how to protect it from any external danger, such as abuse.
The Way to Conscious Liberation (Part 6)
An evaluation report is carried out at each stage of our stay at SEF, and we are constantly evaluated on our paths to personal achievement. We are continuously supported to help us reach our final goal of the life project, and are assisted through transitions to help us realize our objectives.
In the second phase, we work on the process of self-empowerment Each mother manages her own budget, prepares her children’s meals, and organizes their outings – creating a sense of autonomy and control. Throughout the training sessions, we are constantly being prepared to enter the job market and to integrate into society. One of the ladies that was staying with me during my time at SEF has just obtained her hairdressing diploma!
After discovering her talent and working on it, she is now ready to work. In my case, after having significant resources in the field of training and psychology, I am now confidently looking for a job. I also have other interests in the fields of computer science and crafting that can also lead me to finding multiple jobs. I always spend time with my children to discuss their difficulties and discover their interests so that we can work on them together. They have just finished their school year and are getting ready for busy holidays filled with activities and family time.