By Philippa Sklaar
You know how you thought that when you met the man of your dreams he would change?
And he did.
For the worst.
But you still held onto him because you believed that having anybody was better than having nobody. It was the power of your love that would help him realize his potential – if only he would just listen!
I, like you, a victim of abuse, believed that all I was worth was a man who beat me, punched me and cheated on me. I shrunk each time I heard, “First time a victim, second time a volunteer,” “If you go back you deserve what you get” and “Why don’t you just leave?”
It took seven long years before I accepted I was an abused woman.
It seemed impossible that I could be one or that my husband was an abuser. He was far too rich, too educated, and too sophisticated. I came from a prominent political family, was the mayor’s daughter and was far too affluent to be a victim of abuse. After all, abused women lived in poverty stricken areas, were uneducated and their abusers were skin heads with facial scars and missing teeth.
Lifestyles of the rich and vicious
My opinion changed dramatically one night when I found myself on the sidewalk, bleeding, my clothes torn. He had tried to put a cigar out on my cheek, bit my mouth until it filled with blood and tried to choke me.
I had no idea where I got the strength, but I managed to break free, picked up the emergency remote and ran out of the house. In South Africa, I lived in a gated community with security guards roaming the streets. I was safer on the streets of Johannesburg, the crime capital of the world, than in my own home. No sooner had I pressed the button when the headlights of the patrol car appeared at the bottom of the driveway.
While I waited for the police to come to the door I asked, “Is it unusual to receive a call like this from this area?”
“No,” he replied. “We receive more calls from this area than any other.”
That was my first in a long list of beliefs that changed.
Abuse is a great leveler. It reaches every race, religion, ethnicity, and country. It took a third abusive marriage for me to finally understand that the common denominator was me. Until I took responsibility for my contribution to the dance of abuse, I was destined to repeat the pattern.
Most of us abused women are codependents. We equate love with need, and unless we are working like a slave for a man, our love isn’t worth anything. Our pathology demands damaged, wounded men to prove we can save them. And despite my love and commitment, I was still cheated on. Life wasn’t fair. But the only voice I was listening to was my own. I had begun to emulate my abuser in that I was abusing myself, worse than they ever did.
That was a wakeup call.
When I finally accepted I was an abused woman, I was riddled with shame. I wanted the hands that beat me, to comfort me. How did I explain that to myself or anyone else? I “loved” and wanted a man who kicked me, pulled out bunches of my hair and spat in my face.
It’s like wanting to hug a shark – why on earth would anyone do that?
There is always a payoff to self-destructive behavior, and for me, it was that as long as I blamed and complained, I didn’t have to take responsibility for my life. That sickened me. There is nothing more disempowering than being a victim. I could only imagine what I could have achieved sooner had I put all my time and energy into myself and realized my own potential instead of my mens’.
In that instant, I became my project.
I read every self-help book, attended Kabbalah classes, and even went to an ashram in India in search for answers. Slowly and painstakingly, my search moved from outside to within, and a new value system emerged. Everything I had thought was valuable and had assigned meaning to, became insignificant, and everything I believed was true, wasn’t.
Scott Peck wrote in The Road Less Traveled that throughout our lives, our sick side and our healthy side battle each other. The sick side is the insane voice of the ego that never shuts up. It’s the running commentary of labels, judgments, criticisms, and comparisons that assign meaning to every object, situation and event. It keeps us locked in the past and future where fear, guilt, pain, loss, lack and conflict reign. It constantly feeds us lies based on our insecurities and we react to them as if they are true. It is the ultimate abuser.
The healthy side is the place deep within us that resonates with truth, love and peace. It’s the place where we experience that “aha” moment, as a truth lands perfectly on us with such magnificence. It’s the voice of wisdom that whispers when we are still. This is the voice that heals us – not the tyrannical voice of the ego.
Abuse taught me the power of choice. I get to choose what thoughts I want, what feelings I want and who I want in my life. No one can rob us of our inner peace unless we choose to allow it.
I am not for a minute saying that changing your world view is easy. It takes work, commitment and dedication. I struggled for years with abuse and one of the reasons I co-wrote When Loving Him Hurts was to short circuit other women’s journeys.
If I could go from having zero self esteem to moving across the world and publishing three books, what can you achieve? The answer is… anything. My first book, Hot Cuisine, was about men and food and my first client in LA was Elizabeth Taylor. In 2015 I was invited by my ex-therapist, Sue Hickey, to co-write When Loving Him Hurts and the following year we wrote The Affair.
Do you have any idea what that felt like when my ex-THERAPIST issued that invitation? To co-write a book with someone you hold in the highest regard when for years you believed you were worthless? I still tear up when I think about it. Talk about a full circle moment.
I have since gone on to form a non-profit organization called The Women’s Voice Project to help abused women. I get to go out every day and help make a difference in people’s lives.
Abuse gave me my life’s purpose. It was how I discovered my worth, and how you can discover yours.
It requires a choice.
Today, that choice is yours.
If I found the golden goose in abuse, so can you.
I hope Philippa’s story of deep struggle, determination, hope, and resilience has touched you and inspired you. If you have any comments or questions for her, I encourage you to leave them in a comment below. And finally, if you are currently living in a situation of domestic abuse, please visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline immediately at TheHotline.org.