~ The Art Of Change ~ with Carol Omer ~

Art and Creativity as Mediums for Empowerment , Connection and Change…

Archive for the ‘Trauma’ Category

Why doesn’t she just leave? Why did you stay?

Posted by carolom on September 14, 2014

Sistars2

We hear it said often, especially when there is a high profile domestic violence case in the media.

When  high profile cases of violence against women are in the media, the  air waves fill with outrage, calls to action, compassion, political responses  and inevitably someone somewhere will say: “Why didn’t she leave?” and “Why did she go back?“.

Those of us who work in  women’s domestic  and family violence shelters hear her stories and witness her tears and sometimes are asked to be her voice at a time when just taking the next breath takes a huge amount of energy.

This poem is dedicated to  those women  who are living in domestic violence or have come through it and have had those words asked of them :

Why didn’t you just leave?

I’m sorry I can’t hear you…

what did you say?

My ears are blocked and heavy

From  vicious words that have been  hurled my way

There used to be sweet words and promises

and whispered romance in my ears

I now I find myself wondering

“Can ears become blocked with all those tears?”

Couldn’t you see what he was doing to you?

I once had a clear and beautiful Vision of the life

we  would live together

He held my hand when our babies were born

He was my lighthouse in stormy weather

I know that sounds corny but its true.

Each time he erupted into rage

it always finished with the deepest regret

I understood he didnt mean it because

He said you haven’t seen the best of me yet

And I believed him

But surely after those first few times you should have known he wouldn’t change?

By the time what I know now as The Cycle

had taken a hold and become our way of life

I couldn’t see the front door or tomorrow

I was so immersed in trying to be the right wife

My kids loved their daddy deeply

they still do even though he is  jailed

And what struck me when my sisters said “leave him”

Were three words- 

You have failed 

You have failed 

You have failed

Do you realise he could have killed you?

He once told me if I left him

there would be no more reason for him to live

He said he would kill us all and then himself

if I had no more love that I could give

It would be my fault. So I made sure to try harder.

He told me tales called “Theres Nowhere to Hide”

and no other man will ever have me

He put a pretty convincing case forward

he yelled it

as he turned around

and grabbed me.

I made sure to keep still and just nod. 

That sometimes worked.

But there are shelters and places where you could have got  help…

I had two friends come to my house one day

he wasn’t home

and I was glad

They came because they were scared for me

but I couldn’t hear them

and my vision that day was particularly bad

It was like they were in another place

even though they were sitting

right there in my kitchen

We all jumped and shuffled nervously

when he came home

You girls sitting around bitchen?

He said with his dangerous smile.  

And they left.

And he took my mobile phone off me.

I know it must have been hard but weren’t you worried for your kids?

My little boy was wetting the bed and

the school had called me in with

concerns for my girls…yet again…

but I just knew if I was patient

my husband would overcome his anger

and his pain

You see I knew that he had a lot of pain from his childhood.

Well good on you for finally leaving him. Were you happy with the sentence he got?

There is no place for the word happy in

any of what has gone down

My kids ask after him all the time

and I remember how he made me laugh

when he’d play the clown

Anyway, I’m finding it hard to hear you again

my heart is starting to race

Theres a thing I call The Fog in My Head

it clouds over my personal space

and it will quickly cover you

and the floor

and the door

Sorry, don’t think I’m being rude

Its just I can’t really talk about it any more ….

 

 

 

Posted in Domestic Violence, SiStars, Stories, Transformation, Trauma, Why did you stay, Women | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The Virus

Posted by carolom on September 16, 2009

The Virus is a representative story. Though names and some of the details have been changed for narrative purpose, it is a true story.

The Virus. An Australian Story

I was 5 or 6 years old a migrant child of parents who were swept away from the sooty chimney towns of Britain’s working class north by the promises of a bright new life in a young country. A country brimming, spilling and erupting with outrageous opportunities for people, white people, who dreamt of owning their very own land. Australia.

We were the ten pound package , government assisted chance of a life time Brits who flocked in their thousands to these shores and landed like sparkling white seagulls that squabble amongst themselves as they fly in kindred form. Noisy chattering seagulls on the look out for the best morsel they can find.
Some have said seagulls all look and act the same…

Poms they called us, the latest flock of new arrivals following in the footsteps of the convicts and our sea faring ancestors who came to seize new territory in a land that was not young at all.

Big skies, wide streets, pupil dazzling light Brand new asbestos houses far removed from the tall sooty terrace flats cramped side by side back Home.

We staggered wearily, eagerly into government issue houses that nestled expectantly in the middle of tiny little paddocks. Neatly sliced quarter acre blocks that beckoned the new arrivals to seed a brand new life and sow a future far removed from the misty grey land where the sun rarely shines.

This was The Lucky Country and we thought that we were very lucky indeed! There was much to learn and many new things to see and for awhile my migrant child’s world was consumed with more space new friends, big school, new sounds, interesting sights and beach time delights.
In fact we were so immersed in our new life we were utterly, completely, mind numbingly oblivious to the Land where we were living.

That is when the virus struck.

I remember the day it happened.Unlike those silent viruses that sit invisibly on taps waiting to hitch a ride on fingertips that brush past lips this insidious, relentless, sickening parasite travelled effortlessly upon the breath transmitted upon invisible sound waves elusive in their source, the destination always the same.

It was very hard for young children to escape a germ such as that! I was standing by the milk shed when the virus struck.

Its current host was a plump red freckly boy called George. He was no doubt named after a king, an uncle or grandfather back Home .

The kids called George names like dot-face and carrot top.
Giggling and laughing, George entertained us by pulling faces and joining in the fun. His best friend stood with us, Peter Green, an Australian boy who was fond of saying “we go back 6 generations“, even though he didn’t really know what it meant.

His father said it all the time so it must have been important.

Peter was teaching George the real Australian way

We were standing in the cool shade, a rare find across the sweltering expanse of the asphalt playground when the virus emerged and the first cross infection occurred. In a loud voice that announced his cockney origins wherever he went, George sang out four words in the mocking tone of a confident child: “Dirty coon, rotten baboon” Four words that speared my consciousness and left a tender wound, a vulnerable space to host a virus that I was too young to fight.

Georges words invoked contempt a voracious contempt that swept through the crowded school yard as quickly as it took to catch one another’s breath. I followed Georges eyes and saw the object of his loathing.
Curly haired Lindy and her little brother Jimmy the Aboriginal kids. The Blacks

Lindy and Jimmy stood out from the sea of white faces. Shiny black birds surrounded by vicious seagulls. They stood holding the eyes of their attacker whilst holding tightly onto one another’s hand. Jimmy leaned towards his big sister terrified that the big kid with the flaming red hair was about to lunge and squash him then and there.

They were the outcast kids the Abo’s who were never ever invited to play our games. Peter smiled at George approvingly and one or two others snickered our way the virus twisting itself across children’s faces annihilating the anti-bodies of innocence feasting upon the collective enjoyment of someone else being teased.

This particularly robust virus had its own language.

After coon followed different words boong-boong –that’s the noise they make when the bull bar hits them. Before long other children joined in the heckling until a bubonic plague of racist torment swamped us all in its vitriolic grip.

That was the day I learnt a new A, B C. The uniquely Australian alphabet. A. B. C.

Abo
Boong
Coon.

This was the alphabet I was infected with as a child.

In the lucky country. A magnificent land older than the mountains with secrets winding back through time. Something terrible occurred. A virus was unleashed long before our little family travelled to the down under shores.

What became of Lindy and Jimmy? Innocent children who were called half castes, treated as out casts.
Removed from their Mother, kidnapped before her very eyes.
Thanks to the power of forgiveness and decency and common sense, strong medicines for curing the malaise of toxic tongues and the virus that leaves many deaf and mute and blind, Lindy and Jimmy and I became friends.
Precious friends and together we are all in recovery from the virus that strikes so many innocent children down. UnityinCommunity

Posted in Aboriginal, Australia, Childhood, Community, Forgiveness, Injustice, Journeys, Lifes Stories, Racism, Reconciliation, Relationships, Sorry, Stolen Generation, Trauma, Violence | 9 Comments »

The heART of the Apology …

Posted by carolom on July 5, 2008

We are having the launch of the heART of the Apology exhibition on Wednesday.

There were 11 posters created during the Apology at Elder Park here in Adelaide in the ‘heART’ Space that we established as a way to give ordinary Australians, of all colour, culture and creed a place to express their thoughts and feelings in a way that was divorced from the political footballing and rhetoric that was flooding the media in the months….and years … leading up to the Apology.

 

There was sadness and there were years and there was joy…

My buddy Katrina has worked for justice for many years and like so many other Aboriginal Women. her courage and resilience in the face of systemic racism have been out standing.

Posted in Aboriginal, Adelaide, Australia, Dreaming, Forgiveness, Friendships, Healing, Justice, Kaurna, Lifes Stories, Reconciliation, Relationships, Sorry Day Feb 2008, Stolen Generation, Stories, Transformation, Trauma, Unity | Leave a Comment »

The aftermath of War – no one “wins”…

Posted by carolom on November 15, 2007

We know that war extracts a huge toll…loss of life, devastation of environment…and the ruination of all that is Sacred…

I came across this article from the New York times in relation to the mental health and well being of the men and women who return from Iraq:

Link to the Article
A Flood of Troubled Soldiers Is in the Offing, Experts Predict

The nation’s hard-pressed health care system for veterans is facing a potential deluge of tens of thousands of soldiers returning from Iraq with serious mental health problems brought on by the stress and carnage of war, veterans’ advocates and military doctors say.

An Army study shows that about one in six soldiers in Iraq report symptoms of major depression, serious anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, a proportion that some experts believe could eventually climb to one in three, the rate ultimately found in Vietnam veterans. Because about one million American troops have served so far in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Pentagon figures, some experts predict that the number eventually requiring mental health treatment could exceed 100,000.

“There’s a train coming that’s packed with people who are going to need help for the next 35 years,” said Stephen L. Robinson, a 20-year Army veteran who is now the executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, an advocacy group. Mr. Robinson wrote a report in September on the psychological toll of the war for the Center for American Progress, a Washington research group.

“I have a very strong sense that the mental health consequences are going to be the medical story of this war,” said Dr. Stephen C. Joseph, who served as the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs from 1994 to 1997.

What was planned as a short and decisive intervention in Iraq has become a grueling counterinsurgency that has put American troops into sustained close-quarters combat on a scale not seen since the Vietnam War.
Psychiatrists say the kind of fighting seen in the recent retaking of Falluja – spooky urban settings with unlimited hiding places; the impossibility of telling Iraqi friend from Iraqi foe; the knowledge that every stretch of road may conceal an explosive device – is tailored to produce the adrenaline-gone-haywire reactions that leave lasting emotional scars.

And in no recent conflict have so many soldiers faced such uncertainty about how long they will be deployed. Veterans say the repeated extensions of duty in Iraq are emotionally battering, even for the most stoical of warriors.

Military and Department of Veterans Affairs officials say most military personnel will survive the war without serious mental issues and note that the one million troops include many who have not participated in ground combat, including sailors on ships. By comparison with troops in Vietnam, the officials said, soldiers in Iraq get far more mental health support and are likely to return to a more understanding public.

But the duration and intensity of the war have doctors at veterans hospitals across the country worried about the coming caseload.

“We’re seeing an increasing number of guys with classic post-traumatic stress symptoms,” said Dr. Evan Kanter, a psychiatrist at the Puget Sound veterans hospital in Seattle. “We’re all anxiously waiting for a flood that we expect is coming. And I feel stretched right now.”

A September report by the Government Accountability Office found that officials at six of seven Veterans Affairs medical facilities surveyed said they “may not be able to meet” increased demand for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. Officers who served in Iraq say the unrelenting tension of the counterinsurgency will produce that demand.

“In the urban terrain, the enemy is everywhere, across the street, in that window, up that alley,” said Paul Rieckhoff, who served as a platoon leader with the Florida Army National Guard for 10 months, going on hundreds of combat patrols around Baghdad. “It’s a fishbowl. You never feel safe. You never relax.”

In his platoon of 38 people, 8 were divorced while in Iraq or since they returned in February, Mr. Rieckhoff said. One man in his 120-person company killed himself after coming home.

“Too many guys are drinking,” said Mr. Rieckhoff, who started the group Operation Truth to support the troops. “A lot have a hard time finding a job. I think the system is vastly under-prepared for the flood of mental health problems.”

Capt. Tim Wilson, an Army chaplain serving outside Mosul, said he counseled 8 to 10 soldiers a week for combat stress. Captain Wilson said he was impressed with the resilience of his 700-strong battalion but added that fierce battles have produced turbulent emotions.

“There are usually two things they are dealing with,” said Captain Wilson, a Southern Baptist from South Carolina. “Either being shot at and not wanting to get shot at again, or after shooting someone, asking, ‘Did I commit murder?’ or ‘Is God going to forgive me?’ or ‘How am I going to be when I get home?’ ”

Posted in Depression, mental illness, Stress, Trauma, War | 1 Comment »