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BY MARIA GARRIDO - 2 MINUTE READ
Lift the veil of silence on abuse and discover a glimpse of hope.
DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS
A decade ago, I summoned the courage to break free from a toxic relationship. At the time, I could not have imagined that leaving was going to be the easy part.
When an abusive partner can no longer control you, they will resort to every means to destroy you.
Thus began a relentless campaign of vindictive tactics and misinformation. Over the past ten years, I have endured ceaseless psychological abuse in all its darkest forms:
Thousands of manipulative emails laden with twisted truths and blatant lies.
Multiple lawsuits with accusations against me spanning family court, children's protection court, and civil court across various countries.
Loved ones relentlessly harassed and bombarded with falsehoods and manipulative tactics.
False statements from perfect strangers sowing seeds of doubt about my mental stability.
Private detectives tailing me over two years, seeking to 'prove' I was an unfit mother.
Coercive control, threats, false accusations, financial abuse, gaslighting, defamation, harassment, emotional blackmail, triangulation, psychological projection, and more.
Regrettably, my story is not uncommon.
GLOBAL HEALTH CRISIS
Violence against women is agnostic; it stains every socioeconomic status, educational level, country, culture and race. A 2018 study across over 160 countries by the World Health Organization found that nearly one-third of women have been subjected to physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner. This represents over 736 million women globally. However, this is only part of the story; violence against women is not just physical or sexual. Even more women experience psychological abuse with a recent 2022 study by the European Institute for Gender Equality citing that nearly half of European women have experienced some form of psychological violence by an intimate partner. Unfortunately, similar levels of abuse have been confirmed in many countries around the world.
Any form of violence is damaging, but psychological violence leaves permanent scars on the psyche.
Psychological abuse is difficult to spot and functions as an insidious force that operates beneath the surface, leaving victims grappling with invisible wounds. It involves a range of harmful behaviors wherein the abuser weaves a tangled web intended to manipulate, control, and diminish an individual's sense of self-worth, leaving victims with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and sadly even thoughts of suicide.
Although governments have made some progress in acknowledging and condemning psychological violence against women, there is still so much to be done to prevent this abuse and punish perpetrators.
LEGAL BLIND SPOTS
My own experience fighting this battle has sadly taught me that legal and administrative systems often ignore the patterns of abuse and only act when it's too late for many victims. I've become brutally aware that people are not equipped to identify or condemn psychological abuse and society is still riddled with unconscious bias, implicit rules about what is and is not spoken about, and sometimes very deliberate discrimination against women.
Therapists have identified psychological abuse in my story but informed me that the abuser would never be penalized because I'm not damaged enough, because there are no apparent bruises. Judges have slapped me on the wrist for trying to protect myself. Attorneys have reminded me that I have to "play the game" and submit myself to further abuse to protect loved ones from attack. Friends and strangers have said I should get over it for the sake of my children. When I have openly expressed anger at the injustice, my fury has been used to demean me and paint me as rude, unstable, bitter, spoiled, dictatorial.... a hot-blooded Latina who is hurting others by setting boundaries and respecting herself. I have been shown over and over that my voice doesn't matter.
But I will NEVER give up,
not for myself
nor for all the women who have experienced psychological violence.
NOT MY SHAME
It took me 10 years to have the courage to share a part of my story. I had to learn to let go of the pressure to prioritise other people's comfort over my own distress. In an amazing moment of clarity, I realized the most important thing:
This is not my shame to carry.
It is not my responsibility to bear someone else's poison.
And that has set me free from the prison of my own silence.
In speaking my truth, I hope that other survivors will be empowered to do the same, drawing more attention to this serious issue so we can help victims realize that they are not alone and that if we survived and thrived, they can too.
THE FIRST CHAPTER OF A NEW STORY
My battle is far from over but I will never allow this experience to make me a bitter person. Instead I keep reaching for the light and see it as an opportunity to make me a better human being by helping others whenever I can.
When I created Terranam Wellness, it was important to me that this new chapter of my life -this beautiful project- bring kindness into the world, not only for our clients, but also for women who have survived similar battles. Self-care retreats have been an integral part of my healing journey because they taught me how to practice valuing myself.
At Terranam, we believe in helping everyone develop healthy self-care practices. This is why it was important to me that we donate a portion of our profits to providing wellness retreats to female survivors of violence, free of charge. When you stay with us, you help us support this worthy cause and I am very grateful.
A MESSAGE OF HOPE
If you have been a victim of any form of abuse, please know there is no shame in your trauma. It takes tremendous courage to speak up but speaking up frees you and others from the abuser's tangled web of dysfunction, a burden that was never yours to carry in the first place.
I want you to know that there is hope, that you can survive and even thrive past abuse.
Never stop reaching for the light because
your voice does matter.
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