The Romance of Abuse

"You cannot tell just by looking at a person whether or not they are an abuser. An abuser may be your next door neighbor, a friend, someone with whom you work, or a person whom you pass on the street. They may hold high profile jobs, be out of work, using drugs, or have a drinking problem. No level of society is exempt."  

Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes, Inc.

Every year a gathering in February occurs called ONE BILLION RISING. 

This movement is a peaceful rise of awareness that ONE in THREE Women will be beaten, raped, or murdered in her lifetime. Each year, people dance, wear red, pink, black and hold rallies and flash mob dances to bring Empowerment and Inspiration to the world. 

"In the nation of Colombia, where I ministered last month, a woman is killed by her husband or partner every four days. The problem is so serious that sociologists have coined a new term for it: femicidio, or femicide." Charisma Magazine J. Lee Grady

Making it real... look to the left and right. If you aren't one of the women, it's one of them you see.

This is my friends story:

"I remember the first time Jeremy told me I was beautiful. We were at a hot springs and I was playing in the water with his and my own children. My hair was wet and slicked back. I caught him staring at me with adoration. 'You're so beautiful.' he whispered. In that moment, I felt cherished, treasured and so loved. Loved for just being me. A few short hours later- he had cracked my skull and strangled me." 
Mailee Valdez
This violent attack was heard by her children in another room who sat huddled together crying in fear. 

photo credit Katie Jo Welch

In my interview, Mailee continued to share with me how romantic Jeremy was. Often, abusers do what is sometimes called "Love Bombing," dramatic and over the top gestures of romance and love. Frequently, abusers are charismatic, dynamic and well spoken. Mailee shared of their weekend he planned in Las Vegas, including limo rides and helicopter tours, and a stay at the Trump Tower. She said "It was the best and worst." It was and is confusing for many women in abusive relationships understanding the Jekyll and Hyde experiences or the undermining comments that occur. 

An example she shared was window shopping together, holding hands, the flickering lights and circus type fun energy of Vegas all around them as they laughed and strolled. Casually, she glanced at a pair of boots and commented "Those are cute." 
Jeremy's demeanor shifted and he said "You're so stupid sometimes." 
By the end of the trip she found herself in the Emergency Room with a broken rib. This was the first time he hit her- the first time he beat her, all because she had ordered herbal tea. 

So, First of all let me clarify that NO ABUSE is acceptable. Not once, not ever. Second, that time and time again I hear stories like these. Stories of these men who are sensitive, loving, generous and tender who have a "moment."

Are we ALL abusers? What is the definition of Abuser?
I know I have said and done things that I regret. I have said cruel things I didn't mean. Am I an abusive person? I find myself asking Who AM I when the chips are down? Who is that Katie? And do those moments of not being my best define me?

Kasia Merrill, Certified Social Worker answered my question by saying "When we go in to assess a situation we are doing our best to evaluate if there was just a 'bad day' where everything got out of control or if there is a pattern and the victim is in perpetual danger."

I feel like this is the same assessment that many women are doing day to day in their own relationships. Asking "Is this just a bad day, or will it happen again?" Also asking "What can I do to love them enough so those bad days don't come again?"

We like to see the best in people, the best in our lovers, our partners, our mates. In fact, we DO see these things.
We see the beauty and innocence of those Inner Child souls and love them, listen to their life stories, have compassion for their own childhoods and the pain they have suffered and see their magic and intuition and dramatic Light... in fact, I believe that that is what many of these unstable personalities are. Dramatic and beautiful... but just like Mailee's Jekyll and Hyde metaphor- too many times the pendulum swing is far and wide. Just like a child throwing a tantrum IS NOT the tantrum... there also must be consequences for their actions. 

The truth of abuse is also that the same Man who says he loves a woman, that she is beautiful, amazing, the girl of his dreams is also the Man who calls her profane names when he's lost self control.
A woman finds her attacker the same Man who is the comforter. The source of not just her pain, but of pleasure, joy, tenderness and love.

It is confusing and undermines a woman's trust in herself and her partner. If the words "I love you. You are beautiful."  are true when he speaks, are the verbal beatings true too? Is this love? Does a man who attacks verbally and physically LOVE the woman he attacks? 

Sitting in the courtroom, next to Mailee, I remember the way Jeremy claimed to be the victim of a vindictive woman who was just trying to destroy him. A woman who was EXAGGERATING what really happened.
He truly sees himself as a good man who was momentarily pushed past the limit. Not only did he deny the extremity of his actions, but excused them as trivial. After all... it  was just a few lapses of his otherwise WONDERFUL character.

Routinely, a person who abuses will feel attacked and condemned for a brief loss of character.
The gap of understanding comes from the reality that the brief loss of self-control effects 100% of the relationship. Once a boundary is crossed and a victim now knows it can and will be crossed again, she is constantly aware, afraid and paranoid that it will happen again. Usually, it does.

Due to the beautiful parts of a relationship, many women (and men) in relationships DO NOT understand or recognize they are in an abusive relationship. 
Many men (and women) who abuse DO NOT know or acknowledge they are abusive. Many of our young teens, boys and girls are unaware of what abuse is and find themselves as victims or perpetrators without the consciousness that certain behaviors are wholly unacceptable and abusive. 

             photo credit Love Lambeth - Lambeth Council

There is a clarifying and enlightening website for teens that brings light just as to WHAT is ABUSIVE behavior. Teaching our teens, the boys and girls about phone safety, texting, controlling behavior and jealousy.
Research more about that here:

One of the TOP MYTHS about Abuse, found in an article by NEW is:

"I never thought it would happen to me!" 
At a training at our shelter put on by Action Ohio – the trainer asked a question of the audience, "How many of you think you could be the victim of relationship abuse?" Not a single hand was raised. 

If you are not sure what characteristics of Abuse is, OR if YOU are being abused.....  here are two great articles by Safe Harbors to give you guidance. 

As I have witnessed media, movies, and marketing, I have been discouraged and disgusted by subconscious abuse messaging being fed to our society as well as our teens. Flipping through popular fashion magazines I'm routinely bothered by images of waif-like, stoned-looking young girls appearing in submissive or suggestive posing and photography.

photo credit Marc Jacobs S/S 2012

There is an inaccurate viewpoint that we would KNOW who an abuser is. So many times the "bad guy" on the movie screen is portrayed as the villain, we watch him and the despicable things he does and validate the illusion "I would NEVER be with someone like that. It would be easy to tell who the bad guy is."

These scenes in movies create a DISCONNECT, for those who abuse and those abused. Abusers don't identify with a chronic bad guy and women abused validate staying under the idea "See, it's not bad ALL of the time." 
The Romance of Abuse is that it's MOSTLY good. 
(Yes, I acknowledge that there are ABSOLUTELY CHRONIC abusers)

The REALITY is that abuse happens BEHIND closed doors. These are the parts of someone that most often NO ONE except the victim sees. 

These are the "well thought of", the prestigious leaders, coaches, church leaders, speakers and "Good Guys" who everyone loves. Only when their mask has fallen, only when their inner demons escape from their shackles does the monster come out- and when it has-the monster is quickly re-chained and smothered and hidden until the control is lost again so that NO ONE but the victim knows it exists.

photo credit The Wrap

In the movie Dr. Strange, the Ancient One said “We never lose our demons, we only learn to live above them.” 
So, to any of us who has demons... FACE them, acknowledge they exist and be humble enough to reach out learn HEALTHY coping mechanisms, taming them.

If you are being abused, love someone enough to give them the space to face their demons and empower them to seek counsel and support. 
Have the courage and love to step away, allowing them the FREEDOM to heal these tendencies as well as the FREEDOM for you to heal the emotional and physical wounds.

If you ARE someone who recognizes in yourself the perpetuity to control, call names, or physically dominate another- recognize this IS abuse and that you are GREATER than these tendencies and that you can CHANGE them. It IS up to you.

OUR behavior is OUR accountability.
WE are all responsible for our choices. I have compassion for the FEAR, for the torture that must be inside of us to be so AFFECTED by outward circumstances that you feel powerless and seek to control those around you. 
There is NO excuse for abusive behavior. 
It's UP TO US to SHIFT... and it IS possible. It IS possible to face inner DEMONS and to master them, to be IN HARMONY in relationships and to HAVE the INNER PEACE you crave. 

If you are someone who recognizes you are in an unhealthy relationship, reach out. There are hundreds of online sites, personal places, and support groups for you. We know that many of you DON'T want to leave and just want it fixed. There are places and people who are there to support you in your journey of healing your family and your heart.

For Utah Residents start here: 

Connect with One Billion Rising. Reach out to SheroesUnited for volunteer opportunities to be part of the CHANGE. 

How did Mailee's Story end? 
Jeremy served 3 months in jail after a 2 year court process. He's set to be back on the street in a few days, with 2 current active protective orders against him (for other women). 
As for Mailee- she is a dedicated mother, achieved her Associates Degree, has a stable career, and is an advocate for raising awareness and supporting other women in understanding and leaving these relationships.

In closing, I would like to share that I believe and know that ALL of us here on this planet are DIVINE. We are ALL perfect and beautiful dynamic souls. We are full of LOVE and GRACE and MAGNIFICENCE.

As humans and divine souls I encourage both sides of the chain of abuse, the abuser and the abused to know that YOU are not these brief moments. You are more.

Let THIS be a turning point for the world. LET THIS TIME in HISTORY be MARKED with CHANGE and HEALING. 


One Billion Rising Video (may not be appropriate for all audiences) 


  1. Beautiful and well said - way to be the message and the messenger!!
    I have learned from police officers that it is important for women / men to create a paper trail with the police when abuse happens. There has to be a record on file to show it happens more than once for police to do anything or make suggestions. If someone goes missing and can not be found with a paper trail there is a suspect vs a spouse.

  2. Thank you for sharing! I am a survivor of domestic violence and the Director of the Stop Abuse Campaign in Utah. I'd just like to clarify, that abuse doesn't come from a loss of control, it is a choice made by the abuser because he has a skewed belief system that tells him he is entitled to power and control over his victim. Everything he does is to that end.

    1. Thank you for clarifying. I agree with you about choice. I suppose I am intending my words to reflect "self control" which I believe we all have the choice to engage or disengage in. I'll reread this and see if there's a way to shift that wording. Thank you.

  3. Its a miracle every time a woman escapes from an abusive relationship. Mailee's strength is an inspiration, I hope other victims can follow her example.

    1. Thank you, I agree with u. It goes to show this can truly happen to anyone.


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