The Unsung Heroes
Cheers to the good guys!
It’s Domestic Violence (DV) awareness month.
Just as most of us wish there was never a need for cancer awareness months, so I wish a purple ribbon never need worn or displayed for this cause. DV and intimate partner violence is it’s own cancer eating away at the fabric of our society in every income tier, ethnicity, and demographic. If you think you don’t know someone touched by this, you do.
It’s easy to give the abusers all the attention: accentuating their bad behaviors while educating the public, reminding and warning young women of abuser profiles; focusing on the trauma that results from intimate partner violence, family violence and domestic violence. It’s easy to rehearse their ominous actions and allow them to live rent free in our heads. It’s lazy of us to perseverate over the bad guys and broadcast every headline with their faces and stories. It’s unfair to survivors to tabloid that they’ll never get over it or heal: the focus on what the abuse took away. The ugly statistics can be staggering.
As the survivor organizations got busy this October, the teems of people working toward the health and well being of women and children caught in the web of domestic violence jumped off the page at me. They deserve the Nobel Peace prize for their neighborhoods, families and communities.
So here’s to the support persons, the parents, the extended family members, the experienced professionals, advocates, expert volunteers and caring individuals, friends and family — and the normal every day person on the front lines— who are making a difference. Here’s to those touching just one life. Here’s to those helping families escape, thinking through every detail, attending every hearing, sharing every dollar or providing PTSD urgent care in the aftermath. These ‘undercover journalists’ are publishing front cover success stories instead of back cover obituaries. The survivor community owes a great deal of gratitude to the resources, efforts and people that whisked us to safety, aided in our healing and work toward prevention. These men and women deserve their own Pulitzer Prize.
It takes a village.
It takes a village of unsung heroes.
For me, the very best of heroes are the husbands (and wives) of survivors— the devoted and loving spouses who said ‘I do’ to a lifetime of healing right alongside their wounded men or women. There are no words to express the agency of healing that these unsung heroes grant their ‘better halves’ in the intimate journey of life.
I would be lost without my husband.
He has known my whole story from the start. We were newly dating as I was in the throes of my initial counseling, the flood of tears; the grasping for health and wellness from my recent past. He’s held me more times than I can count when nightmares plagued my sleep — praying peace over the storm. He walked through the legal ramifications when one of my abusers sued me and confronted me in arbitration. To be clear, suing me was suing the whole family at an already vulnerable time in our family’s life. He absorbed that stress remarkably.
I couldn’t even list if I tried, the hours he’s listened to my pain. The times are countless. Only God could bottle those tears and give us a number equal to His love and care for those tears. Only God could reward Mr. Barnabas for what he has generously given me in secret, a healing from scars.
When I finally reported my abuse to a governing body that could act, I called to tell Mr. Barnabas, my husband, in the aftermath. From the other side of the landline I heard,
I’m so proud of you.
It felt like it was the first time he’d verbalized those exact words to me.
I can still hear it like it was yesterday.
Early in pastoral ministry, the first person to confide in me about ‘all things survivor’ was a wife whose husband was struggling with the aftermath of repeated sexual violation and violence as a child. She was bearing the burden of financial responsibilities for her depressed, jobless husband and caring for the children more than her share — but more importantly, she was fulfilling the law of Christ. Her example reminded me, it’s not always women who suffer these cruel improprieties as children or young adults. Both The Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Convention reports give fact to this anecdote. Even the foster care system, as broken as it may be, is replete with girls and boys having suffered at the hands of their parents and family members. Greta’s example also reminded me that love bears all things— love never fails.
I follow several survivors on social media. At times, they are being maligned and ruined publicly — because darkness hates light— and there are husbands behind those voices supporting their wives every. step. of. the. way. Mary DeMuth, Christa Brown, Rachael Denhollander— I admire their husbands as much if not more than I admire them. Why?
Because they are the unsung heroes. The every day heroes. The middle-of-the-night heroes. The take-up-the-slack heroes. The I-love-you-even-when heroes. The go-ahead-and-write-the-book heroes. The tell-your-story heroes. The I-will-protect-you heroes.
I’ve thought recently that the intimate partner violence and trauma I experienced in my late teens gave me a limp. Sometimes, I walk crooked and no amount of rehab could make me walk ‘normal’. Sometimes, with the right exercises, I can stand straighter and function better, but that darn limp persists. It’s likely not going away until heaven but the greatest part of the pain and the injury is long past. There has been significant healing. A doctor would sign off for discharge. For all practical purposes, I’m as good as new.
I’m glad my husband chose to marry the girl with the limp. I’m glad he carried me over the threshold wearing white.
I’m glad he understands all the intricacies of living with the girl with a limp. Sometimes, he provides crutches. Sometimes, a wheelchair. And sometimes, he gets me on a bicycle for a long, rigorous ride to remind me that healing is a marathon, not a sprint. He reminds me that a limp doesn’t make me lame and I have much more inner strength and fortitude than I could ever imagine. He reminds me my legs are strong. He continues the dream in me that others might experience healing and strength, too. He grabs my cape and my pen and reminds me other survivors need to not feel alone.
We were barely dating and I penned this poem to him.
Beloved and truthful
That is what you are
Beloved and truthful
You’re a healing from the scars
You’re my knight in shining armor
The prince I never knew
Mr. Barnabas, I love you.
Just recently, celebrating over thirty years married, I penned this:
This is the season
Of our love: tried, tender; true
Me. You. Forever.
The words, fewer. The sentiment that much richer, deeper, fuller and constant than before.
Most heroes get their accolades after they’re gone. We herald the fallen soldier and the faithful employee with busts and gun salutes — and some of those heroes have died with n’er a whispered ‘thank you’ while they lived.
People are parched for songs sung about them. People are hungry to be noticed for doing the unnoticeable day to day heroism.
May we put pen to paper and write songs of gratitude to our heroes.
To my hero, I see you.
To my husband, I thank you.
You are the unsung hero of my story. I survived. Often, you did the heavy lifting; you did the most admirable, noble and courageous part.
You married the girl with a limp and let me borrow your strength for a lifetime.
I will sing on and on about you, dear.
You’re my hero.
No One But You
No one but you
Could have been the healing oil of Jesus
No one but you
Could have been the balm of Gilead
In human form
His grace offered to me,
While we were still sinners,
In the flesh and blood
Of a person—
For I was Thomas
And I needed to see.
And I was Thomas,
And I needed to touch.
And this man I call husband
Who washed my feet from day one
Put salve on my wounds
Redressed my abrasions
When the bandages had been ripped off
And the injury made bare again,
He started at the start
And did it all again.
Trauma, trigger, salve
Stressor, trigger, oil
Trigger, trigger, acute care
Finally, protecting me from the trigger
We grew up from infant blissful matrimony
To a love full and sure
Because you were healing to me
The only one,
No one but you.
Late in 2016
Each experience is different. Sadly, your spouse may be harming you. As always, if you are facing violence or sexual violence at home, in a dating relationship, at school, church or work, please reach out to a safe person and call this hotline:
National Domestic Violence Hotline Hours: 24/7. Languages: English, Spanish and 200+ through interpretation service 800-799-7233
SMS: Text START to 88788 call:
Help is available Speak with someone today