Employees with PTSD Triggers From Domestic Violence

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Hey Compliance Warriors.


So, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I want to share an experience and a message for those wonderful people who enter our lives after the abuser is gone. If you are an employer, you are likely in the picture before, during, and after the abuse. My request to you is please show love, patience, kindness, and understanding. Know your state and local laws that may require you to provide leave for the difficult times that surround DV and please don’t roll your eyes or hide from the subject when it comes up.


So, here we go:

On Saturday, October 18th, 1986, I was preparing to celebrate my 2-year wedding anniversary with my husband. I was 26 days post-partum. I had spent 5 days in the hospital after a difficult birth to a precious baby boy with holes in both lungs. Thankfully, he was fine after a few days in the NICU. We were a broke Air Force family. So, I had to go back to work on day 23, leaving my new baby boy with a babysitter. I was pretty worn out, and when Saturday rolled around that week, I was looking forward to an outing to my favorite BBQ restaurant in Austin, TX. I was all dressed up and actually able to fit into my favorite size 5 skirt. We were to leave in about 30 minutes, and I was getting the new baby boy ready to go when suddenly the walls fell in.


My husband (now ex) had been in a good mood all day, which was unusual. So, when he began ranting and raving, I knew the happy day had ended. I put my baby in his crib because I knew what was coming. He yelled, threw things, cursed, slapped, and shoved me. Finally, the tirade ended with him pushing me as hard as he could. I flew across the room and fell onto the wooden arm of a large chair. My tailbone was now cracked, and I would spend the next 6 weeks silently enduring a lot of pain. (AND I still had to go to dinner because, by saying I wanted to stay home that night, I was “holding a grudge.”)


But would I complain? NO! I knew better. So, why do I tell this story? Because the 37th anniversary of my broken tailbone is only 2 weeks away. I still cannot always sit comfortably, and long stretches of sitting are painful. I will never ever forget that day – mainly because I physically can’t. I don’t want to hold onto bad memories and “hold a grudge.” The thing is, I don’t have a choice. The physical pain is a constant reminder of the abusive 12 years I endured with that mean and selfish individual. I have been out of the marriage for exactly 27  years. But I still experience triggers and nightmares. I still react to innocent words and actions in ways no one around me can understand. PTSD is real. Sounds, smells, noises, and many other happenings remind me of the 12-year hellish marriage I endured. My 3 children were also dragged through this hell and relive their experiences every time a trigger is hit.


Please try to understand the Survivor in your life. It’s not your fault that you unknowingly push their buttons. But, if and when you are let in on the secret, please don’t take it personally. If it is personal – then correct the behavior. But please just bear with us. Be our friend. Be our supporter. Be our champion. We appreciate you and all the “crazy” you put up with at times. We don’t mean to compare you to the violent demon who caused all of this.


If you are our employer, please don’t blame us and roll your eyes because you think we are weak-minded individuals. We already feel that way about ourselves and fight every day to silence the voices that condemn us for not getting out sooner. Remember that we survived. That took a lot of planning, acting (for our abusers and others), pleading, crying, and submitting to acts that we would have never thought possible.


Even though we were the victims of these horrible people, PLEASE understand that YES, we do take responsibility for being with that person and not leaving sooner. YES, we do live every single day with reminders of the poor choices we made and wonder how we ever could let this happen to us and our kids for so long. Please realize that we lived in a FOGFear, Obligation, and Guilt. Many of us were actually brainwashed hostages for a long period of time. That FOG looms and may never completely lift. But we are trying very hard to overcome the mental hold that monster had and still has over us. STOCKHOLM SYNDROME (a.k.a. Trauma Bond) is real.


If it’s too much for you – we get that too. But, (if you can) love us, bear with us, and encourage us. We likely have bones and feelings that have been permanently damaged and hurt us on more days than not. Remind us that we are safe, loved, and protected. When you do these things for us, we will love you and appreciate you – more than you will ever know or we will ever be able to openly express.


Until Next Time, Be Safe and Be Aware!


Lisa Smith

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