Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story is a memoir by Lynn C. Tolson. The story begins with her suicide attempt. In the aftermath, she commits to counseling. The reader accompanies the author through therapy sessions, where she reveals dysfunctional family relationships, including incest, domestic violence and mental illness. Her story illustrates physical, emotional, and spiritual transformation. In sharing her inspirational journey, she provides readers with a message of hope.
What is Domestic Violence? This is a GENERAL DEFINITION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE and does not indicate the entire and complete service of of legal definitions; if further notes are needed, consult an attorney. This is to offer information as needed while hearing about domestic violence.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OCCURS WHEN ONE PERSON USES INAPPROPRIATE POWER and CONTROL OVER AN INTIMATE PARTNER.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS A PATTERN OF ABUSIVE BEHAVIORS.
THESE ABUSIVE BEHAVIORS MAY INCLUDE
LEGAL DEFINITION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE 18-6-800.3
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MEANS AN ACT OR THREATENED ACT OF VIOLENCE UPON A PERSON WITH WHOM THE ACTOR IS OR HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ALSO INCLUDES ANY OTHER CRIME AGAINST A PERSON OR AGAINST PROPERTY OR ANY MUNICIPAL ORDINANCE VIOLATION AGAINST A PERSON OR AGAINST PROPERTY, WHEN USED AS A METHOD OF COERCION, CONTROL, PUNISHMENT, INTIMIDATION OR REVENGE DIRECTED AGAINST A PERSON WITH WHOM THE ACTOR IS OR HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP.
INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP MEANS A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SPOUSES, FORMER SPOUSES, PAST OR PRESENT UNMARRIED COUPLES, OR PERSONS WHO ARE BOTH THE PARENTS OF THE SAME CHILD REGARDLESS OF WHETHER THE PERSONS HAVE BEEN MARRIED OR HAVE LIVED TOGETHER AT ANY TIME.
I was twenty-two years old. A friend, Sally, and I were in the kitchen my small apartment. Sally, a seamstress, was pinning the waist of my skirt for alterations. Due to stress, I'd lost a lot of weight in a short period of time. Since we'd known each other for about nine months, we were chatting comfortably as she tucked and gathered the fabric to fit my 5'4" 104 pound frame.
My husband of a year burst into the apartment. He surveyed the situation, and, as if I were not in the room, he barked, “She wouldn’t need her clothes mended if she wasn’t such a scrawny broad! She’s a piece of work, isn’t she?”
Sally had not witnessed his verbal tirades before. I was afraid that he would sabotage our friendship.
He mumbled something about “worthless women” and slammed the door on his way out.
I wondered what I had done wrong.
Sally spoke softly, “Does he typically speak to you so mean?”
Sally seemed to be a sincere friend, so I confided in her. “Sally, it’s all right, he talks like that all the time.”
“It’s not all right. He’s abusing you.”
“Sally, no way! He never beat me or broke a bone. He never pushed me down the stairs.”
“Lynn, I've noticed. The way he treats you is awful. Does he hurt you in other ways?”
He’d grab my arm and twist both his hands around it, until I bruised. He’d say, “If you weren’t such a skinny runt, you wouldn’t bruise so easy.” He smacked me and claim it “was just a love tap.” He frequently hurt me with punches, pinches, and slaps, but it was rationalized or justified.
I divorced him a year later with Sally’s help, the guidance of a therapist, and an attorney.
But the wounds of emotional abuse take a long time to heal.
When we put a true story in front of the facts, the experiences of a victim become real.
What is domestic violence?
State laws vary in defining domestic violence but common elements include:
A pattern of abusive behavior when one person uses inappropriate power and control over an intimate partner. (click here for more information)
What is emotional abuse?
The emotional abuse pertains to what he said, and how it made me feel.
He made me feel bad just for being a woman.
He made me feel humiliated by putting me down.
Almost all abusers who are physically violent use emotional abuse. You never know who amongst us is enduring emotional abuse. Help someone who tells you that she or someone she knows is being abused by her partner. Sally saved me.
We typically think of the results of domestic violence as a woman with bruises and black and blue eyes. This essay examines the aspects of insidious forms of domestic abuse. What is emotional abuse, and how does it pertain to domestic violence?
Emotional or mental abuse occurs when one partner attempts to make the other feel bad about herself. Emotional/mental abuse often crosses lines with psychological abuse. These forms of abuse are destructive to self-esteem and self-confidence. Here is part of my story to illustrate emotional abuse, excerpt from Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story:
When I was nineteen, I was involved with a man eighteen years older than me. Todd and I had nothing in common, except that he reminded me of my deceased father. I did not have the wherewithal to tell him to get lost. I tried to escape him by moving to a different town, but he found me, and he moved into the same apartment complex. (This occurred in the 1970s. These days his behavior would qualify as stalking).
I was friends with a married couple my age, Cathy and Scott. When I tried to release myself from Todd’s grip to spend time with my friends, he demanded that I give him equal time. Todd became possessive because, he said, he loved me. He slammed my door and his door to demonstrate. The stucco landing of the apartments shook like an earthquake in California. There had to be a rational explanation for Todd’s conduct.
“He’s just jealous,” Scott said.
“Yeah, he must love you a lot,” Cathy said.
I ached to be loved. So I mistook the outbursts for love.
When Scott and Cathy invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with them, they said that I could bring Todd if I wanted, but I wanted my friends to myself.
The day before Thanksgiving, Todd degraded my friends. He called Cathy a “pain-in-the-ass broad” and said Scott just “wants a piece.” Todd insisted that I eat at a holiday buffet alone with him. I was afraid of another door-slamming scene, so I declined Cathy’s offer.
As Todd and I walked past their apartment to the car, Cathy cheerfully waved, “Happy Thanksgiving.” Scott commented to me, “You look like a model in that dress. The green matches your eyes.”
Todd gritted his teeth: “I told you so! He just wants to get in your pants.”
Then Todd grabbed my elbow to steer me toward the inside of the sidewalk. “Never walk on the outside. That means you’re for sale.”
Was he a pimp? Was I a prostitute? It seemed like I had sold out something, in some way, but I did not know exactly what it was.
It was impossible to say “no” to Todd. When I tried to be assertive with him, he’d shoot my words back like an errant boomerang until what I thought I said did not sound like what he said I said.
There were several interwoven yet invisible abusive occurrences. The abuse is about what he did and said and how it made me feel:
He used intimidation tactics by making demands and slamming doors, which made me feel fearful. Not only is this immature, it is also an indicator of an abusive personality and of someone who does not have communication skills and/or coping abilities.
He used emotional abuse by disrespecting my desire to be with friends, which made me feel embarrassed. If he has to have the final say, and it is a unilateral decision rather than a mutual agreement, then he is in control.
He used isolation tactics by controlling where I went, which made me feel lonely. He deliberately sabotaged my social relationships. He also made me doubt my choice of friends by disparaging them.
He used psychological abuse by maneuvering my body to the other side of the walkway, which made me feel diminished. He confused me by twisting my words around, playing mind-games with me. If you could see the face of an abuser who does this, he either has a smirk because he knows he’s “one-up” as if he’s winning a competition of words, or he has a look of pity because he thinks, “oh, poor dear, you just can’t understand.”
There is no physical abuse in these scenes of domestic abuse, yet women are scarred for life from emotional/mental/psychological damage. Let this article about invisible forms of domestic abuse inform you of how women are emotionally wounded. If you discover a friend in this position, let her know you care, tell her it’s not her fault, listen without judgment, and encourage her to get help. If you recognize yourself, don’t stop believing that you deserve to be treated with respect.
Those that know the story from my memoir Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor’s Story, have read that I was vulnerable, easily manipulated, trained to be without opinion, and living in the shadow of my father’s violence and subsequent suicide. When I was 19, I met a man 18 years older than me who had threatened to kill himself if I refused to marry him.
Not long after the marriage ceremony to my new husband, Todd, he wanted to buy land in Chandler, Arizona. He said we could get rich quick on the land while living cheap in a trailer. I was only twenty-one, and I objected to moving out of Tempe, away from my Arizona State University campus friends. Todd threw fits, until it seemed easier to comply with his wishes than to confront his temper. So we moved deep into the desert, past the dairy farm and the rodeo arena, where the alfalfa fields were newly zoned for mobile homes.
It was too far to commute to classes, so I withdrew. My best friends from campus, Scott and Cathy, telephoned to say they wanted to visit. I made excuses: “It’s not a good day. Todd worked later than usual last night. He’s still sleeping.” “It’s not a good time. I have to go to the doctor.” “It’s not a good year. I am very, very busy.” I was not avoiding seeing them; I was avoiding them seeing me.
A year went by. I did not return to college. I had not seen my friends. One afternoon Cathy called and insisted on visiting. Despite my excuses, they were not about to let a desert monsoon keep them away. Scott and Cathy pulled up while a dust storm was developing. As I stood outside, hollering “hello” above the noise of the rattling aluminum awning, a gust of wind literally blew me down.
“Lynn, you’re as thin as a reed!” The wind flipped my shorts like a sail, revealing the bruises on my thigh.
Scott asked, “Are you all right?”
“I’m all right,” I lied.
We made small talk while watching dust devils that looked like tiny tornadoes flitting across the terra firma. Cathy and Scott were saying goodbye. “We’re moving to Utah. We’ll write.” As Cathy moved toward me, I stepped back, resisting her outstretched arms because my body experienced pain with an embrace. Todd had swatted me often enough that my body no longer recognized the difference between a hard hit and a warm hug. I had lost contact with my friends; I could not confide in them. There was nothing left to say.
“Lynn, you take care of yourself, okay?”
“Yeah, sure.” I was sure that another friendship bit the dust.
I’d already been isolated from support systems when I married him, and that made it easier for him to marry me. The point of this article is to illustrate that isolation by the abuser in a relationship or as the relationship is developing is so he can assert and sustain control. You might consider this dynamic as you are dating again in mid-life, or when your children are dating.
The isolation may seem benign at first: He may make snide remarks about her family, but say he was only joking. In second, third marriages, when a potential abuser wants to possess her, he may deride her children from a previous marriage. The isolation escalates when he suggests or insists that she work from home, or not at all. She loses contact with her co-workers. He may initiate arguments with her choice of religion; no faith pleases him, and he refuses to let her worship at church without him. She becomes completely dependent on him for a world view. His perspective infiltrates her perspective until her opinion of herself is diminished to reflect only his opinion; his reality becomes her reality. He lets her know she is useless, helpless, worthless, and nothing without him. She loses her self to him, her insight, intuition, and instinct. He owns her. Soon, the victim is asking, “Who am I? How did this happen?”
If you are dating again, or if you have a daughter, niece or friend on the dating scene, these are just a few of the signs of isolation to be wary of:
She rarely goes out without her partner
He unilaterally controls every aspect of a date
She is restricted from seeing family and friends
He controls who they see, when, where, and for how long
Showing support for someone you suspect might be manipulated into isolation by an abuser may even save a life. Use your knowledge as power, and you don’t want anyone to take your power from you! No amount of false romance is worth losing your authentic self. Maintain your support systems in church, with friends, groups, and activities. They may save your life!
Isolated Desert Trailer
*Tolson 4 TEARS: Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide, so no shed tear is wasted.
By looking at this picture, no one would ever know that I was in a marriage fraught with domestic violence I was so familiar with abusive relationships that I did not know what a healthy relationship was like. In therapy sessions during my twenties, I learned that "People often seek a life partner who serves to resolve issues of the past.” The implication was that I had done so by marrying a man who preyed on my vulnerabilities, repeating what I had experienced as a child. I responded to my therapist's comment by saying that I was not looking for a mate who abused me! My therapist said, “No, not consciously. We sometimes operate on an unconscious level, which may lead to repetition of unhealthy patterns." She encouraged me to become more aware of patterns that pertained to my husband and family. "It’s not unusual to do things as we saw them done.”
Lynn C. Tolson
When we examine our motives, we make better choices. This illustrates why it is important to understand the dynamics of dysfunction: "If I know why I did what I did, I might do it better next time.” Realizing the characteristics of victims and offenders helps in determining whether it's an unhealthy relationship. You can't see the physical evidence of me as victim in this picture, but you can sense the traits that led me to perpetuate the roles.
(victims and offenders may have some and/or not have all of these characteristics)
Low self esteem
Believes traditional stereotypes
Often compliant with trivial demands
Suffers from guilt, denies terror and anger
Convinced she is responsible for the abuse
Believes all the myths about domestic violence
May have witnessed or experienced abuse as a child
Attempts to manipulate the environment to maintain safety
Abused as children (typically)
Loses temper frequently and early
Displays unusual amount of jealousy
Has weapons & threatens to use them
Contradictory, unpredictable personality
Has limited capacity for delayed gratification
Drinks alcohol excessively (and/or other substance)
Commits acts of violence against people, pets, and objects
*Tolson 4 TEARS = Telling Everyone About Rape & Suicide, so no shed tear is wasted
The author writes in the preface, “I can pray someday I will understand why he did what he did.” A decade after the publication of her book, Weldon may know that she may never make sense of the insanity that caused her husband to nearly kill her.
Michele Weldon is an award-winning journalist, and her skills as a writer are demonstrated in this true-story about domestic violence. The book is divided into three parts. With each part, Michele inserts private notes and cards her husband wrote to her, each “love letter” meant to be endearing, carefully crafted with all the right words, but somehow lacking in sincerity.
Part One:Getting There, explores an enviable childhood and optimistic young adulthood. In her childhood, she takes the reader to an ice-cream shop. Michele falls in love, and with few warning signs of an abusive personality, she is married to a man who is enraged and disengaged. In a subsequent chapter, she takes the reader to a pawn shop. The reader gets the disconnect, and how denial serves for survival.
Part Two:Getting Out, explains how scary it is to stay in an abusive marriage, and how scary it is to leave. Although Michele has multiple support systems, it appears that these do not make the emotional aspects of divorcing a sabotaging tyrant any easier. He continues to batter her psychologically, often using their children as a weapon. Throughout part two, Michele writes about crying on a continuum; crying is a measure of healing and hope. The thread of tears is worth reading again.
Part Three: Getting Better, offers gem-filled vignettes, such as an exploration of color, hands, growth, grief, sorrow, joy, celebrations. Michele writes about healing, how it feels and how it sounds “I was no longer spending my nights dreading his key turning in the lock.”
This isn’t only a story about domestic violence. It is also a book about an empowered woman, separate from a man who possessed her, as she reclaimed her true self.