When you leave an abusive relationship, you are driven by fear. At some point you know that if you stay, you’ll die, one way or another. And if you have kids, that they are at great risk too. You may not be able to say that it’s the right choice, because your thoughts are not clear, your mind is dealing with many contradictions; guilt and shame are your best friends for years.
You’ll find on your way back to life, many voices that will make you doubt your decisions to get out of a domestic abuse situation. It will be friends and professionnals. And it will be tough to listen to those people, who seem to know better than you what you went though and what you ought to do to start again. You will listen at first and you will feel less and less powerful, more and more under stress, pressure. All your energy seems gone to a land where you can’t catch it again.
Obviously, the person committing abbuse will do everything to win your back; your kids will be used for bartering —so easy! Many people think that it’s just about leaving domestic abuse, when in fact it’s so much more. It’s about finding yourself again, in a battle that looks like it will never ever end. And, also, it’s about keeping your kids safe and well.
Kids are the priority
Often people tell you—now that you’re out and ready to start a new life away from your abuser—that you have to take care of yourself. On paper, this looks great for sure, but in reality, if you have kids, you will want to protect them first. How can you think about yourself, when for years you have been nothing, and when you have been told you were good for nothing. First things first. Getting out of domestic abuse will cost you: 1. insomnia, 2. a great deal of money to find the best lawyer, 3. countless thoughts about whether you should give him/her another chance…again.
It lasted four years for me, between the time I left to the time the divorce was validated. It was all about our child. As much as I wanted him to have a relationship with his dad, I wanted the law of my country to guarantee the best protection for him too. I knew my ex-husband would do anything to mess it up. And he did.
Domestic abuse doesn’t stop one morning bacause you decide it’s over. It’s always there, not visible, but in the words said, unsaid, in the behaviour, in the way the abuser is changing roles, again and again and again. So you are not able to tell what’s true, what’s not. You’re confused and back under his power once more.
It’s tough when you want your life back but you feel dragged down every time you make a step forward.
Stand your ground
At some stage you will need to get past voices around you and find your own. It’s a step-by-step process, full of ups and downs. I remember feeling free one day and back to darkness the next. But as months went by, I could see more days with freedom and fewer without. When people used to tell me things, I let them talk. By the end of the divorce, I had been through enough to understand a bit more about my ex-husband. He only wanted me to be the bad guy of the story.
But in front of the judge he did not stand any chance. The evidence was against him. People did not know my story. But I knew it by heart. I knew what I lived was not about love but only possession. And that his goal now was not to lose face in front of his family and community. Nothing more.
Know what’s best
I got help. I worked a lot. I wrote many lines. I poured out on to paper all the things I could not get my head around. And there were many. For me, it’s not about will power at first, it’s about understanding what abuse is, how we got there, why and how we can get out of it. It’s an enlightening road, cause when you start walking in your real shoes, you start seeing the whole picture.
I think that we all know what’s best for us, whatever other people think. My son did not see his dad for six years. Today, he is seeing his dad once a month in a supervised center. Many are still telling me that he is his dad and he won’t do anything to harm him, or that maybe he could see him out of this place. For me it’s a NO WAY. I know what’s best for him and me.
At the end of the story, you know you are part of it too. And you start taking care of yourself! Maybe,for the first time in your life!
Do you have any preconceived ideas (we all have some at some stage) about domestic abuse? How is the Law protecting kids and parents in your country?
This is an original post to World Moms Network from our contributor in France, Marie V. The featured image used in this post is attributed to Safe Horizon.
Happy Women’s Month!
A few days ago I had a meaningful and fun conversation with international Tanzanian model, Miriam Odemba. If you have Instagram you might want to pop on over and see what she is up to, as she is always inspirational, motivational, fun, and has the kind of beautiful smile that makes you want to smile as well!
Ms Odemba has agreed to answer some questions for us through this interview, as we celebrate women by showcasing phenomenal women who pursue their dreams and encourage others to do the same.
S: Hi! Please tell us your name and a little bit about where you are from.
M: My name is Miriam Odemba and I come from Tanzania.
S: First of all, I want to congratulate you on your success as an international model! What are some countries where you have modeled?
M: I’ve worked in Tanzania, of course, but in a lot of countries in Africa for various Miss competitions. I’ve been to Angola, South Africa, Senegal, Nigeria, Namibia, Kenya, Uganda. That’s mainly in Africa but I worked as well in China, in the United States with Elite Model Agency, in Europe, (Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, U.K, Portugal), and of course in the Philippines for Miss Earth. I hope to visit more countries because my career is not finished yet.
S: Wow! Having seen so many places must have been very exciting! So in your travel and experience within the modeling industry, what are some differences you have noticed in how modeling is viewed in Tanzania and in other countries?
M: In Tanzania we need to have more things (in modeling). We need to develop this business. We don’t have that many modeling agencies. It is difficult to go international for models. This is why on long term I want to open my own model agency. Countries like Sudan, Senegal, Uganda they have more models. This is part of the Fashion Industry development. I think Tanzania has a role to play. We need to work hard to become international. Models are Ambassadors of their countries.
S: Well, let me ask you this: what was it like 20 years ago when you were one of the very first models there, and what changes have happened until now in 2018, for modeling in Tanzania?
M: I’m still a legend because I opened the door for next generation. There are a lot of changes because right now the young generation is more on social media and it is a good way to get some awareness. Before, when I was there (in Tanzania) it was only newspapers. Now you can be famous via Instagram. There are a lot of opportunities for African models because the African market is developing.
The industry has started to recognize African models. Naomi Campbell, Iman, Tyra banks started the move but now there are many African models (models of African descent, and directly from Africa).
S: Okay, let’s switch gears a little. You are more than a fashion model. Please tell us about your health initiative
M: What I’m doing with this initiative and with my foundation, Run with Odemba, is trying to give education for our young generation, and to help the Maasai people. I think we have a treasure in our country, we have a specific culture and we need to bring that to the world.
S: What has been the response from the community in Tanzania in regards to your health initiative?
M: Run with Odemba is a very good project. As for me, I love to exercise. I think it is both very good for health and to feel fine. That is why I’m trying to transfer that philosophy to the young generation and I think it should be a part of education. For myself, I’m a trailblazer and a warrior. I’m unstoppable!
Exercise is key for human beings. It should be a habit from the beginning. We need infrastructure as well. In Brazil for instance they have a lot of places for training. We don’t have that in Tanzania. I think it is very important to have a sport culture in Tanzania. Once more, models they represent an image, but they are as well ambassadors of projects and countries. Running with Odemba first edition was a good success, but I intend to develop it in the future; maybe with partnerships with schools.
S: So, what are your thoughts on being a woman and being in shape? Do you think it matters and why?
M: As a woman you need to love yourself. To be proud of yourself. Wake up in the morning and think you are beautiful. It is not only about being a model but being a woman.
If you do that every morning every day you will be grateful. I’m not a perfect person but when you believe in yourself you become perfect.
S: This might be one of the tougher questions for you, because you love people, but I must ask: if you were to name your top top top most influential woman and most influential man who you see as role models, who would you name?
M: Oprah Winfrey because she has a strong speech, and she always gives good advice. For men I say, Barack Obama, because he was the first black president of United States and …he’s classy!
S: If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
M: I would encourage myself to study hard and when I get a chance not to waste it, Education is the future for everything, and most of all, I would advise to appreciate everything!
S: Please share three tokens of wisdom with young girls
M: Respect, appreciate, and love yourself.
We sincerely thank Miriam Odemba for spending some time with us here at World Moms Network! We wish her all the success possible!
This is an original interview by Think, Say, Be for World Moms Network.
If you’d like to see more of Miriam, her modeling journey, and her health initiative, please find her on
Just last week, I found myself in Paris, France. I was about to meet my niece, who was studying abroad, but I gave myself an extra first day on my own. I made plans with our contributor in Paris, Marie Kléber, whom I didn’t know very well, but whom I was so excited to meet!
She met me at my hotel, and we headed out by metro to the area of Saint Martin. She helped me navigate purchasing my travel card, and led me to a trendy, “oh so good!”, vegan place for lunch. We sat on high stools looking out toward the street. We talked and talked and talked! (Mostly in English, but later switched to French!) I wanted to know all about her life. What her life was like in Paris as a mom. About the French elections happening the next day. She was curious about how World Moms Network got started, and if I had met any of the other World Moms and who! (Lucky to say, yes, I have!)
It felt surreal. I traveled all this way, and all of a sudden I have a good friend here whom I had never met before. But, it’s not a unique feeling. It’s the same feeling when Purnima from India met Ecoziva in Brazil. When Tara from Canada met Nancy in Tanzania. When Martine from the Philippines met Ruth in Singapore. When I met Mama B. from Saudi Arabia in NYC. In our own efforts we are satisfying (or igniting more!) curiosities about the world through meeting women from around the world. Woman who we wouldn’t come across in our towns or cities at home. We found them through this network.
In France I had a feeling of complete comfort in a foreign city that had just been the site of a terrorist attack the night before. After lunch Marie took me to see the statue of Rèpublique, a piece of her French heritage. Then, I assumed I’d just find my way back to my hotel on my own. I had such a fantastic time with her!!
But no, Marie, rode the metro back toward my hotel with me, out of her way. And walked me back to my hotel. She was going to tell me how best to get to a friend’s place for later tonight. It turned out it was only 2 blocks from where she lived. What are the chances of that? So, Marie insisted that she take me to my friend’s doorstep. And I insisted that she come in and meet my friend!
World Moms Network reminds me that the world isn’t so big. That there are amazing people to meet in every culture. We just have to reach out and allow ourselves to be connected. Let go of what is familiar. We may be surprised.
Marie gave me more than just great conversation, a tour around her home city, and sight-seeing tips for me and my niece. I had been feeling burnt out lately. I had spent so many years straight working and squeezing hours as though squeezing the last of the toothpaste to work on World Moms Network since 2010. And this past 100 days, watching how my own country is trying to defund the very life-saving global health programs that I’ve been writing about and passionately advocating for. Calling my Senators and Congressman. Reading. Disappointed. And on top of all that, busier in my children’s lives in my new role this year as Girl Scout Leader. And finally making exercise a priority for my health.
World Moms Network has continued to deliver while I have been juggling other life stages because of the strength of the team of women behind me. Just in case you ever thought that this site was just me, it’s sooo never been just me. Thank you to the World Moms who carry the torch when other World Moms just cannot.
It’s amazing how a conversation with a new friend thousands of miles away can take you back to what you stand for. For what you fight for. For peace. For friendship. For understanding. For cultural appreciation. For respect. For maturity. To help you find your footing. Guide you back to writing. To restore you energy.
It’s been awhile since I wrote. Thank you, Marie. I’m back.
This is an original post to World Moms Network by founder, Jennifer Burden, of New Jersey, USA.
Photo credits to the author.
One day, I’ll be able to say: “I left because he was killing me softly”. And I would be able to tell people, without feeling my heart racing, without thinking I should not say things like this, that he was a mistake. But a mistake that gave me the chance to see the Light again.
One day, I’ll be able to say without worry: “he was a manipulator” without thinking “that’s not fair for him” or “I should keep this private”.
One day, I’ll be able to tell people that for a while I was a shadow, a pale reproduction of myself, that for a while I was scared to death.
One day, to the question “why you married him?”, I’ll be able to say “because I felt like a prisoner, I could not say “no” to him, he would not take “no” for an answer. He played with my emotions, he was a control freak and I was under his spell.”
One day, to people telling me “don’t say that, every couple has good memories together”, I’ll allow myself to say “my first memory of him is one of fear”
One day, I’ll be able to say out loud “I stayed because I did not know how to leave – I stayed because I did not have any energy to leave – I stayed because I thought he’d change – He told me as soon as he’ll get this or that he would – I believed him”
One day, to curious people, I’ll be able to say “he harassed me, he threatened me, he played with my emotions, he told me I was an easy girl, he said he would kill me if I was to leave him, he said all my writing was bullshit, he used my body for his own pleasure and accused me of torturing him when I would not agree with him”.
Today I can say:
You have no right to judge me. This is my choice. I am proud of my choice
How do you feel about domestic violence? Is it easy for you to talk about the “downs” of your life?
This is an original post written by Marie V. for World Moms Network
Last weekend I was away visiting some friends in the South of France. While we were talking about how hard it can be to raise kids, we realized that whatever we do, we’ll always have to face criticism, whether it is from family members, friends with kids or other parents around. People have an idea about everything. And when it comes to parenting or motherhood, they think that they must share what they think about this or that. Without even being asked to do so.
When it happens, we tend to feel like we are the worst mums ever. We’re not doing things the way we should do them. Others seem to know better. It’s very easy to get depressed, to cry and go straight to the first doctor we know to empty our hearts full of negativity and stress.
What if the others weren’t wrong, just different?
We all have our ideas on how we wish to raise our kids, what values we wish to pass on to them, on how well it feels for us to deliver a specific message. There are no rules, except the ones everybody knows, that say we have to take care of our kids and respect their needs, respect who they are and help them grow. The way we do it belongs to us. And most of the time we do the best we can with what we have, what we have been taught, what we have learnt on the way – what we feel inside our hearts.
In France nowadays we hear a lot about attachment parenting (éducation bienveillante). The idea is brilliant. But in reality, it’s not THAT easy to put into place. For some parents it’s fine and it works perfectly with their kids, for others it does not fit in their world. They can try for hours and days, without seeing any results. Does this mean they are bad parents? Does this mean others have the right to judge them and put a red sticker on their faces?
I don’t think so.
At the end of the day, we want the same thing: to raise happy, healthy and confident children. In order to do so, I think we ought to help each other and accept that one approach is not better than another one. When asked, we can share our ideas. When not, why create more mess in the head of parents who already feel overwhelmed by the task at hand?
How do you welcome negative criticism about the way you are raising your kids?
This is an original post for World Moms Network written by Marie Kleber in France.