Many times when I walk down the street, through the mall, or see people in a store, I don’t see them: I look for sad expressions, bruises, sores, or even casts on their bodies from injuries. I never look at anyone without looking for injuries or trying to read their faces to see if they need help. Anyone who has been abused can look into someone’s eyes and without words know some truths. We may not know who or exactly how—but we know they have been or are being abused.
It is a strange world that survivors of abuse live in—we can see other’s pain yet we know they are afraid to talk because of the abuse, so now many of us won’t start conversations. Sometimes if we have a mutual friend we will get them to find out for us. If we stay behind the scenes we won’t get the person hurt—or so we think. Once we know the truth, we fear that our involvement will cause their abuser to hurt them even more—so we sometimes pull away a little more.
I feel that survivors who have spent some time healing are best equipped, emotionally, to talk to the person. They know how to protect themselves and how to make a plan to help the other person. To be of genuine assistance, you have to be calm and unemotional about the abuse. If you are emotional, angry or crying, then you cannot effectively help someone out of their situation. You must be level-headed and know what you are going to say. You also have to accept rejection if the person isn’t ready to get help. (However, I draw the line if there are children in the home. Being abused or not, living in an abusive environment is damaging to them and they need to be helped.)
It is hard for people being abused to admit it to anyone, even if they have visible marks and bruises. They will give every excuse in the book—I know, because my family did this most of the time. You just have to take your time, gain their trust, and promise them that you will not let on so they don’t get hurt even more. My mom was separated from friends and relatives early on in her abuse: my father knew to keep her isolated and he could abuse her and us kids with no one knowing. It wasn’t until 1978 or so that people started to realize that my household wasn’t normal and safe. My mom never would admit the abuse—even when my father spent a night in jail or co-workers came to the house to check on her when she called in sick—so I know how debilitating that fear of telling someone is.
If you read this blog and know of someone or feel someone is being abused, please show this to them. Maybe they will realize that they can leave the situation—the first step is trying to trust someone.
I, for one, want to help everyone—especially children—but know that I have my limitations. I have a hope and a dream that someday abuse will end. I hope through my blogs, my story and my fledgling program, Amnesty From Abuse, that I can reach someone and help them. My life is changing daily and my therapy is helping me so someday I will be out there and changing the way abuse is handled. I hope that someday we survivors can all experience a happy life, without fear.
Stacey M. Kananen
Advocate, Author, Abuse survivor
Co-founder of Amnesty for Abuse
Stacey Kananen’s father violently and sexually abused his entire family. He vanished in 1988 and 15 years later his wife went missing. Stacey’s brother had killed both parents. Stacey cooperated as a witness until he told police that she helped him with the crimes. She was arrested and her trial, which aired on CNN’s In Session, ended with a not guilty verdict after her attorney proved that she had been railroaded.
Now that her personal life is no longer private, Stacey is using her story to make waves. She and co-author Lisa Bonnice have signed a publishing deal with Berkley Books. They created the Amnesty for Abuse program to address the dynamic that stops families from asking for help: fear, shame and hopelessness. She states, “If a program like this existed during my childhood, both parents would be alive, my brother would not be in jail and my family would have been spared years of anguish and terror.”
Sink or Swim–the Stacey M. Kananen story (Berkley Books, 2012)
BBC Documentary: America’s Child Death Shame