When we moved to the shelter, we were told it was a violence-free zone. No violent tv shows, no violent videos and certainly no violence allowed between the families staying there. I figured this was to stop women who were victims of physical violence from being triggered, but it was more than that.
The place had a quiet about it. The fridge hummed and the tv babbled in the background. The doors opening and shutting echoed in the hallways. Even shared dinners with all the kids we spoke softly to one another. We were careful with our words. We were careful with each other. No one asked why the other one was there. There was a respect, an understanding.
I didn't realize how much living in an environment like this would affect how I lived my life for months to come. I had not expected this particular outcome: I became sensitive to violence again, in all of it's forms. In that I was able to recognize what is not acceptable because I knew now living without violence is possible. The contrast between nonviolent and violent behaviour became more distinct. I could point it out and say: No. This is not okay. I will not accept this in my life. It made drawing boundaries easier, it made enforcing them easier as well. I had a taste of the good life and anything else felt like hell.
Life got stressful, and because I was not taking proper care of myself, I allowed myself to fall back into a habit that I find is violent. I began to yell at my children again. For the first few months after leaving the shelter I didn't yell at all, we talked everything out and I found alternative/non-violent ways to get my children to pay attention. But here I was, in that pattern that seems easy at the time but leads to guilt and fear down the road.
One day I found myself yelling at my son after finding out he had lost his lunch bag, got in trouble at school, didn't finish his work and lost his pencils and erasers. Then I hugged him right afterwards and remembered how good that peace felt. I decided that once again we would be a violence free home.
Violence free doesn't mean stuffing down your anger. It means using coping techniques, but more so it means building your relationship with your family. Talk to them, find out what they are going through, play games with them, laugh and blow off steam that way. It gets easier as time goes on.
So, here's once again, a thank you to the Women's Shelter. Your support and positive influence continues to improve my family's life even to this day.