An Open Letter to All the Super Women: 5 Insights On Abuse And The Strengths It Taught Me.

The various degrees of abuse I had faced rattled my foundation, but it also revealed to me the strength I had and the potential that had been buried deep down inside me. As a young woman with a thirst for adventure, I had no concept of the abuse I would come to experience. I was a scrawny fourteen-year-old, exhaling smoke out of my second-story bedroom window and counting constellations in the sky. My creative and intuitive nature had me staring up at the stars late at night and fantasizing about a world of my own design. One evening, as I watched XENA the Warrior Princess, the sky glowed in shades of pink and violet, dotted with streaks of orange. The grey metal wall in my backyard shimmered like a piece of silver jewelry, and as I took a final drag from my cigarette, my bangs tickling my face, I felt so alive. I wanted to explore far-flung lands like the mythical superwoman and battle the villains that challenged her. But while I did get to travel, I saw things that I had never before believed possible—and uncovered inner courage that I thought only superheroines like XENA possessed. Here are my following insights: 


A larger pattern is at work.

Mistreatment of any kind is often historical. As a child who suffered both emotional and physical abuse, I had been accustomed to believing that a situation like this was acceptable. This attitude followed me into my adulthood, allowing me to stay in relationships that extended far beyond emotional and physical boundaries. I had been inexplicably attracted to difficult workplaces, starting out as a shot in a nightclub, mastering the art of de-escalating arguments, then traveling to Syria in the midst of their civil war to work as a journalist. Through these experiences, I developed a unique set of abilities—I was able to use my words to persuade, manipulate and influence those around me. I had a knack for commandeering attention and redirecting it. This ability ultimately saved my life, helping me escape from dangerous situations like getting mugged or escaping attempted kidnappings. 

A practice in creativity is a tool.

Adversity can spark creativity.  I had a frightening experience with a stranger on a golf course who had been following me while I had been walking around, with headphones, and dancing, just enjoying the evening sun one afternoon. I had a mere fifteen minutes to get to safety. Realizing that I was at an increased risk of abuse as a woman, I chose to cope by engaging in creative activities and games instead of fighting against the person targeting me. We talked and laughed together, even taking a selfie. Later, I reported him to the police, giving them his number and photo. After they found out that this man had caused disturbance multiple times on the golf course, he was arrested. This experience taught me to stay calm and find a way to buy time and ensure my safety. I devised a plan to satisfy his need for affection without putting myself in danger. Now, I’m not suggesting this will work every time. However, I firmly believe that every human being is entitled to love and compassion, and through tenderness, you can often get out of hostile situations safely

Active listening as a way out.

Bad intentions and behaviors invalidate listening.  I had a family member who said they wanted me to listen but would never reciprocate when it was my turn to talk. It was a struggle, as I had grown up in the bustling city of New York, which honed the strength of my personality. My family was full of healers, educators, writers, and engineers; speaking up and challenging authority were things I was raised to do. Not until I worked for a spiritual leader did I learn the power of active listening. By the age of 35, I had learned to actively repeat what was said word for word. This simple practice had two profound impacts: reinforcing the spoken words and serving as an additional set of ears. It taught me the art of building trust and rapport between people through effective communication. This newfound knowledge provided me with a path out of a dark place, serving as a guiding light for a new direction and my motivation to make a change. With this technique, I was able to distinguish between abuse and nurturing, how to recognize the signs, and navigate both my own traumas and what lies beneath the surface of an abuser.

Restraint in exerting power is powerful.

Misconduct and misdeeds are often used to demonstrate one’s dominance. My business partner and I had been in competition for control of the company. We were both shareholders in a 50/50 split and we both were responsible for the direction of the company and the management of assets. He opposed me on every decision, no matter how rational or creative. I eventually quit, but he retaliated by locking me out of my emails and changing passwords to my bank accounts. Fortunately, with the help of a lawyer who provided pro bono services, I was able to legally protect myself from any potential liabilities. When it came time for me to threaten him if he did not sign the legal documents, I wanted to damage his reputation both online and offline. But at that moment something extraordinary happened—I chose to show him mercy instead of actively destroying him as he had done to me. I realized that exercising self-restraint instead of using my control over him was the better choice. His attempt to get power ruined his mind, soul, and body along with the well-being of our firm. My commitment to self-restraint not only kept me whole but also maintained my professional standing.

Choice is a step to freedom.

Abuse of any kind is a choice, except when a victim is a child with limited physical or cognitive abilities. At some point, the child must choose to respond, and arrive at a conclusion. To make this decision, I had to gather evidence, analyze it, observe it, and accept both facts and fantasies. Sometimes discerning between the two takes time. Like every other victim, I had to cope with denial, guilt, shame, and other self-destructive behaviors like substance use. I had to go through the motions; go underwater before coming up for air.  I had been on a difficult journey and from that experience, I became conscious of the significance of choice. I taught myself to make up my own mind rather than to rely on another’s opinion when arguments were not useful. I worked out how to be self-assured when I had no power to fight the person who was mistreating me. I understood that I should not make choices from a place of frailty, but rather form decisions from an internal position of strength. I discovered that meditation was a way to gain tranquility and ultimately discover my harmony. Consequently, choices became a means for me to acquire liberty and an opportunity to find peace. 

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Alice Hlidkova is a copywriter and blog curator at Women World.