What does abuse against women really mean?
From domestic violence, to sexual assault, child abuse, to human trafficking, it all falls under the umbrella of abuse against women, albeit this can happen to any gender alike.
What is domestic abuse?
Domestic Abuse is defined by the United Nations as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone.
This month at Modern Match lingerie we've opened up our blog to share the stories of women who've survived abuse, have overcome it and continue to, and are working hard at making the world a better place.
Our first interview is with someone you may know from previous blogs, or the Bra Bra Sisterhood by Modern Match, Tanya-Marie Dubé. She’s been a guest blogger for us before and always has a wealth of information and wisdom to share with us. This time, however, she is sharing her story with us about her experience surviving child abuse, domestic abuse, and how she pushed through although the odds were not in her favour.
Tanya was born into the foster care system, living in 8 different homes by the age of 2. She was homeless on and off for six years from the age of 12-18, she is now a show host, motivational speaker, published author, online educator and is a trained Results Life Coach, she is also certified as an Advanced Belief Clearing Practitioner.
MM: Hey Tanya, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to interview you! We know this can be a difficult topic to be open about so we really appreciate you opening up and being vulnerable with our community. Why don’t you start off by telling us a bit about yourself.
Tanya: Hi! My name is Tanya-Marie Dubé and I am a money mindset and personal development coach for women entrepreneurs and I hold a monthly sales playground where I teach kick ass sales skills and then we get to practice on each other before we get in front of clients. It’s fun to get outside your comfort zone where you know you are there to learn and make mistakes and grow among friends. It goes waaaaay deeper than that, but we’ll get to that in this interview as we go on.
An interesting thing about me…I am a huge criminal law nerd. I love psychology, too, and have been studying since I was 16-17 years old. My absolute favourite thing in the whole world is a Philly cheesesteak sandwich with truffle and duck fat au jus, even though I am mostly vegetarian and I try to not even look at bread because I gain weight. I’m very picky about this sandwich so I don’t have it often. I’ve had a handful in my entire life. My current favourite Netflix show is House of Cards.
MM: Bread is my favourite comfort food, so no judgement here! Thank you for sharing. Let’s get right into things, when did you realize you were in an abusive relationship and what did you do? When did you get the courage to leave the situation or ask for help in leaving?–What advice would you give someone in a similar situation?
Tanya: When I was a little girl, I witnessed my mother being hit by men a couple of times. I saw her take it, too, so it was normalized in her home. I grew up in foster care so my time with my bio mom was limited to odd weekends here and there. I went on to have a string of bad relationships that were very painful emotionally and psychologically, which were worse than the ones that I had to endure in the physical way.
The absolute worst physically abusive relationship I was in, hands down, was at the hands of my mother and my stepfather when I was sent to live with her full time at 10 years old. By the time I was 12, she had beaten me so badly, I thought she broke my nose off of the downstairs bathroom sink. I picked myself up off the floor, I was covered in blood, and I walked through the house and past her where she was sitting on the couch with my baby sister on her lap. I went upstairs and took the $18 I had hidden in my mattress and I went back downstairs.
My mother was dressing my sister, putting on her socks, and I stood at the front door about six feet from her staring outside. I was thinking about how I would take my baby sister and run away when my mother left for her appointment. She must have read my mind because she told me as I was staring outside that if I was thinking of running away with my sister, she would find me and kill me. I don’t know what got into me, but I opened the door and I just started running.
My mother came bursting out of the house and was screaming at me, chasing me down the street, and I just kept running and running for ten blocks until I got to my school and then hid under the bench in the enclosed bus stop. I don’t know how long I stayed there but I think it was a couple of hours, crying and crying. I was terrified of her finding me.
Eventually, I went across the street to an elderly woman’s house and asked to use her phone. She was horrified at the way I looked. She asked if she could call my parents or the police and I said no, and thank you. I called my best friend at the time and her mother got on the phone and told me where to meet them. From there, I was living on and off the street for six years, until I was 18.
MM: That sounds so scary. I appreciate you sharing that with us. Did being in a relationship with someone abusive change who you are, if so how?
Tanya: I learned that I needed to become the kind of person who was willing to learn anything and everything that I could so that I could be the best version of myself in the face of any adversity. I needed to know that I could rely on myself completely and that’s why I needed to push myself.
It’s why I started studying psychology. I actually got the idea to study psychology through my guidance counsellor as I was exiting school in grade 10, so that I could support myself. He begged me to take this university level textbook and study it. He wasn’t happy about me leaving but understood that I needed to take care of myself. I was a straight A student and he had big plans for me and was worried that I would end up on drugs or worse. I didn’t want to study psychology because I was raised in the system and was subject to so many psychological tests and was poked and prodded my entire childhood, but something inside me said to take it, and I did.
I also needed to learn about human behaviour and personality disorders so that I could understand my mother and not internalize what she had become or what she was doing to me. It took me a long time to get my head around that last part. Mindset and personal development are ongoing studies in life. And if we can look at our experiences and see that every single thing that happens to us is there as a lesson for current or future use, and not make it about us as people, then we start to see where we can be truly useful to others.
The more I know, the more I can help. The more I go through, the more confidence I get and the more I can push myself to be better, greater. The more I can stand out as an authority, and as someone who can lead because of those experiences and lessons, the more people I can intersect with and show that we aren’t where we come from. That we are unique because of what we’ve individually gone through and we can have the life we truly desire, in spite of and despite having been held down or having someone try to continuously break our spirit. We are who we choose to be in the face of our adversity, and we get to decide how we want to show up and how we want to be seen and what we’re going to stand for.
When I was younger, I was very afraid of people finding these things out about me: that my mother was beating me up all the time and that she married a paedophile for a husband.
I thought, all the time, that if my own mother could treat me that way, that that must have meant that I was utterly useless and that my life meant nothing. That I was a bad kid. That I must have deserved it. How wrong was I? I thought that branded me for life and that nobody would ever want to have anything to do with me, so it made me into a people pleaser and I felt beaten up by myself every single day of my life.
That way of thinking led me into so many relationships I wish I hadn’t needed, but even still, those relationships had to happen so that I would get the lesson. These things we go through are life altering and they shape us to allow us to see that we are intrinsically powerful. I carried all that weight on my back, in my heart, in my head for a few decades of my life and all of it couldn’t have been further from the truth.
This is the secret: it doesn’t matter who does what to you, or where you’ve come from. You are here for a reason and that has nothing to do with who your mother or father or anyone is in this physical world. Soulfully speaking, your soul has no gender, and it doesn’t have a mother named Irene or a stepfather named Gary. Your soul is light and energy, and you are here to fulfil your destiny, your purpose. Every single one of your experiences has been designed to show you who you are and what you are capable of doing. They’re not meant to hold you down and keep you stuck in chapter two of your book. These things you’ve endured are the very essence of what you’re here to do.
Sometimes finding out our purpose and realizing it’s not what we thought it was going to be or it isn’t wrapped in the package we thought it should come in can be daunting. I had to accept that I was here to help others get through their own journey so they can truly become who they are meant to become with full confidence and intention. I had to be okay with my past and what had happened to me in order to do that. But remember that I hid from it for so long that I didn’t know where I began or my people pleasing ways ended. I had created a persona that I was living through, just to get by without breaking down; naturally I had to accept that who I thought I was, wasn’t actually who I was at all. There was a great deal of unlearning there.
We are chosen people. We’ve been given all of these tools for a reason. It’s because we can have the most impact, we can make the biggest difference. We can handle it. That’s a big lesson, right there.
MM: That’s really beautiful–what you said about finding out our purpose…and it not being “wrapped” in the packaging you thought it would be in, it's so true. How did you end up getting away from your mom, or did you?
Tanya: Eventually, I had to stand up to her and make the stand to distance myself from her completely so that I could be free, but I wasn’t really free of her until she died when I was 27. She called me out of the blue one day and told me that she found a lump in her chest. Two years later she passed away. There was some closure there for me when I was called by one of her best friends to come out to where she lived and take care of her while she was in her last stage.
I don’t think anyone knew that was her last stage, but while I was there, my stepfather refused to take care of her, dropped her off at a hospital and refused to pay the extra money that insurance wouldn’t cover to get her into a facility where she could get the help she needed. She had dementia at the time and her body was wrecked from chemo, third degree burns on her back in the shape of angel wings from the radiation. She was in and out of awareness. I had made the decision to take care of her the way she never took care of me.
I fed her, bathed her, read to her. She told me wild stories from her imagination, and I thought “…wow, my mother could have been a writer”, several times. It was hard at first to take care of her, but I made the choice to do it and to do it well. I got her into the care facility, brushed her hair with my fingers and kissed her forehead and watched them wheel her away.
Three weeks later she died. I understood in those last moments at the facility with her that she was just a person, like me, trying to figure it all out. She was in a lot of pain from her own childhood and life and that she had no idea what she was doing. Every decision she ever made came from fear. From that moment on I learned to think of her differently and to see the struggle that each one of us faces as we find our place in this world.
MM: You are amazing, to understand and forgive…it’s just so beautiful. What was the aftermath?
Tanya: I left thinking about how I never wanted to live that way, that to live in fear instead of learning to trust myself and my inner guidance (my intuition) was going to get me where it got her. And I just didn’t want that for myself. I kept thinking, “it all can’t be for nothing. Make it count!” So I choose to do the things that scare me.
I choose to be the person who reads all the time so that I can have an informed opinion and so that I can be useful. It’s shocking how many people I’ve met in my life who need to know something I’ve just read or the lesson from something I’ve gone through at any point in my life. It all shows me that we are here to help one another. I choose to be the kind of mother who is raising healthy adults. I knew that this way of living on my mother’s side of the family had to end with me.
MM: That mindset shift, it’s honestly so incredible, and I think shows so much strength. How did you reclaim your power?
Tanya: You know…it’s funny. I have always been drawn to the business world and while I was in sales, I started to see the way men did things differently from the way women did things and I kept seeing a pattern of waiting to be picked, or waiting to be asked, and I thought…why? Why do we do that as women? Why do we “behave” and wait to be picked when men just throw their ideas out there? Why do we ask for permission or constantly apologize for interrupting?
I’m not talking about manners, here, but the lack of support in encouraging women to stand up strong, be proud and unapologetic and just say what we want? That’s who I am now. I am bold and strong and fierce and loving – I’m all the things because I’ve worked hard at it. I was told a million ways from Sunday that I was too aggressive, too ambitious, too driven, too masculine (love that one), too mouthy, too opinionated. So, they became things I was ashamed of.
God forbid I should be courageous and ambitious – what would they think of me?! These are not things to be ashamed of. They are things to be in pursuit of. I started seeing men get favoured over women constantly and I had enough. I thought, “I’m going to start doing that.” I pulled a Constanza: everything I was used to doing, I just did the opposite. I earned my seat at the table, and I was going to stay there and the more I saw men’s feathers get ruffled at what I had to say or the way that I did things, the more I knew that I was hitting on something big for me. I was standing in my power. How this connects to my mother: she put me on the street at a very young age, so I had to learn to observe and do what worked, not be afraid to try things, to be brave enough and bold enough to say what I wanted, to not get what I wanted and to get right back up and try again.
I’ve learned that the word “no” just means “not right now”. I’ve also had to come to terms with the fact that not everything is meant for me the moment I want it. To find peace and love within myself instead of looking for it outside myself. Knowing that whatever anyone thinks about me couldn’t possibly hurt me more than the things I’ve thought about myself. Also knowing that what other people think about me is not my business. I lived for a very long time in the shadow of my mother because of what she thought about me. Those days are done. These things have all contributed to me becoming the woman I am now, and walking in the path of the woman I’m yet to become.
MM: Girl, this is so inspiring. I love all of this. What is one piece of advice that you’d give women in abusive relationships?
Tanya: Understand that we normalize domestic violence but that doesn’t make it okay. We want to believe in the best part of the people we love. We feel all kinds of guilt and shame for what is going on and guilt and shame for the person we love. We know they can do better. We said we would stick it out no matter what, so we do. Also know that you are going to have to sit down and really assess your life. I mean, we know it’s not okay that we’re being treated badly, talked to badly, hit, pushed around, lied to, dealing with infidelity. But we normalize it because that’s what we’ve allowed for our lives.
Often we stay in abusive relationships with intimate partners because of the ways we were treated when we were little. My mother was narcissistic and so was my stepfather. Is it any wonder I developed mad people pleasing skills to cope and keep the peace and find narcissists to be in relationships with? It’s what was normal – I knew what to expect.
I had to closely look at all parts of my early life to figure out who I really was and what I wanted to become. I had to find a way to decide what kind of woman I wanted to be and then seek her out and make a list of all the characteristics and attributes that I could in one column and write down my own in the other. When I cross referenced them and crossed out the similarities (the things I already had that she had), whatever was left in her column were the things I knew I needed to focus on, so I did. I believed I was those things and took every opportunity to act that way until it was actually who I was.
It’s hard when you’re living with your abuser – I had many violent boyfriends and one that I had to get a restraining order against – it’s hard when they’re right there. They will cut you down, make you feel shame and guilt for trying to better yourself, they’ll remind you how horrible they think you are, and they’ll tell you can’t do it. Some will even go so far as to make sure you don’t have the time to better yourself or you’ll pay in other ways. Whatever your situation is, know that where there’s a will, there’s a way and you can make it happen. It might take some time, but you can. Let it be a lesson in patience and tenacity, persistency. It’s ridiculously powerful to imagine what your life can be like in one year and then believing that you can make it a reality.
You must see yourself living the life you want to live, and then you have to go for it in whatever way you can. I lived under trees, in church bathrooms, in closets, under beds, in cars, other people’s couches. That was my life and at the time I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from or if I was going to have a place to sleep that night, or if someone was going to steal me. I did all of that at 12 years old and I got myself out of it by sticking to the vision of myself succeeding and thriving and committing to my growth, my mindset, strength and my personal development. It took me 6 years! But I did it.
I became obsessed with learning everything I could and was in the library all the time. When I left my awful marriage of 18 years in 2016, I had to start over with two kids, no job and no idea what life had to offer me but I sure as hell knew that it had to be better than what I was going through in that home.
I had the confidence to get myself back on my feet because I’ve done it before. And if I would have caved all those times that life kicked me around the way it did, then I wouldn’t have the strength that I have now. I wouldn’t have the confidence to know that everything will be okay because it always is. I couldn’t allow my kids to see me being mistreated in any relationship, so the choice for me was easy. Remember that everything always works out. You must be brave enough to set the stage, make a plan, and then stand up for what you want, take the leap and never look back. The moment you make the decision, let that shift inside you and cross over because once you cross over and you know your worth, you’ll never go back to that.
MM: Wow, just wow. Thank you for sharing that with us, Tanya. I have one last question for you. If you could speak to your 13-year-old self, what would you tell her?
Tanya: I had to stop and think about this for a moment because at 13 I had a lot going on. A lot of survival stuff. But I needed to go through it all because it was literally what shaped me. It’s so sad, some of it, when I think about what that little girl had to go through. You know, it was my decision to leave the foster home and go live with my mother and I had to forgive myself for that. I mean, that was like a knife in my heart because I felt like I had done something really bad to my life by making that decision.
My foster father died the year after I left, and I still have never had a worse broken heart to this day. If you would have asked me at 20 what I would change about my life, I would have said that moment when I made that decision. But now…gosh, now I look back and I think, wow…I needed to go through all those things because since those things started, I have helped hundreds and hundreds of people before I left my marriage in 2016 and after I started my business, I helped thousands and thousands.
In my life, I’ve been told that I have saved people from suicide (that really rocked my world and taught me about the power of owning our experiences and doing something with them), I have been told that without the words they heard about my life, they never knew they could think this way or that and that they didn’t ever think they had a real chance. I have heard a lot of things, but I have to say the biggest impact – the most powerful thing I think that I have ever heard was my daughter and my son thanking me for pulling through and being the woman, I am today. You got this. Whatever you’re going through, it’s possible for you. You just have to start with the belief that you can have it because you can.
Tanya-Marie Dubé - Born into the foster care system, living in eight homes by the age of two years old, and homeless on and off for six years from 12-18 years old, Tanya-Marie Dubé is a show host, a motivational speaker, published author and online educator. She feels called to use her extensive experiences in life and business to teach ambitious women and men entrepreneurs to stand in their power and reclaim their lives through radical money mindset shifts and personal development skills that help them overcome the hardships that have held them back all their lives. Tanya-Marie is trained and as a Results Life Coach with Tony Robbins' school Robbins-Madanes, and is certified as an Advanced Belief Clearing Practitioner. She has been coaching for 29 years with an educational background in psychology.
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