My name is Hannah Hollander and today is my birthday. I am 24 years old and am in the process of taking my name back. Rather than hiding in shame and embarrassment, (which, trust me, I really want to do most days) today I’m muffing up the courage to tell you part of my story, but it’s really the story of countless women across the world. I recommend you take the time to read, because 1 in every 3 women have similar stories. It might be the story of your aunt, or your grandma, or the girl you sit next to in class, or the girl at the register when you buy your food. I recommend you read, because chances are we all have a part to play in someone’s life who’s story is similar to mine. Let’s do our part and help make this world a safer place.
“Why didn’t you call the police?”
“Ideally you would have reported the abuse after it happened.”
“Normally victims are scared of their abusers.”
“I don’t believe there are any grounds for divorce.”
“I would have fought back.”
“You got married really young. Did you see the signs before you were married?”
“Did you think about calling the police? Well, why didn’t you?”
I’ve heard a lot of responses over the last couple months. Most of which are positive, loving, and validating. But these are the responses that circle in my head, the ones my brain chooses to fixate on.
This first photo used to be one of my favorite from our wedding. I had worked out my arms for months because I was self conscious of them and I remember a friend telling me “Hannah, your arms look so good!”
Many people judged me for getting married young. I had a close mentor tell me that I had no clue what I was getting into. I had a friend who basically had an intervention with me. I had an aunt who told me, “You know, you don’t have to do this,” right after we were engaged. At the time I remember scoffing, thinking, “All it takes is commitment.”
Days after this first photo was taken I would hear the words "I want a divorce," for the first time, on our honeymoon. I would hear it countless times after that, but I was committed. This was the guy who treated me, told me how amazing I was, told me about the extravagant life he wanted to build together. It was the guy my parents and family fell in love with. It was the guy who said he wanted to provide for me, who wrote me long letters and sent flowers.
And after every curse, every name-call, every shove, I believed it would just get better. This wasn’t who he was, I believed. “Marriage is really hard,” I was told, “you just have to stick it through, it gets better.” And I was committed.
I was so committed I kept everything a secret, not wanting to taint his character. I suggested we get tattoo rings so he could no longer take it off and throw it when he was angry. I always chose to drive, just in case we got in an argument in the car. I went to counseling so that I could figure out how to contain his anger by using “I” statements and apologizing first. I painted the walls and doors he punched. I cleaned up the shards of the mirror he broke. I stopped asking him to do things. I stopped interrupting him. I let him tell the stories. I laughed when he made mean jokes about me because he was “just joking.”
I was committed. Divorce wasn’t an option for me.
For several months I’ve been angry.
Angry I was never educated on what abuse is.
Angry I hadn’t seen signs.
Angry that other relationships seemed to have no problems.
Angry that for three years I believed I wasn’t being abused, because “abused people end up in hospitals.”
Angry I didn’t own my worth sooner.
Angry I have four relatives that divorced their husbands over domestic violence, but was never told their stories until this past year.
But now I get it. No one wants to talk about the specifics of abuse because it feels like no one really wants to hear it. You watch their bodies tense up, their faces not knowing what expression to show. Most will end up saying “I’m sorry.” But then your gut reaction will be to say, “It’s okay,” when it really isn’t okay. And you’ll start to blame yourself by saying, “I was young, I was naïve, I should have seen the signs,” even though countless people will tell you, “This isn’t your fault.” You’ll begin to feel validated and strong. But then someone will respond in the worst way, like the lawyers who say, “Well, why didn’t you call the police?” And you question everything.
I don’t share this to slander him or pit others against him. Someday I know I’ll be able to forgive him for the three years I feel like he stole from my life, even though that day is not now. There also needs to be more accountability and avenues of healing for people who have been the oppressor, but that’s not what this post is about.
I’m not sharing this because I’m angry or as a “woe is me.” I’m honestly in a really great place now, surrounded by family and friends who are crazy supportive. I don’t need people to validate me anymore or tell me how brave I was for leaving (you’ll hear that a lot too). I have the support I need.
I only share this because I wish I knew back then what I know now. And if I can educate one woman on abuse, it will be worth it. After I left, I learned that 1 in 3 women will be victims of domestic violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime. ONE IN THREE. Many of whom will stay in these relationships for many years. It’s time to start educating our daughters on what abuse actually is.
If he calls you names like bitch and cunt, that’s not normal -- it’s abuse.
If he blames you for everything and is not taking responsibility for his own actions, that’s not normal -- it’s manipulation and abuse.
If he creates a “reality” where you’re the monster and he’s the victim, that’s not normal -- it’s manipulation and abuse.
If he repeatedly swears at you, or says he wants a divorce (or threatens to break up), that’s not normal -- it’s manipulation and abuse.
If he blocks you with his body, or pushes you, even if you aren’t hurt, that’s not normal -- it’s abuse.
If he spits on you, leaves you, or keeps you from leaving, punishes you in some way, punches walls, says he wants to kill you or kill himself, yells in your face, throws your clothes outside, makes messes you’re expected to clean up, THAT'S NOT NORMAL -- it’s manipulation and abuse.
I know now why women stay in these relationships. I know now why women keep their secrets and hide their bruises. I know now why women never press charges for sexual assault or don’t come forward for many years.
I know now why we don’t call the police.
The first step in my journey of freedom was texting the domestic violence hotline at 741-741. They were the ones who encouraged me to reach out and tell a friend, which turned into telling my parents, which led to leaving and finding safety, which led to choosing divorce (or rather, freedom).
If you are experiencing things like the above from your significant other, or any other thing that just doesn’t feel “right,” I encourage you to tell someone. Anyone. Even a stranger on the other end of a text message. If you’re keeping it a secret, it’s likely wrong and needs to stop. 741-741.
If someone reaches out to you and shares that their marriage or relationship is struggling, ask questions. Ask them if they ever feel unsafe. Ask them what it’s like during arguments. If it sounds sketchy, kindly ask them if they’ve ever thought about calling the police. Because if they are in an abusive situation, chances are they’ve thought about it, they’ll just likely never do it.
The second photo I took about 3 weeks after I left. I look at her face and it makes me feel hope. She was jobless, homeless, tired, and sad. But her hair looked good, so she decided to take a selfie.
There are days when the world seems gray. When it feels like it’s never going to end. When every little thing feels like a mountain even though I know in my head it’s insignificant. But on the day I took this photo, a friend told me, “Hannah, someday you’ll see the colors again,” and when I look at that photo, I believe it to be true.
If you feel moved (and for my birthday😊), I encourage you to donate a couple bucks to a non-profit in your local community that affects the lives of young women like me whose stories are similar to mine.
Love y’all so much. 💜
#SpeakYourTruth #BelieveWomen #DomesticAbuseAwareness
THANK YOU for sharing my story. I am so encouraged by the growing awareness. I have created a Facebook group so we can share encouragement and resources in recovering from abuse. Anyone is welcome to join. Please head over to Speak Your Truth and share your story with us.
The foreskin is an organ present on all mammals from birth (male and female, human and other mammals). It serves many important purposes, and is not 'just skin.' When the foreskin is lost to infant circumcision, there are at least 16 important functions that are lost, and likely more that we have yet to fully understand.
Frenar Band, or Ridged Band
The frenar band is a group of soft ridges near the junction of the inner and outer foreskin. This region is the primary erogenous zone of the intact male body. Loss of this delicate belt of densely innervated, sexually responsive tissue reduces the fullness and intensity of sexual response. [Source: Taylor, J. R. et al., "The Prepuce: Specialized Mucosa of the Penis and Its Loss to Circumcision," British Journal of Urology 77 (1996): 291-295.]
Mechanical Gliding Action
The foreskin's gliding action is a hallmark feature of the normal, natural, intact penis. This non-abrasive gliding of the penis in and out of its own shaft skin facilitates smooth, comfortable, pleasurable intercourse for both partners. Without this gliding action, the corona of the circumcised penis can function as a one-way valve, making artificial lubricants necessary for comfortable intercourse. [Source: P. M. Fleiss, MD, MPH, "The Case Against Circumcision," Mothering: The Magazine of Natural Family Living (Winter 1997): 36-45.]
Circumcision removes the most important sensory component of the foreskin - thousands of coiled fine-touch receptors called Meissner's corpuscles. Also lost are branches of the dorsal nerve, and 20,000+ specialized erotogenic nerve endings of several types. Together these detect subtle changes in motion and temperature, as well as fine gradations in texture. [Sources: 1. R. K. Winkelmann, "The Erogenous Zones: Their Nerve Supply and Its Significance," Proceedings of the Staff Meetings of the Mayo Clinic 34 (1959): 39-47. 2. R. K. Winkelmann, "The Cutaneous Innervation of Human Newborn Prepuce," Journal of Investigative Dermatology 26 (1956): 53-67.]
The frenulum is a highly erogenous V-shaped structure on the underside of the glans that tethers the foreskin. During circumcision it is frequently either amputated with the foreskin or severed, which destroys or diminishes its sexual and physiological functions. [Sources: 1. Cold, C, Taylor, J, "The Prepuce," BJU International 83, Suppl. 1, (1999): 34-44. 2. Kaplan, G.W., "Complications of Circumcision," Urologic Clinics of North America 10, 1983.]
Circumcision removes approximately half of this temperature-sensitive smooth muscle sheath, which lies between the outer layer of skin and the corpus cavernosa. [Source: Netter, F.H., "Atlas of Human Anatomy," Second Edition (Novartis, 1997): Plates 234, 329, 338, 354, 355.]
Components of the Immune System
The soft mucosa (inner foreskin) contains its own immunological defense system which produces plasma cells. These cells secrete immunoglobulin antibodies as well as antibacterial and antiviral proteins, including the pathogen killing enzyme lysozyme. [Sources: 1. A. Ahmed and A. W. Jones, "Apocrine Cystadenoma: A Report of Two Cases Occurring on the Prepuce," British Journal of Dermatology 81 (1969): 899-901. 2. P. J. Flower et al., "An Immunopathologic Study of the Bovine Prepuce," Veterinary Pathology 20 (1983):189-202.]
The loss of these vessels due to circumcision reduces the lymph flow within that part of the body's immune system. [Source: Netter, F.H., "Atlas of Human Anatomy," Second Edition (Novartis, 1997): plate 379.]
The presence of estrogen receptors within the foreskin has only recently been discovered. Their purpose is not yet understood and needs further study. [Source: R. Hausmann et al., "The Forensic Value of the Immunohistochemical Detection of Oestrogen Receptors in Vaginal Epithelium," International Journal of Legal Medicine 109 (1996): 10-30.]
These glands of the inner foreskin produce pheromones - nature's powerful, silent, invisible behavioral signals to potential sexual partners. The effect of their absence on human sexuality has never been studied. [Source: A. Ahmed and A. W. Jones, "Apocrine Cystadenoma: A Report of Two Cases Occurring on the Prepuce," British Journal of Dermatology 81 (1969): 899-901.]
The sebaceous glands may lubricate and moisturize the foreskin and glans, which is normally a protected internal organ. Not all men have sebaceous glands on their inner foreskin. [Source: A. B. Hyman and M. H. Brownstein, "Tyson's Glands: Ectopic Sebaceous Glands and Papillomatosis Penis," Archives of Dermatology 99 (1969): 31-37.]
These specialized epithelial cells are a component of the immune system in the penis. [Source: G. N. Weiss et al., "The Distribution and Density of Langerhans Cells in the Human Prepuce: Site of a Diminished Immune Response?" Israel Journal of Medical Sciences 29 (1993): 42-43.]
Natural Glans Coloration
The natural coloration of the glans and inner foreskin (usually hidden and only visible to others when sexually aroused) is considerably more intense than the permanently exposed and keratinized coloration of a circumcised penis. The socio-biological function of this visual stimulus has never been studied.
The glans ranges from pink to red to dark purple among intact men with light skin tone, and from pinkish to mahagony to dark brown among men with dark skin tone. If circumcision is performed on an infant or young boy, the connective tissue which protectively fuses the foreskin and glans together is ripped apart. This leaves the glans raw and subject to infection, scarring, pitting, shrinkage, and eventual discoloration. Over a period of years the glans becomes keratinized, adding additional layers of tissue in order to adequately protect itself, which further contributes to discoloration. Many restoring men report dramatic changes in glans color and appearance, and that these changes closely mirror the natural coloration and smooth, glossy appearance of the glans seen in intact men.
[Source: P. M. Fleiss, MD, MPH, "The Case Against Circumcision," Mothering: The Magazine of Natural Family Living (Winter 1997): 36-45.]
Length and Circumference
Circumcision removes some of the length and girth of the penis - its double-layered wrapping of loose, and usually longer, tissue is removed. A circumcised penis is truncated and thinner than it would have been if left intact. [Source: R. D. Talarico and J. E. Jasaitis, "Concealed Penis: A Complication of Neonatal Circumcision," Journal of Urology 110 (1973): 732-733.]
Several feet of blood vessels, including the frenular artery and branches of the dorsal artery, are removed in circumcision. The loss of this rich vascularization interrupts normal blood flow to the shaft and glans of the penis, damaging the natural function of the penis and altering its development. [Sources: 1. H. C. Bazett et al., "Depth, Distribution and Probable Identification in the Prepuce of Sensory End-Organs Concerned in Sensations of Temperature and Touch; Thermometric Conductivity," Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 27 (1932): 489-517. 2. Netter, F.H., "Atlas of Human Anatomy," Second Edition (Novartis, 1997): plates 238, 239.]
The terminal branch of the pudendal nerve connects to the skin of the penis, the prepuce, the corpora cavernosa, and the glans. Destruction of these nerves is a rare but devastating complication of circumcision. If cut during circumcision, the top two-thirds of the penis will be almost completely without sensation. [Sources: 1. Agur, A.M.R. ed., "Grant's Atlas of Anatomy," Ninth Edition (Williams and Wilkins, 1991): 188-190. 2. Netter, F.H., "Atlas of Human Anatomy," Second Edition (Novartis, 1997): plate 380, 387.]
16+ Other Losses:
Circumcision performed during infancy disrupts the bonding process between child and mother. There are indications that the innate sense of trust in intimate human contact is inhibited or lost. It can also have significant adverse effects on neurological development and cause a host of problems with breastfeeding and attachment development.
Additionally, an infant's self-confidence and hardiness is diminished by forcing the newborn victim into a defensive psychological state of "learned helplessness" or "acquired passivity" to cope with the excruciating pain which he can neither fight nor flee.
The trauma of this early pain lowers a circumcised boy's pain threshold below that of intact boys and girls. This has been proven in a study during vaccination time. [Sources: 1. R. Goldman, Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma (Boston: Vanguard Publications, 1997), 139-175. 2. A. Taddio et al., "Effect of Neonatal Circumcision on Pain Responses during Vaccination in Boys," Lancet 345 (1995): 291-292.]
Every year some boys lose their entire penises from circumcision accidents and infections. They are then "sexually reassigned" by castration and transgender surgery, and are expected to live their lives as females. [Sources: 1. J. P. Gearhart and J. A. Rock, "Total Ablation of the Penis after Circumcision with Electrocautery: A Method of Management and Long-Term Followup," Journal of Urology 142 (1989):799-801. 2. M. Diamond and H. K. Sigmundson, "Sex Reassignment at Birth: Long-Term Review and Clinical Implications," Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 151 (1997): 298-304.]
Every year many boys in the United States and elsewhere lose their lives as a result of circumcision - a fact that is routinely ignored or obscured. More U.S. born boys in the neonatal period of infancy die as the result of circumcision complications than from SIDS, car accidents, crib accidents, suffocation or choking. [Sources: 1. G. W. Kaplan, "Complications of Circumcision," Urologic Clinics of North America 10 (1983): 543-549. 2. R. S. Thompson, "Routine Circumcision in the Newborn: An Opposing View," Journal of Family Practice 31 (1990): 189-196.
The human foreskin represents 1/3 to 1/2 the complete penis at birth and in early childhood, and plays an important part in normal sexual functioning in adulthood.