Don’t Keep This Secret!

As many of us know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month but you may not be aware that it is also National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic abuse is often one of those things that we keep silent about because of a stigma that goes along with it.

Some just accept it as a normal part of life while others refuse to admit what is happening. It can happen to anyone regardless of race, gender, or social status. It can also happen in a variety of ways that we may not even be aware of.

Here is one story:

High School Sweethearts

There was a young girl who married her high school sweetheart. They were happily married for a while. Then after the second child came along things began to change.

She didn’t know what was going on but somehow she was always made to feel like it was her fault. His words were sharper than any knife and would cut her deeply time and time again.

She thought it was just a phase and things would get better. She never dreamed that this was abuse. Her childhood memories were full of awful images of what she defined as abuse.

Then one day it happened. He hit her. She packed a bag, grabbed the kids, and left. He came to find her and apologized. Things seemed better for a while.

Then when she was pregnant with their third child he came home drunk which had become the usual habit. He slapped her for no reason and belittled her to no end. She could do nothing but cry.

This happened over and over again. She felt helpless. She felt worthless. She felt alone. She didn’t know where she had went wrong or what she had done to deserve this.

The abuse continued and she began to think about leaving. She didn’t want to ‘give up’ on their marriage but she didn’t want to live like this for the rest of her life either.

Finally one day she had enough and once again she packed a bag, grabbed the kids, and she left with the traces of dignity she had left and plenty of bruises from their last interaction.

She had nowhere to go but a shelter. It wasn’t what she wanted but she knew she had to protect her little ones so she went.

Eventually they got a place of their own and started a new life with the help of others. Life was hard but it was so much better.

And another:

A Modern Day Fairytale

She was a single mom of four young kids. Two handsome boys and two beautiful girls that she was so proud of.

She had worked hard to get them where they were and she knew there was a lot of hard work to come. She was working nights and going to school by day to make a better future for her little family.

Then one day she met a man who swept her off her feet. At first she hadn’t thought much of his flirting but he grew on her and she finally accepted his dinner invitation.

He took her out and treated her to one of the nicest dinners she had ever had. He made her feel special in a way no one ever had before.

They had several more dates like this and then he met her family. They didn’t immediately hit it off but she shrugged off the uncomfortable feeling.

After several months he proposed to her and she gladly accepted. They made plans and shopped for a new house where they could blend their two families into one. A modern day family tale.

The signs of his need for complete control were there but it didn’t rear its head until after she had already committed to moving. One of the first signs was when she went to check on the progress of their new house and found that the color scheme had been completely changed without her knowing.

He had insisted on putting the house in his name because of issues from his first wife so she didn’t say anything about the change. It was his house. There more ‘little issues’ that came up as the house was finished.

She also had the opportunity to witness some of his temper when the workers had not done a task to his liking. She dismissed this as ‘new home stress’ and he justified it by saying he ‘just wanted it done right for the amount of money he was paying’.

When the house was almost completed she had contacted the dealer to set up the furniture delivery. She had carefully picked out and planned each room. It had taken many hours to look through the catalogs and she had made many compromises with her fiancé before the final choices were made.

She was shocked to learn that her fiancé had canceled the entire order and had taken that money from the budget to pay for a new garage. Once again he justified it and promised to get new furniture once they had moved in.

Moving in was becoming a bit worrisome but she had already given her notice and invested a lot of time, money, and energy into getting their new home ready. Plus the kids were so excited to have a brand new home and they didn’t mind not having new furniture. She thought things would get better once they got settled in.

Sadly things didn’t improve much at all. He would come home angry the majority of the time. He would drink and she suspected that he was possibly using drugs as his mother had questioned her about his behavior.

The house was never clean enough. Meals were never good enough. He always found something to complain about. Nothing was ever right in his eyes and he made sure she knew it. He began accusing her of having affairs even though there was no way she ever had time to even think of that.

Eventually the emotional and mental abuse turned into physical and he hit her. He threw her around like a rag doll and broke several things in the process. She called 911 and he was taken away.

She got a restraining order and moved out with the kids. He constantly called her despite the restraining order. His family begged her to drop the charges but she wouldn’t.

He was ordered to go to counseling and complete some anger management classes which he did, mostly. He apologized and seemed to have put the abusive tendencies away.

The kids begged to go back home as he had bought them some four wheelers, dirt bikes, and other toys. Eventually she gave in and returned. Things were good for a while until they weren’t.

There were some occasional ‘accidents’ like when he pulled her off the bed and broke her tailbone. He insisted that he hadn’t meant to hurt her but he had said that before too. There was another time when he gave her a ‘Chinese mud bath’ which resulted in a fractured spine but that was an accident as well.

A couple of years later things got worse almost overnight. He became obsessed with the notion that she was having an affair. He had convinced his family of this too and she was forced to endure an endless barrage of nasty phone calls from his mother.

During one of his episodes he broke the patio door by throwing a glass at it. During another he tore the bedroom door off its hinges.

Another time they had traveled out of state with a group of his coworkers. Everyone went to an amusement park to spend the day. He got upset about something he thought he overheard and he belittled her in front of all these people she barely knew and he walked away.

She felt embarrassed but tried to hold back the tears. She thought she would give him a bit of time to cool off and someone else offered to go talk to him. They returned and said they couldn’t find him.

He had left her and the kids at an amusement park miles and miles from home. To make matters even worse was that he had taken the back pack with all of the money and snacks.

A couple of his friends tried to cheer her up and encouraged her to try to enjoy the rest of the day with the kids and she did her best. They even bought dinner for the kids and offered to buy hers but she couldn’t eat. She was afraid of what would happen when they got back to the hotel or that he may have went back home and left them stranded.

He was at the hotel and that night was a tense one as were the weeks that followed.

She eventually convinced him to go to marriage counseling. He was convinced that the counselor was a quack after the first session but she continued to go.

Things continued to escalate as time went on. She felt as though she was always walking on egg shells at home. She would let the kids stay with friends whenever he was home.

The counselor told her she needed to leave but she held onto the hope that she would find the man she thought she had fallen in love with.

Then one night she awoke to find him watching her sleep. The look in his eyes terrified her. He got up and left without a word.

Then a few days later she found a box of ammunition for a gun she knew nothing about. When she mentioned this to the counselor he advised her to leave as quickly as possible.

She began making secret plans to leave and she hid the guns and ammunition to be safe. One night he came home extremely late. She was sleeping and suddenly she found herself being pulled out of bed and thrown against the wall. She hit her head on a picture and broke the glass.

The room was dark and she couldn’t see who was there. Then she felt her night gown being ripped off. She fought and ran through the house and somehow managed to grab a phone and dial 911.

The mystery attacker took the phone and hung up. The 911 operator called back but he refused to give her the phone. She realized who the mystery man was… it was her husband. The kids woke up and she told them to lock their doors.

The next few moments felt like an eternity and she felt terrified. She had never seen him so wild eyed and crazy.

She managed to get away again and barricaded herself in a bathroom with her back against the door and feet pushing on the tub with all her might as he kicked and pushed on the door. She thought about trying to escape out of the bathroom window but she didn’t dare leave the house while her kids were still in their rooms.

After a bit he calmed down and tried to convince her to come out and talk to him. She refused and then police arrived. He begged her to tell them it was all a misunderstanding but she wouldn’t.

The marks on her arms, the broken glass, and the turn clothes were evidence of the ‘misunderstanding ‘. Not too mention the path of destruction left behind from when she was running from her unknown attacker which made the nightmare all the more real.

She knew what she needed to do and with the help of friends and family she moved far away from him and his family.

Scary isn’t it?

You may think this couldn’t happen to you or anyone you know. I thought so too but those stories are my stories.

There are many more stories from those two relationships that could be told but I won’t do that today.

I grew up in a home where domestic violence was a ‘normal’ thing. I didn’t like it but I didn’t know that it wasn’t the way life was supposed to be. I just knew I didn’t want that when I grew up.

Unfortunately many children grow up witnessing this in their homes. It seems to be an increasing problem. I was in denial when it happened to me the first time.

The second time I was probably in denial a bit but I felt ashamed because I had ‘let it happen’ again. I wanted to believe he would change and I didn’t want to feel like a failure at marriage again.

In the end I paid dearly and I hate the fact that my kids witnessed some of it. I was able to hide a lot of it but they knew I wasn’t as happy as I had once been.

The stress of the whole ordeal took a toll on my health as well. I was a complete mess during the latter part of my second relationship.

Some people have said it was my fault. Others have said I was stupid for thinking either one of them would change. Maybe I’m a sucker for lost causes and I try to see the good in others while overlooking the bad

Maybe they are right in some ways but I know that I didn’t do anything to deserve to be treated the way I was treated. My kids didn’t deserve to be exposed to that either so when I had enough I found the strength to get out of those situations.

What is the saying? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result… I think that’s how it goes. Eventually I can to my senses and made the changes needed just like I know you can too, if you are in a bad situation.

It’s been over 8 years since I left that second relationship and I haven’t looked back. God has truly blessed me and given me more than I ever expected.

Looking back I know I should have left sooner but I can’t change that now. Those experiences made me the person I am today. They made stronger and have helped me find an inner strength I never I had.

Today I can honestly say I am in a much better place than I have ever been. I am surrounded by friends and family who truly love and support me. I have a beautiful family and a wonderful partner.

Don’t keep it a secret, get help now!

If you are experiencing anything in your relationship that you feel isn’t right I beg you to talk to someone. If you feel like you may be an abuser then talk to someone and get some help.

With the holidays just around the corner stress seems to build up. Many times we see an increase in domestic violence reports around the holidays. Please don’t be one of the statistics.

If you want to talk to someone now you call 1-866-331-9474 to speak with a trained peer advocate. You can also text “loveis” to 22522.

If you would like to show your support for National Domestic Violence Month you can wear a purple ribbon or make a donation to a local agency. I plan to wear my purple this Friday in honor of this cause.

Many times the shelters are in need of hygiene items, cleaning supplies, and other necessities. One of our clubs made Mother’s Day baskets for a local women’s shelter earlier this year. You may want to contact a shelter and ask how you can help.

Some of the things I greatly appreciated when I was ready to leave the shelter was the baskets of food that a family had donated with lots of kid friendly items. There was another basket of basic household supplies like toilet paper, paper towels, toiletries, and cleaning supplies.

Someone also donated coloring books, crayons, a few stuffed animals, and games. These helped to keep our minds occupied during some of our darker days and helped the kids transition. We had not been able to bring a lot with us as I could only fit so much in my car. When I went back later he had given away most of our belongings.

One generous couple had even paid my security deposit on our new apartment so I would have little money left in my pocket when we moved in. This came in handy as there were many things that we needed. I have tried to pay it forward as I can and I pray that God has blessed them for their kindness.

Note:

Please know that I haven’t shared these parts of my story for sympathy rather as examples so that others can know that I’ve been there and I know how completely and utterly helpless it can make you feel. I also hope that by sharing it can show someone else that there is hope and with help they can make a change in the lives.

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