“When I was three years old, my mom, brother, and I moved into a new home with my dad. I had not known my dad for long before this move, and I was not sure what to think of the change. The nice man he had shown me before the move changed overnight. My home became a place I didn’t want to be, and was no longer safe.
My dad and mom would yell and fight. It was rarely quiet inside our home. I developed migraines at a young age, and the noise became that much more painful. My mom would cry, and my dad would yell louder. He called her awful names, and if I was around, he called me them too.
When my mom yelled back, he would hit her. When I tried to stop him from hurting her, he would leave her alone long enough to take his belt buckle to my bare behind, and then go back to hurting her. At night the sound of their fights would wake me up, and I would tiptoe out of my room to watch, to make sure he didn’t kill my mom. I had to be very quiet, because if he saw me, he would beat me for getting out of bed.
My mom found a new man and began cheating on my dad. When she was invited to live with him, she told my dad she was leaving him. It was then that he first threatened to kill her, and us. For the next five years, my dad stalked my mom, and broke into our house to try to gather evidence to prove she was unfit and have me taken away from her. We did not stop being on guard until we got the news that he died, even then the PTSD from the abuse and never knowing where he was, or what he was going to do kept us as his prisoner.
The new man my mom moved us in with was not a safe choice, and he began abusing us, and the pets. My mom was unable to find a safe partner, and continued with this type of abuse each time she found a new partner. Growing up in this kind of environment, I never learned what a healthy relationship looked like.
I found my own unsafe men, and continued the cycle. The only thing that helped me see the pattern I was stuck in was when I started to see my own worth. When I knew I didn’t have to tolerate the abuse, I started to break the generational cycle of domestic violence. My hope is that my children will know what love looks and feels like, and they will know when to walk away.
It doesn’t have to be how it always was. A new life can start with you.”
Thank you, Jessie, for sharing your story. I am glad you know that loved doesn’t hurt. I am glad you are safe.
Umbrella is the local Domestic Violence Advocacy Program, it is where my mom went for help with at least two of her partners in my lifetime, and where I went for two of my abusive relationships.
The thing about domestic violence, is that it can run in the family. The cycle of abuse is passed down the family lines, and for many, it becomes their normal. Places like Umbrella help break that cycle. They offer resources and support to help end the domestic violence. And, they do it without judgement.
The first time my mom took my brother and I to Umbrella, was when my dad threatened to kill us. It wasn’t when he left us in bloody bruises. It wasn’t when he forced sex on her. It wasn’t when he threw a television set at my then 11 year old brother, who had just lost his father. It wasn’t when he would snap his belt off and take the metal buckle to our bare bottoms. It wasn’t when his rage filled the house with screams, and swears, and terror. It was when he had a gun, and had a plan.
The advocates at Umbrella did not turn us away because my mom didn’t leave sooner. They didn’t turn us away because it was too scary. They gave us support, and connected us with the proper resources.
Seventeen years later, I raced to Umbrella, where my mom and sister were filling out a restraining order on my mom’s then husband. My sister had just disclosed her father had been sexually abusing her for the past seven years. That was what made my mom seek help. It wasn’t when I disclosed the sexual abuse that happened to me. It wasn’t when he called her worthless, fat or ugly. It wasn’t when he physically assaulted me. It wasn’t when he kicked our sweet, aging golden retriever. It was when the fear overpowered her. It was when the police arrested him at his work. Umbrella didn’t turn her away because he had done it to her other daughter. They didn’t make her feel bad for the times she didn’t walk away. They gave her and my sister a safe place, and helped them through the hard days.
When I was 19 and my ex-boyfriend who bought a gun just to kill me with if I left him started stalking me, they opened their doors to me. I couldn’t tell my family what was happening, because even with the history, they wouldn’t have supported me. The advocates at Umbrella were who I knew I could talk to, and be guided in the safe direction.
When my now ex-husband was arrested for chocking me, Umbrella advocates took my panicked call when I found out he was released in the late hours of the night. I couldn’t meet with anyone at that time, because I didn’t have anywhere for my kids to go, so we made a plan to meet in the morning. She made sure I was safe, and asked me to make sure my doors and windows were locked, and asked me to call back if I needed to get there before the morning.
The next morning, they welcomed me, and helped me complete the paperwork for the restraining order. They didn’t judge me because it took me so long to call the police. They didn’t make me feel like a bad mom because I hadn’t left sooner. They listened and offered compassion.
Three years after this, my youngest daughter disclosed to me that her dad had been sexually abusing her. After hearing her story, my first call was to Umbrella. The advocate listened through my tears and hyperventilating. She told me she had to call DCYF, and gave me the number to call as well. I went in the next day to fill out another restraining order. They did not send me away because I dropped the last order. They understood he had bullied me into telling the court I no longer felt afraid. They didn’t judge me because I let him manipulate and continue to abuse me, and my children. They gave me a safe place to get help when my world fell apart.
Over, and over again. Mistake, after mistake, they never withheld services to me, or my mom. They understood the layers of abuse, power, and control. They offered compassion, and support when I needed it most. They did not blame me, even when I blamed myself.
Often, the advocates see people in the most traumatic times in their lives. Fearing for their safety, and even their lives. Their gentle approach, and welcoming environment helped save my mom’s life, my life, and my children’s lives.
When I was asked to lead the candlelight vigil/moment of silence at the Walk for Justice, I didn’t hesitate. I knew I wanted to offer my support, and compassion, as they had done so many times for me, my family, and the community.
Below is a copy of what I said last night at the Walk for Justice:
Just a few years ago, the thought that I would be killed by my abuser took over most everything else. The reminder came each time another beautiful soul lost their life to violence. I was pulled into their story, grieving lives I never met, because that could have been me. Our stories are powerful, and we each have one-if not ours-someone we love. I vow to use my voice for those that lost theirs-or have not yet been able to find theirs. I invite you to share yours- as little- or as much as you are comfortable-to free yourself, and help others. Let our voices be the change that breaks the cycle and bring awareness. Let us be a light in the darkness, because as long as we keep talking, and advocating, we keep the spark of awareness lit. Tonight let us remember those taken too soon from us, hold a safe space for the ones that haven’t left yet, and solidarity for the ones who have.
If you or someone you love need help, please reach out to your local domestic violence support center. Please don’t feel ashamed because you’ve been there before. Please don’t stay in an unsafe situation because you don’t think they will understand. Please go. Please ask questions. Please read pamphlets if you’re not ready to talk. They will understand. They will not turn you away. They have heard and seen so much, and they have answers and listening ears. They have compassion, and most of all, they have hope.
If you or
someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, and you are ready for help,
please reach out to a domestic violence program in your area.
“I was so used to the constant abuse- the fights, the drinking, the name calling, hair pulling, black eyes, money stealing monotony of it all.. that I never thought anything would change, and that maybe.. just maybe I really was as “crazy” as he claimed.. Right up until the second the school called me- concerned (after some testing I had asked be done for my youngest son) that they believed he was suffering from PTSD.. due to being molested. I sent my children to my mother’s where they would be SAFE the very next day and had our abuser removed from our lives FOREVER. We have not seen him or heard from him in over 3 years… the active arrest warrant that I was notified about via the court system ensures that he while he may not have to face the full impact of his actions- My silence.. will NOT be the last thing he hears from me.”
Thank you, Sam, for sharing your story. I admire your strength and you desire to protect your children. Keep speaking your truth.
“Fear, anger, resentment, frustration, secrecy, feeling unclear, lying, deceit, these are a few feelings I had to deal with at a very young age. I became very good at pretending all was good. I felt like I was acting a part. I had become mother, housekeeper, cook, and defender of my younger siblings, also at a very young age. My biological parents separated and divorced. I do not know when, but I was told possibly why. Apparently she was cheating on him. The man she cheated on him with came in like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Who did so much damage. Drugs, alcohol, parties and physical abuse became common words that as I am older show a pattern of severe violence, abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse. They would go out drinking and leave us either alone or with anyone they could find; friend or stranger. The nights we would wake up to physical drunken fights. Several nights there were both naked and he would shove her into furniture or shove her to the floor. If we screamed or yelled, he would sometimes come beat us and threaten to do worse to all of us. He was hated in a few states for fraud regarding welfare and other agencies that people help. He drove drunk a lot of the time and they would use alcohol and drugs to get us to sleep so they could leave us in cars so they could go bar hopping and or find people to come back to wherever er were to have sex with them. These parties got loud and noisy but we learned to stay quiet and stay in bed. He started having his “special time” with me when I was about 4 or 5. Not sure, but I know where the house is that it began in. I was not sure as to what was going on but felt strange to have a “secret.” He told me that my mother know what he was doing, for all daddies teach little girls this. How to be able to show love to a man. I did not tell her due to he told me she knew, so I didn’t say anything to her. He said things would change as I grew older, and that he would be putting his penis in me to make me a woman. I still shut up with the belief she knew and this was normal. He enjoyed corporal punishment, it seemed.Very violent punishments, knees on broom handle, hit me with a hammer, physically hitting me across the face and body. I had bruises and injuries that I could not explain. Between the violence I endured, the physical, emotional, psychological and sexual abuse issues have stayed with me for years. Due to him and what he did to me, I had pelvic inflammatory disease that was is severe that it could not be fixed so I could not have kids. I have had several abusive relationships and allowed myself to be treated very badly, and abused verbally, emotionally, and psychologically because of what I thought I deserved and how I should be treated. They have both since passed away and my wounds are still deep and are healing very slowly.”
Thank you, Debby, for sharing your story. Debby’s story reminds us that what happens as a child can impact our entire life. It is the perfect storm for thinking you are not worthy of safety or love. Be easy on yourself, most of us have years of hurt to heal from.
As a child I grew up in a home full of abuse. My dad was physically, emotionally and sexually abusive to my mom. I remember waking up to the sound of their fighting and sneaking out of my room to watch, to make sure he didn’t kill her. He also threatened to kill my mom, brother, and me. The most fear I had ever experienced was when my mom finally left him. I keep my eyes open, looking over my shoulder every time I was outside, wondering when he was going to shoot me. I was six years old. As an adult, I repeated the cycle in my own home. My ex-husband started with psychological abuse, slowing killing my spirit, and taking any self-worth I had left away. He used my past to hold my hostage. The words turned physical for the first time when I was pregnant with my daughter. As I held my 20-month son, he put his hands around my neck and as he squeezed, he told us he was going to kill me and cut up my body and dump it in the river, saying, “No one would even notice you were missing.” Still holding my son, he pushed us to the ground and would not let us leave. He tried to get my son out of my arms, but my son would not let go of me as he screamed. This happened because he found out I was planning on leaving him. After this event, I felt that if I tried to leave again, we would have been killed. He said no one else would ever love me, and I was lucky he did. He took control of the finances, even though I earned the money, and made sure I did not have access to the things that I needed. He opened up credit cards in my name and maxed them out, so not only did I not have access to my money, I also did not have credit. He created a situation where I had to depend on him, and reminded me that I was nothing without him. As my self-esteem made its way to the surface, he would find ways to push it away. I had no real support system, and did not dare tell people what was happening. I was scared what else would happen if I told anyone. Through all of the abuse, I never called the police, not until he did. He called the police one afternoon and told them to arrest me for being a “whore.” When he did that, the police saw how dangerous he was. It was then that I knew they would believe me, and help me. The next time he put his hands on me, I called the police. He was arrested, and I was granted a protection order. He did violate that, and bullied me into dropping the order, telling me it was just a piece of paper and it wouldn’t protect me. I did what he told me, and suffered his abuse, control and manipulation even while the divorce proceeded on. We did not break free from his abuse fully until my youngest daughter disclosed to me that he had been sexually abusing her. Learning this made me fear for our lives. I was convinced he would kill me for trying to protect my daughter. We now have a protection order keeping him away from us, and allowing us to heal the years of abuse. I am happy to say I am happily married to a sweet, gentle man. Who, after six years together, has never called me a name other than Jessica. I know I am worth love and safety. I am teaching my children what love looks like, and what a healthy relationship is. I will do everything in my power to make the cycle of domestic violence end with me. I wrote a detailed, honest account of the abuse I survived in my memoir, The Monster That Ate My Mommy, to try to help others see that they are not alone. The link to my book is: http://a.co/72mQ7KJ
“When I was 17, I met him online and he asked me out over and over. I finally agreed to go, but I knew the first day he wasn’t for me. I found out he had schizophrenia & was no longer medicated. That night he insisted he would pick me up the next day. Half of me was worried I was judging and being mean, thinking “no thanks” and the other half was kinda worried what could happen if I said no. From that day he wanted to be with me every day. Within 2 wks he had already started yelling and blaming me for stupid things, but his roommate would stand up for me…but soon, I’d be on my own. We moved in to our own place 2 months after meeting. That’s when things really fell apart. He would get angry and throw scissors and knives at me, scream and swear, call me names, threaten me, and turn the whole apartment upside down. I was never allowed to go with my friends, he’d even get mad if I talked to my mom too much. One night I woke up to him standing over me in bed with a gun pointed at my face. He thought I was cheating and he was going to make it so nobody could have me. I was terrified & I was stuck there. My brother died tragically and my boyfriend was so mean to me because men he didn’t know would hug me, that my older brother had to tell him to leave the funeral home and not come back. Shortly after that, my family showed up and moved me out. I went back, he was mentally ill and threatening to kill himself…I just knew I could help him! After all, his family wouldn’t. His dad was a decent person, he was well off, but lived 4hrs away and had nothing much to do with us, and his mom was a drug addicted prostitute who only made life harder on everyone. Finally one day, I had enough and we broke up. He moved to his mothers. THEN… I found out I was pregnant. I decided to do the right thing and tell him…surely a baby would fix them all!!! Boy was I wrong!! At 19yrs old, living on half my heart, fighting to have my baby despite the doctors saying I would die and now having to put up with mother and son making every day hard. Him always screaming, even kicking the back of my chair and sending me flying. My son came in the world, we almost lost him as an infant..and I could see, I was on my own. I mostly let my boyfriend sleep in the daytime so my son and I would be ok. When he was awake he was always mad at us..or someone…or something. At one point my son was a baby, and my Ex was mad that my sister in laws family had more money then us and he lost it. He held me and my son at gun point. He wouldn’t let me out of the house and he wouldn’t even let me make a bottle for my son. He progressively got more out of control. The last straw was when he got mad at me, I don’t even know why and decided himself we were done. I thought I hit the jackpot…until he told me that I wasn’t moving on. In fact, I was going to die…and I could chose how. He could pour gas on me and set me on fire or he could hang me with a noose. I knew my son needed me, I knew I had to survive. I quickly started telling him how much I loved him and wanted him, it was my only option if I wanted to live through the night. It worked. The next day he left for work & I knew I had to take my chances if I wanted to live to see the next day, and I called my parents. They came and got us and we never looked back.
I swore I would never be treated badly again… I moved on, a couple years later I met the man of my dreams. He treated me and my son like royalty. I quickly was pregnant, just like he wanted but I had a lot of complications. I was hospitalized for 10weeks until my daughter was born. He took a leave from work and stayed by my side, for the entire time, hours away from our families. He would cry because he missed my son. He was perfect…until we took my daughter home and got engaged. Then the real him came out. He was so mean to me, but I convinced myself I could deal with it, I wanted a family for my kids and he was only mean to me…he wasn’t as bad as my ex so it would be ok. Until Good Friday, 2011. My dad was dying in the hospital…it was 5 weeks until our wedding, and my friends decided they wanted to get together at my house and see how was I was…little did I know, my world was about to crash. They showed up and asked me to sit. They called my son to the room and they told me that he had came to them while I was with my dad. He had bruises and had reported that my fiancé was hitting him…he had even punched him in the face! He was 8 years old!! He had thrown my 1yr old daughter at a wall…. she was his own blood!! The list would go on and my heart would shatter more. I called the police and he was arrested. My children haven’t seen him since, I will protect them with everything I have. I will never understand how two men who were so very different but both swore to love me, could be so abusive…how they could hurt me and my children. That’s not love. We didn’t deserve that. Thankfully, now our life is great. We have moved past that. My son is 16 and has spent the last 8yrs or so attending rallies and events to end domestic violence. He tells his story, he has no reason to be ashamed. My daughter has grown to know the man of my dreams as her Dad. I’m completely in love with a man who will drop everything for me, OUR kids, & my mother…he’s always there. I thought I wasn’t worthy of this type of love, but I know now that I am, it’s just too bad they didn’t know it. They are missing out on some extraordinary kids, and that’s their fault, not mine.”
Thank you, Jen, for sharing your story. I am so glad you found true happiness, and you and your children are safe and loved.