“I wanted to help him see the good qualities in him that I saw. I tried to save him, to rescue him and I guess to change him. It was much easier to rescue other people than to deal with the horrors of my childhood trauma. The relationship started great he had quit smoking, landed a great job, and was looking into volunteer firefighting. We moved into our place five months into the relationship when I was three months pregnant. It was an exciting time but also an eye-opening time. He would say degrading remarks about my family and me. I felt isolated and alone. We were leaving our last parenting class and he asked where we were going, I responded straight. That was the wrong answer; he said: “I’m going to crash this jeep into the back end of those cars.” The day before our baby shower, he asked if I wanted to end up like the woman in town who was found murdered by her husband in their backyard. I was so afraid he would kill me after our son was born, but I had no one to talk to. The birth of our son was traumatic and took a toll on my physical and mental health. I struggled with postpartum anxiety and depression. I was suicidal, and he “If you want to kill yourself, go ahead the baby, and I are going for a walk.” When I finally did reach out for help at my six-week postpartum appointment, the lady from the crisis unit said she wanted me to get better and realize my worth so I would be strong enough to leave. I was still in denial that I was in an abusive relationship; I would make up excuses for him. The final straw was when I was in the car on the highway pumping milk for our son; he asked if I had anything to cover up with, I said I didn’t, but no one could see anything. He said, “I’m going to slam your head against the dashboard to knock you out.” A month and a half after that incident, I was in a domestic violence shelter getting the much-needed education and support.”
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 have come to the point in my domestic violence story where I no longer give much thought to how awful those years were, how hard it was just to get by day to day, how scared I was, or how exhausted I was all the time never knowing what was going to happen next. I could list example after example from my different abusive relationships, but the details aren’t particularly unique.
Any physical bruise I picked up along the way has long since healed. It’s the effects of the emotional and verbal abuse that lingered. It took longer than I expected for the phrases “I’ll leave you in a puddle of blood,” and “Don’t open your mouth or I’ll burn you,” to stop dominating my brain space.
Friends, counselors, even acquaintances who were willing to listen all played a role in my ability to move forward from being a domestic violence victim to a domestic violence survivor to now not really identifying with that part of my story much at all. It’s so very important for people to feel heard.
Fast forward to now and I can honestly say that life is good. There were times I didn’t believe I’d ever get here, but here I am enjoying life with my kids and grandkids and friends. Life is peaceful and fun.
If your story contains domestic violence just know that step by step, day by day you can get to a place where you are at peace. You are so worth it. Keep moving forward. “
Thank you, Tari, for sharing your story. You give hope to others who may be at the beginning of their healing journey.
“For 9.5 years all I heard was that I wasn’t good enough, or everything that went wrong was my fault, I was too fat. I was choked and grabbed forcibly by the arm and pushed. I was always made fun of, made to feel like I didn’t matter.
Wasn’t able to see friends, because they influenced my decisions. Seeing my parents was just as bad. Always cheating on me, when confronted with proof, he would say it wasn’t him. I was never his wife (we were married for 7 years), I was always his friend, the mother of his Godchildren.
I worked all the time, trying to earn money for our family, while he sat at home talking to other women and playing video games. He’d always spend out/my money on other women. Because we stopped being intimate with each other, I was cheating on him, I was hanging out with other guys.
The non-stop fighting, yelling , and the physical fights just kept going. Getting worse by the day. It had gotten to the point of severe violence where I felt my life was over. He choked me so hard, that my neck had hurt for 3 days. That’s when I knew it was time to go. Sneaking out didn’t work, so I was arrested for domestic violence. Spent 6 months on probation. It was worth it.”
“My name is Michele A Avery and I am 68 years young. Meandering through this world with a hitch in my giddyup. (Arthritic knees and other issues)
My story began as a child who was born to a woman who was told she would never have children again after my older brother was born. Much to my Mom’s dismay I came along 18 months after he did.
Researching back through family information etc it sounds like my mom suffered from pretty serious post partum depression x2 and could have been when she became pregnant with me.
Part of the result of that was me being a child without a name for over a month while still in the hospital for medical reasons.
Finally, mom had a visit from a priest who after praying over me, told her to name me Michele after Michael the archangel.
I’m very thankful for those initial prayers because I believe today they protected me throughout my life.
Most of which was saturated with feelings of never being good enough and not being worthy. I was always dressed pretty and scrubbed clean but it was a different story inside our walls. Mom ruled with an iron fist and fought her own demons much of her life.
I have two good memories of my life growing up , the rest are scattered with a dysfunctional upbringing. Support came from extended family and neighbors, however.
When I got older it was easier to escape the darkness and find escape in church groups or sports teams etc.
one of the major negative results was looking for love in all the wrong places and dealing with the consequences of bad life choices. I found solace in drinking and using marijuana plus trying an occasional other drug. Never hardcore thankfully.
I lived through an attempted rape and a horrific one done by someone I knew who broke into my home after I broke up with him, I was asleep and he jumped on my back and pinned me. All 300 lbs of him. I don’t remember how I broke free but I ended up at a friends house who then stayed with me for some time. The perpetrator returned once to threaten my friend.
After that he was gone, thankfully.
Following that, I think I only had one or two relationships and stopped any in 1997 after being emotionally assaulted and threatened by my then husband. I was rescued to a safe house connected with Tri County CAP where my healing began. The folks surrounding me at the safe house were part of a wonderful supportive Christian Community who showed me what unconditional love truly is. It was a love I had searched for all my life. They embraced me as part of the family of faith that I still practice today. These wonderful individuals simply showing me how to have a personal relationship with our savior.
I will be forever grateful to them.
In a nut shell, my success is that I went from being homeless with my life in garbage bags to owning my own home , having a job I love and sharing my home with my miracle child and her family. It is possible to be FREE!!
My thoughts of wisdom to those reading is to seek out help NOW! Talk with your teachers in school, talk with your guidance counselors, call the local hotline , our 24 hr Crisis Hotline is 1-800-774-0544 that covers all towns in the Haverhill, Littleton, Lincoln area. For Adults, if you witness ANY questionable behavior of any child, etc PLEASE report it. YOU ARE SO WORTH living a life of freedom.
These are just an outline of my story, reaching out to me I can share more. You can also read excerpts from the last ten years by connecting to my blog. https://jeshuaschild-sonkist. Connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for taking the time.”
Thank you, Michele for sharing your story. You are strong. You are brave. You are priceless.
In the last few days of 2017, I made a resolution to write one blog a week. In the years past, I never even came close…not even to writing a post a month. This was a long shot, but it was something I said I would do, so I knew had to. Fifty-two posts. I hadn’t really thought about what that meant, or what it would do to me.
I started off 2018 with lofty dreams of what this would look like. The first few posts had impressive word counts. I found myself on Sunday nights struggling to get a post done. What do I write about? I don’t feel like writing anything. I don’t feel like doing anything. Who wants to read what I am writing anyway? The struggle became increasingly consistent. By mid January, I was regretting my decision to make this my resolution.
As life kept happening, the posts took the backseat, leaving guilt in their place. After a couple of weeks of not writing, I wrote a few smaller posts to make up the difference. My goal to post weekly slowly became to write fifty-two posts throughout the year. I googled what number week are we in multiple times, then counted the posts that had been written.
The amount of stress this brought me became crippling at times. As the waves of depression took hold of me, writing became nonexistent. When depression let go long enough for me to make the count again, it held on tighter. Why did I set myself up for failure?
Failure was not an option. I said I would write fifty-two posts, so that was what I was going to do.
Depression, life, kids, work, travel, Dr. Phil, a week at trauma camp…it all took its toll. It would not get in the way of my goal. I pushed through the obstacles, and I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. Some posts had more of my attention than others, some longer than others, but they all came from my heart. My goal to do better–to be better outweighed everything else.
What I learned from this was:
The more posts, the more followers
Consistent writing brings more views
3. Hard work and dedication pays off
4. Nothing is able to keep me from reaching my goals and dreams.
If I take nothing else away from this past year, number 4 is something I will do my best to remember. We must all remember, dreams are worth reaching for. They may not always look the way you imagine, but as long as you try, you are winning.
Make the most of 2019. You are the only one that can.
Five years ago, I was a newly single mom of three. A five, eight and ten year old depended on me for everything. This was not something new, but the circumstances had changed. When I lost my childcare, I also lost my job. In between the fear that I was going to be murdered by my ex-husband, and trying to find enough money to just feed my children, I was blessed to find a job that fit into my children’s schedules.
The job was part-time, and I had full-time bills. Each week I was a little more behind, but I figured out how to make it work. Until Christmas came. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t have time to focus on it, or what it meant. There was no way I had any extra money to even buy one gift. My kids had already lost so much with the divorce and fire a couple years before, I could not take Santa away from them. I didn’t know what I was going to do.
The stress of the whole situation ate at me. I felt like a failure, and times like this was why I had stayed in a toxic, abusive relationship for so long. I stayed awake nights as I thought about how I could make it work. I did not have anyone in my life that had money to help. I had already sold my gram’s coin collection to my brother, so I could buy groceries and gas until my first pay check came in.
That was when it hit me. I might not have had anything of extreme value, but I had gathered enough stuff after the fire, to replace my belongings, that were worth something. I got out of bed, and started going through my things. All my hopes and dreams of free time, and hobbies turned into dollar sings. I took pictures of the items and placed them on Facebook marketplaces, and Craigslist.
Soon, I was getting emails, and things started selling. As my pockets became full with money, I was able to fill stockings. That was one of my biggest concerns. I didn’t want to be the reason the magic of Christmas was stolen from my children. After I had enough money to ensure they were full, I started my search for the perfect gift from Santa. One by one, I was able to find a gift suitable for each child. Some of my shopping took place at thrift stores, to make the money last longer.
A friend knew of my struggles, and placed us on the list for the Santa’s fund. This was not something I had ever had to do before, and I hated taking the help, but I had to. Not for me, but for them. A neighbor was the one to deliver it, and as he handed me the basket, shame heated my body. This was not the life I had planned for my children.
The ladies I worked with handed me a card before we closed for the Holidays. Inside the card was about $200. I could not keep the tears inside. This gesture of kindness and love meant more than I could express. A little while later, I received a call from my children’s school. When I arrived there I was taken into the principal’s office and handed a card and a gift. The principal told me, each year the teachers put money together and give it to a deserving family.
When did we become a deserving family? I could not stop the shame from coming over me. This was not the life I wanted for my children, but neither was living in abuse and turmoil. This was going to be the price of our freedom and safety.
Inside the card was a gift certificate to Walmart. I don’t remember how much it was, but I know it was enough to fill in some gifts, and make sure the kids had the warm clothes they needed for winter. Everything was falling into place, and I realized, there was a Santa Claus after all. On Christmas Eve, I helped Santa put things into place, filled the stockings, and waited until morning for the kids to wake up. The magic in their hearts poured out through their eyes, when they saw that Santa had come.
Their excitement, and the feeling of community that this situation had brought to us made me believe. It made me believe in better things. It made me believe there is always a way. It made me believe the impossible is always possible. It made me believe in love, and magic. It helped me see that Santa is never far away.
When things get hard, remember to believe. In better days. In love. In yourself. And of course, Santa.