She survived domestic violence and marital rape and now works with abusers #WhenIBecameFree
I met her a decade ago. We volunteered together at a monthly endeavor where a free meal would bring together all walks of life in our rural community. I've always been drawn to her. She has an outgoing personality and loves to laugh. She's blunt and doesn't sugarcoat life, I appreciate those qualities in a person.
I was reminded of that yesterday when we met to have some coffee so she could tell me her story for the #WhenIBecameFree project I am working on. We haven't seen much of each other since those days of volunteering, but when two survivors get together and speak openly, it is amazing the bond that is created.
At this time I am not disclosing her name and her specific position, there's a reason for all of that - she works in the justice system and works with many abusers. Her safety and position could be at stake.
We sat in a local coffee house and the time slipped away as she went into detail about her life experiences. Close to three hours of time. She spoke about her years growing up, an emotionally distant mother, her parent's divorce, and her rebellious teen years. Those teen years catapulted her into the arms of a handsome and charming man, one that she thought would be her savior - her escape.
"He was very good-looking, the life of the party - girls would just dote on him. I'd have to push the girls away just to keep them away from him, " she said.
Back when they first started dating he lavished her with attention and gifts - "he was my knight in shining armor. " She went on to explain how she felt he was going to take her out of a bad situation and take care of her.
The first time he struck her was a punch in the stomach that took her breath away. He immediately apologized and like most victims, she reflected, "I thought it was just a one-time thing."
She was just 17-years-old when he secured a job in a big city in another state and the couple decided to move together. The small town girl was unprepared for the culture shock what was about to happen. Her naivety and his controlling ways trapped her in the tornado of domestic violence, eating away her self-esteem even more so than growing up without the security of nurturing every child needs.
"He was drinking a lot. I would get mad and he would hit me. He would threaten to leave me and I would beg him not to go, I had abandonment issues that I would later find out were partly from my childhood from when my Mom left us," she said.
Her story then takes many twists and turns, but always at the core of it all was the control he wielded over her. Throughout it all there were glimmers of her strength and desire to do more with her life, that was obvious when she spoke about putting herself through school and earning degrees.
The couple eventually moved back to Wisconsin and at just 20 years-old she would find herself pregnant. Not wanting to be a single mother, she wanted an abortion but he would not allow it, he insisted they get married. She agreed while thinking to herself, "If he hits me after we get married I will leave him. That would be the final straw." Just prior to the wedding she suffered a miscarriage, but even so, not wanting to disappoint family and friends, she married him.
After they married the beatings continued. She came to the conclusion that she needed to make him want to leave her. Her solution was to sleep with another man. He walked in, witnessing her infidelity first-hand. "It was the only time I ever cheated on him."
It was that incident where she found the courage to leave him but she also paid the consequences for daring to be independent.
After a few days of staying with a relative, she wrote him a long letter. It was a letter she delivered to their apartment when he was there. At the time he was sober but she could tell he spent the night before on a drinking binge.
She had to advocate for herself in getting the police to arrest her husband. The year was 1986. He eventually was charged with four counts of 2nd-degree sexual assault and battery. From that point on her story of victimization enters the justice system.
I will be detailing all of that, along with other survivor stories in a book that will be the outcome for the #WhenIBecameFree project. I can tell you now that this survivor found her way to healing.
She will be the first one to tell you that it has taken many years of self-reflection and healing to get her to the point where she is today. She will also tell you the triggers of PTSD still can haunt her. Despite it all, she wants to continue to try to bring positive changes to the system and help save lives while also raising awareness to why victims stay, why they make choices many in society do not understand, and why those choices are being made from a twisted survival mode from victims caught up in that tornado known as domestic violence.
For now, I can also tell you that her years of healing has paid off in more ways the one, including she is currently in a stable and healthy marriage.
The survivors sharing their stories with me are remarkable individuals. It takes quite a bit of courage to sit across from me and relay the nightmares they once lived but they do so in hopes that it will help plant seeds of hope in others and to let others know they are not alone. I am grateful for their assistance on this project.
In the coming weeks, I will be sharing more stories of hope from survivors of child abuse, child sexual assault, domestic violence, adult sexual assault survivors. If you are someone who can identify and are using your life experience to create better tomorrows for people in your community, please contact me. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you see the value in this project and want me to get to as many inspiring voices of hope, please consider donating to this project. I believe each of these survivors deserves to be interviewed face to face and to do so takes time, travel expenses and much more.
Once this project is completed 50% of any profit will be donated to a charity that works with survivors to truly help them on their healing journey. I have yet to pinpoint which charity will be the recipient as I am still researching for the perfect fit.