Terrie, Teri, and Tears of Hope #WhenIBecameFree

Terrie Morris-Hollenbeck - SURVIVOR
Every day a surprise is waiting for me. I am learning new things about myself and the people who have entered my life.  When I started the project I thought I would have to travel wide and far to find inspiring stories from survivors, well, I have learned my lesson. Those incredible stories I so wanted to tell are not a day's drive away, they are right here in my own community and the surrounding areas. They are right in front of me in the people I've passed in the store,  said "Hello" to at the gas station, and even standing in front of me in the humans I know and shared other aspects of life with - survivors are everywhere.

I met Terrie about 6 years ago when I was facing dealing with the symptoms of having autoimmune disorders. I was determined to do whatever I could to fight the battle against the disorder attacking my body. I was determined to win and never have to deal with a doctor again, at least until old age would force me.

It was a time when the Rheumatologist I was seeing was severely getting on my nerves, constantly wanting to write out prescriptions for drugs that would only land me in bed, unable to function and perform the tasks I needed to in being a single mom. He was, in my mind, the enemy. I decided it was time to go all natural and slowly let him and his big pharma ways, go. I told him to sign a letter stating I needed to swim to help my disorders. A local motel required that letter to be able to use their pool during the day for a deeply discounted rate, $30 a month.

I love swimming. Actually, anything dealing with water, I am at my best. I went to that pool every day that I could, sometimes in the evening, I would pay to use another motel's pool.  There were days I swam laps twice, morning and night. In the morning I would often have the pool to myself then there were mornings one or two other people would be there, working on their own health needs.

That is when I met Terrie Morris-Hollenbeck.  That morning I was not in a good mood and not happy I'd have to share the pool, I was greedy but nothing and no one was going to get in the way of my water time. After getting some laps in I took a break and did some water exercises, and that is when Terrie and I struck up a conversation. Almost instantly we clicked. Our conversation went from the surface niceties to deep and meaningful. Soon we were discussing things, then, I would never discuss with a stranger and out of fear that they would think I was a whack job.  We spoke about religion, the constraints and control many have, to what spirituality meant to us. We discussed God. We spoke about being Empaths and having an intuition that goes beyond what society would call normal. I was thrilled to be able to have such a conversation with someone who understood in a way that clicked rather than the side-way glance of someone getting ready to call in the men white coats to take me away as they burned a cross into my forehead.

A few weeks after we met that pool no longer offered the morning swim time to locals. Some stupid state regulation about needing a separate shower area got in the way of our health needs. Life then took another direction and I didn't see Terrie much, but when we did, we always connected on that deeper level. When my youngest was 16 years old and experiencing some things causing him stress, it was Terrie who recommended I call a gifted woman by the name of Carol who lived outside of Portage. The details of that story are for a future project, but I can say that recommendation was the start of accepting other realities in my life.

Fast forward a few years to the present and when I am knee deep into this project of mine posting, reaching out and promoting it all that I can, Terrie comments that she has a story to tell. Needless to say, I had to know about Terrie's story. Earlier this week that day came when Terrie and I met at Beyond the Daily Grind in Mauston, Wisconsin.

We sat at that little cafe for three and a half hours. Bunny and her daughter, Heather, were closing down as we continued our conversation oblivious to our surroundings.

Terrie told me about a life she had many years ago, back in the 80s. A life that many in her day to day world did not know about. It was after finishing school, her mother thought it would be best for Terrie to move down to Texas where better opportunities may await her.

Terrie followed through with the suggestion and started creating a life down Texas including dating an older man that would become not just her abuser, he would actually turn into the epitome of a monster. Their relationship turned from dating to him holding her hostage in a trailer, an isolated trailer in the middle of nowhere. He kept her in emotional..mental..shackles of fear. There was nowhere for her to run and she took heed to his threats that he would kill her. She was subjected to brutal beatings, beatings to her body and spirit, even though she would fight back with all of the might left in her. She was sexually assaulted in "every way imaginable."

When they would be out together, in public, those mental shackles were tightened around the already bruised body she had covered by clothing.

When she first started sharing her story with me, she sat strong and confident, but as she released the nightmare she carried, the tears of pain once felt started welling up and soon they too were released.

At one point during her nightmare, Terrie was able to get away. They had been at a club and she ran out to a parking lot where he did catch up to her. When he did catch her he beat the hell out of her, breaking her nose and leaving her with an extremely swollen face. He threw her into the bed a truck, two men intervened. Those men were undercover cops. One of them approached Terrie who was lying down in that bed, and inquired if she was okay. It was when she sat up blood went gushing from her face, she was not okay.

Terrie's story takes a few more twists and turns, all of which will be told in the #WhenIBecameFree book but for now, I can tell you that he was charged and Terrie, battered and worn, did make it back to Wisconsin, escorted by her mother and after yet another rescue. That final rescue came at the hands of a sweet German couple who acted as a literal barrier keeping her safe.

Today Terrie is in stable long-term marriage. She is a proud mother and makes an earning as a make-up artist. She is a deeply spiritual and beautiful woman, inside and out, but still at times deals with some self-esteem issues, and like with most women those issues deal with body-image.

I have a lot of respect for Terrie, especially for the courage she had to go public with her story. You see, Terrie married into a family that has quite a powerful name in our community, the Hollenbeck name is well known.

The day after meeting with Terrie I sat down with yet another woman whose truth was told and will more than likely surprise many in our community. Her name is Teri Stainbrook. She is known in our community as she works with many survivors and others as they navigate the system in getting their lives pieced back together, she works for an agency known here in Wisconsin as Workforce Connections.

Like Terrie Morris-Hollenbeck, she too found herself in an extremely abusive relationship. It was when she was healing and going through counseling she would discover aspects of her childhood that had been locked away, including being sexually assaulted by a family member.

Teri is like most of the survivors I have interviewed in that the truth she lived has been a guarded memory, not shared with many outside her core group.

The survivors coming forward to tell their stories, those deeply personal crimes that were committed against them, are trusting me with a treasure of hope. Their true accounts are not just about the pain they survived, they are inspiring accounts of how you can walk through and out of the fiery depths of hell. It is not about living in the past, it is all about showing others they can walk out from the darkness and into the light of healing.

Yesterday evening I was feeling sorry for myself. Self-doubt had taken hold.  I was calling myself crazy for taking this all on. My body has been reminding me that I do have those autoimmune conditions and I stubbornly have neglected my health needs by not seeing a doctor. Being out of work, bills mounting and payments about to be withdrawn from an account without the funds necessary, had me calling myself every name of stupid and failure I could think of. Who am I to think that God wants me to go on this journey, you're just an idiot, Eva. Who are you fooling! No one except yourself!

Yeah, I beat the emotional crap out of myself.

And then, this happened.

I was going through my emails and ran across a notification from Youtube that someone left a comment on one of my videos. "Great, some asshole probably said something insulting," is what I internalized. Reluctantly I clicked the link. Waiting for me was what I can only call a sign.

If you've been following the #WhenIBecameFree project then you know about Kelli's story. She is the woman, who as a child and teen, was basically held hostage by her father and subjected to brutal mental, physical, and sexual abuse. Before she broke free she gave birth to three of her father's children. This all happened in Wisconsin - including Juneau County and the surrounding counties.

After breaking free those three children were ripped away from her and she's has had to watch them grow from afar.

The comment left on the Youtube video was on Kelli's story. It was from one of her sons who was taken from her.

His public comment, that simple sentiment, is probably one of the most touching moments I've had since starting this project. It is a comment of pure love -unconditional love. It offers healing to one victim from another, both having been victimized by the same member of their family. There are no words to describe how much this means to Kelli - how much it means to me - and I AM SURE will mean SO MUCH more to anyone sitting silently with their own secrets of child sexual assault...incest...reading all of this. So much hope is bestowed in that statement.

When I held on to and believed in Everything Happens for a Reason is #WhenIBecameFree !

Support the #WhenIBecameFree project by wearing awareness! For every shirt sold, $10 will go to support the project - getting it completed, published and distributed.  Shirts may be purchased here. If you're local to Juneau County, just email me and I will send you an invoice w/o a shipping charge.

Your support will help keep the project and me going to completion. All stories are being compiled into a book and mini-documentary -

GOOD NEWS - for that mini-documentary I will be working with a student from ILead Charter School who is an experienced videographer, Thomas Houy.

50 percent of the profits will go to Survivors Offering Support (S.O.S.), of Juneau County and to a crisis fund and Kelli's Haven. I will also donate 25 percent of the funds to ILead Charter School! The remaining profits will help recoup some of my losses and pay for promotions. This is not about me getting rich, this is about making our community and others - building resources and awareness.

Any and all donations are welcome!

Go Fund Me Page

Any way you choose to support this effort is greatly appreciated! Even if it is just sharing my blog, the website, or liking and sharing the Facebook page.  

Thank you to Wisconsin River Meats  and Benders' Family Restaurant for being official sponsors of #WhenIBecameFree. Give a like to their their Facebook page (click links above) and let them know how appreciative we all are that they are supporting survivors finding their voices!
Also, a new sponsor was added, my baby boy who has donated his own hard earned cash and in-kind support as he will be writing and performing the music for the video, Kyle Roberts.  Give a like to his Facebook page.

I am still working hard at getting donations, I know this is a new concept for many, crowdfunding a creative writing project such as this, and I do appreciate all who have donated! I am still well below my goal of raising $5k ...heck, I know I will get there. I believe in miracles.  This project will get completed!  All donors will receive recognition once the project is completed!


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