A Ripley County woman with several children stayed at the Safe Passage shelter in Batesville for two weeks in 2012 and still leans on the nonprofit for support.
Executive director Jane Yorn reports, “She has utilized a broad scope of our services.”
To help others understand what domestic violence is, she wrote down her story, which is excerpted in this article.
“My husband and I both came from well-respected families in both community and church,” she recalled. In their mid-20s when they met in Utah, they dated for four months, then married, bought a house and “got pregnant within the first month of marriage. He wanted to support the family and have me be a stay-at-home mom. I was thrilled with the way life was going. We were the perfect little family, living the American dream.”
“I should have been the happiest woman around. But I wasn’t. My husband was a very passionate man, feeling very strongly about every subject matter, whether it was something from the news or something going on in our house. It only took a matter of seconds for a normal conversation to turn into him yelling and me cowering.
“He said he wasn’t yelling at me, he was just yelling. He wasn’t angry at me, he was just angry. He had to have a way to vent his frustrations and I was his wife so he should be able to use me for his venting. He never hit me, but he did throw things when he got frustrated. He didn’t throw them at me, he just threw them.”
The family moved to Indiana and stayed for several months with relatives while finding their own house. “One night after everyone was in bed we had a typical evening talk ... He yelled, I cried. It was routine for us and our three children slept right through it.” But her sister, who overheard the conversation, was “horrified,” the woman wrote.
She reflected on how she had changed: “Before marriage I was fairly confident, very involved in life, had close friends and hobbies I enjoyed. I had had my own business for several years and had supported myself, living with roommates. By the time my sister discovered my secret, I was barely a shell of the woman I once was. I was withdrawn, had no friends, didn’t want to leave the house unless I absolutely had to. Anxiety became a part of my identity. I lived in fear of my husband coming home from work.”
The desire to leave the marriage became strong when their youngest child was born. “I looked over at my husband and down at my beautiful baby boy and realized that I couldn’t allow this child to experience what his siblings had. I couldn’t allow him to be bruised and emotionally beaten down ....”
“I begged for counseling and he refused. I begged for a separation. He finally agreed to counseling. It all backfired. Everything that came out in counseling he twisted and distorted and used against me. Counseling became more fuel for the fire. The hopelessness deepened and my desire to live lessened.”
After almost a decade of marriage, her sister gave the mother Safe Passage’s phone number, but she was hesitant. “He never hit me. I didn’t fit the profile. But I couldn’t deny the fact that I lived in fear each day .... Finally I reasoned that it couldn’t hurt to at least get some personal counseling.”
The woman wrote, “Within a week of my first counseling session, I knew that I had to get me and my children out.” She explained, “I had finally reached the point that the pain and fear of staying was greater than the terror and pain of leaving.”
“Safe Passage provided a way for me to get out, to be safe, to keep my children safe. We were all scared. We didn’t know how we would make it from day to day. But we did. We were in a safe place. We had food to eat. We had people who understood where we were coming from and where we could go. Because I was already in the workplace, I had been supporting my family for the last couple years since he had returned to college,” so the family’s shelter stay was short. “We moved into an apartment and got settled in our new life.”
What was the best advice a Safe Passage counselor gave her? The woman told The Herald-Tribune anonymously by phone that a counselor asked her, “‘What are you doing for you?’” That question empowered the client and made her realize she could break the cycle of psychological abuse.
She wrote, “Even after all these months, Safe Passage has continued to be a support and safe haven for our family as we return for support groups and activities. They have assisted in court sessions (the divorce is not yet final) and continue to offer counseling. My family is still struggling to establish a new normal that is free from fear, but we are making progress.”
She admitted by phone, “I struggle on the days of his visitations” with the children. “I find that the depression still comes back” and she feels anxious around her former partner.
“I feel like there’s no way I would ever go back” to the marriage, she added. “I’m amazed I could even survive as long as I did ... Every day I’m glad that I left.”
The woman concluded in her written story, “Domestic violence is rarely something seen from the outside. It lurks in the darkness, rearing its ugly head when the door is closed. It sucks the life out of otherwise healthy individuals ...”
“The more people understand what it looks like, the easier it will be to reduce the number of occurrences. It will take all of us standing up and speaking out. I share my story today so that others might open their eyes and see what is happening. Together we can make a difference.”
Debbie Blank can be contacted at email@example.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.
Second in a two-part series • Part 1: Safe Passage's progress, Oct. 22 • Information and resources can be found at the Safe Passage Web site www.safepassageinc.org or by calling the 24-hour toll-free HelpLine at 877-733-1990.