My name is Chris. I have five children ages 13-20. I am a registered nurse and currently work full time in the operating room of a major hospital. WomenSafe helped to save my life. For 10 years I lived in an extremely violent and volatile relationship. My husband randomly and unpredictably battered the children and me emotionally, physically, and spiritually, including during each of my pregnancies. I was forbidden to use any form of birth control, attend church or celebrate holidays, including Christmas and Easter, for six years.
This man whom I had known for five years before we married, never laid a hand on me. When he got angry or felt bad he got quiet, but never hit me until a year after we married, when I was pregnant with our first child. This was the beginning and the abuse escalated through the years. If the children or I said anything to make him angry or hurt his feelings, her would use physical and emotional abuse to isolate us from friends, family, and any support system that we had. There were also days, weeks, and months of ‘the silent treatment.’
Sometimes, a year’s time would elapse between physical attacks, giving me false hope that it wouldn’t happen again, but there always was that spoken or unspoken threat of injury. I considered taking my life or the life of my husband. I felt I had committed myself to a marriage and I wanted it to last. Only a few couples in my family have been divorced and I didn’t want to be a quitter. Also, because I had five children under the age of eight, I was concerned about visitation with their father if I filed for divorce or separated. Since he did not even change diapers, hit and ridiculed them so often, I worried about their emotional and physical welfare while they were with him and if they would even be returned to me when they were supposed to. He had often said that I was free to leave him if I didn’t like it at home but I wasn’t permitted to take the children with me. Gradually, over time, I ended up feeling helpless, stupid, hopeless, embarrassed, ugly, guilty and incapable of rational thought.
On the two previous occasions that I left him, I returned after a short time because I allowed him to intimidate me and didn’t want to involve my family for fear that he might retaliate against them for sheltering me. This happened before I was aware of WomenSafe.
I left my husband after a particularly severe beating. When he knelt on my chest and said how much he wanted to kill me, and then sexually assaulted me, I knew I had to do something or I would die. All the denial that I had lived with for so long was finally gone. I had to call the police to help me leave my home with my children. I contacted WomenSafe for shelter because I had previously called COPEline and spoke with an advocate who answered my questions concerning the shelter and my legal rights. When I got to the shelter, the children and I were terrified, nearly hysterical and very saddened that we had been forced to leave our home.
At the shelter, we were provided with food, clothing, a clean warm place to sleep, and most important of all, safety. We resided there for six weeks, a longer time than usual for residents, due to the attempt of my husband to allow me a ‘cooling off’ period by delaying the domestic violence trial date through his attorney. I was not pressured in any way by shelter personnel on a course of action. I was encouraged and allowed to make the decision that would be best for our family and our circumstances.
Besides the physical necessities, WomenSafe also helped me with referrals to competent attorneys, counselors, and community services. I was instructed on alternate methods of non-physical discipline of the children and accompanied to court hearings by competent, caring counselors who were familiar with court proceedings. My children were seen regularly by a child specialist who helped all of us with communication skills and checked them for adverse effects of the family violence they had experienced.
After I left the shelter, the children and I started counseling. The children went for various lengths of time depending on their age and temperament, and I went weekly for three years, primarily because I did not want to get into another relationship such as this and wanted to understand why and how this occurred. One year after I left him, I was divorced. He made it easy for me to decide because he refused to acknowledge his problem or get help for it.
As for now — I am truly living in peace. I have met more friends and supportive people than I had in the 10 years I was married. I am currently involved with my family, church, school and social events. I have a Belgian draft horse and help others show their draft horses in state and national events. I am able to visit friends and relatives without having to ask for permission or fear of being beaten. Money is tight, but I consider that the price of living in peace. My children do not have to visit my ex, and have not seen him since the day I left, due to his refusal to get counseling for himself.
My children are doing well: my eldest is a sophomore at college, my oldest daughter is a freshman at Ohio University, my second son, a junior in high school, is a returning player and starter on the varsity basketball team. The other two girls have nearly 4.0 averages. In fact, since I left, the children are much more manageable, loving and happy.
Most importantly, I have learned a new sense of self-worth and self-appreciation. I choose not to ever again live with a man who abuses me, refuses to acknowledge his problem, or make no attempt to change his behavior. I am comfortable being single, and if I do get married again it will be because I want to, not because I have a fear of being alone.
The services that WomenSafe provide treat the whole battered woman, her children, and our community. They are greatly needed, appreciated, and if not for them, chances are that I wouldn’t be alive to testify to their value.