Life After Domestic Violence
In 2003 I got married and moved to Germany to be with my now-ex-husband. I call it a faux-marriage because it was anything but a marriage. In 2008, I had one chance to leave him and I took it. It was purely a decision based on the fact that I knew I couldn’t stay. He was beginning to get physically violent--it was serious.
The chance came when I was on my first solo visit to my parents in five years. It was a beautiful, summery Friday afternoon. I started reading a book I had picked up at the library, Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. In the book was the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. It took me several tries to actually make the call, as I was literally shaking and didn’t know if I needed to call, but I had a feeling that it would be a good idea to talk to someone. Finally I called, and a woman named Ella answered.
“Are you in a safe place to talk?” she asked. “Yes, I am, I’m alone at my parent’s house,” I replied. “How can I help you?” she asked in a calm tone of voice. I began to sob, “I’m so scared…” All my fears and hurt feelings and questions poured out of me.
Ella spoke with me for 1 ½ hours that day. After our conversation, I opened up to my parents and told them what the “marriage” was really like, that it was anything but a marriage, with the criticism and fights and severe disparity of who controlled how much money. I told them that no matter what I did, it was never good enough and that I had gotten so much hurtful criticism from him day in and day out. The emotional abuse was unbearable.
It was then that I was presented with the opportunity that every victim of domestic violence wishes for: the opportunity to leave safely.
And I left.
I tore my life apart over a span of mere days, giving up an entire “marriage,” my business in Germany, and everything that I had built for myself there. I literally fled the country. It was the single most terrifying thing I’ve ever done and I give thanks every day that I not only realized I needed to leave, but that I had a safe opportunity to do so, the complete support of my family and friends, and the support of a shelter and a truly amazing advocate at that shelter.
Through that shelter I attended a workshop led by Lundy Bancroft, the author I mentioned earlier; I took the opportunity to tell him that I had been in an abusive situation and had realized I could leave because I had read his book and thus called the National Domestic Violence Hotline. I said to him, tears welled up in my eyes and so choked up I could barely speak, “It’s been 8 weeks and 2 days.” He said, very emphatically, “Congratulations! Good for you!”
Soon after that, I stopped counting the days and weeks since I had left. Now I only notice the seasons passing.
Just the same, the road that I have walked since then has been very, very long and very, very hard. Starting my life over again is the most difficult thing I have ever done. And I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
And now: thriving!
August 26, 2008 marks the turning point in my life where I chose to live my life rather than try to survive something that wasn’t my life at all.
Now it’s time to recognize what the last three years have brought me. I have my friends again, I have my family again, and I have made new friends and have new family members. My tribe has grown magnificently and I am honored and blessed by many wonderful friends and acquaintances. I’m on the path of my career and enjoying every minute of it. Most importantly, I’ve discovered that life is an adventure meant to be enjoyed.
The blessings that I have received in the last three years are immeasurable. Not only have I found my way to self-confidence, joy, and enjoyment of life, but I have discovered my career path, talents I didn’t realize I had, and methods of self-expression I had previously only dreamed about.
Most of all, I’ve started having SO MUCH FUN! So let’s get on with it! Let’s get on with having a seriously good time!
Speaking Out About Domestic Violence, 10.18.2012
I was honored to be a guest on the Kathleen Dunn Show on Wisconsin Public Radio (oh, a happy Sconnie am I!) for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Carmen Pitre, Director of the Sojourner Family Peace Center in Milwaukee, WI, was Ms Dunn's guest on the show for the same hour. The Sojourner Family Peace Center is a 42+ bed shelter in Milwaukee with confidential support groups. They've even developed a Healthy Relationship Test, which you can read here. Carmen was so forthright, so calm, and so informative, a true advocate for DV awareness and for change in personal relationships.
We talked about recognizing red flags, awareness of violence in relationships, and I talked about my own personal experience surviving and getting out of a violent relationship. In light of the recent Brookfield, Wisconsin shooting, this conversation is more timely than ever. And based on the calls that came in during that hour, this conversation needs to continue.
Thank you so very much to everyone at WPR that made this happen, it is so important.
CLICK HERE to listen to the broadcast(this link opens directly to the player). If you prefer, you can download the broadcast to listen later by visiting the Kathleen Dunn Audio Archive page and finding the link to the October 24, 2012, 9:00 am show.