Their Cries for Help Were Answered
Women share stories of domestic abuse
Friday, September 27, 2013 11:00 AM
Their identities were protected, but their stories likely mirror the lives of countless others who have struggled to find freedom and safety from domestic violence.
A SURVIVOR’S STORY: Becky Anderson, Jefferson County community service director for Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, reads the story of the group’s Survivor of the Year award recipient at the Turning Point annual report meeting. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchieemail@example.com)
Three women at the annual Turning Point luncheon Thursday shared their stories of domestic abuse and described the pivotal moments that changed their lives for the better.
Their names were not disclosed and their stories were read by someone else.
Turning Point Domestic Violence Services is a nonprofit organization that serves as an outreach program for cases of domestic violence and provides advocacy and case management services.
This year's Survivor of the Year award was given to a woman who spent more than eight years running from her abusive husband. After years of contemplating a change, the woman decided to flee when her youngest daughter moved away.
Twice her husband found her whereabouts while she was on the run - in one case, she was 2,800 miles away. Both times he managed to force her back home. And both times the abuse escalated.
"... The abuse was more severe, going from sprained wrists and black eyes to broken bones. And then one night he literally broke me. He thought he killed me and called my daughter to tell her where to find my body," she wrote.
It was during her recovery that she found her first shelter and advocate. Eventually, she found Turning Point and made the move to Madison.
"It was amazing to me to see how I wasn't alone, to see my fears mirrored on other faces, the same feelings, different stories, yet all of us wanting the same thing, to be safe and to make a better life," she wrote.
"Turning Point was the catalyst that gave me courage to start a new beginning," she added later.
Becky Anderson, Turning Point's Jefferson County community services director, read the letter and accepted the award on behalf of the woman to protect her identity.
Molly Dodge, of River Valley Resources, read a letter from a client who had been with an abuser for more than five years. The woman wrote that the man - who is now in prison -once held her at gunpoint for two days.
"I was never so scared in my life. When I was finally allowed to leave, I knew I didn't want to go back but didn't know what to do," the client wrote.
Through a police officer, she found Turning Point and was connected to an advocate who told her she had one of the highest danger assessment scores possible. The advocate later convinced the woman to speak with police.
"He was arrested and charged with multiple felonies. I felt safe for the first time in many years. He is now serving a long prison sentence, and I am growing stronger every day. I would have never been able to have done it without the help of Turning Point," she wrote.
The dinner also served as an awards ceremony and annual report by the organization.
Shawe Memorial and Southwestern Schools earned the Prevention Award. The award was given because of the schools' efforts to increase education and awareness about domestic abuse to young adults.
Hanover College instructor Ursula Appelt and students Careen Turner and Ariel Mishurda received the Community Partner Award, and the Jefferson County United Way received the Mission Partner Award.
In 2012, Turning Point continued to expand it prevention work in Jefferson County. Last year the organization held 160 Safe Date sessions, a 37 percent increase from the year before.
Also in 2012, there were 163 protective orders filed in Jefferson County - a 19 percent decrease from 2011. Turning Point assisted in 85 of those filings.
Turning Point serves 12 counties and has an office in Madison. Its toll-free, 24-hour help/crisis line is (800) 221-6311. All of Turning Point's services are free. The organization's website is www.turningpointdv.org.
Client Story 1: I had been with my abuser for five years. He had done anything and everything imaginable to me. I was so afraid of him but yet still loved him. He treated me the way my father had so I thought that he loved me too.
I finally reached my breaking point when he held me at gunpoint for over two days. Many times, he had the gun pointed against my head telling me to say goodbye to my child because I would never see her again. He would then hit me in the head repeatedly leaving knots. He hit me in the face with it once giving me a black eye and the side of my face bruised. One time I heard him pull the trigger and knew that I was dead. Instead he had taken a bullet out of one chamber and laughed at me. I was never so scared in my life.
When I was finally allowed to leave, I knew I didn't want to go back but didn't know what to do. I contacted a police officer that I knew to ask for help. He gave me the phone number to Turning Point and told me to call. I dialed the number several times before I finally completed the call.
I was terrified that the person was going to think I must be crazy. The person on the other end of the phone listened, asked questions and told me it wasn't my fault. She asked if I would be willing to meet with her in person. I was very nervous about it because I didn't know if it was someone he knew that was going to hurt me further. I finally decided that it couldn't get worse than what I had been through and decided to meet with her. While in the office, I received a lot of papers about domestic violence and as I looked over them, realized it was me. I completed a danger assessment scoring what the advocate told me was one the highest scores she had seen.
She asked me if I had made a police report about the incident and I said no. I didn't think anyone would believe me or care. She told me that she could have an officer come to her office if I wanted to make a report. I sat there for over an hour and finally said, yes, I want to make a statement. She contacted the police and an officer was there in a few minutes. He took my statement, took pictures of my face and head. He told me that he was personally going to make sure this guy went to jail. He was arrested and charged with multiple felonies.
I felt safe for the first time in many years. He is now serving a long prison sentence and I am growing stronger everyday. I would never have been able to have done it without the help of Turning Point.
Client Story 2: I had been in a very abusive relationship and was almost killed by him. I met a guy who I thought was the answer to my prayers. He was kind and did things with me and my children from a previous marriage. We had a child together and that is when things seemed to change.
He started criticizing everything I did and my abilities as a mother. He started calling me names, telling me my family and friends were not welcome in "his" house. I couldn't figure out what I had done for him to change so much.
I got him to go to counseling with me but I came out feeling worse each time. He seemed to always make me look like the person with the problem and he was putting up with me.
I found out about three years into our marriage that he was cheating on me and told him that I didn't want him there anymore. He told me it was his house and he wasn't going anywhere and if I didn't like it, I could take my kids, except for our child and leave. I didn't know what to do.
After several terrible weeks, he moved to his mother's until he thought, "I could come to my senses." I took our son and dropped him off so he could visit with him and his mom. We began to argue. He called the police and was going to have me arrested for trespassing.
The officer arrived in time to witness my husband grabbing me and throwing me down in the gravel driveway. The officer asked if I wanted to make a statement for battery. I told him that I didn't need anymore drama and that I thought everything would be all right.
He gave me a card for Turning Point and told me to call it. He told me that they would be able to help me. I wondered why he gave me a card for domestic violence services. I knew what domestic violence was and this wasn't it.
I called the next morning and made an appointment to meet with the advocate. After looking through the papers about domestic violence and taking a lethality assessment, I found out that I was in a seriously abusive relationship. I guess I didn't think it was domestic violence unless I was being beaten.
The advocate helped me to see that what he did was wrong and I contacted the officer and told him that I did want to follow through on this. He was arrested and I filed for a protective order which was granted. The advocate also helped me find an attorney to file for divorce.
I am so glad that I found Turning Point. I truly believe that they saved my life.
Survivor of the Year: When I was told about today it really got me thinking about the past year and all it entailed for me and how I got from where I was to where I am today.
For years I said when the kids are grown I am leaving, having had enough of the control and of his needing to know every minute of my whereabouts, being timed for how long it took to get home from work, having to turn my paycheck over to him every week, him checking the hours on my pay-stub to be certain that I had been at work and no where else. Even five minutes not accounted for was reason for him to rant and rave and throw accusations my way, the constant threats of if I ever looked at another man, he would take my girls away and I would never see them again.
It got to where I could go to the grocery store and fill the cart but he had to come and pay for them because he would not allow any money in my hands cause he couldn't trust me to come back to him. He was so afraid that if I had money that I would take the girls and leave.
He was right, had I had the money and the know-how I would have left him years before I did. I had no idea how to keep myself and my daughters safe and out of his grasp with no money. Shelters were for homeless people and I had a home to go to, what I didn't have at this time in my life was knowledge of DV (domestic violence) related shelters or programs.
When my youngest left the home, I decided it was my time to leave also and I secured a job 1,500 miles away from him. I thought that I was done with him, how wrong I was. I had no idea how much fear, terror and pain one man could inflict.
It took him several months but he found me through the IP numbers on my computer the first time. He brought me back and within a few days I left again, this time moving 2,800 miles away from him.
Once again, within months, he found me, this time using spyware on my daughter's computer. Over the next eight years this continued. I went to my mom's funeral and he was there waiting, through a friend who let my location slip he would find me, I would leave, yet every time he found me the abuse escalated, removing phones from the house and taking the keys to anything that had a motor so I couldn't leave, making threats to harm people I loved and the "get in your face yelling" but the one thing that changed the most was he added physical abuse to his arsenal of weapons and every time I found myself back with him, the abuse was more severe, going from sprained wrists and black eyes to broken bones and then one night he literally broke me.
He thought he killed me and called my daughter to tell her where to find my body. It was while hospitalized healing from the injuries of this beating that I got introduced to DV services and upon being released went to my first shelter.
While at this shelter he continued to send me emails and search for me. He went to a local homeless shelter and offered $20 to anyone who would tell him where local DV shelters were and some did tell him. He sent me an email describing the house I was in and telling me when he would be there to get me.
For the first time I had someone to help me and the first thing was to find another shelter far from him. After many many phone calls, I never realized that there was such a demand for shelter beds, many had waiting lists but I couldn't wait, then Turning Point came into my life and I started the trip to Indiana. I cannot really identifY the feelings or describe them to you except to say that fear of the unknown was at the tip of the list.
So leaving my home state once again and even stopping contact with my children so he had no chance of finding me through them. I came to Turning Point Shelter feeling very on edge, not sure what I was walking into, feeling lost of shame that my life had come to this, needing to depend on strangers to fill my needs not even having the means to supply myself with the most basic of things and I am talking from water to clothing.
What I found at the shelter was so much more than a bed, food and shower, there was staff that truly cared about my needs and were there to encourage you to stay focused on bettering yourself. When I would awaken from a nightmare, they were there to listen and comfort. When I would hear a truck that sounded like his, they were there to say 'it's okay it isn't him.'
They kept me motivated to go in the right direction including going to family services which was another very hard hurdle for me, to admit that I needed someone else to hear my fears and validate them. The fears within me at this time were huge, every thought was connected to: When will he be here? When will he break me again? Should I just stop fighting and give it up? But I am not a quitter so I just kept plugging forward.
One of the most beneficial things I got from the shelter was education. The group meeting which I didn't participate in much, yet I sponged up every word that was spoken. It was amazing to me to see how I wasn't alone, to see my fears mirrored on other faces, the same feelings, different stories yet all of us wanting the same thing, to be safe and to make a better life.
When I left the shelter and decided to settle here in Madison it was a very rough start. It was then that The Jefferson County Community Services Director became a part of my life and what a huge need I had for her. I would regularly go to her office for information but also for a safe place to be, to think, sometimes to feel, sometimes to hear her say "You can do this, It's okay to feel, It's okay to cry."
I needed her assistance in so many areas, where to get help, where to get housing, where to apply for work and she patiently helped me with all of it. When a deposit was needed to get my own place, Turning Point was there to help. When I needed an ID and didn't have the papers that were necessary, she was there to help. When I have needed to know I was connected to another human being, she has been there saying "I am here." When court dates would be approaching and I was terrified of having to even hear his voice, once again, she was there encouraging me.
Though the post year, I have often thought of a quote "No man is an island unto himself' and now I can look back and see that a lot of the abuser's power came from his ability to remove any outside relationships I may have had and cause me to become an island, not seeing that there were places out there in the world like Turning Point that can help and want to help you break free of the abuse.
I find myself struggling to end this letter and it is because Turning Point wasn't the end for me ... Turning Point was the catalyst that gave me the courage to start a new beginning. It has not been an easy year in many ways but it has been a year of many firsts and new friends and of discovering strength within me that I did not know I possessed, a year of learning how to make decisions for myself, a year of leaning how to be me and not who he needed me to be. Thank you Turning Point!