A Personal Testimonial
I had been married for 22 years. I was very unhappy and often felt depressed. I loved my children and my work but I just couldn’t figure out what was missing or what was wrong with the picture.
Then one day I read an article in the Charlotte Sun newspaper about mental and emotional abuse. I cried. I called my best friend and told her my life story was in the newspaper. You see I didn’t know there was anything wrong with my husband controlling my time, finances, who I could see and where I could go. I thought there was something wrong with me because I could never make my husband happy. If I spent the day cleaning, he was mad I didn’t make the phone calls. If I went to the grocery store after I put the kids to bed, he accused me of meeting up with someone. He regularly belittled me, kept me from my family and threatened me.
That newspaper article put a name on what was wrong with my picture. It spelled out in black and white what mental and emotional abuse is; the abuse that can’t be seen in black and blue. It opened my eyes and it changed my life.
About a month or so later, a friend told me that C.A.R.E. was looking to hire an event planner. I hadn’t noticed that it was an article about C.A.R.E. that had such a profound effect on me. As I worked with C.A.R.E., I learned more about unhealthy relationships, and realized that was exactly what my marriage was. I wasn’t respected or appreciated or loved in its true meaning. I was owned.
Well, I really wanted to make an impression on the community as well as C.A.R.E. with that first event. I worked really hard and it all come together perfectly with lots of information, demonstrations, food and even a fashion show. When it was all over, cleaned up and I had just gotten home, the Executive Director called to express her gratitude and she thought the event was a tremendous success. As soon as my husband figured out that’s why she was calling, he waited impatiently for me to get off the phone so he could complain about what I wasn’t doing while I was doing that. But by that time, I had realized he just needed to bring me down. He couldn’t allow me that moment of satisfaction. The next day I left. Our divorce was finalized the following year and that was 14 years ago.
For me, leaving was the hardest thing I had ever done. I was scared of what would make him become violent. I didn’t know where I was going or how I was going to take care of my children. I just knew it was my responsibility to myself and my daughters to do it.
Through C.A.R.E. I found my strength. I learned the games of manipulation and that made it easier for me to stay focused through a very difficult time. I was very fortunate that I had a friend we could stay with until I could find a place but many people don’t have a place to go, or a place where they can be safe. C.A.R.E. has a shelter that is safe for families in need. C.A.R.E. provides assistance for victims of all violent crimes from the emergency room to the court room for a better future.
FROM AN ADVOCATE AT THE STATE ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
Her plan was to spend the evening with her child and a good book. When her girlfriends called about a girls’ night out, she said no but they insisted and she had not been out in a while so she gave in and said yes. She made babysitting arrangements for her child and got ready to go out.
After having fun with her friends in Punta Gorda, she and one of her friends sat on a bench outside the restaurant they had visited. A few minutes later a car drove by and the front seat passenger accidentally shot her while he was trying to shoot someone else.
We worked closely throughout the criminal process, and I filed for benefits through the Office of the Attorney General. I worked with her doctors who treated her knee injury to make sure her medical needs were met and the benefits were paid out. After a year, she called me and let me know she could hardly walk, because her knee brace was broken and she could not afford to replace it. She needed to be able to work, and it was difficult to care for her child.
She called C.A.R.E. for help. The medical benefits paid from the crime victims fund only lasted one year after the shooting. I contacted the donors who support our work, and a generous donor donated the funds to replace her knee brace. I let her doctor know a check was on its way to cover the expenses.
Initially, Sue could not provide any details of her abuse other than to say, “He was abusive. I want a divorce. I want sole custody of the kids and for us never to have contact with him again.” The hurdles to obtaining such a drastic result were explained; the need for specific examples of abuse from which a judge could determine abuse had taken place, and details to support it was in the best interest of the children to have no contact with their father.
Still during that first meeting at C.A.R.E., Sue could not elaborate. Her fear was very real, and it was apparent something horrendous had happened. At the next meeting she was still unable to describe what she and her family had experienced. A suggestion was made for Sue to take advantage of the free services at C.A.R.E.: one-on-one counseling; support group services; and writing descriptions of the abuse in a journal. She had big concerns about her ability to testify for the Court if she could not even discuss her abuse in private confidential meetings.
Sue immediately began counseling sessions and she felt more at ease. She began to open up and finally was able to describe the atrocities she and her children had endured in great detail. She became stronger. Sue’s case has not come to trial yet, but she feels ready and able to participate in the preparation for trial. She is ready to testify, and is grateful for the healing powers of the services provided by C.A.R.E.
At C.A.R.E. I have filed injunctions (orders of protection) and then dismissed them many times over the years. I have stayed in the shelter many times, left my abusive husband and then gone back. My husband has locked me in my backyard, monitored my phone calls, filed his own injunctions against me, and threatened to have me arrested many times over the years.
Finally, after a 40-year abusive marriage, she filed an injunction and left home. She is living in a one-bedroom apartment on her own. It is not easy and finance are very tight, Shelley is living in peace for the first time in a very long time.
A frightened 15-year old, Alice came to C.A.R.E. by her mother. Alice would not speak, and her mother explained she had recently discovered that her husband had been sexually molesting Alice since she was 9 years old. Mom immediately reported the abuse to law enforcement and the abuser was removed from the home, but she did not know what to do to help her daughter.
As is common with many children who are sexually abused, Alice felt she was responsible for maintaining the safety of her entire family. She thought by enduring the ongoing rapes, her younger sister would remain free from the abuse by her father. Alice’s molester, her father, had convinced her the abuse was her fault.
After one-on-one counseling at C.A.R.E. Alice came to realize that what happened was not her fault, and she ultimately found the courage to testify against her abuser. She learned coping techniques to deal with her feelings and the nightmares. Recently, this teen, now a bright and successful college student, called C.A.R.E. because she was once again having nightmares and strong feelings of anger. She thought this was due to a recent visit to her old home. With follow up counseling, Alice realized her original feelings and fears were no longer controlling her, but she still had feelings of anger she had never been able to express. She received a referral for a rape crisis center in the county where she attends college so she can continue her healing journey.
Alice is beginning to thrive and has become an activist regarding sexual assault. She contacts legislators regarding bills that affect victims, she has a blog, she speaks out on campus and she looks forward to volunteering with a rape crisis center. Alice revealed when her mother brought her to C.A.R.E. four years ago, she did not want to talk with anyone about what happened to her. However, she now realizes “talking about it” helped her to become the person she is now, a young woman with a bright future who is surviving and thriving.
During one of my healthy relationships violence prevention education sessions at one of the local high schools, I was pleased to see a group of male students, who were football players, take particular interest in the lesson. They took brochures and posters to place in the male locker room for the students who wanted to talk about sexual assault. They thought people should be talking about it, especially since sexual assault stories are in the news often today. The young men took notes during the classes and told me they were starting conversations about healthy relationships in the locker room. I was happy to know students are listening and being concerned with respecting others.