Our story of hope

Submitted by SAFE San Juans

This “story of hope” is part of SAFE San Juans Domestic Violence Awareness Month “Stories of Hope” series. It is written by an anonymous survivor of domestic violence. This story contains descriptions of physical and sexual violence, reader discretion is advised.

The first part of our story is difficult to read. I encourage you to continue through the first few paragraphs to the hope and freedom that is now our journey of healing.

In 2001, I met someone who I thought was kind and loving. In 2003, I married him believing I would spend the rest of my life with him. Over the next three years, the joy of a new marriage started to decline. It began with just yelling, cursing at me, passive insults, and shoving. Every action was followed by a reason as to why, a lengthy apology, and a week or two of kindness.

Between 2003 and 2006, I carried two beautiful children into the world. In 2006, 20 weeks into my second pregnancy, I was raped by the man I married. At that time I did not understand this was possible in a marriage. As the pregnancy continued, and for the next nine years, the yelling turned into screaming and spitting, the cursing was now on a daily basis, the insults were loud and direct, the shoving became hitting, punching, and kicking, and the rape was often.

I would like to say the children were exempt from this horror, sadly they were not. I tried so hard to protect them but many times I was knocked unconscious trying to defend them.

One may ask, why didn’t you leave? In which I would reply, I did. The times I tried, I was caught and abused more intensely. I was trapped by the lies he told to keep me in the prison that surrounded us. I was gaslighted and confused. I became a shell of who I truly was.

In 2015, I was granted freedom for my children and me to leave. I was told we could go if I left without asking for half of the home we lived in, half of our retirement, half of the pension, and no alimony. I was scared but quickly packed, signed documents, and moved to the San Juans within three weeks.

We were now in the safety of my parent’s home. Unfortunately, he came to visit a few times over the first few months. There was continued abuse of the children until they hid and refused to go. Then the contact with the children stopped for almost four years. I continued to experience what I now understand was financial abuse through him not paying insurance bills, child support and threats of taking me to court. However, he did not attempt to connect with the children. After four years with no physical contact, he demanded to see the children. Without describing in detail the next10 months of continued financial abuse through lawyers, court and mediation, it was decided that he needed to follow a reunification plan. Understanding, this was due to his lack of connection, not the abuse, as I was still too scared to speak.

After nine more months, with no attempt to begin the reunification process, without warning, while we were asleep, he showed up on our doorstep pounding, kicking and screaming to let him in. I froze, the children hid, I eventually called 911 and a deputy responded. What followed was an emotional roller coaster, to say the least. However, this is where the true hope and healing began.

What followed was me finding my voice and strength to share the trauma of the life we endured. I trusted a few people who loved, provided shelter, safety, and supported me without question. My advocate and the staff at Safe San Juans believed me without judgment, provided me with endless hours of support through legal paperwork, attorney appointments, sitting in court and mediation, and surrounded me with safety. I learned and began to believe that what happened was abuse. I learned and began to understand and believe that everything that happened was not my fault. I began to trust.

One of the results of this part of the healing journey is my children and I have the safety of a domestic violence protection order. The expansion of the healing that has continued since the order was granted is beautiful. We have hope of a life without fear; we have slept through the night without being woken by a night terror or nightmare for the first time in 13 years; we have a new understanding of safety; and we have the freedom to not live in constant vigilance of countless fears.

The healing process of trauma does not happen quickly but with the support of my friends, my family, my advocate, and counselors, I truly believe it is possible.

I am forever grateful to each individual who provided me and my children with the safety to trust, to believe and know a life without abuse is a reality, and the hope of a life without fear is possible.

I was believed, I was heard, I was supported without judgment. I am a survivor!

Do you have a story of hope to tell? The staff at SAFE San Juans would love to hear it and help you tell it. If you are in an abusive relationship and want help, we are here to help you think through what to do. To talk with someone from SAFE San Juans, call 360-378-8680 or visit us online at safesj.org.