As you may know this month we are working with Forsyth Family Services to help raise awareness for domestic and sexual violence. Here is the second story I want to share with you from a strong survivor Dawn.
Dawn's story started with her husband who she had known for a decade. She has a beautiful daughter, was pursuing her college dreams, lived in a beautiful condo and was employed as a family and youth counselor! Her husband had previously been a paramedic, he had 3 children and was just getting back into the medical field. He was very intelligent, and very romantic. However, soon her became more controlling, it was uncomfortable but she did not feel afraid of him initially. But soon things escalated, first stating with a push, next he was yelling, then she was being slapped. She lived like this in the relationship for 11 years, tried to leave 8 times before she made the decision that enough was enough. For some years she managed to maintain an apartment, however, she has also stayed in a shelter and various hotels for months. Many time she would receive a notice to vacate, move to a safe place, and rectify the past due rent later. Fortunately, many people understood and if those trying to escape can find the courage to explain the circumstances to their landlord or apartment manager, even if it’s at a later date, she found that they wanted to help if they could. This is where community organizations like Family Services, DSS, Salvation Army and victim advocates can be a huge help in explaining the situation to others.
This abuse made Dawn lose her sense of self. The abuse did not occur every day or even every week...sometimes not even for months. So there were periods of great times, that's why domestic violence can be confusing. Not every victim experiences abuse everyday. Anything she asked for or wanted he would provide- $300,000 homes, She drove nice cars- Audis and new Sports cars, she had never been materialistic but it was nice to have a pool guy and lawn maintenance and to be able to use her money to travel with her kids. So his generosity and romantic side occasionally made her think that if he would just get help, then life would be good. However, these things also made her a target for financial abuse. He did not want help! He wanted control!
She kept the problems to herself, never shared them with her family. Her mother had experienced her own domestic violence issues earlier in life, having survived she made it very clear that she did not want her with him and that she did not believe he would ever change. When I moved 600 miles away, my family became somewhat distant something he capitalized on it was another way to control her. Thankfully her children were never hurt, Dawn's youngest was 4 months old when she left permanently, Her oldest unfortunately was affected by what she heard and witnessed, she would often wonder why her presence was not enough for him to be respectful or get help. She was always an amazing, respectful, child and honor scholar, but he was never able to enjoy that. But Dawn made up for that by always celebrating with her daughter. Her oldest daughter has always been strong, one of the most eye wakening thing that happened when she left permanently was her daughter’s, she didn’t care about the home or cars being left behind. All they cared about was our safety and our love for each other.
On many occasions he threatened her. He threatened to burn her house down with all of them in it. He threatened to kill her and wished her dead more times than she can ever count. More often than not, when he would threaten her she would make it known to him that I was going to fight back, and she did. She had gotten so accustomed to having to fight back that she ignored the fact that he was a black belt in martial arts and had even owned a martial arts school in North Carolina. She thinks a lot of victims have the misconception that as long as they're fighting back that they will be okay. In reality, no one should fear being hit or having to defend himself/herself against someone who is suppose to love them.
Unfortunately her ex has never gotten help. She kept going back in hope that one day he would, because he always promised to get help and would even go as far as making, but not keeping, the appointments. His employer offered free mental health counseling and two of his co- workers, who were also his best friends, encouraged him to take advantage of that help. They even offered to attend counseling sessions with him. He never went and that was a big factor when she filed for custody of our daughter a few years ago and was granted sole custody. He was granted no visitation unless she deemed it appropriate and even then he is forbidden, by court order, to take their daughter out of state. The order lists, among other things, that he never sought help.
She says that she wants to tell women and men in an abusive situation that they are not alone. There are people praying for them, rooting for them, and willing to help them and we will not pass judgment. There are women who have survived domestic violence who know what it’s like to leave behind everything, and what it’s like to stay in a shelter. We know what it’s like to brazenly file for the order of protection and have that request denied. Women, like Dawn understand the fear of what may happen if you leave. We know the concerns for your children, your finances, your pets. I promise, you can recover it all! It won’t be overnight and it may not be easy, but you can do it! Of course, safety and a safe exit plan are the most important things but if you prepare yourself a little every day, even if it’s just to find a way to make a call to an organization like Family Services so that someone is aware of your situation, it makes a difference in terms of empowering and preparing yourself. Believe in yourself and remind yourself that you can and will get out of the abusive situation that holds you captive. It’s not easy but you can do it and there are people who care and want to help!
Dawn says now she very blessed now! She is a domestic violence and child molestation public speaker and victims’ advocate. She is currently completing requirements to get licensed as a Mental Health Counselor in the state of NC, and is working to complete her law degree! She is married to the most wonderful man and “Pops” to her children. They have been together for 6 years and she has never even feared being hit, cursed, or disrespected. Her oldest daughter, who is determined, accomplished, and very loved daughter has graduated with honors from Georgia State University with a B.S. in Psychology with an emphasis in pre-med, and is completing graduate level prerequisites for Physician’s Assistant School. Her youngest, and equally loved,bright and funny daughter, is in the 5th grade. She wants women and men who are in abusive relationships to know is that your children can also go on to live very fulfilling and positive lives! They don’t have to become a negative statistic! So, yes, life is good- not perfect, but we are enjoying it!