One Woman Who Survived
My life is full of bits and pieces, fits and starts, pain and loss. Remembering one of those pieces brings back a cold and snowy November night in 1978. I lived in a small mountain town where only the bare necessities of life were available. If one needed specific items or services, a trip to "the valley" where the big city lay sprawled across a desert was the only choice. For quite awhile, I had contemplated going to the valley for one of these specific services not available on our little mountain - a "safe house" for victims of domestic violence. That night I made the trip down icy, snowy roads for almost three hours having made the decision to leave my 8 year old son with family. Fear drove me. God kept me safe.
It's a funny thing about abuse - fear makes you stay and fear makes you leave. I had never experienced any kind of abuse before this relationship and have not since. But on that night, nothing I had known before or anything I was to learn in the future existed for me. Only the fear, only the pain, only the agony of believing I was all alone in this nightmare occupied my world.
Finally arriving at the safe house, I rested and felt protected - and still, very much alone. Although they reached out to me with kindness and love, I still believed no one could possibly understand what my life was. I still believed he would find me and hurt me again. I still believed I was only safe for the moment. I was not capable of looking beyond this "visit."
For too long, I had been led to believe I could not take care of myself, make decisions for myself, be attractive to anyone else and most of all leave my home to make another life for myself. Armed with this debilitating mind set, I had only come to stay for awhile. I had not a clue what would happen after that. I was not in the habit of thinking for myself. I assumed someone there would do that for me.
It was there in that environment that I learned I was not alone. The first revelation! And I learned I did have choices. Second revelation! And finally I learned I could live without the abuse. Live without the abuse? Big revelation! It certainly never occurred to me I had grown so used to it that even though I was terrified of it - I had become accustomed to it. Accustomed to it - never liked it. Big difference. When fear rules your life, it is amazing what survival techniques you develop.
Now here's the big surprise. I left that cotton-wrapped, love-filled, house of safety and returned home! My mind was opened just enough to believe I could live with life as it was and not as it could be. At home, I discovered nothing had changed - only me. So with the help, love, patience and support from a priceless and life long friend, I found my way out. Nine months later, I left for good.
Two years later I married again and we just celebrated 19 years together. During the first year of my marriage, I became a part of an effort to establish a safe home network in a small Alaskan village. Later, we moved back to that little mountain town and discovered there were still no facilities for people like I had been - people who lived wrapped in fear believing they had no choices or letting the fear keep them from making choices. So once again, I became involved with an effort to provide services for victims of domestic violence. That program still exists to this day in the capable and caring hands of another good friend. It was the very least I could do.
My son? I'll never know the long lasting effects that time had on him. He appears to have grown up to be loving, talented and caring. On the other hand, I see things. Things I wonder, had I paid more attention. Had I not been so consumed with my own survival. I'll never know. I can only continue to love him and support him and hope.