What Can I Do to Help Her?

“I think my daughter is in a domestic violent relationship. What can I do to help her?”

“I’m sorry, but there is nothing you can do until she is ready for the help. Do you know if it’s physical?”

“Not that I know of yet. I think it’s just emotional right now. I don’t understand why she is putting up with this. This is not the daughter I raised.”

“You have no idea what life is like for her right now and what she is going through.”

When people find out that I work to help people who experience domestic violence, the most common question I get is ‘How can I help my sister, or daughter, or friend who is in a Domestic Violent relationship?’

And the answer is scary. The answer is: you can’t. The reason the answer is so scary is because it leaves the person asking in a vulnerable and powerless place.

It’s scary because you have to watch this person you love live in an unhealthy relationship. You have to watch them make choices you thought they would never make. You feel there is nothing you can say or do that will influence them in any way. And you become afraid that since they are making those choices you never thought they would make, that they will never make that choice to walk away. So what can you do?

Contact your Local Domestic Violence Shelter

Yes! Do this! How do you find it? Google is your friend!!! I have so many people ask me for the info of the local shelter. If you know someone who knows, reach out to them. If you don’t, Google knows!!! That’s it’s job. Use it.

The shelter can send you information. You can educate yourself on an exit plan (or download my free exit plan here).

The first and best thing you can do is educate yourself. When I finally left, it was unplanned. I saw an opportunity to leave and I took it. I was lucky. Since I had been given information, I had copies of all of my important documents and three days worth of clothes for myself and my son. I knew where the nearest women’s shelter was and I went there.

Be There For Her

I know it’s frustrating that your loved one doesn’t seem to listen. I know you feel helpless. I know those things can make you want to cut ties. It happens. Please be there for her. In the way she needs it. Be there as much as you can. Her abuser may do what he can to make sure she cuts ties with you. Please don’t let this happen. Be there and be ready for when she does leave.

Be Aware of How You Speak About Her Abuser to Her

Alright. I know this one sounds crazy, just go with me. The more you tell her that her abuser is a jerk or a horrible person, the more she will actually pull away from you. It’s hard to explain the mindset of someone in a Domestic Violent relationship, but here’s a small insight: she still loves her abuser, she wants to feel like she made the ‘right’ choice in choosing to be with him, she still has hope in their relationship.

Instead, change your language in how you talk to her. Draw her attention to the things he does that are abusive, not the way he is. The two need to be separated. When she is told he is a bad person, she will shut down and not listen because she does have evidence of him being a good person. When she is told his actions are not acceptable she is able to separate his actions from his person.

Give To A Shelter

Often times women and children walk into a shelter with absolutely nothing. And not only do they have to face becoming homeless and having zero possessions, they also have to face the legal side of restraining orders, custody battles, lawyers, and giving the power over who decides where their kids will go to a stranger (a judge) to decide for them. It’s scary as hell.

Anything that is donated gives these women and children at least one thing to hold onto and become their very own, which in a world where everything is taken away, feels invaluable. If you can’t help the one person you want to help, help the whole.

Be Patient

Above all else. Please be patient. Remember this is her journey. She will leave when and if it’s right for her. The more you can come from a place of patience and love, the less frustrated and upset you will be. This will help you be there for her when she is ready. This will help her have the one beacon of safety she can cling to. Be patient.

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10 Life-Changing Books Paving Your Path to Healing From Abuse

I began writing this post months ago and stopped. Probably mostly due to life getting in the way, and other blog posts taking precedence. Last weekend I was blessed to attend a Gala for an amazing organization, WOW Utah, helping women who have overcome domestic violence, substance abuse, polygamy, debilitating illness and simply not having a voice to build a better life for themselves and their children. Besides having the opportunity to support the seven women who were being celebrated that evening, I spent the evening talking to wonderful women who all had beautiful stories to tell, and I was inspired to complete and share this post.

Why Does He Do That By Lundy Bancroft

While I was staying in the women’s shelter, this book was mentioned more than once, I have the feeling that out of all the women who would attend the Domestic Violence classes with me I was a small percentage that actually bought and read the book. I am forever grateful I did, and it is always the first book I suggest to others who are or have experienced domestic violence. I took it with me everywhere I went, I read it on my breaks and during my lunch at work, I had a pen and highlighter in hand the entire time I read it so I could take notes. I called it my bible to healing from domestic violence. There were times it was hard to read because it brought back memories of the abuse, but it also helped me to understand the thinking behind an abuser and helped me feel empowered, something I hadn’t felt for a long time.

Left To Tell By Immaculee Ilibagiza

Before I left my ex, I hated my job. I was a seasonal data transcriber and spent 8 hours a day typing at a computer, as quickly and accurately as possible. Not the kind of job for my bubbly and humming bird like personality. I liked variety and a challenge. Once I found myself a single mom, no one thing changed about my job, except my attitude. I suddenly needed a good job. I applied for and got a permanent position and began using my time to listen to books on tape. My mom was in a book club, and suggested this book to me. I remember sitting at my desk typing as I was listening to this book, and the story and words ringing so true with me that at times I could feel my body tingle from head to foot. This was the first book that introduced the concept of visualization to me. Or choosing what you want, focusing on it and believing and trusting in God, the universe, a higher power (use what rings true with you) to bring your desires into your life as you do your best to work toward it.

The Gift of Fear By Gavin de Becker

When I left my abuser for the first time, I drove a state away and stayed with my aunt and uncle. My uncle was chief of police and I felt I had to get that far to feel safe. My uncle had been in law enforcement for years and had trained with the FBI. It was him who recommended this book. This book helps you to learn and recognize the difference between fear that helps you survive vs fear that keeps you from moving forward in life.

Remembering Wholeness By Carol Tuttle

This book opened a whole new door for me. I don’t even remember how I heard about it or what prompted me to read. It pretty much just materialized into my life. I can hardly think of the words to express my feelings on this book. It’s one I still listen to on occasion and learn from. There is so much content packed in and it’s a great book to really expand your healing journey.

The Child Whisperer By Carol Tuttle

Suddenly becoming a single parent can be overwhelming. So many thoughts rushed through my head, I wanted my son to have as normal a life as possible, be a successful, contributing member of society, and I wanted to guide him to still have a good relationship with his dad, while not taking on the abusive traits that had been passed on through the generations. Not to mention I had this little person who had his own personality that I wanted to learn and understand. This book revealed so much to me about my son and helped me understand him and parent him to the best of my ability and then some. I became a child whisperer. (It was also super helpful to me with all the other kids in my life).

Loving What Is By Byron Katie

This book is an absolute delight. I bought the audio version and since much of the book comes from excerpts of Byron Katie having one on one discussions with real people, I was able to listen to the original recording and hear the emotion behind the words that were spoken. This book completely changed the way I viewed people and myself. I have used the technique she teaches to improve my relationship with my boyfriend. He and I went from frustrated and hopeless to thriving and growing as a couple.

Women Who Love Too Much By Robin Norwood

If you’re looking for something that will help you break destructive patterns and truly look at yourself and your relationship and know without a doubt if it abuse or not, this is the book for you. I love this book, the stories it tells, the insights it provides and the tools it teaches to help you to truly heal and move beyond that pattern of abuse in relationships.

Creating Affluence By Deepak Chopra

These ‘A – Z Steps to Creating a Richer Life’ are simple and full of impact. This is another book I bought the audio version, and believe it or not, it is a book I re-listen to often. It is only an hour long, and besides Deepak Chopra having a pleasing and gentle voice to listen to, there are things I either learn every time I listen to it, or things I need to be reminded of. I am still on my journey to creating more affluence in my life, and I know this book continues to have that impact and I am loving watching what unfolds in my life as I learn, understand, and apply these practices.

Feeling is the Secret By Neville Goddard

In my life, I have had the pleasure of knowing and meeting several successful and self made millionaires. These are the people who have become my mentors in my life. These are the people who I follow and learn from. When teaching at a seminar I was attending, one of them challenged us to not only read this book, but spend ten minutes transcribing it every morning. I took the challenge, and even though at times I was tired and didn’t really feel up to it, I would get up and transcribe the book for ten minutes while I listened to it. The book is only about 30 minutes to listen to, but it is so jam-packed with content, that slowing down to transcribe it really helps the principles to sink into your head. This is also a book I listen to again and again and am still learning from.

Chakra Clearing By Doreen Virtue

Whether you believe in chakra’s or not, this is another great audio book. I has a 20 minute morning and a 20 minute evening meditation. I love listening to it to either start my day or as I drift off to sleep. If you have a hard time shutting down your brain at night and drifting off to sleep, this is  a great audio to play as you drift out of consciousness. This is one I listen to nearly daily and again, whether you believe in chakra’s or not, it has great trains of thought and uplifting messages thought out.

7 Pillars to Healing From Domestic Violence Introduction

7 Pillars HalfI woke up Christmas morning to what was perhaps one of the most horrible days of my life. I could feel the fear coursing through my veins and pumping into my heart, all I wanted was to take my 12 month old back to the shelter where I knew we would be safe. I rolled out of my sisters bed that we had shared that night and checked on my son. I honestly don’t even remember much more of that morning. I’m guessing we opened gifts and ate breakfast, although I do remember there wasn’t much for me or my son. Our Christmas was all wrapped up underneath the tree at my house, the one place I wanted to be the least. I decided to stay at my parents house that night rather than the women’s shelter I had checked in to 3 days earlier, after all, it was Christmas. I remember most how frightened I was that night that my then husband or father in law would find out where I was. I had visions of them breaking in through my sisters window in the middle of the night and taking my son from me. I had parked blocks away down a small forgotten street and carried my son through all the snow in an effort to keep them from knowing where I was. All I wanted to do was to get back to the safety of that shelter. There was a part of me that thought about my then husband, sitting in our house, all alone, with the Christmas tree and all our Christmas presents. My heart ached for him, a little. Still, I knew I was making the right choice and that going back was not an option. I had to turn off my emotions in a sense, and instead focus on survival. I couldn’t dwell on those thoughts or worry about him, not any more. My safety and future as well as that of my son were at stake.

I packed everything up and drove back to the women’s shelter. I walked up the four flights of stairs and in to the empty shelter, my son and I were the only ones who were currently seeking shelter. It was quiet and lonely. There was at least one intake worker at the shelter at all times, a woman could come seeking shelter at any moment, it wasn’t just a Monday through Friday type of deal. She asked where I had been, and I explained that I had stayed at my parents house for Christmas Eve. She berated me telling me that I could be kicked out for not coming back to the shelter before curfew the previous night. I fumbled around in my head and remembered checking in and being told of the 9 o’clock curfew. I honestly just thought that if I wasn’t back by curfew time, that I would have to stay somewhere else that night, I didn’t realize being gone past curfew was grounds for being kicked out. Luckily, she forgave me my misunderstanding and I was allowed to stay. She brought me several age appropriate toys that had been donated by complete strangers. She explained that usually the kids at the shelter only get one toy each for Christmas, but since my son and I were the only ones there, she gave us a few more. She asked if I wanted to wrap them. I don’t know if I wasn’t in the Christmas spirit or if it was just because my son was 12 months old and I figured unwrapping gifts wouldn’t be such a big deal to him. I declined and took the toys out of their packaging and gave them to my son. It was shortly after that that more women some alone, and some with children began to check in to the shelter.

In the four weeks I was there, I was the one who stayed the longest. Women and and children checked in and out of the shelter, some there for their second, third, or fourth stay. I remember sitting in a classroom full of other abused women, we were being taught what domestic violence was, how the cycle worked, how to recognize it, and how to avoid getting into another domestic violent relationship. I remember the teacher talking and my mind wandered. I was thinking ‘This is never where I thought I would end up. This is never how I thought my life would be. Now I’m going to be divorced and a single mom. My dreams of being a stay at home mom with several children running around are over. What am I going to do with my life? Who is ever going to want me? I have nothing. I have three days worth of clothes for me and my son. I’m considered homeless. This is never where I thought I would end up. What am I going to do now?’ Immediately the answer rushed into my head, and it was this answer that got me through some of the darkest moments, it is this answer that I think of on nearly a daily basis and drives much of what I do to this day. I heard a voice say ‘Brandy, you are going to be alright. You are going to make it through, and you are going to come back and teach other women what you have learned.’ 

Since that day, I have invested nearly a decade of my life, and thousands of dollars in to learning everything I could so I could truly help others, and I am continuing to do so. The 7 Pillars to Healing from Domestic Violence covers the 7 types of abuse, and how to heal from each one. I am continuing to expand on these 7 pillars and will be releasing an in depth program soon.

7 Pillars back 2

Love Yourself Because Someone Has To

So you made it. You left. You’ve been through the frightening experience of leaving your abuser and starting your own life. Now what? Here it is, step one to healing from abuse: love yourself. It may sound simple, but for someone who has spent years dedicating their life to someone else as a survival mechanism, it can be hard to know how.

Do Something For Yourself
Find a babysitter. Get some alone time. Buy yourself a cup of coffee or a bouquet of flowers. Take a bath with Epsom salts and lavender oil. Go for a walk. Pray. Write. Write your story, write your feelings, write it all, it’s very healing. It’s not selfish. It’s good for you. It’s good for your heart and your soul. Plus you’ll be a better mom as you cut down on stress and anxiety and you’ll be better prepared for all life throws at you.

Write and Recite Your Own Affirmations
Affirmations are powerful. The words you say to yourself are powerful. Chances are you just spent years being told who and what you are by someone else (and it probably wasn’t great). It’s your turn to tell yourself who and what you are. Don’t know how? Here’s where you start: Grab a peice of paper. Draw a line down the middle. On one side, write down your top ten negative thoughts. That’s right I said negative! Here’s where your work really begins. On the other side, write down the opposite of each negative plus one. So it’ll look like this: I am so stupid = I am smart and I am beautiful. Viola. Instant personal affirmation. Write down all ten and then say them every morning and night. I even recorded myself saying them and listen to them as I drive to work in the morning or drift off to sleep at night. Watch this video from the movie What the Bleep Do We Know. It gives great insight into the power of our words.

Take Yourself out on a Date
That’s right. You heard me. Go out to eat by yourself. Go to a movie by yourself. (I totally watched Disney’s Tangled in a theater filled with families by myself). Get to know yourself again. Who you are. Who you are not. What you like and don’t like. Chances are you spent so long trying to please your abuser that you don’t know who you are any more. I would even suggest waiting to date for at least a year while you get to know you. I know the thought may kind of suck and all you want is to feel what it feels to be loved in a healthy relationship. It’s possible. I promise. I know because I waited even longer to start dating again.

Take the time learn to love yourself and then you will be ready to teach and allow a man how to love you. Don’t worry about what everyone else thinks. Do what’s right for you.

What now?

It’s been seven and a half years. Seven and a half years since I walked into a women’s shelter. Seven and a half years since I began the divorce process. Seven and a half years since my life changed forever and seven and a half years since I last experienced the abuse that once was so common in my life.

As I continue to share my past experiences, what my life was like, talk about the abuse that happened in my marriage and the process and legal battles of leaving my ex husband while retaining custody of our one year old son, people ask me ‘So, what’s it like now?’ ‘Are you worried about your son when he’s with his dad?’ ‘Is he still abusive?’ The answers to those questions may surprise you and things may not be quite how you think.

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‘What’s it like now?’
A lot has changed mostly because I have changed. My one year old is now eight and was recently baptized in the Mormon church. (Mormons baptize the members born into the church at eight years old). It was the first event both sides of my sons family would be together since he was blessed at two months old. And while the families may not agree with each other or really want anything to do with the other, we put our differences aside for him and it was a beautiful and pleasant experience.

My ex is remarried to a woman who has been in my sons life since he was three and while I don’t agree with everything they teach my son, she is a great parent and loves my son and treats him very well. I couldn’t ask for much more than that.

I am dating an amazing man who lets me be me and helps me be a better person every day and I hope to be married one day soon (maybe with another baby or two).

I’m growing my business as a mentor, trainer and energy therapist while I still work my amazing government job and my son and I rent my parents basement while we look for a house of our own.

I have learned and healed so much in my life.

‘Are you worried about your son when he’s with his dad?’
In a word, no. My ex does the best job he can as a parent with what he knows. Sure he’s more strict than I like. Sure he teaches our son things that are different than what I teach him. Sure he does things that totally drive me crazy. I see those as good things. I see those as part of my sons plan here in this life.

My ex takes our son every time he’s supposed to and he always pays his child support on time. I get a chance to recharge my batteries while my son’s gone so I can be a better mom when he’s here. And my son is given the gift of seeing how different life can be and the beauty and love that still exists in that difference.

There are some negatives. There are things I don’t like about the situation. There are things my ex does that drive me crazy and that I don’t think are okay. (Teaching my son to call me by my name and his step mom as mommy for example). And I have chosen not to focus on those things (which is why I’m not naming more). I am choosing to hold a place for my ex being the amazing man I know he can be. I am choosing to believe my son is strong enough and smart enough to see the good and the bad in both his dad and myself and that he will be better for it.

‘Is he still abusive?’
Okay, I’m being honest here, you’re okay with that right? For some reason, this question is hard for me to answer.

Maybe it’s because this is a public blog and I know my ex and his entire family have found it and read it.

Maybe it’s because it’s just an emotional question for me.

Maybe it’s because it’s not a simple or cut and dry answer.

Abusive? Not so much. That’s more the wrong word. He’s still a little manipulative. He calls to talk to our son every day. (Which of course is fine). However when it’s his turn to have our son for long periods of time like summer vacation, he doesn’t always return the favor. I call to talk to our son and rarely get the opportunity. Certainly not every day.

He teaches our son to call me by my first name and his new wife ‘mommy’, my mom by her first name rather than grandma.

Which is all fine in the long run. Thankfully I’ve been able to learn my sons true nature and part of that for him, is his adaptability. When he’s with me he calls me mom, when he’s with his dad he calls me by my first name.

At one point the whole thing was a huge point of contention for me. And I let my ex know and his wife know and even our son know. I’ve learned this is a small thing and it’s better to let it go. Our son loves both his mom and dad very much and I don’t want to do anything that would make him think, hear or speak negatively about his dad.

My intention is that my son will see both the good and not so good traits of both parents, and that he will learn and decide what it is that he wants in his life. And take on the good traits we each possess and let go of the not so good. 

The Shelter

I could feel the soft pull on my nipple and let down as my twelve month old suckled in the early morning hour, the soft yellow of the rising sun. I half dozed as he nuzzled in close, and I was cherishing this sweet bond between mother and son, enjoying the sweet flow of life in this moment I so rarely experience.

A knock rattled the wooden door, I lifted my head, “Time to get up…” sang a woman’s voice. I let my head drop back down to the pillow as thoughts ran quickly through my mind. I’m nursing my son, can’t I just have a moment of peace. I’ll get up soon, I’ll be a good girl, I’ll do what I am asked, just let me have this moment. “I’m nursing my son.” I called out. “We’ll be out in a minute.” I planned on weening him at twelve months, but when our world was suddenly turned upside down, us homeless and me a single mom, living together in a shelter with strange women and unknown children, our schedule dictated to us by some random third party who did not know us, our lives, or our circumstances; battling the justice system, all while terrified of what my then husband and father-in-law might do, the words of my father-in-laws threat constantly running through my mind, influencing all the decisions I was making I have worked for the city, I have worked for the county, I know all the judges and all the judges dirty laundry, if you leave my son again, you will not get custody of yours.” With all of that, I knew we could both use the comfort and normalcy nursing provided.

The Shelter
I finished nursing, but not before another knock rattled my door, this time with the woman coming in. There was no real privacy here. After dressing myself and my son from the limited clothing options I had and changing his diaper, we were out in the common area of the shelter. Shelter life was not quite what I expected, I remember walking in with visions of something like an elementary school cafeteria with cots set up in rows and public bathrooms. I expected meals to be served from the school kitchen on plastic trays with little milk cartons, the whole scene with a faded tonal quality. Instead there was a large open area divided into two sections, a living room with three couches set up in a ‘U’ and a large flat screen TV on the open end, we even had Dish network, and a dining room with two large tables and benches, there were three or four highchairs lining the back wall, satelliting out from the main living area were offices for the counselors, a play room with donated toys and movies, a large kitchen and pantry where we prepared our own meals, and five bedrooms each with their own bathrooms and the capacity to sleep 5-6 women and children.

Shelter Rules
We had to take turns doing daily chores, vacuuming, dusting, sweeping and moping, cleaning our bathrooms, and preparing the meals they told us to. They provided a washer, dryer, and laundry soap, I remember walking down the five flights of stairs into the dark unfinished basement where we did our laundry, the other women staying there told ghost stories about the creepy room, though I never saw anything. One evening the assigned meal was meat loaf, while I had seen my parents make it all growing up, I never had prepared it myself. I’m not sure why she was there, because she rarely was, but the director taught me how to make the meatloaf, it was a tender mercy to be standing there in the kitchen, cooking dinner together she felt like a mother figure to me and that brought me a small bit of peace in a then otherwise cold world.

There was a 9 o’clock curfew, if we weren’t in by 9 o’clock, with a few pre-approved exceptions we would be kicked out, period. One night, shortly after beginning my stay at the shelter, I found myself in the doctors office with my son at 8 pm I was lucky enough to have my mom and Grammy in the office with me, my son had just been diagnosed with RSV the nurses instructed me on how to give him a breathing treatment and had ordered a machine for me. It was miserable to stick the silicone mask in my one year old’s face as I held him tight and he cried and tried to get away. When I knew the appointment would get me back to the shelter past curfew, I called and told them what was going on, this was obviously and exception, and I had no problems getting back in when I showed up half an hour past curfew.

Shelter Living
We lived on the fourth floor, no one was allowed in except those of us staying there and a handful of counselors. It was that fact that brought me the most comfort, I knew my ex and his family had absolutely no access to me. There were legal advocates to help us file temporary custody papers, divorce decrees, and protective orders as needed, she was a liaison between us and the legal system, some thing I was particularly grateful for as I had absolutely no experience with the justice system. There was a daycare we were allowed to leave our children at free of charge for when we absolutely needed it. We had to take Domestic Violence, Self Esteem, and Parenting classes that would continue on after we left the shelter and optional one on one financial and sexual assault/abuse counseling available as well. We could only stay in the shelter for 30 days, then we were kicked out, we had the option of getting assisted living, and in order to be approved for that, we had to have a job and pass a drug test. That was my first and only experience being drug tested, and having a woman assigned to you to watch you pee was a little weird.

The Other Women
When I walked into the shelter, my son and I were the only ones staying there, the first woman to join us was older, in her 50’s or so, she had left her abuser several times before. I was blessed enough to have a car, and after my ex canceled my sell phone service, my Grammy gave cash to buy a new cell phone, the woman knew I was going to get a phone, and asked if she could come along and visit her bank while we were out, I drove to a mall far away from the one my ex and I had frequented, when I took her to the drive through for her bank, she found her accounts had all been frozen, she had no access to money and shortly after returned to her abuser again.

Another girl had two children, and pre-teen boy and a four year old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome the mother had little time and attention for her daughter, as she was so wrapped up in everything else going on, I stepping in as I could, and I now understand her come from as my son falls somewhere in the behavioral needs spectrum.

One girl, somewhere in her 30’s I remember as being super cute and nice, I even let her borrow my shoes, then had to claim them back after she cut herself and they kicked her out for drug use.

A mother came in for one night with her five children, the children were frightened and unsure of everything going on, I remember talking to one of the daughters about anything that didn’t have to do with the shelter to help comfort her, that family was out the next day as the mother had taken legal measures to kick her abuser out of the family home.

There were many more who came and went in the 3 weeks I stayed there. I was surprised how many women had been in the shelter before, and come back several times. We would put all our children to bed and sit up on those three couches in the living room with the TV off talking about our lives, children, and abusers. There were woman who had it far worse than I had, I was the only one with a car, steady job (even though it was seasonal and I was furloughed, I knew I would begin work again soon), I had a strong support system of family, friends, and angels. Some women had no hope of living a life on their own, believing they didn’t have the skills to do so. Some women had been beaten so bad they had had hospital stays, one had been locked in her house with her children whenever her abuser left with absolutely no access to the outside world. I remember being told I was beautiful and tearing up over it, it had been so long since I had heard those words and I had forgot I was. It was humbling and frightening to hear each others stories, but we lifted each other and buoyed each other up, we were all we had.

Shelter Classes
For me, it was in the classes that I began to find hope and faith again. I didn’t think I really needed them at first, I thought I was above them, and as I continued to go, I began a journey of self improvement that has not stopped in the seven years since I left. I remember sitting in the Domestic Violence class as the teacher was speaking and letting my mind wander, I was pondering the fact I never thought I would be where I currently was, I never thought I’d be a single mother leaving an abusive marriage, I realized there was a long road a head of me, and my life had taken a complete 180 degree turn, and I didn’t know where to go from here, anything was possible, it was then I had a thought come to me, Everything will be okay, you are going to get through this, and you are going to come back and teach other women what you learned. It was four years later that I found a company that teaches how to be a trainer and a mentor, I knew this was the start to my journey as a teacher to help these women, and I have taught in several locations, including the very shelter I once stayed at.

All in all, I am truly grateful for the shelter experience, it opened my eyes to the truth of the world by taking off my rose colored glasses, it gave me a safe place for myself and my son. The shelter taught me lessons I could have learned no other way and set me on a new and invigorating life path, I won’t trade that for the world.

CRASH!

CRASH!!!! CRASH!!!! CRASH!!!! The locked door bowed in and creaked as my husband repeatedly slammed all of his weight against it. I sat on the toilet, stunned. I could hardly think as all my senses attuned to the cracking door and I focused my gaze on the door knob. I could see the wood around the latch splinter as the door began to give way beneath the pressure. CRASH!!! CRASH!!!! How long would it hold?

I knew he was angry, I had not yet seen him exude such physical force during a fight, I was frightened what would happen once the door gave way. Maybe if I could reach it and unlock it first, he wouldn’t be so mad and he wouldn’t be ruining my door. It’s funny the thoughts that float through your mind when something like this is happening, I was really concerned about the state of my door? The problem was, I was legitimately using the toilet. Before I could finish my business, jump off the toilet, and open the door, it gave way with one last harrowing CRASH!!!! As my husband stumbled into the room full force he was fuming, chest heaving up and down, eyes laser beam boring into mine. And I sat there, dumbfounded and frightened, on the toilet, completely helpless. I couldn’t even hide or climb out the window; I was stuck.

As a person who is experiencing abuse, your mind set is completely focused on survival, on not getting hurt, the choices you make and things you do all focus on keeping yourself (and often times your children safe).

You do your best to hide what is really going on behind closed doors from your friends and loved ones for several reasons:

• You don’t want people to think poorly of your spouse.

I know this sounds weird. Why protect someone who is hurting you? The best way I can explain this is you do still love the abuser. We as people tend to do things to protect the ones we love.

•You don’t want people to think poorly of you.

This kind of goes hand in hand with not wanting people to think bad of your spouse. You want people to think you are smart enough to make good decisions about who you allow into your life.

• You have been threatened by your abuser.

The abuser actually knows what they are doing is wrong. The abuser also knows in order for control to be kept, there needs to be silence. No on else can know. The abuser can either threaten verbally or through their actions.

• You are just plain scared.

As a person experiencing abuse, you don’t really know the lengths the abuser will go to keep control over you. You hear stories in the news, and you see your abuser do things you never thought they would. I remember when the cases of missing and murdered women began to surface (such as Laci Peterson and Lori Hacking ) my husband said, “Is that the norm now? Is that what I need to do to you to fit in?”. I didn’t know what to do or say. and my fear of him grew.

• Religious beliefs

This was another factor for me. Being raised in the Mormon faith, which really emphasizes the importance of family and marriage, it was hard for me to make the choice that would end my eternal marriage. I prayed, fasted and pondered. Even after I left, I wondered if I had made the right choice. I can tell you this: I know God would not desire any of his children to live a life of hurt, fear, control, and abuse. That is not his plan, and as I look back, I can see his hand in my life as I took the steps to leave and stay away from my husband.

If you know someone experiencing abuse, you may not understand what they are going through or why they make the choices they do. You may wonder why they stay when it seems so obvious to you that they should leave. Know that this is their choice and something they will have to live with. Know that they are afraid and insecure and uncertain. Just be there for them as they need you.