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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What Women Lose When They Leave 

“Why doesn’t she just leave”?
“If it were me, I would have kicked his ass to the curb and left a long time ago”. 

“Why does she stay? I’ve raised her better than that”. 

“I would never let someone treat me like that”.

Whenever the subject of abuse comes up, these phrases inevitability come up in one form or another. To many, these phrases are harsh, judgemental, rude, and ignorant. To me, these phrases indicate that there is more work to be done to educate society on what leaving is actually like. 

When a woman leaves an abusive marriage, she leaves far more than the abuse behind. Let’s explore what leaving actually looks like. Here’s a list of some of what a woman leaves behind. I’m sure this isn’t a full list or an all inclusive list, however it is a good glimpse into what one loses when they leave an abuser. 

Her Spouse

Obviously. Right? Out of everyone who says why doesn’t she just leave, how many of them do you think are willing to walk away from their spouse? Here’s the crazy thing about abusive relationships, they aren’t 100% bad or riddled with abuse. In fact, most of them start off as a fairytale. How else do you think they get together in the first place? And, the abuse doesn’t happen all the time. Yes, couples argue, yes, couples don’t agree, yes, people make mistakes and treat each other poorly from time to time. No one is perfect. So not only can it be confusing to make the determination if your spouse is abusive or having a bad day (strange thought, I know), but, the thought of leaving someone you love and losing that partnership, that lover, that confidant, can be hard to process for anyone whether or not abuse is involved. 

Her Financial Stability 

When the man is the income source, it is obvious why a woman would fear financially for the wellbeing of herself and her children. Add that some of these women haven’t worked in years due to staying home with the children so don’t feel competitive in the workforce. And the fact that there is still childcare to consider when she does start working and it paints a better picture. 

According to Current Population Survey BLS 2010, in 2016, 66% of American households are dual income households. So even if she is currently working, the task of maintaining a household under one income can be daunting for anyone. Again, ask someone who says why doesn’t she just leave if they would be willing to modify and most likely downgrade their lifestyle and see if they still feel it is just that easy. 

Her Home

A home should be a safe haven for all family members. While living in a home with abuse may not feel like a safe haven, leaving your home behind completely and living in a shelter, or living in fear that your abuser could show up at any time and violate a protective order (if you were able to get one in place) is terrifying. 

Human beings as a general rule are more comfortable with what they are familiar with, including a familiar threat. Afterall, being in the home with an abuser and able to keep a thumb on the pulse of their abusive cycle is much more predictable then living apart from an abuser making it so you have no clue when they may reach the explode phase. 

And, most people aren’t willing to just walk away from their home and all their possessions, especially when they may have to drag kids along, just to become homeless. 

Her Children 

I was terrified that my ex would take my son away from me and flee the state and that I would never see him again. The idea wasn’t so far removed when I grew up with a great aunt who experienced just that. My ex fought for it too. He filled a protective order on behalf of my 12 month old son against me. Child Protective Services and the courts got involved and all of the sudden I had no control over when I would get to see my son. 

Even though I was awarded custody and didn’t lose my son completely, I still am required by law to send my son to stay with his dad and step mom at regular intervals  (one night a week and every other weekend plus holidays). While this is great for my son (I fully believe in kids having a good relationship with both parents so long as they are safe) and even though it can be a blessing to have some kid free time especially when you’re a single parent, I still miss out on so many moments in my son’s life. I miss out on scouting events and lost teeth. His first plane ride and his first trip to Disneyland. Every other Thanksgiving, birthday, and Christmas morning belong to his dad. How many people who say she should just leave would willingly give up that much time with their children? 

Her Pride

Sure, losing your pride doesn’t seem like that big of sacrifice right? Except it is. It can be a hard thing for people to let go of. We live in a society of social media and publicizing our lives. It’s a weird thing, the ways your pride can be hurt when leaving an abuser. You don’t want people to think poorly of you. That you didn’t try hard enough. That you picked the wrong partner. That you waited too long to leave. Even though failure is an essential part of life, and is often what brings us to success, it is still painful and hard to go through. 

So often those people who sing the ideology of leaving an abuser are too prideful to see the hardship and pain that causes. They think they know better. 

Her Ego

Our ego is often synanomous with our self esteem. When someone leaves an abuser, often times all they have id their self esteem. I for one left behind everything, my home, my furniture, my clothes, my belongings. All I took with me was 3 days worth of clothes for myself and my son and (thankfully) my car. That type of scenario is frighteningly common when leaving an abuser. 

Having to start over, from scratch, on your own, while being a parent and fighting a court battle isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a lot of work and there are lots of tear-filled lonely nights reflecting on perceived failures of the day and anxiety riddled thoughts of what is to come. 

Not many people willingly take that sort of a beating to their self esteem.

Her Family

I have seen this go so many ways. Making the choice to leave is a tough one and it affects more people than just who’s leaving and who’s being left. We often spend years with the person we are leaving. We get to know and love their family.  And our family gets to know our abuser. 

Leaving can bring out unpredictable responses from family. The abusers family can blame you for leaving and make things difficult for you. They can agree with you and support you (this is rare) which often makes things difficult as it can make the abuser more angry and resentful. Your own family could be blinded by the abuser and not understand or support your choice. Your family may question your dedication to marriage or what’s the right thing for your kids. There are several possibilities of how those closest to you may react and you have no way of knowing what that will look like until you make that choice.

Losing family members and those you love is a hard choice for anyone. 

In Conclusion 

There are so many things a person considering leaving can possibly lose. So how do you do it? How do you make that choice? You don’t overthink it. You just follow your gut. Leave when you know it’s right. You will know suddenly and unexpectedly. Take that leap of faith. 

5 Things You Can Do to Help Someone in a Domestic Violence Relationship

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I get message after message from family members and friends of people who are experiencing abuse, wondering what they can do for their loved one. (I know men and women experience abuse, and I also believe in choosing a different word than victim to label the person who is experiencing abuse, therefore, for this post, I will use ‘she’ to refer to the person experiencing abuse).

Being the concerned friend or family member who sits on the sidelines and watches is a tough place to be. I get it, you want to help, you want to swoop in, you want her pain to end, you want your friend or sister or daughter back.

The crazy thing is, the more you step in and try to help, the worse things actually can become for her.

Here are some things you actually can do to help.

1. Prepare
Prepare yourself before you talk to her. Maybe to some reading, I highly suggest Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft. It will help you understand abusers, and those who experience abuse and why the abuse happens.

Pray. Pray for her. Pray for her kids. Pray for her abuser and pray for you. I know there is power in prayers and I have seen miracles happen from bold prayers with trust in God and believing that He wants what is best for each of us.

I also have found a lot of power in letting go of your attachment to the outcome. I know you want the best for her, but coming in with too much passion will often times turn her off before you even begin. A great resource I have found to help in letting go, is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) surrogate tapping. Seriously it’s like magic.

2. Give Her Information
Often her abuser watches everything she does, checks her phone, texts, Facebook account, email, browser history, or doesn’t even allow her to have any of those things. Find out where her local shelter is, give her their number and address.

Make sure you also reassure her that shelters and police officers are her friends. She can stay in a shelter or safe house and truly be safe from him. He’s not allowed in. There are other people there including legal advocates who will help her file custody papers, divorce papers or restraining orders. She can kick him out of the family home and she can have police officers be present in the home while he moves his things out.

Here is the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) They are trained well and perfect for her to talk to. I know I called them before I left.

3. Talk to Her
Take her out to lunch. Be there for her. Start with small talk, ask about her kids, her life, just don’t push or pry. Trust that as you give her support and show her trust, she will open up to you when she is ready. Here’s a great tip, if the conversation starts to go deep, and she begins avoiding eye contact and looking down, be patient with her, be there for her, eyes looking down is a body language tip that she is searching down deep for answers and deciding whether or not she can trust you with what to her is her deepest darkest secret. Allow her this time. Let her look down. And most importantly, give her all your attention, don’t look away from her, don’t check a text, don’t sigh or move. Wait. Be still. And when she looks at you again, she will be more likely to trust you and open up.

4. Listen
When she does open up, just listen. Just hear what she’s telling you. It’s not your job to fix things or tell her what to do. She needs to make that choice for herself. She may be looking for someone to tell her what to do (after all she’s spent so much of her relationship being told just that) and it won’t work if someone else makes this choice for her. It will most likely be hard for her, but I promise making this choice will be the best thing for her. Leaving or staying has to be her choice.

5. Wait
This one might be the hardest for you, and it is also the most crucial. We have all heard, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’. Same concept applies here. You can give her all the information and love and support she could need and still she’ll stay.

I promise leaving is much more complicated than you may think. Especially if there are kids involved. She may be afraid he will get custody of the kids or even keep her from seeing the kids. She will be scared and unsure. In fact the risk of violence dramatically increases when she leaves.

This is not the time for you to take matters into your own hands and tell her abuser to ‘shape up’ or stop treating her a certain way. Most likely he will take it out on her and punish her for it somehow.

Just let things flow and allow them to happen. Be ready to be there for her. She’ll need you whether she leaves or not to love her, support her and believe in her.

Journal Entry

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A few excerpts from the journal I kept while going through my 3 1/2 journey to divorce:

Nov 15, 2006 (six weeks before I left him the final time)

I’m sitting in the women’s shelter right now. I’m waiting to talk to someone to weigh my options. I think I’ve already mentally divorced my husband. It is just not in me anymore. I’m tired and if I don’t leave him soon I will break. I still have little doubts and thoughts and worries that pop up,  but I’m hoping this conversation will help. I know I’m not as in bad a situation as some of the women who come here, but I also know I’m not in as good a situation as my son and I deserve to be. I just want this to be over. And I am afraid to go through it all. But I know the Lord is with me.

January 14th 2007 (two weeks after leaving)

I have left my husband, and I have never been so scared and exhilarated at the same time. I’m ready to move on and start fresh, but there are several steps I have to take care of first.

I hurt. I want to scream and cry. I want to be held and comforted. I want to fast forward through time to a better, healthier place. But I know that going through all this is the better thing for me.

March 27, 2007 (the night before my first time in court)

I can’t sleep. I am on the verge of tears. I have gotten everything ready for mediation tomorrow. I am nervous and sick. I do feel the Lord with me and that all will be well, but I don’t know what to expect, and worry that I have not done enough or done it right. I can’t turn my mind off or bring myself to get ready for bed. It’s like if i don’t go to bed, tomorrow will never come and I won’t have to worry. I’m anxious to see what way this will go. My feelings are so jumbled they are like strings all knotted and tangled together. I don’t know how to begin explaining one without running into another.

May 24 2007 (my sons first extended weekend away from mommy)

I just sent my son off with his dad for Memorial Day weekend. It will be my first weekend away from my one year old son. My heart is slowly breaking. Is it right for a mother to be separated from her child in such a way? Everyday I ask myself if I’m making the right choice. Is leaving my husband really the best decision? And every day the answer is still yes. The only way my answer would change, is if he would change. Unfortunately he is being enabled and disillusioned into thinking he is right and I am wrong. Which really, that’s not even what this is about. If it were simply about who is making the correct choices in life or in our marriage, it would be something we could work through. It’s about the way a husband should treat his wife. It’s about the way a human being should treat another human being.

July 29, 2007 

I feel like I am floating down a river. Sometimes I flow easily and quietly along the way, others I am struggling just to keep my head above the surface.

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.

Safety Plan

Thinking of leaving your abusive partner?

Looking for a safety plan? Leaving is the most dangerous time for a person experiencing Domestic Violence, an abuser will do whatever they can to keep you from leaving.

Reasons leaving feels so scary:

  • You don’t want others to think badly of you.
  • You don’t want others to think badly of your spouse.
  • Packing up and taking kids makes you more vulnerable.
  • You’re afraid what will happen if your partner catches you.
  • You don’t know how he will react after you leave.
  • You don’t know what to expect from the legal system.
  • You don’t know where you will be safe.
  • You’re afraid of him getting the kids.
  • You don’t know where you will live.
  • You don’t know how you will support yourself and your kids.
  • You may not have a job.
  • You may not have transportation.
  • The unknown.
  • Your abuser may have ties to police, judges, or other authority figures and you don’t know if they will favor him.
  • You’re afraid for your life and the life of your kids.

Reach out! Get help. There are several resources available to make leaving easier. Here is a great place to get started!

http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/domviol/plan.htm

First Flight

“I don’t know mom, sometimes I feel like I should go to St. Johns.” I breathed into the phone receiver of my land line. I had called my mom to wish her a Happy Birthday on the wintery February Utah morning, my two month old son rocking in his swing, sleeping snuggly. I was enjoying being home with my infant son, the gift of being furloughed from a government job.

“Then go.” Came her simple reply. Then go. Those two words hit me hard. Then go. They pounded in my heart and thrummed through my veins. Then go. My fingers began to tingle, my body, heart, brain and soul all coalescing. Then go. I had my answer. It was like I was just waiting to be given permission. The next hours passed quickly and in a blur. I must have told my mom I was leaving, though I do not remember anything more of that conversation.

Once things were set into motion, everything else fell into place. I began planning and packing. Valentine’s Day had come and gone and I still had decorations hanging through my house, the carpets needed vacuuming, the bathroom scrubbed, the kitchen swept and mopped, the dishes put away, the laundry done, and our fridge was nearly bare. I felt a strange urge to clean it all up, to leave my husband a clean house and frozen meals. I would need clothes and a few toys for my son and me. I had no cell phone, and no money coming in, my ex and I had separate accounts; I had no access to his money. My mom called my dad, and when he told his boss his daughter was leaving an abusive husband, she practically pushed him out the door. Out of the blue my best friend who I hadn’t talked to in weeks, called my house, I told her what I was doing, and she dropped everything to come to my house. As my human angels converged on my home, I packed and cleaned; blessedly my infant son slept on and needed little attention from me. As soon as everyone got there, my friend volunteered to go shopping for me while my parents helped me pack my car and prepare my house, I wrote a letter for my husband, explaining I was leaving with our son, and that we would be safe, I placed it on the coffee table.

We stood outside in the cold winter air, my son buckled into the back of the running car, I gave hugs to my parents and friend, my parents gave me my dad’s cell phone and their debit card and the cash they had been able to quickly scramble together. It was around 2 o’clock in the afternoon by this point, my husband would be getting off work around five and driving home through the rush hour commute after that. I needed to get on the road.

The car I was driving was a 9 year old, white 97’ Ford Escort, it had manual roll up windows, a moon roof that leaked, side view mirrors that had been wired on, and mechanical problems on and off during the last few years. I was running off faith it would make the 595 mile drive. I hardly remember the beginning of that drive, it wasn’t until I had been driving for about an hour, and driven past my husband’s place of work that I finally let loose and began to cry. I was overcome with emotion; my thick, hot tears blurring my vision, a prayer in my heart as I faced the most frightening experience in my life to that point. I was frightened the instant my ex came home and saw the letter, he would know exactly where I was headed, and he and his father would come after me. I literally had visions of him dragging me back home by my hair.

I kept driving. Normally a very active boy who wanted to be held and cuddled often, my son slept on, only waking to be fed, I, still a nursing mother with no formula or pumped milk on hand, found places to pull over and nurse him for twenty minutes at a time, in a church parking lot, on the side of the road in the middle of a canyon, anywhere I could find, keenly aware it was all precious driving time I could have been using to get further away. I sat in the back seat, and fed my son silently and quickly and got back in the drivers seat. I kept driving. My dad had called ahead and arranged a hotel room for me in Moab, the half-way point, and temporary destination. When the time I expected my husband to be home rolled around, I could feel the anxiety rising up my body. I kept driving.

I pulled into Moab around 8:30 pm the skies were dark, and the buildings along main street lit up. I was hungry, I went through the Wendy’s drive-though, then continued driving until I saw the pre-chosen hotel. I pulled in and checked in as quickly as possible. They gave me my key, and I found my room and let my son and myself in. I was so tired. Emotionally, and physically exhausted from the drive and events of the morning. I remember turning American Idol on the TV, anything to drum out the thoughts and fears threatening to overtake my head. I changed my son and laid him out on the bed, I’m sure it felt so good to him to stretch and not be in that car seat anymore. I fed him once more and then took the time to feed myself. I called my parents to find out what had transpired since my leaving and let them know we were safe and in the hotel. What I found out surprised me.

Upon coming home and finding my note, my husband first called my parents. They told him they knew where I was, and that I was safe, but they would give him no more information than that. Shortly after, officers showed up at my parents door. My husband was trying to file a missing persons report. My parents explained to the officers why I had left, they asked my parents if they knew where I was, they said they did and that I was safe. “Have a good day.” Was the response the officers gave. Next, my husband tried to get an Amber Alert activated, saying I had kidnapped our son. That did not go through either. I also called my best friend to find out my husband had called her to try and get information from her as well. I am so grateful my family and friends were strong enough to stand up to my husband where I was terrified of him. While none of these tactics worked out the way my husband had intended, what they did do was scare me, that he was willing enough to do those things shot fear into my heart, what would he try next?

I tried to sleep, I kept waking throughout the night, sleep eluding me as my brain was hyper active with the possibility that my husband and his father would know intuitively exactly where I headed and were on their way to take us back. St. Johns is the small Arizona town where my mom had grown up, much of her family still living there. My uncle, who had married my mom’s sister, was FBI trained and the chief of Police, I would be staying with them. I knew I could stay there and be safe. Around 4 am when sleep would no longer come, and my adrenaline began pumping through my veins with anticipation of my husband showing up any minute, flight kicked in, and I quickly packed, when I went to go check out of the hotel, the lobby doors were closed, I slipped my hotel key though the crack, and figured that the credit card my parents had used to reserve the room would cover the cost. I began driving again on the cold, dark winter morning. It felt good to be in motion again, I knew I wouldn’t feel safe or be able to relax until I arrived at my aunt and uncles home.

The sun began to rise as the miles ticked away, I waited for a decent time to call my aunt and tell her I was only a few hours away. It still seemed so far, I had to talk the panic down that tired to rise up in my body. When I finally arrived in St. Johns city limits, I began to relax. I love St. Johns, I have so many memories visiting there, and living there for three years in my middle school days. My mom’s family is so fun to visit and I feel loved and accepted by them. I was looking forward to seeing my Grammy, and visiting my Papa’s grave who had passed away a few years previously.

I rarely fully look back at this day, and as I do now I can see the angels who were there along my way and the miracles that happened. I believe there were nanny angels with my infant son as I drove my car, lulling him to sleep and keeping him entertained so he rarely cried. I believe there were mechanic angels who kept my car running and made sure I arrived to my destination without complication. I believe there were guardian angels who surrounded us and protected us, who guided me and inspired me so we were safe. I believe my Papa was there with me, by my side the entire time, whispering words of strength and encouragement, watching over me, and just being there so I would not be alone. I believe the reason my ex did not automatically think I had driven down to Arizona was a miracle, granted by God, taking that idea and option from his mind. I believe the authorities who were contacted as my ex tried to track me down were comforted and prompted to know there was nothing to worry about and no reason to get involved.

I arrived at my aunt’s house uneventfully, it felt good to be safe and warm and out of my car. She greeted us, and got the chance to meet my son for the first time. She helped me unpack my car and got me settled in her son’s room. I found myself in a room with a queen bed and Dallas Cowboy decorations on the walls. My aunt had things to do, kids to take care of, errands to run. Life did not stop for me, life went on and so did I.