At twenty-five, I managed a gift shop, owned my own car, established good credit and maintained a very active social life. At twenty-seven, I married a man from a small country town. Being so swept away, I ignored the other side of “Prince Charming.” As time passed, the abuse became more frequent and more intense. Each time I found employment, he would become unbearable, including phoning me at work and yelling obscenities.
Six years of marriage took us to a rented house in the country. I was not allowed to use his car, even to take our two children to the doctor for emergency care.
February 1987, he pinned me down and began choking me. Our five-year-old son ran to the phone, dialed “0″ and cried, “My Dad’s killing my Mom, please help!” The operator traced the call and sent a county sheriff’s deputy to the house. Despite the bruises and visible marks, the police were not able to help me.
During the next year, I obtained a car and began planning my escape. He had the phone disconnected. April 1988, the abuser flew into a rage, so I took our two children and drove 15 miles to a pay phone. Every shelter I contacted was full. I had nowhere else to turn because over the years, I had become alienated from my family and friends. After walking around the grocery store for 4 hours, I returned home.
Three days later, after the abuser’s usual early morning rage, our son left for school and our three year old daughter was hiding under blankets, shivering and crying because she was so frightened of her own father. My husband left for work and I took our daughter, drove to a phone and called a domestic violence shelter. I was told to take my son out of school, pack what I could in my car, and I drove 30 miles to the nearest city.
In the three weeks my children and I were at the shelter, we began to restructure our lives. I found employment, housing, childcare, counseling and legal advice.
Because the domestic violence shelter was there, my children and I are alive.