Asking for help felt unnatural, Dianne* saw herself as an independent, confident and successful woman. So did her community. Shame and disappointment engulfed her at the thought of admitting she was being abused by her husband. Putting aside her fear of losing respect, she once hinted to a friend about the emotional abuse she had been dealing with throughout her marriage, not daring to yet mention the physical abuse. She explained to her friend that she often felt belittled, unappreciated and as if her voice did not matter in the relationship. Dianne also told her that it felt as though she was always walking on egg shells to avoid a negative reaction from her husband. “But he takes such great care of you,” the friend replied, “just talk to him, he loves you and would do anything for you.”
The day after their 45th wedding anniversary, her husband was enraged. Again. Taking the roses he surprised her with just the day before, the beautiful buds became a weapon as he used them to repeatedly hit her while yelling at her for forgetting to pick up his dry cleaning during an outing with their grandkids. “You never do anything right,” he shouted; Dianne couldn’t recall how many times he had said this to her. After hiding her keys and ordering her to clean up, her husband left to pick up his dry cleaning. Scared that he would return and continue to lash out at her, she called the police.
Dianne’s concern that the officer would be dismissive of her fears quickly dissipated, he was trained to understand that domestic abuse does not always leave visible signs and that it can happen to anyone. “What a relief,” she sighed. After all, even her closest friend had trouble believing that something like this could happen to her. Before finishing his report, the officer gave Dianne information about Emerge! services and suggested she call Emerge!.
After checking into a hotel, Dianne called the bilingual 24-hour Emerge! hotline. She was greeted by a hotline support specialist who offered her comfort her as she explored all of her options and chose her plan of action. The hotline specialist told Dianne who to call to set up an appointment with Emerge! Community Based Services, and also helped her create an intermediary safety plan for the time being. Part of Dianne’s plan included notifying a supportive family member that she would be staying at the hotel. Before ending the call, Dianne was reassured that she could call back anytime if she felt concerned about her husband finding her and needed access to emergency shelter, or just needed to talk. The seemingly simple yet powerful words “I believe you and it’s not your fault” were permanently imprinted in Dianne’s mind after hearing them from the hotline specialist.
Dianne began to realize that there was no reason to be ashamed of what was happening to her or for considering leaving her husband. When she came in for her appointment with Emerge! Community Based Services, she received further emotional support from her case coordinator, along with general information regarding her rights as a victim. Dianne’s fears had been replaced with a renewed sense of empowerment, she knew she would not be alone in her journey to safety.
Annie was able to save a couple of dollars every trip to the grocery store without her abuser knowing. Due to financial abuse, she was not allowed to utilize her Social Security money. Other than the money she hid from her grocery trips, she had no savings.
Annie’s relationship was physically, emotionally and financially abusive. She had been meeting in secret with a domestic violence advocate for nine months. Together they created a safety plan and, finally, one day, she fled in the middle of the night. Annie left all of her personal belongings behind. She got on a train and rode it to the other side of the country and never looked back. She ended up in Tucson—she knew no one here.
Annie contacted Emerge! for social and emotional support. She identified social support as one of her greatest needs. She realized that she knew no one in Tucson and did not want to feel lonely or vulnerable. This had led her to return to her abuser in the past. She did not want to repeat the cycle.
She began receiving service at Emerge! and now attends one-on-one support and support groups multiple times a month. Annie knows that isolation is part of her domestic abuse and recognizes the importance of having friends. Annie states that she takes it one day at a time, as some days are better than others, but at least she knows that during the bad days, she has someone to talk to who understands the dynamics of abuse and supports her decisions.
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University of Arizona alum and author Justin St. Germain writes about his childhood in Tombstone and his mother’s abusive relationships. The New York Times calls this book spectacular! Click here to read the review.
When Love Goes Wrong-What to do when you can’t do anything right-Strategies for women with controlling partners by Ann Jones and Susan Schechter
Surviving Domestic Violence: A Guide to Healing Your Soul and Building Your Future by Danielle F. Wozniak