It really pisses me off when celebrities like Dr. Phil make stupid comments to domestic violence victims like, “Why didn’t you just leave?” I had to school a family court judge who had been on the bench for 35 years too. So let me share with you what I told each of them.
Hitting the door with a child when you live in an abusive home and have no family, car or financial resources is akin to stepping off a cliff and praying that a magical parachute shows up on your back before you splat on the ground.
I recently took another life-busting financial hit trying to raise money and awareness for a nonprofit that works with DV survivors (http://www.voicessetfree.org/) and helped me and my son get off the streets when we fled. I can’t sleep some nights thinking about the families who haven’t made it off the streets yet. But what I learned from my recent experience is that I can’t help those desperate families yet because after 11 years – I still am not stable. But somebody has to care, reach out, raise money and awareness because this pandemic is getting worse, not better.
I know a woman who shot her abuser as he was coming at her with a knife for the last time. He died, she went to prison for 12 years and her children got a life sentence without either parent. Yet today, 3 years after serving her sentence she is more stable than I am. That is not to say that killing someone in self-defense, being criminalized for it, and serving over a decade in prison is a walk in the park. I still wouldn’t trade my experience for hers, but my ride hasn’t been much easier.
I fled on a Sunday night in the rain, barefoot with no money, phone or car; a sick baby in my arms, no family and no where to go where I wouldn’t be stalked by our abuser. Thankfully, the abuser delivered my shoes and phone to the neighbors who housed us for the night.
From there we went to a counseling center where we were allowed to sleep in an office space at night and I cleaned the building in return for our stay. We bounced from couch to shelter to couch for years. Then we went from one abusive housing share to another as people took advantage of our situation, all the while claiming to be helping us.
11 years later we still don’t have a stable home, car or enough income to reinvent our lives. One of the reasons for this ongoing instability is that I refused to leave my very traumatized child in the care of strangers to go chase money. I believed (and still do) that if I didn’t raise him myself and help him deal with the deep traumas that only I knew he was carrying, that I would be visiting him in jail before he hit high school. He needed me by his side.
That decision has paid off for me. My son is an amazing young person with heart and savvy, who can look at his own dysfunctions and make great choices. We are so blessed!!!
Getting out of an abusive home and getting off the streets was just the beginning. I then had to take on a whole nest of crooked court officers that were conspiring to support the abuser because his high dollar attorney was best buds with the first judge we got in front of. It was three solid years of litigious horror. Thankfully, the other party couldn’t hide his behaviors through four grueling days of trial and became abusive in the courtroom. That coupled with the fact that I was uploading the whole trial to YouTube each day so that the judge would know he was being exposed, saved our lives. I got a landmark decision in our favor. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4R1k3EYsVDk
According to the states or Oregon and Washington domestic violence includes:
- Name calling
- Economic abuse
- Threats of violence
- Physical assault
- Forcing sex on a partner and more
Even those who show up in the emergency room with broken bones and black eyes rarely get the support they need from law enforcement or the courts. Most often the abuser has kept the money, home and car and therefore marches into court saying they are the best parent for the child(ren) because they are financially stable. I got hammered with that point of view for years.
Thankfully, I have a high IQ and lots of courtroom experience and have the personality to argue with a sitting judge, or my son’s life would have been toast. As I sat in courtroom after courtroom for years my heart broke for survivors who didn’t speak the language and/or had no self-esteem left or never had the intellectual prowess to do what I did to save my son from a life of abuse. My point being – we are some of the very lucky ones who got out and got free! And we still have a long ways to go to get stable.
I hope to start a spirited discussion here about how we help families address this problem before we hit the tipping point of no return on family violence. Our prisons are full of people who grew up in violent homes and didn’t get the help they deserved and became victims or abusers. Abusers need help and love and support too.
In my next installment I will tell you more about our journey of surviving on the streets after fleeing and how I got cancer by eating out of the food banks – thus my dedication to greening the food banks and bankrolling programs for domestic violence survivors.
To everyone who has a loving family and a stable life – be grateful for your good fortune (I am not saying it was a lucky draw – I know you worked hard for the life you have) and reach out to a family in need. Your generosity will be rewarded by spirit!