Guest Post by Andrea of Walking in the Light
In 2005 I made the most frightening decision in my life. I took my 3 little girls (then age 2, 3, and 5) and left a marriage that had been filled with domestic violence for over 6 years. Having been once told that if I ever left and took the kids I would be killed, and having experienced the kind of abuse I had at the hands of the man who was supposed to love me more than anyone else, I had every reason to believe that what I was about to do on that summer day was not going to end very well.
Literally shaking and scared to death, I made the phone call to report the things that my children and I had experienced…. a call that I attempted to make 6 months earlier during an altercation that left me thinking twice about ever calling again because I nearly came face to face with death. So many things rushed through my head, as they had before. (Am I going to make it out of this alive? What will happen to my girls if I don’t? If I survive this, how will I EVER support my girls with no college degree? Will he kidnap my children? I’ve kept no proof over the years, how will I ever fight in court? He’s SOOO manipulative, he is sure to make himself look like father and husband of the year. If he wins custody, or even visitation, how am I going to keep my girls safe? The only way I can ensure they are safe is if I stay. God, WHY has this happened to me…..WHY would you EVER allow me and my children to go through something like this?) No matter what, I had made this decision and if not for myself, I had to do everything I could to make a life free from abuse for my children. They deserved to grow up in a loving household. With three girls, I didn’t want them growing up to think it was okay for a man to treat them the way their father treated me. These are the things I had to keep reminding myself of during every frightening step of our journey to safety. With whatever will that was left in me, I was determined to do whatever it took to keep my children safe. There was no turning back now.
I placed the call at the home of a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years due to his isolating me from any support I had. The sheriff came and took a report, and explained to me what was about to happen. He was going to arrest my abuser, I was to take my children to the Department of Children and Families Children’s Advocacy Center, and then I was to go to the county courthouse and file for a domestic violence injunction and request to have my children protected under it. The first couple of days were a blur. The anxiety was crippling and I did not want to lose my children. I followed every direction and suggestion the department had for me to a “T”. I had nothing to hide.
I had so many people praying for me, even though I had lost contact with many of them throughout the years of my marriage. My church family, whom I had also been detached from for some time accepted me with open arms as I returned and clung to what little faith I had left. The miracles that happened in my case were some to be remembered for as long as I live, as my Heavenly Father took my faith the size of a mustard seed and grew it into something big. Little by little he taught me what it really meant to trust in him.
I was granted a permanent injunction. My children were in protective custody of the state for 1 year as they resided in my care. During that year, proof was not needed to keep my children safe as their father hung himself in court many times over. Don’t get me wrong….it was nowhere NEAR easy. Each day was a struggle to overcome where we had been and to get where we are now. I faced so much anxiety, I was the annoying client that called legal aid 3 times a day fearing the worst was about to happen. While God was teaching me to trust and place everything in his hands, I fought to gain control over every situation, I struggled to let go of my anxiety and fear. The girls and I spent 3 months in a domestic violence shelter. I had to call the police several times to report violations that their father made against my injunction. Coincidental things happened that were considered suspicious by the police but lacked the evidence to prove….such as the back of my car being caught on fire, my brakes being tampered with, and an attack in our apartment complex, to name a few. Meanwhile, I lived in counseling trying to let go of the pain I had buried deep inside from the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse I had endured on a regular basis. I had vowed NEVER to get involved in a relationship for the rest of my life. I had every expectation to remain single the rest of my life and live with the consequences of my choices. However, God had different plans for me and my girls.
Almost 5 years after making that frightening phone call that day, God began showing me that my girls needed a positive image of what a healthy relationship between a man and woman looked like. Opposed to the idea, I again fought with God until I finally said to him out loud one night, “Ok God, I get it……if this is what you want for us, then I will do my best to try, but I am NOT going to go looking for anyone. If this is what you want, then you can bring the man you want for me into my life.” It just so happened that I connected with an old friend from high school on facebook. This guy was someone I hung out with in high school and sung with in choir, but never dated: A man, who devoted his years after high school working with kids and going through school to be in Christian Leadership. What’s more is this man had spent the prior 2 years of his life working with women and children that had been in domestic violence relationships. We met for lunch one afternoon to catch up on the prior 15 years, and the rest was history. I could not have orchestrated something as amazing and perfect as what God did.
At what our friends labeled “The Wedding of the Century,” we had a blended family wedding and my husband wrote personal vows to my 3 girls. It was the best day of our lives. I don’t believe any one of the couple hundred people who showed up at our wedding left with a dry eye….most of them knowing what we had been through and how wonderfully God had worked in our lives. I married the most amazing man that day. His gentleness and patience have inspired me to live each day with no regrets; to not let the past control or haunt me, but to use it as a reflection to make me stronger. We work together through situations that arise from time to time when having to face court appearances or problems that are stirred up by my ex in regards to the children. We are each other’s support and best friend. Six months ago we brought another baby girl into the world. She has really tied our family together and given us all a new purpose. The older girls are now 8, 9, and 11 and are thoroughly enjoying their newer role as big sister of a baby girl. As for myself, I am thoroughly enjoying the new experience of raising my children with a man so devoted to loving us and being an active part of every one of our lives. I have never been more blessed!
*Currently, I am one internship away from getting my Bachelor’s degree in Social Work (this having been interrupted by the birth of our newest girl). Before getting married I began going to school half time along with being a single mom and working full time. It has been my desire to work with other women and children who have experienced or are experiencing similar situations like I lived in and to give them hope. Women of faith are particularly vulnerable, as there is very little help from the Christian community where domestic violence is concerned. Many times leaders of the Christian community give advice, while with good intentions, puts a woman living in domestic violence at risk for severe harm….including death. If you are experiencing domestic violence in your home or you think you may be (domestic violence is NOT only physical – It’s about power and control) you can call the national hotline 1-800-799-SAFE. If someone you know is going through this, please look for resources on how you can be a support to them. If you need help finding resources or have any questions regarding this post, you can email me at [email protected]
Here are just a couple of the many resources for anyone who would like to learn more about domestic violence for themselves or for loved ones:
Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft
In addition to many great resources on this website, there is a great article for those who want to help:
20 Reasons Why She Stays
A Guide for Those Who Want to Help Battered Women by Susan G. S. McGee
Andrea is the mother of 4 girls and wife to the most AMAZING husband in the world. They are a blended family living life to its fullest. Having once been married into a life of domestic violence for over 6 years, Andrea is a survivor who has been blessed beyond measure. God has given her the desire to help other women who have felt the pain of abuse and the destruction it leaves behind. You can read more about Andrea over at Walking in the Light.