Local Woman Shares Her Story of Domestic Violence, Escape and Healing

Page 1

October 14, 2021


Jane has known her now ex-husband ever since they were children. They grew up near one another and played together in their neighborhood on the Island. In high school, they started dating. Jane had a rough home life growing up and wanted someone to love her and treat her right. She thought the boy she had grown up with was charming, and so did many who knew him. Soon after they started dating, she became pregnant with their first child at the age of eighteen. They were engaged soon after.

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Jane moved in with her fiancé, who lived with his father on Kent Island. Once they moved in together, things began to change. It began with verbal abuse… yelling over minor things and name calling. Late one night, he was talking down to Jane and she began to cry. She attributed her tears to both his nasty words and the hormones from her pregnancy. He wrapped his hands around her neck, choking her until she was unconscious. She awoke terrified. He told Jane that it was her fault that he choked her and that she was acting crazy. He told her he didn’t want his father to hear her crying. Jane tried to move past the incident. She no longer had the ability to move back home, and she wanted to focus on raising her soon-to-be born baby, hoping he would never hurt her like that again. Jane would marry him a few months later when her baby was just a couple months old.

She had no idea that what happened that night would be just the beginning...

Local Woman Shares Her Story of Domestic Violence, Escape and Healing By Marcus Hoffman

Jane’s story continues on the next page. Her name has been changed to protect the privacy of all involved.

October 14, 2021


Domestic Violence is more common than many would assume. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV): • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner. • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime. • 19 percent of domestic violence involves a weapon. • 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year. • There are more than 20,000 calls made to various domestic violence hotlines every day.

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As time went on, he only became more aggressive, sometimes screaming and throwing things at her. Her husband began financially abusing her, often taking her paychecks and spending all of her money. He went to banks and opened accounts in her name. He would then overdraft them, wrecking her credit score before she even had a credit card of her own. Jane wanted to get her GED, but he always had a reason for not letting her. Sometimes it was because he spent her paycheck and they couldn’t afford it. Other times it was because he just didn’t feel like taking her. This behavior served to further trap Jane with her abuser. As time went on, Jane became more and more isolated from those around her. He often prevented her from seeing or speaking to many of her friends. The few times she was able to see them, she covered up the way he treated her out of shame. Their relationship continued and Jane had a second child. These sorts of big life events often put her husband on edge, leading to more abuse. Soon after the birth of their second child, he punched her in the face and slammed her head against a window. She called the police for the first time, not because she wanted to get him in trouble, but because she believed he needed help. Jane had the option to press charges herself, but because she believed he could change and was worried about retaliation, she declined. However, because there was physical evidence, the state pressed charges against him. He was released the same day, and his only punishment was to take anger management classes. These classes made no long term difference in his behavior. Years went by and the abuse continued. Her husband was arrested for another incident of physical abuse, this time in Virginia during a family vacation. Once again, he was released within 24 hours and, though eventually convicted, faced no jail time. The situation between Jane and her husband finally reached a boiling point. He was behaving erratically, so much so that Jane started crying. In a fit of rage, he grabbed her by the hair and dragged her down the steps of their home. Once downstairs, he picked her up and threw her through a glass door like a battering

October 14, 2021 Page 19 www.SHOREUPDATE.com... KEEP UPDATED! ram. Miraculously, the glass door didn’t shatter, but instead swung changing her life forever. open and Jane landed outside flat on her face. She became unThey knew Jane and her children’s safety was the most imporconscious and awoke in pain. This was worse than things had ever tant thing and set her on track to get a protection order. Protection been, and she knew she was in a dangerous situation. orders bar an individual from seeing another individual and are She was too afraid to call the police, knowing it had made little specifically issued for people in immediate physical danger. They difference before, and hid in the shed outside of their home. She can be obtained relatively quickly, and they last for a set amount took pictures of her injuries, but soon began to worry about her chil- of time. Within a few days of starting the process, Jane was granted dren who were inside the house. Though he had never physically the order. She stayed with her grandmother, and the police served abused their children, he also seemed angrier and more violent her husband the papers, barring him from seeing her. “MSCFV than ever. Wanting to protect her family, she went to the door of made me feel loved and they made me feel safe,” Jane told me. the home to find it locked. “They are my angels. They saved me, and they saved my children.” He came to the door, more agitated than usual. Normally, after To help Jane get back on her feet, MSCFV helped provide her an incident of violence like this one, her husband would cool off and her children with long term transitional housing. There, she was a little bit. This time, even angrier than she had ever seen him, he able to start rebuilding her life. She was able to return to school, accused Jane of throwing herself through the window. At the time, walking across the stage at Chesapeake College with honors. “I their youngest daughter was still breast fed, and she was able to had always been a straight A student, but he had stopped me from convince him to let her in to feed her. going further in life. It was very exciting to finally be able to return to After being let inside, Jane remained in the house, waiting for school and to do well again.” Jane started cleaning houses for a him to leave. He was unemployed at the time, but she knew that at living and lived frugally, hoping one day to buy a home of her own. some point he would go somewhere. This time, he didn’t leave the She and her children entered therapy to help them recover from home for days. Jane walked on eggshells and tried to do whatever the physical and emotional abuse they had experienced. it took to not make her husband angry again. At one point, she told Despite the protection order, she still felt in danger of her hushim that she was afraid that he would kill her. He looked her in the band. Sometimes she would see his car driving slowly by her home. eyes and responded “I absolutely will.” The police couldn’t do anything since when they arrived he was no Eventually, her husband left to buy groceries. As soon as he left, longer there. her daughter began piling things from around the house in front Soon after becoming free, Jane began the process of divorcing of the door. She told her mother that she was doing it “so daddy her abusive husband. Unfortunately, Jane’s husband still has visitacouldn’t hurt mommy anymore.” Jane says this moment changed tion rights and gets to see their children. She is legally required to things for her. “I thought that because he was only hitting me and communicate with him once a week. She says that her children ofnot the kids, that it wasn’t hurting them. I realized he might not be ten cry and beg her not to be forced to see their father. Her oldest hurting them physically, but he was hurting us as a family and was daughter, who remembers much of the abuse, recently confronted hurting them emotionally.” him. He told her that he doesn’t want to see her anymore. He still Not knowing what to do, Jane called a domestic violence blames Jane for everything that happened between them. hotline. She didn’t think that it would make much difference. She She has been unable to get the custody agreement amended, thought the hotline would just give her someone to talk to. They though she has continued to work on it. Jane feels she won’t be referred her to the Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence (MSCFV), truly free until her children become adults, and they can finally cut

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ties with her ex-husband. Due to his behavior, her children have had to reenter therapy.





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Jane was able to eventually save up enough money from her cleaning job to purchase a home. She also remarried a man who is “wonderful and gentle.” “We have a happy little home,” Jane told me. “I made a safe haven.” Now, Jane does everything she can to aid others who experience domestic violence. “I was dealt a painful hand in life,” Jane explained to me, “and it’s up to me to choose if that pain and grief will be my burden or my gift. I will use it as a gift to help others.” She has been invited by the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence (MNADV) to speak on several occasions. Her story of abuse is used to train advocates, healthcare workers, and police departments on where improvements can be made to help survivors like her. Jane recently worked with an OBGYN on effective ways to ask pregnant women about abuse. When Jane was pregnant, healthcare workers asked her directly if she was being mistreated or abused. Fearing the truth would lead to her child being taken away, she hid the reality of her situation from them. Now, she teaches OBGYN’s ways to ask the question in a less direct way to get more accurate answers. For a long time, Jane felt shame about the situation she was in. “There are a lot of people who don’t understand why I didn’t leave. They ask me why I put up with all that. If I talked back or tried to stand up for myself, I was beaten. I did everything I could to survive, and until I joined up with MSCFV, I didn’t know how many resources they had for people like me.” Jane says it’s important for women to know that domestic violence is something that rarely just stops. “If it starts with screaming and pushing, it’s likely to just get worse. It might seem hopeless, but there are so many resources available. They can provide you with a house to live in, with financial classes, with counseling, and with Christmas presents for your kids to make things feel as normal as possible. They addressed needs I didn’t even know that I had.” Jane also says that it’s important for others to change the way they talk about family violence. “There’s so much stigma,” Jane told me. “You see the comments section online, people say stuff like ‘why did she stay.’ The narrative needs to change. Instead of ‘why did she stay,’ people should be saying ‘why did he get away with that.’” After leaving her abuser, Jane struggled with shame. “After leaving him, I had a lot of time to think about things,” she revealed to me. “There was so much shame involved, especially in a town where everyone knows everyone. It wasn’t until I had space did I realize that I am not ashamed. I was a victim; now I’m a survivor, and I’m working on thriving. It’s magical.”

Don’t be silenced...

There are many types of abuse, which in many cases feed into one another. Some common types that MSCFV sees regularly include:

Stalking Shaming Strangulation Sexual Abuse Isolation Jealousy Denial of food Physical abuse Sex traffickin Forced debt Hitting, slapping, shoving Refusing medicine / medical care Throwing/breaking Items to intimidate Harm to children and/or pets Mental/emotional abuse Gaslighting (blaming victim) Belittling and name calling Forced intimacy of any kind Being injured during intimacy Refusing access/usage birth control Economic abuse Theft of money Denied access to financial resources

Technology Abuse Location tracking (phones, GPS) Monitoring calls and texts Denying access to vehicles Taking away computer / phones Not allowing employment Preventing victims from seeing family and friends Convincing others to ‘unfriend’ on social media Workforce interruptions (not allowing victims to work, hurting victims so can’t work, stalking victim at work)

Phishing (abusers sending texts pretending to be someone else)

Cancel culture (convincing others on line to ignore victim, to unfriend them, to deny their virtual existence)

Cyber stalking and assaults (at-

tacking character of victim through social media)

October 14, 2021 www.SHOREUPDATE.com... KEEP UPDATED! Jeanne Yeager, the director of MSCFV, has been working to fight domestic violence for decades. I got the chance to talk to her to learn more about domestic violence and how MSCFV helps survivors like Jane.

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Domestic violence often goes unreported, why do you think that is? “Everyone’s circumstances are unique. A lot of victims feel they are responsible. Some think if they report him they won’t have money or their children won’t have a father. A lot of victims also don’t think they’ll be believed, since, in some cases, they aren’t...but more and more victims are now standing up for themselves, and creating better lives for themselves, and for their families.” There is a lot of stigma around domestic violence, what is something the community can do to help lessen the stigma? “We have to learn to listen to victims, learn to believe victims....I also think that in a rural community like our own, there are a lot of big family connections, and the abusers often hold a lot of social power...this creates stigma when the victim says ‘hey, he’s not the great a guy you think he is.’ We have to believe victims when they come forward.” The statistics show that domestic violence is incredibly common. Why do you think that is? “At the root, its power and control, it’s about one person trying to have and gain control over another.” Jane credits MSCFV’s long term transitional housing project with helping her turn her life around. Can you tell me a little more about why the transitional housing project is important? “When domestic violence programs first started getting funding, our first goal was to get them to a safe space. Shelters are great, but the problem is figuring out what to do next...the average victim will go back to their abuser five times, we’ve found a lot of success in sticking with them throughout their journey.” For over 40 years, Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence (MSCFV) has served as the central point of access to help victims of domestic violence within Maryland’s mid-shore counties, partnering them with case managers throughout their journey from crisis to self-sufficiency, empowering them to meet their unique needs. MSCFV’s Empowerment Programming goes beyond crisis counseling and emergency shelter to include long-term services and to address the many challenges and obstacles that have prevented victims from living safe, self-sufficient lives free of violence. These services include, but are not limited to: Mental health counseling Legal advocacy and representation (protective orders, divorce and custody, bankruptcy, foreclosure, landlord/tenant issues, debt, and more) Daily living supplies Short and long-term housing and rental assistance Translation and interpretation Pet safety services Empowerment groups Education services Immigration services Economic empowerment and job readiness services

If you are experiencing domestic violence and want help, contact MSCFV anytime at 1-800-927-4673 (HOPE) or chat at www.mscfv.org. Translation services are available. To find out how you can support MSCFV, or for more information on any programs, please visit www.mscfv.org or email info@mscfv.org.




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