I’m A Survivor – Part 2

12108095_10152977207097693_7682209539239291971_nMarriage is supposed to be “till death do us part.” In the years of my abusive marriage I often thought about leaving my husband, but there were too many unknown variables – I didn’t know how to leave or what would become of me if I did. As much as I wanted things to change, and have a long, loving marriage, that was not my reality, and it became more apparent with each passing year.

I believe it was one day in October 1991 when I watched Oprah and the subject was domestic abuse. The guest gave tips on leaving an abusive relationship. One of those tips was make a list of things to take, and only take what was absolutely needed. I started a list and kept it hidden in my calendar book, and it helped me feel less powerless.

Another episode of Oprah was about self-defense with a demonstration of how to protect your face and chest with your arms during an assault. I had the chance to use the technique against my husband not long after that show. It too, made me feel less powerless.

 

An Open Door

My relationship with my sister, with whom I’d been close until my marriage, was the first relationship my husband shut down when I moved away from home. Not talking with her was one of the hardest parts of the forced isolation.

My father became ill in the spring of 1992, and after years of not having contact with my family in Detroit, I went home for a short visit. It was my first time back since my wedding.

During that visit, I confided in my sister about the abuse, something I’d never mentioned to anyone. My family suspected it was happening (I later learned my mother had taken a workshop for family members of victims of domestic abuse), but without evidence, their hands were tied, and they didn’t interfere – I’d made the decision to stay. But my sister gave me an 800 number calling card to use whenever I wanted to talk to her, and the call wouldn’t register on my home phone bill. And use it I did.

We had great conversations during the day when my husband was at work (I was a stay at home mother). It was as if we’d never lost touch.

 

You Can Go Now

The day I decided to leave my husband started out like any other Tuesday. I woke up early to fix breakfast for our year-and-a-half old son, and for my husband. But it ended up not being a typical Tuesday. There was an incident that changed my course.

I wrote a poem (click the audio bar below to hear it) of what my life was like at that time. It’s written as if talking to my husband about the day I left him, “October 6, 1992.”

After that incident, my husband left for work, and I called my sister.

“I’m ready to go,” was all I said.

She got the ball rolling, contacted our cousins in New York, where we would go as a safe haven. The plan rolled out quickly for my son and I to leave two days later on October 8th.

In those two days I prepared to leave by refining the list I started months before, which included mostly clothes for my son, and only essentials for myself. I drifted from excitement to fear to doubt,  somehow managing to keep my plans to myself and not show how nervous I was.

On the morning of October 8th I changed my mind; decided I couldn’t do it, leaving was too hard and staying would be better. After my husband left for work, I called my cousin and told her this.

“You can do it,” she repeated to me. She read the 23rd Psalm. “Promise me you’ll come.”

I was so uncertain about what I was doing, but I let her convince me that leaving was the best thing. My father and sister were due at my house at 11 a.m. After hanging up the phone, I got the suitcase I’d brought with me when I moved, and dropped it on the floor of my son’s bedroom.

Standing up in his crib he happily exclaimed, “A bag,” one of the few words he could say.

My excitement didn’t match his, and I muttered through a halfhearted chuckle, “Yeah. A bag.” I  threw in his clothes, then lugged it to my room to get my few items.

On schedule, my father and sister arrived and gathered my son (still in his sleepers) and I out the house. Before actually stepping outside though, I turned around twice, going back for things I’d forgotten – my son’s Elmo toy (which I now keep on my desk), and my briefcase of poetry that I’d brought with me when I moved there. (I later learned that my brother and sister had talked about what could potentially happen; that women in my situation often want to go back for things if they can; and I was only allowed to go back two times, anything else would hinder the process.)

In my preparations that morning, I guess I hadn’t paid attention to the weather or even what it looked like outside. When I finally walked out the house it was an oddly warm, beautiful, bright sunny day, a stark contrast, I recall thinking, to the traumatic thing happening to me.

The flight to New York was smooth and uneventful. In the taxi to my cousin’s house, the song Optimistic by the Sounds of Blackness came on the radio, and I hadn’t cried until then. That was the song that got me through those years of constant fear and anxiety. My husband would leave the house and I’d play that song, singing along with it over and over.

So in that taxi I cried, and sang the lyrics “As long as you keep, your head to the sky, you can win. As long as you keep your head to the sky, be optimistic.” It was like God giving me another message: I did the right thing by leaving my abusive marriage.

 

Life After Abuse — Helping Hands

It takes a lot to leave a marriage under typical circumstances and it’s even more difficult in the face of abuse. But leaving is possible. There are organizations all over the country that offer much-needed help to victims of domestic violence.

After leaving my husband, I was still fearful of him. Even though he didn’t know where I was, I (irrationally) believed he had “super human” powers and would somehow find me and continue to hurt me. When I returned home, weekly counseling sessions were important to my recovery as were support groups that provide all manner of assistance to victims of domestic violence.

1782061_10152991351597693_201977591105368632_nFor several years now, I have been a volunteer with Sisters Acquiring Financial Empowerment (SAFE), a wonderful organization founded and operated by the dedicated Kalyn Risker Fahie, also a survivor. Each October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, SAFE hosts a Health and Wealth Expo that provides workshops on everything from self-defense to healthy eating and offers free health screenings and resources that can improve the quality of life for those in need.We completed another successful event on October 24. 12033053_10153006824377693_2698522344490344304_nFullSizeRender-4

The expo, which is free and open to the public, is the organization’s way of raising awareness about the affects of domestic abuse. My volunteer efforts help me provide for the community that provided for me and helped me heal in my time of need.

SAFE is participating in the Purple Purse Campaign, through October 27, 2015 to help raise funds for the growing needs of survivors in our community. Without the services of SAFE, many victims of domestic violence and their children are at risk for further abuse, homelessness, and poverty.

12140915_10152985675602693_1607239085022316075_oI invite you to join me in support of SAFE. Please make a donation to the Purple Purse Campaign by 11:59 p.m. October 27th so women like me can move from being a victim to being a survivor.

And, if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, take the first step to safety, and become aware of the help available.

 

Read part 1.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Comments
  1. Andi, your ability to share what is often not talked about in our community is very inspiring … Continued success with your work and your mission to empower others.

  2. Thanks for demonstrating strength and transparency Andrea! Your story and presence will continue transforming lives for years to come. Celebrating that courageous step…Faithwalker!

    • Hi LaToniya,

      Even after all these years, it’s not an easy story to tell, but it’s one I have to tell cause it’s real for so many. I appreciate you reading it, and for taking the time to comment. I appreciate you.

%d bloggers like this: