Every day at Empowerhouse, we hear stories from victims of domestic violence that would shock and amaze you. We are horrified that a family member would do the things that we hear each day. We are entrusted with these major family secrets and for safety reasons, we cannot always share survival stories as often as we’d like. But these stories are going on all around us, and they are often kept silent.
We are going to bring you into the experience that we encounter daily by sharing Beth’s story with you. She is one woman who managed to escape. The retelling of these stories gives voice to their experience.
Here is her voice, and we now invite you to listen to her story.
It is our hope that you will gain insight into the life of a survivor of domestic violence and the work of Empowerhouse.
After we’ve shared Beth’s story, we will tell you about an important project in the works and how you can be a part of it on May 5 through The Community Give! We have some things that need to be accomplished. Empowerhouse, and our community, needs your help.
Part 1 of Beth’s Story
Beth’s relationship with her ex-husband started when she fell in love after meeting him at work. They married and started a family. She had no idea of the dark side he was hiding from her.
Her husband became verbally abusive and signs of controlling behavior surfaced as time went on.
“I was told what I could and couldn’t do, where I could and couldn’t go….he would call or show up at my job, to be sure that I was really there. He wouldn’t let me wear make-up because he said he didn’t want other men looking at me.
Little by little, I was slowly beginning to lose myself.”
As the abuse worsened, she tried to assert her independence. She even attempted to leave him.
“He told me that I wasn’t going anywhere, and that if I didn’t get back in the house, he would drag me back by my hair. I left, and started walking. He came out of the house, and started driving down the street looking for me. I hid.
When he found me, he did just what he said he would do… he grabbed me, and started dragging me by my hair while I was down on the ground. I remember, in that moment, being so surprised that not one person came to their door. We were in a neighborhood. I could see people in their houses. I was hoping someone would come help me. But no one ever did.
When he got me back in the house, he called me horrible names and told me I was not going anywhere. He said, ‘And you’re not taking my baby anywhere, I own you.’ He stepped on my face, and broke my nose.
He walked away, and left me lying there. A couple of days later, he said he was sorry, and he wouldn’t do this again. He then added ‘Things you say really tick me off, when you talk about leaving. You know you can never take my child away. I will never let you leave me.’
It was the first trimester of my pregnancy.”
Time went on. The verbal and physical abuse continued.
“One time when pregnant with my second child, after a brutal beating, I managed to sneak out of the house and try to leave again.
A cab came to my neighborhood. He must have realized I was gone and followed us in the cab. He got out at the traffic light, and ran up to the cab, banging on the cab doors, yelling ‘Let her out! Let her out!’ I told the cab driver to drive to a local mall. I knew there would be people there.
As soon as I got to the mall, the cab driver got out. The driver had a baseball bat in his hands, and he was making sure I could get inside safely. They let me in an office, locked the doors, and called the police. During this time, he was outside, trying to get in. He was yelling, trying to tell them, ‘She was in a car accident, that’s why her face is all messed up.’ The police came, and he got arrested. They sent me to the ER. He was in jail about 8 days. He got out and came back to the house. I had already taken my son and left: we had gone to the Empowerhouse shelter.”
Beth’s Story, Part 2
Beth didn’t stay the full 2 months at our Empowerhouse shelter. She went to stay with her mom and with friends. Like many women in abusive relationships, she eventually returned to her abusive partner. He used the children, his threats, and his efforts to isolate them and she succumbed to his pressure. She didn’t know what to do. She felt alone and exhausted.
Beth’s abuser moved her and the children into an isolated area with no phone, car, or neighbors.
“No one would have even known [we] were missing or dead… There was no one around to help [or] know what was going on. There was no one around to hear you scream…
I think it’s important to say that he wasn’t using drugs or drinking every day. Most times he wasn’t on anything. Alcohol or pills didn’t make him do it. The abuse was always there, all along. He did what he wanted to do.
During one of his violent episodes, he kicked the baby strapped in the car seat like a football. I was dying on the inside. My son ran through the house with the stroller and said ‘Come on mommy, let’s go back to the Shelter where it’s safe!’ He was four.”
The next day Beth and her family went to the Empowerhouse shelter for the second time.
“The Empowerhouse shelter was the only place I knew I could go that I knew he wouldn’t look for me. It was a place where I knew he couldn’t get in, and couldn’t get to us. And I knew that I would be welcomed back. I told [shelter staff] all about what had happened. [They] listened to everything I said. I knew the staff at the Empowerhouse shelter would hear me, believe me, support me, and keep us safe.”
Beth left the shelter again to stay with family members. Her husband showed up one day when she was shopping and made her get into his car. He took her and their children back to the isolated home in the country.
“Once there, he said we weren’t going anywhere, that we weren’t allowed to leave, and that I wasn’t going to court to testify against him. He said that if I don’t show up to court they will drop his charges.
There was verbal and physical abuse every day, as ‘reminders’ of why it was my fault for his situation. If anything was out of place, or if any of the kids touched his stuff, or even if he forgot that he himself moved it…we would get blamed for it. He would throw things, and I would have to clean up his mess. If I didn’t clean it up, I would get hit for that, too. He refused to give me money.
Beth’s Story, Part 3
“It had been months before the final incident. Every day was abusive. It was normal for him to tell us he could kill us and bury us, and that no one would ever know. I had no phone, no car, and no neighbors. He was right; no one would have even known we were missing or dead. We were so isolated.
He attacked the children that day and told us that he was going to kill us.
During the final incident after he tossed me throughout the yard, he picked me up, and slammed me on the ground. He started to strangle me, (I just wanted to get to the children) and he put his hand over my face and mouth. He kicked me in the ribs and back. He punched me in my face.
The children saw all of this. They stood there too afraid to move.
After a while, he got up, and walked off. He told me to get up, and to clean up and change my clothes. He told the kids to go inside and get in bed. He said no one was going anywhere. He eventually left.
A family member drove out to see us the next day and took us away while he was gone.
I reported the crime to a few different authorities but he was not taken in.
I felt like no one was listening to me. I wanted to give up. I felt like I had nothing. I knew he was out there. And I knew once he found us he would kill me. I called the one place I knew would listen, the place I knew would help me. I called the Empowerhouse shelter. The Manager on duty said she would meet me at a store. I knew I wasn’t getting any help anywhere else.
At the Empowerhouse shelter, I knew me and my kids were OK and hidden. I knew we were taken care of, and safe. They were the only people I could trust. And I did…I trusted them with our lives.
Empowerhouse took us to the hospital to see a doctor for our injuries.
Eventually, he was arrested. There were many charges. I was back and forth to court many times.
Whenever I went to court, the Empowerhouse Court Advocate was there with me. I felt safe and prepared. So many systems had let me down and not helped us. I knew that the prosecutors wanted to help me, but the Court Advocate from Empowerhouse was the only one I felt that I could truly trust in the courtroom. It was so helpful, and the Court Advocate was with me for every court hearing. I felt safe with her.
The Housing Program Coordinator helped so much. We had nothing. Everything had either been destroyed or left behind when we escaped. We had no verification, ID’s, etc. We only had the clothes on our backs. Empowerhouse paid for us to get our ID from the DMV. I don’t know any other agency or place that would do that. They gave us help with diapers, clothing, even Christmas presents. They also had me meet the employment specialist worker, and she helped me get a job in a place where I felt safe.
Empowerhouse are the people you need and can trust. Nobody is going to share your information, or put you in harm’s way. Even my kids…it’s the first place they can think of to come to. They will help you stay safe.
If I had to sum up Empowerhouse? It’s not like an office. With staff, it feels like you are talking to a sister. You can talk to staff about anything. They are all there to help you find your way. It’s like….Family.
People don’t realize behind closed doors what you and [your] children go through. Without Empowerhouse, I would have been dead. And no one would have ever found me. I was lucky I didn’t die and others aren’t so lucky. It shouldn’t be this way but it is. Women and their children deserve to be safe.
Every bit of the funding helps us reach [the] goal of safety and peace and stability. I hope my story helps change someone else’s life who needs it like I did. I am forever grateful and thank God everyday for Empowerhouse and all the staff. They truly are ‘special people.’
Every night, once the children are asleep and everything for the day is done, the last thing I do before I go to bed, is check to make sure he is still there [in prison].”