Guest post by Ashley – survivor of domestic violence
My story is more than just about myself and how I survived the abuse in my former marriage, but it is also about the actions of my family, a very close friend and even my priest that definitely could all be described as a courageous bystander.
I was married in October 2004. I thought it would be the only chance for someone to love me, even though all the warning signs of abuse were there well before the wedding. His numerous “late nights at his brother’s,” his increasing anger issues, having to know where I was every moment of the day, getting angry when I was on the phone and demanding to know who I was talking to (even when it was my Mom), driving by and constantly calling a friend’s house when I was there sewing with her. But growing up, I was always taught that there are certain things you just don’t talk about and that no matter what, you work through your marriage and stay together.
But as our first year came and went, things just got progressively worse until it all came to a head late January 2006. I had never seen anyone so angry before. He was like a completely different person when he beat me till I was unconscious. He shattered my cell phone so I couldn’t call 911, and he left me lying on the living room floor – but not before stepping on my chest on his way out.
I managed to repair my cell phone enough for it to work and called my friend to tell her what had happened. She told me to come over immediately, that she had a safe place for me, and she called the police for me. The next day, as I sat on her couch and talked to the police officer, a member of my (now) ex-husbands family, he laughed at me and told me that he had seen worse beatings and I wasn’t really injured and there was no reason for a report. My friend was appalled and “kindly” asked the officer to leave her house. She gave me some information about a battered woman’s shelter in our city along with the hotline number, but I insisted that I had to get home because he would be angry if I didn’t clean the house. And I went home.
After all was straightened at the apartment I called my parents. I was scared to death to tell them what happened, but with my friends urging I did, and my Dad phoned my priest. My priest called and we talked for quite a while about what happened and what lead up to it. His last words to me were, “As your priest I should be counseling you through this, but I want you to come home. I don’t want to come down there with your father and have to identify you in a morgue. Come home.”
In less than 4 days, a dear friend of mine that lived in Louisiana and his best friend came and moved me out of the apartment until my dad and my uncle could come and get me. My dad and uncle drove, what is usually a 16 to 17 hour drive, in 14 hours to get me and move me back to Minnesota. Once I got back home, my priest put me in contact with a Women’s Advocate Center in my county, and I began the process for a restraining order and a divorce.
Without my Courageous Bystanders at my side, I would have done what I was taught all my life, and stayed in that marriage. They showed me that I was loved and protected and that I deserved better. As part of my healing, in late 2006 I took up belly dancing and in 2011, I was proud to participate in “Shimmy Mob” for the first time. Shimmy Mob is a worldwide “flash mob” event that raises money for designated Women’s and Children’s shelters in the participating cities. I danced in this years’ Austin Shimmy Mob with 45 extremely talented and devoted women, and we raised $1,000 for SafePlace!
Throughout the months of September and October people sent in stories of times that they or someone else was a “Courageous Bystander” and we have featured them on the blog. We would still love for you to share your story with us!