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When you need help, please find it

As I was walking in the neighborhood the other day, I passed a car, with windows open.  A man and woman sat inside, stopped at the light.  I walked in front of their car as I crossed the street, and I could hear the rage coming from within.  I don't know the nature of the fight, but it was a fight.  The man, in the drivers seat, was yelling at the woman, he pounded on the steering wheel and yelled at her "I'm gonna let you have it when we get home!"

My heart skipped beats.  I felt scared.  I felt scared for the woman.  I knew nothing of their situation, of their relationship, and I hate to draw conclusions, but it didn't sound good.

I was in a scary relationship before.  I have been fearful of my own health and wellness, feeling that my fate was in the hands, literally, of another.  I have feared my own partner.  We did not live together, but somehow I felt that he was always there, watching and keeping an eye on me.  Once, he was.  I woke up and saw his face peering at me through my bedroom window, my bed right next to that thin glass. Another time, he used that same window to come into my space, to come into my place.  To violate my space, to violate my place.  I have furniture thrown at me, chairs striking me, tables flipped over onto me feet.  I have been pushed, shoved the ground.  I have been cornered.  I have been hit, in public and in private.

This was a long time ago now, but when I heard that man yelling at that woman, my heart sunk for her.  I might be assuming too much, but the scenario did not look pretty.

When I was in the throes of this relationship, I constantly questioned what to do.  Mostly, I figured I would just hide, stay in my apartment when it turned dark, with doors locked.  I did not want to sleep in my bedroom.  I would find reasons to spend the night elsewhere, with friends.  I changed my daily schedule.  I changed my routes to and fro.  I wanted to escape.  And, of course, I didn't want to tell anyone, for fear that it would only be worse.

Eventually, my fear for my wellness overcame my fear that it would become worse.  I called a crisis line and they helped me sort out things like restraining orders, safe places, and even a mediator.  I felt lucky because I think this person, the one who did me harm, was eventually able to reform.  I know he began to see a therapist, and - I do believe - he has changed for the better.

When all of these memories flooded back the other day, I remembered that we do not all live in safe, happy, blissful partnerships.  We talked the other day about we, ourselves, as mamas & papas, lose our tempers with our children.  I know that we, as adults, lose our tempers with our partners, too.  At church, at my midwife's office, and on community bulletin boards, I see a lot of material about the Portland Women's Crisis Line (888-235-5333).  If you feel that you need to reach out, I beg you to try to find a safe spot (perhaps using the computer/phone at a library), if at all possible, to find help.  I know it is not easy.  If you have other resources for women who face domestic violence, please feel free to share here.

Comments

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Thanks for posting this. It's so good to see the reminders for the hotline as well as hear someone else tell their tale.

I'm glad it worked out for you. I was in a similar situation right after college and I had support from family and friends, but I had to make the decision on my own to finally remove myself and get away from this person. Then he kept popping up at strange places where I would be and I never knew if it was a coincidence...unfortunately, many times, the perpetrator will not stop the behavior until they find another willing target. I hope that other men/women who do take out their rage on their partners seek help and are able to develop a sense of empathy and not have the same need to be in control of others when they are not in control of themselves.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault and end up pursuing criminal charges, I would also recommend contacting www.ncvli.org. It's a national organization based here in Portland dedicated to protecting and enforcing victims' rights in the criminal justice system.

Domestic Violence knows no boundaries. It crosses economic, ethnic, and education divisions. It can happen to anyone.

Brandley Angle House: http://bradleyangle.org/
Clackamas Women's Services: http://www.cwsor.org/

The City of Portland has been working on creating a centralized space for reporting, counseling, and shelter, but I do not know of its outcome.

If you know someone, or think someone you know might be in a harmful relationship - do something: LISTEN. Ask questions, thoughtfully. Be compassionate. Remember that people who are in abusive relationships are struggling with many things: power, depression, to name a few. What the author stated about fear cannot be underestimated.

Life is too short to have to look back and wonder if you could have done something.

thank you so much for posting this. I, too, went through a long scary relationship in my early 20s that I have only recently begun to deal with (in my world, dealing with something means writing about it). I never got help, though I always knew I should have... I even organized an annual Christmas donation to a battered women's shelter at my office while the relationship was at its worst. when, at long last, I was able to ask for help to get out of the relationship, I still only asked friends for help, not social services or public agencies; he was in a position of respect in his community and I was afraid of many things, my own remorse, his response, if I would have exposed his abusive nature.

I still wish I had gone further and consider reaching out to his now-wife. it surely is something we need to be able to talk about -- we need to be willing to suspend judgment of others and just HELP. (and I hope someday I can do more to embolden women like me to put an end to such relationships, however that may be.)

Thank you for posting this and sharing bits of your story. Reading it made me cry with the realization that I very well could have been that woman in the car getting yelled at by my husband. I've never been physically abused, but the verbal and emotional abuse still puts me into the category of a "battered" woman. I've reached out for help only to not take further action to get out. This has made me realize how absolutely terrified I truly am- I'm afraid of telling him I'm leaving, I'm afraid to actually get out and whether I can make it on my own, I'm afraid of the unknown.

I am currently teetering on the edge of getting out, but it's almost as though I need someone to just give me that push to make it happen. I guess my hesitation would be our child together...if he was not here, I would have left years ago at the first signs...at least that's what I tell myself to not feel so bad about staying. But now I know I need to leave for his sake...the sooner, the better.

Thanks so much for your post. I work at the Portland Women's Crisis Line and felt so thankful that you listed us as a resource for all the mamas who may need to kind, supportive ear.

When anyone asks me what they can do to support survivors, I tell that the best thing is to listen and believe when someone tells you about experiencing violence. Don't worry about saying the right thing -- just let them know that they don't deserve to experience emotional, mental, or physical abuse for any reason and that you want them to be safe. Anyone can call our line - we're all in this together and are here to help!

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