I Escaped Abuse, But Am Still Working Through the Aftermath

aftermath of abuse

I’d like to share my story with everyone.

Let me start here– my name is Erikah, I’m 28 years old, and domestic violence has ruined my life. It all started when I met my children’s father, Tony*, in February of 2006. Six months into the relationship, he slapped me in the face for the first time. Tony swore that the abuse would not happen again, and he wasn’t physical for a long time. However, the relationship was still ridden with psychological abuse.

Quick Escalation

Fast forward to November 2007– I turned 17, moved out of my parents’ house, and rented an apartment with Tony. The abuse quickly escalated. Black eyes became a common occurrence. He once head-butted me in the face so hard that it broke the skin on the bridge of my nose. He seemed to have no shame, choosing the front yard of his stepfather’s house to host one of his beatings during a cold, Michigan winter day.  

A couple of years went by, I endured every form of abuse possible. I tried to stay strong as he kicked me with steel toe boots, and destroyed many items I valued. The verbal abuse was just as heinous. 

Abuse During Pregnancy

Fast forward again to 2009, I found out I was pregnant with our first son. The abuse didn’t stop during this fragile time in my life. Throughout my pregnancy, DVDs were whipped at me like frisbees and a laundry tote was pushed into my stomach.  I could not believe the complete disregard he had for me and the health of our son.

In July of 2010, our son LJ was 2 months old. Tony went to jail for the first time. He was shooting airsoft gun pellets at me, throwing objects at me, and destroying the house. In my attempt to escape his chaotic episode, he struck me in the jaw. A neighbor witnessed the act of abuse and called the police. The following day, an order of protection was ordered by the courts. However, being young and afraid with a 2-month-old child, I foolishly let him come back. 

Baby Number Two

A few years later, in 2013, we moved to Alaska and had our second child. This is when the mental, physical, and financial abuse reached its max. We purchased a house together in 2016. In the first 8 months, he pulled a gun on me 6 times, almost stabbed me in the stomach at our home, attempted to loop a rope around my neck, and threatened to throw me out of a truck. 

In December of 2016, I reached my breaking point and the final straw. I walked outside and *BANG* Tony fired a shot at me. I could take no more, so I found somewhere to stay. There wasn’t much support from my family and was forced to leave the kids with him. It felt as if I had no other choice, and he never harmed the kids. 

Tony Begins To Use

I then found out that Tony had started using meth. During a high, he became paranoid and ran off in the woods for 3 days with our 4 and 7-year-old children. OCS took custody of the kids and they went to stay with my parents– who Tony turned against me earlier in the relationship.

Tony ended up moving back to Michigan, and I had to move back into our home. For 5 months, I was stranded 20 miles from town without friends and family. I never received notifications from the court about the custody fight for my children. My parents told OCS that they would pick me up for visitation with the kids, however, they have failed to do so. In short, my right to see my children has been terminated, with the reason being that the court felt I was willingly not seeing my kids. I had no support system, especially from my family.

Continued Struggle To Live

It’s now a year later and I’m still living in the house Tony and I had started buying. No payments have been made since 2017. I have no electricity and no water. Also, I am unable to afford cell phone service, which makes it very hard to secure a job. I survive off of going to the local transfer site for everything I need, including all my food. 

It’s been almost 2 years since my parents were awarded custody of my kids, and I’ve only been allowed to see my babies 2 times. My oldest just turned 9, and my youngest turns 6 soon. Since I’ve been exiled from my family, I’ve missed many birthdays. Tony now has a new girlfriend who has 2 kids of her own, yet I am unable to see my children. 

I Feel Lost

My will to live and purpose to my life gone. I have suffered from severe depression since my oldest child was born. Most days I don’t even get out of bed. I feel lost and unsure of what to do anymore. It’s hard to preach about not going back to your abuser when I did for 11 years, but my advice to anyone who needs it is don’t put up with abuse. If I wouldn’t have left that December, I can almost guarantee that I would not be alive to type this story. And to the mothers out there – watch for signs of abuse. My parents never suspected anything. When I tried to open up to them about it last year, Tony had already made me look like the bad person for leaving and falsely accused me of using drugs. 

*Name(s) have been changed – and in some cases omitted – to protect the identity of the survivor and others affected by the abuse.

Breaking My Silence Twice

Hi, I’m Shelley and I would like to share this quote with you. It speaks to me and perfectly describes what I felt like when I lived with domestic violence.

“Domestic violence is like drowning in your own home.”

It was like water being poured over me, over and over, by the one person whom I loved and trusted the most. I could not breathe.

I was married to an abusive man for 17 years. 

Meeting Him

I was 24 years old and a teacher in a private school. I had a child in my class whose parents were divorced. The father was a very involved, very caring, and devoted parent. Throughout the school year, he would call and ask how his child was doing as he had partial custody and did not see him as often as he would like. At our tight-knit school, this was normal. As the school year continued our friendship blossomed as we worked together to help his child, who had some behavior challenges. 

When the school year ended he invited me out for a frozen yogurt, then to a party, and began calling me daily. He was attentive, charismatic, and charming.

He would tell me how his ex-wife and the mother of his child was mistreating him, and I believed him. Our relationship quickly escalated into a romantic relationship, yet he was very respectful. I thought that he was the most wonderful man. I saw no red flags towards me; yet, he did speak terribly about his ex-wife and did seem a little too angry. I chose to ignore this, believing that he was responding to his maltreatment by her. 

Marrying Him

After a year of dating, he asked me to marry him. I accepted, and the following year we were married in a beautiful ceremony. There was one incident in which he got mad at me and started screaming and throwing things in my apartment parking lot, but I did not do anything about it or really know what to do. His family all seemed to have tempers and yelled a lot, so I just accepted that he was brought up that way, and that was his way of communicating. 

I was pregnant shortly after that. There were times when months would pass by and things were great. He definitely liked to have things in his particular way. He was controlling, yet loving, and he took care of me and my son. We bought a home and lived a ‘normal’ life. I had my daughter a few years later. During these years there were times when he would scream, yell, and throw things. There were also many times when he was a caring, loving, parent and husband. However, I began noticing that I was living on eggshells waiting and wondering when he would snap. I was afraid of him. When he did snap, he would always come home from work the next day with flowers, and apologised. Yet, he also told me that if I had not said or did whatever I had done to provoke him, that he would not have had to behave that way.  

Years later, flowers are a trigger.

Escalation

His blow ups were usually about finances or things around the house that were not done to his standard or liking. If something broke in the home, that would set him off. It always ended with him berating me. He would tell me how to shop at the grocery store, what to buy, including which brands. He would tell me I had to go to different stores to buy different items. If I would buy butter and we already had butter at home, that would send him into a rage. He would tell me that I was stupid to buy things we already had and that I didn’t understand finances or money. He would go through the refrigerator throwing things out if there were duplicates to further illustrate how stupid I was. When I planned the kids’ birthday parties, I had to get it verified and approved by him before I could purchase anything. However, when the day of the party arrived, he would still blow up and scream at me for spending money. This happened for every single party. 

He would also check the thermostat constantly and if I changed it, that would enrage him. Again, he would tell me how stupid I was and berate me about expensive bills. I did my best to ignore this and keep quiet, as my children were always there and I didn’t want them to hear this.

My Family

You see, having a family, and being a mother were the most important things to me. I wanted a happy home with happy children. 

I was brought up in an upper-middle class family. We were all very close, and very loving. I grew up in a beautiful neighborhood where our neighbors were not only friends, but family as well. I wanted to replicate that for my children, and to the outside world we had that. My kids played outside with their neighborhood friends, we had many family outings, and did fun things with our neighbors. 

Sometimes our neighbors would hear him yelling and see evidence of his temper. He would follow me outside as I was leaving for the grocery store, asking me how I was going to pay for things, and he would make fun of my driving in front of our neighbors. I was so embarrassed. One time my older neighbor who was a role model to me, told me to just deal with it. Men yell, and I married him and made vows; therefore, I needed to keep the peace. He would put me down in front of people but in a way that seemed half joking and therefore harmless. So I would just cringe inside. Life continued. My children were extremely active in sports so I became a sports mom, room mom for school, and continued teaching. He was their coach. To the outside world we seemed normal, or so I thought. 

His temper seemed to get worse, he would throw things at me, barely missing my head, yelling, cussing at me constantly, putting me down, making me feel wrong and crazy, and my kids started to come crying to me. I felt afraid in my own home; yet, I told no one. He became more and more financially abusive. I overheard him telling a friend of ours that he bought a business. I had never heard him mention this before, and when I asked, he yelled at me, telling me he had told me and that I was stupid for not remembering. He then closed our joint checking account leaving me with no money except what I made as a preschool teacher working thirty hours a week. My children were crying nightly, and I was living in fear of his blow ups because they began occurring more frequently. I finally broke.

Breaking My Silence

I broke the silence and told my parents. My children were 4 and 7 at this time. My parents listened and were supportive. They had seen his temper a few times, but they obviously did not know the extent of it. 

My parents found a lawyer for me. He was removed from my home with a court order and I was given a restraining order. 

This was a terrifying time. My children were a wreck, and they were having trouble at school. He moved in with his parents and the kids would call me crying hysterically when they had to spend the night there. He started apologizing to me, telling me how much he loved me, offering to go to therapy and offering to do anything he could to have his family back. I gave in and allowed him back. I felt I had to do anything to get my family back, seeing my children so sad was killing me inside, and I was terrified about how I could continue financially. 

The honeymoon period began. He was the perfect husband and father once again, until he wasn’t, and the cycle continued. It went on like this for another ten years, with periods of bliss, followed by periods of living and walking on eggshells. These periods were as long as three months, and then became shorter, one month cycles. He was nice for about one month, which would end in an explosion of anger. I also had an internal cycle, fighting with myself. I remember thinking, maybe if I would just listen to him, do things as he wanted, not argue back; maybe then things would be okay. Then I would think – no this is wrong, I do not deserve to be treated this way. 

Around this time, the internet started to become more mainstream. I researched domestic violence. I remember reading an article to find out how to tell if someone was living with an abusive person. I checked almost every statement in that article. I was afraid and living on eggshells. I was belittled and controlled. I felt helpless. I wondered if I was going crazy. I felt numb. My partner humiliated me, he criticized me and put me down. He embarrassed me. He blamed me for his abusive behavior. He had a bad temper, was jealous, and was unpredictable. He threatened to take my kids away. He destroyed my belongings. He limited access to money. The only thing he didn’t do was hit me. For some reason, many people, including me, believed that if you are not being hit that you are not truly being abused. I did not realize at the time that verbal, emotional, sexual and financial abuse were just as damaging as physical violence. At that time I did not know that throwing things, kicking, and pushing was considered physical violence.  

Things began escalating. There were more temper flares-up, more belittling words. He once again controlled my access to money. He began controlling my interactions with friends, often screaming at me and following me into the bathroom and shower accusing me of cheating. He began telling our friends this as well. He kicked me out of our bed, saying it was the marital bed and if I did not have sex with him, I was not allowed in the bed. He broke a lamp over my hand, threw things at me, began pushing me, and kicking me – all in front of my children. At some point, something clicked for me and I just knew I could not live this way any more. I once again broke the silence, talked to my parents, my aunt- who was extremely supportive – and my grandmothers.

The Plan

This time we made a plan so I could leave. I did not want a scene in front of neighbors or a scene for my children. In retrospect, I’m not sure it was the right way to leave. I should have told him to leave, but I just wanted to get away because I was so scared of him by this point and so worried for my children. This time I would be leaving ten years after the first time, and my children were now 11 and 14.

The plan was made and I rented a home from a friend. I had financial help from my family, and emotional support from my friends. I slowly started taking my things from my old house. I purchased my own cell phone and made plans for my children to stay at a friend’s house on the day I planned to actually leave. That morning, I took my children to a park and explained the situation and then took them to my friends. It was the hardest talk I have ever had to have with my children. I will never forget the look in their eyes. I tried my best to reassure them and answer their questions.

I then went home and told him I was leaving. He went into a rage. Screaming, yelling, throwing things and he came at me with an intense look of hatred in his eyes. I ran outside to my friends who were waiting for me. He barricaded himself in the house, so I was unable to get my things or things for the children.

He started throwing my things outside as the police arrived. They only allowed me to take enough clothing for myself and my children to last three days. He was also allowed to follow me as I gathered our belongings, yelling and cussing the whole time.

After this, we decided (through our attorneys) that the children would go back and forth every two days. My daughter was worried that she would not see both of her parents, and I wanted them together, but I was worried for my children when they were with him. I was hopeful that they were old enough to call me if anything terrible happened.

I once again got a restraining order. He stalked me. He would stalk me at work, and at my house, once he found out where I was living. He made up fake emails with different names, and sent me messages about how I cheated on him. He called and emailed me multiple times a day calling me horrible names. He harassed my parents so much that they also had to get a restraining order. By this time he had told all my friends and family that I was cheating on him and had multiple abortions; which I never did. He was so unstable. I still had to see him at my kids baseball, softball, basketball and soccer games. He would intimidate me, cross over the line of his restraining order guidelines. I was still so terrified of him and he knew it. He also threatened to take my kids from me. He was leaving horrible things on my car. I had ten flat tires in this two year period. During one of the kid’s baseball games, he started screaming at me, so I walked to my car, and he chased me. He didn’t allow me to drive away, and instead hit my car, yelling, and screaming. The park was crowded with people, but not a single person helped me. During this time, he was not paying child support, for the kids health insurance or any other mutual expenses. Additionally, during the many court dates, he would arrive without the necessary paperwork and the judge would then turn us away, to return in three months. This prolonged the situation, and if I didn’t have financial help from my family, I would have been homeless.

Stock photo – WordPress

Court battle

When we finally went back to court again, his demands had increased: he wanted more time with our children, and did not want to pay spousal support. Moreover, he had moved his girlfriend into our home, but was not paying the mortgage, so the house went into foreclosure. He destroyed my credit. He also hid his money and income as he worked for himself. He got a brand new car every six months. At court, he produced documents that showed he made less money than me. Therefore, he did not have to pay spousal support and paid very low child support since the kids stayed with me for the majority of the time. He was allowed to scream at the judge when the custody did not go his way.

He tried to ban me from attending my children’s sporting events when he had them, and he tried to get a court order preventing me from driving on his street. He filed a police report saying that I hacked into his home and work computers, and ruined his business.

The harassment and abuse continued for many years. He continued incessant emails, texts, and stalking, and made my life as difficult as he could. 

I became stronger though. I learned after a while that responding to him only escalated things. There was no reason for me to explain why I left and try to make him understand what he did. He would never see it that way, never see anything as his fault or my leaving as consequences to his behavior. I began using no contact. It was a breath of fresh air. He still tried his best to intimidate and harass me but I ceased responding. I felt less afraid. I still had to see him at the kids’ events – but I was very careful to stay away and not engage with him; focussed on trying to make things as easy as possible for my kids. My life was consumed with trying to make my kids feel happy. 

This lifestyle continued until both kids turned 18 – about 9 years ago. I finally felt him backing off about this time. It was not easy but it was getting easier.

I continued teaching, working more hours, and doing my best to be the best mom I could be. Luckily my children seemingly thrived. They both went to college. My son graduated from Sonoma State University and is currently working in his chosen field. My daughter is currently attending CSUN and working a full time job. I have a boyfriend who I have been with for many years. I am also following my passion by helping other women and men who are survivors of domestic violence. I volunteer at a hotline, talking to clients and offering resources, support, and additional help for those with children. 

Aftermath 

I understand my triggers, and struggles, and have fears about my past; but, I feel strong and empowered by my choices, my decisions and where my life is now. 

One of the biggest reasons why I left was for my children. I did not want my son to believe that men can treat women the way his father treated me and I did not want my daughter to see life through archaic gender-normative stereotypes. When I sit back and observe my children and their relationships with others, I see that they are kind and respectful adults and that warms my heart. I feel very successful as a parent. I can say they are my greatest accomplishments and I will say I am so proud of my strength as well. 

I started with a quote to describe what it was like for me to live with domestic violence. I would like to end with another to describe what it felt for me to have a life after.

“She believed she could, so she did.” 

Stock photo – WordPress

I hope that I have conveyed to you that domestic violence can and does happen to anyone. It doesn’t know racial, religious, or economic boundaries. It is all about control, about power, and when dealing with an abusive person I felt I could not win. I understood that feeling invalidated, disrespected, afraid, silenced, and abused was not a healthy relationship, and needed to leave. I left for myself, for my children, and for my life. 

I’m Still Working Hard to Find My New Normal

find new normal

The Steady Escalation

In November 2012, I finally became free of my abuser and started to find my new normal-  I was 29 years old. 

We started dating when I was 16, and he got physically abusive with me two months into the relationship, ostensibly over my ‘guy friends’. I misunderstood his jealousy as love. 

We had our first daughter when I was 18, our second daughter when I was 21, and our son when I was 25. During my pregnancies, he became increasingly violent. However, he rarely treated me poorly in front of others, so everyone else thought he was a good guy. 

When my children were in bed, he would start fighting with me over anything I had said or done that day that he did not like. Often he would choke me, slap me, or pull my hair. I would not scream because I did not want to wake my kids or have them witness what was happening. I think he would use that to his advantage, and at times it seemed like he kept hurting me to hear me scream. He would hand me the phone and dare me to call the police, but he would also tell me to kiss the kids goodbye whenever he did that. 

At times he would wrap his hands around my neck, squeezing so hard I could not breathe, and just when I thought this was going to be it, he would let go. I would gasp for air, and he would tell me I better not blackout because if I did, he could do whatever he wanted to me. Sometimes he pinned me down, and if I tried to escape, he would pull my hair so hard it ripped out of my scalp. When I was pinned down, he would touch me to see if I was “wet” and “turned on” by what he was doing to me. 

He would tell me the next day that this would not have happened if I had just kept my mouth shut, that it was my fault because I did not keep my mouth shut. There were times that I had visible marks, and he would hand me makeup to cover up and tell me what to tell people if they asked. 

The many times I tried to leave, he would find out, threaten me with his family money and connections, and told me he would take the children from me. These threats always made me stay because, for a long time, I believed them. Although my kids were growing up around violence, I felt I could better protect them if they were with me rather than with him. 

Breaking Point

It was five years before I left him. Child services were involved, much like they had been in the past. This time they said if there were any more incidents, they would take my children away. However, they did not help my kids and me with any support or a plan to leave. They did offer us marriage counseling, which I thought was the most absurd option since they knew he was abusing me. In fact, by that time, he had been charged on a few occasions. Their words felt like my death sentence. His abuse intensified, and I felt helpless, knowing I could not ask for help because it meant losing my children. 

He took my money, destroyed my things, sabotaged my jobs, and burned my jeep. There were moments of respite when he was gone, either on dates with other women or because of travels. These were the best times for my kids and me. 

In February 2012, he was away, so I took the opportunity to have dinner with an old friend. Within an hour, he was texting me to ask where I was. He had come back earlier than expected and discovered that I was not home. He then began calling and texting me non-stop; however, I ignored it all. He then made threats to find me, and I ignored this as well. When I left the restaurant and headed to my van, he was just standing there. I was terrified. I was able to get into my van and drive away, but he followed and tried to run me off the road. I pulled over, and he came over and told me to get out of the van. When I did not, he punched my window and mirror, breaking the mirror, and told me I was lucky that it was not my head. I drove away, but he did not follow. I searched for him in the rearview mirror the entire way home, but I didn’t see him until I got back home. I managed to park my van and ran inside to hide. 

Thinking about this now, I should have driven away. I heard him come in, banging and crying, with the crying continuing for some time. After a while, I came out and found him curled up under the computer desk crying. When he noticed me, he said he had messed up and knew he had lost me. For some reason, I felt bad for him, yet I also felt empowered. It was good to see him weak and crying for a change. So I told him I did not care – that he deserved to hurt. 

He lunged at me and I tried to run, but he grabbed me by my hair and threw me down. His strength seemed to grow tenfold. He sat on my chest and smacked me in the face. He pulled my lips to open my mouth painfully wide and taunted me saying I had a big mouth. His face looked so evil that I wanted to close my eyes, yet I could not because then I would not see what was happening. He started punching me in the head over and over. I passed out at some point and when I regained consciousness, I was on my stomach with my pants down. At that point, I realized he was forcefully sodomizing me. I screamed and I cried, but he just pushed my face hard into the carpet. My face stung and the tears made it hurt more, like salt in a cut. He ejaculated and then left my body. He got up and told me to quit crying, get my a** off the floor, and clean up because I looked disgusting. 

I felt pain everywhere and I just wanted to take a shower. I felt so gross with liquid coming from my private areas. As I got to the bathroom, I saw him come out of the bedroom down the hall. Using a soft voice, he said he was going to help me wash up. I wanted nothing more than to have enough strength to push him down the stairs near the bathroom. Instead, he followed me into the bathroom and started to undress me, being sweet, and caressing me all over. I pulled away, which made him scream at me, and he grabbed me by my hair and flung my head towards the counter. I do not even remember hitting the counter. I regained consciousness alone, on the bathroom floor, with blood everywhere. My face was so swollen and bloody. 

When I got in the shower I noticed bruises, scratches, rug burns, and broken fingernails and toenails. This too was hidden, and during the weeks it took to heal, everyone was told that I slipped getting out of the shower. I supposed it seemed believable because my bathroom counter was close to, and directly across from the shower. No one questioned me because I always kept my abuse a secret and he often hit me in areas that were easily hidden.

Find Disclosure

I saw a doctor unfamiliar to me and disclosed what truly happened to me, but did not say who did it, for fear of losing my kids. He assessed me and did some tests. I had a concussion, a small brain bleed, a fractured nose, a hole in my nasal septum, broken blood vessels in my eyes and cheeks, and significant damage to my anal sphincter. He recommended surgery for my nose and rectum. 

For the next seven months, I prepared to leave my abuser. I started telling other people, and I sought help through various agencies. During this time he began a relationship with a woman from work, so I contacted her and told her I knew they were in a relationship, and that I wanted him out of my home. The next day he actually left. I felt so empowered and relieved, after months of trying to figure out how and when to leave, he was out within a matter of hours. 

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

I Find Normal

However, I was still not free of him – he tried to take my kids, he stalked me, and he harassed me, all while playing the apparent victim in court. The courts often sided with him and shut me down when I mentioned abuse, even though he was charged a few years prior for abusing me, so there was prior documented proof. I even tried to get an emergency protection order, but they denied it, and I was told that I was trying to abuse the system to make him look bad in family law matters. 

I have been forced by the courts to deal with him and give him access to our children even when he mistreated them, which the courts kept dismissing. He had been verbally mistreating our girls, so I fought harder. Finally, after years of fighting the courts and him, he now only gets limited access to our son. 

It’s been hell for my children and me. I also felt that the system only traumatized us further. I am becoming stronger and can finally stand up for my kids and myself. We are working hard to find our new normal, knowing that there is a long road of healing ahead.

I Was Humiliated and Abused by My Own Family

I want to share my story before I die. This is my story of how abuse impacted and shattered my life. I am a survivor of domestic violence and a survivor of breast cancer. This is my story about empowerment, healing, and resilience, although I am still battling with sickness because of this abuse. Violence, coercion, and oppression were used as tools of control in our home.

Hi, I’m Reshma

My name is Reshma, and I am a survivor of physical abuse perpetrated against me by my family – my mother, brothers, and sisters. The violence lasted for many years and shattered my life. Following the abuse, I got very sick with breast cancer and had a heart attack. My suffering never seems to end.

I am looking for peace and closure.

The issue in this story is the painful and harsh reality of my life. My abuse story defines these family members’ moral values as Muslims.

My English is not very good, but I believe abuse and violence do not need fancy words to explain them. It will forever be part of my life as emotional scars.

A Family from Pakistan

In 1988, I came to the Southeastern United States from Pakistan with my family. Back in Pakistan, my family had always been physically and verbally abusive toward me. They often threatened to kill me, and always treated me as their scapegoat. All the work in the home was my responsibility. I was treated as a slave rather than a daughter or sister. I never felt part of the family; just a slave, always working in the kitchen, cleaning the house, or taking care of their needs.

I was subjected to humiliation by my mother, sister *Sahar, and other family members, who would make fun of me or my personality.

Nights of Fear

I have been suffering from this pain for many years, wanting to reveal this secret from my chest, this constant physical abuse, and mental torture. I have stayed awake at night, scared, shivering with fear and nightmares about my older brother *Faraz and younger sister Sahar attacking me. Faraz has always been a violent person with a short temper and has behaved hatefully toward me. My mother and sister instigated situations to make him angry and hostile toward me; then he would brutally beat me up. My mother and Sahar always praise and encourage his brutality.

Photo by pixabay from Pexels

History of Assault

Many times, Faraz has threatened to kill me or bury me alive. I have always been terrified of him, ever feeling as though my life is in danger; I will never overcome it.

Faraz and Sahar have controlled my life. They kept my passport and documents from me to prevent me from applying for citizenship.

Sahar is my younger sister. She is treated like an important person and given much power. My mother and sisters treat her like a princess. She has significant influence and authority over my mother and siblings and has always hated me.

Sahar and other siblings assaulted me many times between 1988 and 1993. The assaults included kicking, punching, choking, pulling my hair, slapping my face, verbally abusing me, blaming me, emotionally torturing me, calling me names, and telling me I look bad. She would say to me that nobody loved me, that I deserved the abuse I was getting, and nobody could rescue me. She told me that if I reported the abuse, I would be dead.

In 1988, I experienced a very traumatic assault by my family. It was a gang-type attack by my brother Faraz, my brother *Bashir, my sister Sahar, and my sister *Aminah. My mother also took part in the assault and even encouraged the others. They kicked me, shoved me, and beat me. Faraz grabbed me by my neck with both hands and choked me. He dragged me by my hair across the kitchen floor. Because of this, I still suffer from neck pain. Faraz threatened to kill me and bury me in the backyard if I reported the assault. Following the assault, I was locked in a room as a means to keep me quiet.

Power and Control

They always reminded me that they had the power to do whatever they wanted to me. For this reason, I am still terrified of Faraz and Sahar and live in fear. I feel like what happened to me then is still happening.

In 1989, my mother, other brothers, and sister moved, and Sahar insisted that I not be allowed to go, and my mother agreed.

They made me stay with my older sister *Komal to serve her family. I was expected to stay home all the time. I was not allowed the opportunity to establish my own life and gain independence. Unlike my siblings, I was not allowed to go to school, and I was never taught how to drive.

A Life to Serve

According to my family, my life’s purpose was to serve my family and my in-laws like a slave. If I protested or said anything about working all the time, I would be harassed and abused by my family, while my mother encouraged their actions.

Being forced into this way of life with no ability to adjust to living in America, speak the language, or learn to drive caused considerable damage to my life. The assaults and constant torment from family members impacted my self-esteem as well as my personality. At one point, the constant pain and shame led me to try to take my life. I tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide; I did not want to live.

No Escape

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I could not live with my family, but they brought me there to clean. I cleaned the bathrooms and toilet, scrubbed the old vinyl floors in the kitchen and hallway, cooked, babysat, and waited on their guests.

I did not refuse or resist because I feared abuse. I withdrew and felt dead inside.

In 1989, Sahar was furious and was yelling at me. My mother and brother Faraz dragged me to the basement to apologize to Sahar. I had said harsh words to her because I was not allowed to take the test for the driver’s permit like my siblings. When I said this, my brothers, sisters, and mother started beating me. I tried to escape by running up the stairs, but they blocked the way. I told them I would report them to community people. They told me that if I did, they would beat me more. They laughed and told me nobody would believe me anyway because I was crazy.

In 1989, my family went to the beach for a vacation. They forcefully took me with them to be their servant. In the apartment, they rented I did the cooking, the laundry, and bed-making like a servant.

In 1990, after being verbally abused and beaten, I was in an emotional crisis. I decided I would do anything to escape the abuse and being treated like an animal, so I tried to run away. I escaped through the garage while everyone was in the living room. Once outside, I walked very quickly and quietly. I was shivering due to being nervous about what would happen if they caught me. I got a half a block away when I saw them coming my way in a car, and I tried to hide in the bushes. My brother Faraz and brother-in-law *Habib found me, grabbed me by the arms, and pushed me into the car.

They warned me that if I ever tried to run away again, they would teach me a lesson I would not forget. The same would happen if I ever reported them to any authority or said anything to a Muslim community member. They were very much concerned about having an image as the perfect Muslim Pakistani family.

My mother and sisters regularly made fun of me together. When I cried, they would claim I was crazy.

When I lived with my older sister Komal, I was her housekeeper. I cleaned, cooked, babysat, and raised the youngest child, but I never spoke to anyone. I would prepare meals for her big gatherings, but I hid from the guests. My family treated me like they were ashamed of me, so I was careful not to embarrass them.

I Was a Slave

To my sister, I was a slave. I remember feeling very bad because I had a fever. My sister was not concerned and insisted that I prepare meals. While making the meal, I was rushing so that my brother-in-law’s dinner would not be late. I cut my finger and was bleeding a lot. My sister insisted I finish preparing the meal; by the time my work was done, the bleeding was worse. My sister finally took me to the hospital, where I got three stitches.

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My sister had a party in 1990. I served the guests without talking. My sisters were concerned that I did not reveal their abusive behavior to anyone, so they always watched me to prevent me from having discussions. A guest started a conversation with me. I did the best I could to be cordial using my broken English. Sahar was observing the conversation, and she eventually broke it up by making fun of my broken English. I was humiliated. I went to hide in the garage; I felt like garbage.

When Sahar got married, her husband’s family stayed at her home. They stayed for two weeks. I had to serve them around the clock, and I was not allowed to talk with the visitors. They were told I was unable to hold a conversation because of extreme shyness.

The wedding had many guests, I prepared most of the dishes by myself, even though I felt very weak. I was angry and frustrated, but I did not complain out of fear of being verbally abused. If I did, I knew that after guests were gone, the abuse would be more than verbal.

In 1992, when the family was preparing for a vacation in Florida, I told my mother and sister, I did not want to go. They responded that I could not be left alone and that I was needed to do the cooking. I protested. They responded by threatening me with physical harm, I was fearful, so I went with them and served them for a week.

In 1990 they arranged my marriage in Pakistan. I went with my mother and brother Bashir and got married in Pakistan, but they sent me back to America within 15 days. I wanted to stay with my husband as any bride would, but my brother forced and threatened me, “Don’t you dare to tell your husband you have to go back. We bought you a return ticket.” It was decided, and then he slapped me on the face. After returning to America, I never had permission to talk to my husband on the phone. After these incidents, I felt so helpless I decided to write to my husband about the situation. Still, my brother in law stopped the letter at the post office and warned me I could not write to him anymore if they found out the situation could be dangerous for me.

In 1993, on the day my husband-to-be arrived at the airport, they refused to let me go with them. When I protested, Sahar started yelling at me. My mother, brothers, and sisters began shoving, hitting, and kicking me. My older sister and her husband stood by and did nothing. Everyone left, leaving me locked in a room crying, very frightened, and ashamed of myself.

Mentally I was very disturbed, embarrassed, and humiliated. My big night turned into a nightmare. I was strictly warned and threatened if I told anything about this abuse to my husband, I would be punished.

When I moved out of their home, they never helped me. They made my life miserable by putting me down and used their influence to degrade me in the local Pakistani community. I had to get away from my family.

The constant abuse and torture permanently damaged my life. I have always felt worthless. After so many years, I still suffer from the trauma of the abuse. I have never been able to overcome it.

Abuse Manifesting in Physical Health

I believe that the trauma’s stress has caused my breast cancer, heart problems, bone density loss, lung fibrosis, and a stroke. Even after so many years, I have nightmares about those assaults I wake up sweating with my heart racing.

I am living with my own family now, but I am still afraid of my brothers and sisters. Now I wish I had known how to speak English well enough to inform the police back then, or had found the courage to tell someone else. As a human being, I never deserved that inhumane treatment and cruelty, and all I want is justice.

Sharing my story, I feel empowered that the truth is finally revealed. My family never had the right to abuse me; they should be held accountable for their illegal actions. God give me strength and courage in this healing journey and closure.

Survivor Retreat Helped Heal My Shattered Heart

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I have been out of my abusive relationship for ten years. It is difficult to put into words what the six years of abuse did to hurt my self-worth. It has literally impacted my life in every way. For many years after, I held onto shame, and a large part of me still felt responsible for the abuse.

The emotional and psychological toll it took on me was devastating. I tried to pretend it away by simply not talking about it. Everyone told me I was strong for all that I had been through, and to the outside world, it appeared that way.

About a year after the abuse, I spent ten days in the hospital for a suicide attempt. Clearly, in my heart, there was so much more going on. I turned to alcohol at one point to mask the pain, and I dated a lot of men. I also attempted to attend church to help me heal. However, deep inside, I had a pain that I was so scared to touch because if I did, I was afraid that I would not be able to control all the hurt that was sure to surface.

A Chance to Heal

After many struggles in my relationships, with partners and with my children, I decided it was time to face my demons and to try to love myself again. At first, I focused on respecting myself and not settling in my relationships by being honest and open about my feelings. If a man could not love me with all my scars, he was not worth my time, and that began my healing process.

I attracted a man in my life that loved me the right way, unselfishly, and my heart started to heal. However, the actual deep healing began when I came across Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence (BTSADV). It started when I followed a story about a young woman who had been stabbed multiple times and lived. I was so impressed with her message of forgiveness and courage; I sent her a message to tell her a little about my story. The next thing I knew, I received a message from BTSADV about attending a women’s retreat in San Diego.

Finding BTSADV

I began following the BTSADV page on Facebook. It helped me find the courage to tell my story in its entirety to this organization that encourages survivors to do so in an effort to heal. This was the first time I had shared my story in all of these years. When I did, I began to reach those places in my heart that needed to heal. It was like an antibiotic that was placed on my open wound, and this was the exact medicine I needed. I was shaking the first time I shared my story, but I knew I needed to, and I was ready.

I attended a BTSADV Survivor’s Retreat in San Diego in May 2014 that literally changed my life. I was surrounded by women all over the country that had stories just like mine. I will never forget what it felt like for the first time to be around others who understood me and did not blame me for the abuse. Instead, they loved me and did not judge me. It was the first time that I understood that I was not alone. We openly talked about our experiences and cried cleansing tears together. It felt like a piece of heaven had comforted my shattered heart.

Healing by Fire

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Our final night together was the most amazing experience I have ever had. We wrote letters to our abusers and share them in a small group as a way to rid ourselves of the feelings we harbored. It was a way to let it go and move forward. I sobbed as I read my letter; shortly after, we wrinkled our letters in a ball and walked them to a fire as a symbol of starting anew. As we stood around the fire, we threw our letters in the flames one by one, and we dedicated them to the people who have been killed at the hands of Domestic Violence. This hit home because it could have been my children or me.

Standing around that fire, I have never felt such a feeling of peace and love as I did at that moment. We listened to the beautiful music of Angel Will Soar, and I believe angels were there because I cannot put into words what happened to my heart at that moment. It was so profound and beautiful. It was like the layers of sadness were removed from my soul. I could soar again, fly and be free from the shackles of shame that held me for so long! At that moment, I knew my life would be transformed.

From Survivor to Advocate

I decided to dedicate my time and use my story to help others that may be suffering break free like me and learn to fly again! Until there is no breath left in me, I will use my voice for change!

Thank you, BTSADV, for helping me get my voice back! I love this organization more than I can begin to express, and I will advocate with BTSADV for change to educate and offer assistance to anyone who may be in need. Perhaps I might help save their life or heal their soul just like mine is. I am finally coming back around to the girl I was before the abuse, only so much stronger, with more empathy and compassion. It is the refiner’s fire, and I made it through!

I believe I found my purpose! BTSADV is a sisterhood, and I belong to that Sisterhood! The love I have for this organization, I will never be able to repay, but now I will pay it forward and extend it to the next person and hold their hand and help them up.

My Ex-Husband Killed My Daughter

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My name is Kris, and I have been a domestic violence advocate now for 21 years. In addition to my advocacy work, I have also become a resiliency speaker sharing my own story of domestic violence and the horrifying events that led up to the murder of my 3yr old daughter, Miranda. 

As I share this horrifying story, I also like to share how I overcame this horrible tragedy and how I found happiness and joy again. I also share my story in hopes that it touches and encourages just one abuse victim to seek safety for her and her children. 

1993

My story begins in 1993 when I met and fell in love with a man who I thought was the man of my dreams. We had an enormous wedding with all of the pomp and circumstance you can imagine. My entire wedding attire was handcrafted, from the roses and pearls on my veil to the roses on my shoes. It was my dream wedding. 

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It was the event of the year that turned sour and sinister within six months. My life turned into a real-life horror story. I was 23 at the time of my marriage. The abuse started as soon as the marriage certificate was signed. The man that I thought loved me like no other turned into a monster. 

In 1995, I became pregnant with a beautiful and very healthy baby girl, who we named Miranda Faith. She could not have been a more perfect and happy baby. I instantly fell in love with her and the role of motherhood.

By 1997, my marriage had deteriorated to the point that there was no salvaging it, and I had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave my husband, my abuser. His name was *Henry, and he was a Firefighter/Paramedic. 

Fear

Once I decided to file for divorce, most of my days were spent living in fear and frustration. I was ALWAYS in constant fear for my life and the life of our daughter. I was divorcing my husband for mental and emotional abuse, cheating, gaslighting, financial abuse, and his blatant disrespect for our marriage and family. Everything that could be balled up in an unhealthy marriage was part of my marriage. 

From the moment I asked Henry to leave our home, the abuse escalated. Henry felt his controlling grip begin to loosen, and he noticed that I was changing. He was starting to notice that I was getting stronger in my will to stand up to him, and this scared him. And when Henry felt threatened, the devil that lived inside of him would rear its ugly head. 

First, it began with constant phone calls all hours of the day and night at home and work. He began following me everywhere I went and showing up at my place of employment, friend’s houses, the mall, restaurant, you name it, he was ALWAYS THERE. 

He would call me early in the morning and give me a blow by blow of what I had done the night before, who I was with and where I went, what I was wearing, what time I had left my house, and what time I returned home. 

So many times, he or his father paid for other people to follow me, purposely scare me, or try to run me off the road and take my picture. These strangers were paid to terrorize me! He even went as far as hiring someone to come to my front door late one night posing as a person who had lost their dog. 

The stalking, harassment, and threats never stopped. At this point, I was forced to file a restraining order to try and keep Henry away from Miranda and me, but the abuse continued and escalated. The restraining order just fueled his anger even more. 

Pressing Charges

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It became so exhausting and so scary that I was encouraged to press charges to have him arrested for stalking and for violating his restraining order. I had to document every single thing that happened from the ungodly amount of phone calls to the times we exchanged Miranda, every conversation, and every unexpected visit. I had to document every time I noticed him following me and when he showed up at my place of employment. 

I became the queen of documentation. You see, the burden of proof is always put on the victim to prove that she is in danger and scared to death for herself and her children. 

During this time, we were fighting over custody. I felt it appropriate that he only get supervised visitation. After all, he had threatened to kill us many times. I did not think that that was an unreasonable request, but of course, he wanted to get full custody. It was nasty and terrifying. I was terrified for Miranda’s life and mine, but I could not convince a judge that Henry was a dangerous man. So many times, I kept hearing, “I’m sorry, but we can’t do anything until something happens.”

Threats

Henry would call me in the middle of the night during Miranda’s visits, threatening to kill Miranda and then himself. This, of course, would send me into a panic of monumental proportions. I would call the police; they would go and check on them, and Henry would laugh and say that I was the crazy ex-wife who was harassing him.

He would get a pat on the back, and he would go right back to stalking and threatening. He would even call me after the police left. 

I would get so many phone calls that I could not keep up with all of the documentation on my own, so my parents hired an answering service to answer and document all calls coming from him. 

Henry made it his life’s mission to stalk me even using the ambulance he was driving to follow me, and his partner never reported it. He would sit outside of the courthouse where I worked and just watch. He wanted me to know that he was always watching me. 

After months of stalking and documenting, and after nearly losing my job, I finally obtained enough evidence to have him arrested. I had a huge three-ring binder of all of the evidence that my mother, her secretary, and I had put together. I had done my part 100%. 

Accountability

Finally, he was going to jail, and for once during this whole battle, he was going to be held accountable for the abuse. After months of calling the police, after pleading with the Fire Chief to talk to him and hold him accountable, and after months of pleading with his parents to help control him, he was FINALLY going to jail. 

However, instead of going to the firehouse to arrest Henry, the police called him as a courtesy, so that they would not embarrass him in front of his co-workers. They asked him to come down to the station and turn himself in. They assured him it would be hush-hush, and he would be out of there by the end of business that day. 

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Within an hour of being arrested, he posted bail and was right outside my house sitting in his truck watching. Again. Henry was NOT held accountable. Again, another pat on the back. 

NO ONE listened to me; no one in authority would listen.

NO ONE wanted to believe that this man was DANGEROUS. 

Once Henry was sentenced, his original sentence of 8 months of jail time was suspended, and the judge ordered him to participate in 10 sessions with a certified psychiatrist, and he had to report to his parole officer once a week. He was also granted joint custody even though he had just been convicted of a crime. 

Instead of making Henry do those sessions with a certified psychiatrist, his parole officer reduced his sentence yet again to just one week’s worth of anger management. Henry did not need anger management. Henry managed his anger just fine, especially when there were witnesses.

Henry was never held accountable for anything. He was a member of the “brotherhood,” and he most certainly received preferential treatment. 

He used the uniform and the ambulance to inflict fear and intimidation like you have never known, and they allowed it. 

He used the uniform as a way of getting away with harassing me. He knew that if I called the police, they would not do a thing to him because he was a firefighter.

I thought the torture would never stop. I was always on high alert. Henry was always stalking, threatening, and lurking outside my house. I fought this man for three solid years. He was everywhere! If it was not him, it was his father or some sleazy friend they would hire to continue the torture. 

I had almost become numb and accustomed to it. I had grown accustomed to the feeling that one day he would kill me. At one point, I had made my peace with it. I did not know of any other way to live. Miranda and I never received the help we so desperately needed. 

Then one day, I noticed that the incidences were occurring less often. I had noticed that the turmoil had somewhat subsided. Was he getting bored? Was he trying to throw me off by backing off? No, that was not the case at all. 

Foolish Optimism

It was not until he met someone else that the torment somewhat subsided. I, too, had met someone and was trying to live a normal life. Things became quiet, and for the first time in a year or more, I thought we had finally made it to a place where we could actually get along. I was so hopeful. I was foolishly optimistic. 

Henry turned had his attention to a new woman. I am not going to lie; I was so relieved he was leaving me alone. He had moved on to a new victim and another victim she was. 

Her name was *Leah. She was a physical therapist at one of the local hospitals and the mother of 2 young daughters. She was beautiful, self-sufficient, owned her own home, and had a great job. She had her whole life ahead of her—a life of promise and success. 

After about eight months, their relationship started to deteriorate. Henry was having financial problems and was living off of Leah. Just like a narcissist does, he professed his love for her, promptly moved in overwhelming her with gifts, charm, and false promises. 

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I found out later that she had become afraid of his controlling behavior. She was living on the ever-changing roller coaster of Henry’s moods. She was too afraid to cross him. He had become possessive, delusional, and overall too controlling. After they moved in together just after a few weeks of dating, he demanded they get married. It was all too much too fast. 

He had asked her to marry him. She said yes, too terrified to tell him no. Throughout the next couple of months, things began to deteriorate between them, and that nagging horrible feeling began to haunt me yet again. 

Finally, after her oldest daughter, who was 15 at the time, decided to move back to her dad’s, Leah found the courage to tell Henry to leave. She had decided that this was not the life she wanted for herself or her daughters. 

Henry left and moved back in with his parents. As you can imagine, this was a massive blow to his ego, and he was furious.

The Downward Spiral

From this point on, things began to spiral out of control. Henry began tormenting her the exact same way he did me. She filed for her protective order and had begged and pleaded with the Fire Chief to tell Henry to back off. Henry had violated the restraining order so many times. 

Leah contacted Henry’s parole officer, and he was put on paid leave and encouraged to see a doctor, causing Henry became irate. His behavior once again became erratic and increasingly unpredictable. He threatened to kill her and then himself. Henry was becoming unhinged. 

He began acting erratically with me again and giving me a hard time about visitation with Miranda. 

During the time all of this was happening, I had been working for the Tax Assessor’s office, and I had finally gained my deputy assessor’s certification. It had taken me six years to get my certification, and I was so very proud. It was a huge accomplishment for me. I was making a better life for Miranda and me. I was getting paid a little bit more, and I was well on my way to a promising career. For the first time, I had everything going for me. 

I had recently remarried, and my husband Jeff and I were headed to New Orleans for my pinning ceremony. 

Since Henry was given joint custody, I was forced by the judge to leave Miranda in his care until my return four days later. It was gut-wrenching having to turn away and leave her. And it turned out to be the biggest mistake of my entire life. 

On a cold Tuesday night, January 12, 1999, Henry went to his parent’s house and switched vehicles with his dad. He then picked Miranda up from daycare and then drove to the hospital where Leah worked. She had been in a staff meeting with several of her co-workers and was due to leave the building at approximately 5 pm. 

Henry pulled into the parking lot and parked on the opposite side of the hospital to not be seen or recognized as she was leaving the building. As Leah was walking out, surrounded by her friends and co-workers, Henry approached her. 

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He begged her to talk to him. He asked for two minutes of her time, and she said no. She told him he is not supposed to be there, and if he did not leave, she would call the police. She reminded him that he was violating his restraining order yet again. 

It was at this time that Henry pulled out a Smith and Wesson .38 Special that he got from his father, and he shot Leah point-blank in the face three times. Leah dropped to the ground, dead and unrecognizable. People began to run and scatter, screaming and running for cover. They were hiding under cars and running into the open field next to the parking lot. 

Henry drug her lifeless body to a grassy median and laid her body out. He then, ever so calmly, walked to the vehicle where he left my little girl sitting alone. He carried Miranda over to Leah’s dead body; he held her on his lap and began talking to her. According to witness statements, he whispered in her ear, then put the gun to her tiny temple and pulls the trigger. He turned her over and shot her again. 

He then laid Miranda’s body next to Leah’s and pulled out a hunting knife that he got from his father and began to stab and slice Leah’s body over and over and over again. 

In the blink of an eye, two innocent people were dead. This man was Miranda’s father. Her father failed her. He was supposed to love and protect her. He was supposed to be the example she would judge all other men against, and he killed her!

Within minutes, the very fire station that Henry worked at had to make that call. He knew his co-workers would be the ones to come to help. He had been planning it all along. Police were on the scene, and the ambulance was there waiting to try and help the victims, but Henry refused to put his weapon down. 

The police asked him over and over to put down his weapon, and he refused. He slowly brought his gun up and pointed it at the police. The officers had no choice but to shoot. After several rounds, Henry was dead. 

He had killed my only child. He had taken a precious life that was not his to take. He had taken the mother of two young girls. The scene, as you can imagine, was total chaos and confusion. 

Henry murdered Miranda just four days shy of her 4th birthday. I had already planned her party and sent out her invitations. I was six hours away and had a very long six-hour drive home. It was the worst six hours of our lives. I had absolutely no details, only that my precious daughter was dead. 

Miranda died that night at approximately 5:30 pm with two gunshot wounds to her tiny head. At 9:30 that Tuesday night, I got the call from the Chaplain of the fire department. 

My mind could not comprehend what had happened. I had so many questions. How was I supposed to live the rest of my life without her? How was I supposed to be a loving wife and partner to this man who loved Miranda like his own? We had only been married for three weeks. How were we going to build a life together after such a horrific event? 

Photo by Rafael Serafim from Pexels

Here I was with a wonderful husband looking back at me completely helpless.

Within a couple of hours, the story hit the news. My mother was working in Houston, and my dad had just gotten off work, and my brother was living in Ft. Worth at the time. We were scattered around living our lives when our world literally stopped spinning. 

The days that followed were an absolute blur. I had to make some tough decisions. We were all depending on our bodies to take over what our brain and our hearts could not comprehend, like a machine. 

It was by sheer perseverance and determination that I decided that Henry was not going to have the last word. I decided right then that I was not going to let him win. He may have thought he won by trying to destroy me by killing my daughter, but I had other plans. I was NOT going to allow him to steal the joy I had by starting a new life. I was NOT going to let him or his family scare me any longer. I decided right then and there that I was going to fight harder than ever before to tell the world exactly what he had done. 

Before he killed Miranda and Leah, Henry left behind a suicide tape detailing his plan and the reasons why he felt justified in murdering. 

Leah – If I can’t have her, then no one will. Miranda – It was revenge. 

I decided then that I was going to have the last word, and I came up swinging. 

I was determined to tell this heartbreaking story to the whole world. I am determined to shout it from the highest mountain. 

Maybe, just maybe, this time someone will listen. 

I stand before you today, 21 years later, an example of resiliency and hope. I stand before you today a woman so strong in her desire to advocate for the rights and protection of women and children. 

I started the process of healing by embracing my grief and allowing my heart, my body and my mind to process the trauma. The grief was mine, and I knew that I needed to allow my whole being to carefully process what had happened. 

I had a wonderful husband and family, who were my amazing support system. I am one of the very few victims of domestic violence who had a support system. Many victims have no one. Their abuser has managed to isolate them from all friends and family and everyone that loves them. 

My entire family went on a crusade. We began our healing by being proactive. We all became advocates for victims of Domestic Violence as a family who spoke out about the laws that needed to be changed and applied. We held attorneys, judges, law enforcement, and the fire department accountable for their lack of action.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

As a family, we put up billboards, printed magazines, and my mother and I both began to speak up and speak out. We, as a family, sought counseling together, and we healed by thrusting ourselves into trying to help others who were suffering with violent partners or with a justice system that just won’t listen. 

During the hardest times in our lives, helping others helped us. 

Domestic violence is a broad topic. It is not black and white; it is not just broken bones and black eyes and bruises. It is hard for many people to understand the dynamics of Domestic Violence. 

The unique part of my story is that Henry never physically abused me. His form of abuse was mental and emotional abuse, intimidation, and he used his uniform and his influence to control both Leah and me. 

If you think that a mental and emotional abuser does not kill, well, the proof lies in a tiny grave.

A year after Miranda was murdered, I found out that Henry had approached a fellow firefighter to see if he might know someone who would kill my family and me. 

Henry was planning a hit. This man was so upset, and he reported it to his Captain. The Captain did not take it seriously and never reported it to the Chief. 

Over the past 21 years, I have spent my time advocating for victims and bringing more awareness to DV. I have traveled the world with my husband, who just recently retired from the Air Force after 27 years of service. I have raised two amazing children, now 19 and 17. 

Now I am back home, I have come full circle, and my goal is to take this place by storm. More than anything, I want to collaborate with our law enforcement and our justice system and our Domestic Violence organizations to help educate our community and this wonderful state that I love so much. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

This is my calling. This is what I want to do until I take my last breath. I will NEVER be silenced. I will ALWAYS be Miranda’s voice and the voice for victims whose voices have been silenced by domestic homicide. 

I would also like to add that regardless of the sad circumstances of Miranda and Leah’s murders, I am forever grateful and supportive of our law enforcement and our first responders. Domestic Violence calls have proven to be one of the most dangerous calls for our police officers. 

I can only imagine how hard it was for police to pull their triggers that day and take down a mad man. I know and felt the overwhelming disbelief and sadness that Henry’s fellow firefighters felt the day they had to look down at a small child and fellow brother and pull the blanket over their faces. 

During Miranda’s funeral, the back half of the large church we attended, was a sea of blue. It was standing room only. We even had a police escort for the 2 ½ hour drive to our family plot. 

Miranda’s birthday is January 16th. She died on January 12th just four days shy of her 4th birthday. Every year I allow myself to grieve, and I allow myself to celebrate this little life I so beautifully created. 

As strange as it may seem to all of you, I thank the universe for this horrific experience. It has taken years to realize this experience was a gift. I could only be grateful when I realized that I would have rather known her for just a second than never at all. 

I would rather endure the inexplicable pain of outliving her than to have never seen her precious face or spoken her sweet name. I am genuinely and deeply grateful to Miranda for choosing me to be her mother. 

I am the one who would be able to fight for her like no other. Not only fight for her but fight for a cause that has plagued our society for centuries, violence against women.

Women should NOT have to die so that others may stay alive. 

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In closing, I would like to share with you one of my favorite quotes by Oprah Winfrey. To me, it is just so profound, and it touched me, and it made so much sense to me. She says, “I have interviewed and portrayed people who have withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one thing they all seem to share is the ability to maintain HOPE. Hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights.”

I stand before you today a perfect example of what hope is.