The morning came as any other; however, my stomach knew this was not just another day. It was time to initiate my plan. I spent my free time gathering minor items that were needed to gain my freedom. In the weeks prior, I found a small box for my things but easy to carry.
Time was of the essence, and there was no room for error. Since evening was setting in, I had to complete my chores and prepare for the escape. On the backside of the house, we had a small planter that I stashed my box out of sight. My mind focused on the idea of finally being free, I only had to survive one more night.
As the afternoon faded, my stomach churned, but I had to keep focused on the mission at hand. In a way, I already felt free. For the first time, the extent of the beatings was of no concern to me tonight. My only thoughts were about getting out alive.
I heard the back door open and my husband come inside; he called my name, then asked if his dinner was ready. I calmly replied it was finished on the table and explained I had already eaten and was not hungry. Of course, my statement set him off, as usual, then right on cue, I heard the plate shatter across the tile floor. My usual nightmare ensured…. I found myself curled up on the floor in a fetal position to protect my body from the blows. As he continued to thrash, I lay, wondering how long the beating would last this time. The only survival mechanism I had to endure this chaos was to leave my body and stop all conscious thought and feeling. As I had learned long ago, falling into my trance served me well, tonight especially.
If my husband followed suit, once his ranting stared, the brutality stopped immediately. He’d walk out of the room, shouting, laughing at the pathetic sight he saw lying on the floor, then barked demands as he disappeared down the hallway. As time passed, trying to regain my composure got more difficult by the minute. Sometimes, I had to crawl until I was strong enough to stand. It was easier to avoid the pain by just staying on the floor, however, that night I knew freedom lay just beyond the door.
Once I managed to stand, it was imperative to stay silent. On most nights, he would fall asleep shortly after the beatings stopped when he laid on the couch. So, I waited until darkness took over the sky, and his snoring rattled the house. I tipped-toed out of the bathroom, through the living room, and headed to the backdoor. My purse was sitting on the chest freezer in the laundry room. My earlier apprehensions left quickly; the concept of freedom seeped into my soul.
My friend was waiting down the street, a clear distance from my house. But I had no reason to hurry, she’d wait all night if necessary. The only priority that mattered was getting out alive. When I reached for the door handle, my first taste of freedom was soothing and brought a complete sense of peace over my body. I turned and gently closed the backdoor, moving across the patio to grab my box from the planter. The further I got from the house a sensation came over my body, that I had never felt before. My nightmare was truly ending, this time I woke alive and unharmed.
The local women’s shelter was not far, and my friend was happy to see me alive. The shelter was not home or where I wanted to spend my time, but it was a start. The attendant assigned me a cot and dresser drawer for my belongings. I slowly took the items out of the box and laid them one by one on the cot. But as I looked at the items, I realized the horror endured for so many years left me with nothing but broken bones and terrifying nightmares. My life had no meaning; in fact, I had no life at all. In essence, the time spent enduring the abuse was in vain, because it left nothing but a veil of dark experiences. Reality reared its ugly head, and I saw the truth. I knew there had to be a better way to live. No matter how hard this seemed at the moment, nothing could resemble my experiences.
After scanning each of my items and laying them neatly in the drawer, I looked around the shelter. Across the room, a woman was sitting on the edge of a cot, and a sense of urgency came over my soul. The energy carried me to her side. We sat in silence for some time before she spoke. I held her in my arms, hoping to calm the terror she felt inside. Nonetheless, as the night wore on, fear overtook her and she fell into a trance. A look I had seen many times on my own face. In the moment, a song formed in my head and I sang gallantly most of the night, trying to calm her troubled heart. By morning’s light, she had survived her first night of freedom. However, the daylight only added additional concerns. As she regained consciousness, the worry overtook any rational decision making.
She began exclaiming, “I have to leave, this was a mistake. He has calmed down now, I’ll be alright. I will just tell him I went for a walk.”
The fear she felt was overwhelming, and I pleaded with her over and over, “You are not invisible out there, please don’t leave. Please don’t leave, it’s not safe yet.”
Later that day, I was forced to leave myself but I begged her to stay, “Give it more time, please don’t leave,” I told her.
“I’ll be alright…. Thank you for everything. I promise to stay.” Her words eased my fears.
As I headed for the door, the wrenching pain in my stomach grew rapidly. It forced me to turn back and see her face one more time as I left the shelter. The sheer terror harbored inside her eyes bore clear through my soul. It was a look I would never forget. Uncertain of my own fate, I knew the risks of leaving the shelter, but important business took me outside safety. When I returned later that afternoon, I immediately looked for her and saw the cot had been assigned to someone else. The staff reported she left soon after I had. They could not convince her to stay.
My heart sank, knowing the terror she would face. Nothing could shake the look I saw in her eyes earlier that day. The next several hours were almost unbearable. All the pain, anguish, and sorrow I felt rushed over of me like a broken dam. There are no words to describe the feelings running through my head.
Later that night her cot was re-assigned to another woman, leaving all the beds full once again. However, tonight the shelter was empty for me. I slipped into my trance and fell asleep, curled up in a ball, sobbing from the pain. As the sun rose the next morning, the rays warmed my face. I looked around and heard nothing, it was a peaceful, serene setting and freedom took over my soul.
Then God stepped in; the moment had come for me to understand my true calling in life. Many years have passed since that day, but none go by without seeing her face and the intensity of the pain that plagued her soul. I can still hear her say, “It’s alright, I’ll be okay. He’s calmed now. It’s alright, I’ll be okay.”
Those were the defining words that brought light to the realities of domestic abuse. I promised myself that morning to do whatever it took to find a safe passage for women seeking a way out. In that commitment, I created the Purposed Survivor 12-Step program. Her death will forever plague my soul, and for that reason, this story needed to be told. God does not always step in for the reason we think, but he never fails to protect those who suffer for an unyielding pain they can no longer endure. It is because of these women who died from an abusive situation that this program was formed.
Please always give a moment of silence for the individuals who still suffer in domestic abuse situations. Pray for their souls and the path that leads to freedom. The story was not meant to deter you from becoming Purposed Survivor, but to ensure your understanding of the violent realities that are intertwined with domestic abuse.