When my husband and I moved to the islands many years ago I thought this would be the perfect place to “start over”.
We quickly became part of this wonderful community with our professional jobs, church and civic club memberships as our children made life-long friends at the local schools. But the ugly secrets I had hoped to leave on the mainland followed us here all too quickly.
It wasn’t long before I was using the same old stories and makeup to hide the frequent marks and bruises. One of my friends at work started asking questions with obvious compassion, so I finally felt safe enough to share my pain. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she said, “If someone ever did anything like that to me, I’d just leave him.”
I knew she would never understand what I was really going through. How could I ever explain to her how trapped and hopeless I felt?
It was three years later when I tried to reach out again. The physical violence and the emotional and verbal abuse continued to escalate. I felt so isolated in my hopeless world of ugliness and pain. I thought that since my kids were never the targets of my husband’s tyrants that they were unaffected by it. Little did I know that my daughter was crying herself to sleep most nights worried that mommy might not be alive the next morning.
As I started to notice the effects on my three children I knew I had to get help from somewhere. I went to our pastor, who was very concerned and offered to give us couples counseling. He didn’t put the blame on me, as I was afraid he would do, and he tried to hold my husband accountable for his actions.
This only lasted about six months. The trail of broken promises and broken hearts just continued as it became obvious that this wasn’t something that could be solved in a couple’s counseling session.
Then one day in my annual review at work, my boss brought up his concerns over the pattern of missed days and the various “accidents” I had experienced. As he voiced his suspicions I realized that he saw the real picture of my life.
He told me that he knew of an agency in town that could help me. He helped me make the first call to DVSAS (Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services of the San Juan Islands). That call changed my life.
The advocates there understood my fears, isolation and “roadblocks” to leaving. Now, two years later, my children and I are living free from abuse, fear and isolation.
If you, or someone you know, are living in an abusive situation, don’t hesitate. Make the call today. San Juan: 378-2345, Orcas: 376-1234, Lopez: 468-4567.
— Editor's note: the personal account above was submitted by San Juan Islands Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services as part of a series of educational columns highlighting Domestic Violence Awareness Month, October.