Tuesday Apr 27 2010
Woman recounts abuse at hands of husband
By: Eileen Wilson, Telegraph Correspondent
Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series about domestic violence. Due to the nature of the stories, the names of the victims have been changed for their own protection. Jennifer, a talkative, summer-colored blonde, may look like your typical middle-aged mom when shopping in the grocery store. She’s anything but typical. Her life story includes an abusive stepfather and, as an adult, a marriage to a physically abusive man. While the well-heeled communities of Folsom and El Dorado Hills are known as wonderful places to live and raise families, even these bastions of peaceful prairie and idyllic lifestyles harbor domestic abuse and violence. According to Women Escaping a Violent Environment (WEAVE), nearly one in three women report abuse at some time in their lives, and domestic violence is likely to affect almost every workplace. Nancy Atchley, pastor and executive director of Powerhouse Ministries in Folsom, agrees. “The majority of women who come here for any service have been victims of domestic violence at some time,” she said. As in Jennifer’s case, trauma usually begins when the victims are small children. “My step dad used to beat my mom — it was a constant thing,” Jennifer said. “Both my brother and I used to watch or hear my mom get beat up on a regular basis.” Her mother struggled with substance abuse over the years. That is something she also picked up. “I was an addict for 24 years — methamphetamines and pills. It took my brother getting killed in prison a year ago to wake me up and make me decide to change my life,” she said. But adopting a new lifestyle after years of addiction and abuse isn’t easy. When Jennifer’s husband at the time was sent to prison for brutalizing her, she broke free of the abusive cycle. Jennifer knew of her former spouse’s violent tendencies as she had seen him abuse another woman, a friend of hers, before she started dating him. “He asked me to marry him, and I was afraid to say no,” she said. “Everyone was afraid of him.” Even while in prison, her ex-husband exerted control. “When he was in jail, he had me on the phone from morning until the phones were shut off at night,” she said. “I had to beg him to let me off the phone just to give my daughter a bath or walk to the store to get my baby some food.” Jennifer’s ex-husband had friends who checked up on her constantly, reporting her deeds and daily life to him. If he actions upset her ex-husband, she said he threatened to have his friends beat her up or even kill her. “I had to move across the street from his mother,” she said. “I constantly had to look at the ground. God help anyone (male) who made eye contact with me.” As is common with many abuse victims, Jennifer said she was in love and thought she could change her man. “He physically hit me, but it was the mental abuse that really scarred me,” she said. “Whenever he was doing something wrong, he would flip out and he would blame me.” Today she is in a drug rehabilitation program and knows she will go to jail if she doesn’t maintain her sobriety. For other women who are suffering from domestic abuse, Jennifer offers words of advice. “He did it once, he’ll do it again, and he might kill you the next time,” she said. Above all, she wants victims of violence to know it’s not their fault. “I watched him kick another woman’s head around like she was a soccer ball,” she said. “I thought he would never do that to me — that I would never do anything that would make him angry.” According to WEAVE’s website, domestic violence is identified as abuse between intimate partners, where one partner is using abuse, either physical or emotional, to gain power and control over the other partner. The organization serves the greater Sacramento area, and offers help, including a 24-hour crisis line, counseling, prevention and education, emergency respite, safe houses, and legal advocates for individuals in both heterosexual and same-sex partnerships. If you are experiencing domestic violence, contact WEAVE’s crisis line at (916) 920-2952 or visit weaveinc.org.