This week I am featuring domestic violence survivor, Caroline Abbott, whose story is inspirational. Here is her story:
How I Felt When I Took Back My Life
Adapted from A Journey through Emotional Abuse: From Bondage to Freedom by Caroline Abbott and Debbie Stafford
Hello, my name is Caroline Abbott. I was married to my first husband for twenty years. The first ten years were pretty happy; we had 3 children together. During next five years, my husband became controlling, and began using the “silent treatment” on me. The last five years became very emotionally abusive. During the last year, I became afraid of my husband. He began making veiled threats on my life, and began to physically abuse me.
I spoke to a counselor, and told him how my husband was treating me. The first thing he asked me was whether I had a safety plan. I was shocked! I was in such a state of denial that I didn’t think I needed a safety plan, so I did nothing.
One morning a few weeks later, my husband woke me by ripping the covers off my bed and screaming at me. I told him my heart was pounding, and he said “Good, maybe you’ll have a heart attack and die.” At that point, I ran out of my house in my nightgown. Later that morning, I went to Wal-Mart and bought a change of clothes for myself and all my children and a Rubbermaid bucket to store them in. From that moment forward, that Rubbermaid bucket was always in the back of my car, ready to go. I also slept with my purse and car keys by my bed, and had my portable phone book with me at all times—in other words, I began making my safety plan.
I have told the story of my past to many people. They always listen sympathetically. One day, when I told this part of my story to a new friend, I got a new perspective. I had always felt this was such a sad moment in my life—that I had to take a step like this to protect myself from my own husband. My new friend helped me see this much differently. She said,
“So, that was the moment you started taking back your life?”
I was so struck by that phrase, “taking back your life.” What a great way to describe it and reframe it in my mind! She pointed out that up to that point, I had looked to other people to rescue me: the pastors at my church, (who were no help), the counselor . . . even my husband. I had wanted them to make changes in my life so I could be safe. However, at the point I bought clothes for my children and me, I began to take the steps myself for my own safety.
I took several more months after going to Wal-Mart, but eventually I took the following steps:
- Called the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
- Visited my local women’s crisis center for counseling.
- Called the local crisis center’s legal help line for recommendation of a lawyer.
- Visited the lawyer, and made a plan to get a restraining order.
- Went with my lawyer to the courthouse, stood before the judge, told him all the abusive things my husband had been doing, and was granted a restraining order.
- Called the police and reported my husband when he called me the minute he received the restraining order for my children and myself.
- Went to my children’s schools to show their administrators the restraining order and to pick up the children after school.
- Had the locks changed on my house, and the code changed on my garage doors and alarm system.
- Called the police and asked them to meet my children and me when we returned home to make sure my husband was not waiting for us in the house.
However, once we entered the house I felt an immediate sense of peace. I cooked dinner for the children and myself, and we all sat down together and watched a favorite television show for the first time in quite a while. My husband had kept control of the TV remote, so I had not watched TV in a year. As I sat on the couch with my children around me, I marveled at how wonderful I felt. I could actually breathe. That night when I went to bed, I lay in my bed completely alone, and I felt totally at peace. For the first time in years, I was not afraid. I was so thankful. It brought to mind two bible verses:
Better a dry crust with peace and quiet
than a house full of feasting, with strife.
Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife;
quarrels and insults are ended.
Ahead of me were many difficult days, weeks, months and years. But that night, I fell into a peaceful sleep, praising the Lord.
Caroline, the “taking your life back” was a very powerful message. Victims will benefit by doing just that in the ways you described.
Thank you so much, Caroline! Your story is motivating and encouraging, and we are thankful you and your family are safe and happy.
Remember, if we can help just one woman, we’ve done our job.