Isolated

My first week in Pre-K is going wonderful. I love the school that I’m teaching at, my co-workers, and of course my students. I am keeping busy with ongoing court hearings, therapy appointments, and am in the beginning phase of completing required evaluations. I will also continue my Monday evening group meetings for “Celebrate Recovery”, at my church. I am now able to visit with my boys twice a week for four hours each day. They are both happy and healthy, and doing wonderful in their new schools.

According to my case plan, my goal is to have successfully moved into my own, safe and stable home by January 2018. I’m ecstatic and can’t wait!

I never thought I could live on my own, or would ever really want to. But I feel ready now. I think being around my solid support team is key. I have so much to look forward to.

I know that I can do this, and I will.

As most know, I received news a few days ago that my motion for a “Permanent Protective Order” for me AND my CHILDREN was GRANTED. Before hearing this, I just knew it. I knew that the judge would grant this.

This is the first experience I’ve actually had where I’m involved in the most uncomfortable of situations- without fear or anxiety. I just KNOW that everything is going to work out. Whether its the courts, DFCS, whoever- I have faith.

Today, I began the “Intake” process for the Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) evaluation. These sessions last approximately 90 minutes each, and more than likely I will have 2-3 appointments.

I didn’t really know exactly what an IPV assessment was, but basically it is an in-depth look from the very beginning (childhood) to now. As expected, it was uncomfortable to travel back in time. It’s almost like being in therapy, but the goal is more or less to get the bigger picture.

I’ve been able to reflect and research- gaining more knowledge of past toxic relationships and patterns that have brought me to where I’m at today. Doing this allows me to go forward, and changing things so that I can be safe and not fall into the trap of violence again.

I notice myself trying to dissociate every time I have to talk about my past. I have to force myself (like when I was on the stand, being cross-examined by my abuser) to stay in the MOMENT.

It’s very difficult.

I received an e-mail from my attorney saying that my next court hearing for Juvenile Court in Athens would be October 5th, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.

As I rode home today, I stared out the car window. I began to have flashbacks on events that occurred last summer. (Probably because I had just had my first IPV assessment).

We were living in Almond, North Carolina. My abuser had gotten a job working on a farm. He would leave me and the boys at our campsite where we lived while he went to work. We had a big van with a bed in it. It was packed full of stuff- essentially 7-years worth of our “stuff”. We had a tent and were near a river. I would wake up early in the morning. I would try and gather food to feed the boys, but it was scarce.

I would have to wait until the middle of the afternoon, or the hottest part of the day to walk the boys down the hill to bathe them in the river. The water was ice-cold, but you got used to it after awhile. I would drag my red backpack down with me and set our soap, washcloths, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste (hygiene) down on the large rocks. Living in the wilderness, I had to learn to be creative.

It would take me a REALLY long time to “bathe”. But I do have to admit, I felt cleaner doing that than in any regular shower any day!

I had to stay constantly alert at all times.

I would boil water by gathering leaves and sticks- starting a fire. We lived there for approximately two months.

This was our way of living. I remember as the boys napped, I would read my book, “Escape” by Carolyn Jessup. She had escaped a polygamist marriage through the FLDS. It’s weird, but I could relate a lot to her in that book. It could have been that I understood her feelings. Because I felt “trapped” in a dysfunctional way of living, where I was expected, if not DEMANDED to be okay with another woman living in my home.

There was also similarities in the abuse that took place.

I would sit and stare. I would lay down and think to myself, “What am I doing? How did I end up like this?”

I did choose to try and make my marriage work. I drove myself and my children up to North Carolina during that time on my own free will. I was not kidnapped or coerced. I did it because I loved my abuser. I loved him and I wanted more than anything to salvage what I could of our marriage.

We were married up there. I love the mountains. It will always hold a special place in my heart, but I will never return to “those mountains”.

I remember laying on the bed, starving.

The only way I knew my abuser was probably close to being back at the campsite was when the sun had almost gone down. That’s how we kept up with the time.

Sometimes, it would be pitch black outside before I would eventually see the headlights to my car, pull up.

I would open the small windows to let fresh air in. I could hear wild animals all around us.

When I arrived up there, I found out I had once again, been lied to. I was met with my abuser and his girlfriend. The same girlfriend that drove me to being hospitalized.

She was upset that I came up.

She barely spoke to me. My abuser was charming- no less. He treated her bad. I think he really wanted to rekindle our relationship. It was almost like the tables had turned. Once there, he ordered me to hand over my car keys. They were both supposed to appear in the Superior Court for Temporary Protective Order hearings in Athens. By not showing, the hearing would be dismissed, and it was.

The girlfriend didn’t last long. She told me she understood how I had felt. She tried to get me to leave before that though. My abuser waited until the 11-year anniversary of my mother’s death to tell me that his girlfriend was pregnant with his baby.

I cried.

I felt like I was being tortured. Emotionally, I was. I was lied to. She wasn’t even supposed to be up there, you know? He told me he was through with her, that part of his life was over…

During the night, I had to use the bathroom really bad. I got up with my flashlight and stood in the bushes. She jumped out and sat by the campfire next to me. She rubbed her stomach. She talked about how she was definitely having this baby, and how excited she was. She was trying to drive me to the point of no return. But it didn’t work. I didn’t let this bother me. I took everything in, but said nothing.

I questioned if she was being honest about this. I thought it was too much of a coincidence. And last I heard, her baby “did not survive”, so I still to this day do not know if that was a made up story or the truth. No tests or appointments were given or shown.

A few days later, my abuser was at work and I was there with her. She was starting to get antsy, wanting to go back home to Georgia.

I tried to avoid her the best that I could, I still feared her.

I’ll never forget when she was using a military knife to open up a can of vegetables, and she sliced her hand wide open. Her hand wouldn’t stop bleeding. The most disturbing part, was right after it happened, she looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “I missed”, just as calm as could be.

I said, “you missed?” And she said, “YES. I missed”, showing me her injury. Naturally, I freaked out. I offered to take her to the hospital. She dismissed that, and said she would be fine. I said, “well I hope you don’t loose your hand- like I hope it won’t get infected”. She waited until my abuser returned and tried to get him to take her to the hospital.

I knew then, that she was playing games.

He flipped the switch, and was hateful. She insisted that the boys and I stay at the campsite. My abuser refused. He said he was not about to leave us in the dark alone. (Although he had, several times).

He wouldn’t even walk her in the hospital. She ended up getting stiches. Pretty much that night sealed the deal, and by the next day, we were all on our way back to Georgia to drop her off with her brother. She texted me the entire ride, telling me how sorry she was.

She hoped that I would be okay.

My gut told me that after she was gone, I would once again be the scapegoat again. Everything would be my fault. I prayed that I was wrong. I hoped that things would be different this time. And the time after that, and the time after the last time.

But as history will show, that wasn’t the case. And this time, I was miles away from home. I was literally cut off of every single support I had. It actually crossed my mind: Will I ever see my daughters again? My family and friends?

I was at the mercy, of my abuser.

Isolated.

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Facing My Abuser in Court

Last night, I started feeling a bit anxious. No one likes courtrooms, well… I know I don’t. Beyond that, I knew that my abuser would be in court. I woke up this morning around 6:30 a.m. I laid in my bed for a good 15 minutes talking to God. Praying for the strength that I would need, especially for today.

As most of you know, I’m slowly but surely learning how to get my self-confidence back. Over the course of seven years of being belittled, battered, and abused, I had lost my confidence, self-worth, even my own identity at one point. I would constantly second guess myself, I was indecisive, and I was unable to cope. I did not trust myself, even though I ended up being right about almost everything my gut would try and tell me- over, and over again.

I decided to put on my new maroon dress and brown boots. I left my hair down, and dressed for success. I wore my sea green dangled earrings and my dad arrived to pick me up at 7:50 a.m.

We drove for what seemed like an eternity and I was let out in front of my attorney’s office. We arrived around 8:50 a.m. At 9:00 a.m., I waked up the narrow stairs to the office.

My attorney was already there, sitting in her chair, organizing our paperwork. She is wonderful. I can tell that she is really passionate about helping survivors of abuse, and she really has my best interest at heart.

We talked briefly as we walked down the street. I felt safe, but I couldn’t help but to keep looking all around me. Hypervigilance- is an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity accompanied by an exaggerated intensity of behaviors whose purpose is to detect activity. Hypervigilance may bring about a state of increased anxiety which can cause exhaustion. This can be brought on by Complex PTSD, which I have been diagnosed with.

I’m constantly looking for danger. Sometimes, I don’t know if I’m being paranoid, or what. But as my lawyer told me earlier this week- “You’re not crazy, and you’re not being overly paranoid. There are circumstances in your case that cause great concern. We have a lot of cases. We wouldn’t waste our time if we didn’t believe your in danger.”

We made our way into the building and stopped at the Sheriff’s Office located inside the courthouse. We asked if my abuser had been served a copy of our hearing for this morning. He hadn’t, but I knew he would be there anyway.

As we walked up the stairs, my attorney was preparing me for the possibility that he may already be there, sitting in the hallway. I hit the last step and BAM. There he was. At first, I glanced and kept walking. We walked straight into the courtroom and sat down. The baliff asked us if we could sit on the other side of the benches because of the incarcerated individuals that were nearby. My attorney explained that my abuser had several convictions and was more dangerous to me, than the criminals in jumpsuits. She pleaded for him to allow me to sit on the other side. He agreed.

The door to the courtroom remained open, and I couldn’t help but to keep looking over. My lawyer asked, who is that girl he’s with? I had no idea. Not at first.

From what I could tell, she had blonde hair, probably around my age. She wore a dress which revealed her tattooed covered legs, arms, and chest.

I kept looking out there. I know her from somewhere. Where?

Then, it hit me.

She was the same girl who had threatened me over the summer. What was she doing here? And why? She barely knew me, much less our children. She was never around…

I became antsy and my lawyer asked if I would feel more comfortable going upstairs until it was time for court to the District Attorney’s Office. We made our way out, and went up to the 5th floor.

We sat and talked and I showed her the messages she had sent. My lawyer took notes. We waited for the Victim Advocate, but she was in a meeting. At about 9:29 a.m., one minute before court was to be in session, we jumped up and headed back down. I was met by the Children’s Advocate from Project Safe. I love her! She has worked with my children and I for so long now, and she too, is very passionate about working with survivors of domestic violence.

I briefly caught her up to date with everything. She told me that she would help me with a few things I inquired about after court. As I walked in, I sat on the end of the bench, next to the Children’s Advocate, and then my lawyer was next to her. We sat on the front row.

Not too much longer after that, the Victim Advocate from the D.A.’s office made her way down with a big smile on her face! I waved and smiled, and gave her a hug! I was so happy to see her. She really is, amazing. She told me that everyone at the District Attorney’s Office, knew me and told her about my hearing- including the Assistant District Attorney, himself. She said, really, you have so much support.

My abuser and the girl he was with sat on the opposite side in the back. I noticed DFCS workers coming in- my caseworker, the investigator, and the attorney who represents DFCS.

There was a motion to “Quash” the subpoenas that we had served them with, but I was told that is standard practice. The judge denied that motion.

At first, we were one of the first cases called. But my abuser told the court that he had special witnesses that were on their way. I don’t believe that for a minute.

The judge denied his motion for a continuance and told him that we would wait a few minutes longer. The judge went ahead and let the other cases go before ours, which is good considering I was in court from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. just on a PPO Hearing.

It kind of makes me wonder what my divorce proceeding will look like.

Of course there were no more witnesses, so we went ahead. My abuser represented himself. I knew this would be interesting, because talking is his forte.

He does a lot of it.

I sat and listened to opening statements by both my abuser and my attorney. My abuser tried to immediately enter in evidence, which was shot down immediately. (This is probably why he should have been represented). You can’t enter in evidence during the opening statement.

The piece of evidence he ended up admitting later on in court was a signed and notarized letter from his grandmother, who in his own words “dislikes children”. She stated what a good father my abuser was, and how at the least he should deserve visitation.

The thing is, that’s really not what this court hearing was about. I have a TPO (Temporary Protective Order) that is set to expire October of this year. I know I still have time, but I decided to file the motion when I knew he could be served in the Athens-Clarke County Jail last month- and he would be in the Clarke County Jurisdiction. We were asking the courts to rule in favor of a PPO (Permanent Protective Order).

My abuser stated that he acknowledged that our marriage was irrevocably broken, and was not contesting a PPO between me and him. He did, however, say that he would only ask that the PPO be able to be modified in the future because we did share children together.

In other words, he still doesn’t want to let me go. He was contesting the PPO in terms of our children. In fact, he filed a motion at 9:05 that morning to “Modify the Protective Order”. It’s really confusing, but basically, we were in court today to argue for a PPO for both the children and me. My abuser was there to ask for visitation, a modification of our TPO.

But DFCS was there. My caseworker was the first witness called to the stand. He testified that through experts, the boys HAD been exposed to EMOTIONAL ABUSE at the hands of their father.

He testified that he had met with my abuser twice and that he seemed genuine in trying to work towards the goals on his case plan. He also testified that my abuser had not completed court-ordered Family Violence Intervention Classes, and only registered after a hearing had been scheduled for Non-Compliance.

This was back in February of 2017.

My case manager testified that he had met with me on numerous occasions and that I had actually been working on my goals.

My abuser just doesn’t get it. He thinks that if he throws stones at me, it will make him look better. He should be focused on himself. But he isn’t. His focus is all on me and how everyone else had done him wrong. There is NO remorse for what he did to his family.

None.

He told the court that I was “ill”, and that he “prayed for me daily”. I really wish he wouldn’t, just being honest.

I was called to testify on the stand and I answered questions about our children. I told the court that for the first time in their lives, they were happy, healthy, and flourishing. I couldn’t help but to smile, because I really am SO proud of my boys. They are doing wonderful. That was my intent- for getting myself help- I knew this is what would need to happen. And after visiting with my children, I knew I had made the right choice.

My abuser babbled on about how he was a good father and yada yada yada. Words don’t mean a thing- ACTIONS, do.

I’m not contesting that he doesn’t “love” our boys, or care about them. But he is in denial about abusing them. He is in denial about his relationship with them. It was toxic.

I am proud of myself, because I had no idea that today- I would for the first time be placed under oath having to be CROSSED EXAMINED by my abuser- not his lawyer, MY ABUSER HIMSELF.

At times, it was hard for me to understand his thought process on his lines of questioning, but I did the best that I could.

He tried to convey to the courts that within the seven years of marriage, we had been in fact- stable. Wrong. I told him there were “times” that we lived in a nice home, or “seemed stable”, but we never really were. We had lived in 9 counties in Georgia, including out of state in Almond, North Carolina in a tent in the wilderness.

Boy- he took that and ran with it. “Mrs. Sheerer, did I force you to come up to the mountains?” “No.”, I responded. “In fact, wasn’t I already established up there, before you decided to come at your own free will?” “Yes”, I responded.

He asked, “And what was the reason for having to leave North Carolina and de-stabilize?” (He was trying to get me to say it was because Athens-Clarke County took out a fugitive warrant, where he was extradited back to Georgia.

I said, “Our life in North Carolina collapsed because I got a phone call the day before our oldest son, Anthony, started Pre-K last year, saying that you were being placed under arrest from a drug deal.” “Oh, so are you saying that I caught a drug charge there?” “No, but they wanted to. You ended up only being arrested for the felony fugitive warrant.”

“But that’s how you got caught, drugs.”, I stated. My abuser looked coldly into my eyes. I didn’t flinch. I stared straight back at him.

“And can you recall where I was when arrested, I wasn’t working at the hotel doing carpet cleaning?”

“No, I responded.” “You were actually across the street with the guy who you bought drugs from.”

He stared at me.

He went on and on, I felt like I had been up there forever. I had to ask him to repeat his questions several times.

I had to force myself NOT to dissociate. That was common for me, especially when placed under severe stressed. I’m proud of myself for staying in the moment, and facing everything I needed to- comfortable or not.

I did it.

I did it successfully.

But that’s not the best part. The girl who had threatened me was called as his next witness. She told all kinds of lies. She originally said that we went to high school together.

That was a lie.

We did not.

She knew my twin sister, but rarely knew anything about me. She claimed that she had seen his interaction as a father to the children- another lie.

She claimed, “It’s just not fair, you know. She’s over here with all these people and stuff, and he doesn’t have anything.”

Well, sweetheart- did you ever wonder why that might be?

My attorney was able to cross examine her. By the time she was done with that witness- she was READY to get off the stand. My attorney told me to get my phone “fire up that message she sent you.” My attorney asked if she had sent me a Facebook message saying, “Jen, I better not see you in the street.” She smiled. She said she was just having a bad day. My attorney said, “so to make this clear, she has a lot of support and so that justifies threatening her?”

The judge looked up, bewildered. I thought to myself, “girl, you just need to stop.” She admitted to sending me those messages and actually asked if they were threatening. My attorney said, “Yes, I would say they are.” She stared at me and said, “Oh, well- sorry, Jenn.”

I stared straight at her, smiling. I remember hearing my abuser use her as a tool. She was a woman to be feared. She has a pretty extensive criminal history herself.

She’s threatened my twin sister in the past, now me.

She used to use methamphetamine and heroin. That’s the kind of person my abuser drug in to testify about his parenting skills. I’m baffled.

When all was said and done, the judge took our proposed order of the PPO, and said that he wanted to read through it and take some notes. This was at about 11:30 a.m. I did not get a clear answer in court today, but it seems as though my motion will be accepted and the judge may add, take-out, or modify our proposed plan how he sees fit.

Either way, DFCS has testified that my abuser is not allowed visitation until a series of evaluations and other items have been completed. My abuser thought that if he could go into Superior Court (which overrides all courts) that he could talk his way into modifying the order.

I am deeply concerned for my safety and my children’s. I’m not so much concerned with the children, because I know they are safe and I know the foster family will KEEP my babies safe.

However, it was established today in court that the address provided was not accurate- in fact, my abuser was unable to tell the court what his address was. He was “moving on Monday or Tuesday”, he would be staying in some woman’s basement that he barely knew. He didn’t even know her last name.

But, he’s stable, yall. I mean just as much as my hair is the color purple- he is stable.

Shame on me. That wasn’t very nice. But you know what? The past seven years weren’t very nice for me. At all. Low and behold- he was exactly where I thought he would be. He had stayed overnight in Gwinnett County, Georgia at the girl who testified on his behalf for him.

My gut never fails me.

Now, we are provided a Loganville, Georgia address. So who knows?

I’m going to keep doing me. That’s all I can do.

He kept on and on about my “previous statements”. Well, yes. I loved that man. I really did, whole-heartedly. I would have and did- everything I could to show and give him that love. But you know, there were times- a lot of times, where I would say what I had to in order to survive.

I told him things because I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to be slapped across the face, punched in the head to the point of seeing stars. I didn’t want to be kicked, spit on. I didn’t want anymore black eyes. So yeah, I said a lot of things. But I was in survival mode. For me- it was life or death.

At this juncture in my life, I am focused on myself and my children- their needs. I am beyond ecstatic to see them on our next visit this weekend.

If it weren’t for them, I’m not sure that I would have had the strength to leave my violent marriage. I really don’t. As a teacher, I saw how much they were being affected. Especially- the older they got. I knew. I knew things were bad, I knew they were abnormal. And I knew I had to get us help.

Honestly, I’m not worried. I’m really not. My children are happy, healthy, and safe. I’m working hard and feel like the for the first time ever, and I mean- EVER- the boys and myself are flourishing.

I may have missed a few things, but overall it was an excellent day. I’m worn out. I will sleep good tonight.

I deserve it. And once I am refreshed, you can continue reading my posts that I will do my best to frequently update. For now- I’m taking some much needed “me” time, tonight.

After court, I was able to meet my parents and students- we are going to have a phenomenal school year!

I want to thank everyone for your continued thoughts and prayers! Thank you for those who reach out to me and continue to support me on my incredible journey.

I’m moving forward. Baby steps are getting me there.

I think my abuser finally met his match. The good Lord knows of all people, even I wouldn’t have expected to stand so brave and advocate for myself the way that I do now. Abuse is not okay. I started out on my journey acknowledging that if not for me, I would do this for the children.

I am doing this for the children.

But I’m also doing this for me.

I am enough.

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Fear of the Unknown

Due to safety concerns and an overall need to get away, I spent a week out of town after court. I enjoyed my time with family- swimming, walking around the shops, visiting Cade’s Cove, and writing. I bought the boys each a black bear from the Smoky Mountains (Pigeon Forge, Tennessee). I found a beautiful dreamcatcher that was colored white, pink, and teal- made from beads to give to my daughter.

As of now, I have a visit scheduled with the boys this week. I am extremely excited! I spoke with my caseworker a few days ago, and he gave me a basic outline of the requirements that I will need in order to obtain back custody. I am feeling very motivated, determined, and optimistic.

Officially, I begin school on July 31st for teacher planning. I decided to go in and work in my classroom to get ahead, and also because I know of a handful of upcoming court dates that I have coming up.

I’m keeping myself busy, which is a good thing. I’m still experiencing a lot of anxiety and restlessness.

My therapist came to visit me at school this week. She asked me to reflect upon fears that I have, and how likely they are to become a reality.

As I was driving home from my meeting at work last night, 104.7 “The Fish” radio station talked about fear, ironically.

I know that my God is speaking to me, telling me not to be afraid. I know this.

I don’t know how much sense I’m going to make, but here’s how fear affects my everyday life:

Some days, I feel strong. I feel like “yeah- I got this”. I’m not scared. “If God is for me, who can be against me?”

Other days, I re-live the violent episodes that consumed me every single day for seven long years. I seep into a deep depression that I feel is almost impossible to get out of. I’m scared. I can’t sleep, and have no appetite. My house would be in shambles, a complete disaster. If you don’t hear from me, then you know. You know that I’m gone. I don’t reach out. I don’t answer messages or phone calls. I don’t really want to talk to anyone.

I isolate. I want people to respond, but when they do- my anxiety strikes. It’s a never ending battle with myself.

What exactly is it that I fear? Well, I would say my abuser getting out of jail, but that’s already happened. I guess I fear being found. I know what happens when I’m found. My life was in constant chaos for a really long time. I don’t know if I would survive another round.

I am going through exactly what my mother did. The only difference, I’m 30 and I escaped. She passed away at 45-years-old. I think she grew tired. Someone once told me, “Your mom always said she never had to worry about you, you always had your head straight on your shoulders“.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I needed my mom. I still do.

And that’s my motivation for continuing my fight. My children NEED me, and I need them. I know what it’s like to loose a parent at a young age, and I don’t want my children to ever have to experience that.

I remember sitting in the office on the couch with the children’s advocate at the domestic violence shelter. After collecting information, I was told that my case caused significant concern. In some cases, women and their children would be forced to uproot to a town they have never been in before- out of state, somewhere far, far away. Some women have to change their names, their social security numbers. Some have to leave and never tell even their own family members.

They just disappear, as if they never existed.

I felt shock hit my system. I can’t be one of those cases. I can’t run anymore. I’m just too tired. For years, I dreamed of what it would be like living in my own little place, just me and my children. I would become involved with extracurricular activities, enjoy going to church and outings with friends. You know- normal stuff. I never thought it would actually happen though, it was just a dream of mine.

It crossed my mind. Running away to the other side of the country. But why? This is my home. This is where I will stay. My reality, is that I have an overwhelming amount of support, and as long as I am doing what I need to, and what is right- good things will continue to happen for me.

I spend every hour of my days doing something- I’m blogging, working, attending therapy, church, recovery groups, meetings, talking to DFCS, lawyers. I am constantly keeping myself busy.

I still feel a sense of loss. I feel a void.

I know that my babies are safe, so that brings me peace. I have a lot to look forward to.

For years, I felt like a burden. I felt extreme shame and guilt. I could never do anything right. I was never enough. But you know what? I’m proud of myself. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before, but I am now.

I have come so far. I still have my days, but overall- I’m at peace. So, I’ve talked a little bit about fear and how I try and manage it.

I endured a lot those seven years, so my healing will take awhile. I still remember the fear I felt every time I angered my abuser. I still feel fearful at times, because it’s just what I know. I’m standing up for myself now. I’ve gained a voice and I’m advocating against abuse. I’m doing everything my abuser NEVER in a million years expected from me. So, yeah- that brings some fear.

I fear what happens if or when he finds me. I fear him getting to my children and that I’ll never see them again. I fear being set up or somehow tangled back up in his web of torment. People like him, they don’t just walk away. They don’t give up. That gives me a lot of fear and apprehension.

I fear him coming after me and killing me. How realistic is this? Well, according to my lethality indicators, it’s likely.

I’m going to go back in time to February-March of 2016. My abuser and his girlfriend hung a hammock up very high up off the ground on our patio area. He kept insisting that I climb in it. Afraid of heights, I objected. He kept on persisting, so I climbed up. He was already in it. As I heard what sounded like a chain snap, I started to say, “Did you hear…” but it was too late. I feel head first on the hard wooden floor. My body was bruised from front to back. I could barely walk. My abuser had jumped and his girlfriend, too. I was the only one who got hurt that day. I had my suspicions.

I went into work and tried to explain my injuries away. Instead of taking me to a hospital, they gave me something to knock me out. I don’t remember much after that.

I would hear conversations between my abuser and his girlfriend about their cocaine dealer, and how he had a record and wasn’t afraid to rack up more charges. I was always told that if you ever ratted these people out, they would come after you.

My abusers girlfriend- she put her own children in the trunk of her car one time. I remember her son confiding this to me. I noticed how grungy they looked, and I carried them towels and clean clothes to bathe. She said, “Why are you giving them baths? They are just going to get dirty anyway.” I had woken up early that morning to fix breakfast.

My abuser never helped with anything. He ridiculed me and put me down every chance he got. Once, he wrecked his boss’s car. His license was suspended because he was thousands of dollars behind on his child support. He asked what he should do.

I told him, well- just tell the truth. He refused. He acted almost like “how dare you tell me to tell my boss the truth!” He called the insurance company and forced me to say that I had been driving the car, so the company would pay for the insurance. I told this to the district attorney’s office, the victim advocate. My heart felt so heavy- I just knew that the longer I kept going back to him, the more risk I ran of loosing everything I had worked so hard for, including my very own life.

I had to walk on eggshells all of the time. I was exhausted because of the energy it took to “keep the peace”. I tried to keep the children quiet when he was home, to avoid his narcissistic rages. I would clean the house from top to bottom before ever sitting down to eat. Most days, I couldn’t eat because I was so busy taking care of everyone else’s needs.

Honestly, right now… I’m extremely fearful. I have two court dates next week. Tuesday, I will go to a DFCS hearing (which I am not worried about at all), only that he will be present. On Friday, I have a court date to address my motion for a permanent protective order. I feel like at this point, he’s very desperate. He has nothing left to loose. I start to get comfortable, and try to- because I’ve never felt this free before. At the same time, I’m worried that “getting comfortable” or letting my guard down will be opportunistic for him.

It’s draining. It’s emotionally and physically draining. I’ve been having to take my sleep medication at night, but I’m trying not to since it makes me feel groggy the next day. I’m happy, I’m content, and at peace- but I still have this nagging feeling in my gut. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being paranoid? But statistics show that an abused woman’s intuition is the strongest indicator of future violence.

I’m so used to thinking “worst case scenario”, but at the same time- I try and be optimistic. It’s confusing. But no matter what, I have to be prepared. I just want to know that my babies are taken care of, loved, and safe.

I just have to trust God that he will protect me. Whatever happens, will be His will, and I accept that.

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Bad Intentions

I don’t remember much of my childhood like I should. I remember bits and pieces. I have good memories, and bad. But the majority of my memories are just not there. My therapist says that I have repressed memories. I cannot recall significant time periods because of trauma. I guess that makes sense.

I remember one night, when I was living in Winder, Georgia in Barrow County; my abuser and I were making love. This time, it was consensual, although that was not always the case.

He played music, rock music in the background. He lit candles and something happened to me. I had a panic attack and felt like I couldn’t breathe. As he was making love to me, I looked at him and saw my step-father’s face. I don’t know what the trigger was. It could have been the music. They both liked the same types of rock music.

Who knows. It was uncomfortable, to say the least.

There was just something too familiar about my abuser, something that I could not quite put my finger on. I still can’t, really. I mean, I think I have a pretty good idea, but I don’t know.

Something just wasn’t right.

He was abusive the entire relationship. It got much worse after we were married. He would say things like, “your mine”.

I felt like a piece of property. Little did I know, the day I said, “I do”, meant that I would be giving up all of my rights as a human being. I was no longer a person to him, and I probably never was to begin with.

My abuser first introduced his “girlfriend” as someone who just needed help getting back on her feet. She worked in his office at a Used Car Dealership. I was warned about her by a friend of mine, but I shrugged it off.

She asked me all kinds of questions. I found it odd that she was able to at any given moment verbalize what I was actually thinking out loud, and it was always right. She studied me. She studied the dynamics between my abuser and I.

She was intelligent, to an extent.

I’m not sure why, but I feared her. There was something about her too, that was off. She told me she “loved” and “cared” about me. I mean, I love all of my friends, you know. But the way she said it, was just flat out strange.

It was almost like I was being “gave away” like they did back in the old days, where your father would choose your husband. But in this case, it was like my husband chose this girl to somehow fit into our marriage.

I was expected to be respectful of this; but I wasn’t, which made everything so much worse.

I tried to object, but he would tell me “it’s too late“. It didn’t matter how I felt about anything.

I think overtime, I just really got used to giving my abuser his way to avoid being hurt. It just was easier that way. Even though I really didn’t feel a certain way, or even though I was opposed to certain things, I just started to really give up on myself and everything I ever believed in.

He would give me addictive substances oftentimes. I believe it was to maintain power and control, and to have something to hang over my head. There are many things that I’ve done that I’m not proud of. All of them that I can think of, has been influenced by my abuser.

I take full responsibility, though. I have my regrets. But I also learned. I learned a lot.

My true self, however, would emerge in ways he could never phantom.

He took both of us to the mountains in Bryson City, North Carolina on one occasion. This time, we did not have any children with us. He was irritable. It was late and we could not find a hotel for the night because of an event going on. We had climbed the mountain, rolling all the way down trying to get back to our car before sunset.

Sunset can be a little eyrie, as that’s when your more prone to see a wild animal, such as a bear. I love photography. I took my iPhone 6 plus with me, and snapped pictures of flowers, the mountain itself, rivers and rocks.

I just kind of did my own thing, you know?

My jeans were dirty from sliding down the mountain.

After finding a hotel it was late. He was so nice to me in the very beginning- like for about a week while she was there. He didn’t show his true self until later, when feelings between the two of them were strong.

Then, it was like- he really didn’t care. I thought if anything, it would push her away and out of my house, but no.

They were a team.

She gave me a significant amount of medication that night, and told me not to tell my abuser. I took it. I wasn’t eating very much either. I was dehydrated.

Within a few minutes, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My chest was tightening. I remember thinking that I was going to die that night.

I could not speak. I couldn’t move. My heart was beating out of my chest. I was sweating profusely and felt extremely sick.

I had overdosed on what she had given me.

My abuser was annoyed. I think that’s the best way to put it. I felt like I needed an ambulance, but if it were up to them, that wasn’t going to happen.

I laid there and prayed. I thought about my boys, my job, my life. I thought, I can’t die. Not here, not now.

This would happen to me about three times that I can remember over the course of the next several months.

I felt uneasy as I watched her sit and stare at me. She tried to give me more medications to “calm me down”. I rejected whatever she had.

I tried to get my abuser’s attention. I thought maybe if I could show him what she was trying to make me take, that he would look it up on his phone to see what it was and realize that she is being harmful, not helpful.

He didn’t care. And I couldn’t speak to tell him. All I could do was lay there. Lay there and gasp for air.

This went on for what seemed like an eternity. At some point, I must have passed out, eventually.

I woke up the next morning feeling very sick. Too bad though. It was like waking up for boot camp. Time to walk a million miles and shake it off!

I felt betrayed.

I was hurt. I was miserable. I was ashamed. I still am, very ashamed. I’m ashamed of some of how quickly influenced I was during that time. I really am.

But I’m stronger, smarter, and tougher now.

That night, I realized that this girl did not have good intentions. None at all.

When we got back home, I waited for them to leave for work, and I began to go through her boxes. I read through paperwork of hers, that concerned me a lot.

I knew, there had to be more to her story.

Overtime, she just took completely over. My abuser thought he was something else. He thought he had the best of both worlds.

I began educating myself and my escape from my abuser did not happen overnight. In fact, it took me several months of careful planning.

I knew that my environment was dangerous. I knew I had to get out, but timing was everything.

My abuser would force me to Uber all night long, while he shacked up in my bed with his “girlfriend”. I would be made to drive to Atlanta until five in the morning, or so. I’d eventually Uber in Athens, which wasn’t as bad, but still wasn’t for me.

My abuser was so wrapped up in his new love life, that he forgot about the two little boys who begged for a bedtime story or any attention from him for that matter.

I find it ironic that after everything, still- he tries to insult me saying, “Glad to be able to listen to this song again and smile from its memories finally… someone can only take happy memories from you for so long before you realize that you should never feel bad about having been happy and having fun with a person with good intentions“; in reference to the song, “Bad Girlfriend“, by Theory of a Deadman.

See, the thing is: there were no “good intentions“.

Intent is everything.

I believe they knew what they were doing to me. Actually, I know this.

Whether it was death by overdose, suicide, or murder; one way or another- I was a liability to them.

I knew too much; I still know too much.

No one expected me to gain my voice, not even me.

But I’m glad that I did-

Because, now- that puts me back in control.

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Shattered Dreams

It’s hard to explain why we go back to our abusers over and over again. For me, not only was it all I knew, but it was a constant. At least I knew what to expect in a way. Over the course of seven abusive years, you learn to gage when things are safe or not. Imagine constantly walking on eggshells. I remember thinking to myself so many times, “If all I had to do was take care of my own responsibilities, I wouldn’t be near as stressed as I am now.”

That was so true.

I’m safe now. Still though, I have trouble sleeping at night. I have to constantly remind myself, “your safe“. My stomach used to stay in knots. And I mean- 24/7.

I find myself replaying scenes in my head over and over again. The screaming, shouting, name-calling, getting spit in the face, slapped across the face, choked with his bare hands, hair pulled, punched in the face so hard one time I literally saw lights flashing.

I ran from him, I hid. Eventually, he always found me. I still have a scar on my left elbow from being thrown and dragged on my carpet.

I felt invisible. I was brought down to a child-like status. I became conditioned over the years. It was a shock when I received such an overwhelming response from old friends, peers, professors- everyone in my community, even those I didn’t know. Because quite frankly, I’ve always felt “invisible“.

I was conditioned to the point of where at one point in time, I was unable to make decisions or choices on my own. I remember my abuser saying, “No one understands you like I do. No one is capable of taking care of you the way that I am.” He made me feel virtually helpless.

Learned helplessness.

I’m now having to re-learn everything that should have been concrete to me by now, all over.

Self affirmations. I am enough. I am beautiful. It helps, it really does help. My self-worth, self-esteem- shattered because for years I was told the opposite.

I know in my heart that God will use me as a vessel to serve him in a big way, and I’m not sure how yet, but I just know that I must continue moving forward.

In the very beginning, around May or June of 2016, I would look for excuses to go back to my abuser. Constantly questioning myself, I would look for one person to validate reasons why I should give it another shot.

And I went back, several times.

Prior to moving to North Carolina, I recall going back to the Athens house, where everything had occurred. Not everything, but the most severe things.

I remember the intense guilt that I felt. It was overwhelming. My feelings would be so conflicted that I couldn’t understand my own self. Therefore, I figured, I was the problem.

We would sit down and talk, and he was so calm. He knew exactly how to counteract all of my concerns. He knew what to say, when to say, right down to how to say it. And it all made sense.

You see, it wasn’t his fault; my issues at the core were actually caused by all of the adults in my life from childhood. That’s why I react the way I do. That’s got to be it, right? It’s because you know, I had “daddy issues”. I was raised by my aunt. My relationship with my mother was turbulent up until the months prior to her passing away. That was to blame- not him.

Never him, it was always somebody else’s fault.

Well, that’s what he convinced me of. Truth be told, I didn’t realize it until a year later, but he sensed my vulnerability from a mile away. He got to know me so well, that he played on every emotion, reaction, everything. He used everything he knew about me to my disadvantage. He used it to gain the ultimate.

Complete power and control over EVERY aspect of my life. He succeeded to, for awhile anyway.

I apologized.

Because I left- because I notified police, all of this was my fault. He wasn’t trying to hurt me, you know. It was just miscommunication. I was the one who was out of control. He was trying to help me, that’s all. He was trying to be a loving husband. He had no bad intentions of hurting me. I was being paranoid. He thought he could “save me from myself“.

Then, snowball effect.

I tried to explain this to the authorities, but they wouldn’t budge. Still, that nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach. I couldn’t shake it.

Something about that house.

My mother, no joke- has been deceased since 2005. I thought of her everyday. I still do. But not one time has she came to me in the ways that she has warning me of danger.

I was living in Morgan County, Georgia at one point last fall, just me and the boys- and in the sidewalk was carved, “Jana”. I don’t know many “Jana’s” out there. I know they exist, but the only one I’ve ever really known, is my mother.

Night terrors. They are always intense. Especially last year, in that house. I was laying in bed. We had a Temporary Protective Order at that time, so legally we were not supposed to be together. It was one of the first times that I actually came back.

He told me verbatim how to get the TPO dismissed.

In fact, he even wrote down directions on what I needed to do in order to get his charges dismissed in court.

(He would not be charged with any crime relating to this matter until August of 2016, when the detective on my case finally took out a felony false imprisonment warrant out on him).

With a grin on his face, he said, “You know, people are most vulnerable when they are sleeping.”

Chills went down my spine. I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I could barely breathe.

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry for everything”, I would say. He knew I was scared. He enjoyed every bit of it.

During that time, my abuser was constantly trying to get rid of our children. He wanted someone- friends, anyone to take the children so that we could “get established in the mountains, which was our home.” This sent red flags to friends. I’ve been told that some felt like “that last hug would be the last they would get from me.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love the mountains. I still do, after everything. But it was just the way he said it.

He had this way of making me feel like the children and I were a burden to him. But when I left, he “couldn’t live without me“. He would tell his friends that I was “crazy“. He suggested that I was a paranoid schizophrenic at one point.

Hands down, domestic violence will cause mental health issues. I am diagnosed with C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Disorder), meaning that I have been exposed to PROLONGED, re-occurring traumatic events over a period of time. I also have Major Depressive Disorder.

I’m not crazy, though. What happened to me, happened to me.

He would talk about my childhood; we would have deep conversations for hours. He learned me from the inside, out. He kept me in a constant state of chaos.

The last thing that my abuser saw coming, was the day I left.

I was teaching Pre-K. I would look in the mirror in the morning, and I didn’t recognize who I was. It was like an out-of-body experience.

I just wanted help. I would drive long distances, and not remember how I got there. It’s like I would completely disengage from life. I had a parent come to me once, I didn’t know her outside of school. I had missed several days of work, and had physical injuries that I would try and “explain away“.

She had tears in her eyes, she said, “I just want you to know… I… I’m praying for you. I dreamed about you a few nights ago, and I just really felt like I needed to say that to you.” She knew nothing of my personal life, of course, but something powerful compelled her to pray over me.

Even the lady that worked at the credit union where my abuser had originally taken out a loan on our car… She even told me, “We knew something was not right. We knew you were being abused.” I didn’t understand. Why? If everyone knew this, why did no one try and stop it? Why?

My anxiety hit the hardest when school was over. When it was time to go back home. I knew I would be entering a war zone, a battlefield if you will.

My abuser would threatened to “knock all of my teeth out of my mouth“. My sons would mimic the abuse and had no respect for me at all when I first left him.

Just as I was re-learning, I had to teach them too. The dynamics of our household were more than dysfunctional.

Riddle me this: Why do abusive parents either show absolutely no interest in their children, being authoritarian when they do; but let a separation happen

Then it’s like, they are magically the best parent ever existed. That baffles me.

I wish my life was the fairy-tale I tried to make it out to be. I was in complete denial about my life. My dreams were shattered, and here I was, still trying to pick up the broken pieces and stick them back together, getting cut in the process.

I was in complete denial.

When my oldest son, Anthony, was a baby- he slept in a crib in my room. One time, he was crying and I was so exhausted that I woke up to my abuser in my face threatening me with his belt, screaming at me.

I really don’t know how I pulled myself through college. He tried everything he could to get me to drop out.

I didn’t.

That was about the only thing I didn’t let him take from me.

He was cruel, and I thought I deserved it.

I was looking for love in all the wrong places, my entire life.

It would be a lot easier on me, if things could of worked out, of course. But the right thing, is not always the easiest thing.

Morals. I have morals, values… I know right from wrong. I used to get made fun of, because I have always been the “rule follower”, very “obedient”.

My abuser would make remarks to his friends that, “she does as she’s told”.

He would say he was joking, but I knew he wasn’t.

He would get us out of anything, underhandedly. I had a conscious, though. And boy, did it wear on me all of those years.

I knew if I didn’t end up dead, I’d be caught up in something devastating resulting from his criminal behavior.

It hurt me, to hurt him. Still, I feel this deep loss. I have to remind myself that what I thought was real, wasn’t. It was all a figment of my imagination. He was so good at mind controlling me, that he made me question what I perceived as “reality”.

It’s amazing what just a few months away from that can do to you. I’m no where near “healed”, but I have an understanding. I’ll never get the answers that I wanted. I never know “why”, and I don’t need to.

I will always have my tough days, those won’t go away.

All I can do, is continue to advocate for my children and myself.

To fight for us.

That’s why I named my blog, “Escaping Domestic Violence: The Road Less Traveled“. It’s “less traveled“, because it’s hard to do.

It’s just not that simple.

To make a conscious choice and effort to go down the “road less traveled“, means that I am committed to doing what is right, not easy.

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Coerced

I felt like I was living in two different worlds. I was a school teacher, and he was a previously convicted felon. They say opposites attract, right? Not always.

He never wanted anything to do with me. Not in the beginning, at least. Over time, he got away with more and more, until I just couldn’t take anymore. Summer of 2010. It was what I considered, “love at first sight”. Of course, it had been eight years since we had seen each other. I had three girls, he had a boy and a girl. Never in a million years would I believe we would marry six years later and have two little boys together.

But we did.

He overwhelmed me with his romance, and moved quite quickly. I remember he left me flowers and a card outside the door at my college one time. I was taking a full load of summer courses. He helped me through them, but never wanted to leave my side. So he would spend literally hours- wandering the college campus.

I lived in a ranch styled house in a rural part of Barrow County, Georgia in Auburn. The house sat on a hill and had a large fenced in backyard.

He had no home, vehicle, job- nothing. I was a full-time college student having rented my very first home (not in an apartment complex). I drove my 1998′ white Chevy Blazer.

It didn’t take long until he got ahold of my title, and convinced me to trade my Blazer in for another 2-door car (I couldn’t stand it)- a Pontiac, and cash in addition.

On one occasion I had my youngest daughter, Hannah, with me. He was my boyfriend at the time, working as a salesman for Kirby. He worked long hours, and for the most part- I think he was doing other curricular activities, if you know what I mean.

We were driving home when I rolled up in our steep driveway. My daughter, two at the time, unbuckled her seatbelt. In the blink of an eye- I literally watched my car roll down my driveway barely missing large trees and the big house in front of mine. My daughter was trapped in the back. As the car rolled, I panicked. I got down on my knees and started using my hands to press the brakes. It never occurred to me- grab the emergency brake!

My hand got caught, and the car literally DRUG me down our driveway. I was pregnant with our first baby, but most do not know this, because the baby did not survive. This was before Anthony was born.

It was around September of 2010. The adrenaline ran through my veins. I recall running down the hill screaming at the top of my lungs- “MY BABY! PLEASE, SOMEONE HELP ME, MY BABY IS IN THE CAR!” I expected to hear crying- anything once I heard the loud, “BAM”.

But nothing. Not a sound.

I ran down, and my neighbor across the street ran to where the car had flown down the hill into his fence and stopped by trees. He helped my daughter get out of the car. She was okay! I was relieved.

He noticed that I was bleeding and had several gashes down my legs, arms, and face from being drug down the pavement.

I called my husband, (he was my boyfriend at the time), and told him what happened. I called my sister as well. He arrived in his work van, dressed up in a suit. He chastised me about the car, and left to go back to work.

My sister ended up driving me to the hospital.

When we first found out I was pregnant, he was thrilled- overjoyed. As time went on, he kept on insisting that I have an abortion. He made all kinds of threats on what he would do if I didn’t.

After so much time passed, I did as he told me. I had a forced abortion with our first baby. I was due April 10th, 2011. Ironically, I almost immediately became pregnant again, and gave birth to Anthony on November 18th, 2011.

He was hateful. He was nasty. I couldn’t believe I was seeing this side of him. But what else do I do? I had no where to turn. My family tried to warn me about him. But I ignored their concerns. I had to just deal with it.

He wouldn’t even get up early enough in the morning to take me to have the procedure done. My sister drove me there and back. It was one of the worst things I’d ever been through. I had to take off all of my jewelry, and wear hospital-like gowns. I took off my sterling silver necklace that read, “Mom”, across a heart on it. By accident, I left it at the abortion clinic, ironically.

I did everything I could to numb out my emotions. I refused to find out the gender of the baby. I did not want to know. My husband was late, as usual. When it was over, I woke up and couldn’t stop crying. I began to hyperventilate. I remember wanting to beg the nurses to stop but the medicine put me to sleep so quick.

I couldn’t even look at him, much less talk to him.

After getting home, I laid on my couch, and cried.

I felt so hurt. He bought me a Subway sandwich, and on his way to work he went.

He never brought it up again, and refused to validate any feelings I had regarding the situation.

He coerced me into having an abortion.

I had no idea what I was in for once I did get pregnant again. I would get pregnant two more times, and the abuse on every level would continue to escalate as the years went by.

He made me believe that I was incapable of surviving life without him.

He made me believe that I would never be good enough.

I tried so hard, to the point of exhaustion.

But nothing I did, could save me from what he had planned for me.

 

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Empowerment

Today, I feel exhausted. I am emotionally exhausted. It’s after 6:00 p.m. and I’m still wearing the outfit I wore to bed last night, which was the outfit I wore to court yesterday morning. Sometimes, I have these kinds of days. I really thought that yesterday was going to be the END of the extreme abuse that lasted 7-years with my soon to be ex-husband.

I really just want to cry. I thought I was able to forgive him, at least for myself, but I’m not quite there yet. I thought I was, but no. I’m not. I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m scared. And the thing is- I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t want to be angry, hurt, and fearful. Maybe I’m just going through the motions. Court was yesterday, so it’s fresh. Maybe I can brush all this off in a day or two.

I guess I should have asked more questions. I didn’t realize that the plea deal was walk free today, on five years of probation. It really wouldn’t even bother me. If I knew for certain that he would let go, and never bother me again, I’d be okay with that. I could move on and have my own life, and he could move on, and have his.

But lets bring all this back down to reality. I know in my heart, and in my gut that he is not finished with me yet. Narcissistic Sociopaths do not just walk away. Especially considering that at the very least, I’ve now EXPOSED him and REJECTED him. I always told him that he would have a fighting chance as long as I never served him divorce papers. Well, after the hearing- guess what happened? He was served divorce papers. That was my way of letting him know, I’m done, “for real” this time. There’s no going back. I don’t want to go back. I’m NOT going back. I’m DONE.

Right now, if I told you I was happy and at peace, I would be lying. I’m not. I’m scared to death. I know I have an overwhelming and strong support group. I’m so thankful. I’m still scared. I’m tired. Complex PTSD- It’s prolonged trauma, or re-occurring trauma… It’s like your body is nearly incapable of just “shutting down, relaxing”. I apologize in advance for whining, so to speak, but it’s not fair. The justice system is broken. It really is. I know Athens-Clarke fought for me. I know I gave them the run around. I know that I spun a lot of heads with the constant back and fourth. I’ve been dealing with him for half my lifetime.

I’m really not trying to place blame. I take responsibility for my mistakes. I tried to do the right thing this time. I was the one who had him charged with aggravated stalking. I called police for protection that day. This was not the state taking out charges on my behalf. But I feel like it was too late.

Maybe that’s why God placed it in my heart to get out of Athens when I did. Maybe that’s why he placed it in my heart to ask for help, so that the children would be safe. I know that God has his own timing. And one day, I will understand why.

I recall putting change in the vending machines at the hospital last month. The coke bottle had the name “Anthony” on it. That’s my son’s name, Tony. A few days ago, I purchased a coke bottle from Target while out with a friend. It had the name “Sarah” on it.

The foster mom’s name is Sarah. I just found this out today. I hope I’m able to meet the family soon. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I’m not “looking” for signs per say, it’s just… I don’t know. All I know, is that when I am fully restored and my children and I are back together and I actually have a life again, it will be so worth it. It will be worth every single hardship I’ve ever gone through.

Sometimes things that hurt you the most teach you the greatest things in life.

I’ve got a good fight on my hands. I’ll never give up. Ever.

I spoke with my DFCS case worker today. I was provided names, telephone numbers, and the address of the foster family. He said I had no limitations to visits, and that I was entitled to at least one visit a week. Those should begin sometime after 7/21/2017. I cannot wait. I miss them so much. The DFCS case worker is also encouraging me to work with the foster parents as long as they feel comfortable. I’m hoping this will be the case.

I will be scheduling therapy sessions, and will be gearing up to go back to work in a few short weeks. My employer sent me an e-mail about bringing in paperwork on 7/24/17 and checking out my classroom more in detail.

On 7/27/17, I will be attending a “Back to School” meeting at a local park at 7:00 p.m. On 7/29/17, I will attend the “New Hire” training from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. My first day of teacher planning will be 7/31/17.

It looks like I’ll be kept plenty busy with work, meetings, therapy sessions, court, and visitation. I know that if I continue to stand strong, I will get through all of this. Of course I would still like to be apart of the church and recovery programs, too.

I am strong, but I am tired.

I am tired, but I WILL not give up.

I’m better than that. I deserve more than that. My children deserve more than that.

The last thing I told him… as I sat shaking on the stand, I glared in his eyes for the first time and said, “Regardless of what happens in this courtroom today, you have already lost this battle.

And he did. I fought to be heard, I found my voice. I stood up for myself. I did not give in. I was strong. I was brave, courageous.

That my friends, is true empowerment.

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Stranded

This is a picture of my oldest son, Anthony. We call him Tony, he was only three-years-old at the time. Nothing is really out of the ordinary in this picture, right? It was his first time catching a fish in Almond, North Carolina on a camping trip.

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But there’s one thing- I wasn’t there.
It was March of 2016. I had been ecstatic to be picking up my older two daughters for a weekend visit. I had talked about this all week long. I would have all five of my babies together. I was so excited.
I made arrangements with the girls’ father. I worked my normal teaching job from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Since I was living in Athens, Georgia and traveling to Lawrenceville, Georgia, I actually set my alarm clock for 4:30 a.m. most mornings. After work, I drove to Warner Robins, Georgia to pick up the girls. We then headed home.
I begged and pleaded for my husband to not create any sort of chaos during our visit.
Next thing I knew, his girlfriend had my husband drive her a good hour and a half away to pick up her two children. Looking back, I realize that this was a ploy all along. They KNEW how much this weekend meant to me, and they destroyed it.
I told my husband that I would just like to do my own thing with the girls, just not to make a scene. That didn’t happen.
I tried to hide the fact of who this girl really was too. I knew it wasn’t normal, but I had no say so in the situation. The incident that occurred this weekend is what triggered me to start researching about getting out of an abusive relationship.
My husband said that we were all going camping. Great idea with seven kids, right? I had no choice but to comply.
I drove my red 2010 Ford Focus with my three girls, and my youngest son, Jakob (Jake). Unfortunately, I was one seat short, so Tony had to ride with his dad and the girlfriend- and her two kids in a separate vehicle.

They had my son, so I followed. We rode, and rode, and rode literally ALL day. Both my husband and the girlfriend acted erratically. They were screaming, fighting, cussing. Everything I had previously begged them NOT to do, they did.
We couldn’t find a camping spot that was good enough in North Georgia, so we pulled over into a gas station. “What are we doing?”, I asked. “The children are hungry, they are all crying. I didn’t pick my girls up to spend time in the car all day together!”
He became irate. How dare I question him.
Next thing I knew, he jumped in his car, leaving me on the side of a mountain with my girls and baby, in North Georgia. My phone was out of range, and I had NO idea what to do or where to go.
I couldn’t believe it. It was going on midnight. I had no choice but to turn around and try to remember how to get home. I sobbed the entire way home. “Girls, I am so sorry. Next time you see me, you will not have to worry about him again (or her). I’m just going to have to figure all of this out.”
As I cried, they kept saying, “Mama, it’s okay- this isn’t your fault.” I had to take them back to their dads house the next day because they had school that following Monday. I knew in my gut, that it would be the last time I would see them for a long time.
And I was right.
That was the last time I saw my older two daughters. From that day forward, my life spired out of control. It’s been 14-months since I’ve seen my girls. This past week, I gave insight on some of the things going on in my life to my oldest daughter, Aubrey- who just turned 13-years old a week ago. I’ve been in contact with them and look forward to reestablishing relationships with them in the very near future.
After we finally made it home, I ended up having to make the long ride back to Warner Robins to take the girls home the next day. A friend of mine came over and we talked about my situation. She picked up our pottery that was ready for pick-up from a couple of weeks prior, when I took them to paint pottery. That was a better memory that I’ll always have. Painting pottery together.
We had so much fun.
After the girls were gone, it was just me and Jakob, he was 2-years-old at the time. Hannah, my daughter who lived with me, was in school. My husband would not answer any phone calls. I had no idea if my three-year old son was okay. I panicked.
Days went by. I started receiving messages from his girlfriends’ family asking where SHE was. They told me it was very unlike her to just take off like that. My heart sunk to the pit of my stomach. I called the Graham County Sheriff’s Department. I described my son’s age and what he was wearing. I told them that I lived about two and a half hours away, give or take. I had not heard from my husband and did not know the status of my son. I was extremely worried.

I had barely any gas left in my car.
It was unnerving. A sheriff went out to the camping spot, the only one I knew of- to check and see if she could find any trace of them. I explained that he may be in the company of another woman and two of her kids.
The Sheriff’s Office called me back and said, “We’ve found them.” She put my husband on the phone.
He was laughing.
“We’re on our way back, chill out. We were just about to pack up our things.” I hung up the phone. I took my two-year-old baby to a park. Although I can’t remember the name of it, I fell in love with it. It was beautiful. I watched him climb up and down the stairs on the playground. If not for me, I have to do something- fast, for them.
I sat and thought. I reflected on the past six years. How I had been estranged from everyone I’d known and loved.
It was going on dark, late in the evening when they finally arrived. My husband could hardly wait to tell me about all of the fun they had. They had a blast, in what was “our special spot”.

Tony caught his first fish, and I couldn’t even be apart of it because the girls and my young son had been abandoned… STRANDED in the middle of nowhere!
I did everything I could, at that point on to distance my children and myself to him. I had a feeling that things would get worse, and they did.

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Discovering, Jennifer

To me, this week has flown by! I can’t believe it’s already Thursday. Monday night, my sister picked me up and took me to 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, to attend “Celebrate Recovery”. People attend these groups for many reasons. I was there for domestic violence and co-dependency. My twin sister sat in the group with me. We were given Re:generation daily devotional books to work on throughout the week. One of my goals is to start spending more one-on-one time with God. I pray often, but I would like to know more about Him. The women that I have met are incredible. It’s amazing how similar some of our stories are, and how much I can relate to them. I can’t wait to go back next Monday night!

Tuesday, I met with my best friend from childhood, Kristin. We have been friends since the 5th grade. My husband never allowed me to have friends that he didn’t approve of, so we had been estranged for several years. I would see her every now and then, but nothing like the good ole’ days. We went to Target with her two little ones- I refer to them as my “niece” and “nephew”. They are ADORABLE.

I immediately checked out the #dollarspot and picked out all kinds of school-related materials for my classroom. I bought alphabet puzzles, a flag, alphabet and number decals for the wall, a teacher lesson plan book, a cute little pencil and apple holder, among other items. Nothing excites me more than shopping for my classroom. I love school. I always have, it’s my safe place.

Our get together was last minute, we did not plan for it. Storms that day were bad, but I was so excited to see her. I remember thinking to myself, “So this is what it feels like to just jump up, get dressed- and just go out.” I was never able to “go out” before. Not having to ask permission to go to a store… or feel guilty about spending time with a friend.

You see, things that people take for granted, things that are “normal”, were restricted to me. When I first left my husband, I found myself in a new world. What do you mean I can just go to the grocery store and choose what I want with my own money? I could buy my children the things they needed such as clothing and not have to worry about being “in trouble” about it later. My personal rights and freedoms were stripped from me. And I’ve recently taken those back.

Over the course of seven years, I had forgotten who I was, what I enjoyed. I was enslaved. I’m beginning to remember now. I loved to write. I loved photography, painting, and listening to music, baking. It’s all starting to come back to me.

After seven long years, I am, discovering Jennifer.

Wednesday, I met with my attorney in Athens to file for my divorce. It went very smooth. After discussing my case with her, she walked me down to Probate Court to get our documents notarized, and then to the Civil department at the Clerk of Courts Office in the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse. It was filed on July 12th, 2017, and the ladies at the desk said that they would walk the paperwork down to the Sheriff’s Department to have them serve my husband while he was still incarcerated at the jail.

As I drove on Highway 316 to get there, I listened to 104.7 The Fish on the radio. The song, “Tell Your Heart To Beat Again”, by Danny Gokey, came on and it brought tears to my eyes. “Thank you, Jesus, thank you”, I said aloud. He was speaking to me through the radio. There is no song that could have played that would have been as perfect as that one. I knew, I was doing the right thing. It was long overdue. It was time.

After filing for my divorce, I met with my DFCS caseworker. He called asking to see if he could swing by my attorney’s office so that we could catch up. I sat in his vehicle with the air conditioner running, out of the heat. For most people, I think the Department of Family and Children Services can be a frightening thing. For me, I feel as though they are apart of my team. We work together.

My caseworker told me that the boys were relocated to a different area than we had originally thought. I asked, “Are they still together?” He held his breath. I about freaked out. “Yes, he said, and smiled”. I responded, “Thank God, you had me worried!”. He smiled and told me that it had just been a long day. He said he was trying to work with other organizations on transporting the children for my visitations. As of now, we are discussing Saturday or Sunday’s as possible days. I’m entitled to visit them weekly. Of course our goal is reunification, and with my recent employment in teaching, this will more than likely happen quickly.

I told him a little bit about my job, and how I was attending “Celebrate Recovery” at my local church. I let him know that I met with my new therapist, and am approved for therapy sessions beginning the week of July 17th, 2017. He was of course, ecstatic about my divorce filing.

We talked about other ways that I could be supported. I will hopefully be receiving my case plan in the mail soon. I will be taking parenting classes and be subject to random drug screenings. – No problem there. I really think that this fresh start will be beneficial to the boys and myself. I know now, 100%, that as hard as it was to ask for help, I made the right decision.

Right before I was about to get out of his vehicle, he said. “I met with Dominick in jail a few days ago.” He stammered a bit, trying to think of how to word what he was about to tell me. “He said, he wanted me to relay you a message.” I sat there thinking, “Really, again?” “The main thing I think, he was getting at, is that he wanted me to tell you that he would support you if you chose to eventually retain back custody of the boys- he will not fight you.”

I was confused. I didn’t really respond to that, but later I thought, “I don’t need your support. I’m bringing my boys back home. He’s just trying to get to me again. He’s trying to be the ‘good guy’.” So, I let that go in one ear and out the other. I really don’t need his input.

So that brings me to today. I slept good last night, I think I’m just finally at peace about the direction my life is headed. That doesn’t mean I don’t experience the lifelong effects of PTSD at times, that will never go away.

I woke up and had a cup of coffee with my aunt. I listened to stories of her past experiences with domestic violence during her early teenage years. She had been through some very hard times. Like I’ve said before- it’s a vicious cycle. My aunt became emotional. I hugged her neck and told her- you too, are a very strong woman. You are a survivor. I would like to point out that the stories that were told were not of her deceased husband. My Uncle Nick, was and will always be, a good-hearted, loving man. He will always hold a place in my heart!

I don’t have any plans today. I will probably rest and prepare for my big day tomorrow. In less than 24 hours, I will face my abuser for the very first time since his incarceration. I will read my #survivor Impact Statement to the judge, in court. Tomorrow will be a LONG all day event. I have to be present for two hearings. One will be at 9:00 a.m. and the other will be at 1:30 p.m. Somewhere in between, I will meet with my attorney and my DFCS caseworker.

I know that God will be in that courtroom with me. I know that everything that’s meant to happen will happen. My stomach isn’t in knots, at least not yet. I just know, my gut tells me- everything will work out just fine.

I am empowered. I am brave. I am strong.

I’ve got this.

 

Till’ Death Do Us Part

May 31st, 2015. How else can I describe that day?

It was my wedding day, it was the worst day of my life.

I had made a grave mistake, and only in time would I be able to tell.

I met my husband when I was only 15-years-old. My twin sister and I had run away from home. My mother, who is deceased now, lived in an apartment with my younger brother. She was going through a divorce and had never been on her own. (Sound familiar?) We were visiting her one weekend when my twin sister told me she was leaving. My sister and I were inseparable up to the age of 16, when I became pregnant with my first daughter.

I was her shadow, so to speak. I never really made friends of my own. Her friends were my friends. I was known as, “Jessica’s sister”. I still remember watching her shimmy down the curtains, landing and running off into the night.

She was a rebel.

I debated for the longest time what to do, and having been scared to death of heights, I decided to just tell my mom I was going out to her van to get some things out. So, I just kinda walked out the front door, and never came back.

By the time I got outside, I realized I had no shoes. My mind went blank. I was frazzled.

I decided to keep going. I have to find my sister. By this time, she was long gone. I walked and hid behind “Donate Clothing” bins. After awhile, two women stopped and picked me up. I hitchhiked to an apartment complex of a mutual friend- (I don’t even know how on earth I remembered where it was, my sense of directions are horrible).

That night, I slept outside on the pavilion that surrounded a big pond. I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. My feet were bruised and sore from walking for hours before being picked up by the two women. (I later found out they had just been released from prison).

I waited until the early morning hours to walk up and see if I could figure out which apartment complex belonged to our friend. I figured that if Jessica went anywhere- that’s where she would be.

Miraculously, I somehow ended up catching up to her. It was the first time I met my husband. The next thing I know, we were on the run for what would last exactly one week, in Walton County, Georgia.

While on the run, my family members were panicked, worried to death. Looking back, I really- really- don’t know how I’m still alive. They went all over the counties, and then some- posting our photos labeled, “MISSING”.

While on their hunt, my twin sister and I were with my soon to be ex-husband sleeping in old abandoned cars, parking lots, churches, and even inside a loft in a barn.

He gave us aliases. I was referred to as “Abbey”, and my sister was from then on to be called “Jersey”.

He fed us prescription pills, Coricidin to be exact. I’m not talking about one or two at a time either. I’m talking about handfuls.

Eventually, we met his mother, (years later it all makes sense).

However, being 14-15 years-old, I just thought, “Wow, what a nice family.” They gave us clothes to wear, allowed us to shower in her trailer, and even gave us food to eat. There were certain times throughout the day that my husband would have to leave us in the company of others while he did things such as visit his brother who was incarcerated at the time.

I remember wanting to go home so bad, but my sister was stubborn. Nothing could make me change my mind either. I was going to be at her side- no matter what. I looked over at her, she was sleeping outside on a broken down piece of wood. She was laying in a bed of ants. I tried to wake her, but she would not respond.

She was breathing, she was just exhausted.

I cried. I just really wanted to go home.

My husband had just sealed the deal to get bus tickets for the three of us to travel down to his grandparents home in Florida. We were at a gas station not far from his mother’s trailer.

He had been in a fight with someone he knew. That person recognized my sister and I as missing persons, and called police.

It was my husband’s first trip to jail, but not his last. He was charged with two counts of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor”. He stayed in the Walton County Jail for around three months. My sister and I were also transported to the Walton County Jail and placed in a holding cell. We were (thankfully) not charged with any crime, although we were indeed runaways. I gave the officer my aunt’s telephone number.

My aunt recalled answering the phone and hearing the officer say, “We’ve got Jessica”.

My aunt held her breath till he said, “We’ve got Jessica and Jennifer down here at the Walton County Police Department.”

“Thank God”, she responded. That night, two of my aunts and my uncle came to pick us up. I wish I could say that the story ended there, but that’s not the case. It wasn’t quite “Happily Ever After”.

I don’t know what it was. I guess I was just desperate to be loved. I wanted to feel loved. It seemed like he had our interests in heart. I mean, he took care of us, you know? He was also extremely intelligent, and handsome. Tall, dark hair, he swept me off my feet.

(Till I hit the floor, here most recently).

Naturally, I felt awful. I felt as though we were responsible for his incarceration. I saved all of my lunch money and change and kept it in a jar until it was full. I begged and pleaded with my aunt to drive me to his mother’s trailer so that I could drop it off. I thought any money towards his bail may help.

I accepted several collect calls from him, letters, etc. My sister wanted nothing more to do with his shenanigans. For me, it was all over. I had this intense need to be and feel loved. I really thought he cared about me. I thought he loved me.

Eight years went by. Eight years. Over that time, I had been in two significant relationships which resulted in three daughters. He had been in several relationships as well, and a marriage that resulted in two children- a boy and a girl.

One day, I received a “MySpace” message. The butterflies in my stomach instantly came back- full swing. It was an intense summer. May of 2010, is where it really all began.

Back to our wedding day. Five-years later. Five years of pure hell- nothing like what was to come after I said, “I do”. But you know, we had two little boys together. And maybe, just maybe if I loved him enough, he would change.

Right….

Anyway. We married on May 31st, 2015 in a gorgeous cabin with a mountain top view; in Almond, North Carolina- Graham County. We had a handful of close friends accompany us, and of course his grandfather, who was the one to perform the ceremony.

Ya’ll. I should have known. Really… I mean he was SIX hours late to our wedding. I’m not sure how many red flags it took to wave in front of my face before I realized- “Who the Bleep Did I Marry?”

I put on a fake smile, and sat in my wedding gown for six hours waiting. He was supposedly picking up his grandfather, and later he claimed he stopped to have lunch (while I was starving), and decided to purchase purple socks to go with his suit.

Okay, well. I am quite the saver. Really, I am. I am excellent with savings, and on my own, I am good. I was so concerned with the expense of this elaborate cabin that he rented for a week, that I decided I would just get married BAREFOOT in exchange for wasting a few dollars to get some wedding shoes.

So, while I was married barefoot, he was married with his purple socks that took six hours to buy.

It was the worst day of my life. I tried to make excuses for him to my friends and family. For the longest time, no one knew- except of course the ones who were present. I felt so incredibly bad that we were just stuck, waiting.

I pretended like everything was fine. Truth be told, I wanted to bust out in tears. I was devastated.

After our family and friends left, he acted like he didn’t even know me. Our “honeymoon” consisted of him getting sick all in my car, forcing me to clean it. (He had drank too much the night before).

He stayed in bed. There was nothing romantic about it. I felt like he was a stranger. As he put it, “I was now his, he owned me.”

I knew I had made a mistake. My gut told me this all along, but I ignored it.

I ignored it for a long time, until the abuse became unbearable.

May 31st, 2015, was in fact- the worst day of my life.

Why did I chose to write about this today?

Because today I filed for divorce. Today, was a good day.

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