Guest Blog by:
Kimberly S. | Former Newhouse Client, Domestic Violence Survivor
“I raise my voice not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.”
“I was just browsing through Pinterest one night and stumbled across those powerful words. It really got me thinking that if I am going through these circumstances, someone else is too. Initially, I was terrified to share that I’m a domestic violence survivor with anyone. I would have rather jumped off a bridge without any safety equipment than to speak out about my experiences. But now that I have, it’s definitely created some healing. I truly believe there’s power in standing in this truth and knowing that my story might help someone else not go through the same experiences because they have the resources.
Prior to living through this, I was one of those women that said, “If it’s that bad, why wouldn’t you just leave?” And I think now, I like to educate people about the reasons and what all you have to truly think about before just packing your bags. The first couple of weeks after leaving an abusive relationship is one of the most volatile times where a lot of individuals do end up being killed, unfortunately.
You have to think about your finances. I was financially dependent on my ex because I was going to nursing school. I had to worry about my children and their safety, because Kansas is a very strong 50/50 state with parental rights, and it can be really hard to get the courts to agree it’s an unsafe situation. You question your ability to survive. “Can I do this by myself?”
There’s also immense shame and embarrassment. I had a previous failed marriage. I wanted so badly for this to work. I know I stayed a lot longer than I should have.
Every part of my life was being controlled: access to my car, computer, cell phone. The abuse came in multiple forms.
It got to a point I was regularly sleeping in my daughter’s bedroom. The few weeks leading up to our escape, things had been especially tense. He demanded I come to his bedroom, and my daughter followed. She was laying on the floor playing with the dog and pulled an AR-15 out from under the bed that was unsecured. I had no idea it was even in the house. Like any mama bear, I lost it. We ran to her room and locked the door. All I could think was, “How did I get here? What am I doing to do? And how am I going to get through this?”
On a night when I knew he’d be out for a few hours, I recognized that was the window I had to get away. Neighbors who knew what was going on helped grab what I needed and ensured I made it out safely.
I’d been calling domestic violence hotlines for a few months. I knew the waiting lists were huge. So I packed my car, figuring that might be where we were staying for a while. I just started driving.
When I got far enough, I let a few close loved ones know I was out of there, and okay. Friends and family had offered to let us stay with them, but I couldn’t put anyone else in danger.
One of my friends had a connection with Courtney Thomas at Newhouse (a United Way Impact 100 partner). I made a last ditch effort and called her. She answered and let me know there weren’t shelter rooms available, but they did have funds to put me up in a hotel. That was the beginning of the end of our nightmare.
I did ultimately file a police report. Officers scanned my car for tracking devices, and thankfully didn’t find anything. But they told me not to stay at any one location for more than five days just in case.
Newhouse has been a constant support with us every step of the way. Therapists were constantly checking in on me. The moral support meant the world, in addition to the safe haven they provided in hotel rooms for about six weeks. Ultimately, a room opened up in another shelter for us. But Newhouse never lost contact, and even today, they still play a huge role in my life.
Today, I’m a survivor. I’m a volunteer. I’m an advocate. It’s a phenomenal blessing to be with women who are right where I was a few years ago and be able to provide them a piece of hope and to share that things do get better.
I’m committed to doing what I can to educate others that escaping domestic violence isn’t as easy as just packing up and leaving, that abuse doesn’t have to be physical. I endured the emotional, financial, verbal, all of that. Three years later, I’m not trying to recover from the physical abuse. Still, it’s a lot of the emotional scars people don’t see that you carry.
Places like Newhouse make the healing journey possible. United Way and so many in the community are here to support their mission and it’s vital. This October during #DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth, I encourage you to support this lifesaving work. If everyone just gave even a couple of dollars, the difference it would make is huge because there are not enough resources, not enough beds for everyone in need.
I’ve not met a single survivor who has told me, “Man, I wish I could have given it one more chance. I wish I would’ve stayed a bit longer.” It’s always the opposite. Because life on the other side is so much brighter. It is a hard process, but the relief and empowerment that comes with a solid community standing behind you is amazing.
As a survivor today, I’m an advocate for those people who are in the shoes I once walked in. I will stand up and use my voice. And I hope you will, too.”