Faith rises triumphantly
Red photo cutouts placed around Culpeper represent victims of domestic abuse
Editor's note: October is Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. Following her attendance at a forum earlier in the month dealing with the issue, Staff Writer Julie A. Taylor was able to sit down with a local victim of abuse who wanted her story told in hopes it will help others. The victim's name as been changed to “Faith” to protect her identity. Following is Faith's story.
She never made the choice to be in an abusive relationship. She made the choice to stick with the man she loved—who happened to beat her, and threatened to kill her. Their friendship began when they were kids, growing up together in Fauquier. They fell in love. After enduring 30 years of abuse, Faith admits the fact, "I loved him with all my heart."
"I knew he was abusive before we married, but I thought I could change him," she said.
They met at the altar for a spring wedding.
“We were so much in love, and I knew we would be starting a family,” Faith said. “I thought everything was going to be so wonderful!” Not long into their marriage, a tiny miracle began to develop. Faith's husband did not accept the news of their pregnancy the way she expected. He reacted with violence, punching Faith in the eye. She felt blood rolling down her cheek, as he kicked her in the stomach, trying to inflict pain on his unborn child.
Later, he apologized. She forgave. He told Faith that he loved her, and she told her family that she had fallen and hit her eye.This pattern became a routine in Faith's life. She began to forget what “normal” was.
“It was like a prison. When that door shut I was secluded,” Faith said. Her husband banned her from communicating with her old friends. The baby was born into a life that had become even more abusive. Alcohol played a role in Faith's decision to stay, since the blame could be shrugged off: it was no longer his fault, but now it was the alcohol that would hit her, spit in her face, and call her stupid.
Once sober, he would say, “It was the 'other' man, not me.” Then he'd promise to never do it again. The promises were little bits of hope for her, but for him, they were a tighter grip.
"They control you. The only one you have is them, and they don't want you either,” Faith said.
This pattern continued for a decade, and through the birth of another child—which to the despair of Faith, still did not affect his habits or behavior. He added drugs to his list of vices, and maintained jobs only long enough to support his addictions.
“We could never keep a home,” Faith said. They would normally pack up their belongings and relocate twice a year. The pattern didn't change. She would threaten to leave. He would promise to stop.
When the children grew older, they stepped off the bus each day, and asked, “Is dad drunk today?”
"You think you hide all this from your kids, but the damage it does to your children is unbelievable,” Faith said. “At the time, you think you're protecting them. I didn't see this until after the fact.” Faith had a strong bond with her son. As he grew older, he wanted to protect his mom. This relationship stirred up jealousy, causing the abuse to worsen. The insults grew more hurtful, as did the abuse. At this point, Faith was dealing with infidelity, verbal abuse, mental abuse, major financial trouble, and unthinkable physical abuse.
“He would chase me with a machete, and put a gun to my face.” she said. One night, he came at her with a hatchet, and she made the decision to get a protective order against him.
This may seem like it was the victory step, but he eventually contacted her, and haunted her with old promises that still held hope, "I love you. I'll never do it again. I promise." Faith decided to drop the protective order. He kept his promises of being a better man for a few weeks.
As the next round of abuse began, she decided to see Michele Arft, the domestic violence specialist in Fauquier County (see related story, page A5) Faith felt embarrassed about going back on her protective order, but Michele simply supported her decisions, and offered advice without judgment. Together, they attempted to obtain another protective order, but since the first one had been dropped, the second one was denied.
Faith trudged through it, until the day he came home with a gun. He waved it around, as though unaware of the power it represented. He threatened her with the gun, like it was nothing more than his fist.
Now that he was threatening murder, Faith and Michele went back to court. This time, the judge granted Faith the protective order that her life was riding on. While separated from her, Faith's husband began to change. He stopped drinking and doing drugs, and he got a job. Between tears, he would beg her to let him come home. The sickening pattern wasn't obvious to Faith at the time, so once again she broke the protective order. This time, the abuse escalated even faster, and was more violent than at any other point in their painful history.
Faith prayed, "God, what do you want me to do?"
At the time, she remembers thinking, "I want him to die. I'll just kill him. Well, maybe I'll kill myself."
She had to make a decision, so she prayed again,"God, please show me the way! God, give me the strength and courage to finally make up my mind! This is the day!" she said.
That night he was arrested for driving under the influence, carrying concealed weapons and breaking the protective order. Then Faith received a call back about a position she had applied for. After getting the job, she was told that she was prayerfully chosen.
"Getting my new job was the first step. I didn't need the money he would bring in, I could make it myself! God gave me that job, after I said that prayer.
"I was scared until the morning of court. I looked him straight in the eye, every question I answered.
"My whole life is a complete . I've lost 73 pounds. I work; he never pays child care. The kids are happier than they've ever been. C's and D's, are now A's and B's. I went on my first date last weekend. I haven't dated since I was 18. It wasn't what I was looking for, but we had dinner. We had fun.
"Some people don't even recognize me now. My daughter told me, 'Mom, I've never seen you so happy in all my life.'
"There is no doubt in my mind that if I hadn't left when I did, either me, or one of my kids would be dead. My faith in God brought me through this.
"I don't have to worry about getting cussed out, food thrown against the wall, getting smacked in the face while trying to sleep. I was always sad, mad, angry, scared. Now we don't have to be scared tonight."
Faith has a message to everyone who knows what she went through: "To the women who are in an abusive relationship, you have to realize you can't change them, and that you are somebody. You are somebody! There is a way out. Ten years ago, I would have never imagined me being out.
"Now I know that I am somebody."
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