A lot of women feel powerless and they are afraid so they remain silent. All of my years in television reporting and writing have given me the expertise and experience to share what happened to me. Hopefully that will save lives.
Dee has more than 15 years of experience as a television news journalist, having served as a reporter and anchor in multiple markets in the US. While most episodes of this podcast have focused on career leadership, this week I asked Dee to share her story about surviving domestic violence. Dee’s hope is that by sharing her story publicly she can help lead other victims in taking the first step towards escaping.
From fairytale wedding to a nightmare in less than a year –
- Some early signs – an aggressive argument with his ex-wife, but it was easy to take his side. Never imagined he would treat her that way at the time. Night before wedding he became irate about her being late to something. She was terrified and wanted to call of wedding by finacee and friends convinced her to move ahead.
- Married in October, pregnant right away, moved to Boston (where he lived) and had first blow-up within a month of moving. Friends thought maybe she was being hormonal, blowing things out of proportion.
- Over the months had ups and down, but kept living for the good days.
I had had the big beautiful wedding… I was too embarrassed to admit my marriage was in trouble.
- Left at one point after he pushed her, but like most victims she went back.
Statistics show that it will take seven times of a victim leaving and coming back, before the victim will take the final step to leave.
- In April had a falling out. Called OBGYN to talk to them about it, whether something was wrong with her. She blamed herself for being hormonal at the time. Later when she delivered the baby a social worker gave her a card in the hospital. Dee said she didn’t need it, everything was fine, but social worker told her should would need it one day. Got mad at herself for making the phone call.
I did the typical victim thing – to blame yourself.
- Went home like normal, Dee’s mom visited to help with the baby and saw some small things she felt were troubling. She asked Dee to tell her if she ever wasn’t ok.
The Big ight
I said to myself ‘WE are going to get out of here. WE are going to make it.’
- Got into a fight in march. He pushed her into the refrigerator, the cabinet, yelling and cursing at her, hands around her throat. She screamed but no one came. She knew she needed to get out of there.
- As a journalist had covered stories which gave her some ideas. She kept an eye on the TV and used the passage of shows to measure time.
- She focused on her son and he was her source of strength.
- Started saying aloud what was happening in case anyone was able to hear and able to send police.
- Was able to escape from his grasp, called her sister who heard what was going on. Police came to the door because a neighbor had heard and called.
- Police did some odd things – let the husband go to their son, not her. Often the victim is seen as irate and police can be more sympathetic to the abuser. They allowed him to get dressed in a shirt and slacks, covered him as they escorted him out. Police report left his profession blank (he was a high school principal.)
- Mom and sister came the next day to take her and the baby back. Did not let Dee talk them out of it.
- She paid for his bail – that’s what the victim does. The victim often helps the abuser, doesn’t seem themselves as being a victim at the time.
It took me awhile to finally realize that I had been a victim of domestic abuse. Emotionally, verbally, and physically.
- A lot of women don’t see themselves as being susceptible to this kind of situation, but it happens. And most women don’t want to get out of it because they fear the embarrassment. They fear financial devastation- I went broke. There are so many layers there that keep the victims in harm’s way.
- Slept on the floor at her mom’s house because she was afraid he would come shoot into the house.
- Also financially devastated – no longer had an income, husband was not sending any money.
- He started having an affair. After a few years she can say “thank god for the mistress” because she was a diversion and kept Dee safe – often the abuser wants to maintain control and will hurt the victim when they leave.
- At this stage she was still hopeful for their marriage, that they could work on it with counseling, but he was not interested. He never saw the fact that he had a problem. He ended up filing for divorce.
- He also terminated his parental rights. “that was his final blow.”
- Domestic violence affects so many people – this experience was devastating for Dee’s father. “I walked you down the aisle to a monster.” He went downhill from there. Before he died he advised her to “use her words… tell her story.” Now she’s writing a book about this experience to help save others.
- It was all worth it in the end and her son is now safe. Need to have people out there with their eyes and ears open. People need to be witnesses.
Someone has to step up and help the victim.
- We have to make it ok for victims to get out. Stop victim blaming and victim shaming.
- Dee shares her story – speaking engagements and now writing a book. She wants people to know it can happen to anyone, all socioeconomic backgrounds.
- Important to get out sooner rather than later
It’s ok to speak up, it’s ok to get help, and most importantly it’s ok to get out.
- Sometimes after events or articles on Dee’s story, people will let Dee know that hearing this message helped their friend leave, or made it easier for friends to step in and talked to someone who is being abused.
I did not seek out this situation, but everything happens for a reason and I feel that this is the journey that God wanted me on.
- Dee feels her son was here for a reason – to keep her alive. She was very close to ending her life at one point, but she took one last look at him and realized she needed to stay for him. “I owe it to him to get this story out. Show him you can survive anything because mommy is a survivor.”
- National Domestic Violence hotline: 1−800−799−7233
- Reach out to local attorney general’s office, district attorney, therapists
You can get out. The strength will come later, you have to take the first step. You don’t have to be rich. There are people willing to work with you. If you can’t save yourself, save your children. You may not know the steps beyond, but just take the first one.