Today I met with a beautiful young woman in her early twenties who is enrolled in college and wanting to give back to the world. I met a young woman with vibrant, happy, and intelligent blue eyes who inspired me to keep doing what I am doing in this line of work. We often despair in this line of work thinking that we have not helped touch the lives of younger women – that maybe the cycle of violence won’t be broken as much as we hope for – and then we meet someone like “Jackie” and realize that she has learned early in life to make changes for herself and her child. To break the cycle. In order to protect the families involved in this story, names are being changed and I am editing here and there with the young woman’s story. Most of the words are her own from a paper she submitted for a college class. The following is Part I of Jackie’s story:

“When I think back to the decision that I made to leave my husband, Jimmy, and end our marriage I know that I did the right thing. We had a ten month old daughter, his two children from a previous marriage, and marriage surrounded by drugs, lies, and abuse. I knew that I had to make this decision, not only for me, but for my daughter, Amy. We were headed down a road full of danger, but by me leaving I found the opportunity for a safe and happy life for us.”

“After I left, I began staying at my sister’s house. I was afraid to stay at my house because Jimmy had been taking Crystal Meth and I did not feel safe at home. To be honest, I did not feel safe anywhere. The only feelings that I could freely express were negative – feelings of fear and self-loathing. I hated myself for putting Amy and myself in this situation. I started having nightmares every night. I was afraid that he would break into my sister’s house and take Amy from me, or even hurt me and my family. I felt like I was going crazy.”

“I was not able to break my problems into manageable pieces. I was in tears sixty percent of the time, and the other forty percent I was a nervous wreck. Everyone around me became very concerned, especially my mom. I had lost fifteen pounds in two weeks. I could not eat. Every time I would try to I would get nauseated or I would eat a little bit and then feel as if I was choking. I did not want to go back into that situation, but I did not want to fail my marriage either. The only things that I could manage to do were to take care of my daughter and work, but even in doing that I was like a robot. I felt as if my life was one dark hole in which I would never be able to climb out.”

“For the first two or three months after my separation my feelings mastered me. I had been through so much mental and emotional abuse that I had forgotten who I was and what kind of a life I wanted. In some ways I wanted Jimmy back, but not the way he was. He was the first man I had ever been intimate with. I stood by his side for four years and helped him raise his two young children. It was very hard for me to let go of our relationship. I went back and forth for months – wanting him back – then not wanting him back. In my mind, I knew that being with him as the person he was would only bring me down further, but my heart was not that easy to convince. How could I want to have a life with someone who subjected me to drugs, violence, and just made my life a living hell? No matter how much leaving hurt me, I had to. I had changed. I was a mother, and my child was not going to grow up thinking that life was supposed to be this way. I wanted to change my life for her. No little girl should grow up thinking that this was the way a man should treat a woman.”

“I did however invoke help from others. I told a deputy whom I was friends with abut the situation when Jimmy and I first separated. I told him how afraid I was , and he asked me if Jimmy had ever been violent toward me. I told him that he had been recently. I explained to the deputy that a week or so before he had grabbed me by the hair and jerked me off my pillow because he was angry with me. Thankfully, this gave me grounds to get an Order of Protection against him. I also had to ask for help from my parents. I hated having to swallow my pride to ask for financial help, but I had to. If I had not, I would have lost my house my vehicle, and everything else. My parents were so supportive of me during all of this. In fact, my dad was the first one whom I went to when I decided to leave. He told me to pray about it, and he would support whatever my decision was.”

“As I was dealing with this huge change in my life I was still working nine to ten hours a day, and then coming home and trying to be a good mama. I was exhausted and knew it. Between the working, the not sleeping, and the stress, I finally cracked. I knew that if I was going to get through this I was going to need a little help. I had been on anti-depressants and nerve medicine years before and they really helped me then. So, I had my mom go with me to see my family doctor who was also a family friend. I told her about everything that had happened, and she said she was surprised that I had not come in sooner. Jimmy and I had been to her office throughout our marriage and pregnancy, and I guess she saw what was happening. She prescribed me an anti-depressant and nerve pill in one, which I desperately needed. I had to do something to clear my head so that I could cope and start putting my life back together.”

“When I saw my doctor she also mentioned that I might have some co-dependency issues. I wanted more information about co-dependency because I did not have a clue what it was, so my sister found me a book on the topic at the library. I read it cover to cover. So much of what I read sounded just like me, and there were real life stories in the book that I could relate to. I saw the problems that I had, and then I read how I could prevent it from happening again.”

“I did not really trust in myself because I did not know who I was anymore, but I did have faith in God that things would get better. I prayed so hard during my marriage for things to get better if it was the Lord’s will, but if it was not God’s will that he deliver me and he did. My faith became so much stronger during all of this. I was walking blindly through my life and being led by a force that was unseen.”

“I know that my family and my faith was the greatest resource I had during my separation. If I had not had family I would have completely shut down. My mom, dad, and sister were so supportive of me. They let me talk to them about everything that had happened. I told my mom about things she did not know went on in my marriage, like the drugs and the mental abuse. I know how much it hurt her to hear what I had been through, but she was really there for me. I really believe that their strength gave me strength, and when I did not think that I could go on they pushed me forward. The only resource I wished I would have had is friends. Jimmy had alienated me from all of my friends and most of my family. I believe having someone other than family to talk to would have helped me wrap my mind around things better.”

“If I had not left when I did God only knows the dangers me and my child would have encountered. I believe with all my heart that the violence would have escalated and Amy (Jackie’s young daughter)) and I would have been hurt. I also believe that through the mental and emotional abuse I would have lost myself forever, and I would have been doing the drugs that my husband was doing. Thankfully though, through my leaving, my daughter and I are so happy now. We have such a close relationship and I thank God for her every day. I have hope for our future and I would like to help other women who are stuck in violent relationships. God gave me the strength to find myself again and help me to see the things that were missing in my life.”

“I do hope that one day my daughter will see that I did what was best for us and no resent me. I did not care about what happened to me. She was my main concern. When her dad and I would fight I would think to myself, ‘How will I explain the way he treats me when she gets older?’ Then I realized I will not explain it because she is too precious to be exposed to this. I know that the cycle of violence is continuous and I did not want that life for her. I learned through my crisis that even though I loved my husband and I did not care what happened to myself, I did care about what happened to my child. Loving my daughter more than myself saved both of our lives.”

Comments by Samantha Phipps, Executive Director of the FVC of Yancey County, Inc.: Meeting with “Jackie” and reading this story she wrote as a college class project inspired me. In this line of work we hear and experience so many stories with the people we serve that do not have happy endings. We know the only way to break the cycle of violence is one family at a time. By Jackie leaving her abusive relationship two generations of lives have been changed for the better. And the cycle she has set in motion for her daughter and her daughter’s children has forever been altered. We need to continue to get the message out to people in the community that violence begets violence and it is the responsibility of the entire community to help make changes – to break the cycle of domestic violence and sexual assault. The FVC of Yancey County welcomes invitations from churches, schools, and groups to speak to your group about these issues. Please contact me at 678-3436 and give me at least two weeks advance notice for your event. If you or someone you love is involved in domestic violence or has experienced a sexual assault call the FVC Crisis Line at 682-0056.