Sheryl’s Story

I met him in 1976 while we were in high school. At that time, I was living with a foster family, having been taken away from my parent’s abusive home. We started dating, and I realized that he was the first person in my life to say they loved me. Therefore, I knew I would have to marry him, because he loved me. Although he had a volatile temper, he didn’t direct it toward me until after we’d been dating for two months, and I tried to refuse to spend the night at his apartment. Unfortunately, his verbal abuse and physical intimidation persuaded me to stay. Although that was the first time I allowed myself to be bullied and terrorized into actions against my better judgment, this became the pattern of our relationship. He demanded and I obeyed, out of fear. I continued in the relationship because I knew that I could change his abusive ways with love and understanding. How wrong I was. The violence escalated when I became pregnant, after being married for just three short (but very long) months. By the time our twin daughters were six months old, I had been repeatedly beaten, threatened with a shotgun, and seen a whole house full of furniture completely destroyed. Our children had witnessed all of this destruction. The first time he was arrested for this behavior, he spent 13 days in jail, not because of the violence but because he couldn’t post bond. I left him, but within a month he approached me with promises that he was going to find us a new home to live in, he was going to change, and he would get counseling. I believed everything he said because he said he was sorry and he wanted us to be a family again, but mostly because he always, after a violent episode, said he was never going to hit me again. I still believed him.

We did set up house again, but the violence did not stop. Not only was the violence increasing, but it was also starting to involve our children. He was increasingly abusive (physically and verbally) towards all of us. I was gradually becoming isolated from what used to be a very large circle of friends. The act of violence that finally caused me to leave was when he rammed my car with his truck while the children and I were parked in the driveway, waiting for him to come home and unlock the house for us. His control was such that I did not even have a key to my own home. He was in a rage because I got home later than he wanted me to, and he beat me badly that night: ripping a leather jacket off my body, leaving his footprint in my chest, and threatening me with further harm if I tried to leave or call my attorney. One of my seven year old daughters suffered a painful bump on her head from hitting the dashboard, but he refused to let us seek medical attention for her injury.

All the years that I lived with the abuse I thought I was staying for the children, and deep down I hoped that he would change. As I was driving down the driveway, leaving the next day, my daughter said: “Mom, what took you so long to leave?” I left him and went to a battered women’s shelter.

The divorce took two painful years while he fought me every step of the way. Finally divorced, the girls and I set up housekeeping. We became happy and independent, until my ex-husband entered our lives again, needing a place to live. Trying to see the goodness in him, I let him move in with us. The cycle of abuse began all over again. I had to return to WomenSafe. When I called WomenSafe they told me that I should probably bring enough clothes for a week or two. I told them that I didn’t think that I would need more than a couple of things, for I was leaving him a note, and surely he would move out. That did not happen. It took several months to have him removed from my house. During my stay at WomenSafe I received counseling, safe housing, clothing, food, medical attention, legal advice, personal necessities, and many, many hours of the staff’s time. They listened to what I had to say. I had the time to regain some self-esteem and realize that I had power over myself to make the necessary decisions for my children and me to live in a violence free environment. After my stay at WomenSafe, old friends that I had known in the past, could not believe I was the same person that they had known in recent years. I had grown so much and was much more verbal and outgoing than they had ever known me to be. They saw me take the dream I had for bicycle riding and turn it into a reality. When I was married, whenever I rode my bike I had to tell him where I was going and what route I was taking. The first summer of my freedom, I went on a 350-mile bike ride. The following summer, one of my daughter’s accompanied me on that same ride.

The feeling of being free to enjoy life’s pleasures without fearing his wrath, is great. Actually without WomenSafe’s help I would still be that same not-quite-alive person. I really thank WomenSafe for their help. Without the influence of the caring people I met there, and the guidance of my therapists, I truly believe I wouldn’t be alive today.