STOP THE SILENCE: I Had To Get Away

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[TRIGGER WARNING: Descriptions of emotional abuse + stalking]

By L.

StopSilence

I knew something was wrong, during my short marriage to J., but couldn’t put my finger on it. One night, we watched a news story about a police chief who stalked, shot and killed his ex-wife in front of their children before turning the gun on himself. “That’s what happens when women try to leave,” J. commented. It chilled me to my core. I knew he meant to send a louder message to me.

I read the book The Emotionally Abusive Relationship, and realized that it described my then husband to a tee. Knowing the dangers, I decided to leave, and J. tried to prevent it. He hid my purse and keys. I didn’t know how to get away from him. Eventually, I wised up and kept a “fake” purse. I gathered everything I needed to escape in a hidden backpack.  I left, one day, with no job, no money, and no idea what I’d do. All I knew is that I had to get away.

After I left, J. started following me. He seemed to be everywhere: When getting gas, he pulled up. He walked in front of my car. He once climbed inside, and I learned to keep the doors locked. Once, while driving, he swerved at me from the oncoming lane as if to create a head on collision. He knocked on the doors of my house. If I didn’t answer, he pounded the windows trying to get in.

Angrily, he showed up at my new workplace. I felt helpless. He came several times a week to try to get me to engage in conversations with him. (Gavin DeBecker’s book the The Gift of Fear cautions: “engage and enrage.”) Co-workers at the front desk believed me about the stalking. They understood the seriousness of the situation. If he got past them, they warned me, and I locked myself in an office. One time, my intuition told me to leave the office. I told co-workers that I would be at home if they needed me. The phone rang when I got home. “How did you know he was coming?” a co-worker asked.

I learned to listen to my intuition. When it felt as if I shouldn’t go somewhere, even the store, I paid attention. Sometimes I didn’t know if I was listening to my instincts or losing my mind.

When he stalked me at church, my pastor stood up to him. He asked J. to attend another church for six months before discussions about attending mine. My pastor knew that J. didn’t want to go church but to get to me. Sadly, others misunderstood the situation and judged me. Some were angry that I didn’t get a restraining order. But I didn’t think J. would respect one, and I feared it would push him over the edge. I had heard too many stories of women getting killed after pursuing a restraining order. A good friend kept copies of crazy emails that J. sent me in case something happened.

After I divorced J., the stalking continued. He remarried and still stalked me. I moved out of the community, and he stalked me for eight years before it stopped. I spotted him, a few times, in the city where I worked although he never approached me. Since I was on the radio for many stations, and no one in our industry gives out work addresses, I felt pretty safe. But, late at night, while walking to the bus, I was nervous. I always had to be on guard.

Today, I am free. I have learned to trust my instincts and stand for what is true. I’ve learned not to allow myself to be bullied. I’ve stopped beating myself up for falling for someone like J. I thank God for protecting me through it all. I know God loves me no matter what happens.

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

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This story is part of our Stop the Silence, Start the Healing initiative. Each month we feature the story of one person who has never had the chance to tell her story, without fear, in a safe space. We honor these women who are speaking up.

Do you think you may be on the receiving end of abuse? Please visit our resource page for more information on what it is.

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Image credit: Alyssa L. Miller

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Stop The Silence

Stop The Silence

This story is part of our Stop the Silence, Start the Healing initiative. Each month we will feature the story of one person who has never had the chance to tell her story, without fear, in a safe space. We honor these women who are speaking up. Do you think that you may be on the receiving end of abuse? Please visit our resource page for more information on what it is.
Stop The Silence

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