We Were Living a Lie

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[TRIGGER WARNING: Descriptions of verbal, emotional, physical abuse; failed plan to take someone’s life]

An interview with a survivor who is glad to be alive.

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In the aftermath of domestic abuse, and a failed plan by her former husband to hire someone to take her life, Deborah* has seen God work miracles. Through a strange turn of events one might expect to read in a novel, federal agents learned of her husband’s plan. A sting operation led to his arrest and incarceration.

A storm of changes followed—Deborah and her young child suddenly found themselves needing housing, transportation, food, and legal advice. They leaned into support from family, friends and their church community.  

As a Christian, Deborah brought her fears, anger, pain, and practical needs to God. While wading through deep waters, and seeing God’s infinite care, she connected with other victims of domestic violence and co-founded a support group in her area. Deborah wants victims to know they are not alone—God sees and wants to give them new lives.

*  *  *

Amy: What was your marriage like before you knew something was wrong?

Deborah: Our first year together was exciting. My husband was attractive, confident, intelligent, and successful. We had a baby, and my husband was wholly dedicated to our child. I felt like I had met my Prince Charming.

Then life grew stressful when my husband retired from his first career, got a Master’s Degree, and looked for a job in a second career. He began yelling, swearing, blaming and putting me down. He wanted proof of everything I said. He insisted that I was crazy. He blamed me, gave silent treatments, withheld finances, played mind games, and disabled the vehicle. Once he threw a fan and it hit my ribs, leaving me bruised for weeks.

Amy: Did you call the police or try to separate from him?

Deborah: No. I was afraid that I couldn’t make it on my own. I knew I would have to deal with his controlling nature and court and custody battles. It would be an exhaustive fight. I wondered—did I have energy left? I didn’t want to feel like a failure. I thought if I just prayed, and loved him, he would change back into the man I thought I married.

We were living a lie. He came to me after two years of troubled marriage, trying to convince me to put the past behind and start over. I told him I had nothing left, and planned to move home with my family. That was a mistake because it gave him time to think of ways to stop me from leaving. The life he wanted was in jeopardy; he didn’t want to be exposed. He secretly met with a hit man and conspired to end my life.

Amy: How did you learn of your husband’s plan? 

Deborah: Fortunately, federal agents discovered my husband’s plan and arrested him. They came to my home trying to find the words to tell me. They were concerned that I would not believe them. But deep in my heart, I knew he was capable of it.

Amy: What was running though your mind when you heard from the authorities? 

Deborah: My heart raced when I heard it. I didn’t understand. I didn’t want to feel it. It was too painful. It was painful to think of someone I loved wanting to do something like that to me.

Amy: How did you create stability for yourself and your daughter after your former husband was arrested? 

Deborah: It was not easy suddenly becoming a single mother. My first priority has always been my child and trying to keep life as normal as possible. I enrolled her in a community program for children who have witnessed abuse. I joined a support group for victims of domestic violence.

Amy: What is the best help you have received? 

Deborah: I had to move and find resources to help with food and bills. It was a huge financial burden. The local community, police department and victims’ advocates helped me locate resources. My church also helped, prayed and supported me in practical ways.

Amy: How have you healed and stepped into a new future?

Deborah: God has been my shelter from the storm. My faith in him has been my stronghold and my determination to not give up. Forgiving my husband was one of the first steps I needed to take to heal. Forgiveness has never made what he did right; it has allowed my heart to heal and to forge ahead with conviction.

As I dealt with depression, anger and confusion, I began to rebuild my life. A friend at church opened up to me that she was in an abusive relationship, too. We started meeting and organized a support group for victims of abuse. I began feeling purpose to my suffering. God started using my life to inspire others, to give them strength and encouragement.

Amy: How are you and your daughter today?

Deborah: I have my moments when I’m angry. And then I have moments where I grieve for the part of my former husband that did this. He could have been happy. It seemed like he wanted the same things, he just couldn’t break down the wall and find where the pain was.

My daughter witnessed the abuse. She has displayed anger, depression, and suicidal thoughts; she went to a treatment center for a time. She has asked about her father, read articles and commented that he is nothing to her besides a biological father.

I became a domestic violence advocate a couple years ago. I have befriended and mentored several women as they deal with life beyond violence.

Amy: What advice do you have for other victims of domestic abuse and violence? 

Deborah: Have faith knowing that you are never alone. God knows your pain and he can heal your physical and emotional wounds. Seek out support from a local DV group as it helps to be around others who have been through a similar experience. They can offer encouragement, understanding and love. Most of all, don’t beat yourself up. You did the best you could in your situation to survive. Love yourself. After all, you are wonderfully made by our Lord and Savior.

Amy: What advice do you have for those who want to help victims of domestic abuse and violence?

Deborah: I challenge each of you to make a difference. If you are aware of an abusive situation, be patient with them. Encourage that person to recognize the abuse. Don’t tell them what to do, listen more, talk less and stay by them even when they make choices you don’t agree with. Start by being an example in your own home. Find ways to show your children how proud you are of them and remember to tell people how much you love them. Volunteer at your local food pantry, support a shelter home or donate to your favorite organization.

Deborah continues telling her story through written interviews and television appearances. It is her desire for others to see God’s ability to call beauty from ashes even after domestic abuse and violence.

*Names and identifying details have been changed.

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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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Amy R. Buckley
I am passionate about men and women reclaiming their truest, best selves, rooted in Jesus, reflected in life together (Gen. 5: 1-2, Gal. 3:28). I write for RELEVANT, Mutuality, PRISM, SheLoves.com, Shared Justice, and Catapult. I have contributed to Strengthening Families and Ending Abuse: Churches and Their Leaders Look to the Future (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2013). In my free time, I enjoy reading fairy tales with my two adopted daughters, or kayaking and fishing with my husband in the Gulf of Mexico. Find me @AmyR_Buckley and www.amyrbuckley.com.
Amy R. Buckley
Amy R. Buckley

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