On October 18th, we held our annual Reach for the Stars Gala at the Renaissance Hotel in Boston. The event was a huge success and raised approximately $400,000 to benefit REACH’s programs and services. One of the highlights of the evening was hearing from a member of our Survivor Speakers’ Bureau who spoke powerfully about her experience of leaving an abusive relationship with help from a REACH Advocate. With her permission, we are sharing her remarks here on the blog.
Good evening, my name is Patty.
I come to speak to you tonight not as a victim of Domestic violence but as a survivor.
I was in a long term marriage for 21 years. The very first night we were together my ex-husband threw a bottle of beer at me. At that time I knew it was abuse, but growing up in an abusive household, that’s all I knew. So it was not a new thing; to me, it was normal.
As time went on the abuse got worse. Drugs and alcohol came into the picture and he used that as a way to control me physically, emotionally, financially, and sexually. One summer evening, we were sitting on the porch and my ex husband’s brother and his friend stopped by to see him. To be courteous, they of course said hello to me. After they left, my ex-husband got so jealous; he started yelling at me, “Why were you talking to my brother? Why were you looking at my friend? Why do you always have to hang with the guys?” I tried to explain that we were already sitting on the porch and they just showed up; he didn’t want to hear it. First he smashed me in the face with a peanut butter sandwich; then, he punched me in the face and broke my cheekbone. He wouldn’t let me go to the hospital or call the police and when I went to grab the phone, he grabbed it and hit me in the head with it. I couldn’t believe it; all that happened because he was jealous I said hi to my brother-in-law. Till this day my cheek is still numb because my ex-husband would not allow me to seek medical attention.
Overtime, I began to become more isolated from friends and family because of the abuse. It just got too tiring to have to make up excuses for all the black eyes so I started to avoid doing things that required me to leave my house – initially that meant I was staying home for a day or two, but at some point days turned into weeks.
I became very depressed to the point where it was too much to even get out of bed, take a shower, and even make something to eat. I stopped cleaning the house, and the abuse got worse. Eventually, my children were removed from my care which in some ways was a blessing because through the Department of Children and Families I was able to go to therapy. At first I would lie to my therapist about the abuse but eventually I couldn’t lie anymore when I showed up to therapy with a black eye. I slowly started to tell her the truth.
Through my therapist, I was introduced to REACH. I started going to support groups, and I started to talk to my advocate about wanting to leave the relationship. Together we made a plan for me to leave safely. So that my husband would not become suspicious that I was planning to leave, every week when I went to group I would take an outfit with me in a bag and leave it in her office. This continued for a month, and on November 2nd, 2009 I left for good. I walked away from everything I owned at the age of 49, and I walked to the REACH office. My advocate and I called shelters and luckily we found one that had an opening.
At the shelter, every day I would sit in the living room, in this place far away from home, and stare at the door because of course it would be easier just to go back – back to my home, to the community I had lived in for the past 20 years. But I stayed in that shelter, and with the support of REACH, my journey began.
At that time I had very long hair, almost down to my waist. My ex husband would never let me cut it. Two weeks after I started living at the shelter, my advocate took me to get my first hair cut in almost 15 years. So I cut it short – very short. It felt so empowering; it felt like finally, I had control.
What I want to leave you with today is that there is help, and there is hope. If you see something, say something, you just may save a life. My journey began on November 2, 2009 and still continues today. I live my life the way I want to, not the way someone else wants me to because my past does not define me.
Thank you for being here tonight and thank you for supporting REACH.
If you or anyone you know are experiencing a situation similar to what Patty describes, please don’t hesitate to contact our 24-hour hotline at 1-800-899-4000.