How My Co Worker Saved Me From Hell: Why Silence Can Kill Part II
As I walked towards the precinct, coworker in tow, I was crippled with fear. My body was still numb from everything that had happened and my knees felt like they would give way at any moment. My stomach turned as I walked into the open room. It was definitely like in the movies. A young officer approached us immediately and my coworker wasted no time in saying "we are here to file a report". He recommended we speak to a social worker. After sitting and waiting for about ten minutes I was invited to have a seat and sat facing a very simply dressed, kind-faced woman. She asked me why I was here. I told her what had transpired over the last few days. She then began to ask probing questions, like whether anything like this had happened before, and whether I was in fear for my life. I barely knew how to answer these questions and when I could muster up the answers, I struggled with words. After all, I was telling them to a stranger. Goodness, I was telling her things my family did not even know and I was still somewhat guarded.
After speaking for about 20 minutes or so, she slipped me a card. It said "Safe Horizon" and she recommended I go there immediately. By this time, it was the end of the day and I had to make my way home, so that I could pick up my girls from daycare on time, so there was no way I was making it to this Safe Horizon place. That night, after putting the girls to bed, I sat behind my computer and googled the organization. When the page loaded, I immediately felt uncomfortable. Why are they sending me here? I don't understand? I was not abused or was I? I tried to think, and the more I thought about things, the more confused I got. "I don't think this is for me", I told myself, but as I read through the site, I saw that they helped women especially mothers in need and so I decided to make my way there the next morning to see if they could help me with childcare.
The hallway of the building was pristine white with hues of yellow and orange. It was so bright, it felt as though the place glowed. I walked into the room toward the window where I was greeted by a bright-faced young woman. I gave her the card and told her that I was sent here. She took my name and asked me to be seated until I was called. It was not long before I was taken to a small room. There I was asked to fill out a form. The social worker then began to ask me questions about my relationship, similar to the ones asked the day prior and once again I began to feel very uncomfortable. I answered as truthfully as I could remember. By the end of the day, I had seen three different social workers all of whom had asked me to relive moments in my relationship that my mind clearly did not want to remember. But each time I was interviewed, I began to remember more and more and I painfully dictated it all as the buried memories came flooding back.
By the end of the day, I was given a number to call to have my locks on my door changed, an application for subsidized (secret) housing had been submitted, I had spoken to a lawyer (free of cost) who had begun to draft papers for filing a restraining order and I was made an appointment to see a financial adviser and therapist the following day. It was whirlwind, and I was still very confused as to why all of this was even happening. It was as though my mind could not process it. I was still asking myself why I was even here.
It was not until I met with a Supervisor that things finally hit me. As she reviewed my file with all my reports she looked at me with her big brown eyes. I don't think I will ever forget the look on her face and the tone in her voice. It had a hint of a Spanish accent. I don't know if she saw denial on my face or what, but she looked at me with a seriousness and a certainty and said to me "do not go back to this man". He is dangerous and I have seen hundreds of cases like this and many of them don't end well. You have two young daughters and you have to think about them and the environment you are raising them in. As she mentioned my girls, it was as though something came over me and I had a flashback of all the moments when they saw us fighting and arguing, when they saw me crying. I had visions of them being in the house on Mother's Day alone as I tried to run away and he ran behind me and how afraid and confused they must have been. I began to feel the tears swelling in my throat.
Then she said the words. The words no one had said at all until now, or maybe they did and I chose not to hear them? As the words rolled off her lips, I wanted to bury my head in sand. "Abusers" like him never stop and their "victims" always try to forgive them because they are scared or think they will change, but we can help you. Her words began to fade from there. Her voice became a distant echo and once again my spirit escaped my body as I looked at myself and wondered who was she calling an "abuser"? and how dare she say I am a "victim"? Who was she really referring to? Was it me??? OMG!!! OMG!!! OMG!!! This can't be happening. Have I really been abused? It all came crashing in one big blow to my chest and I felt like I could not breathe. I could no longer deny my reality. It all made sense now. How could I let this happen to me? How did I not see this? I broke down in that office and cried like I have never cried before. I cried for me, I cried for my children, that I had brought them into this world under these horrific circumstances. I cried that I could finally put a name to what had been happening to me these past five years. I cried because now I was finally having some clarity. I wasn't "crazy" after all. I walked out of the Safe Horizon office tears still in my eyes, feeling hopeless. As soon as I got outside, I grabbed the nearest wall and clung to it for dear life as I dialed my mother. At the sound of her voice choking on tears, I slurred, "mom, mom. She said I was being abused. She said I was being abused." The pain her voice was clear as she tried her best to console me. She reminded me that I had to be strong for my kids. I knew she was right, and so I tried my best to gather myself as I requested an uber and headed home.
As we celebrate International Women's Day I want to thank and honor my coworker for caring enough and literally holding my hand and demanding that I go to the precinct that day. If it were not for her, I probably would still be in that abusive relationship, continuing to suffer in silence and slowly dying inside. I thank God everyday, that I had the courage to speak up. If I had not done that my coworker would not have known that I needed help. I also have to thank all the staff at Safe Horizon for waking me up out of my stupor and helping me through this traumatic ordeal.
This year's theme for International Women's Day, #balanceforbetter continues to push for a more gender-based world across all aspects of society and as I digest this theme, I can't help but feel that this "balance" cannot be achieved unless we encourage women to speak their truth, to walk their truth and to own their truth. We can't make progress living in a culture of silence. We need more open and honest dialog and more calls for action that will help elevate the lives of women and close the gender gap for good!
If you are being abused find help. Confide in someone you trust. There is hope. Don't stay silent.
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