Support system makes difference for victims
Tennessee VoicesOne day, out of the blue, I was grabbed from behind and choked by my husband. In the seconds that it took to realize what he was doing to me, I also thought this was my last breath. What will happen to my children? Will anybody find my body? Is this real?
Domestic violence showed its ugly face in my marriage long before I recognized it as such. I dismissed my husband's rude, selfish and demeaning behavior as just having a bad day. This behavior became a way of life in our relationship. I never understood why or what I had done to make him behave this way. Even in asking, I was made to feel stupid for not realizing that it was me who made him do the things he did. I could never live up to his standards.
My husband was an abuser of drugs and alcohol and did not waste any time after the marriage vows to show his true colors. His emotional and verbal abuse stripped me of my own existence. My young children watched and heard us. When I looked into my children's eyes and saw that they were looking for answers from me, I knew that I had to take action. It was not until about six months after one particularly dangerous episode that I found the last bit of self-esteem that I still held onto and left him.
We left when he was not home. We ran with the mere clothes on our backs, no money in our pockets and my heart in my throat. I had one purpose: to get my children to safety.
Thankfully, I had options
I have a lot in common with Gaile Owens. We are both mothers. We are both victims of domestic violence. We both endured horrors that no one should have to endure. Like Gaile, I, too, feared involving my family in my situation. Yet, unfortunately for Gaile, that is where the similarities end.
When I made up my mind to leave my husband, I called the YWCA's domestic violence crisis line. It was the voice on the other end that ultimately saved my life and the lives of my children.
In 1985 in Memphis, Gaile Owens did not know that help was available because the services were limited, and even those were not well-publicized. The first services in the Memphis area for abused women were offered in 1979 in the form of a crisis line — listed in the phone book under "Wife Abuse" — that operated only four hours a day. Today, the YWCA Nashville's crisis line is available around the clock.
In 1985 in Memphis, Gaile felt she had nowhere to turn. Had a support system for domestic violence victims been well-established, perhaps Gaile today would not be sitting on death row for killing her husband.
Thanks to the YWCA, I am living a violence-free life. I now have hope. I keep my children safe. Together, we are getting stronger every day.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please get help. Call the YWCA Crisis & Information Line at 615-242-1199 or 800- 334-4628. It is free and confidential, 24 hours a day.
Battered woman's syndrome is real. Domestic violence is real. The fear for your life is real. And Gaile Owens is proof of how real it can be.
Mary Jones of Nashville is a domestic violence survivor and a volunteer with the YWCA of Nashville and Middle Tennessee.