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Today I Think I Made a Difference

September 29, 2009

Perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something.  It is pretty amazing that after yesterday’s post (which I had actually worked on last week) I met a domestic violence victim of epic proportions this morning.

She had been with her abuser for 17 years.  There were at least 10 reported acts of violence and who knows how many that went unreported.  This man lived off of her money, punched her in the head, hit her with a pan, pushed her in front of a moving truck, was addicted to porn, and blamed her for all of his bad behavior.  He cut her off from her friends and family, would not allow her to leave her own apartment or take telephone calls, and belittled in her in every way.  He told her she blinked too much and talked too slow.  He changed his name so he could avoid paying child support.  Everything he did was textbook batterer behavior.

Yet this woman thought it would be “mean” of her to end the relationship.  She kept saying, “What if I’m wrong?”  In yesterday’s post I wrote that it is not my job to tell victims to leave their abusers.  Today I did just that.  The more she told me about this man the more disgusted I became:  literally sick to my stomach.  He had abused and degraded her for so long (all the while telling her that he was always there for her), that she had no self esteem.   When I asked her what value he added to her life she said none.  When I told her that she had said not one positive thing about him she said there weren’t any.  Yet she could not fathom her life without him.

It was clear to me that although she intuitively knew she needed to end the relationship she was not ready.  It wasn’t even fear that was holding her in place: it was her total absence of self-regard .  When I told her that “being there for you” does not include kicking your ass once a month, that someone who loves you does not hurt you, that she deserved to be treated with dignity and respect, she just sat there and blinked at me as if these were foreign words I was speaking.  The more we talked, however, the more I could see I was getting through to her.  I asked her to promise me she would at least look into a support group for survivors of domestic violence and she agreed.  I told her to promise me that she would never again think that she was the “mean” one or the “wrong” one in that relationship.

She was still unable to voice a desire to have the court order the abuser to have no contact with her – she wasn’t there quite yet.  So I did something I have never done before: told the prosecutor that we needed to make a no contact order part of the plea negotiation despite the victim’s request (typically the prosecutor and the court go along with the victim’s wishes regarding contact).  Although a no contact order was not part of the original plea offer, the prosecutor agreed.  When I informed the victim that we were going to stop him from having contact with her I expected her disappointment.  Instead, she looked as if a weight had been removed from her shoulders.  She sighed, her shoulders went down, and she said, “I’m so relieved.  I can finally feel peaceful in my own home again.”  I left her with a slip of paper I had written on that she said she was going to have framed.  I hope she looks at it whenever she has a moment of weakness and thinks of allowing him back in her life.  It said, “You are not wrong.”

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2009 6:46 pm

    Loved reading this.

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      September 29, 2009 10:26 pm

      Thank you Tyler. It was an interesting juxtaposition to my many days of feeling like I’m not doing very much to help these women. Hopefully this one sticks!

  2. September 29, 2009 6:48 pm

    You really did a noble a thing. :)

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      September 29, 2009 10:19 pm

      Thanks, Caitlin!

  3. September 30, 2009 2:08 am

    Amazing story, thanks for sharing!

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      September 30, 2009 3:46 am

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  4. tekee812 permalink
    September 30, 2009 3:43 am

    What a rewarding day! I am proud of you!

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      September 30, 2009 3:45 am

      Thank you, darlin’!

  5. October 1, 2009 4:57 pm

    I actually teared up when I read this. You obviously changed someone’s life that day, for the better. I’m very proud of you!

    • mjjaaska permalink*
      October 2, 2009 12:05 am

      Wow: reading that made my day, Stephen! I never thought my writing could move someone in that way. Thank you so much!

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