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Abuse victim finds help at safehouse, tells story

Photo illustration by Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As part of her contribution to Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, Lori, 50, a domestic violence survivor, agreed to tell The Daily Republic her story. After months of counseling she now sees herself as an advocate for the Mitchell Area Safehouse, and it was there she was recently interviewed. Her full identity has been protected at her request.

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Lori remembers the day she decided she’d had enough.

“I sat my husband down at the kitchen table, because that was the only time I could get his attention.”

She picked a time when he was sober because she knew he only had the courage to hit her when he was drunk. Also verbally abusive, he regularly told her she was stupid and worthless during the 23 years of their marriage, she said.

She put her husband’s bottle of whiskey on the table and gave him a choice of the bottle or her. “He grabbed hold of his bottle and pulled it close to him,” she recalled. “I took off my wedding ring, put it on the table and said ‘Have a nice life.’ ”

Lori marvels even now that she found the courage, after years of verbal and physical abuse, to press the confrontation. Her family had urged her to leave, but she was unable to take that first step.

When she did make the break she was emotionally and physically exhausted. Her eyes welled with tears as she recalled the moment.

“I was done,” she said.

Lori’s history of abuse began with sexual abuse at the hands of her brothers as a young girl.

Her father, who was always convinced that he’d done a good job raising his kids, was also abused as a child, she said, and he in turn physically abused his wife and family.

Lori spent her early teen years running away from home. During that time she thumbed her way from coast to coast with professional truckers who were, she said, better father figures than she ever had at home.

Her leg moves nervously as she tells her story, a symptom of the anxiety and depression that is still part of her daily life.

Married at 16, Lori’s abuse continued through a brief first marriage and 23 years of a second marriage. She had three children by the time she was 20. In both relationships, she was married to alcoholics.

Lori recounts her story in her own words on the Mitchell Area Safehouse Facebook page and its website, mitchellareasafehouse.org.

Leaving her long-term marriage was hard, she said.

“It was one of the worst days of my life,” she wrote. “I was numb and I had no idea what I was going to do. He was my life.”

She quickly fell into another dysfunctional relationship. She also fled that relationship after a year and a half when her partner, an alcoholic and meth user, put a gun to her head.

Desperate, she called the Mitchell Area Safehouse, but slept in her car for several weeks as she struggled to accept the safehouse’s help.

“I used to think of it as charity, but it’s not. It’s a friend holding out a hand. I’m glad I took hold of that hand.”

Lori’s life has become less crazy since, she said, and her family is also healing.

Today she has an apartment, a part-time job and continues counseling.

Her support system, which was non-existent during her married years, is still meager, but she’s continuing her counseling sessions. She is still wracked by occasional bouts of doubt, fearfulness and self-pity, but she feels she is improving.

“You should have seen me eight months ago,” she said with a weak smile.

Lori survives on the meager money she earns cleaning homes on a part-time basis. She’s hoping a better job or some disability income will help her move on.

She spends most of her time in her apartment. It’s quiet and safe, but she’s beginning to see possibilities.

“I’d like to start fishing again,” she said. “It’s something I used to enjoy when I was younger.” She likes fishing’s serenity and peacefulness.

She has learned that no matter how beaten she was, she still matters.

Telling her story is part of her recovery, and its telling gets easier every time.

“I want to tell other women that no matter how displaced and broken they feel, there’s always a way out of an abusive relationship.”

See related story: Safehouse's clientele growing

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