Local victim: ‘I always felt like I was walking on glass’Family and friends had warned her about her boyfriend, she said, but she wrote off their concerns.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
“In the beginning, he was a gentleman,” Jill Tietze said. “He was nice, doting, but after we were together about five months, things started turning the other way.”
Tietze, 41, a registered nurse, lives and works in Mitchell. Her voice, strong with resolve, shook occasionally as she recounted what she described as her five-year domestic violence nightmare.
“I still have headaches and backaches, and I’m certain a lot of it was from that time,” she said. “During the years we were together my head hit a lot of plaster lathe walls and concrete.”
Family and friends had warned her about her boyfriend, she said, but she wrote off their concerns.
“I denied their advice,” she said. “You want everything to be perfect in a relationship. I thought I could help him,” she said, “but he was, and still is, an alcoholic. I think he took a lot of his past out on me. He would tell me ‘I’m going to beat the s**t out of you like my dad beat me.’ During our time together he abused me physically and emotionally.”
Tietze, who grew up between Emery and Bridgewater, said she didn’t come from an abusive family, and her former husband, the father of her four children, was not abusive.
“I’d never been in such a situation,” she said. The slow growth of her boyfriend’s controlling behavior was a new experience, she said. “He started wanting to know where I was all the time,” Tietze said. “It was like he had to have control of me. If I worked late, he wanted to know what I was doing.” She, in turn, would ask no questions about his whereabouts. “Abusers always blame everybody else but themselves,” Tietze said. “I even put him through alcohol treatment, but it didn’t work. He never took responsibility for anything.”
The abuse continued.
Tietze said she became an expert at fabricating stories to explain the origins of her numerous bruises. She recalls wearing a jacket in the height of July’s heat, but amazingly, no one ever questioned why, or suspected her lame excuses. “I’d tell people things like ‘I tripped,’ or ‘I ran into a door,’ ” she said.
After several years of abuse, Tietze hit bottom.
“A tipping point was when he threw me down a flight of cement stairs,” she said.
That occurred shortly after she moved to Mitchell with him, she said. Her kids didn’t want to go.
“They didn’t like him and were frightened of him,” she said. “I always felt like I was walking on glass and my children did, too. My children had to decide, after he came home from work, if they could be happy, or if they had to be quiet.”
Family and friends had also fallen away. Arguments and beatings were explosive and without any logical rationale. She wonders now why she didn’t leave sooner.
“It was like I was brainwashed,” she said. “He kept telling me I was worthless and I started believing it.”
A saving grace was she wasn’t always living with her abuser full-time. The time away from his control gave her some perspective. On those weeks when she wasn’t living with her boyfriend, she said, “I realized how nice it was without him.”
Apologies became a learned behavior that has stuck.
“I always say ‘I’m sorry’ — even my kids have noticed it — because I always had to say ‘I’m sorry’ for him. He demanded it.”
Her salvation came at the expense of another.
“He started getting defensive, and at first I thought he was seeing someone else,” she said. “He flipped out when I questioned him, but I learned it was true, and it was a blessing in disguise.”
Tietze is ambivalent about her successor’s timely entry into her life. She’s free, she explained, but she feels some guilt that her boyfriend’s new significant other is probably “taking the abuse I used to take.” She also feels badly for exposing her children to a toxic relationship.
Past beatings and abuse aside, Tietze recalled being scared of her impending liberty after she made the decision to leave.
“At the time I think I would rather have been in an abusive relationship than be alone,” she said.
Three-and-a-years later, Tietze no longer feels that way.
She has undergone counseling and reconnected with family and friends — but not without a few hiccups along the way.
Tietze’s residual anger created legal problems of her own. Just months out of the relationship, she was arrested after getting drunk and trashing her boyfriend’s house. She eventually paid nearly $5,000 in fines and restitution and spent 45 days in jail.
She’s not proud of her behavior and advises women not to take the law into their own hands.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” she said.
But she also met other abused women in the same position, who feel that abusers get off too lightly under the current judicial system. They often get off with a fine or a slap on the wrist, Tietze said.
“Why are they always not in jail, and we are?” she asked.
“Domestic abuse is a growing crime, but it’s the least recognized crime there is. Something needs to be done and there needs to be earlier intervention.”
It wasn’t until Tietze received counseling that she learned about the Mitchell Area Safehouse.
“I hope to do what I can now to help other abused women,” she said.
In September, she and former Miss South Dakota Lori Visker, another survivor of domestic abuse, were speakers at Voices for Hope, a Mitchell event Tietze organized with the help of Mitchell Firefighters Local 4166 to raise awareness about domestic violence issues.
“I had a lot of bruises,” she said. “They healed and went away, but the stuff in your mind takes longer to go away. Through it all I’ve learned that I’m a stronger woman than I really thought I was.”