A Friend Makes The Call, Part 1

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Brave.  Strong.  Insightful.  Courageous.  Tenacious.

Those are just a few of the words invoked by what was meant to be a (published) rambling of thoughts.  I had no idea any of this would strike such a chord.  It is crazy that a “throw away” kid with traumatic childhood would find an audience with victims of domestic violence.  This isn’t the way I planned it.  I have spent my whole life telling God He could use the orphan story.  That story doesn’t hurt as much and I can tell it to you with great humor; and you, well you have to obey all the Bible verses that tell you to be nice to orphans.  This, well this was not on the list of things God could use.  It just hurts too much.

Afraid.  Petrified.  Exhausted.  Anxious.  Overwhelmed.  Grateful.

That is what I really feel.  Those are the words that really describe me.  I am honored (and just a tiny bit overwhelmed) by the response of the two domestic violence blogs.  To date, those blogs have received traffic from all around the world.  So now, well now, I have to attempt to continue to tell you the story.  You see, I don’t want anybody to think that this story is over.  I don’t want anybody to think any of it was easy.  I don’t want anybody to think that these years didn’t leave life-long scars.  But, I want all of you to know that this is a story of hope- straight up unadulterated hope.  This is a story about hope and love and all of its cousins.  This is a story about friends.  Don’t ever underestimate the power of a friend.  I have more friends than one person should ever have and they all have a part in this story.  So, for those of you who sent me messages calling me all those nice words, thank you; but I am nothing absolutely nothing without God and the friends He called to play a key role in saving my life.

So, for those of you who sent me messages asking very specific questions about how I got out, this is for you.  It all started with the power of friendship and people who really are all those nice words, brave, strong and all it’s cousins. 

My very first and very best friend was my sister Lisa.  I vividly remember her going to school-I was devastated. Who would play outside with me?  Who would help me forget the horror that was our lives?  Lisa is 3 years older than me so it is a vivid memory to have at just over 2 years old.

My exit from my domestic violence nightmare started because I told her. I still to this day call it “drug-induced” courage.  She & my friend Mitzi were in a hospital room with me after 2 major surgeries in five days.  It just came out of my mouth.  She and Mitzi were there with me because he wasn’t, and really refused to be there.  Something about hospitals making him panicky. Somehow everything was about him.

I knew as soon as it came out of my mouth that this story would never be the same.  I am told that Lisa confronted him in the elevator the next day, and for some reason he never wanted me to be around my sister after that.  She and Mitzi, no doubt, had no idea what to do, and I am only now realizing the weight of this kind of information.  But the cat was out of the bag and there was never any undoing and of that.  So, that is how all of this started.  I told my oldest friend and one of my dearest friends that my husband was hurting me.

That was in 2004 and I didn’t leave until 2007.  Neither of them really knew what to do with this information.  But, what they didn’t know was that I was one by one telling all of my friends, old and new; Christian and non-Christian.  And, what I didn’t know is that all of them were making plans for me.  They were rebuilding value in me; they believed in me; and not once, not even once were any of them pushy or judging.  Looking back on it now, not one day went by when somebody wasn’t checking in on me.  It was a super secret plan to get me out and most of them didn’t even know each other.

It was easier to tell specifics of the abuse to new friends.  It seemed safer to me.  Looking back on it now, I wanted to protect my oldest and dearest friends from the pain.  But, when it came time to leave, I made just a few phone calls.  But not before Mitzi changed the entire game, it was the single request I was determined to honor no matter what happened.  The pursuit of fulfilling this promise kept me alive.  I am not sure anybody knew or understood how close I came to finding a permanent way out of this horror.

When it all got to be too much, I would make excuses to go to the closest big city and stay at a hotel.  We lived in a small beach town outside my hometown so it was a safe distance.  I oftentimes would go to a hotel, turn off my cell phone and sleep for days.  I still do that sometimes.  But this time Mitzi came over to the hotel to see me.  By this time I had lost and continued to lose a copious amount of weight and I was sick all the time.  I would find out later that was connected to 4 autoimmune diseases-no doubt brought on by stress.  But Mitzi was concerned, and she confronted me with it.

Her timing was perfect.  Somewhere deep inside I wanted somebody to notice that I was NOT ok.  Mitzi knew I was not ok.  She had one request of me.  It was not that I go to the doctor.  It was not that I stop taking handfuls of medication to make it through the day.  It was not even that I eat.  She had one simple request for me, and she was willing to do whatever she had to do to make that happen.  She walked out of that hotel room with a promise from me–she asked me for a new address.

I woke up the next morning a little sick to my stomach. Mitzi is not the kind of friend to not hold a person accountable.  Let me stop right here.  Get tons of these kinds of friends.  They can incite anger in you but only because you know they are right.  And they don’t care if they make you mad, they are willing to pay that price.  Don’t let him take that kind of friend from you.  She will be a key piece in your story.

It was going to take an army of these friends to pull this off.  You have no idea the award-winning schemes we pulled off.  It was imperative to get out—alive.

 

Courting with Value*

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I left the courthouse that day with a temporary injunction.  We’d be headed to court for sure, I could not even go there in my mind.

The process to file an injunction for protection is not meant to be an easy one–but it also isn’t prohibitively difficult either.  This was my second go round, and I had the same friend by my side as we navigated our little county court house.  In the state of Florida, there are thresholds that have to be met for even a temporary injunction to be granted.  They take into account length of the relationship, frequency of violence and the legitimacy of the threat.  That part is crazy to me, but I suppose it is a free country and even violent people have rights.

Last time this happened, I was so stunned I did not get an attorney.  In fact, it was by the urging of many friends that made me file the first time anyway.  Get you some of those friends, again, you can’t be expected to think logically for yourself.

I met my attorney 3 days before court.  I loved him, but I sat across the conference table stunned at my state’s definition of “violence, threats or need for protection”.  He told me that he would essentially, in open court, ask me questions about the decade of abuse and mixed with the laws of my state, we could hope the judge would see the need, and protect me.

The day before the court date, I got a call from the court house that said that he had requested a dismissal (due to lack of facts) or a continuance because he could not travel.  My attorney told me this is common with abusers, they want to avoid going to court at all costs and will try anything.  When I got that call I was almost promised we would not be going to court on Friday.  I felt my lungs fill with air again, for the first time in days and even could finally eat.  Until an hour later when my attorney called me and told me we were definitely going to court.

So, my lungs emptied again and I found it difficult to catch my breath.  Food was no longer an option and I stood in somebody else’s closet (since I wasn’t staying at home) to find something to wear.  I had only been to court 2 times before this, once for jury duty and the other time for this same thing.  I am intimidated by them.  With the exception of a lead foot, I tend to obey the law, I don’t like the police!  I was, in a word, petrified, just 8 hours before court.

I had a team of people who wanted to be there but I figured rolling into court with 30 or so people may have been over-kill.  So, I had my brother from another mother Keith (who I knew in the Children’s Home) his wife Rebecca and Robyn from my church.

I showed up before any of them, even before the attorney.  I sat in the hallway where all these people at odds with each other sit, with an 85 year old deputy there to keep them apart.  True story.

I was pretty sure he would not be there, but sitting there alone, even for a few minutes, allowed the pain of this to all set in.  I sat quietly and cried as I replayed scenes from that part of my life over and over in my head.

Finally, my attorney came, pulled me into a room and asked me what I will call the most difficult 25 questions of my life.  They were brutal, the answers needed to be descriptive, it was awful.  But it was necessary.

Robyn was waiting for me when I walked out of the room.  All she did was rub my back in a clockwise motion and with each strike of 12 my heart calmed down a little.  Until the 86 year old deputy (I think he had a birthday while I was there) called “all parties for Watson”.  My feet felt like 1,000 pounds, but I stood up, walked into that court room and was ready to do business.

He requested to be at the hearing by phone and as the judge dialed his number and his voice came over her speaker phone I thought I was going to throw up–he didn’t answer.  So, my attorney began to “profer” for me–which is a fancy way of making an opening statement on my behalf.  The judge listened patiently, and then indicated she was going to try him one more time.  This time I literally plugged my ears like a kid because the sound of his voice sent chills down my spine.  I did hear the judge say ” you asked for this and I agreed to call you, but this is the second time you didn’t answer so I am going to hear the case”.  I think I started to lose the bluish color I had accomplished and again, could feel air in my lungs again.

Then it came time for the hard questions.   My attorney asked if she wanted him to read the emails, she indicated  they were not suitable for open court and that she had, in fact read them.  Even she couldn’t abide the evil that was meant for me.

When I heard the judge ask my attorney “I am going to grant the order for protection, how long are you seeking”.  I think my attorney was as stunned by that as she was asking it.  He told her for as long as she would.  Then, just like the Lord does, He made sure we knew He was in the room.  She said “I never do this, but I am granting the order of protection indefinitely, until I say so.

It was difficult not to fist pump my attorney as the deputy in the court room (that is where they keep the young ones) brought the form over for me to sign.  I felt like a million pounds had been lifted from my shoulders.  I waited for my copies then took some of my entourage to lunch.

Very much like the judge needed to speak for me, I was reminded that this is the place of God in our lives, especially the Holy Spirt, who stands in gaps and speaks for us.  I walked in there with the prayer (from one of my favorite Bible stories in I Kings 21) “the Kings heart is in the hand of the Lord”.

Here is the thing, the order of protection is a piece of paper that (as many deputies told me) “a bullet could penetrate”, but as Crissy says “it is a very VALUABLE piece of paper.  But, should things gone differently for me that day, I would have been disappointed, but I would to have landed in the same place I did anyway.  Grateful to a God who has my back no matter what.

Driving home, I played over and over the Shane & Shane Song “Though you slay me” the words go like this:

“Though You slay me, I will bless your name.  Though you take from me I will give you praise, though you ruin me, still I will worship sing a song to the One Who is all I need”.

There have been times during this process and there will be times again, when I feel ruined.  Though relieved after that decision, it still didn’t take away the bone grinding sadness that domestic violence brings.

I still had to somehow figure out how to live a life worthy of redemption.  Going to court that day was just one step in the right direction.  It was a step in understanding that I deserved better and that my value as a human being had nothing to do with him.  This was just the very first step in trying really believe my value.  I didn’t know that step would be a long, arduous process, and that he wasn’t done at all.