Sometimes recognizing you are in an abusive relationship can be the first step to getting out of it.
Such is the case for Lucinda. After years of one abusive relationship after another and not recognizing what she was going through as domestic violence, the eye-opener came from out of nowhere.
Lucinda had just had a baby and her electricity was in danger of being shut off.
"He did not pay the bill so I turned for help from a government agency," Lucinda said.
The agency she turned to recognized Lucinda's plight and referred her to yet another agency for assistance in paying her electric bill. That agency turned out to be The Alliance For Domestic Violence.
"That's when I figured out I was in a violent relationship about to explode," Lucinda said. "I looked at the abusive profile check list and it fit."
Lucinda's story is not one of physical abuse, it is one of emotional abuse and control.
She tells of how her abuser would get drunk, drive off in their only vehicle and disappear for two weeks at a time. That presented a hardship since Lucinda was left to fend for herself and her children during the winter.
"He would always come back and we would make up for a while," Lucinda said. "I would walk on eggshells all the time to keep him from leaving again. When you are getting abused, you try to keep things calm."
Even the family dog was held in higher esteem. Lucinda had just come home from the hospital with a newborn and while sitting on the couch, their rotweiller jealously lunged for the baby. Her abuser became upset and threatened to leave because he didn't want his dog put outside.
The mental and verbal abuse went on and on. Lucinda went back to him time and again.
"I kept taking it, thinking there was something wrong with what I was doing," Lucinda said. "When you love someone, you want to make it work out."
She watched how he treated his friends and always wanted to ask him why he treated his friends better than the way he treated her.
There comes a time when enough is enough.
"I was packing to leave him and move to another town when a child protective service worker and a police officer showed up at my door," Lucinda said.
It was then that Lucinda discovered the abuse her daughter was receiving. Her daughter had shown a school counselor the bruises on her legs from being beaten with a mini-blind rod. She confided to the counselor that she did not want to tell her mother for fear the mother would then be abused. At the time, Lucinda had been confined to bed rest due to complications with her pregnancy.
The counselor contacted the authorities.
"When they saw I was leaving they said it was a good thing as they had the authority to take my children away," Lucinda said. "My family is everything. It shocked and hurt me that I didn't see what was going on. Him doing it to me and doing it to my daughter are two different matters."
Lucinda eventually fled to Arizona with her children where she found solace and security in a battered woman's shelter in Flagstaff.
Most facilities have a three-month maximum stay and this was the case in Flagstaff. At the end of her three months she had jobs lined up, but nowhere to live. She called the shelter in Payson and was told there was room.
Lucinda, however, decided to try and make it on her own. She spent a short period of time living outside Flagstaff in a trailer with no water or electricity, hoping to find low-income housing.
"We were basically homeless, but because we had a roof over our head, we were not considered homeless," Lucinda said.
Payson provides shelter
After two weeks of trying to survive under dire conditions with three children, Lucinda called the Time Out Shelter in Payson.
"Pam answered the phone. It was so nice to hear her say, 'Yes we have space available,'" Lucinda said. "I hung up the phone and cried."
Lucinda and her three children were in Payson within 24 hours. They spent the next few months at the shelter while Lucinda worked on getting her nursing license transferred from another state to Arizona. During that time, she also attended classes at the shelter which helped her understand and deal with the cycle of abuse she had been through.
"I had a tendency to be whatever the man in my life wanted me to be," Lucinda said. "I know now its OK to be me."
Lucinda advises that anyone who is in an abusive relationship look at the cold, hard facts.
"Don't rely on your own feelings he will have you convinced up is down and down is up," Lucinda said. "It's scary and lonely to go out on your own. But, I could not have my daughter think what he was doing to us was OK."
Lucinda hopes that someday there will be a man in her life who will love and respect her for who she is as well as her children. However, for now she is concentrating on her career in nursing and establishing a loving and secure home for her children.
Editor's note: We have not used Lucinda's last name in this story for the protection of her and her children. She has been in Payson for a year, after fleeing from another state, and credits her success to the help and "hugs" she received from the Time Out Shelter.