Surviving Abuse

Woman shares experience of overcoming domestic abuse

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The worst beating Jane ever witnessed happened when she was 8 years old.

Sitting on the sofa in the family’s living room, Jane huddled underneath a blue blanket as her father exploded in an alcoholic rage and swung at her mother.

Jane (we are not using her real name to protect her) thought he would surely kill her mother. Eventually, however, the storm ended and things went back to “normal.”

Although her mother frequently left, she always came back.

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For a time, things would get better, but then they would get much worse.

While beatings with boards and belts were common for Jane and her three siblings, nothing compared to the poundings her mother took.

One time, Jane’s mother jumped out of a moving vehicle when her dad threatened to take her into the desert and dump her body.

“My dad almost killed my mother a few times,” Jane, 34, recalled while sitting in the safety of the Time Out Shelter recently.

Domestic violence has scarred much of her life.

As a child, she wondered why her mother couldn’t leave her abusive father. As an adult, Jane questioned why she couldn’t leave her abusive husband.

Although she had promised she would never get into an abusive relationship, Jane found herself in several before getting help at the Time Out Shelter in Payson.

A part-time advocate with the shelter since 2007, Jane said she is finally free of violence.

Although the scars of her past may never fully heal, Jane said it is possible to stop the cycle of abuse.

Domestic violence remains a growing occurrence in Payson.

Last year, the number of domestic violence cases in Payson increased 6 percent, with actual arrests rising 8.1 percent from 2009, according to the 2010 annual report from the Payson Police Department.

At Time Out, they saw a 42 percent increase in the number of battered women seeking shelter in the second half of 2010.

“In 2010, we experienced an increase in demand among new clients seeking services for the first time and individuals seeking services repeatedly throughout the year,” according to a report from Time Out.

While women were staying at the shelter for shorter periods due to financial concerns at home, they returned repeatedly as the cycle of abuse continued.

For Jane, abuse was a generational curse.

Her father was abused by his stepmother, her mother was abused by her father and she was abused in several relationships.

It wasn’t until Jane was pregnant with her own child that she decided she needed to leave.

After fleeing several abusive relationships, Jane found herself on the Time Out’s doorstep. Although she knew she did not deserve an abusive relationship, she needed the tools and knowledge to stay out of one.

At Time Out, Jane was given the support she needed to move on.

But it wasn’t always so easy to move on.

As a child, Jane watched her mother struggle to leave.

When Jane’s older sister turned 16, she did what her mother could not do and left for good.

Time Out’s Director Gerry Bailey said older siblings often leave an abusive home.

One day, however, Jane’s mother finally ran — leaving her behind. The next day, Jane and her siblings were picked up by their church’s van.

Going to church every week was Jane’s one escape. For hours, she would sit in the church and play the piano, even though she didn’t know how.

She would beg her pastor to let her stay longer so she wouldn’t have to go home, which didn’t have any running water or electricity.

At 13, Jane, returned home from church to find her father already screaming.

He told Jane’s younger brother that his mother was probably already dead in a ditch somewhere.

“I thought about killing myself,” she said in that moment.

Her father left the home and miraculously, there was a knock on the door.

It was the neighbor, who said their mom was OK. Police arrived and took Jane and her siblings to a women’s shelter where they were reunited with their mother.

“Things got better from there,” she said.

Sadly, Jane’s mother got into another abusive relationship.

Although there was less physical abuse, the emotional and verbal abuse was high.

At age 16, Jane moved out and eventually went to a Bible college.

Later, she moved to Los Angeles, where she worked four years as the head of a neighborhood ministry.

Back in Payson, Jane’s mother finally left the abusive relationship and found a man who, for once, treated her well.

“She has a wonderful man now,” Jane said.

“He has been a great father to me.”

Sadly, Jane was just entering her first abusive relationship.

“When you don’t know any different, it is easy to fall into the same trap,” Bailey said.

Jane met her future husband while working at a church. He was going through the discipleship and Jane knew he had a past.

“He said all the right things,” she said.

The couple married and moved back to Payson.

“Under two years into our marriage and I could see things going south,” she said.

Jane found out he was sleeping with several women and the verbal abuse escalated.

Although he had never hit her, Jane knew things would get worse.

“I tried so hard to make things work with him,” she said.

Domestic violence, a pattern of coercive, controlling behaviors, does not always include physical violence, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

It can also include verbal, sexual, financial, spiritual and psychological abuse. Victims are often isolated by their abusive partners, and not allowed to visit with friends, family or neighbors.

When she was three months pregnant with her daughter, Jane decided to leave.

She moved to the Valley with a friend and never heard from her ex-husband again.

She went to school for medical assisting and got a job with Maricopa County.

Her life was back on track, something she credits to her friends and God.

Some of her siblings’ lives weren’t doing as well.

Her stepbrother was put in jail.

Jane promised never to let life get her down again.

“Life is all about choices. Just because you come from that background, you can rise above it,” she said.

This theory was put to the test when Jane met her next boyfriend. Although she knew he had grown up in an abusive home, she gave it a chance anyway.

“After we got together, he started drinking and doing drugs and he got violent,” she said.

Once he even choked her.

Jane’s daughter also suffered verbal abuse from the man, although he never struck her, Jane said.

“He was under drugs so bad we had a lot of scary situations with him.”

One time he told Jane that because he had a lack of serotonin in his brain, “he could get away with anything.”

With her cousin’s support, Jane grabbed her stuff and left for the Valley.

After five months, Jane moved back to Payson and knocked on Time Out’s door.

“I thought he would come after me,” she said.

“I was very, very scared.”

After a few months at Time Out, things got better for Jane.

She got a job, an apartment and with the help of Time Out’s lay legal advocate Geri Mirko, finally got divorced from her ex-husband — seven years after leaving him.

“She was always so positive with me,” Jane said of Mirko. “I could talk to her about anything.”

A year later, Jane learned police had killed her ex-boyfriend in a domestic violence incident.

For police, domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous. With emotions running high, anything can happen.

In 2010, Jane married her now husband, but not without the blessing of her pastor and friends.

“My pastor told me if you want to see how a man will treat you, look at how he treats his mother,” she said.

Fortunately, Jane’s husband gets along great with his family.

“He has always been so understanding of my past,” she said.

With her life on the right track, Jane knew she wanted to give back.

On the weekends, Jane helps at the shelter, working with women just changing their lives.

“Since I have been through it, I can relate,” she said.

Bailey said people like Jane re-enforce “to all staff why we do what we do.”

“She is making better choices and working here, she is helping others make better choices,” she said.

For more information on Time Out, call (928) 472-8007 or visit their new Web site, www.timeoutshelter.com.

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