“When a woman conceives her true self, a miracle occurs and life around her begins again.” — Marianne Williamson
It took Charlotte Beilgard’s husband of 25 years holding a knife to her throat one Saturday morning for her to realize she had to make a change, a plan to break free.
When she finally got away, a new life began, one based on awareness and acceptance.
Beilgard shared her story Thursday night during Time Out’s annual candlelight walk and program at the Payson United Methodist Church. Beilgard started her speech with Williamson’s quote.
Beilgard said she realizes now her marriage was set up to fail from the beginning, with each partner playing a destructive role — she, the victim and he, the perpetrator.
“We were just playing our parts,” she said. “But I realize I don’t have to play that part anymore.”
But that insight didn’t come overnight. Beilgard, like many woman and men in domestic violence situations, stayed put for many years, bearing beatings and tongue lashings. Over time though, she realized, she deserved something better and started to pull back from her victim role. When Beilgard’s ex sensed the change, he lashed back, “like a tiger in a cage.”
Then that Saturday morning came. Beilgard was talking to her daughter on the phone when her ex thought he heard her talking about him. He grabbed Beilgard, held a knife to her throat and said he would kill her.
Beilgard’s daughter overheard the conversation and when she hung up the phone, she told her husband. He in turn called the police.
But Beilgard didn’t know her daughter had heard and when she hung up, she thought she might die.
“Two things happened that day. One, when I was born, the umbilical cord was tied around my throat so when he held the knife to my throat it triggered that memory and I decided that I was going to live, I was not going to die that day,” she said. “Two, I said to God, ‘If I get out of here alive, it will be the last time,’ and about that time the telephone rang.”
One of Beilgard’s tenants, in the complex she managed, had a clogged toilet and needed assistance.
Beilgard said she would be right over and her husband said he would come along. When they stepped outside, a police officer and security guard were waiting. Beilgard knew she was safe.
“After I left I did a lot of soul searching,” she said.
Beilgard realized an abusive childhood had shaped her into a scared little girl, but she could change by learning to love herself.
“I never realized that I can’t love anyone else unless I love myself,” she said, “and it is really important for us as women to realize that, because it is in our nature to be so loving to other people, but we have to love ourselves first before we can give that love to others.”
Unfortunately, not everyone escapes like Beilgard.
Gerry Bailey, Time Out’s executive director, pointed to a three-tiered stand in the back of the church. On it, votive candles flickered, each representing one of the 67 people who have died in Arizona due to domestic violence from Jan. 1 through Sept. 4, including 6-month-old Angel Diaz of Tucson and 76-year-old Henry Scott Finney of Wellton, Ariz.
Bailey said it takes everyone to end domestic violence and events like this are held to raise public awareness and give hope to those still suffering.
“Everyone should be part of the solution,” she said. “And you can volunteer and help us.”
As the Time Out Thrift Store manager, Beilgard has found her way to give back. Daily, she works with woman and children starting their new life.
“She is a kind, gentle woman,” Bailey said. “She cares deeply about others.”
Time Out staff is available for domestic violence presentations. Even small groups interested are encouraged to call. For more information, call (928) 468-8635 or visit www.timeoutshelter.org.