Rising Up From the Ashes Rising Up From the Ashes

Have you ever heard these words?

I am so sorry, baby!

It will never happen again!

I didn't mean it!

It doesn't hurt that much!

It will get better!

Sadly way too many of us have. What they actually meant was...I am sorry, until the next time! It will happen again and it will get worse. I did mean it and I will mean it again, I will hurt you more!

It will get better buy only if you get out!!!

My ex had 43 counts of domestic violence before he served more than 24 hrs in jail. Ten years of excuses to protect him, verbal, financial, emotional, physical abuse and sexual abuse. Stitches, destroyed precious belongings, countless broken bones, 2 miscarriages, job loss, concussions, a body cast, which was still wet by the time he came home from jail. It was a living nightmare.

Finally enough was enough, but he made the divorce difficult. I left on a Friday evening to go to work and my 3 day old baby went with me. My boss would not allow me to go home because he was calling at work threatening me because I took the baby to work and did not leave her with him. I feared for my life, but that did not matter in the eyes of the court. On Monday morning I was served with papers telling me that temporary custody of my 2 older children was awarded to my ex because I abandoned them. He got away with it because I was the only income in the family. He had not worked a day for over a year. He pulled out all the stops, conciliation for 6 weeks and a 6 month waiting period and any other stall tactic. It took over a year for the divorce to become final. By the time we had our final hearing, he was pretending to be an upstanding citizen and he got custody of the 2 older children. It wasn't long after he got tired of being a full time dad.

My only saving grace through the whole divorce debacle was a new Prince Charming. It was great for the first 6 months after that. The turn around came one day when I disagreed with him. From then on it spiraled downward. After he knocked a car off the jack and broke my arm he was so mad he knocked my splinted arm into the wall. This is when I knew I had to leave. Once I left, I stalked me. He would find us no matter where we were. He made so much trouble for me that I ran out of friends willing to help. He said if he couldn't have me, he would make my life hell, and make sure no one would help me. He made good. I was stalked, kidnapped, shot at and kicked out of shelters 3 times because he found out where I was.

Today I come to you a happy, confident person who seeks to END DOMESTIC VIOLENCE !!! My girls and I look forward to new journeys in the fight against domestic violence. I have been happily married since Valentines Day 1995. I broke the cycle, and you can too. I am no longer hiding after 16 years.

Artist's Note: Working with this amazing survivor, I learned that there was very little help for people in her situation. Not only were shelters and services nonexistent, but little information about domestic violence was even available. She had to figure it out and wade through the system on her own like many of these survivors in the Bravery Project. It's so important to support the growing organizations out there fighting the good fight.