Content Warning: Descriptions of abuse
In today's episode, we read a teen survivor's story of abuse and healing.
From an anonymous survivor
If you or someone you care about have experienced domestic, dating or sexual violence please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or one of the WCA's 24-hour hotlines at 208-343-7025 or 208-345-7273.
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Welcome to what compassion accomplishes a podcast dedicated to sharing information, ideas and resources about domestic abuse and sexual assault. The topics discussed in this podcast, including survivor stories, supportive services, and domestic abuse or sexual violence can be difficult. And we urge you to listen with care. Our hosts are not licensed counselors or mental health professionals. If you or someone you care about have experienced domestic dating, or sexual violence, please call the WCA 24 hour hotline at 208-343-7025 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 You can also find more resources in the description of this podcast.Chris Davis:
Survivors story of abuse and healing. I am a victim of domestic violence. I am a survivor. What I choose to call myself depends on which part of my story I am telling. Because I do honestly think that only by some grace, that I actually survive some things. And other parts I know I was victimized by someone who claimed to love me. And I know there's no shame in that. I feel no guilt and saying that I'm a victim of domestic violence. But it took me many years to get to that point. So this is why I'm here today. I'm sharing with you why I do what I do in hopes that you will share my passion for helping those being hurt by those that are supposed to love and respect them. I was 16 years old when my boyfriend put a bullet into the chamber of a gun, spun the chamber around while staring at me silently and then grabbed me, held me down on the twin bed in his garage bedroom of his parents home. It was late afternoon on a sunny day. I just gotten out of school. Nobody else was around. He held the gun in front of my face while yelling at me and anger. Alternately threatening me and pleading with me. He'd had the gun already sitting out when I arrived. Warning bells went off. This wasn't the first time I'd seen this gun. He threatened to kill himself before. He couldn't live without me. My parents did not want me to see him anymore. He didn't want me to end our relationship. This was the first time he actually turned the gun on me. Click. He pulled the trigger just once. I survived that. I did not tell anyone about that right away. I certainly did not tell my parents. You see, I was supposed to I wasn't supposed to see him. My parents had taken out a restraining order against him on my behalf. He wasn't supposed to contact me or come near me. But somehow through my friends and other means he still managed to and I allowed it. I still believed he loved me. And I thought he really might hurt himself. The restraining order resulted from a night when I was at a cheerleader sleep over that the new head cheerleader had planned for all the girls who had made the team for the following year. It was just supposed to be girls. And that is what I had told my boyfriend. I guess he must have been watching her house because when some of the upper class boys showed up. Someone told me my boyfriend was suddenly outside and wanted to talk to me. Only he had no business there. He wasn't even in high school anymore, and did not hang out with those boys. I immediately knew he'd be very angry. And then I was going to be in big trouble before I even went outside to talk to him. I just did not know how mad he was going to be. He accused me of lying. He accused me of cheating. I tried to calm him down. He wanted me to leave with them. And I told him I didn't want to go. I was supposed to stay with my friends that night. I was so embarrassed. Before I knew what was happening. He picked me up threw me down on the street headfirst. Then he grabbed me and stuffed me in the backseat of his car and pulled away tire screaming squealing I begged and pleaded for him to take me back. In my mind. I just thought I can pretend that this just wasn't happening. As my head pounded in my ears are still ringing. Only my night of terror and confusion had just begun. I crawled in the front seat and kept pleading with him tried reasoning with him to no avail. I didn't know where all we drove. But eventually, he kept he began hitting me. I crawled behind the driver's seat and shrink into a ball trying to get away from his fist. He drove toward cascade and mountain town saying we're going to my family's cabin for the night. But we never made it. We ran low on gas. He slowed the car down and told me I could get out. So I did. But I didn't know where to go or what to do in the early dawn in the middle of nowhere. This was the time before we had cell phones. So I walked on the side of the road for who knows how long was cold until he pulled back up. And I got back into the car with him. He'd calmed down, he'd begged off some gas from someone in town. He said, he said he was sorry, I'd made him do this. But if I had not lied about those boys being at the party, he would not freak out. And now I'd have to tell everyone that I snuck out and spent the night with him on purpose. I agreed that was going to be our story. I was still terrified. I wanted this nightmare to end. I just wanted this to go away. I was really hoping nobody would know. I wanted to go back in time, and for none of this to have happened. I wanted the charming dashing 18 year old knight in shining armor. I'd met when I was a 14 year old freshman, the boy had swept me off my feet. The one who'd said he loved me like nobody else ever would. The one who said I was beautiful. Even though everyone just said I was cute. I wanted the romantic boy who left me love notes in my locker every single day, and flowers on my car, the first boy I ever kissed. But that boy did not exist. That boy was really the man in the car next to me who had just kidnapped me. He wanted me to lie about it and take the blame. Who had once again convinced me I was to blame for his behavior. However, this time, he was not going to get away with it. My parents had been called when he had taken me away. Someone had witnessed what went down and told my parents at the home. They've been searching for me all night long and the sheriff had been alerted. My parents took me to the emergency room where I was given to get an exam. I recently found the body assessment with the x's on it in my mother's things after she passed away. This is when I was 45 years old. The X's were the mark injuries. These exes had notes indicating deep bruising, bruising on my back bruising on my kidneys, I had deep bruising all over my lower back, and several other internal organs. I did not change for gym class in the locker room or in front of anyone for weeks. I survived that. The problem is that I still did not stay away from him completely. The my parents tried, I had counseling, assertiveness training, grounding. You see, I truly believed he loved me. Only now I know, I had such a warped concept concept of what love really should be. My brain had been rewired. He had convinced me nobody else would want me. And that somehow I was responsible for the things he did and said it took me years to learn what positive boundaries were and what a healthy relationship looked like. I didn't grow up in a home where violence was present. I simply encountered it in my very first attempt at a young teen relationship. I had nightmares for years. And when I ran into him, I would feel physically ill I would shake. I'm from a small town. And I did indeed encounter him. To this day, I still find myself looking over my shoulder sometimes, because as a victim, some of that never truly goes away. It's called trauma. But you can take your power back, you can help ensure that others get the help they need. And that we can work together to break the cycle of domestic violence in our community, so that no other young girls or boys have to stand before a crowd and say the words, I survived that. Thank you.Cory Mikhals:
If you've been listening to the series, this obviously this started differently than most do. That was a survivor story. And, unfortunately, and sadly, it's something that happens way, way too often. To way too many. Life is forever altered. And how to be able to change that takes, takes time and a lot of healing. But as Chris was saying, as she read that survivor story, that trauma never truly, truly goes away but that there is help though. There are resources that can at least help with the trauma.Chris Davis:
Yeah, Cory that's a that is a that's a really good point to come out of that. There's a lot of things you can take out of that story if you're listening. And I think that's one thing I hope is a big takeaway is that if you are a victim or survivor and you know wherever you identify if you if you are listening and you have experienced something like that, it's okay. However, wherever you fall in that spectrum in your journey, it's okay we all hope that eventually everyone identifies as a survivor, but trauma it keeps, keeps, it stores up in the body. Sometimes that never truly goes away. But you can find help to learn to deal with it and process it and some of that you can shed, but there's no shame in reaching out. And there are people who can help you process that. But it does stay with you. It does, it's that's a real thing. There's so much research about trauma. And it can scope and shape of how you interact with people, whether that's coworkers, relationships, your children being exposed to domestic violence in the home as children being exposed to it in abusive relationships, as teenagers. And it does happen in teen relationships. You don't have to be married. It doesn't have to be a heterosexual relationship between a husband and a wife. It can happen in teen relationships, it can happen in college relationships, and it does far more. It's far more prevalent than us. Yes, parents want to recognize we we hear outrageous things from our prevention manager, and that and our staff members who go into school, the things that happen between teenagers, is this terrifying. Yes, because some of it is they may not know any better. They don't understand boundaries, which is what some of the things we teach, we try to help them understand emotional intelligence, boundaries, language, what you know, what is abuse from, you know, isolating people trying to control who they see, demanding to monitor social media and checking your phone and constant check ins and, and threatening self harm. That's a theme, I think out of that story. That's a really big one is if a partner, whether it's a husband, a wife, a boyfriend, girlfriend, if somebody is threatening self harm, because they want to end the relate, you want to end the relationship or one partner wants to end the relationship, that is an abusive tactic that is a tactic of power and control. Very, very real, and especially with young people, or someone who's been in an abusive relationship for a time. It is it is a huge, not only red flag, but it's a form of power and control that people use to keep somebody else in a relationship, and is very, very scary. And when that starts happening, that's also a very time when it's very dangerous. I think that's one thing in that story that really does stand out, as when that turned and it could have been very, that could have had a very different outcome in that situation. Absolutely. And that's why the victim in that case stayed when they're, I mean, when, when a gun where a weapon is introduced into a situation, that is when it can become lethal in the snap of a finger. And, and when somebody is threatening self harm, and they introduce a weapon, and somebody says because they feel responsible for keeping someone else alive, that's when we try to really try to communicate or we we try to educate I I'm not a clinician, I need to say that we were outreach we are we do education, we try to educate and and share that information that you are not responsible for keeping someone else alive. That is not your job. You know, if you love someone, and you suddenly are assuming that role to keep them alive, because they're threatening self harm, I hope that that you planting that seed that that is not your responsibility, if they are abusing you, or mistreating you, and then they threaten self harm, that is not your role. That is not your job. And that is extremely unhealthy. And that can turn dangerous. So if you hear that somebody else is sharing with you, that that's happening in their relationship, please share with them that that's the biggest red flag that is, that's the number one red flag. It's just not okay. Now, it's not your job to keep somebody else alive.Becca Maguire:
And I think that's also a another important thing is like when someone is in that situation, and someone asked, Well, why are you staying like they are threatening their own life with a gun or your own life. And we have to think of reasons why people stay and a huge reason is love. And they love that person. They obviously don't want that person to hurt themselves, or anyone else. And so you can't just ask these victim blaming questions because there's, there's a ton of different reasons why people stay and love is a huge one. And you don't want to see that person hurt. So obviously you will do whatever you can do to help that person because you love them and you care about them.Chris Davis:
So if someone does, so how do you reframe that, Becca? Right? Instead of saying why do you say it's I'm concerned about you, because even knowing that when a gun is introduced, that is when the you know, Homicide is almost the next step. That is when a lot of homicides occur. So I'm concerned about you, but it's not your job to keep somebody else to look like they need some help and that's not your job. That's when it's time to call on a mental health professional or get them some help and I'm worried about you Right, I am worried about you. You deserve to be with someone who treats you well. Those are some, those are some, you know, phrases you can use. So yes, you also hit on something that I think is really important is why do you stay and getting angry with someone to the point that they're not, they don't feel comfortable sharing what's going on. I think that's another you heard that a couple times, I didn't tell anybody. I certainly didn't tell my parents, I didn't tell my friends, because I still believed the person, you know, the boyfriend loved me. And I was embarrassed. That was another theme in there too. Repeated a few times, I was embarrassed. So still loving, and that young lady had been worn down, it sounded like several years of this worn down to believe that that boyfriend loved her, and that nobody else would. So it sounds like if you, you know, extract some of that story, no violence in the home, both parents, there were parents. And this young person with said was a cheerleader. So obviously had some social connection, you know, had from you're assuming had friends had two parents in the home, there was no violence in the home. But this was the first time they had any kind of relationship, and it wore that young lady down. So that's the perfect storm. That's how those things happen. And so if you know something like this is going on, reach out to an organization like the WCA, you can call our hotline, you can reach out and ask for some help in finding the right words to use in talking with someone, you can ask some questions and express your concern for someone else. Because there are things that you can say, they will actually shut that person down. And they won't let you know if something's going on. If your parents, if your aunts or uncles, and you're concerned about a child in your life, because 16 year olds are children, for their children, and they are having relationships they are that can be very, very damaging. And some of that trauma can last a lifetime. It just can.Cory Mikhals:
Well, and the one thing in that young lady's story of survival, we that was one click, one chamber, away from us never hearing that story. And her not being a survivor. Instead being a statistic being a news story, one click could have made all the difference. Yeah, luckily, it worked out the way it did. And she's able to share her story and to empower other people. And give this hopefully, the strength to someone else who is in that situation, to be a survivor to get out to get the help that that you need you deserve. And far too often, that outcome is much different. Thank God, that young lady is able to share her story.Chris Davis:
And you know, one thing that I think is really important for us to acknowledge is that as teenagers, they think they're immortal, of course, and don't understand what don't understand what danger is. And, you know, who who knows At what point in time, that young lady who then became an adult, really understood, you know, what, what understood the danger that was in but that she was really in and that's you know, as as adults, it's our job to try to, you know, don't wear your seatbelt and don't stay out too late, don't drink, don't do drugs, and you know, all of those things. But when it comes to abusive relationships, that's almost like a taboo subject. You don't talk to them. You don't talk to him about you know, a lot. A lot of parents are getting better about having these conversations, but they're hard conversations to have. But really talk to your teens. Talk to them figure out start talking to them early. You know, we want to talk to them about consent you want to talk about but you don't think you have to talk to your teens about Gosh, if somebody you know pulls a gun on you, what are you going to do you think about that in terms of like Stranger Danger, right? But not in terms of somebody who's supposed to love you.Becca Maguire:
We're always taught stay away from strangers if right, someone grabs you, you scream, don't get in anyone's cars, you we don't have conversations about people that are supposed to love us and take care of us because we think that safe but most of the time when it even comes to like sexual assault 8 out of 10 times the victim knows the perpetrator. It's someone that is close to them.Chris Davis:
So we've got to start talking to our kids, to our young adults, middle school, junior high age is the almost the primetime, the sweet spot. You've got to start talking to him now because they are forming opinions, really strong opinions, they're having those feelings, hormones, or shall I say hormones, they're having those and they're starting to form relationships. And they're doing a lot of things that you may not want to know they're doing really, quote unquote, you don't want to know, but they're doing it. A lot of them are. And they're thinking about doing those things and having those relationships even if they aren't. And so you've got us, we've got to start talking to our kids, because they are going to grow up to be adults and have relationships. And so and talk to your boys and your girls. Because guess what, folks, women can be abusers as well. And, and I and I want to say I don't want to pigeonhole humans into any kind of gender. So this, this is across all gender expressions, abusers, abuse, and anyone can be a victim. So I want to put that out there. So just because you have a boy doesn't mean they're safe from being a victim of abuse or sexual assault. So talk to your boys, talk to your boys about being respectful, but talk to them about what might happen if they are being disrespected. Because they can just as easily be a victim. Or, if you have a child who is a member of that a different gender expression than just a man or a woman, a boy or girl, because they can, well, they're far more likely to become a victim. So talk to them, talk to them about boundaries, talk to them about what they're comfortable with. Talk to them about consent. And I'm not talking about sex, when I'm talking about consent, just sex I'm talking about, you know, is it okay to hold hands? Is it okay? To for someone to hug you, friends, family members, anybody because it's your body, it's your person, it's your space. And you should be the one to allow anyone to come into your personal bubble. If somebody is speaking to you in a way that makes you not feel comfortable, then it's your right to say, Hey, I don't really like it. When you say that, or I don't like the way you're talking to me. Maybe XYZ. There's nothing wrong with that, folks. And that's how it has to start. If we want to put a stop to our young people being in situations where somebody puts a bullet into the chamber of a gun and spins it around, and they're too afraid to tell anybody about it, we've got to start talking to them about consent and respect and being able to speak up and not being feared of being shunned, or feeling shameful. So it starts with talking starts with us. Talking about it right now starts with you listening to this, and thinking, Okay, I'm going to go talk to my niece, my nephew, you know, and I'm gonna ask them, what's going on? And how do they talk to their friends. Those are, those are the, this is how we change our community. This is how we change outcomes for future generations.Cory Mikhals:
And until we live in a world where there isn't abuse of any form, we need to continue to keep talking and keep reminding, because someone who is in a situation of abuse, the one time you talk to them, they might not be open to the conversation. They might be in denial, they still love that person, they swear that person loves them, whatever the situation is, the second time you might not get through, keep having the conversation. Because some time and hopefully before it's too late, one of those conversations is actually going to be the time when that it gives that person the strength to call the W ca to call the national hotline to reach out and want to find help.Chris Davis:
When you can also offer them a ride somewhere you can offer them to sleep on your couch. Yes, you can just say let's go for a walk. It can even be something as subtle as that. Continuing that just to be there. And you know, whatever you need, and when they're ready, they will take you up on it. And nationally, the National statistic indicates that it takes someone leaving that relationship seven times before they leave for good. Yeah. And there's there's a vast array of reasons, reasons or barriers for why people choose not to leave. And it is you know, and that's a whole nother conversation. But there's barriers to leaving children finances lack of income right now. You know where we live. We're we're in Boise, Idaho, and it is the housing market right? Ours is incredibly frightening when a crisis like the cost of rent is an apartment, if you can find one. It's prohibitive. Right for most people. So if you own your home right now, you are really lucky. So leaving and actually finding a place to live is a real, it's not just a concern. It's a it's a huge barrier. Yeah. So you had a week, you were just coming out of the pandemic, you know, global pandemic right now. And we had, you know, a huge, like an 84% increase in calls to our domestic violence hotline in 2020. As a request for help, we had 19 emergency intakes into our shelter. I believe that's a 284% increase over the prior year. 284%. Increase we have four a year. Yeah. Which for the prior year that's just emergency intakes into shelter. Yeah. So that as people who needed to be out of their home Well, and that's a whole nother conversation as the victim having to leave the home because the lethality risk was so high. So but there's they didn't obviously have anywhere else safe to go. Right. So you can offer resources, you can just keep asking. And I would really encourage you if you're feeling frustrated, because you don't understand why somebody is not leaving, and they are you really worried about them. And even if they're being physically abused, or they're being controlled, and they're isolated, please try not to get frustrated, because there are so many reasons. And it's about power and control. And it's very psychological and they have been worn down. Just don't give up.Cory Mikhals:
No, and always let that person know that you're there. And so, yeah, as much as I, I understand that it can be very frustrating because you love this person, and you can see it, you see what's happening to them, and you want to save them. But you can't, they have to be ready to save themselves, but let them always know you're there. So when that moment comes, they know that you're going to be there for them that you're going to with open arms. Bring them in, help them. If you're in that situation and you don't have a person in your life maybe I know a lot of times people will move here. couples will move here, or someone moves here doesn't have family doesn't have friends, they're in a relationship and that is the only person that they know. And that abuser will use that leverage and will manipulate you to stay by making you believe no one else will love you. You'll have nowhere to live, you'll be sleeping on the streets, whatever tactic that they use. That's not love. That's the complete opposite of love. Reach out in the description of the podcast here. There's the WCA hotline. There's the national hotline. If you're listening somewhere else in the country. Just know that there is help and there's light on the other side. We want you to be a survivor, not a statistic. Today just know everyone deserves to be healthy, happy, within themselves and in their relationships. Thank you for listening once again, and we'll talk next time on what compassion accomplishes.Intro:
Thank you for listening to this episode of what compassion accomplishes. Again, if you or someone you know has experienced domestic abuse, dating or sexual violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the WCA is 24 hour hotline 208-343-7025