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by Marianna Felfoldi about a year ago in trauma
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THE NATIONAL COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE'S MISSION

Our mission is to lead, mobilize and raise our voices to support efforts that demand a change of conditions that lead to domestic violence such as patriarchy, privilege, racism, sexism, and classism. We are dedicated to supporting survivors and holding offenders accountable and supporting advocates.

We envision a national culture in which we are all safe, empowered and free from domestic violence.

REASONS TO CARE

• 134 Gun related domestic violence fatalities this year

• 10 Million People a year are physically abused by an intimate partner

• 20,000 Calls are placed a day to domestic violence hotlines

• 20% Of women in the United States have been raped

MY STORY

I grew up in a tiny little town where largely speaking everyone knew everyone else. I met my ex-husband at our town’s only high-school, his parents and my parents were part of the same church as was just about everyone else and it was church politics that more often than not guided life for us. When I met him, he was a really sweet guy to me, not the most confident or the coolest but he had friends and my parents approved of the match. At the time I was happy, I was pretty insecure growing up as I had bad acne and I definitely wasn’t the prettiest girl at school so I felt lucky to be wanted by someone so kind and affectionate. I was genuinely very in love and when we got married at nineteen I thought it would be the start of an amazing life together in God’s light.

Our relationship was a pretty old fashioned one by today’s standards maybe but at the time it was the done thing. He got his realtors license and started working for his father who also helped us with our first home. After we graduated, I spent a year as a bank teller but when I got pregnant with our first daughter it was clear I was to quit my job and start raising the family. I was only 21 but again, this is what I wanted, being a mother with a successful husband and three beautiful children was the dream I’d been sold, by my parents, by my school, by my church. Because of that I didn’t really notice the first signs of abuse.

My husband had always had a bit of a temper and would scream and shout when he didn’t get his way, but he’d never been violent towards me and I largely figured he was just blowing off steam. I’d seen my own father doing it many times. Things changed for the worse after I became pregnant with our second daughter, it was only six months after our first was born which was stressful enough but to make matters worse, this was around the financial crash in 2008. Business wasn’t going too well and my husband’s father was taking it out on my husband who was coming home and taking it out on me. It started with mostly just insults and shouting but it wasn’t the same as before, I could tell he’d started drinking (not something he’d ever really done before) and was using his presence to intimidate me. I remember starting to feel scared when it was time for him to come home from work, knowing that he’d probably bring his bad day with him. I didn’t blame him though, I blamed the economy and saw this as a test sent to us by God . I didn’t see the warning signs because I hadn’t been raised to know what they were.

When he started talking about aborting our second child I was shocked. I didn’t and still don’t believe in abortion, it was illegal in our state at the time and more importantly it would have made us social outcasts in our own town. He said we couldn’t afford another child which might have been true but we lived in a town where people came together in tough times, I tried to tell him our parents would help us if things got too tough but that upset him, I suppose because of the inclination that it made him less of a man. It was during this argument he first hit me across the face, not hard, but mentally it rocked me to my core. I cried a lot that night. In the morning he apologised though and I felt he was genuinely remorseful. Again I convinced myself it wasn’t his fault, it was the tough situation we were in and I forgave him.

I forgave him more times than I can count over the next five years. I didn’t see much else of a choice. Things had started getting better at work and we were stable again financially but he kept drinking. He would often stay out late and come home stinking of booze, he didn’t spend much time with the children or me. He was always complaining about one thing or another, he was an extremely jealous man and resented the success his old high school friends were having. I put up with it all, I felt very alone but didn’t know who to turn to, we hadn’t received any education on signs of domestic abuse, if anything we were almost raised to believe it was the responsibility of the wife to put up with their husbands temper. I really felt trapped. I knew domestic violence hotlines existed but I felt like they weren’t meant for me, that others were facing far worse situations. For a long time I felt like I was a drama queen. My husband was happy to reinforce that belief within me, he’d stopped apologising a long time before.

We’d been married seven years by the time I actually got up the courage to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. I’d found the number on the NCADV website and after reading about what qualified domestic abuse I knew that was what I was experiencing. I didn’t know what to expect, I genuinely didn’t believe they’d really be able to help me but when I described my situation they helped guide me through how to leave my husband. They directed me to a local charity who were able to offer me legal advice about how to divorce my husband, an uncommon process in my town, and gave me the address of a woman’s home I could stay at if I needed to.

That was only the start of a long journey away from domestic abuse but I don’t think it would have been possible without the help I found on the NCADV website. The work they do to reach endangered women like me is incredibly important and I believe more so now than ever because of the COVID 19 situation. Without the right education many women are unaware that they are experiencing domestic abuse let alone that there is help available out there. The work that the NCADV does to offer women that education is vital so I urge you to make a donation if you can to prevent more cases of domestic abuse from occurring.

trauma

About the author

Marianna Felfoldi

An open minded, highly motivated, hardworking, safety conscious, polite and caring person.

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