I hope all of you are well and enjoying the summer!
I am always excited to tell you about the complements received because of the articles published through the website. Also, I must recognize the many subscribers who have become followers. Thank you! This shows the articles are meeting the goal intended for the site,which is to inform, encourage and to educate. Many thanks to all the contributing writers for helping to meet the goal.
And; thank you Ms. Candace for sharing an important part of your life with our readers last month and know I love you!
Sharing our lives with people we don’t know is not easy. However, there are a few who have come through to the “other side” of abusive situations and are able to share their journey. Therefore, it is a pleasure to introduce Alice Harmon. Ms. Harmon was referred by Paula Silva, President of FOCUS Ministries, where Alice is the Teen Program Coordinator.
As always, if you have any questions please feel free to contact me.
Alice Harmon is the Teen Program Coordinator for FOCUS Ministries, an organization that offers education and training for individuals, churches, and organizations who want to help bring hope and healing to the victims of domestic abuse. Inspired by her personal experience, Alice’s short story, “The Sun Will Shine” has been included in “The Story of Your Life: Inspiring Stories of God at Work in People Just like You” by Matthew West and Angela Thomas. The story has gone on to inspire the song, “Into the Light”, the title track on Matthew West’s Grammy nominated album. Alice’s story was also one of the stories from the album recently featured in “Into the Light with Matthew West” that recently aired on JC-TV. Her thoughts on forgiveness can be found in Matthew West’s latest book, “Forgiveness”.
Alice has presented workshops on dating violence at the To Heal a Heart Family Violence Conference and the Ignite Shout Youth Leadership Conference. Alice has also partnered with Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL to offer service opportunities and conducted workshops for students. Alice is committed to helping young people avoid violent and abusive situations by educating them about establishing healthy relationships according to God’s plan.
Also, what I hope for most by sharing my story are 3 things:
1. It can happen to anyone.
2. There is a way out.
3. You don’t have to do it alone.
I ignored all the warning signs when we were dating. I knew deep down what he was capable of, but I pretended it wasn’t there. He wanted to be with me. I was grateful to be wanted. It didn’t take very long after we were married for me to face the reality of abuse.
We constantly argued, and no matter how heated it got, there was no walking away. He considered my walking away to be extremely disrespectful, and it meant either I didn’t really love him, or that I was sleeping with someone else. I remember the sheer frustration and anger it would generate, to be confined to a room when you wanted to leave. I pushed, shoved, screamed; I didn’t go down without a fight. The first time he restrained me in a doorway, when nothing else worked I pinched him when he wouldn’t let me through. It was the first time he hit me. He slapped me hard across the face and then just stepped aside. It was Valentine’s Day just over one month after we were married.
The minute I stayed after the first time, I gave him permission to do it again. He didn’t hit me again for a year, but he did hit again, and it got worse. He was always sorry and would promise to never do it again. But his apologies rang with insincerity and there was an obvious lack of remorse. In time, the abusive behavior always returned, and eventually the apologies stopped. I learned to walk on eggshells; a hand slammed on the table; a fist punched through the wall; the car wheel yanked out of my hands at 80 mph. Life was unpredictable. We never made plans. I grew further and further away from my family and friends. We rarely went to church, as he frequently sabotaged any effort to go. Imprisoned by all the things I was scared to say and scared to do, I felt like a failure. I believed there was no life for me aside from him. I made excuses for him. I felt sorry for myself.
I remember the initial rage I felt. Unable to close the bathroom door, called every name in the book, or restrained from leaving a room would result in me seething with anger for hours I would literally shake with anger. I was completely exposed, raw, and defenseless, and my natural instincts told me to fight. But eventually my anger and frustration faded, and so did my attempts to fight back. Little by little, I allowed all of my boundaries to be crossed with no ramifications. The anger gave way to a feeling of defeat and worthlessness and ultimately to acceptance. I remember the shame. How had I let this happen to me? If I could just be what he wanted everything would be OK. I believed there was no option of my leaving. Silently I prayed that he would leave me.
Night time became the worst time of each day. I was terrified to go to bed. I would do almost everything I could to avoid going to the bedroom. It always started with some expectation of sex and end with him unhappy with me in any one of a myriad of ways. Some nights it was simple name calling; others it was pushing me out of bed and spitting on me; others it was punching holes in the walls. On nights I would fall asleep before him, he would wake me up. He would slam his hand down on the bed jarring me awake. I would lie in bed not breathing and not moving for fear of provoking him, praying for him to fall asleep. I learned to not move. I would hardly even breathe. I would lie like that waiting for him to fall asleep, sometimes even for hours after he did ensuring he was fully asleep.
Slowly God began to open my eyes and eventually I saw the relationship for what it was. God provided me a guardian angel in my therapist. She never told me I was abused. She never told me to leave. She knew I had to figure it out on my own. She taught me coping skills and helped me create a safety plan. I discovered he was out of my control. I could not fix him. No magic change in me, nothing I could do was ever going to make him stop. He wasn’t mentally ill; he wasn’t sick. He honestly believed he was entitled to act the way he did.
One day, the light literally turned on in me. It was so clear and bright that there was no going back. In that moment, a tremendous weight was lifted off of me. Some semblance of the girl I had always truly been came to life. My first step was to tell my family about my abuse. Then I hired an attorney. I planned for 2 weeks. Finally, I left work in the middle of the day, packed our bags, picked my children up from school, and drove to a women’s shelter. It was the hardest night of my life. Thinking about it can still bring a tightening in my throat. I called to tell him we had left. He begged me to come back; to stop the car and he’d come get us. But I didn’t turn around. With God’s help, I kept driving through the rain and the fear and the guilt.
I have never looked back since that night. The guilt and the feeling of loss lasted a week maybe two. But then life became filled with endless possibilities. The morning after we arrived at the shelter, I took my boys for a walk. We had left on a miserably cold, rainy, February night, but the sun shone bright the morning after. God had brought us out of the darkness and into the light.
There’sabreak in the clouds