Domestic abuse victim partnered with SAAFE House speaks out to help survivors

Youve got six, seven, noeight shattered vertebrae. Some of these are old and some are new. This is repetitive trauma. What has happened to you?

When Beth heard her physician she knew she could no longer hide from the reality of her husbands abuse. Almost five years later, Beth has partnered with SAAFE House in Huntsville and speaks out about her abuse to raise awareness at a presentation for the family violence classes at Sam Houston State University.

Beth, a student at SHSU, fled with her son from her home in Conroe, after her husband of 21 years allegedly threw her into the wall, breaking eight vertebrae, multiple ribs, and causing brain trauma.

From the day he threw me the second time on Dec. 24, to Dec. 23, the night I left, I knew I had to get out, Beth said. I left in the middle of the night. I packed up my son, my cats and disappeared off the face of the map.

Beth wants to warn people of abuse signs before it is too late.

Its not like I wasnt smart, Im a pretty sharp cookie, Beth said. There was sexual abuse, there was monetary abuse, there was medical neglect, and there were all the signs and the symptoms except for the actual physical abuse. I didnt notice the [abuse] at first because youre kind of oblivious until its too late.

Beth said potential abuse victims need to realize exactly what abuse entails, and that it is not just about the physical aspect.

My husband was never abusive to me before the last year of our marriage, or so I thought, Beth said. . . . In reality, he started verbally abusing me around three years after the beginning of our marriage. He enjoyed playing all of the psychological games for years before the physical stuff started.

Beth also encouraged anyone in a relationship to not hesitate leaving when it gets abusive. She knows it is possible to live after the marriage is over.

Its ok to be alone, Beth said. When you feel like crying, cry, and then pick yourself off the ground when youre done. What scares you the most is fear of the unknown, so I teach people to go through all of the variables. As long as you can take the sting of the unknown out, they can deal with it better.

One of the most difficult parts of leaving, Beth said, was having no money, and being forced to stay in a shelter. Her experience while staying at the shelter was demeaning and only offered a simple place to stay while she sorted through her life.

I was in shelters in 2008, and living in them was a very bad experience for me, Beth said. To them, I was a white, entitled woman, and I shouldnt have necessarily been there. You have absolutely no privacy, and they micromanage you as if you were a criminal. I understand now why women go back to their husbands so many times after being abused, its because shelters suck.

Raymond Teske, the criminal justice professor who hosted the event for his family violence class, said the reason most shelters are horrible places to stay is because the shelters do not receive much funding on account of the staff pushing women for divorce during their time there.

Most shelters have one goal, which is to get the women they house to divorce their spouse, Teske said. This push to destroy the families is exactly what puts shelters at the end of the food chain. When they ask for assistance from the government, judges and the legislature feel so negatively about shelters, that they dont spend a lot of effort trying to help them.

Loretta, the other domestic abuse survivor who spoke, said she felt welcome and safe at the SAAFE House.

I support SAAFE House in every way I can, Loretta said. I was there for six months with my daughter, and going there was one of the best decisions Ive ever made

Beth said the most important thing to remember is to never make excuses for other peoples bad behavior.

Let me be clear, someone is violent because they are violent, not because they have a mental illness, Beth said. Separate the two and make sure you understand the difference. And once you recognize that they are indeed violent, know that you have the power to get out. Knowing that I could [leave] when I finally realized the truth, is what made all the difference. But I was moments away from deaths door when I finally realized. Dont wait that long.

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