When Grace was 15 years old she fell in love with 25 year old Matt. Things were great the first few years. They got married and had their first child when Grace was 18. Shortly after their oldest daughter was born Grace and Matt started having arguments about his drinking. She would tell him if he did not stop drinking so much, she was going to leave him with their daughter. After one of their arguments Matt got up abruptly and grabbed Grace by the throat, lifted her off the floor and dropped her down. She went to bed confused and scared that night that something was very wrong and that the relationship she thought was “normal” was not what she thought. The next day Matt acted as if nothing happened, leaving Grace feeling trapped and fearful of being physically harmed again. When she told him she wanted space he refused and said it would not happen again as long as she stopped questioning and telling him what to do. When Grace worked, Matt would not financially provide for Grace or their children. He would tell her that if she wanted financial support from him, she had to quit her job, which she eventually did. This cycle repeated itself.
Things changed for Grace. She was now a mother of three children, hiding in the shadows of her husbands abuse. She did as he said and when she did not, she saw the repercussions, through emotional and psychological abuse. He had taken her power and control away from her. Grace needed some reprieve and started working again. This was a recipe for more abuse and turmoil. People would tell her she should feel lucky her husband did not want her to work, but Grace felt she was under a microscope with no freedom. Matt would not allow her to shower alone, he had to be in the bathroom with her or in the shower. Grace had to facetime him minutes before clocking in because he wanted to see her clock in and make sure she was at work. He demanded she call him during her lunch, breaks, after work and was expected to be home at the same time and if not, he accused her of infidelity. When she did not do what he wanted the arguments would escalate at home. He would throw things across the room or involve the children in their arguments. She was terrified of him and what he would do to their children. Grace started to notice the fear in her children’s faces when he would come home and into the room.
This continued for several months until one day during one of the daily arguments, her 10 year old daughter called the police because she was scared and couldn’t handle the constant degrading and yelling at her mother. When the officers arrived to her home, Grace met Human Options DV Advocate, and was given shelter information, offered therapy, personal empowerment classes, and legal advocacy. Grace wasn’t ready yet to utilize services and spent the night at a motel with her children. Matt did not stop calling her that night, with 422 missed calls from him. Grace did not know what to do, she felt even more lost and hopeless. Matt knew exactly what to say to Grace, apologizing, assuring her he would change and so Grace and her children ended up back with Matt.
Grace maintained contact with DV Advocate but was being surveilled by Matt. Although she wanted help, Grace feared Matt would find out she was in contact with Human Options. With all the tracking, phone calls and texts, Grace had to be creative about how to get help. She signed her children up for art classes at the local Family Resource Center, where she was able to work with one of Human Options’ Legal Advocates during their art classes to obtain a Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order (DVRO) along with a move out order. This led to Matt being arrested since he refused to comply with the orders.
Grace is still nervous about filing documents in court, but expressed that she is now more hopeful after being granted the DVRO. She did not think she had enough evidence and was terrified of taking the necessary steps to leave because her husband controlled everything. She would say “Sometimes I felt like a single fish in a tiny fishbowl” because he always wanted to know her every move.
Her next step is to file for divorce and attend a family law clinic with the Legal Advocacy team to learn more about her rights and protections. She also plans to start counseling for her and children to work through the trauma all they endured the last several years. Grace is empowered now to call law enforcement for assistance, and feels confident using her DVRO.
“I knew services existed, but my husband would not hit me so I thought I was ineligible. No one believed the abuse I was going through was actual abuse. I felt crazy. It is still unreal that a judge believed me and said what I went through was domestic violence.” – Mother & Survivor