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From Tears to Triumph: A Story of Domestic Violence



The rebuilding of one’s life must first begin with the discovery that they cannot do it alone.


Behind survivors of domestic abuse is a powerful story of resilience and hope. Rarely are these stories known beyond the walls of my office. The disclosure of such shocking accounts of abuse is not welcome in public life.


This article is co-authored. It is broken into two parts: the main article and the footnotes. The main article is written by one of my clients. The footnotes are my clinical observations about specific points in her story. May her words bring you hope, encouragement and the will to triumph over your own struggles.


My Survivor Story[1]


When Jon asked me to write my story, I was told I could write it anonymously and that my name would not be shared. I immediately knew I wanted to write my story, but I didn’t know if I wanted my name to be used. After thinking about it, I decided to use my real name.


Here’s why:


I want people to know these things happen to REAL people with REAL names. My name is Demi, and this is my story.


Abusive relationships aren’t like you see in the movies. I think it would be a lot easier if they were. I didn’t blindly marry someone I knew had the ability to hurt me. I married someone I thought was everything I ever dreamed my husband would be. I thought he loved me like I didn’t think anyone would. We dated for a year, after that we were married.


Immediately a switch flipped.


Our honeymoon was the first time I remember feeling afraid of him. It wasn’t anything extreme, I just remember having a really bad feeling because of how he was behaving. I specifically remember getting into an argument and thinking, “This isn’t good. What did I just get myself into?”


Of course, I fought the feeling because I loved him. He was my husband now. I thought that maybe I was overreacting. Everyone said marriage is hard, maybe this was what they were talking about. It was just a bad argument. I told myself everything would be fine.


The week we got back from our honeymoon I was hanging out with a girlfriend. He happened to know where we went and showed up unannounced.[2] I thought, “That’s weird. He probably just wants to spend time with me. He just misses me. It’s no big deal.”


I tried to shake it off. I was helping my friend through a tough breakup she was going through at the time. I was giving her advice and a listening ear.


All of the sudden my husband – who was now sitting with us – decided to chime in,


“If I hadn’t just married Demi, I would totally marry you!”


I was shocked.[3] I got up and walked straight to the bathroom crying. I didn’t know what else to do. How could he say something so hurtful? How was I supposed to respond to a comment like that? And in front of one of my best friends.


A few weeks later, he lost his temper for the first time. I don’t remember everything that happened but I remember the yelling and screaming. He threw something against the bedroom wall. That was the first night I remember sleeping on the couch.


That became our normal.


Fighting. Yelling. Screaming at each other. Throwing things. Lots of alcohol.


A couple of months in, things had gotten so bad I moved out and got my own place for a while. I just couldn’t take it anymore. He made my life WAY more miserable for standing up to him. I moved back in. Looking back, I think he hated me for being strong. That’s when I started going to counseling.


When I was first introduced to Peace Partnership, I was referred to Jon Thompson by a marriage therapist my husband and I were seeing at the time.


Let me rephrase that…


I was seeing a therapist and my then-husband would attend the last 10 minutes of the session. I was 20 years old and had been married about 5 months or so. I had recently found out about my then-husband having multiple affairs in the short time we’d been married. I was doing everything I could to gather the broken pieces back together. It only took a few sessions before I was handed a little green business card with Jon’s name on it.


Praise the good Lord I was.


I don’t remember many details about the first session I had with Jon, but I do remember wanting nothing to do with a male counselor! I couldn’t see myself opening up to some random guy about anything – let alone talking about intensely painful things I had going on in my life.[4]


But I was so desperate at the time I would have tried just about anything anyone recommended, so I decided to give Jon a shot. I just wanted to save my shattered world and maybe he could help.


So, there I was, sitting on a leather couch (so stereotypical) in Jon’s office, grasping at any straw I thought could put the pieces back together. The first few months were slow. I wasn’t very consistent.[5] I remember hating it but knowing it was something I needed; that was the only reason I kept going. Desperation, I guess, and a small sense of hope.


As Jon and I began to build trust with each other, I started sharing some real stuff.


I was told when all you know is trauma, you just choose the trauma you can handle. That couldn’t be more true. I guess my husband was just the trauma I knew how to handle. He was comfortable for me – no matter how toxic or unhealthy the relationship may have been.


Things got much worse. The abuse became more and more severe. I remember waking up a few times in the middle of the night because he’d hit me. Sometimes in the chest. Sometimes in the head. He always blamed it on nightmares but it happened so often I didn’t believe him.


I remember being able to recognize when he was getting out of control.


I would go into the spare bedroom and lock myself in until he calmed down. If I could tell he was calming down I would text him to make sure he would reason with me before I unlocked the door to talk. I dared not suggest sleeping in a different bed or all hell would break loose.


When fights got bad and I couldn’t make it to the spare bedroom, I would run to the closet. I’m not sure why. I just felt safer there than in a big room. He would follow me into the closet and trap me in. He wouldn’t let me out until I kissed him and told him I loved him. I usually didn’t get emotional but one day I couldn’t hold it in. I remember I broke down bawling and yelled,


“You’re seriously scaring me! Let me out!”


He just laughed.[6]


Then he proceeded to insult me and make me feel like an idiot for insinuating he would hurt me.


I left him a couple of months after that event.[7] It was for good this time. I thought I was free. But freedom has a dark side to it (as I later learned from Jon) and that was only the beginning.


I won’t go into all the details of how bad it really was. I think you get the picture. Most of it I honestly didn’t remember until a year or more after I left. After that, it started coming back to me in pieces.


I remember sitting in Jon’s office one afternoon and saying out loud for the first time,


“I was raped.”


I immediately broke down crying. It felt like I would never stop.[8] Had I really just said that? Was this really my life? I couldn’t grasp the fact that those words just spilled out of my mouth. Holy cow. I was raped. And by the one man who openly vowed in front of all our closest friends, family, pastors, and mentors to love and protect me.


It didn’t matter if I fought him. It didn’t matter if I said, “no.”


I don’t know how many times it happened. I know it was more than once. I remember the first time it happened. I went to him the next morning and tried to talk with him about it. I remember thinking there was no way it was intentional; no way it actually happened the way I thought it did.


He instantly started laughing at me and making fun of me. That was just as hurtful as the actual act. It happened again a few days later.


Sometimes I hate myself for not remembering. Sometimes I thank God for protecting me from those memories.


After I moved out, I started drinking a lot. I don’t remember much about that time in my life but I do remember not sleeping. The only way I could sleep is if I stacked furniture in front of every door in my apartment. I would barricade myself in every night. I slept with headphones in. Music blaring. Most days I slept on the couch. Or napped in my car at work.


When I was married, I remember waking up in the middle of the night and reaching over the bed to touch him while he was sleeping. I had to be very careful and very quiet. Waking him up could spell disaster for me. I would lay awake for several minutes, crying silently in the night, praying he would change.[9]


Through counseling I discovered why I did that. It was because I wanted to know I wasn’t alone. It was the only time he was calm enough for me to show I loved him. It was because I desperately wanted him to love me. Touching him was my peace in that season of life.


After I moved out, it took about a year before I stopped rolling over and waking up.[10] I would reach over for him and he wasn’t there. I wasn’t used to the calm. I hated it. I still catch myself doing it every once in a while. It’s been almost four years since my divorce was final.


Fast forward to today. I’ve come a really long way. One day in a counseling session Jon called me a miracle. He said I was valuable and that’s how God saw me.[11] Gradually, I started to believe it.


I still have to make sure every door I walk by is locked if I’m in a room, but I don’t have to go doublecheck them like I used to. I sleep now. I have peace now.[12] I never thought life could be this good.


The very first person to thank for my progress and healing is God, but Jon and Peace Partnership is a very close second. They gave me a safe place to go to when I really needed one. He accepted absolutely every part of my story and helped me pick up the broken pieces.


I always hoped there would be a way I can give back to them. I hope my story has done that. I hope it shines a light on how real and how common stories like mine are. Abuse is hiding in the lives of the people all around you. Sexual assault and rape survivors are your closest friends, your family members, your co-workers. It’s not just a problem for someone else to deal with.


You can’t heal alone.[13] That won’t work.


Trying to handle it alone will overwhelm you. If you’ve experienced domestic abuse or sexual assault, reach out to a trusted friend or professional for support. That can make all the difference in the world. Reaching out will change your world. It did mine.


My name is Demi, and that’s a chapter in the book of my life. I’m writing the rest of the book with a different pen.


 

[1] My motivation for this article is two-fold. The first reason is obvious: I think it will be helpful and useful for you, the reader. My second reason is less obvious: I wanted the process to help my client. Writing can be thought of as organized thinking. Part of what bedevils traumatized people is a sense of disorganized chaos about their past. Writing about their past forces a person to give order to that which was previously chaotic. [2] This is a common theme in abusive relationships. Abusers look for ways to destabilize normal situations. They want their victim to know they have access to them anywhere, anytime. Nothing is off-limits. There are no personal boundaries that will be respected. [3] A secure sense of connection with loving people is foundational to the development of relationships. When that sense of security is fractured, confusion is the natural response and the sense of connection is lost. [4] My gender played a central role in our therapeutic relationship. It became a redemptive experience for her. She was grievously wronged by a man, and working with me helped her restore her faith in the decency of men. [5] Chaos is a feature of trauma. Constant cancelations and no-shows come with working with this population. It permeates every aspect of the survivor’s life. Inevitably, they have difficulty establishing and maintaining healthy, consistent relationships. [6] That made me furiously angry. Demi was angry and I remember matching her intensity. Professional neutrality shouldn’t be confused with moral neutrality. Working with traumatized clients requires a resolute commitment to morality. [7] It was at this point I began Demi’s therapy in earnest. In my opinion, actively working through trauma should not be undertaken until the client is able to dedicate considerable attention to it. When clients are living in trauma, the traumatic events of each day take priority. [8] As renowned trauma specialist Dr. Judith Herman correctly observes, “The descent into mourning is at once the most necessary and the most dreaded task of this stage of recovery. Patients often fear that the task is insurmountable, that once they allow themselves to start grieving, they will never stop.” [9] Trauma is contagious. As I listened to her heart-breaking stories of sadness, I run the risk of becoming emotionally overwhelmed. Working with highly traumatized clients poses some risk to the psychological health of the counselor. This “countertransference”, as it is called, can negatively affect the counseling process. Just as no survivor can recover alone, no counselor can continually work with trauma alone. [10] A common feature of traumatized behavior is the attempt to relive a dangerous situation with the hope that it turns out right. [11] Traumatized people do not feel alone. They feel Godforsaken. Therefore, a primary focus of therapy must be the reintroduction of God’s love for them, and a sharp distinction between God’s healthy love and an abuser’s warped love. [12] During the process of counseling, abuse survivors must come to grips with the impossibility of getting even. As they “unpack” their anger in the counseling setting, their fury at the injustice of their experience gradually changes into a healthy form of anger: righteous indignation. This transformation frees her from the prison of unhealthy rage. This freedom allows for peace to grow in its place. Hence our name – Peace Partnership. [13] An allusion to Genesis 2:18 I often refer to – “It is not good for man to be alone...” While not written in the context of therapeutic healing, I’ve found a detailed breakdown of the concept to be immensely helpful for clients.


 


Next month marks 10 years of partnering with you and our community to provide affordable counseling to families in the community and free counseling to students in their schools. For that we express our thanks to each of you who have been a part of making this possible. We are able to partner with our clients because of your partnership with us. Because of your support, individuals, children, and families in our neighborhoods and communities are able to make sense of the complexities of their lives. We couldn’t do this important work without you. THANK YOU!

  • Thank you once again to Children’s Services Fund of Jackson County for your investment in the lives of the students in our In-School Program in Independence and Blue Springs School Districts. You are helping change the trajectory of these children’s lives.

  • We are so grateful to Metcalf Auto Plaza for partnering with us to provide the opportunity for those in need to seek counseling. Thank you for your heart to help others.

  • We are happy to have Keith Higgins join us for our 7th Annual Golf Classic. Thank you for your golf team registration.

To all of our faithful monthly and recurring supporters — THANK YOU from our Peace Partnership team! – Stone AMP SEO, Jeff & Lacey Cherry, Zane & Melissa Morerod, Mark McDonald, Jondy & Heather Britton, Matt & Kristy Newton, Clayton & Pam Wooldridge, Mark & Cathy McGaughey, Greg & Jennifer Spears, Roger & Jennifer Madsen, Brent & Amanda Miller, Mike & Jan McGraw, Willie & Adia Valdes, Linda Hartman, Dave & Rosie Bourland, Rudy & Stacy Blahnik, Mike & Tracy Pruitt, Sandra King, Diane Smith, Dan & Gigi Rippee, Andre & Rose Fantasma, Kevin Quinn, Scott & Lydia Hurley, Jon & Naomi Thompson, John & Keshia Otradovec, Tamara Stroud, Rick & Kathy Daulton, Church at Coffee Creek, John & Vicki Hefner, Cory & Leslie Young, Jenny Glasgow, Teddy Koehler, Brandon & Vanessa Blanchard, and Rick & Jan Britton. We appreciate each and every one of you!


Are there ways that you see yourself getting involved? Contact our Director of Development, Naomi Thompson, at: 816.272.0653 or naomi@peacecounseling.org to find out how you can join our team of Partners. To make a donation through our website, please click on the link below.



 


Independence Rotary 2024 Mardi Gras Gala Nomination


Peace Partnership has been nominated to be the recipient for the Independence Rotary Mardi Gras Gala in February 2024. If chosen, this fundraiser would be an amazing opportunity to boost our In-School Counseling partnership and grow the number of students we can help in the Independence School District. If you live, work, or do business in Independence, would you consider committing to sponsor this gala for us? Do you know someone in Independence you could introduce to us who would be interested in supporting us in this endeavor? Please contact Naomi for more information or to make an introduction: 816.272.0653 or naomi@peacecounseling.org.


 




Peace Partnership 10th Anniversary Open House

Saturday, May 20, 2023 from 11am-2pm


Bring your family and join us for an afternoon of fun, friends, and free food - including Zarda Bar-B-Q! You'll get to tour our office space, chat with our staff, enter our raffle, and so much more. RSVP to Naomi at 816.272.0653, naomi@peacecounseling.org or through your Evite invitation.


 

Presented by Con Carpet Tile + Design Thursday, September 21, 2023 @ 7:30 AM Adams Pointe Golf Club, 1601 RD Mize Rd, Blue Springs, MO


Sponsorships and registrations are now open! Get your teams together, sign your company up for a sponsorship, and block the date on your calendar. All golf proceeds help provide affordable counseling to the families in our community. As a bonus, you know you’ll get an amazing lunch from Zarda and a killer swag bag!

REGISTRATION:

  • Team Registration – 4 Person ($700)

  • Individual Team Registration ($175): Playing on a team but paying fees individually.

  • Individual Player Registration ($200): Individual golfer, not yet on a team. Will be placed on a team prior to event.

SPONSORSHIP LEVELS:

  • Presenting Sponsor ($15,000): Prominent logo placement on all event materials, welcome banner, and stand-alone sponsor banner; name included as presenter on all written materials; logo placed on gift bag; private speaking engagement with Dr. Jon Thompson; 2 foursomes included

  • Platinum Sponsor ($10,000): Prominent logo placement on all event materials & signage; exclusive logoed golfer gift item; 2 foursomes included

  • Gold Sponsor ($5,000): Exclusive logoed golfer gift item; prominent signage at event & logo on website; 1 foursome included

  • Silver Sponsor ($3,000): Logo placed on souvenir gift bag; logo on sponsor banner & website; 1 foursome included

  • Cart Sponsor ($1,000): Logo included on both beverage carts (2), cart corral area, and on sponsor banner

  • Premium Hole Sponsor ($250): Sign with logo at designated hole; option to handout giveaways at hole; ability to include promotional item in gift bag

To contact our Director of Development, Naomi Thompson, call: 816.272.0653 or email: naomi@peacecounseling.org.



 

Have you or someone you know been helped by Peace Partnership or Genesis Counseling? If so, would you please consider paying it forward to help another find healing along their journey? We are asking anyone who is not currently partnering with us financially to consider donating $100/year for the next 3 years to help make a difference in someone else’s life. Collectively, we can help SO MANY PEOPLE! Please consider a gift today. Call the office for help getting your gift set up or choose a recurring donation on our website here. We are so grateful for your help changing lives!




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