Janis Erickson is the founder of The Refuge Ministry.
My name is Janis and I am a survivor of abuse. I was married for 15 years. I had a beautiful lake home and financial security for the future. I am college educated. My husband was a very charming, intelligent man. He had a good job and was the "life of the party" type of individual. He was very well liked in the community. He was willing to help other people, yet for eight years of our 15 year marriage he was an alcoholic and for 15 years an abuser. He pushed me down stairs and other forms of physical abuse. He would scream obscenities at me. I could never do anything right enough for him. I walked on eggshells most of the time. I became very non emotional. I simply stuffed my emotions down.
Seven years ago, he went through treatment and stayed sober this time. I was excited for our new life. However, sadly, the abuse stayed the same. He became a "dry" drunk.
In 1992 I sustained a traumatic brain injury which left me disabled with short-term memory loss. He used to call me Little "Mo" which was short for "moron". He really thought that was funny. He made threats that if I didnt do what he wanted, he would kick me out of the house or he would scream at me saying, "there is going to be big trouble". With little income, I didnt know how I could survive. I also felt shame, humiliation, guilt, fear and feelings of personal and spiritual failure. I, at that time, believed I should remain in the marriage because of my wedding vows. I am a Christian and I now know it would have been alright to have left because of the abuse. God doesnt condone people being battered. My ex controlled the money and everything else. He would give me a monthly allowance.
He threatened my life and he would say humiliating things to me in public. He continually withheld any affection from me. In fact, he wouldnt make love to me for the last seven years of our marriage because he thought I was undesirable. He would swear at me, calling me a f-blanking bitch, ass, dumb, stupid, crazy, ugly, etc. In November 2001 he asked me for a divorce. (He was having an affair with another woman).
In December 2001, he brought his fist up toward my face and threatened me. I couldnt take it anymore and I called the police. When I got off the phone after calling 911, he went ballistic. The police came and spoke with both of us. Both of the officers ended up laughing with him and went out to look at his new snowmobile. I was crying and one of the officers came back in and told me I should get counselling. I felt betrayed all over again.
I went to a battered womans shelter for two weeks over Christmas. It took the police at least a week to serve him his Order for Protection. They knew where he lived and worked, yet they never seemed able to deliver it to him. He eventually went into the courthouse and picked up the "OFP" himself. I called the sheriff and he told me that it was more "convenient" that way. Once again I felt let down. However, I must say I know there are some very good police officers familiar with how abusers work. Another point is that I did go to a doctor to document injuries of the abuse.
When moving, he came to get his belongings as I was forced to move out of my home. He was once again very verbally abusive to me and my neighbor. He was controlling and vicious. This was the first time anyone had seen some of his true colors. The police were called and he spent two days in jail. But he wasnt sentenced to anything.
I have learned many things after all of this happened. People have often asked me why I stayed. It is a complex answer. The abuser gets the womans self-esteem so low that she feels helpless and is embarrassed to tell anyone about the abuse. This is just part of why she stays and why I stayed. Fear of not being believed is another reason because the batterer is normally so charming and friendly to other people outside the home. Economics plays a major role, also. I lost my home and financial future, but I believe God has a bright and promising future for me. My goal is to continue to speak on behalf of battered women. I have spoken at churches, political arenas, service organizations, and to the general public.
Briefly, some signs I feel would be good to look for, if you suspect a woman is being battered, are bruising, seeming not to be truthful about the bruises or injury. Ask the person about a relationship and, if there is one, ask her if she feels safe in her environment. Depression could be a sign of abuse, as could alcohol abuse on either her part or the abusers part. If you do suspect abuse, refer them to counselling. Provide them with shelter numbers and the Alliance for Domestic Violence.
First, recognize there is a problem. What you can do: lend a listening ear, guide them to community services, focus on their strengths, help them make a safety plan and help find a safe place.
The U. S. Department of Justice reports that 30 to 60% of battered mothers children also are mistreated.
Who is affected by abuse? While women and children are usually the recipients of abuse, men can be the victims as well. The children a lot of times grow up to be abusers themselves because it is a learned behavior. They also many times end up marrying abusers.
It is estimated that between 12 and 35% of women visiting emergency rooms with injuries are there because of battering.
Divorce following an abusive marriage has a very negative impact on our economy. A woman in an abusive relationship often times is not allowed to work outside of the home so has limited marketable skills. Once on her own, a woman is forced to go on welfare or other governmental aide. That costs society more money in taxes, job training costs and financial aide.
There is hope. There are resources out there. We need education for the public as well as for the battered women/men and also help for the perpetrators. You can make a difference by reaching out to help. Thank you for wanting to learn and help battered women.
I am available to speak at conferences or trainings, etc.
God bless you, Janis Erickson ~The Refuge Ministry~
"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, plans to give you hope and a future"
Articles by Janis Erickson
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