Thursday, April 3, 2008

My Mind Was Screaming "FIRE!"

Fire always represents a very real and immediate danger. Do you know what to do if your way of escape is blocked? Would you grab anything as you tried to run? If so, what would that be? Your mind would be racing into a thousand different directions. What about the kids! Are they aware of the danger? Why, oh why, didn't we "plan" a way out of a situation like this?!? I was always my intention to sit down and make a plan, go over the details with the kids...but I never did it.

Thankfully, reading this will give you the encouragement needed to put a plan into place. However, before I go further, you need to know that I see the "abuser" like I see a "FIRE!". Fire can be a life threatening event. When you look at the "abuser" as you would a'd be surprised how many things you could think of needing to get into place in the event an immediate departure became necessary.

Trying to put things in order to share with you on this topic is no small task. There are dozens of things to be said, yet for now I'll share the few that were said to me over & over again by a wise counselor. Please be aware that each of us would need to "tailor" certain things to our particular situations. Once I sought shelter within the "safe house" I saw just how different each situation really different as day is to night.

I was told to make sure I kept (at all times) a minimum of $10...and in a place where the abuser won't find it. Make sure I had an extra key for the car and put it in a safe place. Make sure you know exactly where your driver's license, passport, social security card, etc. are...but most importantly, keep them where you can grab them in a hurry. Personally, there were some medical documents I had to have when I left.
There are many variables on what is an immediate need to each individual.

What would you do if your way of escape was blocked? Every residence is different, so what may work for one, may not necessarily work for another. Yet, these are things you can plan for now...before it's too late. I've learned that if you have to "take time to get's already too late". Have a plan in place now.

I've gotten emails from many of you asking similar questions. Many of you do not want me to return your email with an answer/suggestion for fear someone else may read your email. This lets me know that you don't have a private email account. So, I'll try and answer as many questions within the posts I'll write.

Concerning the email issue: If you are fearful that your email may be read, open an email account of your own. You can use "Yahoo", "Gmail", Hotmail", etc...these are free! If you don't want to use your home computer, you can use one at the library, Internet cafe and even some community education centers allow you to use their computers. There are even some office supply stores that allow you to use a computer...but here it may cost, yet it is safe! The one that comes to mind is "Kinkos". However, if you are one of the more fortunate ones, you may have a family member, friend or colleague that you can trust. Perhaps, they will allow you to create an email account using their computer. You must have a way to communicate freely within a safe environment.

Say for instance you have AOL as an internet can still open up a "Yahoo", etc. email account, as it's separate from AOL. The scary part is that none of us know whether or not the "abuser" has installed a "keylogger" on the home computer. That would allow the "abuser" to see every key stroke you make. There have been two readers of this blog that told me this happened to them. I was asked if this was done to me. No, this is not something I had to deal with. Yet, I must confess, just the thought of it, causes me to cringe.

You can also make sure your web sites viewed/history etc., is deleted...yet, I was told that someone with the 'know how' could recover this. If any of you know about this and how something is recovered once it's been deleted..let me know. Another important thing to have is you personal phone book...numbers for your doctor, the schools, family members & friends. If there's only one...get it copied it.

Are there any medications you are taking? What about for the kids? Make a list of what these medications are, strengths, and dosing instructions. Make sure you know how to scoop those medications up in a hurry. With the kids you can make it a 'drill' in case of fire, they look at this like a game. No need to tell them it may be used for a different thing altogether. Make sure each child understands exactly what to do if you yell, "Fire!"

Above all else tell someone. The staff at the women's shelters are such an awesome resource. Many women go there to learn the "how do I leave" information. There are things they told me ahead of time...that empowered me when I did have to flee my home. At least I knew what to it was prepared ahead of time. I even had all my necessary documents in my combination locked briefcase.

Looking back, there were some things I wish I had known...if I had asked the right questions it would have made a huge difference. Yet, the things I did learn ahead of time, was literally a life saver.

Much of the time from leaving my home and arriving at the "safe house" is a bit fuzzy. The emotional stress, of feeling as if everything had caved in on me...was devastating. It seemed as if I was operating on "auto-pilot". Due to the counseling I'd appeared I had the basics down perfectly. I had actually made a list of what I was told. A literal list! There was no way I could trust myself to remember so much information that was so foreign to me.

One thing that was a drawback for me, was the fact I had no family living within 200 miles. One of my closest close as a sister---lived in the northeast. The one female friend I trusted most (here locally)...for almost 20 years...let me know that both she and her husband were well aware of the abuse (as was most other leadership). She & I talked for almost 5 hours. She assured me that they would help me get out...comforting me with her words of encouragement. We cried together and she told me she loved me like her own sister. Before she left she hugged me and again let me know "everything will work out". Hearing her promise of help, was like a lead weight had been lifted off me. A bit of springlike breeze seemed to be whirling all around prior to this 5 hour visit, I was feeling both isolated and shamed,

However, the very next day she called me and let me know that since she and her husband were both in the same level of leadership within the church as we were...they thought it best not to get involved. When I heard her words, I suddenly was unable to breathe, the room seemed to be spinning...nor could I get up from the chair I was sitting. I hung up the phone and cried for almost three straight hours. Isn't this exactly where my help should come from? Plus, the fact our friendship was so close, she had even asked me to attend during the birth of their second child. This friendship spanned almost two decades. Yet, now I felt totally abandoned.

I must tell you about my attorney. She was a godsend. It was through her, too, that made what I would call an 'outline' of exactly what to do and in which order to get these things completed. I told her at the time, I'd do exactly as she recommended (as I certainly couldn't trust I had no clue where to begin). I kept my word. My gratitude to her could never be repaid in 10 lifetimes. She was not only my attorney, but is now a friend. My admiration of her is abundant. Her caring and compassion was evident from the moment I met her. It is to her that I dedicate this post. She is far more than an attorney...she is a shining example of "doing what your hands find to do"...whether it is helping to paint someone else's business, or traveling overseas going into a war torn help on various projects. I told my Mom when I grow up, I'd like to be like my attorney :)

Well, it's getting very late and this lady is tired...but before I go, let me leave you with something I was told years ago...'never say more than what YOU are comfortable saying".

Kindest Regards Always,



Anonymous said...

I've been waiting for you to tell more to us. You said the libary will let us use there computer. Is this free? Do you need to belong to the libary? I volunteer at my boy's school. Do you think the office lady will let me use there stuff to make an email acount? How can I know if my boyfriend has one of those things on the conputer at home?


Anonymous said...

Such a sad world we live in to know this goes on in hundreds of homes in every town….

I always ask myself how a loving, caring God allows it, or why He puts up with it.

I can’t believe the people in your old church turning their back on you. Are they REALLY a church; or just a bunch of people going through the motions and, as Joyce Meyer says “wearing the Jesus pin and having the bumper sticker”… You’d think (as you said) that church members more than anyone would step up to do what’s right. Looks like they were more interested in doing what was “comfortable”. How did these people get positions of authority in the “church” when the first time they are called to help a fellow member, they turn their backs? I’m sorry, I know they were (or still are) your friends, but I hate hypocrites!

Anonymous said...

how can I find out the laws reguarding my situation with my boyfreind?? He's 31 and I'm 17. My paernts made us break up once,so they dont know I'm stil seeing him. He has a hair trigger, so even thought I want to leave I'm scared to do it. he gets so mad so fast.

Anonymous said...

I've tried for years to leave this abuse, but only one time did I really do it because he said he would get help. He never did and if I leave he'll kill himself. Everyone is afrais of him, even his own family. I'm in a farming area so not much help locally. I dont know what to do

Anonymous said...

Do you have any books out on this subject but coming from the things you went through? Are you in public office? The fire idea was very creative. Did you have a backup plan? Did you ever get your all your stuff? Are you still sad? How can anyone get over somethign they were in for so long. I read you profile. OMG it must have seemed like a lifetime of s---.

diane said...

This is such valuable information! I like the comparison to preparing for a fire. It makes the job seem more surmountable - preparing to leave a dangerous situation. I read these other comments, and I've got these women in my heart for prayer!

Kathryn said...

Diane...thank you for such kind words. More importantly thank you for your promise to pray for the other women who's posts I was able to publish. Many of their posts I can't publish due to the fact they include too much personal information.

The idea of the "fire" came from my much loved husband (of almost 2 years!). If I hadn't left the abusive situation I had been living for well over two decades...we'd have never met. He is a gift from the Lord and each new day a blessing from above.


Anonymous said...

Using the idea of a fire was a stroke of genius! Brilliant analogy. We just hope that those that read your blog put it's message into practice.

Anonymous said...

As a family physican I know what you've written is true. You need to shout it from the rooftops if need be. Those in abusive relationships need to tell someone. If nothing is said, then nothing can be done. On an earlier post you let your readers know to do whatever it takes to get the care giver alone. This is imperative! There are those of us yearning to help, but the silence ties our hands.

From Colorado

Anonymous said...

I'm a pastor's wife. What you wrote about your former church, sadly, is not only within that congregation. It's here to. For me as his wife, no one knows what's taking place at home. No one. There is no one to tell. No one would belive me. After all, he's the "Pastor" most see no flaw whatsoever. That in itself is frightening. There are women from our church that serve on the board of directors at our local women's shelter. With that in mind, what am I supposed to do? If I were to choose to go forward, it would be immediately reported back to him, their "Pastor". Most people have no idea how wide spread this is. In my opinion, they choose to close thier eyes. It happend "out there to other people", certaily not within the church. It's this attitude that allows this sin hide, in plain sight.

When I read how your friend of almost 20 years changed her mind about helping you, that if a prime example of people wanting to please thier "Pastors" rather than obey the Lord and do what they KNOW is the right thing.

You can post this comment, but please leave out my name & email address. It's OK to let it be known I'm from the Detroit area.

Anonymous said...

This book was a real eyeopener called "Why Does He Do That?" by Lundy Bancroft. As an educator, I see abuse in many forms and also have experienced it myself. You are never alone and remember that it is not your fault and you are not responsible for the behavior of someone else. Peace,

Maria Phelps said...

I really encourage everyone to check out my blog,

I am starting a movement in my community and exposing my personal story, and my abusers' name. I recently got involved with the National coalition against domestic violence and I have been bringing awareness to my community. Please visit my site and I hope it inspires people to do SOMETHING to eradicate this violence.