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 fire...you'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 was....as 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 ready...it'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 provider...you 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 grab...as 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 received...it 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 friends...as 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 me...as 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 myself...as 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 nation...to 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,