My first marriage lasted seven years. I honestly believed I was a good person, husband and father, when in reality many of my behaviors were extremely unhealthy and hurtful. In the final parenting plan, I was required to complete a court approved domestic violence intervention program.
For a long time I refused to go and tried to get the court to move forward without it. I did not believe the court had a right to impose this on me, as I believed I had not been abusive.
Power and control seemed to me to be a normal part of family and society. Eight years and two prison sentences later, I finally submitted to an evaluation, realizing how unbelievably selfish and arrogant I had been to make my children suffer.
I believe that God actually led me to the ARMS ManKind program. I had the evaluation, thinking there was no way I would be recommended for treatment. I was expecting a pass, only to find that I was not only recommended for the treatment, but rated as high risk.
Most of my life I had been in various roles of leadership, and I did not connect my addictive and abusive behaviors with wrong thinking patterns of power and control.
Something mentioned during my assessment kept haunting me, “Your history of leadership roles does not mean you were abuse free. On the contrary, power and control can very easily be abused in leadership.”
Reluctantly I agreed to begin the program. Although I still did not believe I needed this, God did deal with me on being teachable and bringing me into a position of humility to receive what maybe I couldn’t see. The first couple of months I still felt out of place, but eventually I became aware of my need and even accepted that it would take some time to identify wrong beliefs, past abusive behaviors, and learn new beliefs and my true identity in God. It was not long before I began to see that indeed I had been abusive for most, if not all of my adult life before and after becoming a Christian.
For the next several months I was systematically peeled like an onion. God used the ARMS ManKind program to help me make changes that I do not believe I could have done any other way.
ARMS has equipped me to be a more effective leader for my family and in the church.
I am now remarried to an incredible woman who has stood by me through this process. It is beyond a shadow of a doubt that the ARMS ManKind program has helped our relationship and given me new perception on life. They have equipped me with tools needed to maintain healthy relationships, even in sometimes very difficult circumstances.
Last year, my roommate horribly abused me. It left my home heavily damaged, and me with spit on my face, a contusion, and bruises on my body. I had bills in my name left to pay, two moves in two months, nightmares, and felt utterly alone.
My whole life had been filled with abuse. My parents divorced when I was at the age of 11. My father left and never returned. My perspective at the time was ‘I wasn’t enough.’ If I had been enough, he would have stayed.
I began to be sexually active at the age of 16. I just wanted to be loved by someone, anyone. With each person I slept with, I only became emptier, which strengthened my belief, ‘I am not enough.’
I eventually married. I believed he was a gift from God. We met at church, courted for six months, attended premarital counseling, and waited to have sex on our wedding night. I was going to do things right this time.
Unfortunately, just three months into our marriage, the physical abuse began. I was in shock and saddened that I was repeating an all too familiar pattern. I decided I would just play a role; I would be more loving, more obedient. This would keep him from leaving me. Maybe it would change over time. It only got worse and our marriage ended.
I kept finding myself with abusive people, even my roommate.
I was given the number to the ARMS office by my Business coach. She encouraged me to call the number. She was concerned these abusive patterns would repeat if I didn’t get help. I didn’t believe ARMS would be the answer, but knowing nothing else had worked, I finally made the call.
At the first class they handed me a folder. I was in shock. As I looked at the information, I saw all the types of abuse I had endured. I left angry and sad that this had been my life. I was a talented, loving and a smart woman.
The Her Journey program motivated me to make a change. I wanted a better life. The remaining 14 classes helped me to embrace the truth about abuse and gave me skills and tools I could use to better my life. I learned how to truly forgive regardless of whether my abuser ever chose to change.
I began to believe for the first time I am the beautiful masterpiece of God. I am enough. By courageously stepping into the first class and learning, I was able to turn my life around, to never live in domestic abuse again.
These classes were powerful and life changing. I still participate in the classes today.
Today I feel safe and healthy. Even though I live alone, I am not lonely. l have learned how to become financially independent. I am able to set healthy boundaries for myself. I can navigate through challenges that come my way with quiet, confident strength. I can smile with confidence that I am forever changed for the better.
Please RSVP to MariaMag@clackamas.us for this event.
Champion Challenge! Please help us raise up 100 people in December, who will champion victims of domestic violence by pledging $20 a month for 12 months.
ARMS has served over 15,000 victims/survivors of domestic abuse find healing and hope since 1997. Her Journey is a FREE 15 week program, held year-round in confidential locations, to help women find healing and support to end the cycle of violence, impacting generations to come.
It costs only $70 to provide this 15 week program for a victim/survivor. With the help of our Champions this Christmas we will be able to serve over 340 women who have experience domestic violence.
ARMS is a 501 ( c) 3 non-profit. Read more here.
The day after my wedding I realized I was in an abusive relationship. We were arguing about how much it hurt to watch him flirt with one of my bridesmaids on my wedding day. He reached over with his hand on my throat and pinned me to the wall while screaming “Shut up! Shut Up!” I was in such shock that I quickly quieted down, ran into the bathroom, and cried. While in the bathroom I thought, “What kind of man had I married? How could he do this to me, just yesterday he professed his love in front of all of our family, friends, and God?”
Later that day, he cried, apologized, and promised to never ever do anything like that again. But of course he did.
As his angry outburst continued, he would accuse me of being lazy if the house was not cleaned to his liking or if dinner was not ready when he came home. No matter what, it was always my fault.
He claimed I was the only one who drove him to act out in anger. When enraged, he would throw objects; hit the wall near me, or break things. He took my hands and wrung them as he backed me into a corner while shouting, “If only you’d been better, I would not have to lash out.” This was his explanation as to why he was angry with me.
I was scared for my life. I feared he would kill me. I grew tired of the constant fighting, so I dialed the police but quickly hung up. The police came and questioned me. I denied anything happened or that I was in danger. I called a few more times until the police officer threatened to take my children if they continued to be called out to our home.
I had to do something to save my children and protect them from my husband’s increased violent outbursts, which were always prevalent in our home.
When I first attended the Her Journey program, I quietly sat there listening to the lesson. It was as if a wave of love and calmness was spoken over me. I could literally feel the warmth go through me. It is hard to explain what happened to me but I knew I had come to a safe place; a place where I could be loved and accepted with all my anxiety, shame, and guilt. Her Journey was the first place I had felt understood. Each time I attended group my spirit was renewed.
At the end of every class I would give my prayer request. My group leader would pray with such power that I had goosebumps on my arms. God answered my prayers.
Because of the Her Journey program, I received the support and encouragement needed to move forward with my life. I found strength to get a job and put myself through school. I gained enough courage to divorce my abusive husband. I joined a church, made friends, and became involved in my community.
I am now confident and happy. I have the support of wonderful women around me, my children aren’t anxious in our home; I feel a sense of contentment and have a healthy outlook on life. Without the ARMS Her Journey group I really do not know how I would have survived.
ARMS provides this program for FREE. Please give a one-time gift, but would you also consider a monthly pledge and help victims of domestic violence all year long. $35, $50 or $100 a month will provide life giving help to women who have experience domestic abuse all year. Read more here.
July of 2013 was the day that I would first call 911 because of abuse at the hands of my husband. “Short-tempered people must pay their own penalty. If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again.” This is a verse in Proverbs that I had read just only days ago. I had already determined that I wasn’t going to hold back and defend him if 911 called back.
As I recounted the altercation between me and my husband to the policeman that had been sent, I did not hold back. I told him that my husband had abruptly got up while I was talking, and said that he was “done” and began to make a bed for himself in the living room. I was surprised by this, though I really shouldn’t have been because this was often his tactic for controlling things during disagreements or what he perceived as arguments. I asked him why he was “done”, and got no reply. I asked him again why he was “done”. His reply was, “I’m tired of listening to your lies and you being a b……” I simply stated that I was not telling him lies, but telling him what I honestly felt. He instantly charged toward me with his arms down by his sides, with clenched fists, and through a clenched jaw told me, “You’re really making me angry,” and pushed me onto the ground.
As I stood up, he grabbed me around my throat and shoved me into our bedroom, causing me to hit the dresser. I don’t know what caused him to release his hold, but I remember immediately walking out of the room, with him following behind me. I said, “You shouldn’t have put your hands on me. I don’t want to talk to you right now.” I was thinking, “I need to call the police. Where’s the phone? I need to find the phone.”
My counselor recommended the ARMS Her Journey program. The first group I attended impacted me deeply. It was the first time I felt completely validated about what I had been through. It was like a breath of fresh air, I sat there taking everything in, weeping silently. As a Christian, it has always been important to me that any counseling I’ve had was with a Christian, you can imagine my relief and the peace I had when group after group, the topics that were addressed about my abuse were always drawn from or linked to passages in the Bible, and began and ended in prayer.
I think the biggest impact that Her Journey has had upon me was educating me about what it means to be in an abusive relationship. The physical abuse was spread out over time with sometimes years between incidents, I was consistently blamed for things escalating to the physical level. I was told that I was the problem. I came to learn that the physical form of abuse was only one of many forms of abuse. I was thirsty to understand what had happened in my marriage-even though the outcome may not be one I would like. But just KNOWING what is going on provides the liberty to begin approaching a path of healing.
ARMS has truly been a lifeline for me in this journey that I am on. I realize my healing process will be an ongoing thing, especially since I will have to interact with my abuser because we share children. Because I know that ARMS is there, I will have practical and spiritual support alongside me. I know that my life would have been drastically different without the support and resources I have received from ARMS.
I didn’t know how abusive I was or how my actions affected those around me. I disregarded others feelings because I was preoccupied, doing things I cared about. I would break things out of anger, stop my wife from leaving our home and often bullied people on the internet.
It took losing two very close friends and being arrested for violating a no contact order before I was willing to consider the possibility that there was something wrong with me and my attitude.
While attending the Mankind classes, I began to see how the lessons could be applied to my life. With a little help, I was able to understand all the types of abuse and identify my abuse.
Once I started applying the things learned, I realized I was no longer choosing to see myself as the victim. I am able to make good choices in difficult situations. These changes make me feel good about myself.
I have realized that ARMS isn’t just about being taught how to behave by the facilitators, it’s also about learning from others who have been in my place and have experienced change in their lives. At first I wasn’t too comfortable with the idea of having to share with others in the group. But when I listened to the other men share how they have treated their partners, I saw myself and I knew I needed to change. When I finally began to open up, it wasn’t so bad – in fact it was often encouraging. I have learned I am not alone or some helpless outcast. There is hope for me and my future.
When I met my abuser I was pretty messed up. I already felt as if I had no value and all I wanted was for somebody to want me. There were some red flags in the beginning that I just didn’t see. My abuser would call me at least 15 times a day. I thought that this was endearing, that he was taking interest in me.
The moment I became pregnant I was no longer a person, I was a possession. I thought that if I paid more attention, if I was smarter, or if I just loved him well that I could make it work. So I just got into this routine, he would get mad and I would apologize and I would just try not to make him mad.
The next two years were a whirlwind of anger, police, and packing. I don’t remember every argument but what I do remember is feeling fear, shame, guilt, and worthlessness. As my abuser’s anger progressed, so did his actions. It started with name calling and mind games. Eventually he started to throw things. Not OUR things, never his things, ALWAYS my things. First it was the glasses. Eventually it was the coffee table.
One night my abuser picked me up by my neck and pinned me on the wall, all while I was holding our 18 month old son. I tried to call 911, which ended up in a tug of war with our son. The police came and he went to jail.
My abuser told me how bad jail was, how he had prayed for God to forgive him. He told me he was going to change and he wanted a fresh start. He even agreed to go to counseling. So I moved back home.
I privately and honestly shared with the counselor. He said, “Marriage counseling is not what you need. This is a very abusive relationship, and if you choose to stay you will die.” I was just stunned, and I really didn’t get much time to think or respond to what he said because my abuser came in the door. He demanded I leave and never contact the counselor again.
It wasn’t long before I saw my situation as potentially deadly. He even admitted to believing he could kill me. I finally left.
Her Journey has given me a newness of heart. Through each lesson I feel more whole. Through the Her Journey process I’ve learned to really let God work in my heart in ways I wasn’t aware that I needed. Every time I go through a lesson there is something more for me. The lesson on forgiveness has become pivotal in my healing. I’ve gone through all this time focusing on healing, not necessarily forgiveness. I guess there was a part of me that has always thought if I fully forgave him, I would be condoning his behavior in some way. What I have learned is that forgiveness is for the healing of my heart. It’s not really about him.
I am no longer fractured or broken. I am Stella; a beautiful daughter of Christ, just as we all are.