CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If you were to see me walking down the street, or in a store, you would never realize that I am a survivor, but I am. I am a survivor, of epidemic proportions in the United States. In many ways I am a lucky woman for I survived more than 10 years of domestic violence.
I am a survivor of domestic violence of a different form: psychological, economic and sexual. Far too often I was threatened that I would be killed and disposed of if I did not "obey."
After an incident where my minor son was hit and I was pushed and pinned to a car, I found the courage to get out. Before, when the anger and rage was focused on me I did not have enough self-esteem or self-respect to get out, but when that violence touched one of my children, the mommy in me brought forth the courage I needed.
I filled out a protective order form and filed charges. After four court dates each being extended first 30 days, 60 days, 90 days then 120 days to see if any further incidents occurred, the court dismissed the case without even hearing our tale. We had no bruises, no broken bones, and no written threats. We had no proof and authorities in my county told me to come back when I had visible proof, which pretty much meant when he finally went through with his threats.
Those who have never suffered from any form of domestic violence often wonder "Why we stay?"
There are many answers to that question. We stay because we are terrified that if we try to leave we will die. We stay because in some way we feel "We deserve it." We stay for our children, out of shame, out of the fear that no one will believe us. We stay because we feel we have no other place to go. We stay because we know if we call out for help and the police come, they will only leave with the reply, until something happens there is little the laws can do.
I stayed for 10 years for many of those reasons. For a long time I lived in denial, thinking I could change my abuser. I honestly believed that if I loved him more, changed myself into the person he wanted me to be, that the abuse would stop and he would love me and stop hurting us. But that denial is false and now with my experience I hope to show other women that they are not responsible, that they cannot heal them from the sickness that plagues them. You have to get out, hide, and change your entire lives for the better.
I have decided that I need to tell my story and often, not for glory, or for sympathy, but so other women, men and children who may be in an abusive situation can see there is hope, there is a way out, and we are worth far more than being hit, tortured, mentally and emotionally devoured by the violence of another.
I'm still struggling, but I am lucky because I am a survivor. Far too many women do not survive domestic violence. I have scars within my soul. I still have night terrors, but each day things do get better.
Soon it will be one year since I left in the middle of the night during a snowstorm to safety. Today because of a heavy burden on my heart, I am writing this letter. I know that I am only one person, but I feel I need to make a difference if I can. Our laws are not nearly enough to protect victims of domestic abuse. Inside me is a fight. We must all stand together and fight for domestic violence victims everywhere.
I urge everyone to look around them. We all know someone who has been or is a victim of domestic violence. It is time, my friends, to strengthen the laws to protect victims. It is time to Unsilence the Violence. With best wishes and appreciation, Tammy Marie Rose.
Rose is a freelance writer in Maysel.