If you suspect abuse, see abuse... don't look away, reach in.

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 GREC# 169695

I want to share a very personal and painful story with you.  It's my story.  The story of me being in an abusive relationship.  I feel a deep passion about sharing this story with others because I hope that somewhere, someone will be helped because I share my story. Not because I think I should put my "dirty laundry" out here for everyone to see, BUT because it might help someone else.  And if knowing my story can help you to help a family member or friend, well then, telling you MY story is worth the moment of uncomfortable I'm feeling in sharing it. But I do want you to know from the beginning two things.  One, I am a very fortunate woman that fell in love 14 years ago with the best man I've ever known.  This summer will be our tenth wedding anniversary and I treasure ever single day we have together.  The second thing I want you know is that my abuser died in February of 2011 and I finally am completely at peace with my past.

 I've written before about my Donald, who is truly my soul mate, so know up front that my story has a happy ending.  But the Drew Petersons, the Scott Petersons of this world prompt me to tell you about a time in my life that I don't talk about, no one in my family mentions, and friends who have only known me since 1997 have no idea about.  I'm sure this post will bring questions from some of them.  But at this point it feels like a movie I watched, not my actual life, so I'm going to share.

It was 1996.  I had just turned 31, I owned Lane Realty and was a single mom, life was not easy, but it was pretty good.  There was a man I considered a friend.  We had sold his home a few years before, he owned his own business, was quite good looking and VERY charming.  Over a few years we'd hung out from time to time, not dated really, just hung out as friends.  He had referred his clients to me if they needed a real estate agent and I'd sent business his way as well over a few years.

The summer of 1996 I was dating a construction foreman and when we had our "break-up" it was very difficult for me, not so much my relationship with him, but he had two children just a little younger than my own daughter and I was very close with those children and it broke my heart for them to leave my life.  I turned to my friend with my heart ache and that's where the romance began.

He was there for me and so charming.  I knew his father lived here in town and had no idea about anymore of his family and it just didn't seem important at the time.  In October of 1996 I made the worst mistake in my entire life.  I said yes.  In November got married.  He moved into my house with my daughter and me and the nightmare days began immediately. 

There was part of my clothes he didn't want me to wear, he would get angry if I needed to work on weekends.  He began to need me to do "stuff" for him if I was on the phone with my mom or wanted to stop by her house.  Being cut off from my friends and family felt subtle, I can't say that while I was all happy, newly wed and in love I really noticed any of it.  Looking back of course it's all quite clear.  As time moved, the verbal abuse began.  Me, being a natural problem solver, just keep looking for ways to "fix" it, to "fix" him.  To make him understand there was no need to be jealous.

It only got worse.  Christmas morning was a total nightmare.  He got so angry over a Christmas card in my Christmas card hold (before any gift opening) that had come from a male high school classmate (who happened to be married with three children) that he stormed out of the house and frankly ruined my little 8 year old Abigail's Christmas that morning.  By this time, I was a nervous wreck.  I was living my life walking on egg shells and loosing about 5 pounds a week without trying at all.  People were asking me if I was "sick" all the time.  I didn't reach out to anyone for help, I crawled deeper into a shell and tried ever so hard to hide my problems from view.  From the outside looking in I wonder how bad it looked, but I spent a lot of time convincing myself it would get better.  It didn't.

By February I was simply a shell of my former self.  I looked like a sack of bones and he began to try and force me to eat more.  I was failing at everything and I felt totally to blame.  I couldn't focus on work, I wasn't being a good mom and I'd cut off all my friends with excuses and had minimal contact with my family and that was mostly on the phone.  I even stopped going to church for a few weeks just so I wouldn't have to answer questions about looking sick.

In March I had a call from a client and needed to go to the office and he threw a huge hissy fit about me not "being able to make the phone call in front of him" and that was the day he crossed the line.  There was hitting, their was hair pulling and there was a gun.  My daughter witnessed it all.  I was only ever in the same room with him one time after that day and that room was the court room the day a judge granted me my life back in May of 1997.  May 9th.  My personal "independence day"  Also my attorneys birthday in fact.  I did look over my shoulder and around corners, I cringed when I saw what looked like his truck until a year ago.

From the outside looking in on other women who are involved with abusive controlling men, I had judged them.  Prior to my own experience.  It's so easy to sit in judgment and say... "why don't they just leave".  I can't really explain in any words that make sense, but I know I felt... I felt love, I felt the desire not to fail at a marriage, I so wanted to "fix" him and make him understand he could trust me and make it all better. So please don'tbe like me... before I lived it, don't judge. 

My point in sharing all of this...

It was my daughter who gave the strength to walk away.  I put one foot in front of the next and move forward.  I did it for her, not for myself.

Frankly the shame of it all kept me from reaching OUT to anyone during that time and NO ONE was reaching in to me.  From where I sit now, it is SO easy to spot these control freak men and see the abusers.  Over the past 15 years I've reached "IN" to many women and let them know I'd do whatever I needed to do to help.  Two of them have been family members even. 

I don't want a single person reading this to feel sorry for me.  I'm good.  I don't need sympathy or sorrow.  I made it through it and I don't even regret that I did have to go through it.  I learned from it.  My daughter learned from it.    The minute one of her boyfriends in high school would get clingy and jealous she'd toss them to the curb in a heart beat.

What I want from you after reading this, what I demand of you after reading this... is a promise that if you see even the slightest hint of abuse you will reach "in" to the person suffering the abuse.  Talk to their family, talk to them talk to their friends and yes, talk to the police.  Not so long ago a man walked into our local Lowe's and shot his wife who worked there.  He then walked out, got into his truck and shot himself in the parking lot.  I didn't know her, I wish I had.  I wish I'd reached in.  I am now a very strong, brave woman.  I've walked up to couples fighting in public and stepped in, and I'll go it again.  I'd do for a friend and I'd do it for a complete stranger.  I certainly wouldn't ask any of you to do more than dial 911 if it were strangers, but if it's a person you know... promise yourself not to look the other way, but to reach "in". 

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Rainmaker
1,914,040
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Real Estate Agent, Top 1% of Lyon Agents
Lyon Real Estate - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

@ Margaret #2: The American Medical Association says 1 in 3 women are a victim of domestic abuse. Women don't talk about it and your friends probably don't mention it to you.

Kudos to Tammy for bringing it up and into the open like this. It took incredible strength to write this, Tammy, and I applaud you.

It's hard for me to name a close friend who has had no abuse in her life.

Mar 22, 2012 11:30 PM #114
Rainer
84,187
Brad Baylor
ERA Coup Agency - Milton, PA

No one deserves to be treated that way.  Congratulations to you on your new life and being able to put that nightmare behind you!

Mar 22, 2012 11:56 PM #115
Rainmaker
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Sylvie Stuart
Realty One Group Mountain Desert 928-600-2765 - Flagstaff, AZ
Home Buying, Home Selling and Investment - Flagsta

This is a great post and shows your strength and the strength you can muster up in such situations. I have been there, and it was the toughest thing to imagine to leave, but I have grown so much through and since that experience and now have a nurturing, beautiful, supportive relationship that I might have passed up initially had I not had that experience. I'm pretty good at seeing it, too, now, but messed one, my best friend was killed by her husband a few years ago, no one saw the signs, and that one I may never be able to wrap my mind around. That said, I also know that you can't force anyone to do what they don't want to do, and knowing her, she would have stayed to try to work it out. It's amazing how distorted the thinking can get. I commend you for growing through your experience and teaching your daughter to become a strong, independent woman. No one is immune from this experience, and we do need to stand together to do what can be done.

Mar 23, 2012 12:28 AM #116
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Melissa Zavala
Broadpoint Properties - Escondido, CA
Broker, Escondido Real Estate, San Diego County

Tammy: I missed this post, and want to tell you that you are one brave woman. Maybe we will all learn something from your story and your message.

Mar 23, 2012 03:20 AM #117
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Jason Sardi
Auto & Home & Life Insurance throughout North Carolina - Charlotte, NC
Your Agent for Life

I can't add too much more to this, Tammy.

Sardi loves ya.

Mar 23, 2012 03:47 AM #118
Rainmaker
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Terry McCarley
REMAX Realty Team - Cape Coral FL - Cape Coral, FL
REALTOR, SRES, CDPE - Cape Coral, FL

Tammy - sorry for the late comment - I have been out of town on a business trip.  I too was married to an abusive man and he too has also passed away - I also am remarried to a wonderful man who truly loves!  I could have written an almost identical post to yours but don't think I would ever have the courage to share that part of my life online with the world so I truly admire your guts.  People need to know there is life after abuse if you have the courage to leave.  Thanks so much for sharing and may God bless you and your loved ones!!!

Mar 23, 2012 04:43 AM #119
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Debe Maxwell, CRS
www.AtHomesCharlotte.com | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods

Carla ROCKS!  Tammy, like Jason, I can't add anything that hasn't been added but, you are such a good soul and to be able to share this with the world really does show what a strong woman you are.  I'm honored to know you and commend you for your efforts to save others from this situation.

Mar 23, 2012 12:52 PM #120
Rainmaker
633,459
DeeDee Riley
Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA - El Dorado Hills, CA
Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas

Tammy,

You have my word to reach in if I ever see any signs.  You are an amazingly strong person and I'm glad for that!   Our children tend to give us more strength through our motherly instinct to protect them and give them a better life.  You both deserved better and thank God you now have it!

Mar 23, 2012 01:49 PM #121
Rainmaker
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Jane Peters
Home Jane Realty - Los Angeles, CA
Connecting you to the L.A. real estate market

I am late to the game, but this is a great, and important message, Tammy.  And you are very brave for sharing your experience.

Mar 23, 2012 03:08 PM #122
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Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices

It never is so ovous fromthe start and even though it sounds wild, some habit is formed, and people keep staying in a relationship which is terribly wrong. It is often much easier to see from the outside, than from being involved.

I think it does not necessarily means that one is terrible. These people then find someone and they are happy. I do not think that if it is bad, it would change even if those involved try hard.

I have seen that back in the USSR mostly because of drinking, or problems were exacerbated because of drinking, and often these guys were the kindest in the world until they got drunk. It was difficult there because it was considered normal that women had to suffer with alcoholics, and they carried some societal blame if they leave early. Andit took decades.

Mar 24, 2012 01:03 AM #123
Rainmaker
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Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Tammy - Wow, thx for sharing.  You are so strong and so brave and yes, sometimes it takes kids to bring out the strength in us.  I don't know why, but sometimes we are willing to do more for them than for ourselves.  They help you see things a bit more objectively.

Mar 24, 2012 10:11 PM #124
Rainer
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Ranji Singh
Century 21 Heritage Group Ltd. - Newmarket, ON

Hi Tammy,

 

What a great outcome! Yet the story of your journey needed to be shared that others don't think they are an exception. You are ever so brave, not just to have survived the experience, but to tell it. We need more brave folks like you to help victims recognize that what they are living in is not "normal", and that life does offer choices towards a silver lining.

 

Thanks for sharing.

Mar 24, 2012 11:29 PM #125
Rainmaker
3,247,463
Dorie Dillard
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.346.1799 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good morning Tammy,

What a wonderful post..thank you for sharing with us..I know it couldn't have been easy writing this post. You are so right..we do need to "reach in" if we suspect a situation and help..it's not easy to get out..it's not simple..the important thing is you did it and everyone won!

Mar 24, 2012 11:29 PM #126
Rainer
238,190
Anne M. Costello
Weidel Realtors - Yardley, PA

Tammy: I will come back to read the comments when I have more more. You are an amazing woman. You have saved lives by sharing this, I am sure of this. Your strength and kindness warms my heart. Thank you for opening your heart to all of us and all of the women who needed to see to this.

Mar 24, 2012 11:34 PM #127
Rainmaker
406,292
Marian Goetzinger
Pine Knoll Shores Realty 252-422-9000 - Pine Knoll Shores, NC
Crystal Coast Real Estate NC

Dear Tammy,

I spent most of my adult life working as an advocate for battered women and their children.  Why?  Because I lived your daughter's life growing up; watching my daddy belittle and abuse and physically batter my mother.  I eventually had the great privilege of serving on the executive board of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence as well as on the executive board of my state coalition.

Our motto was "What does not kill us will make us stronger."  It did, and it seems to have made you stronger too.  Thanks for having the courage to share your story.  You can be sure there are women out there who needed to read this.

Mar 26, 2012 03:37 AM #128
Rainer
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Amy Bly
Great Impressions Home Staging/Interiors - Montville, NJ
Styling Homes for Selling and Staying

Thank you for sharing, Tammy, it does take true bravery and caring about others. I had a friend in a verbally abusive relationship with a very paranoid husband who eventually got out, but I'm sure the scars on her children are still there.  Unfortunately, she lost custody of the child they had together because of this husband's manipulations and connections. A sad story, and my friend just so badly wanted love and a man in her life. I'm glad you and your daughter are doing so well now, and yes, your daughter learned the hard way to be careful and protective of herself, which will stand her in good stead her whole life. 

Mar 26, 2012 05:46 AM #129
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Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

I honestly had to just step away from this post for the last couple of days.  But today was one of those phone call days that make someone who read this post reach out and give me a call which brought me back to catch up on reading the comments.  It's my belief that people have been helped and enlightened by my making this part of my past public.  I'm so glad I did it.  And for all of your kind words and support I'm very grateful.

Mar 26, 2012 10:38 AM #130
Rainmaker
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Dana Basiliere
Rossi & Riina Real Estate - Williston, VT
Making deals "Happen"

Kudos to you Tammy for your willingness to help others and your stregnth to pull away. I will bet we all have seen signs of this even though subtle in the early stages. We all need to be vigilant and there for our friends.

Mar 30, 2012 12:42 AM #131
Rainer
54,410
Jairo Arreola
Lotus Group Realty - San Jose, CA
VA Home Loan Specialist - SF Bay Area - South Bay

Thanks for sharing. You showed great strength through tough times. I can't imagine what it was like, but I am sure your story will help someone else. God Bless

Apr 18, 2012 04:13 AM #132
Rainer
135,576
Matt Robinson
Professional Investors Guild - Pensacola, FL
www.professionalinvestorsguild.com

Tammy, that was very brave of you to share.  I certainly hope your story is an example to other women who may also be in abusive relationships. 

Jan 31, 2013 02:20 AM #133
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