October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I serve as a Family Advocate at a domestic violence shelter in Lexington, KY. Every day I get the opportunity to work one-to-one with women who are trying to put their lives together after experiencing abuse at the hands of their most intimate partners.
To be completely honest, I get overwhelmed with the heartbreaking stories I hear and the trauma I witness. Some days, I feel myself wanting to run away. However, I also am blown away by the incredible strength and resilience I see in these women. To me, they are real life superheroes.
I’ve briefly shared that I am a domestic violence survivor, but I have never shared the main driving force of why I daily choose to do the work I do. Two years ago, my brother-in-law’s sister, Ali, lost her life at the hands of her husband in a murder-suicide. It’s not something I talk about because I never felt that it was my story to share. But I often think of her. Her sons call me ‘Aunt Christy,’ so I want to honor her and her sons in the work I do.
Her mother, Elaine, has decided to share some of Ali’s story in order to bring awareness to the reality of intimate partner violence.
Ali was a very easy going loving girl. She always had a smile on her face and thought she could save the world. She was very tender hearted and always gave to those in need, even if she did without. This was how she was raised – we are abundant in love and will never go hungry, always give to those in lesser situations. Ali was an honor graduate, Tennessee Scholar. She was very smart and intelligent. However, she used her heart instead of common sense when she hooked up with Chris. They met when she was a high school sophomore. He filled her head with stories of child abuse. He told her that he bounced from place to place and had no home to live in. She cried and threw my words of taking care of those in need in my face. So I allowed him to move into our home and raised him as my own son. I gave him his first birthday cake and Christmas presents; I took him everywhere with us.
Red flags—He was jealous of anyone that spoke or looked at her. She was not allowed to have her brother in her bedroom for their private talks unless he was present. I talked to her about that and thought all was well. However, it had gotten worse. She started dressing in ugly large, baggy clothes to hide her body. She could not leave a room without him following her. He would sit outside in his car at her place of employment. He often harassed her male coworkers and caused her to lose her job. They lived with me until she was 20 and then moved into a home of their own. He hardly worked and every job she got he caused her to lose it. She started smiling less. I noticed bruises on her arms.
When she became pregnant, he was so jealous of the baby. He would yell and scream and threaten to harm the baby. She left and moved off with us. She took him back three weeks later and they all lived with me again. He would not work or keep a job. He started beating on her and raping her with the baby in the room. This continued until she was pregnant again with their second child. He always accused her of cheating and sleeping around on him. She never had a way to go as he made sure she had no vehicle. Finally, she was not allowed to attend family functions. During Christmas Eve 2014, they were driving home after visiting family. He was so jealous of her cousins that she had not seen in years, and he pulled a knife out going down the road and held it to her throat. He told her he would cut her throat in front of the boys and then while she died, he would do it to them. She was able to get out with 2 cuts to the top of her thigh. People with kids need to know that the little ones are being abused, also.
This went on for 6 years. – physical and emotional abuse. No matter what we said or how many times we tried to intervene, she stayed. She stayed because he threatened to kill all of us, and she believed him. He started abusing drugs. There were no red flags the night before she was murdered because he stayed out all night doing drugs. According to her oldest boy, their dad beat their mom with his fist and a metal pipe. He threatened to kill the boys first and then her. He shot her while the boys where behind her chair, and she was able to get them to the front door without him shooting them but her 2 more times. She then ran to the back door to draw him away from them; he shot her 2 more times.
How am I dealing with her death? You relive the memory over and over until it gets easier and you can shake it off. My way of dealing was that god allowed me to hold my child when she took her first breath and her last breath. I have not been the same since. The void is so great no matter how hard I try to pretend to be happy. I look into the faces of her sweet boys and see her every day. They have helped some with the pain, but then I carry the burden of knowing how they feel and try to justify what happened to their parents. Life is a daily struggle for all of us and it has been 2 years.
My advice to someone who is in a domestic violence situation is to get out. If a person strikes a person they love out of anger once, it will happen again. The verbal abuse does not show marks but cuts deep in the heart. You are so much better and are nothing like what is being said. Get out! They will apologize and beg and tell you how much they love you. It is all a lie. Get out.
Thank you, Elaine, for sharing Ali’s story.