Elizabeth at her graduation from BSU
The following piece was written by survivor Elizabeth Gough. She is sharing her journey towards safety, healing and freedom.
One of my favorite quotes is by J.K Rowling and she said: “Rock bottom is the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” My rock bottom was in early 2010. At the time I was in an abusive marriage, I was 100 lbs. heavier, I was battling an addiction, and I was suicidal. I had tried to leave my abuser 5 times during 2008 to 2010 and kept going back. People asked me why I kept going back and my answer was simple yet complicated. I was scared. I had no plan b. I was a stay at home mom; I had no education, no job skills and no self-esteem. I had been with my abuser since my late teens and I didn’t know anything else.
The first time I came to the WCA was in 2008. I fled with my two girls and the clothes on our backs. I stayed in the shelter and accessed most of the services that the WCA had to offer: counseling, the weekly support group, life skills classes, and case management. I remember constantly crying and felt extremely depressed. I felt like I would never be happy, I was miserable in my marriage and miserable alone. At the time my girls were 1 and 3 and after a few months I went back to my abuser, determined to make my marriage work. I had known my abuser since high school and he was my first serious boyfriend. The abuse was slow building. For years it was emotional abuse and I told myself that things weren’t that bad. Then in 2007 the physical abuse started and still I told myself that until he broke a bone or punched me with a closed fist that it wasn’t real abuse. After that he started threatening my life and telling me he was going to kill me. Still I didn’t leave. It is amazing the things we can tell ourselves when we are brainwashed, and when we are trying to just survive. I didn’t think that I was strong enough to leave or to do anything with my life, I felt worthless.
From 2008-2010 I went back to the WCA multiple times and it was one of the only places where I didn’t feel judged and a place where I could come back for help over and over. I felt ashamed but so grateful that there was somewhere I could go for help. In 2010 I finally left my abuser for good. The abuse and isolation had escalated to a point where I knew that either he was going to kill me or I was going to kill myself and my kids needed a mother. I packed my kids up in the car and I told them that we were going to start a new life. I told them that they deserved a safe, happy and secure childhood, free from fear. I told myself that somehow I would find the strength to become the mother that they needed and deserved. I moved back in with my parents and started my new life as a single mom.
The rest of 2010 was one of the most amazing years of my life. It felt like an uphill battle at first but slowly I started making progress…I started going back to school, I lost weight, I went to counseling, the weekly support group at the WCA, I grew a garden and I started on my way to becoming the person and mother that I wanted to be. I felt a sense of freedom that I had never felt before. My kids started thriving and slowly they started to feel safe. The pride I felt in giving them a safe and stable home life was amazing. That first Christmas after I got divorced I came to the WCA to pick up Christmas presents for myself and my girls. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw dozens and dozens of brightly wrapped packages. I remember standing in the snow just sobbing; I couldn’t believe the generosity of strangers.
So fast forward to 2016. My kids just finished 3rd and 5th grade and are so happy and well adjusted. I am very happily remarried to the kind of man I used to dream about being married to, and being in a healthy relationship feels amazing. I have mended relationships with family and friends. My husband and I just bought our first home. This May, after 6 years of school I graduated with my Masters in Social Work. WCA Executive Director, Bea Black, was in the audience to watch me walk across the stage at graduation.
I want to thank everyone at the WCA for doing what you do. Thank you for your gift of time, money, and donations. One of my favorite short stories is called “The Starfish”. It describes how one action can make all the difference.
I want to say that the WCA changed my life and I am that starfish. Thank you for the important the work is that you are doing and all of the lives that you touch.
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