A TAR Tale by Laura

I was raised with shame, so it followed that I would choose inappropriate partners as an adult.

I had split from my husband, and moved back home with my toddler to care for my dying father in San Francisco. He continued his verbal and emotional abuse, and this time it included my son, so I planned to leave once again.

At that time I had a semi-boyfriend, more like just an amusement to pass the time, but he was often drunk, drugged out of his mind, and mean, so I was eager to leave. I stupidly gave him an address to write me. My ex husband was kind enough to let me and our boy stay with him and his future wife until I got my own place, but a knock on the door changed all that. It was him, he had stalked me up to Montana. All sorts of bad events followed, including rape.

Fast forward a bit, I’m forced to stay in the homeless shelter, because he was causing trouble. He was always around the entrance, waiting for me to leave the building. One night, I had my son in the shelter for a visit, and when I left the building for some fresh air, my father-in-law rushed up to me and yanked my son from my arms. People were screaming: that guy stole her baby! My ex had passed a forged check at my father-in-law’s bar, so not only did he take my son, I was arrested at the same time and spent the night in jail.

The next day I was released and went to a homeless clinic held once a month. I was diagnosed with PTSD, depression, and pregnancy. I had no options left. My ex had run off to Nevada where his mother was to avoid jail. I contacted him, and in my condition, believed him when he told about how his mother was a pillar of the community, how we would have a place to live, furniture, how he would be going to AA, etc. I had lost everything, including my beloved son so I went.

I found myself trapped, held prisoner, locked inside a dumpy trailer with no running water in the middle of a freezing winter. He wouldn’t let me use the payphone to call my family. He told me the corner store thought I was a thief, so I wasn’t allowed to use the restroom there anymore. I was raped repeatedly. He refused to take me to the doctor, and began selling the furniture donated to us so he could get meth. He refused to buy food, preferring his beer and expired sandwiches donated by his mom from the store she worked at. By this point, I had lost all my friends, my family, my self-respect, I had no belongings, no money, nobody to help me. It was the worst experience of my life.

One night, he passed out early, and had left the front door unlocked. I escaped in my bare feet in the snow, running to the first neighbor I could find. There was a motel nearby, and one of the workers had a room, he opened the door and let me inside. I hid inside his garbage while he screamed “I’m gonna kill her!”. I was terrified. Eventually he left, and this amazing, kind stranger fed me for the first time in days. He let me sleep in his bed while he took the floor. I was able to shower for the first time in months.

The next morning, we called the police and they brought me to the local domestic violence shelter. My ex found the shelter quickly, so they gave me a bus ticket up to a different DV shelter, in a different state. By the time I arrived at the new shelter, I had stopped speaking completely and could only stutter or write my responses.

I gave birth to a healthy baby girl, by myself in the hospital (with doctors, of course). During my pregnancy, too many people told me to “get rid of IT”, but I chose to fight for my baby. My daughter knows that she saved my life. If she wasn’t inside me, I would not have fought, I would have died. Within 9 weeks of her birth, I had my own apartment and a job.

I was still in contact with my ex because he was after all, her father. But by this time, I knew to keep him at arm’s length. My daughter is 14 now, and has known nothing but peace, stability, and love in her life. I’ve already written too much, so I won’t explain how, but we have been safe and joyful living for the past 10 years. I do not regret my experiences, because they have made me more compassionate, more caring, kinder, and stronger!

I am in a good place now, and feel like I earned this safety after my lifetime of trauma. I finally learned to accept real love, I never had that before, and I’m grateful every single day for the life I have now. I am disabled, but I am safe and loved. I am financially poor, but my children have all their needs and even some wants met. I have a support system, I know people who like and respect me again, and I finally like myself as well.

There is hope, never give up fighting for what is right.

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