Surviving Domestic Violence
When I registered for National Seminar 2011 I learned of the four areas of focus for United Methodist Women: human trafficking, climate change, immigration and domestic violence. I could sign up for the area I wanted to learn more about. I selected domestic violence. At that point I had no idea my life would be changed.
In 2006 I met and quickly married my husband. We met on Memorial Day and were married by the Fourth of July. Friends and family all asked the same question: "Are you crazy?"
In 2007 we had our first son, Elliot. In 2008, 13 and half months later, his little brother Oliver joined the family. These two little babies were blessings, joys, stresses, challenges and everything else a new family deals when welcoming children. It was while I was in the hospital after having Oliver that I started to realize something was not right in my marriage.
Over the next two and a half years I would find every justification for my husband's angry, violent behavior. Then one day I was no longer the only one to suffer abuse at the hands of my husband. One day, Elliot, as normal 3-year-olds are wont to do, answered "No!" to a request made by his father. His father then took off his sandal, threw it across the yard and hit Elliot so hard that it knocked him off his feet and left a 3-inch bruise on his shoulder. Two months later I was in Birmingham, Ala., sitting in a room with my United Methodist Women sisters from across the nation, discussing domestic violence and realizing these women were talking about me.
I returned from Birmingham excited to see my boys. I was still on a spiritual high from National Seminar, which helped me get through my next few busy weeks planning my mother's 60th birthday party and then assisting her and my father after she had her rotator cuff surgery. The boys and I were going to stay with my parents during the majority of the recovery process to help and to just visit. The boys love being at their grandparents, and I was beginning to love spending more time there than in my own house. I was at a place where I was helped and loved, and I wasn't being abused.
My husband was angry. He did not understand why my mother needed so much help. He believed my responsibilities at home taking care of our house and him and taking the dog to the vet. I was told that if I didn't return home he would notify the police and tell them I had kidnapped our children.
That was it-the last straw. He had made this threat over and over in the past three years. He continually told me that if I ever left he would keep the boys and I would never see them again. Within a week of telling him I needed some space and time to think he closed our bank account, took the little money we had saved and filed for divorce.
Everyone was in shock. Family and friends could not believe what was happening. I had been stubborn early in our marriage because I didn't want to hear "We told you so." Even after a year of not being allowed to have my parents visit our home, nobody knew he was abusive. It has been almost two years since I left my marriage, and I have still never heard "We told you so."
As I started coming to terms with the fact that I had just left an emotionally and at times physically abusive relationship, I began to understand that I had suffered. I leaned on my knowledge from United Methodist Women about domestic violence and I quickly understood that I was one of the lucky women. I had a family that welcomed me home and provided financial support. I quickly found my dream job and was given the opportunity to work part time at my church. I have started to regain my self-confidence, my over-the-top personality and my excitement for life! As my mom says, "She's back!"
There are many times I still get weary and I worry that my children are now from a broken home, but I continue to realize that I have just changed their family tree. I not only left a situation that would have probably led me down a dangerous road in regard to my own mental and physical health but I have changed the patterns of abuse my ex-husband was exposed to in his home environment so that my sons will no longer grow up in a home that tolerates that behavior. Even though I am still fighting a tremendous court battle over custody of Elliot and Oliver, I know that God is walking beside me, and I know that the prayers of my United Methodist Women sisters are being said daily.
You might read this and think United Methodist Women broke up this woman's marriage, but what I hope you hear is that United Methodist Women saved my life. United Methodist Women saved me from a life of emotional and physical abuse and from future mental and physical trauma. United Methodist Women has opened my eyes to the reality of domestic violence in our churches, communities and world. We must continue to make strides to shed light on this issue and to be a safe place for men and women who are survivors of this type of violence. If it had not been for the women at National Seminar and all the others I have met on my journey, then my faith would be weak, I would not be in a place of hope and I would have never had the opportunity to experience true love in action. United Methodist Women has saved my life, and I am dedicated to returning the favor to others.
Stephanie Greiner is president of United Methodist Women at Wesley United Methodist Church in Jefferson, Mo., and coordinator for social action for the Mid-State District of the Missouri Conference United Methodist Women. She works part time as the connections coordinator for her church and full time as e-learning curriculum design specialist for the Missouri Department of Corrections in Jefferson City.