Today I was contacted by a local woman whose husband is abusing her. She gave me her phone number, and I was able to call her.
The woman, let’s call her Margaret, sounded strong and vibrant. Her voice did not betray the drama going on in her home. She was in the home of someone supportive of her. I am happy that she has a safe place to go, but disheartened to hear that her abuser is trying to make anywhere EXCEPT his and her home “dangerous” for her to visit or to retreat.
I mean, he’s threatening her with all sorts of things of course, but he’s focusing on keeping her a prisoner in her home. He threatens to charge her with child abandonment if she leaves the house.
Margaret is at her wit’s end because she has no support system outside of her family; her abuser’s threats always leave a shadow of a doubt…she “knows” the threats are senseless and meaningless, but what if he’s telling the truth?
Margaret’s abuser is a soldier, and a good one judging by the support HE is getting from his command. The classic “good guy” persona is working its magic for him.
Fortunately, I think I was able to give Margaret some information concerning people within and out of the military who can help her to start building her support system…laying a foundation of both support and education that will help her (as it has me). Of course I could only tell her about “my” support system and how I started building it. I only hope that it works for Margaret as it has for me.
How I Built My Support System
First, I talked with Victim’s Advocacy on post. I found out how I can make a report without sending it straight to his unit’s command if I wanted. This means that I can get the help I need without involving my husband’s boss (a luxury civilians have is keeping work and home separate; without victim’s advocacy, there is no separation of work and home for military families). If you’re military, you can find out about the Victim’s Advocates through the Military Police department, and you can receive help through them even if you live off post.
Secondly, I talked with the “head guy” of domestic violence at the Sheriff’s department. I asked questions about how the police handled domestic disputes and how to get the help I needed even if my husband appeared to be the “victim” of domestic abuse when the patrolmen came to the house. I think that my conversation with him, knowing his name, and having his card handy will go a long way toward saving myself some of the hassles other people have experienced IF the police come to my home.
Public Sector Counseling
Third, I went ahead and made an appointment with the domestic abuse division at the Department of Social Services. My DSS angel and her advice were crucial to helping me find my footing in a very upsetting situation. In fact, I may want to revisit her soon. No sense in letting a great support person go unappreciated! Besides, I MAY need to visit her “for real” at some future date, and it’s a good idea for my record to be current.
Fourth, I talked with my medical doctor about what was going on at the house and the situation’s effects on my mental health. I was taking a medication that would be expensive without the military’s prescription program, so I switched to an anti-depressant that I can buy as a generic in case I ended up leaving my husband. The cost difference between Effexor and my new generic is substantial, and fortunately, the generic seems to be working.
Military One Source
Fifth, I went to Military One Source and talked to a military counselor who set me up with therapy appointments. If you are not military or do not want to go through Military One Source, then you could ask for a referral to a therapist at your doctor’s appointment.
Sixth, I found out about the Divorce and Separation Briefings that the military’s legal department offers. On our post, there are two briefings a week, and you MUST attend one in order to get one on one counseling from JAG. Technically, JAG cannot represent soldiers or dependents in civilian court, but that’s okay. If you go to JAG and go through the briefing, you’ll save yourself time and money if/when you do seek legal counsel. (*Note To Self: Return to JAG and complete the briefing. *Note to military dependents: I was pulled out of my briefing because I was in the office that held my husband’s legal documents like his will, beneficiary information, etc – stuff all soldiers must prepare before deployments. I have to go to THE OTHER office to receive my briefing, but I will receive it through JAG because it’s a service offered to ALL dependents and soldiers.)
Seventh, for me anyway, I opened my big mouth and started my website and this blog. I stopped being ashamed and started rousing support in a very public way. My family is supportive, but they’re not HERE, and because of my low opinion of myself at the onset of this ball of shit, I didn’t feel comfortable “making” new friends or even “enlisting” the friend or two I do have locally. By just showing up online, I’ve made dear friends – wiser and more supportive than most because we’ve all been “here” and, to varying degrees and with different objectives, are sick of being “here” anymore. If I didn’t risk embarrassment or if I continued to believe that I was alone and always would be…well, let’s just say I am so happy that I opened my big mouth!
They Aren’t Going to Call Me
You may notice that there are very few people in my current support system who are going to call me just to see if I’m all right. When was the last time your doctor or sheriff called you just to shoot the breeze? LOL But you know, some of them (Victim’s Advocacy, DSS) do call from time to time, and I’m going to be seeing my therapist on a regular basis. I imagine if I didn’t show, she’d call to find out why.
It’s all right that they don’t call ME. The fact that I have benefited and will continue to benefit from their wisdom, education and support is phenomenally important to me. I went from being someone stuck in isolation to being someone who knows who to call and when. More importantly, I learned that my husband’s SAY-SO isn’t the only or even the right answer anymore.
I’ve got a network, baby! I’ve got a foundation to build upon, and my foundation is solid. I’m overwhelmingly grateful to everyone in my network, even those who will never call or write, but especially to the ones who will.
I pray that Margaret will soon have her network in place, too.