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Recognize and Drive forward - Create your own future

In order to decide to tell my story I read many other stories first. Growing up in America and belonging to this group I have often wondered if I have anything of value that can help others that have suffered much more than I. After reading the many stories I believe I can add how I escaped abuse and over a period of many years was able to thrive much more than I ever expected I would.

I grew up in the Midwestern US. A location known for its honesty and family values. And keeping secrets... I am the oldest of many children a girl. Then many boys and my sister. Book end you can say are the girls. My father abused my mother for me being a girl. While he only moderately abused me (if abuse and moderate can be used together) my brother 2nd born received abuse very extensively for not being born first. When I was 10 my sister was born when they found out it was a girl my father demanded my mother have an abortion. She refused and his beating were worse. Both my mother and sister survived and then he started cheating with other women. My mother found out a few months later and some how having never worked have a bunch of kids gathered the strength of friends and divorced him. She worked 2 jobs and went back to school. We moved around a lot and I took the caretaker roll. Mom received an associates degree in accounting years later. We survived physically but my brother had many years of emotional and drug issues. At 29 he died of a drug overdose shortly after my mother died of cancer. She had always been his advocate and he couldn't see life without her.

At 18 I married. Shortly after being married I fell into the same abusive relationship that my mother did. I stayed married for 3 years. I made every excuse in the world for the reasons why. My fault, he had a bad day, etc... It was the alcohol at first then he would promise to never do it again but eventually it happened again. I was lying to family and friends. Apparently I became very clumsy laughing it off. He then he found God. Things were going to change. Soon after - he began to find passages in the bible as justification of how I was disobeying and needed to be punished. It didn't take long for me to understand that he was just going to do it no matter what. But I stayed.

Some how after I became pregnant I found the courage to leave. It took me one really good beating and punches in the stomach for me to see this was going where my father had taken my mother and family. My neighbor pulled him off of me and suddenly I had the "ah ha" moment.. The next day my neighbor helped me pack and I disappeared to a domestic violence center. The center helped me file restraining orders, for divorce, hide me, and counseling. I was a strong and vibrant person but the events of my childhood and then my early adult life had turned me into someone afraid to ask a member of he opposite sex where anything was in the market.

I left the center once it was safe and started my new life. The divorce was final. My mother helped me start fresh. I received state and government aid to return to school and continue to receive counseling. Amazing if you look there are plenty of programs to assist us get new and better lives. My son was born and I was able to start working. I felt empowered. I was lucky. The courts saw the abuse and mandated supervised visitation along with a restraining order. I was even luckier when he chose not to see his son because he couldn't have me. Yes I had to do everything alone but without interference (double edge sword. also with out help or relief).

My mother remarried when I was 20 to a religious man who felt that women were to stay at home, have and raise several children while being dependent on their husband. She was tired of raising kids alone. She fell into the same trap as before. No physical abuse instead mental but abuse is abuse. Her new husband began to pressure me to find a husband and stay at home, this education thing was too my much for me to do. He tells my sister to this day that I am a failure because I wouldn't accept his way.

It would have been sooo easy to follow his guidance. But I couldn't, I needed to be in a position that if I needed to get away I could. I was lucky the first time with friend, state and government support. Who knew if it would happen again?

I had cervical cancer when my son was 1. Another set back but I could not stop. Who would raise my son? I survived.. Early detection was key. I finished my bachelors in engineering when my son was 6. I had a great support system with friends and family. I finished my degree and had a great job. Now I also have 2 Masters.n Education was key the more I knew the less I accepted the standard. I question everything and never take NO as the answer. Now, 25 years later I am an executive in a - multi national, multi billion dollar company.

What was the reason??? Why was it me that succeeded when so others have tried and failed? 4 factors:
#1 - Through adversity I refused to say I was beaten.
#2 - The need to break the chain much sooner than my mother did to protect my son.
#3 - My mother said to me just before she died - Honey, you can be or do anything you want. Travel and educate yourself. Do what you want. Promise me.
# 4 - Once my mom said #3, the utter belief that I can do or be anything I want. I was empowered.

My message to women that live in the US or anywhere in the world - just remember.

Do Not be embarrassed of the situation. Embarrassment and fear keep us hidden. Hiding only allows other to have power over us.

Do Not think you are alone. There is someone somewhere in the world in the same situation. Probably very close to you.

Do Not think there are no options - there are many programs and people to help. Reach out! Find. Do not take no for an answer. Find the Yes. If it looks easy be careful. Investigate!

Do Not lose hope. In the darkest hour sometimes one foot forward, a friend, or one kind word is all it takes!!!

Do Not hesitate. Act Act Act... Especially when you feel the empowerment. Tomorrow may be too late.

Do search for support - it may be hidden but it is there!!!!

Do search for yourself - YOU ARE VALUABLE. YOU MATTER!!!!

Do notice and take advantage of when you are lucky!!!! Take all you can get.

Great Friends and Family are the Best Gifts of All!!!

Sometimes Luck is what you need to get over the hump of the next step forward.

I did. All I wanted to do was to survive and I have exceeded my wildest dreams!

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Learn more »

Comments

weaverheart's picture

Great story!

HI Jennifer,

Thank you for sharing your story here. It's true, we think if we are from the US that perhaps these things don't happen.
As it turns out, the sisterhood can be oppressed and violated anywhere in the world. Some places have different customs for this oppression, but we share the same bias towards us by being in a female body and having circumstances betray us by those who are supposed to oversee our safety and security. Our parents. I am sorry that you suffered as you did, but now I am very happy to see that you have pushed through those obstacles and claimed your life as your own. You are very inspiring and will help many with your story and words of wisdom, no doubt!

Wishing you all the best, always.

With love,
Laura

Laura R.

jenjsmail's picture

Self empowerment

Laura,

Thank you for reading and commenting..

I think that as women across the generations have evolved from being dependent on our parents and then our husbands to being leaders of our families and many times sole supporters of our families.

Unfortunately when you are dependent on others it can leave people with feelings of inadequacy and a low self esteem. If you have these feelings it is even easier to allow others to continue to deflate your self esteem until you believe you are not worthy and do not matter. Women as caregivers and mothers are even more susceptible to these situations.

Abusers can only be successful if we empower them to make us feel that way.

It is extremely important that we as women understand:
WE are in control of how we feel about ourselves.
WE are important to ourselves and others
and
WE matter

There is always someone there to help us and keep our faith in ourselves and our capabilities no matter how dark the situation may look. That person may not be where you expect them to be. So keep your eyes and heart open... Reach out when you can. Don't waste opportunities and nothing worth having is easy.

All my love and support to everyone!

Jen

Kadidia's picture

How do you turn your life around?

Your story is a real testimony. It is also the proof that domestic violence is of actuality and exists everywhere in the world, in any community.
You were lucky to get help and you fought for your life. Congratulations!

You are one of the best examples of what a person can do with her life if she decides to survive and succeed.
You are a hero.

Kadidia Doumbia

jenjsmail's picture

Timing and reasons

Kadidia,

Thank you!

I am happy that I did it for my son early on and left early.... Much earlier than my mom did and hopefully to not have him grow up in an abusive home.

I wish I would have left when it first happened. Wish I could convey to everyone that someone who loves you and wants to keep you safe does not abuse you. The first time it happens leave leave leave. Before you are so far in the relationship that you find it impossible to leave.

While I'm happy to have left years earlier than my mom did - I still left 4 years too late. Things could have turned out worse. I was lucky!

I wish I would have done it for me.

I can only hope that anyone that reads this, notices the signs and determines that they are important enough to themselves to reach out and get help.

Don't live in the shadows of the bad experiences in life. Learn from the past and look forward.

The future can be very bright. It can be what you make it!

Jen

jacquesato's picture

Amazing story!

Dear Jennifer:
Thanks for sharing your inspiring story with us! You're an incredibly courageous woman who managed to break the cycle of violence in your family, stand up for yourself and achieve financial success and happiness. My mom was also an abused woman for many years, until my father passed away. Even though he didn't beat her up (as far as I know), the emotional violence was such that it crippled her spirit. I still remember her powerlessness, her anger against her situation and against us (seven kids and two miscarriages). I grew up in constant fear, feeling detached from a violent and inadequate father, and from a mother who was quite immature and incapable of giving us unconditional love. She was very beautiful, so her expectations were to get a wealthy husband who would adore her and give her a life of luxury. But instead she had to marry the man who'd raped her and got her pregnant with my eldest sister, as she couldn't face the dishonor of becoming a single mother. My mother didn't have much education either, and unlike you she never found enough strength within herself to leave my father and fight for a better life for herself and her children. Instead she turned into someone helpless, manipulative and prone to rage attacks. She's in her eighties now, so I hope someday she'll finally find inner peace...
I really admire you and will remember you every time my life takes difficult twists and turns...
Hugs,

Jacqueline

jenjsmail's picture

Abuse is Abuse

Jacqueline,

Thanks for sharing. I hope for you that you found a safe place to be in your life. You are right abuse is abuse and no one deserves that! It is profoundly sad to see it happen and for your mom and that generation I am sure it was much more of a "dirty lil secret". There is so much more awareness now and much more support these days. I also hope she finds peace and hope you and your sister have already found it.

Thanks for the admiration. I am just beginning to realize now that my kids are starting their lives what i accomplished.

If I can help just one person recognize and realize their potential and feel worthy enough to feel safe and free from abuse/harm in whatever environment they choose to be in, I will be happy.

Hugs Back,

Jen

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