Monday, October 24, 2011

Speak Out - one survivor's story

Last month I told you about Speak Out, an initiative that uses social media to bring awareness to the important issue of domestic violence. On Friday, November 18th, people around the world will blog, tweet or otherwise share thoughts and information on DV. The aim of the event is to normalize the conversation around DV and encourage victims to speak up and seek help.

What will be happening

Throughout the campaign I will be sharing the following on Wanderlust:

1. Stories from survivors
2. Informative articles on the dynamics and hallmarks of domestic violence
3. Several giveaways to encourage participation

I've put up a linky here and you can enter your name now to particpate. You don't have to be a blogger to enter. Just commit to speaking out via some form of social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc). Thank you to everyone who has agreed in advance to take part on the 18th.


One woman's heartbreaking story

Today I'm sharing with you a post that comes from a woman who wrote me back in March to share a story that is every parent's nightmare -- the loss of a child. In fact, it was her email that convinced me to put up the post which first named my husband's crime and outlined the reasons I was afraid to go home.

This guest poster has asked to remain anonymous, as she is still embroiled in a legal battle with her ex.

I ask that you be considerate and gentle with your comments (as you always are) and know that if you have a history of violence, this or other survivor stories may be triggering.

Here is her story

* * * * *

My story began in July of 2007. I was the single mother of a very beautiful 2 year old girl. The relationship between her father and me had deteriorated, as relationships often do, and I found myself casually dating again. I never introduced any prospective suitors to my daughter. Ever. Until Sam came along. I had known him almost my entire life. He was my first love in junior high. We lost contact in the ten years after graduating and reconnected through mutual friends. For the first time, I felt comfortable introducing a man to my daughter. He seemed to love her from the start. 

A little over a year after reconnecting, we were married. Five months into our marriage, my daughter came down with flu like symptoms. Low grade fever. Vomiting. Lethargy. . I assumed this was a recurring ear infection and we decided Sam would take her to the doctor on the following day. Shortly after 9am on Monday, March 9, 2009 my husband calls me at work to say the nurses at our pediatrician’s office are performing CPR on my baby girl. An hour later she was pronounced dead. I was 3 months pregnant at the time.

Within 24 hours of her passing, my family and I were whisked into the sheriff’s department. I hadn’t even had a chance to digest everything that had happened and suddenly I’m being interrogated by detectives regarding every personal detail of my life. I spent the next 10 consecutive hours in the sheriff’s office before I am informed that my husband confessed to slamming his knee into my daughter’s abdominal cavity causing the internal damage that ultimately took her life. Devastated does not begin to describe how I felt.

The ensuing year and 5 months leading up to the criminal trial were a nightmare. Sam recanted his confession and feverishly denied any involvement in my daughter’s death, despite the fact that the autopsy report specifically coincided with everything he originally admitted to doing. I spent days and weeks in interviews with detectives and district attorneys. I watched as my house was ransacked for anything that could be considered evidence. I was in and out of court on bond hearings and had to watch as Sam’s family pleaded for his release from jail. 

I never was given an opportunity to grieve for my baby. There was no peace. As the trial date approached, I spent more time being interviewed by the DA. The questioning was relentless and often personal. It felt like a sort of emotional violation. An emotional rape. I was forced to discuss intimate details of our life with perfect strangers, some of them male. I cannot truly express how embarrassing that was for a grieving, pregnant mother. My husband was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 55 years in a state penitentiary.

Sadly I cannot say this was a victory. My daughter is still dead. I will never hold her again or tell her how special she was to me. Nothing will change that. The aftermath of the investigation and trial has been equally impossible to cope with. I was robbed of any opportunity to grieve, and I can’t get that back. 

Our society places unrealistic expectations on crime victims. I can’t tell you how many times I was told to get back to work. It will make you feel better. There should be no time limit on grief. Two and half years have passed since she died and I still feel broken. In addition to coping with the manner in which she passed, I struggle with the trauma I experienced during the trial. 

Despite the fact that I was the victim, it was up to me to prove my integrity. To prove that I was a good mother. A good wife. A good employee. A good citizen. I honestly became confused as to who was actually on trial. My husband didn’t have to prove anything. When the district attorney discovered I began dating again, she admonished me. She basically called me a whore. The memory of that conversation still stings today. 

It is impossible for anyone who has not experienced the loss of a child to understand how devastating it is. How could she possibly judge me for seeking comfort in another human being and why did it even matter? I wasn’t the one who brutalized my child. I wasn’t the one who was indicted. I wasn’t the one standing trial. But yet I was.

Sam’s family fully supports his claims of innocence and are vocal in their low opinion of me. There is no place I can go publicly where I don’t constantly look over my shoulder. I’m astonished how drastically a traumatic event can change a person. I had always been a confident, positive woman. I now live in a state of constant distress. Recurring nightmares. PTSD. Worrying about the intentions of every stranger I meet.

I am currently fighting for divorce and termination of his parental rights to our child. One would think in a situation like mine, divorce would be simple. He was convicted of murdering my little girl. This is a no-brainer, right? Wrong. He (and his very powerful attorney) thinks this marriage is sustainable; therefore I have to fight tooth and nail to end it. Despite his conviction, I still have to convince a judge and jury that he should have no involvement in the rearing of my young daughter.

I’m dumbfounded to think he, as a convicted felon, has more rights than me. Crime victims take a back seat to criminals in our country. There are individuals who devote their lives to better living conditions in prisons or the repeal of the death penalty while people like me desperately grasp at anything resembling a normal life. So far I have a come up empty handed.


* * * * *


Kristin here again. Please leave some love and support for our guest poster today. She is a remarkable woman who has extended concern and support to me, despite her own struggles. I have so much I want to say in response to her post, but this is her floor and I will leave my thoughts for another day. Much love to you my friend.

And please, if you haven't signed up yet, make a commitment today to speak out against domestic violence.

xoxo


21 comments:

  1. I am stunned by the story - my heart goes out to you. You are a true survivor.

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  2. I'm so so sorry.
    I keep typing things and deleting them, words seem utterly inadequate.
    My heart aches for you, and for your little girl who was robbed of the chance to know her sister.
    xxx

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  3. The scales are truly out of balance when your suffering goes on like this. It is not right. So not right. But keep going. You deserve better. And one day you will get it.

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  4. I am speechless .... Just want to commend you for your courage and to thank you for reaching out to Kristin. I know she was moved by your story to speak out and encourage others to do so. Love, peace and strength to you gentle soul.

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  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I am very sorry for the loss of your daughter and all the other losses (of privacy, safety etc) that have come from her loss.

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  6. Your story is both sickening and enlightening.
    You have been let down at every turn.
    I'm so very sorry that you had to, and have to, suffer all of this (and more, I'm sure.)
    Your strength is beyond amazing and I pray that your 'story', your life, begins to reflect your own inspiring character soon.
    Thank you for sharing.

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  7. It is blindingly obvious the injustice here. I am so sorry you are having to endure all this legal power-play. And deeply sorry for the loss of your child (which I am no stranger to) - you are so right: there is no time frame on grief. Your poor shocked body, and carrying a new life at the time, no less. My heartfelt love to you, may your on-guard self-preservation get you through to a point where you can come out of survivor mode and into something freeing xxx All in right time.

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  8. My heart breaks for this mama. I have had to say goodbye to a child, but not this way. But I do have a friend in the US whose son died at the hands of his mother's new partner. It is so tragic and heartbreaking. the idea that children can be the targets of such rage. My love goes out to you, and to my friend... also walking without his child as his shadow.

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  9. This story is so heartbreaking. My prayers and best wishes to you. Thank you for sharing your story and I hope that you get the justice you and your younger daughter deserve. No one should ever have to live like that. Not ever.
    All my love, thinking of you

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  10. This makes me so bloody angry. The justice system is (pardon me) fucked. Completely.

    My thoughts are with this amazing Mumma, love to you and your babies xx

    And Kristin, anything I can do to help for Speak Out, let me know x

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  11. This makes me sick. Like I literally had to stop reading and run to the bathroom.
    My heart and soul go out to this woman. I understand them needing to cover their bases and check that she played no part in maybe neglecting her eldest daughter, but at what cost? Why is she being treated like she was the one who committed a crime 2 years later? Why are crimials given pity over those who suffered at their actions?
    I am so so sorry, and I wish those words, that "sorry" could somehow fix some little part of this. Even as I type it I know it is a useless word to write.
    I just want to send some love to this mama. To let her know that there are lots of people, myself included, who are on her side and are mourning not only her loss, but her continued mistreatment.

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  12. I read your story with tears in my eyes.

    I am so sorry you have had to endure all of this.

    Know that you will be in my prayers.

    x

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  13. Thankyou for sharing your story. It is so sickening that you still suffer on despite the sentence given to your husband. That you have not had space and time to grieve for your little girl. So incredibly heart breaking and wrong! :( . I wish I could give you a big hug but instead I want you to know that your little angel and you are in my thoughts and prayers. xoxo

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  14. I am in tears here. I am so sorry for this woman and her little girl. This is so wrong, and my heart ache for them.

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  15. All I can say is that I hope the judge has some decency to grant you your divorce.

    Much love to you and your child.

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  16. Thank you for all your beautiful comments on this post. It is a hard story to read and comprehend.

    And to my guest poster, please know that you are held in cocoon of love from your new virtual friends. You have strength beyond words. I realize that is little comfort when the last thing you want to do is be strong. I will continue to hold you and your children (here and beyond) in my thoughts and prayers. Much love to you. xo

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  17. My ex went to jail, too. He received all this help upon being released to ease being integrated into society. He got help with starting up his own business and counselling.

    I got nothing. I still feel guilty about my choices.

    I'm sorry this happened. It shouldn't have...

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  18. I cannot believe how terribly injust the system is. So very, very wrong. And you are so incredibly brave to share this with us.

    My thoughts go out to you.

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  19. Oh my gosh, I am so mad for you! So, so unfair.

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  20. Unimaginable. Any mother's nightmare, and it seems to have no end in the near future. Strength, love, and prayers go out to you. I wish I could do more.

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  21. What it must feel like to have the entire system be so inadequate for you. The justice system people in power quote all the time and puff their chest out about is missing the mark for the victims.

    I only hope you find some sort of peace as soon as possible.

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