SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Many people don't understand why victims of domestic violence don't just leave their abusers. Understanding this is part of our Courageous Conversation this month about the major issue of abuse in the Ozarks.
One woman spent 12 years in an abusive relationship before making the decision to leave. KOLR10's Jennifer Kielman tells us why she waited so long to move on.
For 12 years, life for now 33-year-old Rachel, was a nightmare.
"It was pretty rough from the get go. It progressed into a lot of drinking, some drug usage," she says. "I left at one point and came back. I was at one point, punched in the face. Told my family it was 'cause I walked into a closet. (I was) pushed down while I was pregnant. I was held down and slapped, I don't know how many times. Was driving a car one time and was hit in the face. Shoved multiple times.
That didn't even count the verbal and emotional abuse that was a daily occurrence. Manipulation. The controlling. I always thought to myself, this is kind of, maybe I provoked it. Or, this is just the way things are. I started just thinking, justifying it, you know, this is the way things are. This is my lot. I made my bed, and now I'm going to sleep in it. So, I just stuck to it.
I had no opinions of my own. I was so, so suppressed and so manipulated that I thought I couldn't make a good decision. I thought I was unintelligent. I was told all the time, that I wasn't doing things correctly. From parenting to being a homemaker, that's what I did. That's all I was."
And because of the isolation, Rachel had a very hard time leaving. She stayed in the relationship, for her three children and for God.
"I just thought, that's what I should do as a Christian. It wasn't part of my religious beliefs, to just stick it out and no matter what, divorce was not an option. I always kinda thought, oh, this is normal. And, it wasn't until a friend of mine was like-- 'No. This is not okay. This is not normal. You need to get out.'"
And after one really, really bad night - she finally did.
"He threw me around the bedroom for three hours. And, I was bruised from head to toe. Lamps were broken. Furniture was broken," Rachel recalls.
Lisa Ellsworth is a counselor at the Victim's Center in Springfield. She says the longer a person stays in a domestic violence situation, the harder it is to deal with the long-term effects.
"For the victim, it can affect your job and how you raise your children. It can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, and also affect sleeping and eating patterns. For the children, it can cause a lack of focus and development, and social skills. They become disengaged at school and future relationships suffer as well."
For Rachel, starting new was liberating. She just needed to take that first step. Her advice?
"For anyone out there that's going through this, you didn't do anything wrong. And, it's time for us as women to look at people and say I didn't do this to myself, whether it be rape or domestic violence. You didn't do anything to bring this on yourself, so there's no shame in it."
She hopes her story can help save someone watching. To know that there's hope, even when you think there's not.
"In our lives, we go through certain things so that we can help another person. So, if anything I've gone through, can help someone else, that's redemption. I believe that God makes beauty from ashes. And, if my story, that wasn't always beautiful, can help someone else, then i think that that makes it beautiful."
Ellsworth says, if victim's don't get the help they need, it can replicate itself in new relationships.
The cycle will continue if it doesn't stop.
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