October 21, 2008

Survivor Stories

Earlier this month, in talking to one of our members I was so relieved and happy that a tremendous amount of change and growth had occurred with her, and I am so Proud of her, and she knows it too! I’ve known her now for over 3 years, and I can tell you truthfully that many times during those 3 years I was very concerned for her. She had much support, and many trying to help guide her to taking steps to better her situation, and I know she took that information in. She just wasn’t ready to implement it yet. It took something drastic to finally push her out of her cocoon, but once she was, she’s truly spread her wings and is now flying in the right direction. I asked her to share her story for Le Chrysalis, and it is below…….

Her Story

This has been a hard and emotional battle. Eight yrs ago I was being abused by my ex emotionally, physically and mentally. At times I thought I was losing my mind. I did indeed lose everything I had in my life. I ran for my life because he threatened to kill me because I told his family about his drugs. I lived in Florida from 2001 to 2005 then I lost my apartment, my job, communication with my children. They had done everything possible to turn my child against me and keep us from communicating. I left Florida because after losing everything I really had no where to live anymore I had child support I could not pay. I truly felt so lost and alone. I hid myself away for almost 2 years, living alone in a basement of my daughter's home from 2006 until this past summer. I had a warrant out for my arrest due to non-payment of support. The court didn't want to hear I lost my job and was basically homeless. I was taunted on the internet by him and his new wife. I would call my daughter every Sunday evening at 6pm only to have her yell and be rude and nasty, until they stopped me from talking to her altogether.

I fell into a deep depression. I can honestly say that I wished every night that I wouldn't wake up in the morning but I did and each day was just like the other. It seemed my life was over and I would never have peace or see my daughters again.

Then out of the blue my son-in-law told me I had to leave and two days later I was on a bus to Florida. I got to Florida and was so afraid of going to jail as this is where the warrant was sworn out against me.

I was staying with a girlfriend. Even there I didn't move out of the house. I spent most of my time sitting on a back porch smoking cigarette after cigarette. Thinking, “How am

I going to get through all this” and honestly wishing I was dead. I felt so alone and deserted. So much had happened and now I am at the lowest point in my life and don't know how to get back up.

I finally couldn’t take anymore and went to speak to an advocate at the Domestic Violence Center. I also had my Groups where I sent messages. (Non-Custodial Moms-Breaking the Silence (NCM-BTS) is the one that kept me together since 2005, when I happened upon it.) A lot of the times I didn’t want to hear what they were telling me.

Then one day I was checking my email and there was one from my lawyer and simply it said “You need to really come back. It’s the only way you can get to see your daughter.” So simple but yet it finally made sense that running and hiding wasn’t the answer. I had to get back, I contacted different groups and one woman told me to continue hiding but I knew that wasn’t the answer. I met with a group of women whom I told my story too and right after that meeting they took donations up and I went home that night with bus fair from Florida to Pennsylvania. One woman told me not to buy the ticket because she was going to make sure I had a bus ticket and was to use that money to eat.

Meanwhile the advocates in Florida had arranged for the DV Shelter in PA to take me and help me. I was in Florida a month and now it was off to Pennsylvania, the place I never wanted to see again. I arrived there and was met by an advocate and brought to the shelter. I felt so alone and afraid but something happened that was unbelievable. After talking with the advocates at the shelter I realized the only way anything would change is if I wanted it to change. No one was going to fix this but me. First I started by contacting Florida and trying to get the warrant dropped. To my surprise it already was dropped and all I had to do was send $47.50 to have my license reinstated. The shelter took me to public assistance to have me apply for services. I was granted $102.50 every two weeks, food stamps and Medicaid. My very first check I sent the money for my license. I was also walking 4-6 hrs a day looking for a job.

Meanwhile, I was also in touch with my lawyer about my daughter. I had tried to call her and I would get no answer. My lawyer contacted my X directly and finally I was going to see my daughter after 7 ½ years and our conversations going so badly. I felt I was getting so strong emotionally until this point.

We arranged for it to be at a fast food restaurant. I insisted it be a very public place because of all the past abuse from the X and his wife who was to be the supervisor. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw her (my daughter). She had grown into a beautiful Teenager! The step-mother was there and would not move away from us. The meeting was shaky but went well. At the end the step-mother stood up in front of my daughter and stated the meeting was over and I was a liar. Needless to say, I called my lawyer and told him what happened and that we need to get her removed as supervisor. So he put in a modification. In the mean time now PA was on me for support and I had 60 days to get a job.

Well, all at once it seemed things started happening. My license was reinstated and I changed it over to PA. A job came through, and public assistance and another agency was able to give me money to buy a car from a nice woman that attends group at the shelter. And I got my own apartment! Then I received notice of hearings that I put in for modification of child support, finally put in for alimony and modification of the custody order. My head was reeling because all three hearings were being held the same day. My lawyer would only handle the custody so I was on my own for the child support and alimony.

So now, the day comes and I go to the Domestic Relations section for the support and alimony and my X’s lawyer walks in and proceeds to tell me that against his advice his client (my X) wants to drop all future support and all arrearages. So the smart mouth that I am I asked “What, did he grow a heart?” I asked what does he want in return, and he said I am to drop the alimony and that the divorce is final so everything is done. I turned and looked him in the eyes and said “No it is not, you should know that. You put in the bifurcation and yes I can go back for alimony and Equitable Distributions of marital assets.” Well, that shut him up. Ha, thought they had a fool. I did agree to give up alimony for him dropping the support.

Now on to the modification of custody that was being heard that day. I had asked that all recording of calls be stopped as I am not afforded that. I also asked that it be restated that I will call my daughter and they will be private between me and her. I also wanted the step-mother removed as supervisor. Well, the lawyers went into the hearing office and were in there for about 10 minutes, then they called my daughter in and she was in there about an hour. When she came out she went over to her father then came to me and said “I want you to come to the football games and come see me play in band competition. I want to see you.” I was so happy I stood and put my arms out to her and she came to me. We hugged and cried in each others arms. I told her I loved her and she said “I Love You Mom”. It was the best moment I could have ever had. I have my daughter and she loves me. After she left my lawyer told me they are ready to make settlement with me and I was surprised at that.

So my life has done a 360 and I am feeling whole again. I know that I am a Survivor and I want to go on and help others because I know the pain and heartache first hand. I will never forget what I have lived through but take from it the experiences to help others going through it and fight for changes.

I stood up and it took a lot and my X now knows I will not back away anymore, and I am not going to live in fear because “Enough is ENOUGH!”

Liz Holst

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