When we started elle and ellie, we knew we wanted to not only create shirts for moms, but we wanted to create a deeper sense of community. As most moms, we have friends with + without kids, new friends + old friends, and family who supported our venture. But seriously, our biggest supporter (honestly) took us by surprise. A new friend, a life long friend, and one we will support just as hard.
I met Steph many years ago, very briefly at our church youth group, but it wasn’t until fairly recently that we happened to connect via facebook. I watched as she raised her first son on her own, in awe of the wonderful man she was shaping. I watched as she found (who she thought) was the love of her life, married him, and welcomed her second son. Cheering her on from afar, I had no idea the horrors that were happening in her life.
Steph is a survivor of domestic violence. When I read her story, I can’t help the tears from welling.
When I was going through my divorce + custody battle with my ex-husband, I was asked by the evaluator to write down a timeline of abuse. At first, I thought it would be easy and told him I could absolutely do that for him. So that night, I sat down at my computer with a glass of wine, a notebook, and my phone to pinpoint when the abuse truly began.
I had no idea that this one task was going to be so hard. As I read through all the messages I realized that the abuse had started in the very first text message he had ever sent me. That night ended with several entire pages filled with scribbled out notes, an empty bottle of wine, and me a sobbing mess on the floor.
I wasn’t ready then, but I’m ready now. So here is my completely transparent, open and honest story.
My very short first marriage was filled with abuse. It started small, with things like “I think you looked better in high school … before you lost all this weight.” Red flag right? That’s an awful statement alone, but was brushed off as a stupid man, saying a stupid thing. But when you start compounding it with the rest, it was abuse.
The comments about my weight escalated over time. He would continue to say things like, “You were so much better looking before you had kids. I wish you wouldn’t have ruined yourself before you met me.”
In the same breathe, he was constantly making comments on how much he hated overweight people. So not only would I not have been happy with myself had I gained weight like he was suggesting, I knew he would have used it against me. All a part of his brainwashing.
He would find ways to punish me, without even being in the same state.
I would be at my mom’s house and he would want me at home, alone. It didn’t matter that he was across the country at a marine base, if he wanted me home that was where I had to be. And if I didn’t listen, he would take all the money out of our bank account, so I couldn’t get gas, groceries, anything.
His abuse was never physical, until the end.
The first physical incident, was within ten days of having our son where I had been rushed into an emergency c-section, one that almost ended up taking my life.
We had gotten into some kind of argument at home and as I went to leave the room, he wrapped his arms around my waist and tackled me to the ground. I can assure you that I was in severe pain as I was brought down to the ground by the man that was supposed to be supporting and loving me.
I started screaming and crying, begging him to release me.
Of course, as a reaction to hearing his mama cry out in pain, my newborn started screaming and my oldest son began to cry, asking if I was okay. I took everything I could within me to stop screaming for my children’s sake and just continued to beg him to stop.
His reply was something like this — “This is you. This is your fault. If you wouldn’t have screamed, they’d still be asleep. You caused them to see you like this, so now you will have to deal with it.”
In order to finally get him to agree to release me, I had to promise him I would never walk away from him again. You know when you watch those shows on tv, and the bad guy does something to the parent and they are helpless as their kids are looking on? That is exactly how I felt. Utterly helpless.
I didn’t leave after that incident.
He apologized to me profusely and claimed that he only did that because I told him that holding me calms me down. In my abused mindset, I then convinced myself that he was just trying to listen to the words that I had said.
Months later, I was attending my high school reunion. As a mama to a toddler + a newborn, I was in need of some me time. The entire time I was there, I received text messages with threats and insults.
Because the kids were at my moms, I decided to ignore the texts and continue on with my night. When I got home that night, I was persistent in not having the argument and went to bed despite his anger + yelling.
The next morning, we attempting to talk but his anger took over and the yelling began.
His temper quickly escalated and he proceeded to kick toys around the apartment and throw a plant at my head. This time I was not going to put up with it, I grabbed the keys and fought him to get out the door.
I left the apartment to head to my moms and had a decent head start but then, he jumped off our second story balcony to cut me off. I continued walking on and he walked beside me, screaming.
During this incident, I called my mom and she could tell by what I was saying, and things she was hearing, that things were not good. I began to tell her where I was, so she could call the police. He caught on and fled back to the apartment to clean it all up.
When he was finished, he jumped in our car and sped towards me. I thought he was going to run me over. This was the first time I truly believed he was capable of killing me. Thankfully, the police arrived at this time.
I didn’t even leave after that incident.
When I finally left him, it was after finding an exchange of text messages to a friend of his. In these texts he was making a plan, to kill me.
Yes, I just said that he was trying find a way to murder me.
This text was completely out of the blue. We hadn’t been fighting recently or anything. Because of a previous affair, and him having actions similar to those he had back then, I decided to peek in his phone. Here I was thinking maybe I was going to find out about him cheating and instead found that he was planning out how to end my life.
I immediately called my mom and the police, and have had an order of protection against him ever since.
I was extremely lucky. Had I not decided to check his phone that day, I may not still be here.
It was a long road, and one I will walk for the rest of my life. But I’m here and I’m doing it.
When Steph asked us if we wanted to be a part of her efforts to bring awareness to domestic violence, there was no hesitation in our answer.
We’ve teamed up with her, and a heaping handful of other shops, to bring as much awareness to this cause as we can throughout the month of October.
We are in serious awe of her strength. She is fierce. She is strong. She is mom.
Ps. To help raise awareness for Domestic Violence, we created this one of a kind tank. $5 from every purchase will be donated to a local woman’s shelter. Show your support and scoop one up in grey or purple now!