As Tracy Schott-Wagner prepares to enter the final cut of the documentary in film festivals, she is adding an epilogue, the rest of our story. Each of us has chosen a path to reach back in to help others find their way out. Some of our paths have taken us to political and public activism, others reach back in more quiet ways, one person at a time. All of us, transformed by our experiences for better or for worse and bonded by a sisterhood of surviving, share our stories in the hopes we will change the outcomes for others.
For those who do not fully understand, this blog seeks to help you see beyond; offering a glimpse into the lives affected by intimate violence. It is this. Invisible, destructive, yet powerful. This.
“I never took him seriously. I thought he was harmless. He was much younger than me. There’s no way he could hurt me. He was immature, he acted like a kid sometimes. I was older, I knew more, I could outsmart him.
From the outside, we appeared to have the perfect thing going. There are smiles in every photo. He was young, good looking, funny, and charming. He had this appeal to him. And to me, he looked harmless. All I wanted was to meet someone who wasn’t going to treat me like me ex abusive partner did.
I thought I was safe with him. It took him seven months to say I love you. I almost thought he wouldn’t. I was on the brink of calling it quits because if it. How could we make such a connection and he not want to say those words. We were inseparable from the start. Passion. Feeling meant to be. Or was it?
As I now ponder a deafening question and statements made by him. As a storyline to our relationship from beginning to middle to end. “Do I remind you of him?” (Referring to my ex) “I hate your fucking guts.” (Yelled at the top of his lungs outside my door for my neighbors to hear) “I don’t know what I would do if I see you with another guy.” And, “you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.”
And just like that on December 18, 2009, he took his life. Right under our nose as we lay in another room. But not before he tried to hurt me in front of the kids. Someone told me angels protected me. Because usually when this happens, he takes the whole family first, then himself. But I remained in guilt and confusion because he didn’t take us out. I bypassed all those red flagged questions and statements made by him. I had kept myself locked in a cell of guilt for all this time.
Breaking the silence helps. Documentaries help. Support groups help. Advocacy helps. Because it took a counselor to say I was in a domestic violence relationship. It took a housing authority supervisor to say I’m lucky, they usually take the family out first; speaking from experience as her ex husband tried killing them overnight leaving the gas on, ultimately later committing suicide. It took a coroner to say you were a hostage. And it took a director to say he hurt himself, but he meant that hurt for you, added with a photographers words, it isn’t your fault.
For me to break out of that cell of guilt. For me to breathe in and exhale. For me to let go, look up and step out into a free life. And as today marks 5 years, it makes me aware of emotional abuse and the impact it has had on my life. It’s the silent violence. The one you can’t readily see. But it is as lethal as physical.
He had the power to control me even after death. That’s crazy to me. I’m grateful for the people that whispered in my ear over all this time, that helped me see the picture clear. I was a victim of his cruel game of covert manipulation. I am no longer his victim. My mission is to help the next person, to be there for my survivor sisters and to help make changes that can aid future victims.”
On the eve of this Christmas when we gather around a mother who sought safe shelter in which to bring her child, our light, into the world…we dream of a world of peace; where children are safe inside the walls of homes as well beyond them. Peace.