(Editor’s Note: This is the third of a four-part series on domestic violence)
LOVELY, Ky. - Not all women fully recover from the scars, whether physical or mental, attributed to domestic violence. Although victims you speak with will tell you of fears they still experience or flash backs they may have; time, support and counseling will allow most to eventually lead a normal life. For others, it takes much longer and for a few, the fear never goes away.
Donna Hammonds is a 29 year old former resident of Martin County, Ky. who spoke with the Williamson Daily News while visiting her mother in Lovely, Ky. Hammonds now resides in Danville, Ky., where she shares an apartment with one of the few people she says she can truly call a friend. She was involved in an abusive relationship for approximately 6 years and was able to end it two years ago. Although she would never have thought the road to recovery would have taken this long, Hammonds stated she is grateful every day for her life and the gift to another day. Following is her story of her strides to overcome the past, and of the pitfalls she has encountered, in her own words.
“No one can ever imagine what this relationship did to me unless you’ve lived through a similar situation yourself. I was lucky enough to get out approximately 2 years ago and worked incredibly hard to manifest a new life for myself starting from the ground up. I feel blessed every day to have made it to where I sit today.”
“I was hospitalized numerous times during my 6 years with Jake. Upon my final visit to the hospital and a 19 day stay for injuries he inflicted, I was given the support and found the strength to leave and begin the rebuilding process. In those two short years, I have found a job, acquired an apartment with a roommate that I’m best friends with, put myself in a financially stable position, bought a car and most importantly, have had the opportunity to work on all of the ruined relationships in my life that were damaged by my time spent with Jake. You never stop to think of how an abusive relationship is affecting those people in your life that care about you until you look back on it from a distance. I lost my family for that period of time – something that I will never risk losing again. They are my core, my strength, and the people that have made me what I am today. They are my history and my future.”
“Jake abused me in every way possible. It began with verbal abuse that quickly escalated into that of a physical nature. He told me he owned me, that there was no where I could ever go to hide from him. He slapped me, punched and kicked me, held my head under water, held me captive in the house; the list goes on and on. The last incident between us was the final straw. He brutally raped and sodomized me, ripping me to the point that I had to undergo vaginal reconstructive surgery.”
“When I finally left Jake, I was shocked when I truly opened my eyes to what was going on around me and realized that one by one, I had lost everyone in my life that loved me. I was expecting to open my eyes to a world of supporters such as family, friends, co-workers, etc., all cheering me on for doing what was right. Unfortunately, I quickly found out that wasn’t the case. People can only watch a train wreck so many times before they simply have to turn away. Lucky for me, I was able to mend many of those broken relationships and reconnect with those I had closed out of my life. A hard lesson I’ve had to learn though is that try as you may, some people will never trust that you won’t go back and don’t want to risk having to deal with the loss of you yet again. I’ve had no choice but to accept this.”
“I’ve also had to learn that nothing can be fixed overnight. The time it takes to progress forward feels never ending. I still have so far to go and the most frustrating part of it all is that I’ll never truly be the same.”
“It’s been two years and despite all my successes, which again I thank the good Lord for every day, I still feel like a deer in headlights at least once a day. Having the freedom to use your voice without fear of repercussions is so new and scary. Being able to make the most simple of decisions without direction and dominance including what I’m going to eat or wear on a given day seems so overwhelming. I remember the first time I went to a grocery store by myself with my own list. I walked in – proceeded to cry – and walked back out.”
“Life actually seemed too hard at first. Even with all the abusive he had inflicted upon me, it was still hard at times to not go back to what I was familiar with. This person and that life was all I had known for six years. Consistency – good or bad – is human. The anxiety of facing the world alone is sometimes too much for me to bear, so I hide. I use tools like the internet to work around social anxieties and avoidance of large groups. I used to be the social butterfly, boy has that changed. I hear that exercising, attending social events and getting out there to meet new people are all healthy parts of recovery from trauma but it’s difficult to do those things when you’re afraid to leave your apartment.”
“I’ve been in therapy and work very hard. After each session, I ask my counselor how she feels I’m doing and when will I be normal again? When will I be ready to date? It’s extremely frustrating to know that I’ve already lost my 20’s. I want so bad to be a good girlfriend, then a good wife and God willing, a good mother. I can’t succeed at any of those things until I get through this arduous process of healing. My 30th birthday is in 2 months. I want to be fixed now!”
“The thing that bothers me the most is that although Jake is incarcerated, he still believes he did nothing wrong. He felt like I was his property to treat however he sees fit. Maybe, just maybe – it he would show some sort of remorse or regret, that would help me get through this. But all he says when someone visits him and brings up the subject is that I was his bitch, his property, and he was just putting me in my place.”
“I can tell you that physical scars are by far in a way, the less of the two evils. It’s the emotional and psychological beat downs that make me still wonder who I am today. After two years, I still can’t tell you what my favorite thing to do is, where I like to go for fun, what I’d like for my future to hold. I’m too ashamed to answer people that ask me these questions by saying that my favorite hangout place is on my couch behind a door with 6 different locks on it and a security system that stays on 24/7.”
“This is the only place that I truly feel safe.”