Written by Lauren Rose as told by “Juliette”
Before my marriage, I was independent with an established career. I rented a home from my parents, I had a low car payment (almost paid off), and my credit score was good.
When I first met my husband, he was charming, but once we married, I quickly began living in fear of him because of his anger. I experienced emotional, sexual, and financial abuse daily. I couldn’t express or do anything contrary to his desires or ideas. He would laugh at or ridicule me whenever I expressed something he didn’t like. I learned never to have an opinion or desire contrary to his; I had to continually think like him, anticipating what he expected, and modifying my responses, just to keep the peace.
His financial abuse would cripple me from leaving and starting over. When our first child was around a year old, I lost my job, and we decided I should become a full-time, stay-at-home mom. Although this was a decision we made together, in the ensuing years, he would incessantly argue that it had been my decision, and my decision alone; this argument would eventually evolve into the fictitious scapegoat for our finances being in the hole.
That experience dovetailed into his ability to convince me that, since I lacked income, my credit score no longer mattered: “I’ve got the job, so we need to focus on the bills and debt in my name,” he would bellow. With this specious reasoning, he would put additional debt in my name and simply ignore it — the result being that my personal credit score quickly plummeted.
The abuse continually escalated. Toward the end of our relationship, I began keeping things in my car; I knew I needed to escape and needed to be ready to do it at a moment’s notice. I couldn’t allow my children to continue seeing his behavior toward me; towards our marriage’s end, he was trying to teach our children to ridicule me, laugh at me. He wanted them to disrespect – and dehumanize – their own mother.
After growing up in an abusive home, I knew all too well the impacts of abuse on children who witnessed it.
I understood how things would turn out if I didn’t get out.
I finally fled to safety. Soon after my separation, I connected with Called to Peace Ministries (CTPM), who provided education on understanding the dynamics of the abuse I experienced. Because of CTPM, I’ve been able to get safe, stay safe, heal — and start over with my children.
When I first connected with CTPM, I was so confused about the dynamics I had experienced. I silently wondered: Am I being crazy? Am I overreacting?
I remember attending the 2022 He Makes All Things New women’s retreat with trepidation. I was afraid I wouldn’t be understood; I thought I would be an outcast, alone in the dynamics of abuse I had experienced.
That changed after the retreat! I walked away knowing that I wasn’t alone; I finally felt understood. It was there that I met my advocate, Susie Hornor, for the first time; she helped me through my legal proceedings, and even sat in court with me when I was afraid to go alone. It gave me the strength to speak up, knowing someone was there who understood what I had experienced, someone who knew I wasn’t crazy — someone who believed in me.
I started attending a CTPM Support Group in 2022; Sandra Pierce was the co-leader. The support from the leaders and the ladies in attendance was incredible. It allowed me to hear stories of similar situations, reminding me I’m not alone or crazy.
Initially, the support group was instrumental in giving me the strength and knowledge to stay separated, so that my children and I could heal. As I continued with the group, it helped me start understanding the dynamics of abuse, and how to recognize and name those dynamics.
Once I could identify the abuse as it was, I could avoid falling back into the “hamster wheel” I had been stuck on; I was finally able to get off the wheel and move forward toward freedom.
For the last two years that I’ve been separated, I’ve been focusing on lowering my debt, rebuilding my credit, and improving my income to support myself and my children. And it has been challenging.
My children and I moved into a one-bedroom apartment. I was reliant on my ex’s child support to survive, and he used this to control me. He would base whether he gave me child support (and how much) on how I responded to him and made him feel; I had to walk on eggshells, so he’d pay child support. Yet his inconsistency and irresponsibility forced me, time and again, to rely on food stamps and multiple food pantries to feed my children. With all these difficulties, the struggle to simultaneously start a new career and sustain a family was sometimes overwhelming.
Eventually, I was referred to the CTPM Emergency Fund. The financial help I received was truly a gift of freedom; it meant I didn’t have to endure my ex’s abusive tactics to receive child support. I was finally able to set healthy boundaries — and stop walking on those eggshells just to pay my bills.
Because of their support, I was able to move into a two-bedroom apartment when my lease was up. This was huge for us — having 80% custody while living in a 730 sq. ft., one-bedroom apartment was tough. It was a tight space, and extremely stressful, given that I was working from home full time, homeschooling my oldest, and had a preschooler running around! The assistance from CTPM enabled us to get the freedom — and space! — that our emotional health needed.
My children and I wouldn’t have been able to remain separated, to stay safe, and continue our healing without the CTPM Emergency Fund. The support reminded me that He was there, He was with me, and He was for me!