Women: Fighting for freedom
from domestic violence
By Kassandra Gray
I was nearly dead. Even inside.
In April 2016, I bared my soul and revealed a testimony about my past. One that haunts me, continues to follow me, a story that I have grown to see in a different light as I have now left it behind me. I told about a time when I was completely destroyed. Absolutely broken. But I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was a wonderful wife and mother doing everything that I had vowed to do. And he punished me, terribly. I was abused, misused and mistreated for so many years.
People are clueless about domestic violence, its effects, or how even to recognize the abusers. Aren’t you concerned that the majority of these abusers are out living life, paying little consequence, have no desire to seek help, will probably never realize that they have a problem, have yet to reach their absolute breaking point — and you or someone you know could be the next victim?
The reason these behaviors are overlooked and why abusers walk away from something so wrong is because no one ever hears about it. But when they do, victims are often the ones punished. They’re scrutinized for issues such as parental alienation because it’s wrong, we’re told, to pose concern that someone who enjoys beating a victim to near death has the potential to negatively influence a child.
I’m aware that abusers are human beings, too. They have a life, individual rights, and deserve privacy. I’ve fought with this idea for some time, choosing not to speak up because no one deserves to be branded. Not even me. So why then am I forced to deal with it every day? I am defined by domestic violence, and not by choice. Battering an innocent victim repeatedly, inflicting great harm and possibly death, leaving them with incurable symptoms and eternal fears — that is a choice.
I’ve tried to be empathetic, I’ve forgiven in many ways, but I can’t live with it or move on if I remain silent. Hiding the issue is creating the issue. It empowers those who already feel strong, who control and manipulate one victim after the next. It leaves victims in the dark, in fear, afraid to speak up for what could lead to another conflict. Hiding the truth and forgetting the stories is the reason that abuse — the cycles, the battles between the weak and the strong, the neverending fight — exists. Victims don’t speak up. Abusers think they’re right. And it’s not even about being right or wrong because none of it is okay at all. But according to the abuser, someone has to win. And I can tell you from my own experience, it sure wasn’t me.
It was decades ago when we first met. Years ago when he faced consequences for my abuse, but I forgave those charges, having believed he deserved another chance.
As I write these words, he now sits in jail. As I recall these details, I look at our son. On Sept. 19, 2016, I sat in a courtroom and looked on as my abuser and ex-husband received a sentence. Following years of abuse, offenses that the victim in me forgave time and time again, it finally came time for him. But I am not a victim today. I have survived. I hope that as my abuser continues along his own path to recovery, he finds all of this, too. And I have faith that he will.
Despite my fight, the struggles that I may forever continue to face, I continue on. I remember that somehow, some way, I was saved. Revived. I can’t begin to define the dreams that I dream. Passions. If we talk about doors opening and what I envision along those paths — I don’t know that such a world even exists. Yet I have been trying to get there. I face each day with determination and a genuine heart, all while wearing a smile on my face. What is more, I earnestly believe in a mission to help those who feel broken, to guide those who are sorely looking for light, and to save the ones who desperately deserve change. To me, this is how you find strength, freedom, courage — and perhaps this is the very calling that saved me.
A past that once haunted me has now healed my soul. Through it all I have learned that forgiveness, happiness, recovery and everything in between is not only about the justice that we seek, but even more about how we choose to fight back. My advice to victims, survivors, even to abusers, is that this fight we know all too well is actually within. It’s about learning from our past, knowing how to grow and moving forward as best we can. And it’s about using this newfound strength to help others in need, to help all of those in need — even those who treat us so wrong.
If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced domestic violence — verbal, physical or sexual abuse — there is hope, there are answers, there is a way out.
- Tell someone. Bearing this story alone is the worst thing you can do.
- Call 911. I missed this step one too many times. The authorities want to help, and the evidence will help tremendously when you go to court.
- Seek a shelter. Many domestic violence locations not only offer shelter but also counseling, legal advocacy and support. Safehouse in Ann Arbor is available 24/7 and can be reached at (734) 995-5444.
- Trauma is inevitable following abuse, but seek therapy. Tools that I’ve found helpful include yoga, meditation, breath work, art, music, fellowship with family, friends and other survivors.
The author, Kassandra Gray, is the mother of one son and lives in Tecumseh. She’s a graduate of Adrian College, founder of ArtbyKassie and author of “How I Learned to Fight Back” (dvfightsback.wordpress.com). She can be reached at graykassandra (at) gmail.com.
How can he help us?